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´╗┐Title: Marmaduke Merry - A Tale of Naval Adventures in Bygone Days
Author: Kingston, William Henry Giles, 1814-1880
Language: English
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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 "Marmaduke Merry - A Tale of Naval Adventures in Bygone Days" ***

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Marmaduke Merry, A Tale of Naval Adventures in Bygone Days, by William H
G Kingston.

________________________________________________________________________

This is quite a long book, but it is full of action, and in between the
actions there are tales being told about even more action and
interesting situations, rather in the style of Captain Marryat.

This edition was printed by Cassell's for use as an English language
course-book. At the end of the book is printed a sixteen-page set of
questions and exercises to guide pupils into learning how to read and
appreciate the book better.  I do wish that more books were printed with
such an appendix, as this one, at any rate, was very well-constructed.

The only quibble we have about the way Cassell's laid out the book is
the amazing amount of inconsistency in the hyphenation, but we believe
we have detected most of the instances, and put them right.

While Kingston was a devout Christian, he does not over-lard the book
with piety, though as usual he puts in a big chunk of it near the end.

You'll enjoy reading or listening to this book.

________________________________________________________________________

MARMADUKE MERRY, A TALE OF NAVAL ADVENTURES IN BYGONE DAYS, BY WILLIAM H
G KINGSTON.



CHAPTER ONE.

I belong to the family of the Merrys of Leicestershire.  Our chief
characteristic was well suited to our patronymic.  "Merry by name and
merry by nature," was a common saying among us.  Indeed, a more
good-natured, laughing, happy set of people it would be difficult to
find.  Right jovial was the rattle of tongues and the cachinnation which
went forward whenever we were assembled together either at breakfast or
dinner or supper; our father and mother setting us the example, so that
we began the day with a hearty laugh, and finished it with a heartier.
"Laugh and grow fat" is an apothegm which all people cannot follow, but
our mother did in the most satisfactory manner.  Her skin was fair and
most thoroughly comfortably filled out; her hair was light, and her
contented spirit beamed out from a pair of large laughing blue eyes, so
that it was a pleasure to look at her as she sat at the head of the
table, serving out the viands to her hungry progeny.  Our sisters were
very like her, and came fairly under the denomination of jolly girls;
and thoroughly jolly they were;--none of them ever had a headache or a
toothache, or any other ache that I know of.  Our father was a good
specimen of a thorough English country gentleman; he was thorough in
everything, honest-faced, stout, and hearty, not over-refined, perhaps,
but yet gentle in all his thoughts and acts; a hater of a lie and every
thing dishonourable, hospitable and generous to the utmost of his means;
a protector of the poor and helpless, and a friend to all his
neighbours.  Yes, and I may say more, both he and my mother were humble,
sincere Christians, and made the law of the Bible their rule of life.
He told a good story and laughed at it himself, and delighted to see our
mother and us laugh at it also.  Had he been bred a lawyer, and lived in
London, he would have been looked upon as a first-rate wit; but I am
certain that he was much happier with the lot awarded to him.  He had a
good estate; his tenants paid their rents regularly; and he had few or
no cares to disturb his digestion or to keep him awake at night; and I
am very certain that he would far rather have had us to hear his jokes,
and laugh at them with him, than all the wits London ever produced.  He
delighted in joining in all our sports, either of the field or flood,
and we always looked forward to certain amusement when he was able to
accompany us.  He was our companion and friend; we had no secrets from
him,--why should we?  He was always our best adviser, and if we got into
scrapes, which one or the other of us was not unfrequently doing, we
were very certain that no one could extricate us as well as he could.  I
don't mean to say that he forgot the proverb, "Spare the rod, spoil the
child;" or that we were such pieces of perfection that we did not
deserve punishment; but we had sense enough to see that he punished us
for our good: he did it calmly, never angrily, and without any
unnecessarily severe remark, and we certainly did not love him the less
for the sharpest flogging he ever gave us.  Directly afterwards, he
would meet the culprit in his usual frank, hearty way, and seem to
forget all about the matter.

Our sisters were on the same happy intimate terms with our mother, and
we boys had no secrets with her, or with them either.

Our father used to believe and assert that our family had settled in
Leicestershire before the Conquest, and, in consequence of this notion,
he gave us all old English names or what he supposed to be such.  His
own name was Joliffe, and he used to be called by his hunting
associates, the other gentlemen of the county, Jolly Merry.  He was not,
I should say, _par excellence_ a fox hunter, though he subscribed to the
county hunt, and frequently followed the hounds; and no one rode better,
nor did any one's voice sound more cheerily on copse or hill side than
did his, as he greeted a friend, or sang out, in the exuberance of his
spirits, a loud tallyho-ho.  My name stood sixth in the Family Bible,
and that of Marmaduke had fallen to my lot.  We had a Cedric, an
Athelstane, an Egbert, and an Edwin among the boys, and a Bertha, an
Edith, and a Winifred among the girls.  We all went to school in our
turns, but though it was a very good school, we did not like it so much
as home.  When, however, we got to school, we used to be very jolly, and
if other boys pulled long faces we made round ones and laughed away as
usual.  Our school was in Northamptonshire, so that we had not far to
go, and we kept up a very frequent correspondence with home, from which,
in consequence of its vicinity, we received more hampers laden with
cakes and tongues, and pots of jam, and similar comestible articles,
than most of our companions.  I do not say that we should not otherwise
have been favourites, but it might have been remarked that the
attentions and willingness to oblige us of our companions increased in
proportion to the size of our hampers, and our readiness to dispense
their contents.

However, I will not dwell on my school life.  I imbibed a certain amount
of classical and elementary knowledge of a somewhat miscellaneous
description, and received not a few canings, generally for laughing in
my class at something which tickled my fancy, when I ought not to have
allowed my fancy to be tickled; but altogether my conduct was such that
I believe I was considered to have brought no discredit on the Merry
name or fame.  Such was my uneventful career at school.

We were all at home for the summer holidays.  We were seated at
breakfast.  What a rattle of tongues, and knives, and forks, and cups,
and saucers there was going on.  What vast slices of bread and butter
were disappearing within our well practised jaws.  Various cries
proceeded from each side of the table.  "Bertha, another cup of tea;"
"Bertha, some more milk;" "Bertha, you haven't given me sugar enough by
half;" "Bertha, I like strong tea; no wish-wash for me."

Bertha was our oldest sister and tea-maker general.  She had no sinecure
office of it; but, in spite often of the most remarkable demands, she
dispensed the beverage with the most perfect justice and good humour.
Not unsatisfactory were the visits paid to the sideboard, covered as it
was with brawn, and ham, and tongue, and a piece of cold beef, and such
like substantial fare.

Suddenly the tenor of our conversation was turned by the entrance of the
servant with the post-bag.  The elders were silent for a few minutes,--
our father and mother and Bertha, and Cedric, who was at home from
college.  Our mother had a large circle of correspondents, and seldom a
post arrived without a letter for her.  Our father had fewer; but this
morning he received one, in a large official-looking cover, which
absorbed his attention.  Still the clatter of tongues went on among us
younger ones.  Our father and mother had grown so accustomed to it,
that, as the miller awakes when his mill stops, so they would have
looked up to ascertain what was the matter had we been silent.

"Which of you would like to become a midshipman?" asked our father
looking up suddenly.

The question had an effect rarely produced in the family.  We were all
silent.  Our mother put down her letters, and her fond eyes glanced
round on our faces.  Her countenance was unusually grave.

Again my father looked at the document in his hand.  "Captain Collyer
says he should not be more than fourteen.  Marmaduke, that is your age.
What do you say on the subject?" said my father.

"Joliffe, what is it all about?" asked my mother, with a slight
trepidation in her voice.

"I forgot that I had not read the letter.  It is rather long.  It is
from my old friend, Dick Collyer, and a better fellow does not breathe.
The tenor of it is that he has got command of a fine frigate, the Doris,
fitting with all despatch for sea, and that he will take one of our boys
as a midshipman, if we like to send the youngster with him.  There is no
time to lose, as he expects to be ready in a week or ten days; so we
must decide at once."

The question was put indirectly to me, "Should I like to go to sea?"
Now, I had never even seen the sea, and had never realised what a
man-of-war was like.  The largest floating thing to which I was
accustomed was the miller's punt, in which my brothers and I used
occasionally to paddle about on the mill-pond; in which mill-pond, by
the bye, we had all learned to swim.  I had seen pictures of ships,
though as to the size of one, and the number of men she might carry, I
was profoundly ignorant.  I was, therefore, not very well qualified to
come to a decision.  Suddenly I recollected a visit paid to us by Tom
Welby, an old schoolfellow, after his first trip to sea, and what a
jolly life I thought he must lead as he described his adventures, and
how fine a fellow he looked as he strutted about with his dirk at his
side, the white patch on his collar, and the cockade in his hat.  I
decided at once.  "If you wish it, father, I'm ready to go," said I.

My father looked at me affectionately.  There was, I am certain, a
conflict going on in his mind whether or not he should part with me; but
prudence conquered love.

"Of course, you must all have professions, boys, and the navy is a very
fine one," he observed.  "What do you say, Mary?"

My mother was too sensible a woman to make any objections to so
promising an offer if I did not; and therefore, before we rose from the
breakfast table, it was settled that I was to be a midshipman, and we
were all soon laughing away as heartily as ever.  The news that Master
Marmaduke was going away to sea quickly reached the servants' hall, and
from thence spread over the village.

Not a moment was lost by our mother in commencing the preparations for
my outfit.  Stores of calico were produced, and she and Bertha had cut
out a set of shirts and distributed them to be made before noon.  While
they were thus employed, I went down to have a talk with my father, and
to have my ignorance on nautical affairs somewhat enlightened, though
he, I found, knew very little more about them than I did.  While I was
in the study the footman came to say that Widow Bluff wished to see him.
"Let her come in," was his reply.  "Well, dame, what is it you want
this morning?" he asked, in his cheery encouraging tone as she appeared.

"Why, sir, I hears how Master Marmaduke's going away to sea, and I comes
to ask if he'll take my boy Toby with him," answered the dame, promptly.

"What, Mrs Bluff, do you wish him to be an officer?" said my father.

"Blessy no, sir.  It's to be his servant like.  I suppose he'll want
some one to clean his shoes and brush his clothes, and such little
things, and I'd be proud for my Toby to do that," answered the dame.
Now, I had always thought Toby Bluff to be a remarkably dunder-headed,
loutish fellow, though strong as a lion, and with plenty of pluck in his
composition.  I had helped him out of a pond once, and done him some
other little service, I fancy; but I had forgotten all about the matter.

"I will see about it, dame," said my father.  "But I doubt if Toby,
though a good lad, will ever set the Thames on fire."

"Blessy heart, I hopes not," exclaimed the dame in a tone of horror.
"He'd be a hanged, if he did, like them as burnt farmer Dobbs's corn
stacks last year."

Toby, it appeared, was waiting outside.  My father sent for him, and
found that he really had a very strong desire to go to sea, or rather to
follow me.  Toby had an honest round freckled countenance, with large
hands and broad shoulders, but a slouching awkward gait, which made him
look far less intelligent than he really was.  As he had always borne a
good character, my father promised to learn if Captain Collyer would
take him.  The answer was in the affirmative.  Behold, then, Toby Bluff
and me about to commence our career on the briny ocean.

I tried to laugh to the last; but somehow or other, it was a harder job
than I had ever found it; and as to my mother and sisters, though they
said a number of funny things, there was a moisture in their eyes and a
tremulousness in their voices very unusual with them.  Toby Bluff, as he
scrambled up on the box of the chaise, which was to take us to meet the
London coach, blubbered out with a vehemence which spoke more for the
sensitiveness of his feelings than for his sense of the dignified; but
when his mother, equally overcome, exclaimed, "Get down, Toby; I'll not
have thee go, boy, an thou takest on so," he answered sturdily, "Noa,
noa, mother; I've said I'd stick to Measter Marmaduke, and if he goes,
I'll go to look after him."

My brothers cheered and shouted as we drove off, and I did my best to
shout and cheer in return, as did Toby in spite of his tears.  My father
accompanied us as far as London.  We spent but a few hours in that big
city.

"I don't see that it be so very grand like," observed Toby as we drove
through it.  "There bees no streets paved with gold, and no Lord Mayor
in a gold coach,--only bricks and mortar, and people running about in a
precious hurry."

Captain Collyer had desired that I should come down by the coach to the
George at Portsmouth, where he would send his coxswain to meet me, and
take me to the tailor, who would make my uniform, a part of my outfit
which our country town had been unable to supply.

It was a bright summer morning when my father accompanied us to
Piccadilly, whence the Portsmouth coach started.

"Cheer up, and don't forget your name, Marmaduke," he said, wringing my
hand as I was climbing on to the front seat.  He nodded kindly to Toby,
who followed me closely.  "Don't you forget to look after the young
master, boy," he added.

"Noa, squire, while I'se got fists at the end of my arms, I won't,"
answered Toby.

"All right," shouted the guard, and the coach drove off.

I found myself seated by a tall man with a huge red nose, like the beak
of an eagle, a copper complexion, jet black piercing eyes, and enormous
black bushy whiskers.  He looked down at me, I thought, with ineffable
contempt.  His clothes were of blue cloth, and his hands, which were
very large and hairy, were marked on the back with strange devices,
among which I observed an anchor, a ship, and a fish, which made me
suspect that he must be a nautical character of some sort.  He addressed
the coachman and the passenger on the box seat several times in a
wonderfully loud gruff voice, but as they showed by their answers that
they were not inclined to enter into conversation with him, he at last
turned his attention to me.

"Why are you going down to Portsmouth, little boy?" he asked, in a tone
I did not like.

"I suppose because I want to get there," I answered.

"Ho! ho! ho!"  His laugh was like the bellowing of a bull.  "Going to
sea, I fancy," he remarked.

"Yes, going to see Portsmouth," said I, quietly, "if I keep my eyes
open."

"Ho! ho! sharp as a needle I see," observed the big man.

"Sharpness runs in the family," I replied.  We were well up to this sort
of repartee among each other at home.

"Your name is Sharp, I suppose," said my friend.

"No, only my nature, like a currant or a sour gooseberry," I replied,
not able to help laughing myself.

"Take care, youngster, you don't get wounded with your own weapon," said
the big man.

"Thank you," I answered, "but I am not a tailor."

"No--ho, ho, ho,--perhaps not; but you are little more than the ninth
part of a man," said the giant.

"The ninth part of you, you mean; but I am half as big as most men now,
and hope to be a whole man some day, and a captain into the bargain."

"Then I take it you are that important character, a new fledged
midshipman," observed my huge companion.

"Judging of you by your size, I should suppose on the same grounds that
you are nothing less than an admiral," I retorted.

"I should be, if I had my deserts, boy," he replied, drawing himself up,
and swelling out his chest.

"Then are you only a captain?"  I asked.

"I once was, boy," he replied with a sigh which resembled the rumbling
of a volcano.

"Captain of the main-top," said the gentleman on the box without turning
round.

"What are you now, then?"  I asked.

"A boatswain," uttered the gentleman on the box.

"Yes, young gentleman, as our friend there says, I am a boatswain," he
exclaimed in a voice of thunder, "and a very important person is a
boatswain on board ship, let me tell you, with his call at his mouth,
and colt in his hand, as your silent companion there will very soon find
out, for I presume, by the cut of his jib, that he is not a midshipman."

"And what is a boatswain on board ship?"  I asked, with unfeigned
simplicity.

"Everything from truck to kelson, I may say, is under his charge," he
replied consequentially.  "He has to look after masts, spars, rigging,
sails, cables, anchors, and stores; to see that the men are kept under
proper discipline, and make them smart aloft.  In my opinion a
man-of-war might do without her captain and lieutenants, but would be no
man-of-war without her boatswain."

The gentleman on the box laughed outright, but the boatswain took no
notice of it.  I began to think in spite of his coarseness that he must
be a very important personage, and probably I showed this in my manner,
for he went on enlarging on his own importance.

"I tell you, young gentleman, it's my belief that I have been round the
world oftener and seen more strange sights than any man living."

"I should like to hear some of your adventures," I said.

"I dare say you would, and if you like to pay me a visit on board the
Doris frigate, and will inquire for Mr Jonathan Johnson, the boatswain,
I shall be happy to see you and to enlighten your mind a little."

"Why, that is the ship I am going to join," I exclaimed; "didn't Captain
Collyer tell you?"

"No, he has not as yet communicated that important matter to me,"
answered Mr Jonathan Johnson, twisting his huge nose in a comical way.
"But give us your flipper, my hearty,--we are to be shipmates it seems.
I like you for your dauntless tongue; if you've a spirit to match,
you'll do, and I promise you that you shall some day hear what you shall
hear."

The coach stopped at the George.  A seaman, who announced himself as Sam
Edkins, Captain Collyer's coxswain, came up, and touching his hat
respectfully to Mr Johnson, helped me off the coach.

"Well, Edkins, have all the officers joined yet?" asked the boatswain.

"All but the second lieutenant; he's expected aboard to-day, sir," was
the answer.

"What's his name, Edkins?  I hope he's not a King's hard bargain, like
some lieutenants I have fallen in with within the last hundred years,"
said Mr Johnson.

"No, sir; he's no hard bargain," answered Edkins.  "I heard the captain
say his name is Bryan, the same officer who, with twenty hands, cut out
a French brig of seven guns and ninety men the other day in the West
Indies."

"All right; he'll do for us," observed Mr Johnson, with a patronising
air.  "By the bye, Edkins, have you received any directions about this
boy?"

"No, sir; only that he was to go aboard at once."

"Very well, then, I'll take him.  Come, youngster--what's your name?"

"Please, sir, it be Tobias Bluff; but I be called Toby most times,"
answered my young follower, evidently awe-struck with the manner and
appearance of Mr Johnson.  Not an inch did he move, however, from my
side.

"Come along, boy," cried the boatswain in a thundering tone which might
have been heard half down the High Street.

"Noa," said Toby, looking up undauntedly at him; "I has a said I'd stick
to the young squire, and I'll no budge from his side, no, not if you
bellows louder than Farmer Dobbs's big bull."

Never had the boatswain been thus bearded by a ship's boy.  His black
eyes flashed fire--his nose grew redder than ever, and seizing him by
the collar of his jacket, he would have carried him off in his talons,
as an eagle does a leveret, had not Edkins and I interfered.

"You see, Mr Johnson, the boy has the hay-seed in his hair, and doesn't
know who you are, or anything about naval discipline," observed the
coxswain.  "If you'd let him stay with the young gentleman, I'll just
put him up to a thing or two, and bring him aboard by and by."

Mr Johnson, who was really not an ill-natured man, agreed to this,
remarking, "Mind, boy, the king is a great man ashore, but I'm a greater
afloat--ho, ho, ho," and away he walked down the street to the Point.

The passenger who had had the box seat was standing near all the time.
"He'll find that there's a greater man than he is on board, if he
overstays his leave," I heard him remark, with a laugh, as he entered
the inn.

He was a slight active young man, with a pleasant countenance.

"That's our second lieutenant, Mr Bryan," said Edkins to me.  "I saw
his name on his portmanteau.  He must have thought the boatswain a rum
'un."

Captain Collyer's tailor lived close at hand, so I went there at once,
and he promised to have a suit ready for me by the following morning.

Edkins told me I was to dine with the captain at the George, and to
sleep there.  He proposed that we should walk about in the interval, and
I employed part of the time in comforting Toby, persuading him to
accompany the coxswain on board the frigate without me.

We had just got outside the Southsea-gate, when, passing a fruit-stall,
I saw a little boy, while the old woman who kept the stall was looking
another way, surreptitiously abstract several apples and make off with
them.  She turned at the moment and observed the deed.

"Come back, ye little thieving spalpeen," she cried angrily, rising and
making sail in chase.  She was very stout, and filled out with
petticoats on either side.  The wind was very strong from the
south-west, and, knowing that it is easier to sail with a fair wind than
a foul, off darted the little boy before it over Southsea common.  He,
however, compared to the old lady, was like a brig to a seventy-four,
with the studding sails set alow and aloft, and she, with her wide
expanded figure propelled onward, was rapidly gaining on the
apple-loving culprit.  She would have caught him to a certainty.  Toby
and I and Edkins ran on to see the result.  An old admiral (so Edkins
told me he was), taking his constitutional, stopped, highly enjoying the
fun.  He observed the cause of old Molly's rapid progress.  His
sympathies were excited for the urchin.

"Try her on a wind, boy; try her on a wind," he shouted, giving way to
his feelings in loud laughter.

The boy took the hint, and coming about darted off to the westward.
Molly attempted to follow, but her breath failed her; the hitherto
favouring gale blew her back, and with anathemas on the head of the
culprit, she gave up the pursuit, and returned panting to her stall.

"There's the price of your apples, Molly," said the admiral, as he
passed, handing her a sixpence.  "You have gained it for the fun you
have afforded me."

"That 'ere little chap will come to the gallows some day, if he goes on
like that," was the comment made by Toby.

"That's true, boy," observed Edkins.  "People are apt to forget, if they
are amused, whether a thing is right or wrong; white's white, and
black's black, whatever you choose to call them."

I felt very sure, from what I saw of Edkins, that he would take good
care of Toby.  He left me at the George.  The captain came at last.  He
was a broad-shouldered, thick-set man, not very tall, but with fair hair
and a most pleasant expression of countenance.  Frank, honest, and
kind-hearted I was certain he was.  He reminded me of my father, except
that the squire had a fresh and he had a thoroughly saltwater look about
him.  We were joined at dinner by several officers, and among others by
my fellow-passenger, who proved, as Edkins suspected, to be Mr Bryan,
the second lieutenant of the Doris.  He amused the company very much by
an account of Mr Johnson's conversation with me.

"He is a very extraordinary fellow, that," said the captain.  "He is a
first-rate seaman, and thoroughly trustworthy in all professional
matters; but I never met his equal for drawing the long bow.  I knew him
when I was a lieutenant, and could listen to his yarns."

The party laughed heartily at my account of the old applewoman and the
little boy, and I felt wonderfully at my ease among so many big-wigs,
and began to fancy myself a personage of no small importance.  After
dinner, however, Mr Bryan called me aside.  "I must give you a piece of
advice, youngster.  I overheard your contest of wit with the boatswain,
and I remarked the way you spoke to your superior officers at dinner.
You are now in plain clothes, and the Captain's guest, but do not
presume on their present freedom.  You will find the drawing-room and
the quarter-deck very different places.  Sharpness and wit are very well
at times, but modesty is never out of place."  I thanked Mr Bryan, and
promised to remember his advice.

The next day, with the assistance of the tailor, I got into my uniform,
and, after I had had a little time to admire myself, and to wish that my
mother and sisters could see me, Edkins appeared to take me and my traps
on board.  The frigate had gone out to Spithead, where one of England's
proud fleets was collected.  The gig was waiting at the point.  I
stepped into her with as much dignity as I could command and we pulled
out of the harbour.  When we got into the tide-way the boat began to bob
about a good deal.  I felt very queer.  "Edkins, is this what you call a
storm?"  I asked, wishing the boat would be quiet again.

"Yes, in a wash-tub, Mister Merry.  As like a storm as a tom-tit is to
an albatross," he answered.

My astonishment at finding myself among the line-of-battle ships at
Spithead was very great.  What huge floating castles they appeared--what
crowds of human beings there were on board, swarming in every direction,
like ants round their nest.  In a few moments a wonderful expansion of
my ideas took place.  Even our tight little frigate, as I had heard her
called, looked an enormous monster when we pulled alongside, and the
shrill whistle and stentorian voice of the boatswain sounded in my ears
as if the creature was warning us to keep off, and I thought, if it
began to move, that we should, to a certainty, be crushed.  However, I
managed to climb up the side, and as I saw Edkins touch his hat to a
tall thin gentleman in uniform, with a spy-glass under his arm, and say,
"Come aboard, sir;" I touched mine, and said, "Come aboard, sir."

"All right," said Edkins, as he passed me.  "This is the
first-lieutenant."

He did not take much notice of me; but soon afterwards Mr Bryan
appeared and shook hands with me, and told him that I was a new
midshipman, a friend of the captain's, and was very kind; and after a
little time he called another midshipman, and desired him to take me
down to the berth and to introduce me to our messmates.  My conductor
was a gaunt, red-haired lad, who had shoved his legs and arms too far
into his trousers and jacket.  He did not seem well-pleased with the
duty imposed on him.  I followed him down one flight of steps, when I
saw huge cannon on either side, and then down another into almost total
darkness; and though he seemed to find his way very well, I had no
little difficulty in seeing where he was going.  He stopped once and
said, "What's your name, youngster?"  I told him, and turning to the
right he caught me by the collar and shoved me through a door among a
number of young men and boys, exclaiming, in a croaking voice, "Here's
Master Marmaduke Merry come to be one of us; treat him kindly for his
mother's sake."

Having thus satisfactorily fulfilled his mission he disappeared.

"Sit down, boy, and make yourself at home," said an oldish man with grey
hair, from the other end of the table.

"Thank you, as soon as I can see where to sit," said I; "but you don't
indulge in an over-abundance of light down here."

"Ha, ha, ha!  Make room for Marmaduke, some of you youngsters there,"
exclaimed the old mate, for such I found he was, and caterer of the
mess, "Remember your manners, will you, and be polite to strangers."

"But he is not a stranger," said a boy near me.  "Yes, he is, till he
has broken biscuit with us," said old Perigal.  "That reminds me that
you are perhaps hungry, youngster.  We've done tea, but we shall have
the grog and the bread on the table shortly.  We divide them equally.
You youngsters have as much to eat as you like of the one, _weevils_ and
all, and we drink of the other.  It's the rule of the mess, like the
laws of the Medes and Persians, not to be broken.  However, we will
allow Merry a small quantity to-night, as it is his first on board ship,
but after that, remember, no infraction of the laws;" and old Perigal
held up a weapon which he drew from his pocket, and with which, I found,
he was wont to enforce his commands in the berth.

His system worked pretty well, and it kept the youngsters from falling
into that most pernicious of practices, spirit drinking, and the
oldsters were too well seasoned to be injured by the double allowance
they thereby obtained.

Altogether I was pleased with my reception, and I fancy my new shipmates
were pleased with me.  My great difficulty at first was finding my way
about, for as to which was the head or after part of the ship I had not
the slightest notion, and the direction I received to go aft or go
forward conveyed no idea to my mind.

As I was groping my way about the lower-deck, I saw what I took to be a
glimmering light in a recess, when a roaring voice said, "Ho, ho!  Mr
Merry, what--have you come to see me?  Welcome aboard the Doris."  The
light was the nose, and the voice that of Jonathan Johnson the
boatswain.

I thanked him, and, guessing it would please him, told him that I should
hold him to his promise of recounting his adventures.

"Time enough when we get into blue water, Mr Merry.  Under present
circumstances, with every thing to do, and nobody fit to do it but
myself; for you see, Mr Merry, the gunner and carpenter are little
better than nonentities, as you will find out some day; I have barely
time to eat my necessary meals, much less to talk."

I told him that I should anxiously look forward to a fitting time for
the expected treat, and asked him where I could find Toby Bluff.

"You shall see him in a jiffy," he answered; and he bellowed out, "Boy
Bluff!  Boy Bluff! send aft boy Bluff!"

The same words were repeated in various hoarse tones, and in less than a
minute Toby came running up.  He had had the advantage of a day's
experience on board, and had wonderfully soon got into the ways of the
ship.

When he saw me he shouted with joy.

"I did think, Master Marmaduke, you never would a coome," he exclaimed.
"But it's all right now, and my--what a strange place this bees.  Not a
bit like the Hall, though there's plenty o' beef here for dinner, but
it's main tough, and the bread for all the world's like old tiles."

"Be thankful you haven't to live on grind-stones and marlin-spikes, as I
once had for a whole month, with nothing but bilge-water to wash 'em
down," growled out the boatswain, who heard the observation.

As he told me that he had not time to talk, I did not ask him how this
had happened.

I might prolong indefinitely my account of my first days on board ship.
I gradually found myself more and more at home, till I began to fancy
that I must be of some use on board.  No one could be kinder than was
Captain Collyer, and he was constantly employing me in a variety of ways
in which he thought I could be trusted.  One day he sent for me, and
giving me a letter, ordered me to take it on board the flagship, and to
deliver it in person to Captain Bumpus, the flag-captain.  I knew
Captain Bumpus, because he had been one of our dinner party at the
George, and I remembered that he had laughed complacently at my stories.
He was, however, very pompous, not a little conceited, and a great
dandy, and I cannot say that I had felt any great respect for him.

We had discussed him in the berth, and the opinion was that he was sweet
on one of the admiral's daughters.  At all events he was a bachelor, and
having lately made some prize-money, he was supposed to be looking out
for a wife to help him to spend it.  Moreover it was whispered that he
wore a wig, but this he strenuously denied, being very fond of talking
of the necessity he was under of having to go and get his hair cut, till
it became a common remark that though Captain Bumpus got his hair cut
oftener than any one else, it never appeared shorter.

I stepped into the second gig, and as Edkins went with me to steer the
boat, I had no difficulty in getting alongside the flagship.  As we
pulled under the stern, I saw several ladies looking out from a stern
gallery, which Edkins told me belonged to the admiral's cabin.  I found
my way on deck, and touching my hat to the mate of the deck, announced
my errand.

"Come, I'll show you," he said, seeing that I hesitated which way to
turn, and he led me up first to one deck and then to another, and then
he pointed to a door at which a sentry was standing, and told me to go
in there.  I found four or five officers in the after-cabin waiting to
see Captain Bumpus, who was dressing, I collected from their
conversation.

Presently a frizzled out Frenchman, the very cut of a stage barber (a
refugee, I heard afterwards), entered the cabin with a freshly dressed
wig on a block.

"Monsieur de Captain tell me to bring his vig and put it in his cabin.
I do so vid your permission, gentlemen," he observed, as he placed it on
the table, and with a profound bow took his departure.

The story went that Captain Bumpus, who was fond of good living, had
only lately fallen in with poor Pierre Grenouille, and had concluded a
bargain on which he prided himself exceedingly.  Ostensibly Pierre was
engaged to dress his dinners, but privately to dress his hair, or rather
his wigs.

There was a general titter among the officers, in which I heartily
joined.

Suddenly, before we had time to compose our features, a door on one side
opened, and Captain Bumpus appeared in full rig, with his sword under
his arm, and his cocked hat in hand, looking self-satisfied in the
extreme.  He started when he saw the wig block and wig, the fac-simile
of the one he wore on his head.

"What's that?" he exclaimed in a voice hoarse with rage.  "Who put it
there?"

No one answered, and dashing down his hat, he seized the wig block and
wig, and with an exclamation of anger threw them overboard.

"Now, gentlemen," he said, turning round and attempting to be calm,
"what is it you have to say?  Really this incident may seem ridiculous,"
he added, seeing that there was still a suppressed titter going on, "but
I detest the sight of a wig block since--you know that Highland
tragedy--"

"A man overboard! a man overboard!" was heard resounding in gruff voices
from above.

"Oh, poor man, he will be drowned, he will be drowned," came in a
sharper treble from the admiral's cabin.

I heard the shrill pipe of the boatswain's mate as boats were being
lowered, and at that instant into the cabin rushed the French barber,
wringing his hands in a frantic state, and exclaiming, "Oh, Captain,
your beautiful vig, your beautiful vig, it vill all be spoilt, it vill
all be spoilt."

"My wig!" shouted Captain Bumpus, in a voice of thunder.  "My wig, you
anatomy, you mendacious inventor of outrageous impossibilities.  Begone
out of the cabin, out of the ship, overboard with you, the instant
dinner is served!"  And he gave the unhappy barber a kick which sent him
flying across the after-cabin, through the door of the outer one,
against the sentry, who was knocked over, and soldier and barber lay
floundering and kicking, and bawling and swearing in their native
dialects, amid the laughter of the officers, who ran to see what had
become of the little man, and the shouts of the men who were outside.

Meantime the tide was running strong, and the wig block drifted past the
other ships of the fleet, from all of which boats instantly put off in
chase.  They were all assembled round the fatal block, and the bowman of
one, more fortunate than the rest, had got hold of it, and held it up
amid shouts of laughter, when a boat from the flagship arrived and
claimed the prize.

As the boat returned and pulled up astern, the admiral shouted out,
"Have you got the poor fellow?"

"It wasn't a man, sir; it was only the captain's wig, sir," was the
answer.

"The captain's what?" cried the admiral.

"Captain Bumpus's wig," shouted the bowman, as he held it up for
inspection.

"Come aboard with it, then," answered the admiral, roaring with
laughter, for he richly enjoyed a joke.

I heard a merry giggle in the stern gallery.  Captain Bumpus turned pale
with rage and mortified vanity.  I delivered my despatch, to which he
said he would send an answer.  The next day it was reported that he had
resigned his commission and gone on shore.  He could not bear the idea
that the whole fleet should have discovered he wore a wig.



CHAPTER TWO.

Blue Peter had been for some hours flying aloft when Jonathan Johnson's
pipe, sounding along the decks with a shrillness which surpassed the
keenest of north-easterly gales, gave the expected order, which his
mates, in gruffest of gruff tones, bawled out, of "All hands up anchor!"
In an instant the whole ship was in an uproar, and seemed to me to be
in the most dire confusion.  Boatswain's mates were shouting and
bawling, the officers hurrying to their stations, the men flying here
and there, some aloft to loose sails, and others to halyards, sheets,
and braces.  I must own that I did not feel myself of any great service
in assisting at the operation going forward, but I ran and shouted with
the rest, and as the men passed me I told them to look sharp and to be
smart, and to hurry along; but what they were about to do I was utterly
unable to discover.  I met Toby Bluff hurrying along, looking very much
scared and half inclined to blubber.  I asked him what was the matter.

"It's the big man with the rattan," (he alluded to the ship's corporal)
"told me to go aft to the poop and stand by the mizen-topsail halyards,"
he exclaimed.  "But, oh, Master Marmaduke, where they be it's more than
my seven senses can tell.  What shall I do? what shall I do?"

I saw some other boys running aft, so I advised him to go where they
went, and to do whatever they did.  I soon afterwards saw him hauling
away sturdily at a rope, and though he tumbled down very often, he was
quickly again on his feet.  The fife and fiddle were meantime sounding
merrily, and, as with cheerful tramp the men passed round the
capstan-bars, the anchor was speedily run up to the bows.  What the
lieutenant on the forecastle could mean when he shouted out "Man the
cat-fall," I could not divine, till I saw that some of the crew were
securing the stock of the anchor by means of a tackle to a stout beam,
which projected over the bows of the ship.  "Over to the fish," next
shouted out the officer, an order at first equally inexplicable to me,
till I saw the flukes of the anchor hauled up close to the bows--fished,
as it is called.

The sails were let fall and sheeted home, braces hauled taut, and the
Doris, with a rattling breeze, under all sail, stood through the Needles
Passage and down Channel.  Those were stirring times.  The cruisers of
the various nations then at war with old England swarmed in all
directions; and it was the ardent wish of every one on board the
frigate, from the captain down to my small self, and to the youngest
powder-monkey, that we should before long meet an enemy worthy of our
prowess.  A sharp look-out was kept aloft night and day, and it would
have been difficult for anything under sail passing within the circle
seen from our main-truck to have escaped notice.  Captain Collyer also
did his best to prepare his crew for an encounter whenever it might
come, and the men were kept constantly exercising at the great guns and
small-arms, and, for a change, at shortening and making sail, till they
had all learned to work well together.  I was all this time rapidly
picking up a fair amount of miscellaneous nautical knowledge, partly by
observation, but chiefly from my messmates, and from Sam Edkins, the
captain's coxswain, who had, as he said, taken a liking to me.

Mr Johnson, the boatswain, at times condescended to give me
instruction.  "At present, Mr Merry, you'll observe, and I say it with
perfect respect," remarked my friend, "you're like a sucking babe, an
unfledged sparrow, a squid on dry ground--you're of no use to nobody,
and rather want somebody to look after you, and keep you out of harm.
When you've been to sea as many years as I have, if you keep your eyes
open, you'll begin to find out what's what."

I confess that these observations of the boatswain were calculated to
make me feel rather small.  However, I was not offended, and I often
managed to pay Mr Jonathan back in his own coin, which made him like me
all the more.  A great contrast to him in character was the captain's
steward, Billy Wise.  Billy had been to sea all his life, but no
training could make a sailor of him.  He was devoted to the captain,
whom he had followed from ship to ship, and who took him, I truly
believe, from pure compassion, because no one else would have had him.
He was, however, a faithful fellow, and I am certain would have done
anything to serve his captain.

Captain Collyer used to have some of the youngsters into his cabin to
learn navigation.  I liked this very much, and studied hard; for, as I
had come to sea to be a sailor, I wished to be a good one.  Several of
us were seated round the table one day, when the steward made his
appearance.

"How is the wind, Wise?" asked the captain.

"Some says it's east, and some says it's west, Captain Collyer," was the
satisfactory answer.

"And which way do you say it is?" inquired his master.

"Whichever way you please, sir," replied the steward, pulling a lock of
his hair.

Even the presence of our captain could scarcely prevent us youngsters
from bursting into a roar of laughter.  This was surpassed, however, by
an Irish midshipman, an old shipmate of mine, who, when undergoing his
examination for navigation, being asked, whether the sun went round the
earth, or the earth round the sun, looked up with perfect confidence,
and unhesitatingly replied--

"Faith, gentlemen, it's sometimes one and sometimes the other."

He was very much surprised at being turned back.  He, however,
afterwards managed to pass, but whether it was because the examining
officers were not quite confident as to the exact state of the case
themselves, and therefore did not push the question, or that he had in
the meantime gained the required information, I do not now remember.

Captain Collyer was accustomed to Billy's eccentricities.  They were
sometimes inconvenient.  One day, we fell in with a line-of-battle ship,
and our captain had to go on board to pay his respects to his superior
officer.

As he was hurriedly leaving his cabin he called for his cocked hat.

"Your hat.  Captain Collyer--your hat, sir," ejaculated Billy Wise, in a
state of great trepidation,--"it's all safe, sir.  It druve ashore at
Hurst, as we was coming through the Needles Passage, and some of the
sodgers at the castle picked it up."

Poor Billy had been brushing the hat at a port with too great vehemence,
and sent it flying overboard.  He might possibly have seen something
dark floating towards Hurst, and his shipmates, who were always
practising on his credulity, probably persuaded him that it was the
captain's hat.  Many captains, in those days, would have given him a
couple of dozen, or put him on nine-water grog for a month.  Captain
Collyer very soon forgot all about the matter, except when he told the
story as a good joke.  On the present occasion he had to borrow a cocked
hat; and it was not till we had been in action, and one of the officers
was killed, that he could get fitted with one of his own.

The captain had a goat, which was a source of much amusement to us
youngsters, and of annoyance to Mr Lukyn, the first-lieutenant; for, as
if aware that she did belong to the captain, she made no scruple of
invading the quarter-deck, and soiling its purity.  One day, my first
acquaintance on board--the tall, gaunt midshipman with red hair, who, by
the bye, went by the name of Miss Susan--with two or three other
youngsters and me, was standing on our side of the deck, when Nancy, the
goat, released from her pen, came prancing up to us.  We, as usual, made
grabs at her horns and tail, and somewhat excited her temper.  Now, she
began to butt at us, and made us fly, right and left.  Miss Susan was
capsized, and sent sprawling on the deck; and Nancy, highly delighted at
her victory, frisked off to the starboard side, where Mr Lukyn, with
all the dignity of a first-lieutenant, was walking the deck with his
glass under his arm.  Nancy, either mistaking his long legs for the
stems of the trees and shrubs of her native hills, or wishing to repeat
the experiment which had succeeded so well with regard to Miss Susan,
made a furious butt at his calves while he was walking aft, unconscious
of her approach.  The effect must have been beyond Nancy's utmost
expectations, as it was beyond ours.  Our gallant first never appeared
very firm on his pins, and, the blow doubling his knees, down he came,
stern first, on the deck with his heels in the air, while the goat,
highly delighted at her performance, and totally unconscious of her
gross infraction of naval discipline, frolicked off forward in search of
fresh adventures.

Just at that moment up came Billy Wise with a message from the captain.

Now Mr Lukyn rarely gave way to anger, but this was an occasion to try
his temper.  Picking himself up from his undignified posture, "Hang the
goat," he exclaimed in a loud tone; "who let the creature loose?"  Billy
did not know, but having delivered his message, away he went forward;
while we endeavoured to conceal, as far as we could, the fits of
laughter in which we were indulging.  Miss Susan's real name was Jacob
Spellman.  Some short time after this, I was going along the main-deck
with him, when we found the captain's steward very busy splicing an eye
in a rope, close to the cattle-pen, where Nancy had her abode.  We
walked on a little way, and then turned round to watch him.  Having
formed a running noose, he put it round the goat's neck, and dragged her
out of the pen.  He then got a tub and made her stand upon it while he
passed the rope over a hook in the beam above.  Hauling away as hard as
he could, he gave the tub a kick, and there hung poor Nancy, in a most
uncomfortable position, very nearly with her neck dislocated; but as he
had not calculated on her power of standing on her hind legs, the result
he expected was unaccomplished, and she was not altogether deprived of
life.  She struggled, however, so violently that she would very soon
have been strangled had not old Perigal, who was mate of the main-deck,
come up and seen what was going forward.  "Why, man, what are you
about?" he exclaimed.  "Please, sir, I be hanging the goat," was Billy's
reply.

"Hanging the goat! who told you to do that?" inquired Perigal.

"It was the first-lieutenant, sir.  She knocked him over right flat on
the deck, and so he told me to go and hang her."

"Well, you are a precious--," exclaimed the old mate.  "Let free the
beast, and thank your stars that you didn't hang her.  The captain is a
wonderfully good-natured man, there can be no doubt of it; but even he
wouldn't have stood having his goat hung."

Of course I do not dress the language of my shipmates with the
expletives in which many of them were apt to indulge, when the use of
strange oaths and swearing of all descriptions was more common than even
at present, when the practice would be more honoured in the breach than
in the observance.  One thing I must say, I never heard our gallant
captain utter an oath or abuse a man during the whole time I had the
happiness of serving under him, and a braver, more spirited, or more
sensible man never trod the deck of a man-of-war as her chief.  His
memory is dear, not only to all those who served with him, but to all of
high or low degree who knew him during his long and glorious naval
career.  His manners were mild and gentle--though he had an abundance of
humour and spirit.  He could, however, when he thought it necessary,
speak with the gravest severity to a delinquent.  I never saw any man
more cool and calm and thoughtful in action.  It may truly be said of
him that in battle he was as brave as a lion, and in peace as gentle as
a lamb.  I could not resist uttering this panegyric on our well-loved
captain.

To return to Billy Wise and the goat.  The poor animal's life was saved,
though she had a strange way of stretching out her neck for some weeks
afterwards, and always gave Billy a wide berth when she encountered him
in her rambles about the decks.

When the captain heard the account, instead of being angry, he laughed
heartily, and added the story to his batch of anecdotes.

"I must do something with that poor fellow," he remarked.  "He is not
fit to be made Lord Chief Justice, I fear."

It was not always plain sailing with me.  Spellman and I were pretty
good friends, but he was somewhat inclined to play the bully.  He was
called Miss Susan simply because he was as unlike a girl as a great
awkward gawky fellow, with red hair and a freckled face, could well be.

One day, as I was going along the lower-deck, with a message to old
Perigal, who was attending to some duty forward, I came suddenly on Toby
Bluff, whose ear Spellman had seized, while with his heel he was
bestowing sundry hard blows on the corpus of my sturdy follower, who
already knew enough of naval discipline not to venture on retaliation.
Toby, though short, was as strong as a lion, and could have hurled him
to the deck if he had dared.  This made Miss Susan's attack all the more
cowardly.  What Toby had done to give offence I did not stop to inquire.
My anger was up in a moment.

"Let go the boy, Spellman!"  I exclaimed; "you shall not strike him
again."

Toby gained little by this, for Miss Susan only kicked him the harder;
whereon, up I rushed and hit my tall messmate a blow between the eyes,
which made lightning flash from them, I suspect.  Spellman instantly let
go Toby and sprang at me.  I stood prepared for the onslaught.  Blinded
by my first blow, my antagonist hit out at random, and though double my
weight, was far from getting the best of it.  While we were thus
pleasantly occupied, Mr Lukyn, with the sergeant-at-arms, was going his
rounds.  We were so earnestly engaged in endeavouring to the utmost of
our power to hurt each other, that we did not perceive their approach.
Toby knew too well the laws of British pugilism to interfere, though had
my opponent been an enemy of a different nation, and had we been engaged
in mortal combat, I have no doubt that I should have found my young
follower an able supporter.  An exclamation from Toby threw Spellman off
his guard, when a full blow, which I had planted on his breast, sent him
reeling back into the not very tender clutches of old Krause, the
master-at-arms.

"What is this about, young gentlemen?" exclaimed Mr Lukyn, in a severe
tone.  "Fighting is against the articles of war."

"He hit me, sir;" "He kicked the boy Bluff," we both exclaimed in the
same breath.

"I must have you both up before the captain, and ascertain who is the
culprit," said Mr Lukyn.  "Master-at-arms, take these young gentlemen
into custody."

I, on this, represented that I had been sent on a message to Mr
Perigal, and was allowed to go and deliver it.  While I was absent,
Spellman took care to put his case in the best light, and mine in the
worst.  In about an hour we were both taken before the captain, and Toby
was summoned as a witness.  For fear of committing me, he was only
puzzled what to say.

"Speak the truth, and nothing but it," said I boldly.  The captain cast
a look of approbation on me.  Toby frankly confessed that, not seeing
Mr Spellman, he had run against him, when he had been seized by the
ear, and that I, coming up, had taken his part.  Toby was dismissed.

"Now, young gentlemen, you are both in the wrong," said the captain.
"You, Mr Spellman, should not have struck the boy for his heedlessness,
and you, Mr Merry, should not have taken the law into your own hands.
You will both of you go to the mast-head, and remain there till Mr
Lukyn calls you down; Mr Merry to the foremast, Mr Spellman to the
mainmast."

We thought that we had got off very easily; and we should, had not the
first-lieutenant gone below and forgotten all about us.  Hour after hour
passed by: we had had no dinner: I was almost starved, and could
scarcely have held on longer, when my eye fell on a sail to the
southward.  We were in the chops of the channel, with the wind from the
northward.  "Sail, O!"  I shouted in a shrill tone.  Fortunately Mr
Lukyn was on deck, and when I had told him the direction in which I had
seen the stranger, he called me down, it having probably occurred to him
that I had been mast-headed rather longer than he intended.

When I got on deck I went up to him, and, touching my hat, said,
"Please, sir, Spellman is still at the mast-head."

"Oh, is he? ah!" he answered, taking a turn.

I guessed from this that he did not think I was much to blame.  Still I
was anxious to get poor Miss Susan out of this unpleasant predicament,
for I knew he was almost dead with hunger.  I had resolved to go up to
Mr Lukyn to tell him so, when he hailed my late antagonist, and ordered
him on deck.

"You have to thank Mr Merry that you are not up still," observed the
first-lieutenant, walking away.

Meantime the helm had been put up, and sail made in chase of the
stranger.  All hands earnestly hoped that she might prove an enemy.  A
sharp look-out was kept on her.  One thing soon became evident--that we
must have been seen, and that she was not inclined to fly.

"Now, Mr Merry, we'll show you what fighting is," observed Mr Johnson,
the boatswain, as I stood near him on the forecastle.  "You'll soon see
round-shot, and langrage, and bullets rattling about us, thick as hail;
and heads, and arms, and legs flying off like shuttle-cocks.  A man's
head is off his shoulders before he knows where he is.  You'll not
believe it, Mr Merry, perhaps; but it's a fact.  I once belonged to a
frigate, when we fell in with two of the enemy's line-of-battle ships,
and brought them to action.  One, for a short time, was on our starboard
beam, and the other right aft; and we were exposed to a terrible cross
and raking fire: it's only a wonder one of us remained alive, or that
the ship didn't go down.  It happened that two men were standing near
me, looking the same way--athwart ships, you'll understand.  The name of
one was Bill Cox--the other, Tom Jay.  Well, a round-shot came from our
enemy astern, and took off the head of Bill Cox, who was on the larboard
side; while at that identical moment a chain-shot from the ship abeam
cut off Tom Jay's head, who was nearest the starboard side, so cleanly--
he happened to have a long neck--that it was jerked on to the body of
Bill Cox, who, very naturally, putting up his hands to feel what had
become, of his own head, kept it there so tightly that it stuck--
positively stuck; and, the surgeon afterwards plastering it thickly
round, it grew as firmly as if it had always belonged to the body.  The
curious thing was, that the man did not afterwards know what to call
himself; when he intended to do one thing he was constantly doing
another.  There was Bill Cox's body, d'ye see, and Tom Jay's head.  Bill
Cox was rather the shorter of the two, and had had a very ugly mug of
his own; while Tom Jay was a good-looking chap.  Consequently, Bill used
sometimes to blush when he heard his good looks spoken of, and sometimes
to get angry, thinking people were making fun of him.  At first, Bill
never knew who was hailed, and used to sing out, `Which of us do you
want?'  However, it was agreed that he was and should be Bill Cox;
because the head belonged to the body by right of capture; for if Bill's
arms hadn't sprung up and caught it, the head would have gone overboard,
and been no use to nobody.  So the matter was settled, as far as the
public was concerned.  D was put against Tom Jay's name, and his
disconsolate widow was written to, and told she might marry some one
else as soon as she liked.  But Bill wasn't at all comfortable about
himself.  He was fond of fat bacon, which Tom Jay could never abide; and
when Bill put it into his new mouth, why, you see, the mouth that was
Tom's spit it out again, and wouldn't let it, by no manner of means, go
down his throat.  Then Tom was fond of a chaw, and seldom had had a quid
out of his cheeks.  Bill, for some reason, didn't like baccy, and though
his mouth kept asking for it, nothing would ever tempt his hands to put
a quid inside.  `I'm very miserable, that I be,' groaned poor Bill; `I
sometimes almost wishes I hadn't caught Tom's head--that I do.'

"You see, Mr Merry, people seldom know when they are well off, and that
I used to tell him.  More came of it when Bill got back home.  When poor
Tom Jay's widow caught sight of him there was a terrible to do, seeing
she was already married to another man; but I'll tell you all about that
by and by.  There's the captain about to speak."

The captain's speech was very brief: "Clear ship for action," he
exclaimed, as he placed himself on one of the after guns; "and now,
lads, let me see what you are made of."

I had been about to ask the boatswain how he got clear of the two
line-of-battle ships, when this interruption occurred.  Toby Bluff had
been standing at a respectful distance, taking it all in with open mouth
and astonishment.  Each man went to his station--bulkheads were knocked
away--the fires put out--the magazine opened--powder and shot were
carried on deck--the guns were cast loose, and every preparation was
made in a wonderfully short space of time.  As I passed along the
main-deck, I found Toby Bluff sitting on his tub, the picture of a
regular powder-monkey--fat, sturdy, and unconcerned.  He had become on
very familiar terms with the other boys, and had fought his way into a
satisfactory state of equality.  He and those near him were firing off
jokes at each other at a rapid rate, the others trying to frighten him,
and he in no way inclined to take alarm.

"Never you mind," he answered to a remark made by one of his companions;
"if some chaps have their heads blown off, others gets new ones clapped
on again!  Ha, ha, ha!  That's more than some of you ever see'd done."

I was glad to see that Toby was in such good heart, and would not
disgrace our county.  When I reached the upper deck, I found our bunting
going up and down.  We were signalising with the stranger, which, after
all, turned out to be no enemy, but his Majesty's thirty-six gun frigate
Uranius.  There was a general groan of disappointment when the order was
given to secure the guns and close the magazine.  I believe that, at
that moment, most of the people, so worked up were they for fighting,
would rather have had a turn to with their friend than have been baulked
altogether.  We found, however, that we should soon have a good
opportunity of gratifying our pugnacious propensities.  Admiral
Cornwallis was at that time the commander-in-chief of the Channel fleet.
He had directed Captain Collyer to look out for the Uranius and another
frigate, the Emerald, and to proceed off Point Saint Matthieu, to watch
the French and Spanish fleets then lying in Brest harbour.  After
cruising for a couple of days, we fell in with the other frigate, and
thus all together proceeded to our destination.  We soon reached it.  On
standing in towards the land, we very clearly made out the enemy's fleet
at anchor in Brest harbour; but few, if any, of the ships had their
sails bent, and even if they had come out after us we could very easily
have escaped.

"All hands shorten sail, and bring ship to an anchor," was the order
given, and all three frigates brought up just as coolly as if we had
been at Spithead.

"I wonder what they think of us?"  I observed to the boatswain, as one
day I was examining the enemy through my glass.

"Think of us!" he exclaimed.  "That we are as impudent as sparrows, and
that they would willingly wring our necks and eat us if they could.  But
it is nothing to what I have seen done in the way of daring.  I once
belonged to a frigate, commanded by Captain Longbow, and, as he would
tell you, if you were to ask him, we one night sailed right into the
middle of a Spanish fleet--ran alongside one of their ships, boarded and
carried her, and took her out free without the Spanish admiral
discovering what we had been about.  There's no end to the wonderful
things I have seen done, or, I may say, without conceit, have done, Mr
Merry.  But I rather suspect that we shall have to lose sight of the
Dons and Monsieurs for a few days.  There's bad weather coming on, and
we shall have to stand out to sea; but, never mind, they'll not make
their escape with a gale in their teeth."

Mr Johnson prognosticated rightly.  Before many hours it was blowing
great guns and small-arms, and the three frigates were endeavouring,
under all the sail they could carry, to obtain a good offing from the
land.  We tumbled about and pitched into the seas in a way which
prevented me from, as usual, pitching into my dinner.  One thing was
satisfactory; the gale blockaded the enemy as effectually as we could
have done.  They were not inclined to come out and face either our guns
or the fury of the wind.  I cannot say, however, that just at that time
anything brought much consolation to me.  I had only one very strong
wish; it was, to be thrown overboard--not that I had the slightest
intention of jumping into the sea of my own accord.  I was too far gone
for any such energetic proceeding; and had anybody else taken me up for
the purpose, I have no doubt that I should have struggled and kicked
myself into perfect health again.  I had coiled myself away on the top
of my chest, on the lower-deck, in a dark recess, where I thought no one
would see me; and there I hoped to remain all alone in my misery, till
the ship went down, or blew up, or something else dreadful happened, for
as to my ever getting well again that I felt was physically impossible.
I had lain thus for some time, believing myself to be the most miserable
small piece of humanity in existence, when, the frigate appearing to be
pitching and rolling more furiously than ever, I heard a gruff voice
exclaim--

"What, youngster! are you going to let the ship go down, and you not try
to save her?  On deck with you; be smart, now."

I felt a colt applied to a part of my body which, in the position I lay,
offered a tempting mark.  The voice was that of old Perigal; his sharp
eyes had found me out.  I sprang up and rushed on deck with an
involuntary yell of pain, to find the ship under her three topsails
closely reefed, forcing her way bravely through the seas, and not at all
inclined to go down, or to come to any other damage.

"You're all the better for that trip, youngster," said the old mate,
with a grin, as I returned to the berth.  "Now, just take a lump of this
fat bacon, and a bit of biscuit,--and here, as a treat, you shall have a
nip of old Jamaica, and you'll be all to rights in ten minutes, and
never be sea-sick again as long as you live."

I remonstrated, but out came the colt, and with an argument so cogent I
was fain to adopt my messmate's remedy.  It was a terrible trial.  At
first, I could scarcely bring my teeth to meet; but Perigal flourished
his weapon, and my jaws went faster and faster, till I was not sorry to
finish the whole of the biscuit and bacon placed before me, and could
have taken twice as much if I could have got it.  Perigal was right.
From that day to this I have never suffered from sea-sickness.

Toby Bluff had undergone a similar ordeal, and when I was well enough to
go and look for him, I found him scraping away at a beef bone, from
which he had just removed the last particle of meat.

The summer gale was soon over, and once more we stood in for the land to
look after the Frenchmen.  As we drew in, I saw the captain and officers
eagerly scanning the coast with their glasses, and it was soon known
that a ship had been discovered at anchor by herself in a bay almost
abreast of where we then were.  She was protected, however, by the guns
of some strongish batteries.

"We must have her out, though," observed Captain Collyer; and forthwith
the proposal was made to our consorts by signal.

Neither of the captains was the sort of man to decline engaging in the
undertaking.  Off we went, under every stitch of canvas we could carry,
to look for the admiral, who, with a fleet sufficient to render a good
account of the enemy, should they venture out of harbour, was cruising
in the neighbourhood.

Admiral Cornwallis highly approved of the proposal.  "Go and do it," was
his laconic reply.  He was more addicted to acts than words.  He sent a
lieutenant, in whom he placed great confidence, to take command, and a
boat and boat's crew from the flagship to lead.  This was not quite as
complimentary a proceeding as the three captains would have liked; but
they were all too zealous and too anxious to get the work done to stand
on ceremony.  Away back we sailed, till we once more made out the
entrance to the bay, which was called Camaret Bay.

The craft we were about to attack, and hoped to capture, was the
Chevrette, a ship corvette, mounting twenty guns--a powerful vessel, and
not likely to be taken without a severe struggle.  Notice was given that
volunteers would be required for the service, and immediately the
greater part of the officers and crews of the three frigates came
forward.  Among those who volunteered from the Doris was Mr Bryan, the
second lieutenant; Mr Johnson, the boatswain; and Edkins, the captain's
coxswain.  All were allowed to go.  The captain had great confidence in
Mr Bryan; and I suspect that he had a fancy to ascertain what Mr
Johnson really was made of.

We brought up at our usual anchorage, and the remainder of the day was
occupied in making preparations for the expedition.  I saw Mr Johnson
very busily employed in his cabin in cleaning his pistols.

"Come in, Mr Merry," he said, as he caught sight of me.  "These are old
friends of mine: they have served me many a good turn before now.  If it
was not for these pistols I should not have been in the land of the
living: some day I'll tell you how it happened.  Well, we are likely to
have some desperate work to-night, and no one can tell whose lot it will
be to fall.  That reminds me, Mr Merry, I have written a letter to my
wife, and I will intrust it to you.  That is more than I would do to any
other midshipman in the ship.  She is a charming person--every inch a
lady, and a lady of rank, too.  One thing I must charge you--do not
speak of me as a boatswain.  She has no idea that I hold so subordinate
a rank.  She believes that I am an officer, and so I am; only I am a
warrant and not a commissioned officer.  Just tell her that I died
fighting bravely for my country.  Her name--for she is not called Mrs
Johnson--and address you will find within that enclosure.  If I come
back, you will restore it to me as it is; if I fall, you will know what
to do with it."

I thanked Mr Johnson very much for the confidence he reposed in me, but
told him that I had come for the very purpose of asking him to let me go
in his boat.

"You, Mr Merry?" exclaimed the boatswain.  "You'll be made into
mince-meat--cut to atoms--annihilated.  It's no child's play, that
cutting-out work we are going on, let me tell you.  Time enough when you
are bigger."

"But I want to go, that I may know how to do it," I argued; "I have come
to sea to learn to be a sailor and an officer, and the captain says we
should lose no opportunity of gaining knowledge; and I could not find a
better occasion than the present for gaining an insight into what, I
fancy, is of very considerable importance."

I went on for some time arguing in this way, and coaxing the boatswain.

"Well! well!  I cannot give you leave, youngster--you know that; but I
have heard of boys stowing themselves away under a sail in the bows of a
boat, and coming out to play their part right manfully when the time for
action had arrived.  I am to have the pinnace, you know."

"Thank you--thank you," I exclaimed, overwhelmed with gratitude at the
enormous favour done me by the boatswain, of allowing me to run a
considerable chance of getting knocked on the head.

"Don't say any more about it, Mr Merry," said Mr Johnson; "I always
liked you; and I couldn't do for my own son, if I had one, more than I
would do for you."  The boatswain forgot to ask for his letter back, so
I locked it up in my desk, after I had written a few lines to inform my
family that, if they received them, it would be to convey the
information that I had fallen, nobly fighting for my country, on the
field of fame--or something to that effect.  I know I thought my epistle
so very fine and pathetic that I could not resist the temptation of
sending it home, and very nearly frightened my mother and sisters into
hysterics, under the belief that I really was numbered among the killed
and wounded.  It was only when they got to the postscript that they
discovered I was all right and well.  Having written this despatch,
announcing my own demise--which, by the bye, I should certainly not have
done had not the boatswain put it into my head--I set to work to make my
other preparations.  Having secured a pistol, with some powder and
bullets, and a cutlass, which I fancied I could handle, I stowed them
away in the bows of the pinnace.

I never before played the hypocrite, but I was so afraid that my
messmates would discover my purpose, that I pretended to take no
interest in the proposed expedition, and spoke as if it was an affair in
which I should be very sorry to be engaged.  I got, in consequence,
considerably sneered at: Miss Susan, especially, amused himself at my
expense, and told me that I had better go back to my sisters, and help
them to sew and nurse babies, if I was afraid of fighting.  I bore all
that was said with wonderful equanimity, hoping that the next morning
would show I was a greater hero than any of them.

At length the boats' crews were piped away: it was the signal for which
I had long been listening.  I rushed on deck, and, unperceived, as I
hoped, I jumped into the pinnace, and stowed myself away under the
thwarts.  The boats were lowered, the order was given to shove off; and,
with a hearty cheer from all on board the ships, to which those on the
boats responded, away we pulled for the mouth of Camaret Bay.  My
position was anything but pleasant, especially as I got several kicks
from the feet of the men which nearly stove in my ribs; and I was
therefore very glad when I thought it would be safe to crawl out, and
present myself to the boatswain.  The men, very naturally, were highly
pleased, and I rose considerably in their estimation by what I had done;
but Mr Johnson, of course, pretended to be very angry when he saw me,
and told me the captain would never forgive me, or speak to me again, if
I got killed.  At first, the men were allowed to laugh and talk as much
as they liked; but as we approached the entrance to the bay, silence was
enjoined, and even the oars were muffled, so that we should give no
notice to the enemy of our approach.

The night was very dark.  Our boat had kept near that of our leader, Mr
Bryan; but after some time it was discovered that the other division of
boats had not come up.  We had pulled very fast, and probably
outstripped them.  We pulled on till we got within the very mouth of the
harbour, and then the order was passed from boat to boat that we were to
lay on our oars till the rest of the boats came up.  I found this rather
a trying time.  While we were rapidly pulling on I could not think, and
I felt a powerful longing to be slashing away at the enemy.  Now I began
to reflect that they would equally be slashing away at me; and I
remembered my own pathetic letter, and what I fancied Jonathan Johnson's
anticipations of evil.  Probably the men were indulging in much the same
sort of thoughts; I know that they did not appear to be in nearly such
good spirits as at first.  This showed me what I have ever since
remembered, that when dashing work is to be done, it should be done
off-hand, and that all pains should be taken to avoid a halt or
interruption.

Hour after hour passed by; no boats appeared.  At length the day broke,
and so rapidly did it come on that, before we had time to get to a
distance, the light revealed us to the eyes of the enemy.  The other
boats were nowhere to be seen; they, for some reason, had returned to
the ships; we had now no resource but to do the same, in a very
crestfallen condition.

I hid myself away, as before, and managed to get on board without any
one discovering where I had been.  I knew that Mr Johnson would keep
his counsel, and I did my best to keep mine.  Captain Collyer and the
other captains were very much annoyed at the failure of the expedition,
and it soon became known that they had resolved to make another attempt
to cut out the Chevrette.

There was no time to be lost.  Another expedition was arranged for that
night.  Every one knew that it would be far more dangerous than it would
have been on the previous night, because the enemy would now be prepared
for our reception.  The corvette, indeed, was seen to go further up the
harbour, so as to be more completely under the protection of the
batteries; and as boats were continually passing between her and the
shore, there could be little doubt that she was augmenting the number of
her crew.  Notwithstanding the formidable resistance they might thus
expect to meet with, all were as eager as before to join in the
expedition.

I resolved not to be baulked of my expected amusement, but how to
accomplish my purpose was the difficulty.  I heard both the officers and
men regretting the failure of the previous night, and observing that
they should have much tougher work the next time, by which I knew that
the danger would be very greatly increased; but that only made me the
more eager to go on the expedition.  The resistance to be expected was,
indeed, formidable.  We could see with our glasses the people busily
employed in throwing up new batteries on shore; and then a large gun
vessel came out and anchored at the mouth of the bay, to give notice of
the approach of boats.  What, however, excited the rage of all on board,
and made us still more eager to capture the French corvette, was to see
her hoist a large French ensign above the British flag.

"That insult seals her fate," observed Mr Bryan, loud enough for the
men near to hear him.  "Our fellows will take very good care to reverse
those two flags before many hours are over."

I was in a very fidgety state all day.  I was not accustomed to
concealment, and I dared trust no one with my plans.  Even Toby Bluff I
suspected, would try to prevent me going, unless he was allowed to go
also; and that I did not wish, as it would, in the first place, have
increased the chances of my being discovered, and also, though I was
ready enough to run the risk of being knocked on the head myself, I did
not wish to let him get hurt if I could help it.  I likewise very
carefully kept out of the boatswain's way.  I knew that, as the danger
was increased, he would be still less willing to let me go, and I was in
a great fright lest he should have an opportunity of speaking to me
alone, and altogether prohibit me from going in his boat.  At last a
bright idea occurred to me--I would sham ill, and then no one would
suspect me.  I immediately went to our long-headed Scotch
assistant-surgeon, Macquoid, and described my symptoms.

"You're vary ill, lad--vary ill," he answered, looking at me with a
quizzical expression in his humorous countenance.  "I'll give you
something which will do for ye, and not make ye wish for any more physic
for a long time to come."

Macquoid was as good as his word.  Terribly nauseous was the draught he
insisted on my swallowing; nor would he leave me till every drop had
gone down, and then I rushed off to the berth and threw myself on a
locker to luxuriate in the flavour, which nothing I could take would
remove from my mouth.

It was the first and last time I ever made an attempt at malingering.



CHAPTER THREE.

After I had taken Macquoid's nauseous draught, I went and lay down on my
chest.  I chose that spot because, from the uncomfortable position in
which I was obliged to place myself, I was not likely to go to sleep,
and because I was there better able to hear when the boats' crews were
called away.  I could not help now and then giving way to a groan, which
the sickness and pain of the physic produced.

"Who's that?"  I heard old Perigal inquire, as he was passing to the
berth.

"Oh, it's only that little sneak Merry," Spellman answered.  "He thinks
that he may be ordered off in the boat, and is shamming sick to escape,
as if such a hop-o'-my-thumb as he is could be of any use."

"That is not like him.  I consider him a very plucky little fellow,"
remarked Perigal.

"Thank you, old boy," I said mentally.  "And you, Miss Susan, I'll be
even with you some day for your obliging remarks."

I cannot say, however, that I felt any enmity towards Spellman on that
account.  I had not respect enough for him.  I would rather, however,
have parted with more kindly feelings towards all my messmates on so
dangerous an expedition.  I could not help thinking over the matter
while lying so long silent by myself, but my resolution to accomplish my
design was not shaken.  My messmates went into the berth, and just then
I heard the boats piped away.  I ran quickly upon deck, and, while the
men were buckling on their cutlasses, I slipped into the pinnace, and
stowed myself, as before, into so small a space that even the boatswain,
who looked into the boat, did not perceive me.  I knew that he looked
for me, because I heard his gruff voice say, "All right; he's not there.
He's thought better of it."  At about half-past nine the final order to
shove off was given, and away we went.  I got fewer kicks this time, for
I took good care to keep my legs out of the way.  The men, also, I
suspect, guessed that I was there.  I knew that I was perfectly safe
with them.

The flotilla consisted of fifteen boats, containing nearly three hundred
officers and men, not counting myself.  After we had got, as I supposed,
about a couple of miles from the ship, and I knew that I could not be
sent back, I ventured to crawl out and look over the gunnel.  The inky
sea around us was dotted with boats, all the party keeping pretty close
together.  The night was so dark that I could see little more than their
outlines, as they crept rapidly along, like many-footed monsters, over
the deep.  I did not fancy that Mr Johnson knew I was there, but his
sharp eyes made me out through the gloom.

"Mr Merry, step aft, if you please, sir," he bawled out suddenly.

Stepping over the oars, I went and sat myself down by him, but said
nothing.

"Mr Merry, this conduct is highly reprehensible.  I must report it to
the captain as soon as we get back, after we have carried and brought
out that French corvette, and covered ourselves with honour and glory;
and I don't know what he'll say to you.  And now, sir, after, as in duty
bound, from being your superior officer, I have expressed my opinions, I
should like to know what you are going to do when we get alongside the
enemy?"

"Climb up with the rest, and fight the Frenchmen," I replied promptly.

"Very good, Mr Merry; but suppose one of the Frenchmen was to give you
a poke in the ribs with a boarding-pike, or a shot through the chest, or
a slash with a cutlass, what would you do then?"

"Grin and bear it, I suppose, like anybody else," was my answer.

"Very good, very good, indeed, Mr Merry," said the boatswain,
well-pleased; "that's the spirit I like, and expected to find in you.
Now, my boy, whatever you do, stick by me; I'll do my best for you.  If
I get knocked over, and there's no saying what will happen in desperate
work like this, then keep close to Edkins.  He's a good swordsman, and
won't let you be hurt if he can help it.  I should be sorry if any harm
came to you.  But, Mr Merry, how are you going to fight?  I don't see
that you have got a sword, and I fancy that you'll not do much execution
with one of the ship's cutlasses."

I told him that I had got my dirk, and that I hoped to make good use of
that.

He laughed heartily.

"A tailor's bodkin would be of as much use in boarding," he answered;
"but you shall have one of my pistols; the chances are that I do not
require either of them.  Cold steel suits me best."

I thanked Mr Johnson warmly, and then asked him what orders had been
received about attacking.  He told me that some of the boats were to
board on the bows, and others on the quarters of the corvette; that a
quarter-master of the Beaulieu, with a party of men to protect him, was
to take charge of the helm; that others were to fight their way aloft,
to let fall the topsails; and that he, with his men and another boat's
crew, was to hold possession of the forecastle, and to cut the cables.
All this was to be done in spite of any fighting which might be taking
place.  Some were to sheet home the topsails, and the remainder were to
do their best to overpower the enemy.  We had got some way, when we
caught sight of a strange boat inside of us.

The commander of the expedition, supposing that she belonged to the
Chevrette, summoning five other boats to attend him, made chase to
secure her, ordering his second in command to pull slowly on till he
rejoined the expedition.  On we went.  As to pulling slow, that was a
very difficult thing to do just then.  So eager were the men, that they
couldn't help putting more strength into their strokes than they
intended.  All I know is that the nine remaining boats got close up to
the harbour's mouth, and that the others had not joined.  We lay on our
oars, as ordered, for a short time.

"What can have become of them?" exclaimed a lieutenant in one of the
boats.

"Daylight will be upon us if we don't look sharp," said another.

"It would be a disgrace to go back without attempting something," cried
a third.

"We will lose no more time, but try what we can do without them," said
the senior officer of the party.  He was undoubtedly very eager to lead
on the occasion.  Certain necessary alterations were made.

"Gentlemen, you all know your respective duties," he added.  "Then give
way!"

Right cheerfully the men bent to their oars, and up the harbour we
dashed.  I kept looking ahead for the enemy.  I knew that as soon as we
saw her, she would see us, and then the fun would begin.  I felt rather
nervous, but very eager.

"There she is," cried the boatswain.

Suddenly through the gloom, I saw the tall masts and spars of the ship
we were to attack.  A voice from her hailed us in French.  Of course our
only reply was a hearty cheer, and on we dashed faster than ever.  Not
unmolested though.  The next moment, sheets of flame darted from the
ports, from one end of the ship to the other, and showers of grape and
bullets rattled about our heads.  A groan, or a cry of anguish from some
of the boats, told that the emissaries of destruction had taken effect.
Thick fell the shot, and the next instant a heavy fire opened on us from
the shore; but nothing stopped our progress.  On we dashed, and were
quickly alongside the enemy.  The whole side bristled with
boarding-pikes, and as we attempted to climb up, muskets and pistols
were discharged in our faces, and tomahawks and sabres came slashing
down on our heads.  Our men cheered and grasped hold of the ship's
sides, but again and again were thrust back, and then the Frenchmen
leaped into our boats, making a dashing effort to drive us out of them.
They had better have remained on their own deck, for very few got back.
Some did though, and formed shields to our men, who climbed up after
them.  Meantime, our boat had boarded, as directed, on the starboard
bow, but finding it hopeless to get up there, Mr Johnson dropped
astern, and perceiving only one boat on the quarter, and space for us to
shove in, we hooked on, and the next instant were scrambling up the
side.  I kept close to the boatswain.  I thought that we were about to
gain the deck, when the enemy made a rush towards us, and over we went,
and I was left clinging to the side, with a dozen sabres flashing above
my head.  As to letting go, I never thought of that.  I kept Mr
Johnson's pistol in my right hand, and was about to fire, when down came
a sword, which would have clove my head in two, had not a lieutenant of
marines in the next boat interposed his own weapon, and saved me.  But
the act was one of self-devotion, for the Frenchman brought his sabre
down on my preserver's arm, while another thrust a pike through his
body, and hurled him back, mortally wounded, to the bottom of the boat.
I should, after all, have shared the same fate, had not Mr Johnson at
that instant recovered himself, and with a shout, loud enough to make
our enemies quake, up he sprang, and, with one whirl of his cutlass,
drove the Frenchmen from the side.  Over the bulwarks he leaped; I and
most of the men from the two boats followed.  But though we had gained
the deck, there seemed but little chance of our forcing our way forward.

Our men, in the first desperate struggle alongside, had lost their
firearms, and for a few seconds the tall figure of the boatswain, as he
stood up facing the enemy, offered a mark to a score of muskets aimed at
him.  The Frenchmen, expecting to see him fall, came on boldly.  I
grasped his pistol, hoping to avenge him.

"The forecastle is our station, lads," he shouted, and his stentorian
voice was heard above the din of battle.

"Make a lane, there; make a lane, there," he added, dashing furiously
among the enemy.  I followed by his side.  His whirling cutlass flashed
round, and sent the Frenchmen flying on either side.  On we went, intent
on our object, bearing down all opposition, to gain the forecastle,
while another party had got possession of the helm.  The deck was by
this time covered with killed and wounded.  Many of our men had fallen.
We strode over friend and foe alike, alive or dead.  The break of the
topgallant forecastle was gained.  It was desperately defended, but the
boatswain, clearing with a sweep of his cutlass a spot to stand on,
sprang up among the astonished Frenchmen.  I felt myself lifted up after
him; our men followed; and though pikes were thrust at us, and pistols
were flashed in our faces for a few seconds, our opponents either leaped
overboard or threw themselves on the deck, and sang out for quarter.
Some of our men, appointed for the purpose, went to the head sails,
while others instantly cut the cable.  I glanced my eye upwards; the
topmen, who had fought their way aloft, had cut loose the topsails with
their cutlasses, and they were now being sheeted home; but the fighting
was not over, a desperate attempt was being made by the enemy to drive
us out of the ship.  The boatswain, meantime, was uttering his war
shouts, issuing orders to the men, and dealing death and wounds around.

"Old England for ever I hoist the fore-staysail.  Back, ye Johnny
Crapeaus!  Back, ye French scarecrows!  Haul away, my lads, and belay
all that.  Hurra! we've gained the day!"

In the latter assertion he was somewhat premature, for the French crew,
now rallying amidships, made a desperate attack on the forecastle, but
the boatswain's flashing weapon literally cut them down like corn before
the reaper's scythe, as they came on.  Still they pressed round us.
Most of our men were occupied in making sail.

A big Frenchman, the boatswain of the ship, I fancy, who was almost as
big as Jonathan himself, now sprang ahead of his comrades to measure his
strength with our champion.  He was evidently a first-rate swordsman,
and in his progress forward had already cut down two or three of our
men.  He shouted something to his companions; it was, I suspected, to
tell them to try and wound Mr Johnson while he was engaging him in
front.  I had hitherto grasped the pistol he had given me, but had not
fired it.  I felt for the lock.  On came the Frenchmen; Mr Johnson had
need of all his skill to keep his enemies at bay.  The French boatswain
pressed him desperately hard.  One of his mates rushed in, and was
bringing down his cutlass with a terrific sweep, which would have half
cut our boatswain in two, when, raising my pistol, I fired at the man's
head.  The bullet went through his brain, and his cutlass, though
wounding Johnson slightly in the leg, fell to the deck.  The boatswain's
weapon meantime was not idle, and at the same moment it descended with a
sweep which cut the Frenchman's head nearly in two, and he fell dead
among his comrades.  It was at that instant the French discovered that
their ship was under way.  "Sauve qui peut!" was the cry.  Some jumped
overboard and endeavoured to swim on shore.  Many leaped below, either
in fear or with determination still to carry on the fight, and others
threw down their arms and cried for mercy.  Not a cutlass was raised on
them after that, but the fellows who fled below had got possession of
some muskets, and began firing at all of us who appeared near the
hatchways.  A party of our men, however, leaped down among them and
quickly put a stop to their proceedings.

The ship was now completely under our command; the sails filled, she
felt the helm, and was standing down the harbour.  Though it appeared to
me nearly an hour, if not more, I found that not five minutes had passed
since the boats got alongside.  But we were not quite free.  We were
congratulating ourselves on our success, when a shot whistled between
our masts, followed by another, and a heavy battery opened upon us.  We
were too busy to reply to it, and the men went about their work just as
coolly as if nothing was occurring.  The wind was light, and we were a
long time exposed to the fire of the battery.  Mr Johnson, between
pulling and hauling, for he lent a hand to everybody, apostrophised the
masts, and urged them not to get shot away.  He evidently thought more
of them just then than of anything else.  They were in his department.

"I wonder, Mr Johnson, whether any of us will have to change heads?"
said I.

"If you and I did, you'd look rather funny with my mug on your
shoulders," he answered, with a loud laugh.  "Even your own mother
wouldn't know you, I suspect."  Just then a shower of grape came
rattling round us, and though I could hear the shot whistling by, close
to my ears, not one of us was hit.  I could not help wishing that a
breeze would spring up, and carry us clear of the unpleasant
neighbourhood.  Just then the missing boats arrived, and rather
surprised our friends were to find that we had already secured the
prize.  Though too late to help to take her, they were of great
assistance in towing her out of range of the enemy's batteries, and I
believe some of the poor fellows in them were hit while so employed.  At
length a breeze sprang up, and all sail being made, right merrily we
glided out of the enemy's harbour, much, undoubtedly, to their disgust,
and to our very great satisfaction.

Now came the sad work of counting the killed and wounded.  We had lost
twelve of the former, two being officers, and nearly five times that
number wounded; while we found that the corvette had her captain, three
lieutenants, and three midshipmen, and eighty-five seamen and soldiers
killed, being ninety-two killed, though only sixty-two were wounded.
The deck was a complete shambles: the wounded were carried below,
friends and foes alike, though the dead Frenchmen were hove overboard at
once.  Our own dead, being not so numerous, were kept to be committed to
the deep with more ceremony in the morning.  Among them was a
midshipman.  I could not help lifting up the flag which covered his
face.  Poor fellow, there he lay, stiff and stark!  A jovial laughing
fellow he had been, cracking his jokes but a few minutes before, just as
we were entering the harbour.  Such might have been my fate.  He had
fallen, though in the path of duty.  He had been ordered to come.  I
felt more sad, and was more thoughtful, than I had ever been in my life
before.  How long I stood there I do not know.  Mr Johnson's voice
aroused me.

"I haven't had time to speak to you before, Mr Merry," said he.  "You
did very well,--very well indeed.  Jonathan Johnson thanks you from the
bottom of his heart; that he does.  If it hadn't been for your steady
aim, and the unfailing accuracy of my pistol which you fired, I should
now be among those lying there, covered with glory;--a very fine thing
in theory to be covered with, but, practically, I would rather be alive,
and have less of it.  However, I mustn't stop talking here.  By the bye,
there's Mr Bryan has found you out.  I will tell him how you have
behaved, and I dare say that he'll not get you into trouble, if he can
help it."

I thought that would be very kind in Mr Bryan.  It did not occur to me
that I had done anything to be proud of; nor had I, indeed.  I had done
what I ought not to have done.  I wanted to see some fighting; I had
seen it, and just then I felt that I did not want to see any more.  The
face of that dead midshipman haunted me.  I had had a sort of a notion
that midshipmen could not be killed, and now I had had proof positive to
the contrary.  I felt unusually grave and sad.  For a long time I could
not get the face out of my head.  I believe that it contributed to sober
me, and to prevent me from being the reckless creature I might otherwise
have become.

Day broke as we hove in sight of the squadron, and loud cheers saluted
us as we brought up in triumph among them.  A prize crew was put in
charge of the captured ship, and I returned in the pinnace with the
boatswain to the Doris.  I was in hopes of getting on board without
being observed, but too many eyes were gazing down on us for me to do
that.  Spellman was, of course, one of the first to discover me.

"What, you there, `hop o' me?'" he exclaimed; "how did you tumble into
the boat?"

"Don't answer him," whispered the boatswain, as we climbed up the side;
"I'll let him know what I think of you and him."

I ran down below as fast as I could to change my clothes and wash, for I
was dreadfully dirty, covered from head to foot with powder and blood.
The first person I encountered was Toby Bluff.

"Oh!  Muster Merry, Muster Merry!  Be you really and truly alive?" he
exclaimed, throwing his arms round my neck, and bursting into tears.
"They told me you was gone away to be killed by the Frenchmen, and I
never expected to see you more; that I didn't.  But is it yourself,
squire?  You looks awful smoky and bloody loike.  Where are all the
wounds?  You'll be bleeding to death, sure.  Let me run for the doctor."

He would have been off like a shot, but I assured him that I was not
hurt.  After he was satisfied that such was the case, I despatched him
to the cook's galley to procure some hot water, with which, and the aid
of soap, I managed speedily to get rid of the stains of the fight.  By
the time I got to rights, breakfast was on the table, and I went into
the berth and sat myself down as if nothing had happened.  I flattered
myself that my messmates looked at me with considerable respect, though
they badgered me not a little.

"Where have you been, youngster?" said one.  "You'll catch it, my boy!"

"What have you been about, Merry?" asked old Perigal, who was rather
annoyed at not having been allowed to go.  "Getting most kicks or
halfpence, I wonder? but `duty is duty, and discipline is discipline,'
as the master remarks; and you mustn't be playing these pranks, my boy,
or you'll get knocked on the head or turned out of the service.  Over
zeal is not approved of at head-quarters."

I went on eating my breakfast with perfect equanimity, and I very soon
found that my messmates were eager to have an account of the expedition,
which I was able to give them with tolerable clearness.  I was still
somewhat uncomfortable as to what the captain would say, and, before
long, he sent for me.  I went trembling.  He received me, however, very
kindly, though he was somewhat grave.

"The boatswain speaks in the highest terms of your coolness and courage,
and says that you saved his life.  I am therefore willing to overlook
your infraction of the rules of discipline on this occasion, but
remember that, however well you may behave in other respects, you can
never make wrong right.  In consequence of this, I cannot speak of your
bravery in public as I should have liked to do."

This was a good deal for the captain to say, and more, I felt conscious,
than I deserved.  The officers were very civil to me, and I felt that I
had certainly risen in public estimation, and was no longer looked upon
as a little boy.

A few days after this Spellman came into the berth in a great rage,
stating that he had overheard the boatswain say that Mr Merry was worth
his weight in gold, and that he, Spellman, was not worth his in
paving-stones.  "Listeners never hear any good of themselves," observed
one.

"And if you are not worth your weight in paving-stones, I should like to
know what you are worth?" asked old Perigal.

"I am much obliged to the boatswain for his good opinion of me," said I.
"But he probably was thinking of the saying that London is paved with
gold, and meant to say that you were worth your weight in gold
paving-stones."

"That may be," answered Spellman, willing to be pacified; "but I cannot
say I liked his tone."

On this there was a general laugh.  The boatswain's tone was well-known.
It was wonderful what withering contempt he could throw into it.  The
men dreaded it more than they did even his rattan, and that, in his
hand, was a somewhat formidable weapon.  I remembered his promise when
Spellman was quizzing me, on our return from capturing the Chevrette,
and I found that he had fulfilled it.  I thanked him the next time we
met off duty.

"Yes, Mr Merry; I like to serve my friends, and serve out my enemies.
Not that poor Mr Spellman is an enemy of yours or mine; but--I say it
with all due respect--he is a goose, and I like to baste geese."

I did not repeat to Spellman what Mr Johnson had said of him.  I had an
intuitive feeling that it was harmful to tell a person what another says
of him, except it happens to be something especially pleasant.  I
believe more ill-blood and mischief is created in that way than in any
other.

Soon after this, we sailed on a cruise to the westward, for the purpose
of intercepting some of the enemy's homeward-bound merchantmen.

Notwithstanding what I have said of Spellman, I was in reality on very
good terms with him.  He was continually playing me tricks; but then I
paid him off in his own coin.  I had, however, made the friendship of
another messmate, George Grey by name.  He was about my own age and
size, and came from Leicestershire, but from a different part of the
county to that where my family lived.  I liked him, because he was such
an honest, upright little fellow.  No bullying or persuasion could make
him do what he thought wrong.  I do not mean to say that he never did
anything that was wrong.  When he did, it was without reflection.  I
never knew him to do premeditated harm.  We stuck by each other on all
occasions; skylarked together, studied navigation together; and when we
were together the biggest bully in the mess held us in respect.  Mr
Johnson liked George Grey as much as he did me.

I had never got the boatswain to commence his history.  I told Grey that
I was determined to get it out of him, as it was certain to be amusing,
though we agreed that we were not bound to believe all he said.  He
certainly was an extraordinary character.  A boaster and a man (I do not
like to use a harsh term) who is addicted to saying what is not true, is
generally found to be a coward, and often a bully; whereas my worthy
friend was as brave as a lion and, gruff as was his voice, as gentle as
a lamb, as he used to say of himself, if people would but stroke him the
right way; and I can assert a kinder hearted monster never lived.  Grey
and I, one afternoon when it was our watch below, found him in his
cabin.  He was taking his after-dinner potation of rum and water,
y-clept "grog," and reading by the light of a purser's dip.

"Come in, young gentlemen, come in, and be seated," he sang out; and as
we willingly obeyed, he added, "This is what I call enjoyment--food for
the mind and moisture for the whistle.  We have not many opportunities
for mental improvement and the enjoyment of light literature, as you may
have discovered by this time; and to a man, like myself, of refined
taste, that is one of the greatest drawbacks to our noble profession."

Grey and I did not understand exactly what he meant; but, after letting
him run on for a little time, we told him why we had come, and begged
him to indulge us by commencing at once.

"There is, as you sagaciously observe, young gentlemen, no time like the
present for doing a thing which is to be done; and so,"--and he cleared
his throat with a sound which rang along the decks--"I will begin.  But
remember, now, I'll have no doubting--no cavilling.  If you don't choose
to believe what I say, you need not listen any more.  I will not submit
to have my word called in question."

"Heave ahead!" said a voice outside; I suspected it was Spellman's.  I
soon found that there were several other listeners, and was afraid
Jonathan would refuse to go on; but, in reality, he liked to have a
large audience, and seasoned his descriptions accordingly.  Again he
cleared his throat, and said--

"I'll begin--as I remarked.  My mother was a wonderful woman.  I have a
great respect for her memory.  Joan of Arc, Queen Dido, or the Roman
Daughter could not hold a candle to her.  She was up to any thing, and,
had opportunities offered, would have been the first woman of her age.
As it was, she made herself pretty well-known in the world, as you shall
hear.  When she was quite a young woman she once on a time became
first-lieutenant of a dashing frigate.  When the captain was killed, she
took the ship into action, fought two line-of-battle ships broadside to
broadside, and then, when there was not a stick left standing, carried
them by boarding.  She would have brought both of them into port, but
one went down from the severe hammering she had given them.  You doubt
what I am telling you, young gentlemen, do you?  Well, then, I'll give
you proof which ought to satisfy any candid mind that I am speaking the
truth.  You must know that there is a song written about her; and, of
course, if she hadn't done what I have been telling you it wouldn't have
been written.  It runs thus:--

  "Billy Taylor was a smart young sailor,
  Full of life and full of glee,
  And he went a courting Molly Nailor,
  A maiden fair of high degree.

"That maiden fair was my mother.  Billy Taylor, do ye see, went a
courting her, and swore that he loved her better than the apple of his
eye, or a shipload of prize-money, and no end of glasses of grog, and
fifty other things, and that her cheeks were like roses from Persia, and
her breath sweeter than the essence of all the gales of Araby that ever
blew, and all that sort of thing.  She believed him, for she was young
and tender hearted, and did not know what horrible falsehoods some men
can tell.  I do hate a fellow who doesn't speak the truth.  Now, do ye
see, that scoundrel Taylor was only bamboozling her all the time, for he
went away and fell in with another lady who had more of the shiners,
though less beauty, and he having brought to bear the whole broadside of
false oaths he had been firing away at my respected mother, the other
lady struck her flag and became his wife.  Like other wid blades of his
stamp, he soon ran through all the poor girl's money, so he wasn't a bit
the better for it, and she was very much the worse.  When she had no
more left for him to lay his hand on, he had to go to sea again.

"My mother, who was not my mother then, you'll understand, because I
wasn't born till some years after that,--and I'm proud to say that my
father was a very different man to Billy Taylor.  He was an honest man;
and when Miss Nailor found out all about Billy Taylor's treachery, she
resolved to be avenged on him.  He had entered on board the Thunder
bomb, and she heard of it.  Accordingly she rigged herself out in a suit
of seaman's clothes, and as her father was a seaman,--an officer, of
course, (my parentage was respectable on both sides)--and she knew all
about seamen's ways and sayings, she very easily passed for one.

"One fine morning, off she set in her new toggery for Portsmouth, where
the Thunder was fitting out.  She had provided herself with a loaded
pistol, which she kept in her pocket, vowing to revenge herself on the
traitor Taylor.

"As the Thunder was short of hands, the captain was very glad to enter
the smart young seaman she seemed to be when she presented herself
before him.

"Billy Taylor was aboard, and when she caught sight of his face she had
some difficulty in keeping her fingers off it, I believe you.  Not that
she was otherwise, I'll have you understand, than a mild tempered woman,
when she had her own way, but she had received a good deal of
provocation, you'll allow.  The deceiver didn't know her, and all went
on smoothly for some time.  She proved herself so smart and active a
seaman, (or sea woman,--I should say a mermaid, eh?) that she soon got
made captain of the main-top over the head of Billy Taylor and many
older hands.  How they would have fired up if they had known the truth!

"At last the Thunder sailed down Channel, and my mother began to fancy
that all the things she had heard about Taylor might be false, and all
her old feeling for him came back.  However, as his ill-luck would have
it, the ship put into Plymouth Sound, and as she lay there a boat came
off from Causand with a lady in it.

"Billy Taylor watched the boat till she came alongside, and when the
lady stepped on deck he kissed her lips and folded her in his arms.

"Miss Nailor was standing by.  The scene was too much for her.

"`Oh, you foul traitor!' she exclaimed, drawing her pistol just as the
lady and the deceiver Billy were walking forward hand in hand.  `Take
that!'

"Off went the pistol, and the false lover tumbled over as dead as a
herring.  The lady, at first, was inclined to go into what the
uneducated sailors call high-strikes--you understand, young gentlemen;
but she was a strong-minded woman, and when she heard how Billy had been
deceiving another girl, she said it served him right, and that she would
have nothing more to say to him, dead or alive, and, stepping into her
boat, away she went ashore at Causand, where she had come from.

"The captain of the Thunder, when he found out that my mother was a
woman, and how she had been treated by Billy Taylor, as the song says,
`very much approved of what she'd done,' and declared that she was a
fine spirited girl, (which she certainly had proved herself to be), and
that he would make her his first-lieutenant as soon as there was a
vacancy.  You see they did things differently in those days to what they
do now.  No one ever hears of a young woman being made first-lieutenant,
though it is said there are many old women higher up in the list; but it
wouldn't become me, holding the subordinate situation of a boatswain, to
credit the fact.  The captain very soon had an opportunity of fulfilling
his word, for in a very short time the ship went into action, and his
next in command being killed, he gave Miss Nailor the death vacancy, and
then she became first-lieutenant of the gallant Thunder bomb.  However,
young gentlemen, I must put a stopper on my jaw-tackle just now.  I have
had uninvited listeners to my veracious and authentic history, and I
hope they have benefited by it."

Mr Johnson placed his finger on the side of his nose, and winked one of
his piercing eyes.

"The fact is, I like to indulge in my faculty of invention and
amplification, and you may possibly have an idea that I have done so in
the account I have given you of my female parent's early adventures.
Ho! ho! ho!" and he heaved back, and indulged in a long, low, hoarse
laugh, such as a facetious hippopotamus might be supposed to produce on
hearing a good pun made by an alligator.

Spellman, and the rest who had been listening out side, on this, beat a
retreat, suspecting, probably, that the boatswain had been laughing at
them.

Our watch was called, and Grey and I had to go on deck.  I had by this
time picked up a large amount of miscellaneous nautical knowledge, so
had Toby in his way.  As to going aloft, or in feats of activity, few of
the other midshipmen could beat me.  I said that I could swim well.  Our
father had taught us all at an early age, and I could accomplish the
passage across the mill-pond five times and back without resting.  Toby,
too, after I had saved him from drowning, had learned the art.  It was
fortunate for us that we had done so.

We had returned unsuccessful from our cruise to the westward, and were
somewhere about the chops of the Channel.  Night was coming on, and it
was blowing very fresh.

"A sail on the lee bow!" shouted the look-out from the mast-head.  The
wind was south-west, and the frigate was close-hauled, heading towards
Ushant.

"What do you make of her?  Which way is she standing?" asked Captain
Collyer, who was on deck.

"Looks like a lugger, standing up Channel," was the answer.

"Up with the helm, keep her away!" exclaimed the captain.

"All hands make sail."

In an instant the men were hauling on tacks and sheets, braces and
bowlines; the yards were squared away, studding sails were set, and off
we flew before the wind like an eagle at its prey.  The chase kept on
before the wind.  I had gone up into the fore-top, though I had no
business to be there, but it happened to be the station of my particular
chum, Grey, and I could enjoy a better sight of the chase from thence
than elsewhere.

As the evening advanced, the wind increased, but we were gaining rapidly
on the chase, and of course the captain was unwilling to shorten sail.
Stays and braces grew tauter and tauter, studden sail-booms cracked, and
the topgallant masts bent like willow wands.

"We are going to get it," observed the captain of the top.

He was right.  Away flew the main-topgallant studden sail; the topmast
studden sail followed.  At the same moment, the foremost guns with a
loud roar sent a couple of shot after the chase.  It was getting dark,
but I felt sure that one had struck her counter.  Still she held on, and
we continued in chase, she carrying as much sail as she could stagger
under.

"We shall carry the masts out of the ship if we don't look sharp,"
observed the captain of the top.  The yards cracked more than ever.
"All hands shorten sail," cried the captain from the deck.  "In with the
studden sails!"

When the men went out on the fore-yard, I, to show my activity and
daring to my messmate Grey, went out also.  The frigate had begun to
pitch and roll a little.  By some means I lost my hold, and should have
fallen on deck and been killed, had she not rolled at the moment to
starboard, and sent me flying overboard.

"There goes poor Marmaduke Merry," shouted Grey.

I was plunged under the water, but quickly rose to see the frigate
flying by me.  As she passed, something was thrown from the deck, and
the next instant I observed, I fancied, some one leap from the mizen
chains.  I did not for a moment suppose that I was going to be drowned,
but how I was to be saved I could not divine.  I swam on till I got hold
of a grating which had been thrown to me, and had not long seated myself
on it when I heard a voice sing out--

"All right, Master Marmaduke; I said I'd go wherever you did, but to my
mind now it would have been better to have stayed on board."

It was Toby, and after I had helped him up alongside me, I assured him
that I agreed with his remark, but that I could not help it.  I looked
anxiously for the frigate.  Her mighty form could only just be
distinguished through the gloom, and the lugger could nowhere be seen.

"This isn't pleasant," said I.  "But keep up your spirits, Toby, I
suppose the frigate will turn to look for us, and if not, we must hold
on till the morning, when I hope we may be picked up by some ship or
other."

"Ne'er fear, Master Marmaduke," answered Toby.  "If you think it's all
right, I'm happy."

I certainly did not think it all right, for in a short time it became so
dark that we could scarcely see our hands held up before our eyes.  As
to seeing the frigate, that was out of the question, even if she passed
close to us.  Happily the gale did not increase, and we were able to
hold on to our frail raft.  We couldn't talk much.  I felt anything but
merry.  Suddenly the grating received a blow, and I saw a dark object
rising up above us.  I was thrown against it.  It was the side of a
vessel.  I should have been knocked off the grating had I not found a
stout rope in my hand.  I drew Toby to me, we both clutched it; the
grating slipped from under our feet, and there we were hanging on to the
side of a strange craft.  We shouted out, and were at once drawn on
board, and by the light of a lantern, which was held up to examine us, I
found that we were on board a small vessel, and surrounded by Frenchmen.



CHAPTER FOUR.

The craft on board which Toby Bluff and I so unexpectedly found
ourselves was a lugger, as I discovered by perceiving her yards lying
fore and aft along the decks.  It was evident that her sails had been
lowered when the squall came on, and so she had not been observed as the
frigate shot by in the darkness.  Owing to this circumstance our lives
had in all probability been saved.  Not that I thought about that at the
time; on the contrary, from the fierce looks of our captors, I fancied
that they were going to knock us on the head, and I wished that we were
safe back on our raft again.  Toby seemed to feel much as I did.

"Oh, Muster Merry! be these here fellows going to eat us?" he asked in a
tone of alarm.

"I hope not, Toby," I answered.  "If they take us, buttons and all, we
shall stick in their throats, that's one comfort.  However, we will try
and put a good face on the matter, and, whatever happens, we won't be
cast down; only I hope they will not treat us as we have often treated
miller's-thumbs, and throw us into the water again."

While Toby and I were exchanging remarks, the Frenchmen were talking to
each other and occasionally asking us questions, I supposed; but as we
did not understand a word of each other's language, neither party was
much the wiser.  I looked about me.  The lugger's decks were crowded
with men, and she had several guns cast loose, ready for action.  She
was, there could be no doubt, a privateer.  I knew that the crews of
such vessels were often composed of the worst and most unscrupulous of
characters, and I expected nothing very pleasant at their hands.  At
last the captain, who had been looking out forward at our ship, came up
to us.

"So, you one little officer of dat frigate dere," he observed.

"Yes," said I, rather proudly; "I have that honour."

"Sa--!"  He gave forth a particularly unpleasant sound from his throat,
"You betes Anglish, you send my wessel to bottom last cruise, and sixty
of my braves-garcons wid her.  I vow I send every Anglishman I catch to
look for them.  S-a-a--."

He looked so vicious that I thought he would execute his threat
forthwith.  I did my best, however, to put on a bold front.

"Whereabouts did this happen, Monsieur?"  I asked quite coolly.

"Some twenty leagues to eastward dere," he answered, looking hard at me.

"And which way is the tide making," I inquired.  I happened to have
heard the master observe just before I went aloft, that the tide had
only then made to the westward.

"It is vat you call ebb," said the French captain.

"Then you see, monsieur, that there is no use throwing us overboard just
now, because we should drift away to the westward, and your late vessel
and crew must be somewhere to the eastward," said I, as boldly as I
could, though I had no little difficulty in getting out the words.

"Ah! you von Jack-a-napes, you von poule--littel fighting coc, I see,"
he remarked in an altered tone.  "Vell, you stay aboard; you sweep my
cabin; you like dat better dan drown."

"Certainly, monsieur, very much better," said I, considerably relieved;
"I shall be very happy to serve you in any way I can, consistent with my
honour, and perhaps you'll let this boy here help me?"

"Bah, no!" answered the captain, giving a contemptuous glance at poor
Toby.  "He only fit to sweep out de fore hold."

I saw that it would not be wise to say anything more, so I held my
tongue.

The captain said a few words to the men, and while one led poor Toby
forward, another conducted me towards the companion-hatch.  Toby turned
an imploring look at me, and struggled violently.

"Oh, Muster Merry!  Muster Merry, they be a-going to cut our throats and
heave us overboard.  I know they bees; but don't let them do it till I
comes to be with ee," he cried out.  "Don't ee, now, Muster; don't ee."

Poor Toby, finding that he could not get loose, began kicking and
struggling, and shouting at the top of his voice.  This seemed to afford
infinite amusement to the Frenchmen, who imitated him; but, in spite of
all his efforts, dragged him forward.  I, in the meantime, was taken
aft, and had just reached the companion-hatch, down which the men were
going to thrust me, when the captain came running along the deck,
shouting out to his crew.  My captors let go of me.  In an instant, the
halliards, tacks, and sheets were manned; sail was rapidly made; and,
two or more reefs having been taken in, away we stood, close-hauled as
near to the north-west as the wind would allow.  I soon learned the
reason of this proceeding.  To my great joy, on looking eastward, I
discovered the frigate looming through the darkness, about half gun-shot
distance from us.  Whether the lugger was seen by those on board or not
was a question.  I rather suspected that Captain Collyer had stood back
to look for Toby and me, though it was almost as hopeless as looking for
a needle in a bundle of hay, I felt very sure that he would search for
us, and that he would rather lose the chance of capturing the schooner
than lose us; indeed, I hope that there are not many naval officers who
would not have done the same.  I anxiously watched the Doris, to see
what she would do.  The Frenchmen very naturally believed that she was
coming after them.  While the men were flattening in the sheets, Toby
made his escape, and came up to me.

"Oh, Muster Merry, who be these people?  Where be they taking us to?
What be they going to do to us?" he asked in a subdued, frightened tone.

"Never mind," said I, "_look there_."

I pointed to the frigate, which, as far as I could judge, seeing her
through the darkness, had three reefs down in her topsails, and was
standing towards us, heeling over to the gale.

"Hurra!" shouted Toby, "All right now; she'll soon be sending this here
craft to the bottom.  Hurra!"

"Very likely," said I.  "But we, perhaps, shall have to go with her,
and, just now, the less noise we make the better, or the Frenchmen may
be sending us below."  Toby was silent.

No sooner were the lugger's sails hoisted than she was perceived, and in
half a minute, to set the matter at rest, a shot from a thirty-nine
pounder came flying between the masts.  Toby ducked his head.  He saw,
however, that I did not move mine.  I had had so many flying about my
ears the night we took the Chevrette that I had got quite accustomed to
them.  Another shot came, and Toby's head did not move, as far as I
could see.  I dare say he blinked his eyes a little; but, as it was
dark, I am not certain.  It was a trial to our nerves, for the shot
whistled near our shoulders, and, though we could not help feeling proud
of our shipmates' gunnery practice, we would rather that they had not
aimed so well.

"I say, Toby, if, like the boatswain's acquaintance, you get my head on
your shoulders, be honest; don't go and pass yourself off for me," I
observed.

"Lor, Muster Merry, I wouldn't so for to go to forget myself," he
answered.

His tone, more than the words, made me burst into a fit of laughter.

"You garcon not laugh long," observed the captain, as he hurried aft to
take a look at the compass.  "You merry now, you cry soon."

"I'll laugh while I can; it's my nature to be merry, captain," I
answered, determined to appear as brave as possible.  "But I say,
captain, what does that big ship want you to do?"

"Ah you von little rogue," he answered, less angrily than I might have
expected; "you go below, or you get head knock off."

"Thank you," said I.  "But I may have to go lower than I like if I do,
so I would rather stay on deck, and see what is going forward."

The captain merely answered "Bah," as if he had too much to think of
just then to trouble himself about us, and issued some orders to his
crew.  Two long guns were immediately cast loose and pointed at the
frigate.  "They can't hope to contend with her," I observed to Bluff.
But they did though, and began blazing away in right good earnest.  They
fired high, for their object was to wing her.  If they could have
knocked some of her spars away they would have had a better chance of
escaping.

The lugger was evidently a very fast craft, and held her own
wonderfully.  This was soon perceived on board the frigate, which began
to fire more rapidly than before.  Captain Collyer had not spared powder
and shot, and, since we left port, the men had been every day exercised
at the guns.  The result was now apparent by the number of shot which
passed through the sails of the lugger, or struck her.  Still the
Frenchmen seemed in no way inclined to yield.  The captain stood aft,
issuing his orders with the greatest coolness.  His officers were much
less collected, and kept running about with ropes in their hands,
frequently striking the men if they flinched from their guns.  The
lugger, which was really a very powerful vessel, of some two hundred and
fifty tons, tore through the seas, which came in cataracts over her
bows, deluging her fore and aft.

I was glad that Toby and I were near the companion-hatch, that we might
hold on tight to it.  The scene was stirring in the extreme; rather more
than was pleasant indeed.  I did not like the state of things, and
Toby's teeth began to chatter in his head.  It was very dark.  The wind
roared through the rigging; the sails, extended to the utmost, would, I
thought, burst from the bolt-ropes, or carry the stout mast out of the
vessel.  The lugger heeled over till the men at the guns were up to
their knees in water, and at last they could only fire as she rolled to
windward.  It must be remembered that the frigate was to leeward.
Though she sailed faster than the lugger, the latter was weathering on
her.  My knowledge of seamanship scarcely enabled me to form a correct
judgment as to the Frenchman's chance of escape, but still I did not
fancy that anything could run away from the Doris,--our frigate,--which,
I was fully persuaded, was the perfection of naval architecture, and
everything a ship should be.  The Frenchmen were all this time
wonderfully silent, except when a shot whistled past their ears or
struck the vessel, and then they gave way to volleys of oaths and
execrations, the meaning of which, however, I did not understand.  They
appeared very resolute, and I thought fully expected to escape.

On we tore through the raging sea, and often so blinded were we with the
showers of spray which fell on board that the flashes of the guns alone
showed us the position of the frigate.  I was saying that I was sure
Captain Collyer would do his best to pick Toby and me up, and now, when
I saw him chasing the lugger, it occurred to me that he must have either
guessed that we were on board her, or that he must have come to the
conclusion that we were lost.

"I wonder what they are saying about us?"  I remarked, partly to Toby
and partly to myself.  "Mr Johnson will be sorry for us, and so will
Grey, and so, I really believe, will old Perigal.  I don't think
Spellman will, though.  I rather suspect he'll be for constituting
himself my heir, and taking possession of my books and things.  However,
I hope we may some day get on board again, and make him disgorge."

There did not seem much chance of that though.  Every moment I expected,
should a shot not send her first to the bottom, to see the lugger run
her bows right under, as she tore on through the raging waters.  The
frigate seemed to be gaining very little, if at all, on us.  The
Frenchmen naturally calculated on the darkness increasing, and when once
out of her sight, on being able to alter their course, and get clear
away.  I devoutly hoped that they would not.  Hours, it seemed to me,
passed away; still the lugger and the frigate held their relative
positions, the latter firing occasionally, but the Frenchmen, after a
time, ceased doing so; indeed, in the heavy sea running, they could
scarcely work their guns.  The wind increased, but there was no sign of
shortening sail; the sky sent down deluges of rain; it became darker
than ever.  I had never, I thought, taken my eyes off the frigate,
except when the spray dashed over me, and compelled me to close them for
a moment.  I was looking in the direction where I had last seen her.

"Bluff, do you see her?"  I exclaimed suddenly, rubbing my eyes at the
same time with all my might, to bring back the object I had lost.

"No, Muster Merry.  To my mind she isn't there," he answered positively.

The Frenchmen were of the same opinion, for I heard them chatting away
together, and laughing heartily.  Still we continued on the same tack.
Indeed, to go about would have been a dangerous operation, and to wear
would have lost ground, and very likely have brought the lugger back in
sight of the frigate.  No one had taken any notice of us for a long
time.  The captain now came to the companion.

"Ah! you brave garcon, come here," he said, as he descended.

Giving Bluff a pull, as a sign to come after me, I followed him below.
A bright lamp swung from the deck above, and exhibited a well-furnished
if not a luxurious cabin, with a table in the centre, on which, secured
in the usual way, were bottles and glasses, and deep dishes containing
various sorts of viands.

"Come, you hungry; sit down," said the captain,--an order which I very
gladly obeyed, though it was far from easy to stick on my chair, or to
convey the food to my mouth.

"Pierre!" shouted the captain, and a man, who seemed to be his steward,
got up from a corner of the cabin where he had been asleep, and stood
ready to wait on us.  The captain motioned him to give some bread and
sausage to Toby, who retired with it to the door, where he sat down to
eat it at his leisure.

Our host did not talk much.  He put a few questions as to the number of
the Doris's guns, and their length and weight of metal, and whether she
was reputed a fast sailer; to all which questions I gave honest answers,
and he seemed satisfied.  He rapidly devoured his food, and was
evidently in a hurry to be on deck again.  This made me fancy that he
was not quite so certain of having escaped the frigate as I had at first
supposed.  A glass of hot wine and water raised my spirits, for I had
been so long in my wet clothes, that, although the weather was warm, I
had become very chilly.  Without asking his leave, I handed a glass to
Toby, who wanted it as much as I did.  The captain said nothing, but
when he got up to go on deck, he told me that we might take off our
clothes, and turn into one of the berths to get warm.  At first I was
going to do so, but I could not help fancying that some accident might
happen, and that I would rather be dressed, so I sat down with Toby on
the deck, holding on by the legs of the table.

The steward, having stowed away the things, went and lay down in his
corner, and soon, by his loud snores, showed that he was again fast
asleep.  Toby quickly followed his example; and I had been dozing for
some time, though I thought that I was awake, when I was aroused by the
report of a gun overhead.  The lamp had gone out, and left a strong
odour of oil in the close cabin.  The grey light of dawn streamed down
the companion-hatch.  Calling Toby, I jumped on deck.  There, away to
leeward, was the frigate, within gun-shot distance, but this time the
lugger had begun the fight, and she had not yet fired.  The wind had
lessened, and the sea had gone down considerably.  The frigate was on
our lee-quarter, and I saw that, as soon as she opened her fire, our
chance would be a very small one.

The French captain, and his officers and men, had got two guns over the
quarter, having cut away some of the bulwarks, and were energetically
working them, with desperation stamped on their countenances.  Toby and
I stood, as before, holding on to the companion-hatch, and this time--I
must confess it--my teeth, as well as his, chattered with the cold, and
damp, and agitation.  No one took any notice of us.  The Frenchmen were
again aiming high, in the hope of knocking away some of the frigate's
spars.  They were brave fellows: I could not help admiring them.  Shot
followed shot in rapid succession.  I wondered that Captain Collyer's
patience was not exhausted.

"There!  I know'd they'd do it," exclaimed Toby, suddenly.  "And catch
it if they did!" he added.

As he spoke I saw a white splinter glance from the fore-topmast of the
frigate, while a rent appeared in the sail.  The Frenchmen shouted as if
they had done a clever thing, but they had little to shout for; the next
instant a shower of round-shot came whistling through our sails, some
just above our heads; two struck the lugger's side, and one killed three
men dead on the decks.  Though I knew how dangerous was our position I
was too eager to see what was taking place to go below.  Still the
gallant French captain would not strike, but stood as energetically as
before, encouraging his men to work the guns.  I wished that he would
give in though, for my own and Toby's sake, nor did I think that he had
a chance of escaping.  There he stood full of life and energy, now
hauling on a gun-tackle, now looking along a gun.  The next moment there
was a whistling and crash of shot, and I saw several mangled forms sent
flying along the deck.  One was that of the brave captain.  I ran to
assist him, but though there was a convulsive movement of the limbs, he
was perfectly dead.  At the same moment down came the lugger's mainyard.
I saw that it was completely up with her at all events.  Some of the
privateer's men continued at the guns, but the greater number tumbled
headlong down below, to avoid the frigate's next broadside.  My eye
glancing up at that moment, I saw the French flag still flying.
Believing that the only way to avoid the catastrophe was to haul it
down, followed by Toby, I ran aft to do so.  I was too late.  The
Frenchmen fired, and another crushing broadside struck the lugger, and
made her reel with the shock.  The companion-hatch was knocked to
pieces.  We should have been killed had we remained at our former post.

The next instant there was a fearful cry--the men who had gone below
sprang up again with pale faces and cries of terror.  The lugger rushed
on, made one fearful plunge, and I saw that she was sinking.  I had kept
my eye on the wreck of the companion-hatch.  Dragging Toby with me, I
sprang to it and clutched it tightly, and as the sea washed along the
deck, and the sinking vessel disappeared, we found ourselves clinging to
it and floating on the summit of a curling wave.  As soon as I had
cleared my eyes from the water, I looked round for the frigate.  She was
in the act of heaving-to in order to lower her boats.  The sea around us
was sprinkled with struggling forms, but not half the lugger's crew were
to be seen.  Numbers must have gone down in her.  Shrieks and cries for
help reached our ears, but we could assist no one.  Some were clinging
to spars and planks, and pieces of the shattered bulwarks; a few were
swimming, but the greater number were floundering about; and now I saw a
hand disappear--now two were thrown up to sink immediately beneath the
waves--now a shriek of agony reached our ears.  It was very terrible.
The companion-hatch to which Toby and I clung had been so knocked about
that it scarcely held together, and I expected every moment that it
would go to pieces, and that we should be separated.  I earnestly wished
for the boats to come to us, and it appeared to me that the frigate was
far longer than usual in heaving-to and lowering them.  At last, as we
rose to the top of a wave, I saw three boats pulling towards us.  The
men were giving way with all their might as British seamen always will
when lives are to be saved, even those of enemies.  Several Frenchmen
had been picked up, when I saw a boat making towards us.  Mr Johnson
was steering, and Spellman was the midshipman in her.  We were not
recognised when we were hauled into the boat, and might not have been
had I not said--

"What, Spellman, don't you know me?"

"You, Merry," he exclaimed, looking at me with an astonished gaze.
"What business have you here?  Why we left you drowning--up Channel
somewhere--hours ago."

"Thank you, but we have taken a cruise since then," said I.

"And rather a perilous one, young gentleman," exclaimed the boatswain,
now recognising me.  "You had the shot rattling pretty thick about you,
and I'm heartily glad to see you safe, that I am."  And he nearly wrung
my hand off as he shook it.  "I never saw guns better aimed than ours
were, except once, and that was when I was attacking a Spanish
line-of-battle ship in a jolly boat.  I'll tell you all about it some
day, but well just pick up some of these drowning Frenchmen first.  Give
way, my lads."

The other two boats rescued several of the lugger's crew; we got hold of
six or seven more who were floating on spars or planks; one of them was
the second officer of the privateer; but out of a hundred and forty men
who were on her decks when she went down, not more than thirty were
rescued.  Toby and I met with a very pleasant reception when we got on
board, and as soon as I had got on some dry clothes and had had a glass
of grog to restore my circulation, Captain Collyer sent for me into the
cabin to hear an account of our adventures.  He seemed highly interested
when I told him of the gallantry of the French captain, and expressed
his regret at his death.  A brave man always appreciates the bravery of
his opponent.  When I got back to the berth I had to tell the story all
over again, and Toby, I have no doubt, was similarly employed among his
messmates.

"It is very evident, Merry, that you are reserved for a more exalted
fate," was the only comment Spellman made, when I ceased.

"Thank you, Miss Susan," I answered; "I owe you one."

"It is a great pity that the lugger went down, though," observed old
Perigal; "I should have had a chance of taking a run home in her as
prize-master, and seeing my wife.  Besides, she might have given us a
pinch of prize-money."

The regret generally expressed was rather for the loss of the few pounds
the lugger might have given them, than for that of the men who formed
the crew.

"What!  I did not know that you were married," I observed to Perigal
when he said he was married.

"But I am, though; and to a young and charming wife who deserves a
better husband," he answered in an abrupt way.  "If it wasn't for her I
shouldn't be now knocking about the ocean as I have been all my life;
and yet, if it was not for her I should have very little to keep me on
shore.  It's the prize-money, the booty, keeps me afloat.  I am an
arrant buccaneer at heart."

"I should not have supposed you that," said I.  It was now evening, and
old Perigal had his glass of grog before him.  On these occasions he was
always somewhat communicative.

"I've been married six years or more," he continued in a half whisper.
"My wife is the daughter of an old shipmate who was killed in action by
my side.  His last words were, `Take care of my orphan child--my Mary.'
I promised him I would as long as I had life and a shilling in my
pocket.  I expected to see a little girl with a big bow at her waist,
and a doll in her arms--as he'd described her.  He'd been five years
from home or more, poor fellow.  Instead of that, I found a handsome
young woman, tall and graceful.  What could I do?  I was struck all of a
heap, as the saying is; and I discovered at last, that though I was but
a mate in the service, and an old fellow to boot compared to her, she
liked me; so we married.  I'd saved some little prize-money, and I
thought myself rich; but it went wonderfully quick, and a rogue of a
fellow who borrowed some wouldn't even pay me; and if it hadn't been for
the sake of Mary I wouldn't have said anything to him, but let the coin
burn a hole in his pockets.  I went to law, and the upshot was that I
lost all I had remaining.  Now came the tug of war.  Was I to go to sea
again and leave Mary?  I couldn't bear the thought of it.  Anything
would be better than that.  I would enter into some business.  A bright
idea struck me.  Three or four hundred pounds would enable me to carry
it out.  Mary and I agreed that I should have no difficulty in getting
that, I had so many friends.  I would pay them a good interest.  I
tried.  You should have seen how they buttoned up their pockets and
pursed up their lips; how many similar applications they had, how many
decayed relations wanted their assistance!  They didn't say, however,
that they had assisted them.  I had no business to complain; I had made
a mistake, and I felt ashamed of myself.  At first, though my heart
swelled, I was very angry; but I got over that feeling, and I resolved
to trust to myself alone.  It was not till then that I recovered my
self-respect.  I say, Merry; if you fancy that you have many friends,
don't you ever attempt to borrow money from them, or you'll find that
you are woefully mistaken.  Mary and I talked the matter over, and she
settled to keep a school, and I to come to sea again.

"It was a sore trial, youngster, and you may fancy that a rich galleon
wouldn't be an unacceptable prize, to save the poor girl from the
drudgery she has to go through.  It wasn't the way her poor father
expected me to treat her, but I have done my best; what can a man do
more?"

The old mate was going to help himself to another glass, but he put the
bottle away from him with resolution.  I had observed that he often took
more than anybody else in the mess; but after that, whenever I saw him
doing so, I had only to mention his wife, and he instantly stopped.
From this account he had given of himself I liked him much better than
ever.

I one day asked Mr Bryan, who knew his wife, about her, and he told me
that she was a very superior young lady, and that he could not
overpraise her.

Of all my shipmates, Grey seemed most pleased at having me back again,
and he assured me that had he been able to swim he would have jumped
after me, and I believe that he would have done so.  I promised on the
first opportunity to teach him to swim.  People are surprised that so
many sailors cannot swim, but the truth is, that when once they get to
sea, they often have fewer opportunities of learning than have people
living on shore.  In southern climates some captains, when it is calm,
allow the men to go overboard; but in northern latitudes they cannot do
this, and many captains do not trouble themselves about the matter.  My
advice therefore is, that all boys should team to swim before they come
to sea, and to swim in their clothes.

Next to Grey, I believe Mr Johnson was most satisfied that I was not
drowned.

"I had written an account of what had happened to your disconsolate
parents, and had taken an opportunity of praising you as you deserved;
but as you are alive, I'll put it by, it will serve for another
occasion," he observed.

I thanked him, and begged him to give me the letter, which, after some
persuasion, he did.  I enclosed it to my sisters, assuring them that it
was written under an erroneous impression that I was no longer a denizen
of this world, and begged, them not to be at all alarmed, as I was well
and merry as ever:

  "Sir,--Your son and I, though he was only a midshipman,--I am
  boatswain of this ship--were, I may say, friends and companions; and
  therefore I take up my pen to tell you the sad news, that he and boy
  Bluff went overboard together this evening, and were lost, though we
  didn't fail to look for them.  It may be a consolation to you to know
  that they always did their duty, which wasn't much, nor very well
  done, nor of any use to anybody, but that was no fault of theirs,
  seeing that they didn't know better.  Then you'll not fail to remember
  that there's no longer any chance of your son being hung, which has
  been the fate of many a pretty man, either by mistake or because he
  deserved it, and that must be a comfort to you.  I've nothing more to
  say at present.

  "From your obedient servant,

  "Jonathan Johnson,

  "Boatswain of His British Majesty's frigate Doris."

I had hopes that the letter would afford infinite satisfaction to my
home circle.

We ran back to Plymouth with our prisoners, and then receiving sealed
orders, sailed for the westward.  On the captain opening his orders we
found that we were bound for the North American and West India Station.

One day, as Mr Johnson seemed in an especially good humour, I got Grey
to come, and we begged hard that he would go on with his history.

"Ah yes, my true and veracious narrative," he answered.  "Ho! ho! ho!"

His ogre-like laugh sounded along the deck, and served as a gong to
summon an audience around him, though only a favoured few ventured into
his cabin.

"I was telling you about my maternal parent, the estimable Mrs Johnson.
I was alluding to times before she assumed that appellation, or became
my parent.  I brought up my history to the period when she became
first-lieutenant of the gallant Thunder bomb.  She did not remain in
that craft long, for the captain, officers, and crew, were turned over
to a dashing, slashing, thirty-six gun frigate, the Firegobbler.  It is
extraordinary what a number of actions that frigate fought, and what
other wonders she performed all owing to my mother, I believe you.  At
last, one day, not far off from the chops of the Channel, a large ship,
under Spanish colours, was sighted.  The Firegobbler gave chase, and a
running fight ensued, during which a shot killed the captain, and of
course my mother, who took command, followed up the enemy.

"Before the day was over, another Spanish line-of-battle ship hove in
sight, and when the two closed each other, they hove-to, and waited for
the Firegobbler, which wasn't long in getting into action.  Then, I
believe you, she did give them a hammering, in such right good earnest,
that, before the sun set, they cried _peccavi_, and struck their flags.
As I told you, the other day, she brought them both in triumph into
Plymouth.  Now, by all the rules of the service, she ought to have been
promoted, you'll allow; but, by some means or other, the Lords
Commissioners of the Admiralty found out that she was a woman,--perhaps
some jealous fellow peached on her,--and, think of their ingratitude,
not only wouldn't they give her a commander's rank, but they superseded
her, and would by no manner of means allow her to remain in the ship.
To my mind, those big-wigs up in London have no consciences.  What
encouragement is there for a spirited young woman to go and fight her
country's battles?  None! that's a fact!  Miss Nailor had to go on
shore.  But she couldn't bear a quiet life; so, slipping on seamen's
clothes again, she shipped aboard another frigate, but, of course, she
had to go before the mast.  That made little difference to her; she
loved the sea for itself, and didn't care where she was.  For some time
she got on very well; but she didn't always remember that she was no
longer a first-lieutenant--which was natural, poor thing!  Well, one
day, when off the coast of America, she quarrelled with the man who was
first-lieutenant, and meeting him on shore, she put a pistol into his
hand, and told him he must fight her.  He was a spirited fellow, and
said that he never refused that sort of invitation, and as it was in the
chief street of a large city, they had plenty of seconds.  Well, they
fought, and she had the misfortune to shoot him through the heart.  Most
men would have died immediately, but he lived long enough to forgive her
for what she'd done, and to say what a fine fellow he thought her.  Of
course, as it's against the articles of war to shoot a first-lieutenant,
she couldn't go aboard the frigate again; and when a file of marines
came to seize her, the people of the place carried her off, and wouldn't
give her up, and so the jollies had to return without her.  Two parties
were formed in the place.  One said she ought to be given up, and the
other, that she oughtn't, and shouldn't, and that they wouldn't.  It was
one of the secret causes of the American revolution.

"Among those who sided with her was a Captain Johnson, a very fine man,
master of a very fine ship, and as he happened to want a mate, he asked
my mother if she would take the berth, not dreaming all the time that
she was a woman.  They had a good deal of talk about the matter, and as
she had taken a fancy to him, she told him all her history.  I have said
that my father was a fine man.  He was the tallest and smartest man I
ever saw, and had the loudest voice, too, I believe you, or he wouldn't
have won the heart of my mother.  She wasn't a woman to knock under to
an ordinary, everyday sort of man.  He was so tall, that the barber had
to stand on the table to shave him, and as he walked along the streets,
he could hand sugar-plums to the children in the upper windows; and his
voice was so loud, that he once made a stone-deaf woman jump off her
chair, right up to the ceiling, with fright, when he raised it above the
ordinary pitch to speak to her; and he was so strong, that he made
nothing of lifting an ale cask to his lips, and drinking out of the
bung-hole.  He was the man to command a ship's company!  When he found
any two of them quarrelling, he would lift one up in each hand, with
outstretched arms, and he would then knock their two heads together, and
go on bumping harder and harder till they promised to be friends.

"No two people could have been better matched than my parents, and they
had a sincere respect for each other.  They were above anything like a
namby-pamby, soft sighing, do-sweetest, kiss-me style of love.  My
father made his offer from the deck of his ship, as she was standing out
of harbour, and my mother answered him from the shore through a
speaking-trumpet.  The truth was, that when the owners heard that she
was a woman, they didn't approve of her going as mate; they thought that
it would invalidate the insurance.

"The wind fell outside, so he dropped anchor and pulled on shore, and
was married, and, of course, off she went to sea with him.  A very
useful wife, too, she made, for though she didn't wear the breeches, she
could take command of the ship better than any one else on board.  Thus
it was that I came to be born at sea.  There was a terrific gale
blowing, and the ship was running under bare poles during the time that
important event in the world's history occurred.

  "`The wind it whistled, the porpoise roll'd,
  The dolphins rear'd their backs of gold;
  And never was heard such an outcry wild
  As welcomed to life the ocean-child.'

"I believe you, my hearties, that was a gale!  I don't believe the sea
ever ran so high before, or has ever run so high since.  We were fully
half an hour going up the side of one sea, and nearly a quarter sliding
down into the trough on the other--so I have been told: I cannot say
that I remember the circumstance, though I do recollect things which
happened a long time ago.

"I was a precocious child, let me tell you.  I had as fine a set of
teeth as ever cracked biscuit by the time I was six months old, and
lived upon lobscouse and porter.  I was weaned by that time, and I
wasn't two years old when I could go aloft like a monkey.  It wouldn't
have done for me to have been like any every-day sort of baby."

I was almost inclined to believe Mr Johnson's assertions, for, as I
looked at the huge red-nosed man before me, I could scarcely persuade
myself that he had ever been a baby in long clothes.

"Speaking of monkeys," continued Mr Johnson, winking his eye, "I once
had a desperate fight with one, when I wasn't much more than three years
old.  I was sitting on the main-truck, with my legs dangling down, as
was my custom when I wanted a good allowance of fresh air.  We had a
monkey aboard--a mischievous chap,--and when he saw me, he swarmed up
the mast, and, putting up his paw, snatched a biscuit out of my
jacket-pocket.  I gave him a slap on the head, and in return he bit my
leg, and tried to pull me down.  To be even with him, I jumped on his
shoulders, and down we slipped together, till we reached the topmast
cross-trees.  There I got a rope, and, lashing him to the heel of the
topgallant-mast, sang out to the hands in the top that they might see
what I had done.  You may be sure that they were very much astonished.

"I was a great favourite among the crew, and ran no slight chance of
being spoilt.  I could dance a hornpipe with any man on board; and as
for singing a rollicking sea-song, there were few who could match me.  I
soon learned to hand reef, steer, and heave the lead, as well as any man
on board.  My mother was proud of me, and so was my father; and they had
reason to be, and that's the truth.

"At last it struck them that they ought to give me some education, to
fit me to become an officer and a gentleman.  I, however, was not fond
of books, but I learned to read chiefly from the signboards over the
shop fronts along the quays at the different ports to which we traded.
Not that I required much instruction, for I picked up knowledge faster
than most people could serve it out to me.

"I was one morning sent on shore to school, but the master thinking fit
to cane me, I tucked him up under my arm, and walked off with him on
board the ship, where I stowed him under hatches, and kept him there
till he promised to treat me in future with more respect.  After this
little occurrence we were very good friends; but when the ship went to
sea, he begged that I might on no account be left behind.  That was but
natural, for I hadn't got into shore ways exactly."

The cry, from the deck, of "All hands make sail!" interrupted Mr
Johnson's veracious narrative.

"A chase in sight," he exclaimed; "and a prize she'll prove, though we
have to fight for her!"



CHAPTER FIVE.

Every officer, man, and boy, not otherwise especially engaged, had their
eyes directed ahead, watching the chase, as her sails gradually rose
above the horizon.  What she was had not yet been ascertained.  She
might be a man-of-war, or perhaps, only a merchantman.  If the first, we
hoped she would fight; if the latter, that she might carry a rich
freight.  After a time, I saw Mr Johnson rubbing his eyes, and,
suddenly bringing his hand down on his thigh with a loud smack, he
exclaimed--"She's only a Yankee merchantman, after all."  The stranger
was evidently making no attempt at escape; indeed, before long, she lost
the wind altogether, though we carried it on till we got within about a
mile of her.  We then found that the boatswain was right; indeed, it is
easy to know an American merchantman by her light-coloured hull, breadth
of beam, low masts, square yards, and white canvas.

As we lay rolling away, a boat was lowered from the stranger, from whose
peak the stars and stripes hung down, so that none but a practical eye
could have made out the flag.

The boat came alongside, and a gentleman, in a broad-brimmed straw hat
and jean jacket, stepped on board, with a cigar in his mouth, and
walking aft with the greatest coolness, put out his hand to Captain
Collyer, who, looking true dignity itself, was standing on the
quarter-deck, with his officers round him.  Not a little electrified was
he by the address now made him.

"How goes it with you, skipper?" quoth the stranger, almost wringing his
hand off.  "You've a neat little craft under your feet, I guess, but
we've got some who'd wallop her in pretty smart time.  You'd like to
know who I am?  I'm Captain Nathan Noakes; I command that ship there,
the Hickory Stick, and I should like to see her equal.  She's the craft
to go, let me tell you.  When the breeze comes, I'll soon show you the
pair of heels she's got.  We'll run away from you like greased
lightning, I guess."

"She looks a fine vessel, sir," said Captain Collyer, too polite to turn
away, as some men I have known might have done.

"She is, sir," said the American master with emphasis.

"I calculate she'd sail twice round the world while you was going once;
but don't rile, now, at what I say--you can't help it, you know.  Come,
take a cigar--they're real Havanna."

"Thank you, sir, I do not smoke," said our captain with naturally
increasing stiffness, "nor is it customary, I must observe, for any one
to do so on the quarter-deck of his Britannic Majesty's ships."

"Ah! that's the difference between slavery and freedom," answered the
stranger, with most amusing effrontery, lighting another cigar as he
spoke.  "You serve the tyrant King George.  I serve myself, and no one
else, and I like my master best of the two; but I pity you--you can't
help it."

Some of the officers were very indignant at the impudence of the Yankee
captain; others were highly amused, and I believe Captain Collyer was,
for he turned away at last to hide his laughter.  Nothing, however,
seemed to abash the skipper.

"Well, you Britishers will be inclined to deal, I guess," he observed;
and, without waiting for an answer, ordered the people in his boat to
send up some cases of claret and boxes of oranges which he had brought.
A whip was sent down, and they were soon had on deck, and I must say we
were not sorry to make a deal with him--that is to say, the captain and
gun-room officers took the claret, and the midshipmen the oranges.

"Well, I guess you've got them dirt cheap," observed the Yankee skipper,
as he pocketed the money.  "But mind now, I don't warrant them all
sound."

Had he made the remark before we bought them, we might have thanked him
for his honesty.  On opening the cases we found that more than one half
were rotten, and that the rest would not keep many days.  That, of
course, was the reason he had sold them.

He finished his cigar while he went on talking much in the same strain
as he had done at first, and then coolly proposed inspecting the ship.
As there was no objection to his so doing, he was allowed to go round
the decks, when he might have counted thirty-six guns, and as fine a
looking crew as ever stepped the deck of a man-of-war.  At length
Captain Nathan Noakes returned on board the Hickory Stick.  Afterwards,
when I repeated to the boatswain the remarks of Captain Noakes, his
observation was--

"I cannot stand those Yankees--they do exaggerate so terribly.  One
cannot depend on a word they say."

I made no reply, for it struck me that Mr Johnson himself did at times,
as he would have said, rather overstate facts.  I made the remark to
Perigal.

"Well, boy, the boatswain is like most of us," he answered; "we don't
see our own faults.  I suspect no man would be more ready than he would
to grow angry should his veracity be called in question."

"But those stories of his own adventures are very amusing," said I.

"Very," said Perigal.  "And as long as he confines himself to them no
great harm is done; but if a man once gets into the habit of departing
from the truth for the sake of amusing his hearers, he may not stop
there, and will, very likely, tell a falsehood of a different character
whenever it may suit his convenience to do so."

The sun when setting indicated fine weather.  During the night there was
a light breeze, scarcely sufficient to send our heavy frigate through
the water.  When day dawned, however, our Yankee friend, we discovered,
had managed to slip away, and was hull down to the south-west.

In the same direction another ship was seen, with which it was
considered probable that the Yankee had communicated.  The stranger
looked suspicious--a heavy ship--and certainly a man-of-war.  All hands
in consequence set to work to whistle for a breeze, and to our infinite
satisfaction it came very soon, confirming most on board in their belief
as to the efficacy of the operation.  Sail was then made, and we steered
for the stranger.  She was soon pronounced to be a powerful frigate, a
worthy match for the Doris, and so with light hearts we cleared for
action, not doubting that we should take her, whatever her size or the
number of her guns.  Our only fear was that she might run away.  To
prevent this, our captain, who was up to all sorts of tricks to deceive
an enemy, had arranged a mode of disguising the ship.  By means of some
black painted canvas let down over the main-deck ports, she was made to
look like a corvette, or flush-decked vessel.  Captain Collyer, we
heard, had before taken in and taken several vessels in this way, and we
hoped now to be as fortunate.

At an earlier hour than usual we piped to breakfast, that we might not
fight on empty stomachs, and I may safely say that the prospect of a
fierce contest damped no one's appetite.  For my own part I never made a
better meal in my life.  I hurried, however, very soon again on deck,
spy-glass in hand.  Looking through it, there was no longer any doubt as
to the character of the stranger.  There she lay, standing under easy
sail, and evidently waiting our approach.  Just as I got on deck she
fired a gun to windward, and the French ensign flew out from her peak.

As we drew nearer we could count twenty-two ports on a side.  She thus
carried many more guns than we did, and had probably a much larger crew.
These odds were highly satisfactory.  We had no fear about the issue of
the combat; our only dread was that she might escape us.  Our captain
determined to do his best to prevent this.  He was not a man given to
make long speeches, but as soon as everything was ready for battle, he
called the men on deck.

"My lads," he said, "there's a ship somewhat bigger than we are, and
maybe there are more men on board; but they're only Frenchmen.  You can
take her if you try, and I know you will.  I intend to engage her to
leeward, that she may not escape us.  You'll do your duty like British
seamen, and that's all I want of you."

This pithy speech was received with three hearty cheers, a good
prognostic of victory.

The determination of the captain to engage a more powerful antagonist to
leeward was very brave, for it was the least advantageous position for
fighting.  The reason of the Frenchman's boldness in waiting for us was
clearly that he supposed the Doris to be much smaller than she really
was.  But then how was it that the Yankee skipper should not have told
him the truth.  They had certainly communicated.  We had only just
before seen his royals dipping beneath the horizon.  However, we hadn't
time to think of that or anything else, before a shot from the enemy
came whistling through our sails.  Several followed in rapid succession.
We were keeping away so as to cross her stern, and rake her with a
broadside, and then to haul up again on her beam.  To avoid this she
also kept away, and began to pepper us rather more than was pleasant.
Her captain had clearly determined that we should not get to leeward.

"She must have it as she wishes," cried Captain Collyer.  "Give it her,
my lads."

At that moment the canvas which had concealed our main-deck guns was
triced up, and in right good earnest we poured our whole broadside into
our opponent.  The unexpected salute must have staggered her, and now
she too hauled up, and, discovering that she had not got a baby to play
with, applied herself in earnest to the combat, and we ran on blazing
away at each other nearly yard-arm to yard-arm.

"This is what I like," exclaimed Mr Johnson, rubbing his hands.  "This
is a good honest stand-up fight; we know what the enemy's about, and he
knows what we are about, and I shall be very much surprised if he does
not find out before long that we are giving him a tremendous good
licking."

I would not quite agree with the boatswain, for the enemy's shot was
crashing about us with terrific effect.  The French frigate also sailed
much faster than we did, and soon shot ahead of us; and still further to
prevent us from attaining our object, she wore round and came on to the
other tack, giving us a fresh broadside as she did so.  The manoeuvre
succeeded so well, that it was repeated again and again.  This enraged
our crew, several of whom were struck down; the wounded were at once
carried below, the dead were drawn out of the way; they were not yet
numerous enough to throw overboard.  I looked to see how my particular
friends were getting on.  George Grey had a division of guns under him,
and was behaving like the young hero he was.  Toby Bluff was busily
employed in bringing up powder, and looking as totally unconcerned about
everything else as if this was the most important work to be done.
Having brought up his tub, he sat himself down on it, determined that
not a spark should get in if he could help it.  In like manner the
captain was doing his duty to the best of his power, and so was every
officer and man in the ship.  Mr Lukyn, the first-lieutenant, had
chosen me to act as his aide-de-camp, to carry orders that he might have
to send to any part of the ship; in that way I was kept constantly
moving about, and it appeared to me that I escaped many shots which
might otherwise have hit me.  Once a shot knocked some hammocks out of
the hammock nettings, and grazed the mainmast just as I had passed it,
and another took off the head of the boatswain's mate, just as he was
raising his hand to signify that he understood an order I had given him.
I consequently walked on till I met the boatswain, and delivered the
order to him that he might see it executed.  "This will never do,
Lukyn," I heard the captain say.  "We must get alongside her again."
The sails were accordingly trimmed, and we ran right down on the enemy,
pouring into her as we did so a fire of round-shot, grape, and musketry,
but, I must own, getting as much in return, and having our rigging
terribly cut about.  The French ship had at the time little way on her,
so we shot ahead; both of us, after exchanging a couple of broadsides,
falling off before the wind.  We had now separated considerably.  The
hands were sent aloft to knot and splice the rigging, to enable us to
work the ship, which we otherwise could not do.  While we were thus
employed, the French frigate hauled up, and, passing our stern
diagonally, raked us, but at too great a distance to do us much damage.
Every officer and man was exerting himself to renew the fight, when once
more the French ship bore up, and showed that she was going again to
pass under our stern.

"Down, with your faces on the deck, all of you, my lads," shouted the
captain, the order being repeated by the other officers.  I observed,
however, that both he and Mr Lukyn stood upright.  The expected shower
came, the enemy passing within pistol shot.  I looked up anxiously to
ascertain if either of my superiors was hurt.  There they stood as calm
as before, but Mr Lukyn's hat had been knocked off, and two bullets had
passed through the sleeve of his coat.

"That was a narrow shave," observed the captain, as Mr Lukyn stooped
down and picked up his hat.  Had the men been standing up, great
numbers, probably, would have been killed or wounded.  The enemy after
this hauled up on the larboard tack, and was about to pour her starboard
broadside into us, when, our crew springing to their feet, our sails
were thrown back, and the French frigate's larboard bow came directly on
to our starboard quarter.  As she did so, the boatswain with his mates
sprang aft, and in a moment it seemed that the enemy's bowsprit, or
rather jib-boom, was lashed to our mizen-rigging, in spite of a heavy
rattling fire of musketry, kept up on them by the French marines on
their forecastle.  A body of our marines came aft to reply to them, and
numbers were dropping on both sides.  While this was going forward, I
saw a French officer walking along the bowsprit with a musket in his
hand.  He rested it on the stay, and was taking a deliberate aim at
Captain Collyer, who stood, not observing this, encouraging the men to
work the after guns.  At that instant a marine who had just loaded his
musket was shot dead.  I seized it as he fell, and in the impulse of the
moment, dropping on my knee, raised it to my shoulder and fired at the
Frenchman on the bowsprit who at the same time fired.  A ball passed
through the captain's hat--he turned his head and observed that I had
just fired, and saw also the Frenchman falling headlong into the water.

"Thank you, Mr Merry, you have saved my life," he said, turning a look
of approval on me; but there was no time for more.  Everything I have
described passed like a flash of lightning.  All was now smoke and
noise, the men straining at the gun-tackles, sponging and loading; the
marines firing and stooping down, as they had been ordered, to load, to
avoid the bullets of the French marines who were so much above them.
Meantime the French had been mustering on deck, and suddenly appearing
on their forecastle, they rushed along the bowsprit, and were leaping
down on our hammock nettings, the headmost reaching the deck.

"Boarders, repel boarders!" shouted Mr Bryan; and he with one or two
mates, followed by Jonathan Johnson, with his doughty cutlass, hurried
aft to meet them.  What had become of the captain and Mr Lukyn I could
not tell.  Fierce was the encounter, for the French seamen fought
desperately, and their marines kept blazing away faster than ever.  Mr
Bryan and the French officer leading the boarders met,--their blades
flashed rapidly for a few seconds, and the Frenchman fell mortally
wounded.  Mr Johnson was in his glory: the first time he led on his
followers, however, the Frenchmen withstood him for some seconds, and,
more of them pouring down on the deck, he was driven back a foot or two,
but it was only for a moment.  With a loud shout, he made a furious dash
at the boarders: Mr Bryan, with several mates and midshipmen, of whom I
was one, seconded by our gallant purser, who with a brace of pistols in
his belt and a sharp cutlass in his hand, instead of remaining below,
had come on deck to share the danger and aid in the fight; and of the
whole number of the enemy who had reached the deck of the Doris, not one
quarter escaped on board their own ship unwounded, and very nearly half
were killed outright, or were taken prisoners.  We, however, did not get
off scathless.  The enemy still continued to annoy us with their
foremost guns; while the shot from their muskets rattled thickly round
our heads, our main royal-mast and main-topsail yard had been shot away,
and the gaff was so severely wounded, that when the Frenchmen fell
aboard us, it dropped over his deck.  At this moment we saw some of the
crew tear our ensign from the gaff and carry it aft as a trophy; there
was not a man in our ship who would not have gladly rushed aboard the
enemy to recover it.

"It will never do to be without a flag," said I to Grey.  "I propose we
go aloft and nail a couple to the mast."

"With all my heart," he answered; and he getting a boat's ensign and I a
union-jack from the signal locker, we ran aloft with them before any one
saw what we were about.  We agreed, however, that they would look best
at each end of the cross-jack, and accordingly, quick as lightning, we
lashed them there.  The Frenchmen might certainly have picked us off,
but, as many of their nation have much chivalry in their composition,
when they saw that we were young midshipmen, and what we were about, I
suspect refrained from firing.  At all events, we accomplished our
dangerous exploit, and returned on deck.  Scarcely had we reached it,
and stood amid the shower of bullets whistling along it, than, to my
great sorrow, I saw Grey fall; he uttered no cry; I ran towards him to
lift him up; he said that he was not badly hurt, but he fainted, and Mr
Bryan ordered him at once to be carried below.  Directly afterwards Mr
Bryan fell; he, however, raised himself on his arm, and with the help of
two seamen, in a short time stood up, and refused to leave the deck.
Mr Collman, our brave purser, tried to persuade him to go below.

"Let the surgeon look to you, and if he thinks you are fit you can
return."

"No, no; thank you, Collman," he answered.  "I don't know what may
happen while I'm away.  Time enough to go to the doctor when we've
thrashed the Frenchmen."

It was my duty, as I said, to stay by the first-lieutenant.  I was
inquiring for him, when I saw a number of the French marines peppering
away at the after ports in the captain's cabin.  I instantly bethought
me that the captain and Mr Lukyn must be there, and accordingly hurried
to the main-deck.

Our captain had, without asking leave of the dock yard authorities, cut
two ports in his cabin on each side next the quarter, in readiness for
the very contingency which had now occurred.  Our carpenter had,
however, stupidly forgotten to drive in ring bolts to work the guns,
while the gunner had not prepared tackles of sufficient length to haul
the aftermost guns from the side to the new ports.

When I reached the cabin, the captain and first and third lieutenants,
and the gunner and carpenter, and other officers and men, were working
away to find means to train aft a gun.  The marines, however, stationed
along the larboard gangway of the enemy had found them out, and as I
reached the cabin it seemed as if a hailstorm was playing into it, and
the bulkheads were literally riddled with bullets.  Several men lay dead
about the decks, and every now and then another sank down wounded, while
many were labouring away with the blood flowing from their sides or
limbs.  I ran in and asked Mr Lukyn if he wanted me.

"No, no, Merry; go out of this, boy," he answered kindly.

At that time it was certainly the part of the ship suffering most.  As I
was going out I passed Mr Downton, our third lieutenant.  He was
reeving a rope through a block to form a tackle, when a shot struck him
in the head.  He fell forward in the way of the gun.  He was dragged
unceremoniously out of it by the legs, and the men cheered as they
hauled it aft.  I ran to help poor Mr Downton.  I lifted him up.  He
gave a look so full of pain and woe in my face that I would gladly have
shut it out, and then with a deep sigh breathed his last.  I never felt
so sad before.  He was a good kind officer, and I liked him very much.
I now, I own, began to think that we were getting the worst of it, and
should have to strike our colours, or go down with them flying.  Just
then the gun, double shotted, was run out aft, and fired right into the
enemy's bows.  Our men's cheers drowned the shrieks and cries which
followed from the French ship.  Again the gun was loaded and fired with
the same terrific effect.  The French marines continued blazing away at
the people in the cabin, but were at length driven from the gangway by
the hot fire of our jollies and small-armed men.  The latter had also to
direct their attention to a carronade which the enemy had got on his
forecastle, and which might have done us a vast deal of mischief, but
such a shower of musket balls whistled round it the instant a Frenchman
got near, that none would venture to work it.

As Mr Lukyn had ordered me out of the cabin when I found that I could
be of no use to Mr Downton, I went on deck again.  The bullets were
whistling along the deck as thick as hailstones.  This sort of work
would have continued probably till we had treated each other like the
Kilkenny cats, or till the French ship had given in, when her jib-boom
gave way, and she forged ahead.  As she did so, our next aftermost gun
was manned and fired, cutting away her head rails, and, what was of
greater consequence, the gammoning of her bowsprit.

"Hurrah, lads! the day's ours," shouted Mr Collman; "over to the
starboard guns."

The master was on the main-deck with the captain.

"Now the battle's going to begin in earnest, Mr Merry," observed the
boatswain, near whom I found myself.

Thought I to myself, "It has been going on in pretty serious earnest for
the last two hours or more."

Now both frigates, running on yard-arm to yard-arm, fired their guns in
succession as they could be brought to bear; but our people, from
constant practice, tossed our guns in and out twice as rapidly as the
Frenchmen.  This soon told; the enemy's main-topmast was shot away, the
foremast was badly wounded, several of her ports were knocked into one,
and instead of the cloud of canvas which lately swelled proudly to the
breeze, her sails were riddled, and, with rope ends, hung useless from
every shattered yard.  In some respects we were not much better off, and
our rigging was so cut about that the ship was no longer manageable.
Taking advantage of her greater speed, our antagonist drew ahead till
she got out of gun-shot, greatly to the rage and annoyance of the crew,
who bestowed on her three loud groans, and many an anathema on finding
that she had escaped them.

It now came on calm, and she could not get far off.  Not a moment,
however, was lost before all hands were set to work to repair damages;
never was rigging more rapidly knotted and spliced.  My eye was seldom
off our enemy.  A slight breeze had again sprung up, when suddenly I saw
her foremast rock, it seemed, and over it went with a crash, carrying a
number of her crew on it into the water.  A loud cheer burst from our
men, as they saw what had occurred, and they redoubled their efforts to
get the Doris ready to renew the action.  By noon we had knotted and
spliced all the standing rigging, rove new braces, and had got the ship
under perfect command, while the freshening breeze carried us rapidly up
towards our opponent.

The heat of the sun and our exertions made us feel very hot, and now the
Yankee's oranges came into requisition.  Both midshipmen and men might
be seen sucking them heartily, as we once more stood into action.  The
enemy seemed still disposed to defend himself as we stood across his
stern, so that he could bring no guns to bear on us.  He, however,
trusting to the effect his large body of marines might produce, fired a
rattling volley as we were about to pour in our broadside.  Spellman and
I were at the moment standing near the boatswain.  As the French marines
fired, I felt a sharp burning pang in my shoulder, which made me jump on
one side, while I saw Spellman's orange flying away, and, putting up
both his hands, he cried out, "Oh, my orange! my orange!--and they have
riddled my cheeks, the blackguards."

I could not help laughing at his exclamation and face of astonishment,
in spite of the sickness which was creeping over me.

"It's lucky it was not through your head, Mr Spellman," observed the
boatswain, picking up the orange and handing it to him, but he was in no
way inclined to suck it, for his mouth was full of blood, which he began
vehemently spluttering out over the deck.

Now our frigate sent forth a roaring broadside; the enemy's ship was for
an instant shrouded in smoke.  As it cleared away, down came the French
ensign, and an officer was seen to spring on to the taffrail, and, with
the politest of bows, signify that they had struck.  Loud, hearty cheers
was the answer returned by our brave fellows, who by sheer hard
fighting, and rapid working of their guns, had achieved, in little more
than three hours, a victory over a foe so vastly superior.  Those
cheers, though pleasant sounds to our ears, must have been very much the
contrary to our enemies.

Then, and not till then, did Mr Bryan consent to be carried below.  I
have no personal knowledge of what happened after this, for even before
the cheering had ceased, I should have sunk fainting on the deck, had
not the boatswain caught me.  When I came to myself, I was undressed in
my hammock, and, except a pain and stiffness in my shoulder, there was
nothing, I thought, very much the matter with me, though when I tried to
rise I found that to do so was out of the question.  Spellman and Grey
were in their hammocks close to me.  Though Spellman was least seriously
hurt of either of us, his appearance, from having his head bound up with
two huge plasters over his cheeks, was by far the most lugubrious, as he
sat up and looked first at Grey, and then at me, and said, "Well, I hope
you like it."

"Thank you, Miss Susan," said I.  "We might be worse off, but we shan't
have to go whistling through the world in future as you will, and if
ever you fall into the hands of savages they'll put a rope through your
cheeks and drag you along like a tame bear."

"You don't think so, Merry, I'm sure," he answered, in a tone of alarm,
which showed that he vividly pictured the possibility of such an
occurrence; "do you, Grey?"

Poor Grey was too weak to say much, but he gave Spellman very little
encouragement to hope for the best, and when Macquoid visited us,
entering into the joke, he said nothing to remove his apprehensions.

My chief anxiety was now about Toby Bluff, and I was very glad to find
that he had not been hurt.  At last, when he came to me, I had some
difficulty in quieting his apprehensions, and in persuading him that it
was a very fine thing to be wounded, and that I should have lots of
honour and glory, and be made more of when I got home than I had ever
been before in my life, and that he would share in it without having had
the disagreeable ceremony to go through of being wounded.

"As to the glory, and all that sort of thing, I'd as lief have let it
alone, if it was to cost a bullet through me, Muster Merry," he
answered.  "But I'd have been main glad if the mounseers had just shot
me instead of you.  It wouldn't have done me no harm to matter."

"He is a faithful fellow, certainly," I thought, "but he has no chivalry
in his composition."

From the jabbering we heard around us, we found that the French
prisoners had been brought on board, and Macquoid told us that every man
who could be spared was employed in repairing the prize.  Mr Lukyn had
gone to take command of her, with Perigal as his second in command, and
I was very glad to find that the old mate was unhurt.

Our prize was the Aigle.  She carried six guns more than we had, and
they were of heavier calibre.  She was nearly three hundred tons larger,
and her crew numbered a hundred men more than we had.  We had beaten her
because our men were better gunners, and had fired half as rapidly again
as had her crew.  We had lost fourteen killed and thirty wounded, and
she thirty-four killed and sixty wounded.

"Ah! young gentlemen," said Mr Johnson, who in the intervals of his
labour paid us a visit, "it was as pretty a stand-up fight and as well
won a battle as I ever heard of, or you'll ever see probably."

At length both frigates were refitted, and, as we understood, steering a
course for old England.  We three midshipmen found it rather dull work
staying in our hammocks all day, as it was too dark to read, though we
managed to sleep, as only midshipmen can sleep, and we agreed that we
would get the boatswain, when he had leisure, to come and sit by us to
go on with his history.  We succeeded, and, seated on a bucket, he
began:--

"Well, young gentlemen, flesh and blood wants some rest, though I can do
more than most men in the way of work, and instead of taking a doze in
my cabin I'll indulge you, and the service shall not suffer.  Ah, ah!
let me see:--I was telling you of my childhood.  I very soon grew up.  I
didn't take long to do that.  By the time I was fifteen I knew a thing
or two, and there wasn't a seaman aboard my father's ship who could beat
me at anything."

"At pulling the long bow especially," said a deep voice from one of the
hammocks.

"Who spoke?" inquired Mr Johnson, turning round sharply.  "I'll tell
you what, whoever you are, a man may shoot with a long bow, or a man may
shoot with a short bow; but for my part I say a man has a right to use
the weapon which suits him best; and so, Mr Bow-wo-wo, just bowse taut
that jaw-tackle of yours, and don't let's hear any more of your
pertinent remarks, I'll thank ye, my bo."  Mr Johnson then continued,
"At last, said my father one day to me--`Jonathan, you are big enough
and strong enough to go without leading strings, and the sooner a lad
does that the better.'

"`Yes, father, I am,' said I, and I was, for I was six feet two inches
high, and could knock over an ox with my fist, as I'd done many a time
to save the butcher trouble.

"`You must look out for a ship, my son,' said my father.

"`I will,' said I, and I did.  I shipped on board a Greenland whaler,
the Blazylight, and sailed the next day for the North Pole.  We had a
fine run to our fishing ground, and soon began to kill our whales at a
great rate.  It was the sort of sport which just suited me.  I never
could stand angling for minnows; but whale-fishing is a very different
sort of work, I guess.

"We had got a full ship, and were thinking of turning south, when we
were becalmed near the land, and as the ship could not move, I, with
four or five more, started on an expedition to shoot polar bears, which
were pretty common thereabouts.  We had got a good way from the ship,
when a thick fog--not an unfrequent visitor to those parts--came on.  I
had a pocket-compass with me, and so I wasn't a bit alarmed.  However,
when we tried to find the old Blazylight again, I must confess we could
not.  We wandered about till all my companions died from sheer fright
and fatigue; and I should have died, too, if I had given in; but I
wouldn't do that; so I collected all my shipmates' ammunition, and set
to work to kill and pot bears.  I lived like a prince, as far as
quantity was concerned, but I got rather tired of bear's flesh at last.
I rubbed myself over with the grease, and was soon covered from head to
foot with a hide of the finest wool, so that I didn't feel the cold a
bit.  It was cold, however, at times, with a vengeance.  Frequently the
frost was so severe, that it froze up even the very air, and if I had
not melted it every now and then, by firing off my gun, I should have
died for want of breath; and often it wasn't possible to move without
cutting a way for myself through the atmosphere with my axe.  I
suspected, as I afterwards found to be the case, that what we had taken,
to be land, was in reality an unusually large field of ice, with
icebergs imbedded in it, and that we had been carried by some unknown
current imperceptibly towards the north for a considerable distance.
Now, when we had left the ship, we had kept to the westward.  When we
wished to return, we had steered east by the pocket-compass I told you
of.  On, and on, and on, I kept on the same course.  What do you think I
was doing?  Why I was walking round and round the North Pole, and should
have kept on walking till now, for nothing would have made me give in--I
promise you that wasn't my way--had I not come upon the print of my own
footsteps in the snow.  This made me aware of my error; so I sat down to
consider how it could have happened, and at last the truth flashed on my
mind.  You see it was a very natural mistake I had made, for the needle
of my compass was all the time pointing to the North Pole, just as a
capstan-bar does to the capstan, while I was running round at the other
end of it.  I was rather puzzled to know what to do, for had I walked
south, not having the means of ascertaining my longitude, I might, I
thought, find myself on the other side of the globe, somewhere, perhaps
near Behring's Straits, leading into the Sea of Kamtschatka, where there
would be little chance of my falling in with a ship.

"I had sat cogitating for some time, and was beginning to get rather
chilly, when it occurred to me that I might render a great service to
science, by going chock up to the North Pole, and ascertaining of what
it is composed.  I instantly rose from my seat, put my compass down to
strike the course I was to take, fired off my gun to clear myself a path
through the frozen atmosphere, secured my stock of bear's flesh on my
back for provisions, and manfully set forward, with my face away from
all human beings."

"But how could you see, Mr Johnson?" asked Grey.  "I always thought it
was dark in those regions during winter!"

"See! why perfectly well," answered the boatswain promptly.  "If the
stars and moon happened not to be shining, there was always the aurora
borealis blazing up, like a great fire, right ahead of me.  You have
seen the northern lights on a winter's night, but they are a very
different affair up there to what they appear so far south.  If it
wasn't for them, in my opinion, there would be no living in those
regions, but by their warmth they keep the atmosphere round them in a
very pleasant state.  Well, on I walked, sleeping at night in the huts I
made in the snow, leaving a small hole open to breathe through; and it
was not disagreeably cold, owing to the warm whiffs which came every now
and then from the Pole.

"After progressing thus for several days, I observed an extraordinary
phenomenon.  Whenever I took my compass out in my hand, I felt that the
instrument had a tendency to move directly before me.  This tendency
increased gradually as I proceeded, till, one morning, when I put it
down as usual to mark my course before starting, to my infinite
surprise, and I may say dismay, away it glided over the snow, increasing
in rapidity of motion as it proceeded.

"Horrified at the reflection of what might be the consequence should I
lose it, I rushed forward, and, in my eagerness to grasp my treasure,
fell prostrate on my face, just, happily, as my fingers clutched it.

"This wonderful occurrence (for I own that it did surprise even me, and
I could not have believed it had another man told it me) brought me to a
stand-still, and compelled me to form a new plan for my future
proceedings.  I was unwilling to give up the enterprise, though I saw
the full risk I was running; but dangers never daunted me,--I should
think not,--and I determined at every hazard to proceed.  I accordingly
retraced my steps a day's journey, when I found the attractive powers of
the Pole of less force; and then erecting a lofty pyramid of snow, I
placed my compass on the summit, and carefully covered it.  On the top
of all I fastened a red pocket-handkerchief, secured to a walking-stick,
in order to make the object still more conspicuous.  Having performed
this work, I lay down in a snow hut to rest, and the next morning again
set forward towards the Pole."

The boatswain stopped to clear his throat.

"That is very interesting, Mr Johnson," said Grey.  "Do go on."

"I'll indulge you, young gentlemen--I'll indulge you; and as I look upon
what I am going to tell you as the most interesting part of my
adventures, no one must interrupt me.  The king on his throne mustn't
and sha'n't--till I have finished my authentic and veracious narrative."

"Mr Johnson!  Mr Johnson! the captain wants you--sharp!" shouted Toby
Bluff, running along the deck.  Mr Johnson gave a grunt, and, springing
from his seat, disappeared up the hatchway.



CHAPTER SIX.

I had a good constitution which had not been impaired by any excess, and
as Mr Perigal and the other oldsters of the mess kept strictly to the
law by which they had awarded to themselves two-thirds of the
youngsters' grog, my blood was not inflamed by having imbibed spirituous
liquors.  I therefore, under Macquoid's judicious care, very rapidly
recovered from the effects of my wound.  In a few days I could have got
up and run about, but as poor Grey, who was much more hurt than I had
been, was too weak to leave his hammock, I promised to remain in mine to
keep him company.  When Macquoid came to me, therefore, one day and told
me that I might dress and go on deck, I replied in a very faint voice,
that I had not strength to move, and groaned a great deal when he moved
me to dress my wound.

"Some internal injury, I fear," he observed, "I must see to it."

He then turned to Spellman, to dress his cheeks.  He groaned exactly in
the way I had done, and spoke in the same faint tone, declaring his
inability to rise.

"Ah, poor fellow, some internal injury, I fear; I must see to it,"
remarked the assistant-surgeon in the same tone, as he left us.

Miss Susan, thinking that he had quitted the sick bay, sat up in his
hammock, and made a well-known and expressive signal to me with his
thumb to his nose, which Macquoid, who happened at that moment to turn
his head, could not have failed to observe.

"Miss Susan, you donkey, you have spoilt all.  We are found out," I
exclaimed.  "Macquoid saw your sign to me."

Spellman declared that did not signify; that he would explain how it
happened to Macquoid, and assure him that the gesture was one which he
frequently made when suffering from a paroxysm of pain.

I told him that he had better say nothing of the sort, and that he would
only make matters worse, but he persisted that he knew better than I
did, and told me to hold my tongue.  Of course it was very wrong to sham
to be worse than I was, but I persuaded myself that it was not like
actual malingering, as I had a foundation for my assertion, and really
did not feel as if I could walk.  Still I may as well say here, that
though I have ever been through life merry by nature, as well as by
name, and have loved joking as much as any man, I have learned to hate
and detest falsehood.  It is un-Christian like in the first place, and
thoroughly low and ungentlemanly in the second.  I say this, lest in
consequence of my having introduced the wonderful adventures of my
shipmate, Mr Johnson, it may be considered that I think lightly of the
importance of speaking the truth.  To do Jonathan justice he took ample
care that his yarns should never for a moment deceive the most
simple-minded or credulous of his hearers.  At that time, however, I did
not see things as clearly as I did when I grew older, and I was vexed at
having tried to deceive Macquoid, more from the fear of being found out
than from any refined sense of shame.  He, however, when he came again
in the evening, treated us exactly as if we were still very weak, and
when Spellman persisted in talking of the odd position into which his
hands twisted themselves when he was in pain, he seemed to take it all
in, and agreed with him, that such was a very natural and common
occurrence.  I had my doubts, however, of Macquoid's sincerity, and
having had some experience of his mode of treatment on a former
occasion, resolved to be very much better the next visit he paid us.  I
said nothing to Spellman, whose spirits rose immediately.

"I told you so," he exclaimed, when Macquoid was gone.  "I told you I
should humbug Johnny Sawbones."

"Now if we could but get the boatswain to come to us, and to go on with
his yarns, we should be all right and jolly," observed Grey.

I agreed with him, and soon afterwards Toby Bluff coming to see me,
which the faithful fellow did as often as he could during the day, I
sent him to invite Mr Johnson to pay us a visit, as he would have more
leisure then than at any other time of the day.  Nothing loth, the
boatswain soon made his appearance.

"And so, young gentlemen, you want to hear more of my wonderful, not to
say veracious, narratives," he observed, while a pleasant smile
irradiated his features.  "Well, I hold that the use of a man's legs is
to move about the world, the use of his eyes is to see all that is to be
seen, as he does move about, and the use of his tongue to describe all
that he has seen, and so I'll use mine to good purpose, and indulge you,
but, as I've said before, I say again, I will have no one doubt my word.
If there's any cavilling, I'll shut up as close as an oyster when he's
had his dinner, and, having made this preliminary observation, here
goes.  Let me recollect, where had I got to?"  Mr Johnson said this
while taking his usual seat on a bucket, between our hammocks, his huge
legs stretched out along the deck, and his big head sticking up, so that
his eagle eyes could glance round above them.

"I remember,--I was taking a walk to the North Pole.  I did not think
that I could be many days' journey from it.  But that did not matter.
The air was so bracing that I could take any amount of exercise without
fatigue, and was therefore able to walk all day, sitting down merely for
convenience sake when I was enjoying my dinner off the preserved bear.
I of course could not cut the flesh with my knife, as it was frozen as
hard as a rock.  I was therefore obliged to chop it into mouthfuls with
my hatchet, and even when between my teeth it was some time before it
would thaw, but then you see, as I had nobody to talk to, I had plenty
of time for mastication, and it was undoubtedly partly to this
circumstance that I kept my health all the time.  There is nothing so
bad as bolting one's food, except going without it.  By the way, I have
had to do that more than once for several weeks together.  Once for a
whole month I had nothing to eat but some round-shot and bullet moulds,
and an old jackass, which was washed up on the beach, after being well
pickled by the salt water, but that has nothing to do with my present
story.  I wish that I had kept a diary of my proceedings during my
northern ramble.  It would have proved highly interesting to Sir Joseph
Banks, and other scientific people, but, as it happens, I have my memory
alone to which I can trust, though that, however, never deceives me.
Well, after leaving my flagstaff I travelled on, neither turning to the
right hand nor to the left, and it is wonderful what a straight course I
kept, considering the difficulty there is in finding one's way over a
trackless plain without a compass.  If I had had too much grog aboard, I
could not have done it, and it's a strong argument in favour of keeping
sober on all occasions, but more especially when any work is to be done.
I slept at night, as before, in a hole in the snow, but never suffered
from cold; this was partly on account of the quantity of bear's grease I
swallowed, which served to keep the lamp of life alive, and also because
every mile I advanced I found the atmosphere growing warmer, and the
Northern Lights brighter and brighter.  There could be no doubt about
it; those lights were the cause of the unexpected warmth I encountered;
so warm, indeed, did the air become, that I am certain many a man would
have turned back for fear of being roasted alive, but I was not to be
daunted.  Onward I went till I got within less than a mile of one of the
biggest fires I ever saw.  The effect was grand and beautiful in the
extreme.  You might suppose yourself looking at a city fifty times as
large as London, and every house in it as big as Saint Paul's, and every
part of it blazing away at the same time, and even then you would have
no conception of the magnificence of the scene which met my view, as I
beheld the source of those far-famed Northern Lights, the Aurora
Borealis, as the learned people call them.

"The flames, you must know, were not of that bright hot colour which
issue from a furnace, but were of a delicate pale red, flickering and
playing about in the most curious way imaginable, sometimes blazing up
to the height of a mile or so, and then sinking down to a few hundred
feet.  The heat at the distance I was then from it was rather pleasant
than oppressive; it had not even melted the snow on the ground, but of
course that was so hard frozen, that it would have required a very warm
fire to have made any impression on it.  Well, as I advanced I began to
lick my chops at the thoughts of the hot dinner I intended to enjoy--
for, after all, however philosophical a man may be, his appetite, if he
is hungry, must be satisfied before he is fit for anything--when I
beheld a number of moving objects, scarcely distinguishable from the
snow, encircling the fire.  I could not make out at first what they
were, but on approaching still nearer, I discovered the truth, though I
could scarcely believe my eyes, for there, sitting up on their hams,
were countless thousands of polar bears, warming their paws before the
aurora borealis.  It is a fact as true as anything I have been telling
you, and at once fully accounted to my mind for the disappearance of
bears from the arctic regions during the winter months, and fully
refutes the popular idea, that they sit moping by themselves in caverns,
employing their time in sucking their paws.

"Not liking the idea of losing my hot dinner, not to speak of the
disappointment of not being able to say that I had been chock up to the
North Pole, I determined to venture among them."

"It wouldn't give you much concern to say you had been there, at all
events, even if you hadn't," growled out a voice from one of the
hammocks.

"Sir!" exclaimed the boatswain very sternly, "I would have you to know
that I scorn to exaggerate the truth, or to make an assertion which is
not in strict accordance with the facts.  If you doubt my words, stop
your ears or go to sleep, or I'll shut up altogether."

"Oh no, no, do go on, Mr Johnson," exclaimed several voices at the same
moment.  "We don't doubt a word you're saying."

"Well, that's right and proper," said the boatswain, much appeased.  "If
I do draw on my imagination at any time, it is because it is the only
bank I know of which would not dishonour my drafts, as many a gentleman
who lives by his wits would have to confess, if he spoke the truth.
Well, I resolved to venture on, and soon got up near enough to see that
the bears were sitting as close as they could pack, in a large circle
round the real, veritable North Pole, and that those who were moving
were merely stragglers, who could not find room to squat down with the
rest.  I was standing contemplating the strange scene, when an immensely
big fellow, catching sight of me, came waddling up on his hind legs, and
growling terrifically with anger.  `This is inhospitable conduct, Mr
Bruin, let me observe,' I shouted out, but he did not attend to me.  I
had my gun loaded in my hands, so, when he came within ten yards of me,
I fired, and hit him on the eye.  Over he rolled as dead as mutton, so
it appeared, and I had just time to cut a steak out of his rump for
dinner, when another rushed towards me.  I loaded calmly, fired, and
knocked him over, but this was a signal for fifty others to make a
charge at me.  I felt that, ready for a fight as I was, I could not hope
to contend against such overwhelming numbers, so I did what any person,
however brave, situated as I was would have done--I took to my heels and
ran as hard as I could go.  I never ran so fast in my life before, and
good reason I had to put my best leg forward, for, in the course of a
minute, there were a thousand bears at my heels, every one of them
licking their jaws with the thoughts of dining off me.  I must own that
I did not like it.  On I ran straight for my signal staff, never once
looking behind me, for I could hear the bears growling as they followed
full tilt; and so clearly are sounds conveyed over those vast expanses
of snow, that they seemed close at my heels.

"By the time I had run for fully ten hours without stopping, I began to
get rather out of breath, and almost to fear that I should not hold out
much longer, when to my great satisfaction the growling grew less and
less distinct, as the bears, dead beat, dropped off one after the other,
till at last, turning my head, I found that I was alone.  I cannot
express how comfortable this made me feel, so I sat down for half an
hour to recover my breath, and to eat my dinner, which was a cold
instead of the hot one I expected to enjoy.

"When I got up again, what was my surprise to see my flagstaff in the
distance, not two miles ahead, and it was only then I discovered how
very fast I must have run, for I had come back in a few hours a distance
which it had before taken me a week to perform.  I have heard of fear
giving wings to the feet, but though I won't allow that I was afraid, I
must have flown along at a good pace.  Well, I got up to my flagstaff,
and found my compass all right, though as soon as it was clear of the
snow it had a slight inclination to move northward; and so, to avoid
risk, I stowed it away carefully in my pocket.  The handkerchief was
frozen as stiff as a board, and I had some difficulty in folding it up
for other purposes.  I was glad also to get back my walking-stick, which
helped me wonderfully over the ground.  Again I sat down.  It was only
now the real difficulties of my position burst on me, but difficulties
never have and never shall daunt me.  After a little consideration I
determined to discover the spot where I had commenced making the circuit
round the Pole.  For several days I was unsuccessful; till at last I
beheld a dark object on the snow.  I ran towards it, and it proved to
be, as I expected, the body of one of my shipmates, the last who had
given in--a Shetlander--Murdoc Dew by name, as good a seaman as ever
lived.  I exchanged boots with him as mine were worn out with so much
walking, and then, pushing on, I came upon the bodies of my other
companions and the bears we had killed, by which I knew that I was
steering a right course for the spot where I had left the ship.  I
calculated that had I gone south when I first thought of doing so, I
should have got on shore somewhere to the eastward of Nova Zembla, and
have had to travel right through Siberia and the whole of Europe before
I could have got back to old England, which, considering that I had not
a purse with me, nor a sixpence to put into it, would not have been
pleasant.

"On I went till I got into the latitudes where icebergs are collected.
They are, as is known, vast mountains of ice and snow, so that when I
once got among them it was impossible to see any way ahead, and as the
summer was coming on and their bases melted, they began to tumble about
in so awful a way, that I fully expected to be crushed by them.  My
food, too, was almost expended, and Murdoc Dew's boots gave symptoms of
over use, so that at last I began to think that there might be a
pleasanter situation than the one I was placed in, when one day, having
climbed to the summit of the highest iceberg in the neighbourhood, I
beheld a light blue smoke ascending in the distance.  Taking the exact
bearings of the spot, I slid down an almost perpendicular precipice, of
three hundred feet at least, at an awful rate, and then ran on as fast
as my legs would carry me, for after a solitude of eight months I longed
to see my fellow-creatures, and hear again the human voice.  On I went,
but still to my disappointment no ship appeared in sight, till at last I
saw in front of me a low round hut, evidently the habitation of
Esquimaux--a people whose habits, manners, and appearance I was never
much given to admire.  I should observe that what with my bear-skin
cloak and my long beard and hair, (I say it without any unbecoming
humility) I did, probably, look rather an outlandish character.

"As I understood something of the Esquimaux lingo--indeed, there are few
tongues I don't know something about--I shouted loudly to attract their
attention.  On this, two men, dressed in skins, came out of the hut, and
answered me in so extraordinary a dialect, that even I did not
comprehend what they said.  I then hailed them in Russian, but their
answers were perfectly unintelligible.  I next tried French, but they
shook their heads, as was, I thought, but natural for Esquimaux who were
not likely to have been sent to Paris for their education.  I then spoke
a little Spanish to them, but I was equally at a loss to understand
their answers.  Portuguese was as great a failure; even several of the
languages of the North American Indians did not assist us in
communicating our ideas to each other.  I tried Hindostanee, Arabic, and
Chinese, with as little effect.  This was, indeed, provoking to a man
who had not exchanged a word with a fellow-creature for so many months,
till at last, losing temper, I exclaimed in English more to myself than
to them:--

"`Well, I wonder what language you do speak then?'

"`English, to be sure,' answered both the men in a breath, `and never
spoke any other in our lives.'

"`Are you, indeed, my countrymen?'  I cried, rushing forward and
throwing myself into their arms, for by the tone of their voices I
discovered that not only were they Englishmen, but my own former
shipmates.

"They, of course, thinking that I had long been dead, had not recognised
me; indeed I had some difficulty, as it was, in convincing them of my
identity, and of the truth of the account I gave of my adventures since
I left the ship.  I was certainly an odd object, with a beard of so
prodigious a length, that it not only reached the ground, but I had to
tie it up as carters do their horses' tails, to keep it out of the snow.
My hair and eyebrows had increased in the same proportion, so that I
was more like a wild beast than a man.  This extraordinary exuberance I
attribute entirely to my having lived so completely on bear's flesh.
When cut off it served to stuff a large sized pillow, which I afterwards
gave to the President of the United States, who sleeps every night on it
to this day.

"My old shipmates told me that they were the only survivors of the
crew--that our ship had been nipped by two floes of ice with such
violence that she was sent flying into the air full sixty feet, and
that, when she came down again on the ice, she split into a thousand
pieces, which went skating over the smooth surface for miles, and that,
of course, the bones of every one on board were broken, but that they,
having been sent ahead in a boat at the time, escaped.

"Now I do not wish to throw any discredit on my friends' narrative, but
remember that I will not and cannot vouch for the accuracy of any man's
statements except of my own.

"My friends, having got over their first surprise, invited me to enter
their hut, where I must say I enjoyed a comfortable fire and a warm
chop--though I burnt my mouth when eating the hot meat, accustomed as I
had so long been to iced food.  We washed down the flesh with some
excellent rum, a few casks-full of which my shipmates had discovered
near the scene of the catastrophe, in frozen forms, like jellies turned
out of a tin, for the wood had been completely torn off when the ship
went to pieces.  When our repast was concluded we whiled away the time
by narrating our adventures, and though you may have observed that I am
not much given in general to talking, I confess I did feel a pleasure in
letting my tongue run on.  It moved rather stiffly at first for want of
practice; but the hot food and spirits soon relaxed the muscles, and
then it did move certainly.  My only fear was that I should never get it
to stop again.  We talked on for twelve hours without ceasing, and,
after a little sleep, went on again the whole of the next day."

A loud guffaw from the occupant of a distant hammock made the boatswain
stop short, and look round with an indignant glance.

"I should like to know, Mr Haugh!  Haugh!  Haugh! whether you are
laughing at me, or at my veracious narrative?  If at me, I have to
remark that it is over well-bred, whoever you are, officer or man; if at
my history, let me observe, all you have to do is to match it before you
venture to turn it into fun.  It may have been equalled.  I don't wish
to rob any man of his laurels; but it has not been surpassed, and so Mr
Haugh!  Haugh!  I've shut you up, and intend to shut up myself, too, for
it's time for me to go on deck and see what's become of the ship, and
that no one has walked away with her."

Saying this, the boatswain rose from his tub, and with his huge head and
shoulders bent down as he passed under the beams, he took his departure
from among the hammocks.  He had not been gone long before Toby Bluff
made his appearance; and as he came up to me I fancied, from his
countenance, that there must be something wrong with him.

"What is the matter, Bluff?"  I asked.

"Why, sir, I thought Mr Johnson was here," said he, without giving an
answer to my question.

"But what if he is not?" said I.

"Why, Muster Merry, I wanted to see him very much before he went on
deck," he answered.

"On what account?"  I asked, convinced that Toby had something to say
which he, at all events, considered of importance, and I thought he
might just as well tell me before he communicated it to the boatswain.
He was Mr Johnson's servant, it must be remembered.

"Why, sir, I don't know whether I am right or wrong," he whispered,
coming close up to my hammock.  "It's just this, sir.  We have got, you
know, some three or four hundred French prisoners aboard, at all events
many more than our own crew now numbers, as so many are away in the
prize, and others wounded.  Well, sir, as I have been dodging in and out
among them, I have observed several of them in knots, talking and
whispering together as if there was something brewing among them.
Whenever I got near any of them they were silent, because they thought I
might understand their lingo, though I don't.  I was sure there was
something wrong.  It might be they didn't like their provisions or their
grog, and were going to ask for something else, but, whatever it was, I
made up my mind to find it out.  At last I remembered that there is a
boy aboard, Billy Cuff, sir, who was taken prisoner by the French, and
lived in their country for ever so long, and he used to be very fond of
coming out with French words, though he is not a bit fond of the French,
for they killed his father and his brother, poor fellow.  Thinks I to
myself, if Billy has not got much wits he has got ears, and we'll see
what we two together can find out.  So I told Billy, and I got him to
come and stow himself away near where I knew the Frenchmen would soon
collect, and sure enough, sir, from what Billy heard, they have made up
their minds to try and take the ship.  They caught Billy and me stealing
away, and from their looks they would have pitched us overboard if they
had dared, but we tried to seem innocent like, as if we didn't think any
harm, and they still fancy it's all right.  Now if any of them saw me
going up to speak to the boatswain they might suspect that something was
wrong, and be on their guard.  I've done right, I hope, sir?"

"Indeed you have, Bluff," said I, highly pleased at the intelligence and
forethought he had shown.  It proved that his wits were sharpening at a
great rate, that in fact he had got the hay-seed out of his hair very
rapidly.

I agreed with him that it would not do to let any of the Frenchmen see
him talking to the boatswain, because, if they were really going to
rise, they might do so before preparations could be made to withstand
them.  He might go at once to Mr Bryan or to one of the other officers,
or to Captain Collyer himself, but then I thought it more than probable
that they would not believe him, so I told him to run up and to tell the
boatswain that I wanted particularly to see him.

In a short time Mr Johnson's long nosed, ruddy visage appeared above my
hammock.  I then told him, in a low voice, all I had heard from Toby.

"I should like to see them attempt it," he answered, laughing.  "It's a
cock-and-bull story, depend on that, Mr Merry, but still you did very
right in sending for me.  It's possible that I may report the
circumstance to the captain, as it's right that he should know the zeal
and intelligence exhibited by boys Bluff and Cuff, though, as I say,
there's nothing in it, depend on that."

Notwithstanding Mr Johnson's assertion I observed that he immediately
sent for boy Cuff to his cabin, and, as Toby afterwards told me,
interrogated him very closely as to what he had heard.  Nothing,
however, was said to me on the subject, and I began to fancy that boys
Bluff and Cuff had been deceived, or were making a mountain out of a
molehill.  This matter had not made me forget Macquoid's promised visit
to us.  The next morning, when we were all awake, I asked Spellman how
he felt.

"Very jolly," he answered.  "But I have no intention of getting up and
bothering myself with duty for some time to come.  I've done enough for
the good of the service to last me for some time."

"I should think so," said I.  "I hear Macquoid's voice; here he comes."
I uttered a few groans, which Spellman repeated with considerably more
vigour.  I let him go on, while I sat up with a pleased countenance to
welcome the assistant-surgeon, who appeared with a big bottle containing
some black-looking stuff, and a glass.  Spellman went on groaning.

"Poor fellow, I've got something which will do him good," observed
Macquoid with a twinkle in his eye.  "Here, take this, my lad; there is
nothing like it for internal pains."

As he poured out the nauseous draught, the smell alone was so horrible
that I resolved to do anything rather than take it.  Spellman, however,
fearing that he should be detected if he refused, held his nose with his
finger and thumb, and with many a wry face gulped it down.

"Don't you think a little more would do him good?" said I, in a hurried
tone.  "I don't want any myself; the fact is, Macquoid, that the
plasters you put on yesterday did me so much good, and you have treated
me so well altogether, that I feel getting quite well and strong, and
have been waiting all the morning for your coming, to ask if I might get
up."

Macquoid shook his head at me.  "We'll see how the wound looks first,"
said he.  "But you must take a little of my elixir asafoetidae et
liquorice first.  You evidently properly appreciate its virtues by
recommending that Spellman should have more of it."

"Ah, but you know, as you often say, when you drink up my grog, `What's
one man's meat, is another man's poison,'" I answered promptly, for
Macquoid was very fond of making use of all sorts of proverbs,
especially when he wished to show that he was right in anything he chose
to do.  "I have no doubt that it will do Spellman a great deal of good,
or of course you would not give it to him, it would be meat to him; but
as I am perfectly free of pains it would be positively throwing it away
on me, though I don't say it would be poison, of course not."

"Oh, you humbug, you arrant humbug," exclaimed Spellman, sitting up in
his hammock and clenching his fist at me.  "Why, not five minutes ago,
you were groaning away worse than I was--that he was, Macquoid.  Give
him some of your beastly stuff.  It's not fair that I should take it,
and not him.  He promised to keep me company."

"When the pains return he shall have more of it, depend on that," said
Macquoid, scarcely able to dress my wound for laughing.  "He has tasted
it already.  You shall have his allowance to-morrow if you are not
better."

Spellman having betrayed himself, had not only to drink the mixture
which was made as nasty as could be, though probably perfectly harmless,
but to get up and be ready to make himself useful if required.  My neck
was rather stiff, but the pain was so slight that I felt almost able to
return to my duty.  I was glad to get about the decks, because I wanted
to find out if Toby's information had been believed.  I saw nothing to
indicate that anyone apprehended an outbreak of the prisoners.  The
officers walked the deck as usual, singly or in couples, with a look of
perfect unconcern, and the marines were scattered about, employed in
their ordinary occupations.  A Frenchman, who was, I guessed, the French
captain, was pacing the quarter-deck with Captain Collyer, and his
countenance looked very sad and troubled; but that arose, I concluded,
because he had lost his ship and was a prisoner Mr Bryan and some of
the other gun officers spoke to me very kindly, and congratulated me on
being about again.  At length Macquoid sent me below, suggesting that it
might be wiser to take a little more of the elixir before I went to
sleep, but I declined the favour, assuring him that the very thought of
it restored me to unwonted strength.  He laughed, and wished me good
night, advising me to make the most of my time, as I should soon have to
keep watch again.  "Such wide awake fellows as you are cannot be
spared," he observed.  I was soon asleep.  I awoke with a start.  All
was dark.  I heard seven bells strike; I knew it must be towards the end
of the first watch.  The voice of an officer hailing the look-out
sounded peculiarly distinct, and served to show the quiet which reigned
on board.  The sea was smooth, we were carrying a press of sail, and I
could hear the rush of the ship through the water.  Suddenly the silence
was broken by the heavy tramp of men along the deck, while loud shouts
and shrieks seemed to burst from every point.  The drum beat to
quarters, and I heard the voices of officers in loud distinct tones
perfectly free from agitation issuing orders.

"What is the matter?"  I exclaimed, starting up.

"What can be the matter," exclaimed Spellman, "Are we all going to be
murdered?"

"The matter is, that the Frenchmen have risen, and are trying to take
the ship," said I.  "And though they may murder us, who are unable to
resist them, it's a consolation to feel they'll be knocked on the head
to a certainty themselves."

"I can't say that I feel it any consolation at all; oh dear! oh dear!"
cried Spellman, jumping up and beginning to dress, an example I
followed, for I had no fancy to be killed without resistance.

Grey at that moment awoke.  I told him what was occurring, and that I
intended to stick by him, and was groping about to get something to
fight with, when I heard a voice high above the shrieks and cries, which
I knew to be that of the lieutenant of marines, shouting--

"Charge them, lads."

Then came the steady tramp of the jollies along the deck, lanterns were
quickly lighted, and looking out I could see the Frenchmen scampering
off, tumbling down the hatchways, or hiding under the guns.  They
discovered that they had made a slight mistake.  Not a trigger was
pulled, and except for a few prods with the points of bayonets, which
caught the Frenchmen in their nether ends, no blood was drawn.  Captain
Collyer had not been quite so fast asleep, nor had boys Bluff and Cuff
been quite so stupid as the Johnny Crapauds had fancied.  The jollies
had been warned to be in readiness, and before the first roll of the
drum had sounded along the decks, they were at their posts, ready, as
they always were, for anything.

The Frenchmen were soon put under hatches, and their officers, who had
not joined the conspiracy, (though they might if it had been successful,
because then it would have been a very gallant affair), going among
them, discovered the ringleaders, and, dragging them out, they were put
in irons.

It was some time, however, before complete quiet was restored.  We, that
is to say my messmates and I, assembled in the berths, and having
discussed the matter, concluded that all the culprits would be hung next
morning.

As our purser's dips did not allow us to enjoy any extra amount of
light, we soon had to retire to our hammocks.  What was our surprise
next morning to find that the Frenchmen were summoned aft, when their
captain appeared and addressed them.  I learned afterwards that he asked
them whether they had been well fed, comfortably berthed, civilly
treated, and on their owning that they were, he told them that they were
a set of ungrateful scoundrels, a disgrace to the French nation, and
that they all deserved to be hung.

Captain Collyer then stepped forward and said that though they might
deserve hanging, as they had fought their ship bravely, and as no lives
had been lost, he should overlook their fault, but he warned them that
if they made a similar attempt they would be severely dealt with.  The
Frenchmen retired, looking considerably ashamed of themselves.  The
French captain then took off his hat, and making the most polite bow to
Captain Collyer, thanked him for his humanity, observing that the truly
brave were always humane.

I could not ascertain whether Captain Collyer had heard what Toby had
told me, but two days afterwards, he and Cuff were together, not far
from the captain, when he turned round and said:

"My eye is upon you, boys Bluff and Cuff, and, if you continue to behave
as well as you have done, your interest will be cared for."

Now, I could not help thinking that they really had saved the ship, but
it would have been inconvenient to have acknowledged this at the time,
and certainly have done Bluff and Cuff no real good; probably only have
set them up, and made them idle.  I am convinced that the captain acted
in this matter, as he did in all others, with true kindness and
judgment.

Four or five days after this providential suppression of the mutiny, as
I was walking the deck, having volunteered to return to my duty, the
look-out at the mast-head hailed that a sail was in sight.  The usual
questions were asked, and the master, going aloft to examine her,
pronounced her to be, without doubt, a line-of-battle ship.  It was not
quite so easy to determine whether she was an enemy or a friend.  If the
former, we might have another battle to fight, for Captain Collyer was
not the man to yield without one.  Having the prize in tow, we were
making all sail on our homeward course.

On came the stranger.  She was on our weather quarter, and soon showed
us that she sailed faster than we did.

Captain Collyer now hailed Mr Lukyn, who commanded the prize, to say
that he intended to fight the line-of-battle ship to the last, and then
explained to him how he intended to manage.

"With all my heart, sir," answered Mr Lukyn, and the crew of the prize
gave a loud cheer to show that they were ready.

The drum beat to quarters, and not only did all that were well assemble,
but even all the sick and wounded who could move crawled up on deck to
help man the guns.  Though I should not have been sorry to have got home
without more fighting, I was as ready as any one, and hoped that I
should not get another wound, as I was quite content with the one I had
to exhibit.  A guard was kept over the prisoners, who were told that
they would be shot down without mercy if they made any disturbance, and
then in grim silence we stood ready for the fight.

The stranger came on, but at length she began to make signals, and we
signalled in return, and then we soon found out that she was not an
enemy, but a friend.  She proved to be the Hercules, 74, and as she was
homeward-bound, her captain said that he would keep us company, to help
fight any enemy which might appear.

We ran on for two days, when the Hercules made the signal of "fleet to
the south-east," and soon afterwards that several ships had borne up in
chase.  We next learned that they were enemies.  We had still the prize
in tow.  Every stitch of canvas alow and aloft which the ship could
carry was packed on her.  It was an anxious time.  To lose our gallantly
won prize, and perhaps to be carried off to a French prison, were not
pleasant anticipations.

I asked Mr Johnson what he thought about the matter.

"Why, Mr Merry, look you, I never anticipate evil," he answered, with
an expression of countenance very different to what he put on when
telling his wonderful yarns.  "Time enough when it comes.  `There's many
a slip between the cup and the lip,' as you've heard say, and you'll
find it through life.  The Frenchmen out there think that they are going
to gulp us down, but they may find that they are mistaken."

Fortunately the Aigle was a remarkably fast vessel, and though she could
not carry all the canvas we did, we towed her along easily.  The
Hercules acted nobly, and followed like a huge bull-dog at our heels,
ready to bear the brunt of the fight should the enemy come up with us.
Still, as we looked at the overpowering numbers of the Frenchmen, there
appeared but little prospect of our escaping.  There were many
speculations as to what we should do.  One thing was certain, that our
captain would not allow the Hercules to be taken without going to her
assistance.  I asked Mr Johnson what he thought about the matter.

"Why, just this, young gentleman," he answered.  "If the Frenchmen get
near us, they'll blow us out of the water, but they'll have reason to be
sorry that they ever made the attempt.  They may have our bones, but
they'll get no flesh on them."

The boatswain's reply made me meditate a good deal.  I wanted to enjoy,
midshipman fashion, all the honour and glory I had gained, and I did not
at all like the thoughts of being taken prisoner, and still less of
being sent to the bottom with our colours flying--a very fine thing to
do in theory, but practically excessively disagreeable.  I hinted at my
feelings to Mr Johnson.

"Very natural, Mr Merry," he answered.  "But, just think, if you were
taken prisoner, how satisfactory it would be to make your escape, and if
the ship were to go down or blow up, how pleasant it would be to find
yourself swimming away safely to land.  Follow my example.  Draw
nourishment from the toughest food.  Did I ever tell you how I was once
blown up a hundred fathoms at least, right into the air?  When I came
down again I plunged as deep into the sea, but I struck out and came to
the surface, for I knew that I must help myself, as there was nobody who
could help me.  I got hold of six of my companions and towed them
ashore, a couple of miles or so.  Very few others escaped.  Now, if I
had given in, they and I would have been lost, and His Majesty's service
would have been deprived of one of the best bo'suns to be found in it.
I say this without vanity--because it's a fact."

I found it difficult sometimes to ascertain whether Mr Johnson was
really serious or joking.

The enemy were all this time chasing, and coming up rapidly with us.
Even Captain Collyer looked anxious.  We, however, were all ready for
the fight we anticipated.

"If we can but keep well ahead of them till night comes on, we may give
them the slip," I heard the captain observe to Mr Bryan.  "It may be
more prudent on the present occasion to fly than to fight, but I am sure
that every man will fight to the last if it comes to fighting."

"That they will, sir.  I never saw the people in better spirit,"
answered the second lieutenant.  "They are like a bull-dog with a
captured bone.  They are not inclined to yield it without a desperate
tussle."

From all I heard I began to think whether I should not go and write a
letter home, to tell them that when they received it I should have
fallen fighting for my king and country; but then Spellman appeared on
deck.  He looked so absurd with his lugubrious countenance, and the
plasters still on his cheeks, that I burst into a fit of laughter; and,
all my apprehensions vanishing, I was in a minute joking away with my
messmates as usual.



CHAPTER SEVEN.

The Doris under all sail, with our hard-won prize in tow, kept standing
to the northward, the gallant Hercules bringing up the rear, while the
French fleet, like a pack of yelping hounds, followed full chase at our
heels.

A stern chase is a long chase, and so we hoped this might prove, without
an end to it.

Our glasses, as may be supposed, were constantly turned towards the
enemy.  They had not gained much on us when the sun went down, and
darkness stole over the surface of the ocean.  Clouds were gathering in
the sky--there was no moon, and the stars were completely obscured.  It
was in a short time as dark a night as we could desire.  The Hercules,
looking like some huge monster stalking over the deep, now ranged up
past us, and a voice from her ordered us to tack to the westward, and
keep close to her.  This we did, though we had no little difficulty in
keeping together without lights, which we did not show, lest we might
have been seen by the enemy.

The next morning, when we looked round, not one of the French squadron
was in sight, greatly to the vexation of our prisoners, who had hoped by
this time to have seen the scales turned on us.  We were out of the
frying-pan, but before long we had reason to fear that we had tumbled
into the fire.

Two days after this, when morning broke, we found ourselves enveloped by
a thick fog.  There was but little wind, and the sea was perfectly
smooth.  Suddenly the distant roar of a gun burst on our ears.  It was
answered by another much nearer; a third boomed over the waters on the
other side of us.  Others followed; then fog-bells began to ring--louder
and more distinct they sounded; and more guns were fired.

"What's all that about?"  I asked of the boatswain, who was looking out
on the forecastle.  "Why, that we are in the middle of a big fleet of
men-of-war, and if, as I suspect, they are French, and they catch sight
of us, they'll make mince-meat of our carcases in pretty quick time," he
answered, squirting a whole river of tobacco juice overboard, a proof to
me that he was not pleased with the state of affairs.

"Why, I thought it was a French fleet we escaped from only two days
ago," I remarked.

"So it was, and this is another," he answered.  "In my opinion we shall
never get things to rights till we send to the bottom every French ship
there is afloat, and we shall do that before long if we can but get a
good stand-up fight--that's my opinion."

Mr Johnson was right, as subsequent events proved.  The fog was so
dense that we could not see a single sail, close as we were to them, and
we expected every instant to run into one, or to be hailed and probably
discovered.  The men were sent without noise to their quarters, for of
course it was resolved that we should fight our way out from the midst
of our enemies.

On we glided.  The dim form of a ship was seen on our starboard bow.
Our course was slightly altered, but it was only to get nearer another.
A Frenchman hailed.  Captain Collyer answered; what he said I do not
know.  It seemed to satisfy the stranger.  No shot was fired, and we
stood on.  Still there was something peculiarly solemn and awful in the
feeling that any moment we might be engaged in an encounter against the
most overwhelming odds.

Again the upper sails of another ship appeared.  From their height she
was evidently a ship which might have sunk us with a broadside.  By
seeing this second ship, Captain Collyer was able to ascertain in what
direction the enemy's fleet was standing.  As soon as he had done this,
our helm was put up, and away we noiselessly glided to the westward.
The bells were soon no longer heard--the boom of the guns became fainter
and fainter every minute, and at length we had the satisfaction of
feeling that we were well clear of them.

"Depend on it, you have never been nearer inside a French prison or a
watery grave than you have been this morning," observed Mr Johnson to
me.

"I don't know that.  When I was aboard the lugger, and floating about in
the channel, I was rather nearer both one and the other," I answered.

"You thought you were, but, as the event proved, you were not," said the
boatswain.  "Depend on it, I am right, Mr Merry.  If the captain had
not been a good French scholar our fate would have been sealed long
before this.  We never know on what apparently trivial circumstances our
safety depends."

Mr Johnson, it may have been remarked, was never at a loss for an
argument or a remark of some sort.  His pertinacity in that respect puts
me in mind of a certain kind-hearted Royal Duke with whom I once had the
honour of dining--a number of naval and military officers being present.

"Captain R---," said he, addressing one of them, "how is your father?"

"Your Royal Highness, he is dead," was the answer.

"Oh! is he? poor fellow!  Then, how is your mother?"

"Your Royal Highness, she is dead also."

"Oh, is she?  Then which died first?" asked the Duke in a tone which
made it very difficult even for the best bred of the company to refrain
from laughing.

Without further adventure the Doris and her prize arrived safely in
Plymouth Sound.

We waited anxiously for the report of the dockyard authorities, who at
length gave it as their opinion that the frigate had got so knocked
about that she must go into dock to be repaired.  Everybody was in a
great hurry to get leave.  In consequence of our having been wounded,
Grey and Spellman and I obtained it at once, and I invited them to pay
my family a visit in Leicestershire on their way to their own homes.  I
got leave also for Toby Bluff to accompany us.

"I'll spare him to you.  Mr Merry," said Mr Johnson.  "Take care you
bring him back, for he will one day do credit to the service in his
humble path, just as I flatter myself I do credit to it in mine, and I
hope that you, Mr Merry, will one day in yours.  You've made a very
good beginning, and you may tell your friends that the boatswain of the
ship says so.  Let them understand that the boatswain is a very
important personage, and they will be satisfied that you are a rising
young officer."  We got a sufficient amount of prize-money advanced to
enable us to perform our journey, which we did partly in post-chaises.
The latter mode of travelling we agreed was by far the pleasantest.
After we left the coach we went along very steadily for a stage or so.

"This is slow work," observed Spellman.  "I vote we make more sail."
Looking out of the window he sang out, "Heave ahead, my hearty.  There's
a crown for you if you make the craft walk along."

Although the post-boy did not understand my messmate's language he did
our gestures and the mention of the crown, and on we went at a great
rate, turning up the dust as the gallant Doris was wont to do the brine,
and making the stones fly in every direction.

At last one of the postillions, who entered into our humour, proposed
getting a horn for us.  We eagerly accepted the offer, and he said he
would purchase one from the guard of a coach, who lived near the road a
little way on.  It was rather battered, and we paid a high price, but
when we found that Toby could blow it effectually, we would have had it
at any price.

Proud of his acquisition, Toby mounted the box, and, he blowing away
with might and main, highly delighted, on we dashed.

I ought to have said that, before we left the ship, Grey and I had
presented to us the two small flags we had nailed to the cross-jack yard
in the action with the Aigle.

At the last stage we agreed that we would do something to astonish the
natives, so we ordered an open barouche, which we saw in the yard, with
four horses.  We got out our flags, and improvised another for Spellman;
these we secured to sticks, which we cut from the roadside.  Toby
trumpeting like a young elephant, we waving our flags and shouting at
the top of our voices, up we dashed in gallant style to the hall door,
and I believe did astonish them most completely.

Never, indeed, had the family of Merrys been in a greater commotion than
we had the satisfaction of throwing them into by our arrival.  It was
the holidays, and all my brothers and sisters were at home.  Out rushed
my father and mother, and Bertha and Edith and Winifred, while my
brothers Cedric and Athelstane, and Egbert and Edwin, hurried up from
various quarters, and every servant in the house was speedily collected,
and everybody laughed and cried by turns, and the post-boys grinned, and
I was kissed and hugged by all in succession--Grey and Spellman coming
in for their share; till I bethought me that I would create a still
greater sensation; so, when good Mrs Potjam, the housekeeper, was
beginning to hug me, as was her wont in days gone by, I shrieked out--

"Oh, dear! oh, my wound! my wound!"

My shipmates, seeing the effect produced, imitated my example.

"What, wounded, my dear child?  What, have you been wounded?" exclaimed
my mother and sisters in chorus.

"Of course I have; and do you think those deep dimples on Spellman's
cheeks--I forgot to introduce him, by the bye.  Mr Spellman, midshipman
of his Britannic Majesty's frigate Doris--Mr, Mrs, and the Miss and
Master Merrys and their faithful domestics--do you think that those deep
dimples are natural?  No indeed; a shot went through his cheeks--right
through--and those are the scars.  See how Grey limps--I forgot, I ought
to have introduced him.  Mr George Grey, also midshipman of his
Britannic Majesty's frigate Doris, and my esteemed friend and messmate;
and for myself, I can scarcely yet use my arm.  So you see we are heroes
who have fought and bled for our country."

In those days, as there were not so many newspapers as at present,
people were compelled to be their own trumpeters more than would now be
considered correct.  Some also trumpeted over much, knowing that there
was not the probability that there is at present of their being found
out.

This statement of mine increased, as I thought it would, the respect all
were inclined to pay us.  Dinner was just going on the table, and when
we had satisfied our hunger, all our tongues were busily employed in our
peculiar styles in recounting our adventures.  The butler and footmen
often stopped to listen, and not a little forgot their proper duties.

One placed an empty dish before my mother, into which the cook had
forgot to put the poultry; the butler filled my father's glass with fish
soy, and two of the men bolted tilt against each other and capsized the
remains of a sirloin of beef over the carpet with which one of them was
hurrying off after waiting to listen to the fag end of one of my
narratives.

Toby Bluff was as busily employed in the servants' hall, and from the
broad grins on the countenances of the footmen as they returned to the
dining-room, I have no doubt that his narratives were of a facetious
character.

I never have spent so jolly a time as I did during that visit home.  Our
wounds did not incommode us; we had everything our own way, and all my
family and friends made a vast deal of us.

At length a newspaper arrived, giving an account of the capture of the
Aigle, and confirming all I had said, and when, two nights after, we
appeared at a country ball, and as we entered the room the band struck
up "See the conquering hero comes," we were higher in feather than ever.

Grey and Spellman had, however, to go and see their own friends, and
they enjoyed the rather doubtful advantage of again undergoing the same
treatment they had received at our house.  When they were gone, and the
nine days of wonder were over, I found myself sinking into a rather more
ordinary personage.  In those good old days, however, midshipmen who had
been in an engagement and got wounded were somebodies--at all events, if
their fathers had fine country seats and saw a number of guests.

Time sped on.  I do not think my family were tired of me, but when the
Doris was reported ready for sea, they calmly acquiesced in the
necessity of my rejoining her without delay, and so Toby and I found
ourselves packed off in a yellow chaise, and directed to find our way
back to Plymouth as fast as we could.

We made the journey without any adventure, and on our arrival on board
found that Mr Lukyn had been promoted, and that Mr Bryan was the
first-lieutenant.  As soon as we had reported ourselves, we dived below
to the berth to hear the news.  Two new lieutenants had joined--the
second was a Mr Patrick Fitzgerald.  I need not say that he was an
Irishman.  He was pronounced to be a most extraordinary fish, and he
positively seemed to take a pleasure in being so considered.  He had a
big head covered with reddish hair, which stuck out straight as if he
was always in a fright, his complexion was richly freckled, his eyes
small but twinkling, and his nose, though not prominent, was of ample
dimensions as to width.  This beautiful headpiece was placed on the
broadest of shoulders.  His body was somewhat short, but his legs were
proportioned to bear the frame of an elephant.  He was, as he used to
boast, entirely Irish from truck to keelson, but certainly not of a high
class type.  The third lieutenant was an Englishman.  This was
fortunate.  Mr Haisleden was a steady trustworthy man, and had a good
deal of the cut of a first-lieutenant about him.  It is said that, as a
rule, Irishmen make better soldiers than sailors, and perhaps this is
the case.  If inclined to be wild they are apt to out-Herod Herod.  The
strict rules of naval discipline do not suit their natural temperament.
Paddy Fitzgerald was a case in point, but a more amusing fellow and
better messmate never lived.  The ship was again almost ready for sea.
Perigal, who had got leave, came on board, looking very sad at having
had again to part from his wife.  Spellman and Grey joined the next day.
There had been no changes in our berth.  Perigal ought certainly to
have been promoted, but he was not.  "When the ship is paid off, I
suppose that I shall be," he observed with a sigh.  It was soon reported
that we were ordered to the West Indies.  Grey and I took an opportunity
of asking Mr Johnson what sort of a country we should find out there.

"One thing I will tell you, young gentlemen, you'll find it hot enough
to boil your blood up a bit," he answered; "as to cooking a beefsteak on
the capstan-head, that's nothing, but what do you say to finding all the
fowls in the hen-coops roasted and fit for table? and all you have to
do, is to hold a burning glass over a bucket of water with fish swimming
about in it, and in five minutes you'll have them all thoroughly
boiled."

Grey and I laughed.

"Well, Mr Johnson, it must be hot indeed," said I, and, though I did
not exactly put faith in his account, I began to wish we had been bound
elsewhere.  The boatswain saw Spellman listening with mouth agape.

"Hot, I believe you," he continued; "did you ever sit on a red-hot
gridiron with your feet under the grate, your head in the fire, and your
fists in boiling water?  If you ever did, you'll have some notion of
what you'll have to go through in the dog-days out in those parts."

"Oh dear, oh dear," exclaimed Spellman: "why we shall all be downright
roasted."

"I've a notion there's some one being roasted now," observed Mr
Johnson, with a wink and a curl of his nose.  "Roasted!  Oh dear no: all
we've to do, is to sit up to our necks in casks of water, and bob our
heads under every now and then.  To be sure, there is a fear that we may
all turn into blackamoors, but that is nothing when a man gets
accustomed to it.  I don't see why a dark skin should not be as good as
a white one.  Though they don't all talk the same lingo, they've as much
sense in their woolly heads as white men, that's my opinion; and so,
young gentlemen, when you get among them out there, just treat them as
if they were of the same nature as yourselves, and you'll find that they
will behave well to you, and will be faithful and true."

Mr Johnson's remarks were interrupted by the appearance of Toby Bluff,
who came to summon him on deck.  Blue Peter was flying from aloft.  In
ten minutes afterwards the capstan-bars were manned, the merry pipe was
heard, and, a sturdy gang of our crew tramping round, the anchor was
hove up, the topsails were let fall, and away the Doris once more glided
over the wide sea towards the far west.  We had a rapid passage without
meeting an enemy; indeed, scarcely a sail hove in sight.  We made Saint
Thomas's, and stood across the Caribbean Sea towards Jamaica.  Hot it
was, but not so hot as Mr Johnson had led us to expect.

"Wait a bit," he remarked.  "It's now winter; just let us see what the
summer will be like."

We were not destined to enter Port Royal.  We had been making good
progress towards it, when three sail were seen from the mast-head.  As
enemies of all nations just then swarmed in every direction, it was more
likely that we should have to fight, than that we should meet with
friends.  The strangers approached.  There were three ships not smaller
than frigates certainly, perhaps larger.  Still we knew that Captain
Collyer would not dream of running away while there was a possibility of
coming off victorious.  If he did run, it would only be to induce the
enemy to follow.  The decks were cleared for action.  Slowly we closed,
when at length the strangers began to signalise, and we discovered that
they formed the squadron of Captain Brisbane, who directed Captain
Collyer to join him; except that, in case of parting company, we were
ordered to rendezvous at Aruba, a small island about twenty leagues to
the westward of Curacoa, we remained in ignorance of what was about to
be done, though that there was something in the wind we had little
doubt.  Various opinions were expressed; some thought that as the Dutch
had chosen to follow Napoleon's advice, and go to war with us, we should
attack the island of Curacoa itself, to show them that they had better
have remained at peace; but the general idea was, that, as it was
strongly fortified, we should not make such an attempt without large
reinforcements.  We did not know then what sort of stuff the commodore
was made of.

On the evening of the 22nd of December, we anchored at the west end of
Aruba, and we soon learned that Captain Brisbane had not only resolved
to attack Curacoa, but that he had a first-rate plan, all cut and dry,
just suited to the tastes of British seamen.  He had learned that the
Dutch had a custom of finishing the old year by getting very tipsy; high
and low, old and young, men and women, all imbibed as large an amount of
schiedam as they could manage to stow away.  Even ladies, young and
fair, went about the streets offering glasses of the attractive liquor
to their acquaintance and friends, and it would have been a positive
insult to have refused it from their hands.  The consequence was that
the inhabitants, military and civil, had no inclination to get up in the
morning, and even guards and look-out men were apt to go to sleep at
their posts.  Captain Brisbane formed his plans accordingly, and fixed
daybreak on January the 1st as the moment for attack.  We sailed again
on the 24th, and had a long beat up against the trades towards the east
end of Curacoa.  Our time, however, was busily employed in making
scaling ladders, sharpening cutlasses, and manufacturing every bit of
red cloth or stuff we could find into soldiers' coats, as also in
arranging other badges, by which each ship's company could be easily
distinguished.  Each crew was thus divided into storming parties, under
the lieutenants and senior mates, the captain acting as leader.  The
boatswains were ordered to place themselves at the heads of parties with
ladders to scale the walls, and crowbars to break open the gates.

Mr Johnson was in high glee.  "We shall see what we shall see, and I am
very much mistaken if we don't teach the Mynheers a lesson they will not
easily forget," he exclaimed, as he reviewed the articles under his
directions.

We made the high land of Saint Barbary, at the east end of Curacoa,
before the year was an hour old, and we then had a fair wind, the
regular south-east trade, to run for the harbour of Saint Ann's,
situated on the south-east of the island.  Every one was in high
spirits.  We knew full well that the enterprise was a difficult and
dangerous one, but we saw that it was planned with consummate prudence
and forethought, and we felt perfect confidence that it would succeed.
It was no child's play we were about to perform, as, the gallant
Arethusa leading, we stood for the harbour, with our boats in tow, ready
at a moment's notice to disembark the storming parties.  We felt very
proud, for we were going to show what bluejackets could do when left to
themselves.  I was stationed on the forecastle, and so was Grey, with
our glasses constantly at our eyes.  Before us appeared the narrow
entrance of the harbour, only fifteen fathoms wide; indeed it nowhere
exceeds a quarter of a mile in width.  On our right appeared Fort
Amsterdam, mounting no less than sixty guns in two tiers, capable, it
seemed, of blowing us all out of the water, while there was a chain of
forts on the opposite side, and at the bottom of the harbour the
fortress, said to be impregnable, of Forte Republique enfilading the
whole, and almost within grape-shot distance.  Athwart the harbour was
moored a Dutch thirty-six gun frigate and a twenty-gun corvette.  The
commodore had been ordered to diplomatise, and so he did in the most
effectual way, for we all sailed in with a flag of truce flying, but
with the guns run out and the men at their quarters.  The Mynheers,
however, were not inclined to listen to reason, but, waking up and
seeing some strangers in their harbour, they hurried to their guns, and
began firing away at us.  Their aim was not very good, and few shots hit
us.  On we steadily sailed.  Suddenly there was a cry of disappointment;
the wind had shifted, and, coming down the harbour, very nearly drove us
on shore.  There seemed every prospect of our being compelled to abandon
the enterprise.  The men in their enthusiasm wished to tow the frigates
up.  Again it shifted.  Our sails filled; the men cheered heartily.
Once more up along the harbour, we lay till we brought our broadsides to
bear on the forts and the two Dutch ships, the Arethusa's jib-boom being
right over the town.  It was just dawn; a boat was despatched by the
commodore for the shore; she bore a summons to the Dutch governor to
surrender, promising to treat him and everybody with the utmost civility
if he would; but Mynheer von Tronk was in no humour to listen to any of
the more refined arguments Captain Brisbane had to offer; so the flag of
truce was hauled down, and we had recourse to the _argumentum ad
hominem_, or, in other words, we began blazing away from all the guns we
could bring to bear.  This fully roused up the sleepy Dutchmen, and we
could see them, (Mr Johnson declared that many of them had their
breeches in their hands), rushing into the boats to get on board their
ships, or hurrying to the batteries, which had hitherto maintained a
very ineffectual fire.  We had given them just three broadsides, when
the commodore at the head of a part of his crew put off from the
Arethusa and pulled for the Dutch frigate.  Up her sides we saw him and
his gallant fellows climbing.  We longed to be with them.  The Dutch
fought bravely, as they always do, but liquor had unnerved their arms.
The conflict though short was sharp.  Down came the Dutch flag, and up
went that of England, but not till the Dutch captain and several of his
crew had been killed and numbers wounded.  The brave Captain Lydiard of
the Anson captured the corvette in the same style.  Still close to us
frowned the forts, capable it seemed of sinking every one of our ships
in a few minutes.

"We must take them, Bryan, without loss of time," I heard our captain
observe, as I was sent up with a message to him.  Scarcely had he
uttered the words when the signal to land was made.  In a wonderfully
few moments the boats were manned and crowded with small-arms men, and
with ladders and crowbar bearers.  I accompanied Mr Johnson with the
ladder-bearers' party.  While the crowbar-men proceeded to the gates, we
made the best of our way to the walls.  Our chief hope was to succeed by
a dash.  The Dutchmen numbered ten to one of us, and they were no
cowards, only slow.  As yet they had not half-opened their eyes, or they
might have counted our numbers, and discovered that our idlers, dressed
in red coats, were not really soldiers.  Mr Johnson was in his glory;
the exploit was one exactly to suit his taste.

"That commodore of ours is a first-rate fellow, Mr Merry," he
exclaimed, as we pulled on shore.  "If he was first lord, and I was
admiral of the fleet, we should soon drive every enemy's ship off the
seas."

On shore we sprang, and under a pretty hot fire we rushed towards the
walls.  The ladders were placed in spite of the efforts of the
half-drunken Dutchmen to prevent this, many of them toppling over into
the ditch in their attempts to shove them off.  Up our men swarmed,
their cutlasses between their teeth.  Mr Bryan led one party, Mr
Fitzgerald another; the latter with a loud shriek, which he called his
family war cry,--it sounded like "Wallop a hoo a boo, Erin go bragh,"--
sprang on to the walls.  A big Dutchman stood ready with a long sword to
meet him, and would certainly have swept off his head, had he not nimbly
dodged on one side with so extraordinary a grimace, that he not only
escaped free, but, swinging round his own cutlass, he cut off the head
of the unfortunate Dutchman who was watching him with astonishment.
Then he went cutting right and left, and putting the wide breeched enemy
to flight on every side.  I followed Mr Johnson; I knew that I was in
good company when I was near him, and that though we should most
certainly be in the thick of the fight, as long as he kept on his legs
he would have an eye on me.  We did not gain the top of the walls
without being opposed, but the Dutchmen literally could not see how to
strike.  A fat bombardier, however, made a butt at me, and would have
sent me over again, had not the boatswain seized me by the collar, when
the bombardier went over himself and lay sprawling under the feet of our
men at the bottom.  Then on we went, firing our pistols and slashing
right and left.  A loud huzza from the sea gate announced to us that
that had been forced open, and the Dutchmen finding that the day was
ours, and persuaded that discretion was the best part of valour, threw
down their arms, and shouted out lustily for quarter.  It was gladly
given them; indeed, there was no real animosity between us, and officers
and men were soon seen shaking hands together in the most friendly way
possible.  We had taken just ten minutes to do the work.  However, we
had some more places to capture, so locking up our prisoners with a
guard over them, out we went again, and climbed up the walls of several
other minor forts in succession, the same scenes taking place at each.
There was a great deal of shouting and running, but very little
bloodshed.  Mr Fitzgerald shrieked and shouted "Wallop a hoo a boo," as
before, and made terrific grimaces.  Mr Johnson watched him with great
admiration.

"Some men make their fortune by their good looks, Mr Merry," he
observed.  "But to my mind, that second lieutenant of ours is more
likely to make his by his ugliness.  It's a proof that the gifts
bestowed on man are very equally divided.  He would be nothing without
that curious mug of his."

The Dutch flag still flew defiantly from Fort Republique at the head of
the harbour.  Garrisons were left in each of the forts, and with a large
body of prisoners as hostages we once more returned on board our ships.
We now opened a hot fire on the fort.  I observed to Mr Johnson that I
heard some of the Dutch officers whom we had as prisoners declare that
it was impregnable.

"Very likely," he answered, coolly.  "But you see, Mr Merry, British
seamen have a knack of getting into impregnable places, as we shall very
soon show them."

Just then the order was received from the commodore to disembark the
marines and a body of seamen from each ship.  I was delighted again to
be allowed to go.  We landed under the protection of the guns of the
captured frigate, and made the best of our way round towards the rear of
the fort, while the ships kept hurling their shot at it in front.  I
rather think that the Dutchmen in the fort did not see us as we pushed
on among sugar canes, and coffee and cotton plantations.  We got into
the rear of the fort after nearly an hour's very hot march, and then
making a dash towards the walls, we were half-way up them before the
Dutchmen found out what we were about.  Many of the officers indeed were
quietly smoking their meerschaums, looking down the harbour, while they
directed the artillerymen at the guns.

When they discovered us, dashing down their pipes, they hurried to
oppose our progress, but it was too late.  Our footing was obtained in
their impregnable fortress, and, exulting in our success, we dashed on.
Still the Dutchmen fought very bravely.  As I kept by Mr Johnson's side
I observed the flutter of some white dresses just before us.  They were
those of ladies, I guessed, who had been sent to the fort for security,
and who now, taken by surprise, were endeavouring to make their escape
from us.  Not knowing where they were going, they ran right in among a
party of our men, who, not intending to hurt them, at all events began
to treat them in a way which naturally caused them very considerable
annoyance and alarm.  The truth is, when soldiers and sailors take a
place by storm, they become more like wild beasts than human beings, and
I have witnessed scenes in my career which it makes me even now shudder
to think of.

The men into whose hands the ladies had fallen did not belong to our
ship.  There was no officer with them; so, calling to Mr Johnson, I ran
on.  Three of the ladies were elderly, but there were five others,
mostly young--one especially was, at least so I thought, a very pretty
fair girl.  She looked pale and terribly frightened.

"Let those women alone," shouted Mr Johnson; but the men only looked
defiantly at him, and seemed in no way inclined to obey, which put him
in a great rage.

A boatswain has but little authority except over the men of his own
ship.

"Mind your own business," cried some of the marines.  "What have you got
to say to us?"

Just then the ladies got more frightened than ever.  The youngest lady
screamed, and, I thought, looked towards me.  I sprang forward--I felt
more like a man than I had ever before done.

"Let go your hold," I exclaimed in a tone of authority, to the fellow
who had his hand on the fair girl's arm.  "If one of you dares to
interfere with these ladies, I will have him up before the commodore,
and he'll make short work with the matter."  The fellow still looked
defiant.  "Let go," I again shouted, rushing at him with my dirk.

What I might have done I do not know, but at that moment a bullet struck
him in the head and knocked him over.

It was supposed I had shot the man, and a good many, even of his party,
siding with me and Mr Johnson, the ladies were released.

I made signs to the ladies, and endeavoured to assure them in French
that they were safe.

"I speak English," said the young lady.  "Thank you--thank you very
much."

The Dutch soldiers had in the meantime thrown down their arms and taken
to flight.  The shot which had wounded the man was nearly the last
fired.  The Dutch flag was hauled down, and the shouts of our men
proclaimed that in about four hours we had captured, with the loss of
three killed and fourteen wounded, one of the strongest fortresses in
the West Indies.

I was determined not to lose sight of the ladies till I had placed them
in safety.  I found that the youngest was the niece of the governor, and
that she had a sister and her mother with her.  The governor's daughter,
a buxom-looking damsel, was also of the party.  I conducted them all to
Captain Lydiard, who commanded the expedition, and their carriages and
horses being found in the fort, he ordered that they should be conveyed
back into the town under an escort.  I was highly delighted when I found
that I might accompany it.  Perigal had command.  The British flag was
flying from every fort and ship in the harbour, and many of the worthy
burghers, when their schiedam-steeped senses returned and they opened
their eyes, as they looked out of their windows, could not make out what
had occurred.  We were treated with the greatest respect by everybody we
met, and the ladies endeavoured to show their gratitude by every means
in their power.  As soon as we had seen them to their own homes we were
to return on board.  I found that the young lady's name was Essa von
Fraulich.

"You will come and see us very often, Mr Merry," she exclaimed in a
very foreign accent, though her phraseology was pretty correct.  "We
want to show how much we love you, and we make nice cake for you, and
many other good things."

The elder ladies were more demonstrative, and wanted to kiss me, which I
thought very derogatory to my dignity.

I shook hands warmly with them all round, and as I began with Miss Essa,
I thought it incumbent on me to finish off with her:

The townspeople were very civil as we made our way down to the boats.
Indeed, they did not seem to mind at all what had happened.  It was all
the same to them which flag flew over the forts.  The English had gained
a character for justice and honesty, and they were inclined to look upon
us as likely to prove good customers, and were, in fact, very glad to
see us.  They, indeed, probably thought that it was a pity any
opposition whatever should have been offered to our entrance.  Our work
was not entirely accomplished.  There was still a fort of some strength,
a few miles from the town.  A party of marines and bluejackets was
marched out to take it, which they very speedily did, as the commandant
offered no resistance, but, hearing that his chief had capitulated,
yielded on being summoned.  Thus, by noon, the whole of a rich and
fertile island, containing forty-five thousand inhabitants, and well
fortified, was in our possession, while the whole force we could muster
among the four frigates was twelve hundred men.  With these we had to
man our prizes, to garrison the forts, to protect the country, and to
keep the town in order.

Captain Brisbane was, I must say, a host in himself.  He was a fine tall
man, with very popular manners; and though he showed that he would not
allow tricks to be played, he ingratiated himself wonderfully with all
classes.  He took great pains to conceal from the Dutch the paucity of
our numbers, and hinted that as long as the inhabitants behaved
themselves he would keep his troops on board instead of quartering them
on the town.  These troops were represented by the idlers of the
different ships and occasionally seamen, dressed up in red coats and
made to parade the deck.  He formed also a bodyguard of all the marines
who could ride, and with them at his heels he made a point of galloping
about the country and visiting the outposts.  He never appeared abroad
without being accompanied by them.  They were known as Captain
Brisbane's horse-marines.  Though horse-marines are often spoken of, it
was the only time I ever saw such a body either on shore or afloat.  We
had a very active time of it, every one doing double work, and
endeavouring to make it appear as if we had double our real numbers.
The lieutenants used to put on the marine officers' undress uniforms and
all would go on shore together.  Fitzgerald unconsciously very nearly
betrayed the trick, for his remarkable features were not easily
forgotten, and on the first day he appeared in his military character,
we saw the Dutchmen, as well as some ladies, eyeing him narrowly.  They
could not conceive it possible two such ugly fellows should be found in
the same squadron.

Fortunately Mr Bryan was with us, and having plenty of presence of
mind, he began to talk about Fitzgerald's naval brother who remained on
board.

Captain Collyer, however, thought it prudent to prohibit him from again
appearing in a military character on shore.  Mr Fitzgerald could not
understand this, as he was not at all aware of the peculiarity of his
own physiognomy, and declared that he was very hardly treated.

I was very anxious to get on shore, that I might pay my promised visit
to Essa von Fraulich and her relatives.  As bigger men were wanted on
shore, and as the midshipmen were found capable of performing various
duties in the ship, Grey and I and others were, much to our
disappointment, compelled to stay on board.  Mr Johnson also remained
on board.

"I take it as an especial compliment," he observed.  "The fact is, you
see, Mr Merry, that I am worth five or six men at least in the ship,
and, in appearance at least, little more than one out of it, and so I am
doomed to remain, while others are enjoying themselves on terra firma."



CHAPTER EIGHT.

In consequence of so many of the officers being on shore, the boatswain
had charge of a watch.  He trod the deck with considerable dignity, and
a stranger coming on board would undoubtedly have taken him for the
captain.

I was in his watch, and as there was nothing to do, when it occurred at
night, except to see that the sentries were on the look-out, that the
anchors were not dragging, or the ship on fire, I always got him into
conversation; and one evening, Grey and Spellman having joined us, we
begged him to go on with the account of his adventures at the North
Pole, of which for a long time we had heard nothing.

"I would oblige you with all my heart, young gentlemen, if I could but
recollect where I left off," he answered, in a well-pleased tone.  "Let
me see.  Was I living on the top of an iceberg, or dancing reels with
polar bears, or--"

"No, Mr Johnson, you had just found your old shipmates, and were living
quietly with them in their winter quarters, waiting for a ship to take
you off."

"So I was--ah--well--" said the boatswain.  "As I was telling you, when
I last broke off in my most veracious narrative, after we had talked on
for a week, our tongues began to get somewhat tired, and we then
remembered that it would be necessary to make preparations for our
departure from this somewhat inhospitable shore, for as to a vessel
touching there to take us off, that event was not likely to occur.  I
found that my companions had commenced building a boat, but as they did
not understand carpentering as I did, it was fortunate for them that I
arrived in time to lend them a hand, or they would infallibly have gone
to the bottom as soon as they had ventured out on the foaming waves of
the Polar Sea.  June was advancing, and the ice began to move
perceptibly at a distance from the shore; and as the icebergs knocked
and fell against each other, the crash was truly awful.  I can only
liken it to what we might suppose produced by a set of monster ninepins
tumbled about by a party of gigantic Dutchmen.  I must relate one more
event, which served to convince my companions of the perfect correctness
of my statements.  One night, as I was retiring to rest, I heard
footsteps approaching our hut, and, looking out, I saw an immense white
bear, sniffing up the air as if he smelt something he fancied for
supper.  Rousing my companions, who had already turned in, I seized my
gun, with the intention of knocking him on the head, when, as he turned
his face, I recognised an expression I had met before.  On his nearer
approach I saw that he had but one eye, and I felt convinced that he was
the identical bear I had knocked over close to the Pole and left for
dead, with a steak out of his rump.  He made towards me, grinding his
teeth and flashing his one eye terrifically, with thoughts of vengeance;
but I retreated backwards, and had just time to slam the door in his
face, jamming in one of his paws, before he could grasp me in his deadly
embrace.  Thus he was caught in a trap, but his struggles to free
himself were so tremendous that I thought he would have carried away the
whole hut with him, but my friends coming to my aid, we made fast a
strong rope round the lower joint of his paw and secured it to a stout
piece of timber which formed part of the foundation of the structure.
We then opened the door a little, when he, of course, put in the other
paw, which we secured in the same way, and thus had him fast.  At first
he was very furious and growled tremendously, but by giving him a piece
of roasted meat to suck at the end of a ramrod, we tamed him by degrees,
and he must have seen that we had no evil intentions towards him.  By
slacking the ropes we were in a short time able to shut the door,
keeping him outside.  We then went to sleep, and he only now and then
disturbed us by an angry growl as he felt the ropes cutting his wrists.

"By a judicious system of starvation, and by gently administering food,
we so tamed him that we were able to examine him for a further
verification of my suspicions.  Had my companions before entertained any
doubts as to the truth of my story, all such vanished when they
discovered that, though the wound had perfectly closed where I had cut
out the steak, the cicatrice was there, and skin perfectly denuded of
hair.  By our pursuing the system I have described for some time, Bruin
became so tame that he would follow us about like a dog, while he
exhibited his affection by every possible means.  I shall never forget
the grief he exhibited when he saw us working away at our boat and
making preparations for our departure.  Tears fell from his eyes and
trickled down his shaggy breast, his bosom heaved with sighs, and he
hung his paws as he stood before us, watching our proceedings in the
most sentimental manner.

"When at length all was ready to make sail, we had to secure him, as we
had before done, to the beam in our hut, lest he should scramble into
our boat and insist on accompanying us.  We knew that with his usual
sagacity he could very easily release himself after we were gone.  We
then hurried on board, shoved off, and stood out to sea.  We soon found
that we had numberless dangers to encounter.  Sometimes huge whales rose
up and nearly capsized us, and there was always a terrible risk of
running foul of icebergs.  One day, indeed, there was a thick fog, and
we were standing on with a fair breeze, when the bow of the boat came
with such terrific impetus against one that she slid right up it for
thirty feet at least, and did not stop till she sank into a deep hollow
from which it seemed impossible to extricate her.  There we were, like
three young birds in a nest, floating about at the mercy of the winds
and waves.  My companions were in despair, but I cheered their spirits
by assuring them that all would come right at last, as I knew it would,
though, as it turned out, not in the way I expected.

"Leaving my companions to cut a channel in the ice to launch our boat, I
ascended to a higher part of the berg to look out for a sail, hoping
that some whaler might be in the neighbourhood.  While there I heard a
cry of despair, and to my dismay I beheld our boat rapidly gliding down
the iceberg.  She reached the water in safety, and with canvas set,
which it was, I own, lubberly to have allowed, she sailed off before the
wind, leaving us on our treacherous island.

"Fortunately my companions had taken the fish-hooks and other things out
of the boat to lighten her or we might have perished; but we managed
with the hooks to catch an abundance of fish to supply our wants.  We
had to eat them raw, but that was nothing.  Why, once upon a time, I
paid a visit to one of the South Sea Islands, where the king, queen, and
all the court devour live fish; and, what is more, they are taught when
brought up to table to jump down the throats of their majesties of their
own accord, so as to give them as little trouble as possible.  It is one
of the strongest marks of devotion with which I ever met.

"When my companions saw the boat sailing away, they were in despair, and
I had great difficulty in preventing them from throwing themselves into
the sea, and in restoring their spirits.  Certainly, an iceberg is not
the pleasantest spot for a location.  At length, one day, I saw
something like a ship's longboat in the distance.  It approached the
iceberg in the most mysterious manner.  We watched it eagerly.  It was
not a boat after all, but a log of timber, and--you need not believe me
if you'd rather not, but it's a fact--there was our pet bear Bruin
towing the timber at the rate of six knots an hour.  I hurried down to
the bottom of the berg to receive him.  Poor fellow! he was so tired
with his exertions that he could scarcely climb up out of the water, and
when, to exhibit his affection, he attempted to embrace us, he fell
forward on all fours, and very nearly rolled over into the sea again.
As we sat by his side, all he had strength to do was to lick our hands
and moan mournfully.  Talk of the affection of a dog!  I should think
that was as strong a mark of affection and sagacity as any dog could
give.  Let others beat it if they can.  Having loosed Bruin from the
ropes and secured the log of timber, which was the one, it must be
understood, to which we had secured him in the hut, and which he had
dragged out with main force, we set to work to catch him a dinner of
fish.  This was the least we could do, and we were so fortunate in our
sport that we were able to give him an abundant meal.  He enjoyed it
much, and quickly revived.  To show his gratitude he soon began to play
off his usual extraordinary antics for our amusement, such as dancing a
jig, standing on his head, or rolling himself up into a ball.  Suddenly
it struck me that he had brought the log of timber to enable us to
escape from our perilous situation.  I consulted with my companions, and
they agreed with me that if we harnessed Bruin to the log, he would
undoubtedly tow us to a place of safety.  We made signs to him, and he
evidently understood our purpose, for he allowed the ropes to be thrown
over his shoulders and secured to the log of timber, and when we had
placed our stores on it and taken our seats, he slipped gently into the
water, and, I holding the reins, off he bravely swam with his snout to
the southward.  It was far from agreeable work, for our feet were wet,
and we were obliged to sit perfectly quiet; but still it was better than
remaining on the iceberg, and we contrived to pass our time tolerably
well with smoking, eating, and catching fish.  The seas in those
latitudes abound in fish, so that we were able to feed poor Bruin
abundantly on them, or he would never have performed the hard work he
had got through.

"At last a sail hove in sight, towards which I guided Bruin.  I believe
otherwise he would have carried us safely to some southern coast,
towards which he was steering.  When the people in the vessel first saw
us they would not believe that we were human beings, though, after we
had hailed pretty lustily in English, they hove their craft to, and told
us to come on board.

"Accordingly, securing the timber astern, we three climbed up the side,
followed by Bruin, and were not a little amused by hearing the mate tell
the captain, who was ill in his cabin, that there were four men just
picked up.  He had taken the bear for a human being--there was so little
difference in appearance between any of us.  Ha, ha, ha!  It was some
time, too, before the mistake was discovered.  The mate was
disappointed, for they were short-handed, and he fancied Bruin would
prove a fine heavy-sterned fellow for pulling and hauling.  So he did
when I taught him, and he would fist the end of a rope, and run the
topsails up the masts with as much ease as half a dozen of the crew
could together.  The vessel was the Highland Lass, bound from Halifax to
Greenock, where we arrived in three weeks in perfect health and spirits.
One of my companions, James Hoxton, took care of honest Bruin, who, not
being accustomed to a civilised country, would have been rather adrift
by himself, and would scarcely have been treated as a distinguished
foreigner.  Hoxton carried him about the country as a sight, and used to
give an account of our adventures, which very much astonished all the
people who heard them.  Bruin liked the amusement, for he was fond of
travelling; but I was very sorry to part with him, for he had become the
most amiable and civilised of bears, though on our first introduction to
each other, I should not have supposed that such would ever have been
the case."

"Is that all, every bit of it, true, Mr Johnson?" asked Spellman, with
mouth agape.

"Did you ever see a polar bear, Mr Spellman?" demanded the boatswain in
an offended tone.  "Yes," answered Spellman, "once, at a show."

"Then let me ask, young gentleman, why you should have any doubts as to
the truth of my narrative?" said Mr Johnson, drawing himself up and
casting an indignant glance at the midshipman.

"Let me tell you that a thousand things have occurred to me, a hundred
thousand times more wonderful than that, during every part of my life;
and some day, if you catch me in the humour for talking, perhaps I will
tell you about them.  I've only time just now to tell you of another
somewhat strange adventure which befell me.

"Not finding a ship at Glasgow to suit my fancy, I went to Liverpool,
where I shipped on board a South Sea whaler, called the Diddleus.  She
was a fine craft, measuring full six hundred tons.  I won't tell you
just now some of the curious events which occurred before we reached the
South Seas.  Our success was not very satisfactory.  We met with various
accidents, and among others we lost our first mate, who was killed by a
blow from a white whale's tail in a flurry, and as the captain had the
discernment to perceive that there was not a man on board equal to me,
he appointed me to the vacant berth.  I little thought how soon I should
get a step higher.  The captain, poor fellow, was enormously fat, and as
he was one day looking into the copper to watch how the blubber was
boiling, his foot slipped on the greasy deck, and in he fell head
foremost.  No one missed him at the moment, and he was stirred up and
turned into oil before any one knew what had happened.  The accident
indeed was only discovered by our finding his buttons and the nails of
his shoes at the bottom of the copper.  In consequence of this sad
catastrophe, I became master of the good ship Diddleus.  Either through
my judgment, or good luck, it does not become me to say which, we very
soon began to fill our casks at a rapid rate.

"We had, of course, always our boats ready to go in chase of a fish at a
moment's notice.  One day two of them were away, and had killed, dead to
windward of us, a large whale, towards which I was endeavouring to beat
up, when the look-out man from the crow's nest, a sharp-sighted fellow,
Jerry Wilkins by name, hailed the deck to say that there was land in
sight on our lee bow.  I knew very well that there wasn't, and couldn't
be, but when I went aloft and looked out myself, I was dumbfoundered,
for there I saw a dark long island, with what I took for a number of
trees growing on it like weeping willows.  Presently the island began to
grow larger and larger, and to extend all round the horizon to leeward.
I immediately ordered the lead to be hove, expecting to find that some
current or other had been sweeping us towards some unknown island not
down in the charts, but to the surprise of all of us there was no
bottom.  I now cracked on all sail I could set, to beat out of the bay,
as it seemed to be, but the wind was so light that we made but little
way, and as I looked out I saw the line gradually encircling us more and
more, so that I must own I was altogether puzzled to know what it was.

"The whale and the boats were now about a mile off, when suddenly the
island seemed to rise close to them, forming a considerable elevation.
While we were watching what next would happen, the boats cast off their
tow lines, and pulled like mad towards us.  They had good reason to pull
hard, I can assure you, for one end of what we took to be the island
rose right out of the water, full fifty feet at least, and quickly
approaching the whale, the mighty fish disappeared under it, and
immediately the elevation sank to its former level.  Directly after
this, one of the crew said he saw a large fire at the end of the island,
but when I took my glass, I ascertained that it was nothing more nor
less than an immense eye.  To give an idea of its size, I may state,
with due care not to exaggerate, that I saw fish, of the size of full
grown cod, swimming about in the lower lid.  A short examination
convinced me that what I saw was the head of some mighty marine monster,
nothing more nor less than the great sea-serpent, and that the elevation
I had seen was his upper jaw.  The crews of the boats confirmed the
opinion when they came on board, for they stated that when they were
close to what they believed was the end of a coral island, they saw it
open slowly, while formidable rows of teeth, every one of the size of a
heavy gun, and a tongue twice as large as a whale appeared.  When they
saw this they thought it time to cut and run; nor could I blame them,
for had they not, they would have been swallowed with the whale.

"Some slight idea may be formed of the size of the monster from its
having swallowed a white sperm whale whole, with half a dozen harpoons
in her, and yet it did not even blink its eyes.  I confess that I did
not like the position we were in, for, as I had no doubt that it must
possess a very considerable appetite, I thought it just possible that it
might take it into its head to swallow us up also.  To my great
satisfaction, however, the monster remained stationary--probably it
found the harpoons in the whale's back rather indigestible.

"I also considered that, without any vicious intention, should it take
it into its head to be frisky, it might do us considerable damage.

"After consulting with my mates, it was agreed that at all events we
should, if possible, avoid the jaws of the monster.  We accordingly
steered for the point where we believed its tail was to be found, but
after standing on for an hour or more we appeared to be no nearer it
than we were when we were within a mile of its head.  Not only was this
the case, but there could be little doubt that it was curling its tail
round so as completely to encircle us.

"You, I dare say, have all heard of the dreadful passage between Sicily
and the coast of Italy.  On one side there are some frightful rocks,
over which the sea roars like thunder.  They are called the rocks of
Scylla, and if a ship gets on them she is dashed to pieces in a quarter
less than no time.  On the other side is the awful whirlpool of
Charybdis, which draws ships from miles towards it, and sucks them under
the water like straws; so I've heard say, but, as I've not seen it done,
I can't vouch for the truth of the story.  If you keep on one side
you've a chance of being cast away on the rocks; if on the other, of
being sucked down by the whirlpool.  We were now much in the same
condition.  If we stood on too long on one tack, we ran a risk of
sailing down the serpent's mouth; if on the other, of getting an ugly
slap with his tail--supposing that he had got a tail anywhere in the
distance to slap us with.

"As I swept the horizon with my glass, his monstrous body appeared on
every side of us, except dead to windward, where there was a clear
opening, towards which point we were doing our best to beat up.  Even
that small space appeared to be narrowing.  I watched it with no little
anxiety--so did the mate, and so did Jerry Wilkins.  Jerry was the first
to discover that the serpent had a tail.

"`I see it--I see it,' sang out Jerry.  `For all the world like the
Falls of Niagara dancing a hornpipe.'

"It was a fact.  There was no doubt of that; and what did the monster do
but finish by clapping his tail into his mouth, and then he lay just
like a big codfish on a fishmonger's stall.  It was a fashion we
concluded he had when he wished to bask in the sun, but a very
inconvenient one to us just then.

"We were, indeed, in a pretty fix, for we could not tell how long he
might take to sleep; judging by his size, a year or so would have
sufficed merely for a morning's nap, and we might all be starved before
we could hope to get free.  We were in a complete lake, do ye see, and
the Diddleus was like a child's toy floating in the middle of it.  It
made us feel very small, I can assure you.  I considered that the best
thing we could do, under the circumstances, would be to heave-to near
his head, so that, should he in his sleep let his tail slip from between
his teeth, we might have time to beat round his jaws.

"When, however, we got near his head, the crew were so frightened with
its terrific appearance, that I saw that there would be a regular
mutiny, or that in their terror they would all be jumping overboard, if
I did not bear up again pretty quickly.

"We had an old fellow on board, Joe Hobson by name, who was considered
an oracle by the crew, and he added to their fears by telling them that
he had often heard of these big sea-serpents before, and that, as they
usually slept a dozen years or so on a stretch, we should be certainly
starved before we could get out.  I had, however, no fear about
starving, because I knew we could catch fish enough for our support, and
I had a plan by which I hoped, if he did sleep on, we might escape.  To
occupy the time I ran down alongside the head and shoulders, and then
beat up again round by the tail end, and this survey, though we had a
strong breeze, occupied fully three days.

"I now resolved to put into execution my plan, which was simply to cut a
channel for the ship right through the serpent's back.  I considered
that one deep enough to float the ship would be like a mere scratch on
the skin to him, and would not wake him.  I took, however, a precaution
few would have thought of.  The surgeon had a cask of laudanum, so,
lowering it into a boat, with a few brave fellows as volunteers, we
pulled right up to the serpent's mouth.  I had a line fast to the bung.
Watching our opportunity, when the serpent lifted his jaws a little, we
let the cask float into his mouth.  I then pulled the line--the bung
came out, and the laudanum, of course, ran down his throat.

"Now, I do not mean to say that under ordinary circumstances that
quantity could have had any effect on so large a beast, for there was
only a hogshead of it; but the doctor observed he placed some hopes of
the opiate working from the creature being totally unaccustomed to such
a dose.

"I had reason to think that it took immediate effect, for before an hour
had elapsed, he snored so loudly that we could scarcely hear ourselves
speak, though we were fully a mile distant from his head.  I now made
sail for the middle of his body, where I judged that there would be more
fat and less sense of feeling.  It took us a day to reach the spot; then
heaving the ship to, we lowered the boats to land on the serpent's back.
It was, I assure you, nervous work at first, and we had no little
difficulty in climbing up his sides, which were uncommonly slippery; but
we succeeded at last, and forthwith set to work with knives and saws to
cut into his back.  At first we made but little progress, in consequence
of the barnacles, which covered his skin to the depth of some feet, but
when we got fairly through the skin we found to our great joy that there
was as good blubber as we had ever cut out of a fat whale.  We,
therefore, made up our fires, and as we cut out the flesh we sent it on
board to be boiled.  So hard did we work, that in ten days we had cut a
channel deep enough to admit the ship, and had besides got a full cargo
of the finest oil that had ever been seen.

"We accordingly hoisted in the boats, made all sail, and ran smack on to
the very centre of the serpent's back.  We had, however, not got quite
over when, our keel tickling him, I suppose, he awoke partially, and
letting his tail slip out of his mouth, off he went in a northerly
direction, at the rate of forty knots an hour, with the good ship
Diddleus on his back.

"We quickly clewed up the sails, or our masts would to a certainty have
gone over the side.  On we went in this way for three days, when the
opium again making him drowsy, he put his tail into his mouth, as a
little child does its thumb, and once more went off to sleep.  The
movement caused the ship to glide off into the sea outside the circle,
and there being a strong southerly wind, you may be sure we lost no time
in making all sail to get clear of so awkward a customer.  The people
set up a shout of joy when they saw him like a large island floating
astern of the ship.  I ordered them to be silent lest they should wake
him up, and told them not to be too sure that we were yet altogether
clear of him.  As it turned out, I was right.

"For two days we sailed on without anything unusual happening, and the
crew had begun to recover their usual spirits, when, just as it had gone
two bells in the middle watch, the first mate called me up, in great
alarm, to say that there were two glaring lights right astern of us,
coming up fast with the ship.  A strong hot wind, and an almost
overpowering smell of sulphur, convinced me of the dreadful truth:--we
were pursued by the big sea-serpent.  I saw that there was nothing to be
done but to run for it, so we made all sail, studden sails alow and
aloft, and as the Diddleus was a good one to go, away we bowled with the
monster in hot chase after us.  And now, young gentlemen, as my watch is
up, and Mr Fitzgerald will be on deck presently to relieve me, I must
bring my tale of the big sea-serpent to an end for the present.  What
happened next I'll tell you another night: I think you'll agree that
there are not many men afloat who have seen stranger sights than I have;
and yet I don't say, mind you, that the one I have just told you about,
is the strangest by very far--ha! ha! ha!  I should think not."

When the watch was relieved, we all turned in, and, though I went to
sleep quickly enough, I must own that I was all night long dreaming that
I was on board the Diddleus, chased by the big sea-serpent.  The next
day I got leave to go on shore to pay my respects to the governor's
family.  I had never been made so much of as I was by those Dutch
ladies, even during my last visit home, and Miss Essa and I became more
and more intimate.  I thought her, indeed, the most charming young lady
I had ever seen, and I do not know how affairs would have ended, had I
not had cause to suspect that, though she treated me with very sisterly
regard, she still looked upon me only as a young midshipman, and a mere
boy.  At first I was very indignant, and thought her very ungrateful;
but when I told my griefs to Grey he laughed, and assured me that when I
went home I should consider my own sisters very far superior.  I must
own he was right.

We held the whole island of Curacoa in subjection for six months without
any reinforcements, and at length were relieved by the arrival of troops
from Jamaica.  We sailed shortly after for that island.  Having refitted
at Port Royal, we were once more at sea on the look-out for enemies.

I had read and heard of so many gallant things being done, that I became
very anxious also to do something to distinguish myself.  I talked the
matter over with Grey.  He had the same feeling, and we agreed that we
would seize the first opportunity of doing something, though what we
would do would depend upon circumstances.  Week after week passed away,
and the opportunity we looked for did not occur.  At last, one day, when
close in with one of the numerous small islands of those seas, Mr Bryan
called me up, and ordered me to take command of the second cutter, with
six seamen and a couple of marines, and to go on shore to collect sand
for the use of the ship.  I asked if Grey might accompany me.

"To keep each other out of mischief, I suppose," he observed.  "Yes, he
may go, but, remember there's an order against taking arms with you.  It
is feared that you youngsters will be running your heads into danger if
you have the means of fighting."

There was nothing very romantic or interesting in prospect for us, but
still it was something to get away from the ship, and to feel that, in a
certain sense, we were to be our own masters for a few hours.  Billy
Wise, the captain's steward, was also sent in the boat.  I have not
mentioned Billy for some time.  He had not, however, improved in sense
since he came to sea this time, but was continually committing some
extraordinary blunder or other.  Toby Bluff also accompanied us.  The
boat was manned and ready to shove off, but Grey had not appeared, so I
ran up the side to call him, leaving Billy in charge.  I was not gone a
minute, for Grey, who was waiting for a basket to collect shells, at
once joined me.  The wind was light, and while the frigate, under easy
sail, stood off shore, we pulled towards it.

We had not got far from the ship, when a piece of sail-cloth being
kicked aside, I saw under it several ship's muskets.  I counted five of
them.  I found also that there was a supply of ammunition and half a
dozen cutlasses.  How they came there was a mystery.  No one knew, at
least no one would tell.  Billy Wise said that all sorts of things had
been handed into the boat, and that the men had told him that they were
spades to dig sand.  Grey and I agreed that, though we could not have
ventured to disobey orders and take arms, since the muskets were there,
if we should meet with an enemy, it would of course be our duty to use
them.  The chances, however, of our falling in with one seemed very
remote.

The heat was considerable, but not quite so hot as Mr Johnson had
declared we should find it.  We had a long pull, however, and as the men
were somewhat exhausted, I allowed them to take some rest and
refreshment before they began to load the boat.  Of course it was not
the sand close down to the sea which was required, but that which, being
constantly exposed to the effects of the sun and wind, had become fine
and white.  The operation of carrying it to the boat therefore took some
time.  Grey and I had brought some cold beef and biscuit and rum and
water, and so we sat ourselves down in the shade of a clump of palm
trees to discuss our provisions, and to try and get cool.  Some of the
men then asked leave to bathe, and I told them that they might do so,
warning them to beware of sharks and not to get out of their depth.

They had been frolicking about for some time, while Billy Wise was
sitting down at some little distance off, watching them.  Suddenly the
thought seized him that he too would have a bathe, but he fancied some
rocks further away which might serve as a dressing-room.  The other men
now began to go on with the duty we had come on.  Toby Bluff, meantime,
was strolling along the shore looking for shells for Grey and me.
Suddenly we heard him shouting--

"Help--help!  There's Billy Wise drowning.  Some beast has got hold of
him!"

We rushed towards the spot where poor Billy had last been seen.  There
was a considerable commotion in the water.  Now a leg, now an arm
appeared.  We ran on.  Two of the men who had accompanied us dashed into
the sea, as we also did, and we all made our way up to the spot just as
poor Billy had disappeared under the water.  We could see his limbs,
however, and, seizing hold of him, we all dragged away and brought him
to the surface.  The cause of his disappearance was explained.  Round
his right leg and arm, and indeed his neck, were entwined the long
tentaculae or arms of what I fancy was a huge squid.  To clear him of
the horrible mass seemed impossible.  Indeed it appeared as if the poor
fellow was already dead.  We shouted for the rest of the men, and with
their assistance we dragged Billy and the creature into shallow water.
The monster would not let go, and we all set to work with our knives to
cut it away arm by arm, and feeler by feeler.  Till this was done, there
was evidently no chance of our being able to restore animation.  As it
was, there seemed to be very little prospect of reviving the poor
fellow.  At length, however, we got him clear of the horrible mass,
which dropped into the sea, and none of us were inclined to stop and
examine it.  I never have been quite certain what it really was.  The
sand was hot enough to hatch a turtle's egg, so we laid Billy down on it
and set to work to rub him all over his body.  After a time an eyelid
moved, and then his limbs began to twitch, and that encouraged us to rub
harder and harder, till at length, to my infinite relief, he breathed,
and, getting rid of some of the salt water he had swallowed, he sat up
and stared round him, exclaiming, "Hallo, mates, have you caught the big
fish?  I thought as how I'd a grip of him myself."  Billy never heard
the end of his big fish.  When he attempted to put on his clothes, he
complained that he was stung all over, and so the men carried him just
as he was to the boat.  They had, however, no little difficulty in
keeping him there, for when his hitherto impeded circulation was
completely restored, the stinging sensation increased, and made him feel
that only a plunge in the sea would cure him.  This event had delayed us
considerably.  We ought to have taken our departure from the island even
before Billy had begun to bathe, and so, when I looked at my watch, I
found that we were two hours at least behind our time.  At last we
shoved off, but where the frigate was we could not tell.  Grey thought
that she must have drifted round to the other side of the island.  We
had been directed to keep a look-out for her, but had neglected to do
so.  Then it became a question to which side she had drifted.  To
ascertain, we lay on our oars, and found a current running to the east,
and so decided that she must have gone in that direction.  We now pulled
merrily along, sure of soon falling in with her.  Billy Wise was the
only unhappy one of the party.  He could not tell what was going to
happen to him, till the men told him he must have fallen into a hedge of
sea-nettles, and that he would soon get well again.  This comforted him
considerably, and so he consented to put on his clothes and sit quiet.

It was now growing dusk, when, as we rounded a point, Grey exclaimed
that he saw a sail ahead.  I jumped upon the seat, and made out that she
was a schooner standing off the land.

"She hasn't much wind," Grey remarked.

"We might overhaul her," said I.

"We ought to do so," remarked Grey; "she may be an enemy."

"We've got arms, sir," said one of the men.

"And ammunition," added another.

"Many a rich prize has been taken by a boat's crew," observed the
coxswain, the oldest man in the boat.

"Well, Grey, suppose we just pull up to her and ascertain what she is,"
said I.

"With all my heart," he answered; "it's a pity, now we have got the
muskets and ammunition, if we have the chance, that we should not make
use of them."

I fully agreed with him.  My only fear was that the schooner might after
all not prove an enemy.  The wind was dropping gradually--there was
little doubt that we should get up to her.

"I suppose that the captain won't mind much if she is an enemy and we
attack her," continued Grey.  "He'll suspect, though, that we disobeyed
orders, and had arms in the boat."

"Not if we take her," I answered.  "He'll not ask questions.  If we fail
we shall get into a terrible row--we may count on that; but we must take
her, and it will stick a feather in our caps, and put some dollars in
our pockets too."

We were pulling steadily on all this time.  We got the muskets up, and
ascertained that they were dry, and, loading them, placed them on the
thwarts ready for use.  The schooner held her course.  There was just
wind enough to fill her sails and no more.  I felt convinced that she
was French.  I asked the coxswain, Ned Dawlish, his opinion.  He agreed
with me, and thought that she was a privateer.

"If so, she must be armed," said I.  "We will keep in her wake, and as
in a short time she will not have steerage way, she will be unable to
bring her guns to bear on us."

The men were all highly delighted with our proposal.  They must have
anticipated some such chance when they smuggled the arms into the boat.
Ned Dawlish took another look at the chase.  "She's a French craft, and
a privateer, I'll bet any money," he exclaimed, sitting down again to
his oar.

The crew now gave way with a will.  The sooner we were up to her the
better, because, of course, we knew that we must by this time be seen,
and our intentions suspected.

"She carries three or, maybe, four guns on a side," observed Ned,
looking over his shoulder.  "But that's no odds, they can't reach us."

His eagerness and courage animated the rest of the crew.  How many men
the chase carried we could not tell; indeed, we did not consider.  Not
one of us entertained a doubt that we should take her.  Our proposed
plan of proceeding was very simple.  We were to pull up alongside, jump
on board, and, cutlass in hand, drive the enemy down the hatches, or
into the sea if they would not yield.

There was still some light left, and, as we drew near, it appeared to me
that the decks were somewhat crowded.  I asked Grey what he thought.  He
agreed with me.  Still it was too late to retreat.  We had not got much
farther when bright flashes of flame burst from the stern, and, what we
little expected, a shower of bullets rattled about us.

"Give way, lads, give way!" shouted Ned Dawlish.  "We'll lick the Johnny
Crapeaus in spite of that."

The boat dashed on.  We hoped to get alongside before another volley was
fired.  In vain.  Again a leaden shower rattled round our heads.  Once
more Ned Dawlish shouted loudly.  There was a deep groan, and he fell,
with his face bent down, to the bottom of the boat.  Grey seized his
oar, and took his place.  He had been shot in the back.  Speed was
everything to us now.  There must be a considerable number of small-arm
men on board, I saw; but even then it never occurred to me that we ought
to turn tail.

On we went.  Still the enemy kept up a fire at us.  Toby Bluff gave a
sharp cry.  A bullet had hit him, but he answered me when I spoke, and
kept his seat.  We had the muskets ready.  I let go the tiller and
seized one.  Grey and Billy Wise and two other men did the same, and let
fly among the enemy.

In another instant we were under the schooner's quarter.  The bowman
hooked on.  Without asking leave, up we scrambled, and, cutlass in hand,
in spite of boarding-pikes thrust at us, and pistols flashed in our
faces, began to play heartily about us among the very much astonished
Frenchmen.



CHAPTER NINE.

If the Frenchmen were very much astonished at finding us among them, we
were not the less so on discovering the number of our opponents.
Besides the crew, we found ourselves engaged with thirty or forty
soldiers; but had there been more, it would have been the better for us,
for so crowded were the schooner's decks, that they impeded each other's
movements.  By the suddenness of our rush, we had gained the after part
of the vessel, and had killed or wounded half a dozen of the enemy
before they knew exactly what to do.  The bodies of these men served as
a sort of rampart, while the bowman of our boat, having secured her,
climbed up the side to our support, thus allowing us a few seconds to
look about.  In the centre of a group of vociferating, gesticulating,
grimace-making Frenchmen, some armed with muskets, others with swords
and cutlasses, and others pistols and boarding-pikes, stood a tall,
gaunt, soldier officer, eyeing us very sternly, and tugging hard to get
a sword out of a long scabbard, while he kept screaming to his men, as I
understood, to annihilate the dogs of Englishmen, and to kick them into
the sea.  But though he kept shouting louder and louder, till his cries
resembled the rabid howls of a wild beast, his soldiers found that
though it might be easy to order them to kick five stout British seamen
overboard, and two rather precocious midshipmen, it was not quite as
easy for them to obey.  I saw, too, that our only chance of success was
to push on without further delay.  Had Mr Johnson been with us I should
have felt less doubt as to the result of our exploit.

"On, my lads!"  I shouted, "we must drive these Frenchmen off the deck."

Grey echoed my words, as did another faint voice, and I found that Toby
Bluff, in spite of his wound, had climbed on board the schooner, and was
ready to do battle by my side.  On we all pushed.  A sturdy French
seaman, on my left, raised his cutlass, while I was engaged with another
on my right.  I could just see, out of the corner of my left eye, his
weapon descending, and fully believed that my last moment had come, for
it was impossible to ward it off.  Before, however, the cutlass reached
my head, there was the report of a pistol close to my ear, and my enemy
tumbled over dead on the deck.  Toby had saved my life, just as I had
before saved the boatswain's.  We continued cutting and slashing away so
furiously, that the Frenchmen no longer attempted to contend against us.
Jumping aside like a troop of monkeys, as we got among them, they
tumbled over each other down the hatchways, the old officer with them;
whether he went of his own accord, or could not help it, I was unable to
tell.  All I know is, that he disappeared with most of his army, the
remainder of whom lay sprawling on deck, or clinging to the bowsprit,
while some of the crew had run up the rigging, and others had tumbled
into the hold with the soldiers.  Over these latter we took the liberty
of clapping the hatches, while Billy Wise did the wisest thing he had
been guilty of for a long time; he pointed his musket at the men aloft,
and intimated that he would shoot the first who attempted to descend.
Some of them had pistols, but they had fortunately already fired them at
us, and they were afraid of throwing them at our heads, lest Billy
should put his threat into execution.  His adventure with the sea
monster had evidently roused his wits, for he had, besides this, done
good service in boarding, and several of the foe owed their fall to his
sturdy arm.  In less than five minutes from the time we sprang on board,
Grey and I were shaking hands, as we stood on the hatch, with the
Frenchmen below us.

"I hope, though, that the Monsieurs won't blow up the ship," he
observed; "they must begin to feel heartily ashamed of the way they have
allowed us to take her from them."

"No fear of it; they are not the fellows for that," I answered: "but it
is just possible that they may attempt to take her back again, so we
must keep a very bright look-out to prevent them."

Grey agreed with me.

"I wish that I could talk to them, though," he remarked; "I don't
suppose that one of our party knows a word of French."

"No; we must learn, however, on the first opportunity," said I.  "It
would be very convenient, and very likely useful.  If the captain had
not known it, we should probably have been caught by the enemy's fleet
when we got among them."

The puzzle was now to settle how to manage with these prisoners.  As we
had only seven effectives, and they had more than forty, it was no
slight task.  Billy Wise, touching his hat, suggested that we should
shoot them, or send them overboard with round-shots at their heels, to
swim ashore if they could; but as that mode of procedure was somewhat
contrary to the customs of civilised warfare, we declined to adopt it,
though undoubtedly it would have solved our difficulties.  We ultimately
agreed that our best plan would be to get hold of all those on deck, and
to lash their hands behind them, and then to summon a few at a time of
those below to be treated in the same way.  We soon had all those above
deck secured.  It seemed extraordinary that men should submit in so
abject a manner to a party of men and boys.  They appeared, indeed,
entirely to have lost their wits.  It shows what boldness and audacity
will accomplish.  However, it might have been the other way, and we
might all have been knocked on the head, or tumbled down as prisoners
into the Frenchman's hold.  Having accomplished this, we sent a hand to
the helm, trimmed sails, though there was not much wind to fill them,
and steered in the direction in which we hoped to fall in with the
frigate.  I must own that it was not till then that we thought of poor
Ned Dawlish.  We drew the boat alongside, and had him lifted on deck.
We had some faint hopes that, though he lay so still, he might be alive,
but his glazed eyes and stiffened limbs too plainly told us that his
last fight was over, and that we should hear his cheery voice and hearty
laugh no more.  We then, turned our attention to Toby Bluff.  He had
shown himself a true hero, for though his wound must have given him
intense pain, he had not given utterance to a complaint or a single
groan, but had endeavoured to work away as if nothing was the matter
with him.  I had observed a good deal of blood about his dress, but it
was not till I came to examine him that I found it had flowed from his
own veins, and that his shirt and trousers on one side were literally
saturated.  He was looking deadly pale, and would in a few seconds have
fainted, had not Grey and I set to work to staunch the blood.  We had
not much experience as surgeons, but we succeeded after some time.

"Thank ye, sir; thank ye," said Toby, his voice growing weaker every
moment; "I'll be up and at 'em again directly.  I wants another pistol,
please, sir.  I don't know what tricks the mounseers may be up to, and
they shan't hurt you if I can help it, that they shan't.  I shot one on
'em, and I'll shoot another."

By this time his voice grew indistinct, and we began to be alarmed about
him.  We happily had some rum and water left.  We poured it down his
throat, and it evidently revived him.  We then placed him under charge
of the helmsman, and continued our other duties.

"Now, Merry, what's to be done?" asked Grey, when we had got all who
remained on deck in limbo.  "If those gentlemen down there find it's
hot, which I suspect they will very soon, they will begin to grow
obstreperous, and try to force their way out.  When men get desperate,
they are somewhat difficult to manage."

"People cannot live without air, I fancy, and they cannot have much of
it in the hold of this craft, which must naturally have a pretty strong
smell of bilge-water," I answered.  "We must get them up somehow or
other, so that they don't overpower us.  However, we may as well first
get the dead men overboard; they are only in the way where they are."

"We should see to the wounded first," remarked Grey, more thoughtful and
humane than I was.  "If we could get below, I dare say that we should
find spirits and wine, and other good things for them."

The first man we came to had received the stroke of a British cutlass
full on the top of his head, and did not require our assistance, so he
was pitched overboard.  The next was the man shot dead by Toby, so his
body was treated in the same way.  A third still breathed, but was
bleeding profusely from a deep wound in his shoulder, and a shot through
his side.  His case seemed hopeless, but we bound up his hurts and
placed him against the bulwarks, under the shade of the sail.  Two more
we came to were dead, and two badly wounded.  When we had done what we
could for them, and placed them with their companions, we saw a fourth
man, whom we supposed to be dead, right forward.  When we lifted him up
his limbs did not seem very stiff, nor could we see any wound about him.
Billy Wise was assisting us.

"Why, sirs," he exclaimed, "the chap has got a big knife in his clutch,
and those eyes of his ain't dead men's eyes, but maybe it will be just
as well to pitch him overboard; he can't do no harm then, anyhow."

Billy was right, for as he spoke I saw the supposed dead man's eyes
twinkle.  Calling another of our people to our assistance, we snatched
the knife out of the man's hand, and then lifting him up we seemed as if
about to heave him overboard.  Indeed, Billy thought that was our
object.  The Frenchman, however, did not approve of this, and gave
strong evidence that he was alive, by struggling violently, and uttering
with extraordinary volubility a variety of expletives on the matter.
When we had frightened him a little, we lashed his arms behind him and
placed him with the rest of the prisoners on deck.  There could be
little doubt that he had shammed dead, and kept a knife ready, with the
hopes of releasing his companions while we were off our guard, and
retaking the vessel.  For this we could not blame him, so we treated him
with the same care as the other prisoners--only, perhaps, we kept rather
a sharper watch over him, lest he might attempt to play us some other
trick.

There were some casks of water on the deck, so we served some of it out
to ourselves and our prisoners on deck alike.  Most of the Frenchmen
looked as if they were grateful, but the sulky countenances of some of
them did not alter.  However, that made no difference in our behaviour,
as Grey and I agreed it must have been terribly annoying to their
feelings to find themselves thus hopelessly prisoners.

We had done thus much, when we heard thumping and shouts from below.
This was what we expected, but we had hoped to have fallen in with the
frigate before it became absolutely necessary to open the hatches.  We
looked round.  From the deck she was nowhere to be seen, so charging
Grey and our men to watch the hatches--the companion and forehatch, as
well as the main, I went aloft to obtain a wider circle, in the
expectation that I might thus discover her.

Not a sail was in sight.  The low island with its groves of palm trees
lay to the northward, and the wide expanse of the Caribbean Sea to the
south.  I scarcely knew what to do.  I sat at the mast-head to consider,
but was speedily aroused by a shout from Grey.

In a second, as the Yankees say, like greased lightning, I slid down the
topmast backstay on deck.  A Frenchman's head was protruding through the
fore hatchway, he having forced off the hatch, and Billy Wise, who had
been stationed there, was endeavouring to drive him back--not an easy
task, as others below were shoving a boarding-pike at him for the
purpose of compelling him to retreat.  Billy, however, stood his ground,
and was working away with his elbow to get at his cutlass, while he kept
his musket pointed at the man's head.

In the meantime others were thundering away at the main hatch, and, what
was still more dangerous, a party had evidently cut their way aft, and
were trying to force back the companion-hatch.  We knew, too, that they
must have firearms, so that we were altogether placed in a very
difficult position.  The fore hatch must first be secured.  I was
running to help Billy, when I saw him whip out his cutlass, and before I
could stop him, it flashed in the sun, and the unfortunate Frenchman's
head rolled on the deck.

"There, you Johnny Crapeaus, if any of you likes it, I'll do the same
for you," he shouted, flourishing his weapon.

The body of the man fell below, stopping his companions from ascending,
and though they might not have understood the words in which Billy's
liberal offer was made, they must have caught sight of the glittering
cutlass sweeping over the hatchway, and hesitated about placing their
necks within its influence.

I sprang forward.  So excited was Billy that he did not see me, and very
nearly treated me as he had threatened to do the Frenchmen--taking me
for one of them.

"Lauk, Master Merry, if I had a done it," he exclaimed, when he
discovered his mistake.

I did not speak, but popping on the hatch, secured it before our
captives could make a rush to get out.  It was breathless work, it may
be believed--indeed, I even to this day feel almost out of breath when I
think of it.  Leaving Billy at the post he had guarded so well, I ran
back to the companion-hatch, inside of which we could hear the men
working away with most disagreeable vigour.

"Oh dear! oh dear!" exclaimed Grey over and over again.  "If we could
but speak French, we could tell the men what we would do if they would
behave themselves."

"But, as we cannot, we must show them what we will do if they don't," I
rejoined.  "We must get them on deck somehow or other, for if we keep
them much longer below they will die, I am afraid.  It is hot up here--
it must be ten times worse in that close hold."

"I'll tell you, then," he answered.  "We must keep our loaded pistols in
our hands, and get up one at a time through the companion-hatchway.  If
more than one attempts to come, we must shoot him; there's no help for
it.  It will be a long process, but I suppose those who first come will
tell the others how we treat them, and they will be content to wait."

"We must have some water, then, for they will be terribly thirsty," said
I.  "And we must have a good supply of lashings ready, to secure them."

We accordingly unrove all the running rigging that could be spared, and
cut it into lengths, and then, leaving Billy Wise as sentry at his
former post, we rolled two water casks over the main hatch, adding a
spare sail and spars, so that there was little danger of its being
forced.  We all then collected round the after hatch.  We slipped back
the hatch sufficiently far to allow of one man passing through at a
time, then, holding our pistols so that those below might see them, we
beckoned to the Frenchmen to come up.  At first, from having discovered
probably the way that Billy Wise had treated their countryman, they were
unwilling to take advantage of our invitation, which was not to be
wondered at.  I ordered the men to take care lest they might fire up at
us, for I suspected some treachery.

"Come along, mounseers, come along; we won't hurt ye," said Ned
Bambrick, the best man with us; indeed, there was not a better in the
ship, though certain wild pranks in which he had indulged had prevented
him from becoming a petty officer.  "Come along, now, we'll treat ye as
if ye was all sucking babies."

Though the Frenchmen did not understand the words addressed to them, the
tone of his voice somewhat reassured them, and at last one ventured up.
We immediately seized him by the arms, hauled him out, and shut to the
hatch, greatly to the disappointment of those who were following.  The
Frenchman, who was a sailor, looked dreadfully frightened, and began to
struggle violently, expecting probably that we were going to throw him
overboard.  We had, however, his arms very soon lashed behind him, and
we then gave him water, and pointed to his shipmates sitting quietly
round the side.  He was once more satisfied, and we then signed to him,
as well as we could, that he was to tell his companions below that no
harm would happen to them.  We concluded that he did so, for after he
had shouted down the hatchway, another cautiously lifted his head above
the coaming.  He gave a cry as we seized hold of him, but we quickly had
him up, and treated like the other.  In the same way we got up a dozen,
the last showing clear signs of having suffered most.  At length a
nearly bald head appeared, with a silver plate covering part of it, on
which I read the word "Arcole," and then the high narrow forehead, gaunt
cheeks, and thin body of the old colonel slowly emerged from the cabin.
He looked round with a confused expression on his countenance, as if not
very certain what had happened; but, before he had had much time for
consideration, Ned Bambrick politely took him by the hand, and helped
him to step out on deck.  When he found himself seized to be pinioned,
he looked very indignant, and struggled to get loose, but we had the
ropes round his arms in a moment.  As a compliment, however, we secured
him to the mainmast, with a heap of sail-cloth to sit on.  He made so
many extraordinary grimaces that even poor Toby, who was sitting
opposite to him, in spite of his suffering, burst into a fit of
laughter.  Grey and I had, however, just then too much to do to laugh.
There were still nearly twenty men below, enough to overpower us and to
release their countrymen, so it was necessary to be as cautious as at
first.  From the horrible effluvium which came rushing up the hatchway
each time the hatch was slid off, we might have known that the men who
had to exist in it long were not likely to be very difficult to manage.
In those days midshipmen, at all events, knew nothing of hydrogen and
oxygen, and that human beings could not exist without a certain supply
of the latter.  A few more climbed slowly up.  We thought that they were
shamming, and treated them like the rest.  At last no more appeared.

"What can they be about?"  I asked of Grey.  Then we heard some groans.

"What shall we do?" said Grey.

"I'll tell you, sir, I'll go below and find out," exclaimed Ned
Bambrick.

It was the only way of solving the difficulty.  We put on the
companion-hatch, and lifted off the main hatch.  We were nearly knocked
down with the abominable odour which arose as we did so.
Notwithstanding this, Ned sprang down into the hold.  He groped about
for half a minute, when he sang out, "Send a whip down and get these
fellows on deck, or they'll be dead altogether."

We lowered the end of a rope, and ran up the men one after another, as
he made them fast to it.  They were in a very exhausted condition; but
the fresh air, though it was still very hot, and the water we poured
down their throats, soon revived them, and we had to lash their arms
behind them, as we had the others.  During this time Billy Wise
volunteered to go down and assist Ned.  We had hoisted up ten or a dozen
when they both declared that they could find no more, so we took all the
hatches off to ventilate the vessel, not forgetting to throw overboard
the corpse of the poor fellow whose head Billy's cutlass had cut off.
Billy wanted to keep the head as a trophy, but we did not approve of
that, and made him pitch it after the body.

"Well, now I hope you'll find each other," observed Billy, with perfect
gravity, as he did so.

It had certainly a very odd appearance to see our forty prisoners
arranged round the vessel, with the colonel at the mainmast and the man
we supposed to be the master at the foremast.  We had, however, to wait
on them, and to carry them water and food.  Grey and I agreed that,
though it was a very honourable thing to command a ship, we should be
very glad to be relieved of the honour.  Since we captured the vessel we
had not had a moment to take any food.  Hunger made us rather inclined
to despond.  We, however, found out what was the matter with us, and
sent Billy Wise down into the cabin to forage.  He soon returned with
some biscuit and white cheese, and dried plums and raisins, and a few
bottles of claret, but there was no honest cold beef or rum.

"It's no wonder we licked the Johnny Crapeaus when that's the stuff they
feeds on," observed Ned Bambrick, turning over the food with a look of
contempt.

However, he and the rest stowed away no small amount of the comestibles,
notwithstanding his contempt for them.  When, however, he came to the
liquid, tossing off the contents of a bottle, he made a woefully wry
face and exclaimed,--

"Billy, my boy, we must have a full cask of this on deck--a chap must
drink a bucket or two before he finds out he has taken anything.  It's
vinegar and water, to my mind."

Grey and I took a few glasses of the wine.  It did not taste so bad,
especially in that hot weather, but we fancied that there was but little
strength in it.  As the men required refreshment, we did not object to
their taking as much as they fancied.  Persuaded by Bambrick, Billy went
below, and soon sang out that he had found a cask of the same stuff as
that in the bottles.  A whip was sent below.  A cask was hoisted on
deck, and found to contain what was undoubtedly claret.  When the old
colonel saw it he shrieked out something about "monsieur le gouverneur."

"Well, Mounzeer Governor! here's to your health, then," said Bambrick,
draining off a mugful of the claret, which had been quickly tapped.
"This is better tipple than the other.  Here, old boy, you shall have a
glass, to see if we can't put a smile into that ugly mug of yours."

The old soldier seemed not at all to object to the wine which Ned poured
down his throat, and he smacked his lips as if he would like some more.
Fortunately Grey and I now tasted the claret, and though we were no
great judges of wine, we knew enough to ascertain that it was remarkably
fine and strong; and moreover we discovered, by the way Ned and Billy
and the rest began to talk, that they had had enough, if not too much of
it already.

"It was unwise of us to let them have any at all," observed Grey.  "How
we shall keep them from it I do not know; and if they get drunk, as they
certainly will if they have much more, the chances are the Frenchmen
will take the vessel from us."

"We must knock the head in," I answered.  "It is our only security.  I
know from experience, that if seamen can by any means get hold of
liquor, they will do so at all risks, and that they are in no way
particular what it is."

"It will be better to serve it out to the prisoners," said Grey.  "If we
appeal to these men's kind feelings they will do it, and if there is
more than enough we must leave the spile out."

Bambrick and Billy, and the other men, were perfectly ready to do as we
proposed.  When the old colonel saw what we were doing he again shrieked
out about the Governor, but this did not prevent the men from serving
out the wine.  It only made Bambrick turn round and say:

"All right, Mr Governor, you shall have some more, old boy."

He took care, at all events, that the old gentleman should have enough,
for he gave him the greater portion of the contents of a jug.

We waited till nearly all the men were served, and then Grey pulled out
the spile, and a good deal ran out.  He had to put it in before the men
returned for their last supply.  Still, for fear that too much might
remain, he kicked away the block of wood which kept it in its place, and
then rolling over the cask, it was emptied of its remaining contents.  I
must do our fellows the justice to say that they treated the prisoners
as they would like to have been treated themselves, and gave them as
much wine as they would drink.  The only difference was that they would
have drunk five times as much as the Frenchmen, and not have been the
worse for it.

They were rather inclined to grumble when they found that there was no
more.  I saw that it was time to exert my authority.

"You've done very well, lads," I exclaimed.  "But suppose you were all
to get drunk, what would the Frenchmen do with us, I should like to
know?  Shall I tell you?  They would manage to wriggle themselves free,
and heave us all overboard.  If we don't want to disgrace ourselves, let
us keep what we've got.  Not another drop of liquor does anyone have
aboard here till we fall in with the frigate."

My speech appeared to have some effect, and I took care to give all
hands ample employment, that they might not think of the liquor.  As it
was, by the springy way in which they moved about the deck, and the
harangues uttered by Ned Bambrick on every trivial occasion, I saw that
they had already had quite enough for our safety.  Night was now
approaching, but still the frigate was nowhere to be seen.  Grey went
aloft, and took an anxious look round.

"Not a sign of her," he said, as he returned on deck.

Darkness came on.  All hands were naturally feeling very sleepy, but
with so many prisoners to guard, even though their hands were lashed
behind them, it was necessary for us to keep awake.  However, Grey and I
agreed that--if we were rested and brisk we could do more than if we
were worn out--it would be best for us to take a little sleep at
intervals, and allow one or two of the men to sleep at the same time.
One man was at the helm, and two others kept walking up and down the
deck, with pistols in their hands and cutlasses ready for use.  Grey lay
down first.  He slept so soundly that I did not like to call him.  The
night was dark, but the prisoners were quiet, and there was but little
wind; even that little had died away.  I did not altogether like the
look of the weather.  The heat was very great, and though it was calm
then, I knew that it was not far off the hurricane season, and I thought
if we were to be caught in a hurricane how greatly our difficulties
would be increased, even if we were not lost altogether.  After a time
Grey started up of his own accord.  The instant I lay down on the after
part of the deck I was asleep.  It appeared to me that I had scarcely
closed my eyes, when I was aroused by shouts and cries.  I started up,
fully persuaded that the Frenchmen were loose and upon us.  The sounds
appeared to come from the hold.  As I ran to the main hatchway I heard a
noise of scuffling and struggling, and a voice shouting "Oh, Master
Merry, Master Grey, the ghosteses have got hold of me, the ghosteses
have got hold of me."  Looking into the hold, I saw, by the light of a
lanthorn, Billy Wise struggling with two Frenchmen, while, forward, Grey
and one of our men were, I discovered rather by my ears than by sight,
engaged with another of the prisoners, who had apparently worked himself
loose.  Ned Bambrick had started to his feet at the moment that I did.
Together we leaped down below.  We were not an instant too soon.  Billy
was almost overpowered, and as there were some cutlasses at hand, the
Frenchmen might have armed themselves and killed us while we were
asleep.  Bambrick knocked one over with a blow of his fist, and the
other was easily managed.  Where they had come from we could not tell.
They were none of those who had appeared on deck, and must have been
concealed very cleverly when we sent down to search below.  It was a
lesson to Grey and me ever after to go and look ourselves when a search
of importance was to be made.  While Bambrick and Billy held the men
down, I ran for some rope, with which we made them fast pretty tightly
to some stanchions between decks.  Grey and his companion had in the
meantime re-secured the prisoner who had managed nearly to release
himself, and we then made a more careful search than before through
every part of the vessel.  We had pretty well satisfied ourselves that
no one else was stowed away below, when a loud cry, and finding the
vessel suddenly heeling over, made us spring on deck.  A squall had
struck her.  I did not expect to see her recover herself.  Everything
was flying away; yards were cracking, the sails in shreds fluttering in
the gale; the masts were bending as if about to go over the side; blocks
were falling from aloft; ropes slashing and whipping furiously; the
water was rushing in through the lee scuppers half up the deck, and
nearly drowning the unfortunate Frenchmen sitting there, who were
shrieking out in dismay, believing that their last moments had come.
Ned Bambrick sprang aft and put up the helm: the after canvas was
chiefly off her; she had gathered way, and now answering her helm, she
flew before it.  Never had I been in such a scene of confusion,
increased by the roaring of the wind, the shrieks of the prisoners, the
rattling of the blocks and ropes, the cracking of spars, and the loud
slush of the water as it rushed about the deck.  What had become of Grey
I could not tell.  It was too dark now to distinguish anyone.  I called:
he did not answer.  A horrid feeling seized me.  He must have been
knocked overboard.  I called again in despair.  At that moment it would
have been a matter of indifference to me if the Frenchmen had risen and
taken the vessel from us.  A faint voice answered me.  It was that of
Toby Bluff.  "He was there, sir, but just now."

I had been standing on the weather side.  I slid down to leeward, for I
saw some one there.  I grasped hold of the person, and hauled him up.
It was Grey.  When the vessel was first struck, he had been knocked over
by the tiller, which he must have just taken, believing that there was
to be but a slight breeze.  He had been half stunned and half drowned.
He speedily, however, to my great joy, recovered.  I now mustered all
hands, most of whom had been sent sprawling in among the Frenchmen, who
kicked and bit at them, they declared, but which Grey and I did not
believe to be the fact.  We now set to work to get the ship to rights.
We squared yards as well as we could, furled the remnant of the canvas,
and set a close-reefed fore-topsail, under which the little vessel ran
on very comfortably.  Our chief concern was, that we were, as we
thought, running away from the frigate.  None of us felt disposed to go
to sleep again, so we kept a bright look-out, not knowing whether we
might not be hurrying directly on to a coral reef, or another island.
The wind, however, soon began to go down, and I was proposing to Grey to
haul up again, when Billy Wise, who was stationed forward, sang out--

"Starboard--starboard the helm--or we shall run down the frigate!"

Sure enough, in half a minute, we were gliding by close under her stern.
A voice from the deck hailed us.

"What schooner is that?"

"The ---, I don't know her name--prize to the second cutter of His
Majesty's frigate Doris," I answered.  "We've a heap of prisoners, and I
don't know what to do with them!"

"Heave-to, and we will send a boat on board," was shouted in return.

Day was just breaking, and the increasing light enabled us to manage
better than we could otherwise have done.  We had now less fear of our
enemies breaking loose, so all hands were able to assist in getting some
after sail on the vessel, and bringing her up to the wind.

"Now we shall catch it for all this," said Grey, as we saw the boat
pulling towards us from the frigate.

"I hope not," said I.  "At all events, we must make the best of it.
There's Mr Fitzgerald in the boat.  We'll get him to stand our friend."

"Well, boys, this is a nate piece of work you've been after doing now!"
remarked our handsome second lieutenant, as he surveyed the deck.  "You
don't mean to say that you captured all these heroes?"

"Every one of them, sir," said Grey, with perfect seriousness.  "I hope
the captain won't be angry."

"There's no saying.  However, we'll see," he answered with a smile.

We now made more sail, and ran in close under the lee of the frigate.

Perigal was sent on board the schooner to take charge of her, and the
prisoners were transferred to the deck of the frigate, where the captain
and most of the officers were assembled.  Mr Johnson met me.  He had
just time to say, "I congratulate you, Mr Merry.  You've done well.
You are worthy of my teaching!" when the prisoners were summoned aft.

We had given the old colonel his sword, that he might present it in due
form.  He marched aft at the head of his men, and presented it to
Captain Collyer with a profound bow.

The Captain then addressed him.  I was afterwards told what he said.  It
was--

"I am surprised, monsieur, that you, an experienced soldier, who have
seen much service, should allow yourself and your men to be captured by
a single boat's crew and two midshipmen."

"Ma foi!" exclaimed the colonel, with an inimitable shrug of his
shoulders, and an indescribable expression of countenance, indicative of
intense disgust.  "I am a brave man; I fear nothing--mais c'est ce
terrible mal de mer!"  (this terrible sea-sickness.)

I do not know what Captain Collyer said in return, but I fancy he did
not pay the colonel any compliments on his gallantry.  [I only hope that
Frenchmen, on other occasions, may have their valour cooled down to zero
by that terrible sea-sickness.] Grey and I were very agreeably surprised
when, instead of being reprimanded for what we had done, the captain
praised us very much for the daring way in which we had taken the
schooner.  Mr Fitzgerald had told him all the particulars beforehand.
Somebody, however, was to blame for having taken the arms in the boat.
All the men, however, declared that they knew nothing about it, but that
the getting them in had been entirely managed by Ned Dawlish, who, being
dead, could say nothing in his defence, and was therefore found guilty.
The truth was, that the captain was very well-pleased at what had been
done, and was ready to overlook the disobedience of orders of which the
men had been guilty.

Grey and I were in high feather.  We dined that day with the captain,
who complimented us on our exploit, and made us give him all the
particulars.  He told us that the carpenter, who had been sent on board
to survey the schooner, had reported favourably of her, and that he
proposed to employ her as a tender, while the frigate was refitting at
Port Royal.

As it was necessary to get rid of our prisoners, a course was steered at
once for Jamaica, so that we might land them there.  We found, after a
little time, that the French colonel was not a bad old fellow.  I really
believe that he was as brave as most men, and that he had spoken the
truth when he said that "le mal de mer had overcome him."  Probably most
of his men were in the same condition.  Grey and I did not forget our
resolution to try and learn French, and as one of the mates, Duncan
McAllister, could speak a little, we begged him to ask the old colonel
if he would teach us.  He replied that he would do so gladly, and would
teach any one else who wished to learn.  Indeed our proposal was
ultimately of great service to him, for when he got on shore, and was
admitted as a prisoner on his parole, he gained a very comfortable
livelihood by teaching French.  I afterwards heard that, when the war
was over, he declined going back to la belle France, and settled among
his friends the English.  It is just possible, that the way in which he
had allowed himself and his thirty men to be taken by us had something
to do with this decision.

The colonel's name was, I remember, Painchaud, which is translated
Hotbread,--a funny name, which I never met elsewhere.  We invited him
into the berth to give his lessons, but we had to clear away several
boxes and hampers to afford him space to stretch his legs under the
table.  As he sat on the narrow locker with his bald head touching the
deck above, his elbows resting on the table, and his long legs stretched
out to the other side of the berth, while we youngsters in every variety
of attitude grouped ourselves round him, he looked like some antiquated
Gulliver among a party of rather overgrown Lilliputians.  At first he
had a considerable number of pupils, but it was very evident that they
assembled more for the sake of trying if any fun could be found, than
with any serious intention of learning French.  We had forgotten when we
had made our proposal that books would be necessary to enable us to make
any progress in the language, but not a French work of any sort was to
be procured on board, still less a grammar.  At length the colonel
produced two from his valise.  They were, I have reason to believe, not
such as would have tended to our edification; but happily, in the then
state of our knowledge of the language in which they were written, they
were not likely to hurt our morals.  As we had no grammar, the colonel
made us understand that he wanted paper and pens and ink; and then he
wrote out words, and intimated to us that we were to repeat them after
him.  He would take the hand of one of his pupils and exclaim "_main_,"
and make each of us repeat it after him.  Then he would seize an ear and
cry out "_oreille_," and pretty hard he pinched too.  If any of us cried
out, it evidently afforded him infinite amusement.  We, of course, gave
him the name which he always afterwards kept, of Colonel Pinchard.  When
any of his pupils pronounced the word wrongly, it was highly amusing to
watch the wonderful way in which his shoulders went up and his head sank
down between them.  No English pair of shoulders could have behaved in
the same way; nor could certainly any English mouth have rolled out the
extraordinary expletives with which he was wont to give force to his
sentiments.  His great delight was, however, pulling Grey's and my ears,
which, we agreed, was in revenge for taking him prisoner.  One day he
wrote down _nez_, and asked me what it meant.  I replied by a loud neigh
like a horse.  The rest of the party took the joke and laughed, as I
intended they should; but he, not understanding the cause of this, and
thinking that they were laughing at him, seized my nose and gave it a
tweak, which made me fancy he was pulling it off.  In the impulse of the
moment I sprang on the table, and seizing his nasal promontory, hauled
away at it with hearty goodwill, and there we sat, he sending forth with
unsurpassable rapidity a torrent of "Sa-c-r-r-es," which almost
overwhelmed me; neither of us willing to be the first to let go.  At
last, from sheer exhaustion and pain, we both of us fell back.  I might
have boasted of the victory, for, though I felt acute pain, my nose did
not alter its shape, while the Frenchman's swelled up to twice its usual
proportions.  The contest, however, very nearly put an end to our French
lessons.  However, as our master was really a good-natured man, he was
soon pacified, and we set to work again as before.



CHAPTER TEN.

We made wonderful progress with our French, in spite of our want of
books.  Indeed, I have reason to believe that information attained under
difficulties, is not only acquired more rapidly, but most certainly more
completely mastered, than with the aid of all the modern appliances of
education, which, like steam-engines at full speed, haul us so fast
along the royal road to knowledge, that we have no time to take in half
the freight prepared for us.  We found, too, that the old colonel knew
considerably more about English than we had at first suspected, and at
last we ascertained that he had before been captured, and shut up in a
prison in England.  He did not seem to have any pleasing recollections
of that period of his existence.  One day, after we had annoyed him more
than usual with our pranks, and stirred up his bile, he gave vent to his
feelings--

"Ah, you betes Anglais," he exclaimed.  "You have no sympathe vid des
miserables.  Vous eat ros beef vous-memes, and vous starve vos
_prisonniers_."

He then went on gravely to assure us, that when the inspector of prisons
one day rode into the yard of the prison, and left his horse there while
he entered the building, the famished prisoners rushed out in a body and
surrounded the animal.  Simultaneously they made a rush at the poor
beast, and stabbed it with their knives.  In an instant it was skinned,
cut up, and carried off piecemeal.  When the inspecting officer came
back, he found only the stirrups and bit and hoofs.  The prisoners were
busily occupied cooking their dinners, and had already produced most
delicious fricassees, so that the English officer could not believe that
they were formed out of the animal on whose back he had galloped up to
the prison not an hour before.

"That's pretty well up to one of Mr Johnson's yarns," observed Grey to
me.  "I wish the old fellow could understand him; the boatswain would
take the shine out of him I suspect."

"Bah, dat is noting," said the colonel.  "I vill tell you many more
curieuse tings.  You talk much of de Anglish ladies.  Vel, des are
passablement bien; but des all get dronk ven des can.  Je sais bien vy
des go upstairs before de gentlehommes!--it is dat des may drink at dere
ease.  Ha, ha, dat is vot des do; you drink downstairs, des drink
upstairs."

"Come, come, Monsieur colonel," exclaimed Duncan McAllister, starting up
and striking his fist on the table.  "Ye may tell what crammers ye like
and welcome, but if ye dare to utter your falsehoods about the ladies of
Scotland and England, matrons or maids, prisoner though you be, I'll
make your two eyes see brighter lightning than has come out of them for
many a day; and if ye want satisfaction, ye shall have as much as ye can
get out of a stout ash stick.  Vous comprennez, don't ye?"

The colonel shrugged his shoulders, and wisely said nothing.  Though he
did not understand all McAllister's remarks, he saw that he had gone too
far, and that it would be wiser in future, whatever might have been his
belief, not to utter any remarks disparaging to the women of England
among a party of English sailors.

"I dinna think that colonel ever did a bolder thing than brave a litter
of young lions in their den," exclaimed McAllister, who, for some
especial reason, held France and Frenchmen in utter detestation and
abhorrence, though he knew more of their language than most of us.

We did not mind the poor old colonel's stories, for we remembered that
he was a prisoner suffering from sea-sickness, and that he had no other
way of venting his spleen.

At length we reached Port Royal, and our prize under charge of Perigal
arrived at the same time.  Colonel Pinchard begged so hard that he might
stay on board while the frigate remained in harbour, that in
consideration of the instruction he was affording the youngsters he was
allowed to do so.

"Ah, I do like de ship ven she stay tranquil," he exclaimed, spreading
out his hands horizontally, and making them slowly move round.  "But ven
she tumble bout, den," he put his hands on his stomach, exhibiting with
such extraordinary contortions of countenance the acuteness of his
sensations, that we all burst into hearty fits of laughter.

Indeed the colonel was a never failing source of amusement to us.  From
the wonderfully prolonged cackles in which he indulged, he also
evidently enjoyed the jokes himself.  The schooner, which required but
little refitting, was soon ready for sea.  It was understood that
Perigal was to have the command, and Grey and I hoped to be allowed to
accompany him.  The captain had not as yet let us know his intentions.
We should have been ready enough, probably, to have spent our time on
shore; but as we should have but little chance of that, we fancied that
we should prefer sailing in search of adventures on the ocean.  There
are few more beautiful spots on the earth's surface than Jamaica, with
its exquisite verdure, its lofty hills, known as the Blue Mountains, its
round-topped heights covered with groves of pimento, its vast savannahs
or plains, its romantic vales, its rivers, bays, and creeks, and its
dense and sombre forests, altogether forming one of the most lovely of
tropical pictures.

Entering the harbour, we had Port Royal on the starboard hand, at the
end of a long spit of land called the Palisades.  On the opposite side
of the narrow entrance was Rock Fort, just under a lofty hill, and as
the batteries of Fort Charles at Port Royal bristled with guns, while
those of Fort Augusta faced us with an equal number, we agreed that an
enemy would find it no easy task to enter the harbour.

The dockyard was at Port Royal, opposite which we brought up.  The
Palisades run parallel with the mainland, thus forming a vast lagoon,
not running inland, but along the coast as it were.  Towards the upper
end, the commercial town, called Kingston, with its commodious harbour,
is situated.  Some way inland, again, is Spanish Town, the capital,
where the residence of the Governor and the House of Assembly are to be
found.  It is a very hot place, and the yellow fever is more apt to pay
it a second visit than strangers who have once been there, if they can
help it.

The admiral on the Jamaica station lives on shore, at a house called the
Admiral's pen, on the Palisades, whence he commands a view of the
harbour, roadstead, and the ocean.  He is better off than the Governor,
because he does get the sea breeze, which is the best preventive to the
yellow fever.  It takes an hour or more pulling up from Port Royal to
Kingston, the distance being five or six miles or more.  Spellman once
induced me to ride round along the Palisades, but we agreed that we
would never do it again; for, as it was a calm day, and the rays of the
sun beat down on the white sands, we were very nearly roasted alive, and
how we escaped a sunstroke I do not know.  From what I have said, it
will be understood that Port Royal harbour is a very large sheet of
water, and what with the shipping, the towns and ports on its shores,
and the lofty mountains rising up in its neighbourhood, is a very
picturesque place.

We had not been there long, when yellow jack, as the yellow fever is
called, made its appearance, both at Kingston and Port Royal, and all
visits to the shore were prohibited.  Grey and I, therefore, had to make
ourselves as happy on board as we could, till we received our expected
orders to join the schooner.  We had not had a yarn for some time from
Mr Johnson.  One evening, when work was over, we found him walking the
forecastle, taking what he called his sunset food shaker, in a more than
usually thoughtful mood.  As Grey, Spellman, and I, with one or two
others, went up to him, he heaved a sigh, which sounded not altogether
unlike the roar of a young bull.

"What is the matter, Mr Johnson?"  I asked, approaching him.  "You seem
melancholy to-day."

"I have cause to be so, Mr Merry; I have indeed," he answered, in a
tone of deep pathos, again sighing.  "Whenever I look on the blue waters
of this harbour, and those whitewashed houses, and those lofty
mountains, I think of a strange and sad episode of my eventful history."

Of course we all exclaimed with one voice, "Do tell it to us, Mr
Johnson!"  To which I added, "If it would not break your heart, we
should so like to hear it."

"Break my heart, Mr Merry!" exclaimed the boatswain, striking his bosom
with his open palm, and making it sound like the big drum in a
regimental band.  I could not help fancying that there was a
considerable amount of humour lurking in the corner of his eye.

"Break my heart!  Jonathan Johnson's heart is formed of tougher stuff
than to break with any grief it may be doomed to bear.  You shall hear.
But it strikes me forcibly, young gentlemen, that it may be as well to
finish one part of my history before I begin another.  Who can tell
where I left off?"

"You were just going to be swallowed by the big sea-serpent, Mr
Johnson; ship, and crew, and all," said Grey.

"It would be more correct, Mr Grey, to say that you believed we were
going to be swallowed up; because you will understand that had we been
swallowed up, I should not, in all human probability, be here, or ever
have attained the rank of boatswain of His Britannic Majesty's frigate
Doris," said Mr Johnson, with a polite bend of the head.  "However, not
to keep you longer in suspense, I will continue my narrative:--

"The good ship Diddleus was bowling away under all sail, and the
sea-serpent, with mouth agape, following us.  It's my opinion, and
others agreed with me, that if he'd kept his mouth shut he would have
caught us; for the hot wind coming out of his throat filled our sails,
just as if it had been blowing a heavy gale of wind, and drove us ahead
of him; but he was too eager, do you see, and thought every moment he
was going to grab us.  We guessed that he had been aroused at finding
his back smart from the scratch we made in it.  We thus ran on till
daybreak, keeping ahead, but not dropping him as much as we could have
wished.  It was very awful, let me tell you, young gentlemen, to see his
big rolling eyes, to feel his hot breath, to smell a smell of sulphur,
and to hear his loud roaring.  It was painfully evident that he was in a
tremendous rage at the liberty we had taken with his back; and there was
no doubt that had he come up with us, he could have swallowed the ship
and crew, and his own fat into the bargain, with as much ease as he
swallowed the whale.  If it was a terrific sight to see him at night, it
was still worse in the daytime.  His immense jaws were wide open,
showing a dozen rows of teeth, while his large eyes projected on either
side; and I don't think I exaggerate when I say that the tip of his
upper jaw was fully sixty feet above the surface of the water.  As you
all well know, young gentlemen, I am not a man to be daunted; so I
loaded our stern-chasers, and kept blazing away at the monster, to make
him turn aside, but to no effect.  I trained the guns myself, and every
shot went into his mouth; but he just rolled his eyes round, and
swallowed them as if they were so many pills.  It was a fine sight,
though a terribly fearful one, I own, to see him coming along so
steadily and stately, with the water curling and foaming under his bows,
and flying high up into the air as he cut through it.  It was neck or
nothing with us; so we kept blazing away as fast as we could load.  I
confess that every moment I expected he would make a spring and grab us,
just as an ordinary fish does the bait held over him; but it was
necessary that I should set an example of coolness to my crew; and,
under the circumstances, I believe that mortal man could not have been
cooler.  I could not hide from myself the consequences, should he catch
us; and yet I scarcely dared to hope that we should escape.  We had
expended, at last, all our round-shot, and the greater part of our
powder, and we had to load with bags of nails and any langrage we could
find.  We had half emptied the carpenter's chest, and, except some
copper bolts, there seemed to be nothing else we could fire off, when,
by my calculations, I found that we were approaching the line.  Life is
sweet; and so, that we might keep off the fatal moment as long as
possible, we determined to fire away as long as we had a tin-tack or a
bradawl to put into our guns, when, on a sudden, he uttered a fierce
roar--it did make us jump--and down went his head right under the water,
and up went his tail like a huge pillar, when flop it came down again,
sending the sea flying over us and very nearly pooping the ship.  We
felt very uncomfortable, for we naturally expected to see him come up
alongside; but he didn't, and two minutes afterwards we made him out
close to the horizon, to the southward.  It was my opinion at the time--
and I have held it ever since--that either he did not like the mouthful
of big nails and bradawls he swallowed, or that he had some objection to
crossing the line from not knowing the navigation on the other side.  At
all events, we were clear of him.  We had a quick run to Liverpool,
where the oil sold at a very high price, and I got a monstrous amount of
credit from all who believed my wonderful narrative.  As is always the
case, some didn't, in spite of the oil I exhibited in proof of the
occurrence; but I treated the incredulous fellows with the scorn they
deserved, and from that day to this, I'll answer for it, no one has ever
caught sight of so much as the tail of the real sea-serpent."

"Vell, Mistre Johnson, dat is von very vondeful, vot you call it!"
exclaimed Colonel Pinchard, who had joined us.

"A big, thundering bouncer!" cried a voice from behind the boatswain's
back.  He turned sharply round, but did not discover the speaker.  He
shook his fist in that direction, however, with a comic expression in
his eye, saying--

"Bouncer or no bouncer, mister whoever you are, I beg that you'll
understand clearly, that I will allow no man, whoever he may be, to
labour under the misapprehension that I ever depart one tenth of a point
from the strict line of truth; and that reminds me that I promised you,
Mr Merry, and you, Mr Grey, to narrate an event which occurred during
the next voyage I made.  I wasn't long in finding a ship, for the
certificates with which the owners of the Diddleus had furnished me were
highly satisfactory; in fact, merit like mine couldn't, in those days,
languish in obscurity; though, by the bye, I ought not exactly to sing
my own praises; but when a man has a due consciousness of his own
superior talents, the feeling will ooze out now and then, do all he can
to conceal it.  Things are altered now: merit's claims are no longer
allowed, or I should be living on shore now."  Mr Johnson pointed
significantly at the Admiral's pen.

"Ah! oui!  I vonce read of von great man, Sinbad de Sailor, and von oder
man, Captain Lemuel Gulliver.  You vary like dem gentlemen," observed
Colonel Pinchard, with the politest of bows, to the boatswain.

"Sinbad! and Gulliver!" shouted the boatswain indignantly.  "If there
are two fellows whose names I hate more than others, they are those.
Take them all in all, I consider them, without exception, the biggest
liars who have ever lived; and if there is a character I detest more
than another, it is that of a man who departs in the slightest degree
from the truth; no one can longer have confidence in what he says: and,
for my own part, I'd rather lose my right hand, and my head into the
bargain, than have the shadow of a reason for supposing that the words I
was uttering would run the remotest chance of not being implicitly
believed."

The boatswain's eye kept rolling round on his auditory with a
self-satisfied glance, and a twinkle withal, as much as to say, "You I
care about understand me perfectly, and if there are any geese who
don't, they are welcome to swallow all they can digest."

"Ah!  I had just found a fresh ship.  She was the Lady Stiggins, a fine
brig, well armed, and bound round Cape Horn.  We had a somewhat roving
commission, and were first to touch out here at Jamaica, and one or two
others of these gems of the tropics--these islands, full of sugar-candy
and blackamoors.

"I was not at first a favourite with the crew, for not having had an
opportunity of testing my qualifications, but having heard some of my
veracious narratives, they were inclined to look upon me as an empty
braggadocio, a character they very naturally despised; but I soon gave
them reason to alter their opinion, when I was quickly raised to that
position in their estimation which I ever after enjoyed.

"We were about a day's sail from this same harbour of Port Royal, and
were expecting to make the land next morning, when it fell calm.  It was
the hottest time of the year.  The sun sent his rays down on our heads
as if he were a furnace a few yards off, making the pitch in the seams
of our decks bubble and squeak, like bacon in a frying-pan; and I
remember that a basket of eggs in the cabin were hatched in a few
minutes, and looking up from a book I was reading, I saw a whole brood
of chickens and ducks squattering about the deck, not knowing where
they'd come from, or what to do with themselves.  The chickens, however,
soon went to roost in a corner, for it was too hot to keep awake, and
the ducks waddled up on deck, and were making the best of their way over
the vessel's side into the element in which they delight, when we turned
them into a water-butt, which contented them mightily.

"But this was not the story I was going to tell you.  Everyone on board
felt like the ducks and chickens, overcome by the heat; so that at last,
not considering the risk they ran, many of the men stripped off their
clothes and jumped overboard.

"I, however, kept mine on, and so did several others.  The fact was,
that we had only, in that hot weather, to give ourselves a shake, and to
turn once round in the sun, and we were dry through and through.

"We had frolicking and swimming about for some time, enjoying the
comparatively cool water, though, for the matter of that, it was pretty
well hot enough to boil a lobster, when suddenly our ears were assailed
with a terrific cry of `A shark! a shark!'

"The outside man was a fine young fellow, Tom Harding by name.  The poor
fellow saw his danger, for the shark was making directly for him.  I
sang out to him not to be afraid, but to swim as fast as he could
towards the ship, and he didn't require to be told twice.  Meantime I
was making a circle round, so as to approach the beast in the rear; for,
as you all know, I am a first-rate swimmer, and I never heard of the man
who could keep up with me.  Why, I once swam from Dover to Calais, and
back again, for a wager, and danced a hornpipe on the top of
Shakespeare's cliff, to the astonishment of all who saw me--but that's
neither here nor there."

"Vel, I vonder de shark did not eat you," observed the colonel, with a
grin.

"Eat me, mounseer!  I should like to see the shark who would venture to
attempt it, unless he found me snoozing on the top of a wave," exclaimed
the boatswain, in a tone of pretended indignation.  "If it hadn't been
for me, however, he would have bolted Tom Harding, and no mistake.
Well, Tom was swimming for dear life, and all the rest of the crew were
scrambling up the side of the vessel, thinking that it was all over with
both of us, when I saw the monster turn on his back, his white belly
shining in the sun, as he made a grab at Tom's leg.  It was now time for
me to interfere; so, striking out with all my might, I seized the shark
by the tail, and slewing him round, just as he expected to make a
mouthful of Tom, he missed his aim, and his jaws met with a crack which
sounded like the report of a hundred muskets.  Tom gave a shriek, for he
thought--as well he might--that his last hour had come; but, still more
from instinct than from any hope of escape, he swam on, and was very
much surprised to find himself alongside the ship.  In fact, when he was
hauled on deck, it was some time, I was told, before he could be
persuaded that he hadn't lost both his legs, so firmly convinced was he
that the shark had got hold of them.

"I meantime kept a taut hold of the fish, who was whisking about his
tail, and snapping his jaws in his disappointment; and hard work I had,
you may depend on't.  As he went one way I pulled the other, and acting
like a rudder, brought him round again, till I worked him nearer and
nearer to the ship.  At last I got him alongside, and singing out for a
rope, which was quickly hove to me, I passed it dexterously over his
tail, and told the men on deck to haul it taut.  He was thus partly
secured, but the difficulty was to make his head fast, for I had no
fancy to get within the power of his jaws.  I should observe that he was
the largest shark I ever saw.  I was almost despairing of securing him,
when one of the men, Bill Jones, I remember, was his name, made fast a
big hook with a lump of pork to the topgallant halyards, and hove it
before him.  The shark grabbed it in a moment, and we had him fast.
Those on deck had just before been endeavouring to pass a rope under his
head, and this now slipped up and caught in his jaws.  No sooner did he
feel the iron in his mouth, than, darting forward, away he went ahead of
the vessel.  As I sprang on deck the idea struck me that I would make
him of use.  There was no great difficulty, for, passing another line
over his jaws, we had a regular pair of reins on him.  One end of the
line was brought in on the starboard and the other on the larboard bow
port, while the hook in the nose served to bring him sharp up, when he
ran too fast.  No sooner were these arrangements made than away he went
at a rapid pace ahead, towing us at the rate of at least six knots an
hour--I like always to be under the mark, for fear of being thought
guilty of exaggeration.  By hauling in, now on one side, now on the
other, we managed to steer him very well on our proper course.

"The calm continued, but on we glided through the water, to the
inexpressible astonishment of the crews of several craft we passed, who,
of course, thought the Lady Stiggins must be the Flying Dutchman.  As we
entered the harbour, the surprise of people on shore was equally great;
and no sooner did we drop our anchor than the brig was surrounded by
boats full of people, eager to hear an explanation of the phenomenon.
They could scarcely credit our assertions when we told them how we had
got along, till we showed them the monster frisking about under the bows
almost as tame and docile as a dog.

"I had always a wonderful knack of managing pets of all sorts, and by
kindly treating Jack Shark he became very fond of me, and whenever I
went on shore, he would swim after the boat, and remain frolicking about
near her till my return.  At last I thought I would make him of use; so,
rigging a pair of short reins, I slipped them over his jaws, and then
jumped on his back.  He understood in a moment what was expected of him,
and away he went with me at a rapid rate through the water.  After that,
lighting my pipe quite comfortably, I invariably went on shore on his
back, and throwing my reins over a post, I used to leave him till my
return.  You may depend on it, none of the little blackamoors ever
played tricks with him.

"There are many of the principal merchants and others at Kingston even
now who would, young gentlemen, if you were to ask them, vouch for the
truth of the circumstance.  Just ask them, and hear what they'll say.
The curious part of it was, that though so tame with me, he would attack
anybody else, and not a seaman from any of the ships dared to attempt
swimming on shore as they had frequently before done.  In fact he did
swallow one or two; and I believe that he was voted a perfect nuisance,
so that everyone was glad when we and our pet left the harbour to
prosecute our voyage.  Of course he followed us; and I used every
morning to heave him a piece of pork for his breakfast, a few casks of
which I bought cheap of a Jew on purpose.  It was measly, but he didn't
mind that.  And now I'm coming to the melancholy part of the history
connected with my pet shark.  But I have talked a good deal, and in this
warm weather it's an exertion even to use one's jaws; so, young
gentlemen, you must excuse me from continuing my veracious narrative for
the present."

"Oh, do go on, Mr Johnson--do go on," we all exclaimed; but the
boatswain was inexorable, and, as it happened, it was some time before
we heard the sequel to his history of the shark.

The next day, Grey, and I, and Spellman were ordered to join the
schooner with twenty hands.  Perigal still kept command, and at the last
moment McAllister came on board to act as his first-lieutenant, with the
assistant-surgeon Macquoid, and a clerk, Bobus, as purser.  Of course
the schooner did not require so many officers and men to navigate her,
but we hoped to take many prizes, and hands of course would be wanted to
bring them home.  We invited the old colonel to accompany us.  With a
most amusing grimace, and an inimitable shake of the head and shrugs of
the shoulders, he answered,--"Ah, mes jeunes gentlemens, I do love vous
va-a mosh; but de mer--de terrible mer.  I do vish de verld ver von big
earth and no vater."  So we had to leave the colonel and our French
lessons behind; but we assured him that we would study hard during our
absence.  Good as were our intentions, it was not very likely that we
could adhere to them, and, by the expression of his countenance, the
colonel showed that he was strongly of that opinion.

We sailed at daybreak, and had the land breeze to take us out of the
harbour.  Our course was to the southward, towards the well-known
Spanish Main.  Our schooner was the Espoir.  She sailed well, and
carried two eighteen-pounders and six long eights, so that we had every
reason to hope that we should pick up some prizes, if we did not get
taken ourselves.  That last contingency did not occur to us.  Though it
was hot, and we were rather crowded in the cabin, we had a very pleasant
time on board.  We naturally messed together, and had secured all the
good things from the shore, in the shape of fruits and vegetables, and
poultry and liquor, which we could collect.  It is very well for poets
and authors to make their heroes contented with hard fare.  I can only
say that midshipmen are not, if they know that better is to be got; and
I have observed, whenever I have been in the society of poets and other
authors, that, practically, they have enjoyed a good dinner as much as
any class of people could do, and been very much inclined to grumble if
they did not get it, too.  We were out some days without sighting a
single sail, but we were not the less merry, living upon hope, and the
good fare our caterer, Macquoid, had collected.  At length a sail was
seen, and chase made.  It was some time before we could make out whether
the stranger was a man-of-war or merchantman, a friend or foe.  She was
a brig we soon discovered, and when we saw her up helm and run off
before the wind, we had no doubt as to her pacific character.  Still she
might be English, and, if so, we should have had our chase for nothing.
She was a slow sailer, for we came up with her rapidly.  We had showed
no colours, and had got her within range of our long guns, when up went
the French ensign.  A cheer burst from our throats.  It would have been
more hearty if we had thought she had been armed.  We showed our colours
in return.  On we stood, firing a shot wide of her as a signal for her
to heave-to.  She obeyed, and we heaving-to near her, McAllister, with
Spellman and a boat's crew, was sent to take possession.  The boat was
sent back with several of the French crew.  The prize was not a rich
one, but she was too valuable to be destroyed, so Perigal directed
Spellman to take her to Jamaica, allowing him four hands.  Miss Susan
did not at all like having his cruise cut so short, but we congratulated
him on the honour of having a separate command, being ourselves very
well contented to continue on board the Espoir.  For two days more we
stood south, when, at daybreak, another sail was descried from the
mast-head.  She was a schooner, and from the squareness of her yards,
her taut masts, and her white canvas, we suspected that, should she be
an enemy, she would prove a very different sort of customer to the
slow-sailing brig we had just before captured.  That she was not afraid
of us was very evident, for, throwing her head sails aback, she awaited
our coming.  In a short time we made out the French ensign flying at her
peak, and we concluded that she was a privateer, probably with a large
crew, and well armed.  Perigal, on this, called all hands aft.  "Now, my
lads," said he, "that craft is an enemy; very likely twice as many men
dance on her decks as on ours; but they are Frenchmen, and I want to
show that we are English, every one, to the backbone, and see how
quickly we can take her.  I have nothing more to say, except to tell you
not to throw your shot away, and, if it comes to boarding, when you
strike, strike home."  Three hearty cheers was the response to this
address.  The old mate was not much given to oratory, but, when he
spoke, he never failed to speak to the purpose.  Arms were served out,
and pistols were stuck in belts, and cutlasses buckled on; muskets were
loaded, and arranged in readiness for use; powder and round-shot were
brought on deck, and the men, stripped to the waist, with handkerchiefs
bound round their heads, stood ready for action.  They looked as grim
and determined a set as a commanding officer would wish to see; but
still, jokes were bandied about, one from the other, and it did not seem
to occur to any of them that, before another hour of time had slipped
by, in all probability several might be numbered with the dead.  Ned
Bambrick was at the helm, with his eye cast ever and anon at the canvas,
and then at the Frenchman, as we glided on rapidly towards him, just as
cool and unconcerned as if he was standing up to speak to a friend.  We
had the weather-gauge, and Perigal resolved to keep it.  Supposing the
enemy superior to us in strength, it would give us an important and
necessary advantage.  To a sailor's eye it was a pretty sight to see the
two schooners approaching.  The Espoir was a handsome craft, and so was
her antagonist.  We did not at first show our colours.  No sooner,
however, did we hoist them than the Frenchman filled his sails and
tacked, in the hope of weathering on us, firing at the same time a gun
of defiance.  We suspected that he had not till then known exactly what
to make of us, and possibly had taken us for a friend.  However, the
Frenchmen were now in for it, and, like brave men, were resolved to
fight it out.  We were now near enough for our long eights to tell, and
the very first shot, flying high, knocked away the jaws of the enemy's
main gaff, wounding at the same time the head of the mainmast.  At
seeing this, a hearty cheer rose from all on board.  It was a prognostic
of success.

"If we'd tried to do that same we could not have succeeded," observed
McAllister.  "I say, Perigal, you must let me take that craft to
Jamaica."

"With all my heart, my boy, when she's ours; but it's ill-luck to give
away what doesn't belong to us," answered our skipper.

"Never mind; but she will be before many minutes are over," persisted
McAllister.  "Now, lads, just follow suit to that shot, and we'll do for
the mounseers in a very short time."

By this fortunate shot we had the enemy almost in our power.  She ran
off before the wind, and we soon came up with her, and hung on her
quarter, so that she could rarely bring more than one gun at a time to
bear on us.  She had fired several shots without effect, but at last, to
make amends, one came flying diagonally across our deck, taking off the
head of one of our men, and knocking over a second, who survived but a
few moments.  A few more such fatal shots would sadly have thinned our
numbers.  The enemy had a good number of men on deck, but not so many as
we expected.  Some were sent aloft to try and repair the damage to the
gaff, and this, as we had got within musket range, we did our best to
prevent by keeping up a fire of small-arms at them.  I had seized a
musket, and with others was blazing away, not very effectually, for the
men continued their work, and no one appeared to be hurt, when, just as
I had fired, I saw a man drop stone dead upon the deck.  It was my shot
had done the deed.  A sickening sensation came over me.  I felt as if I
had committed a murder.  It would have been different had I hit one of
the men at the guns, but the poor fellow was performing, so it seemed,
but an ordinary piece of a seaman's duty; my blood was cool, I did not
feel that he was an enemy.  Perhaps the idea was foolish; it did not
last long.  The rest of the men aloft were soon driven on deck, and
shooting ahead, we ranged up alongside, and poured in the whole of our
broadside.  The enemy returned our fire, but our men worked their guns
almost twice as quickly as the Frenchmen did, aiming much better, and
the effect was soon apparent in their shattered bulwarks, decks strewed
with slain, and torn sails.

"Blaze away, lads," shouted McAllister, as he went from gun to gun,
pointing one, lending a hand to run out another, or to load a third.

Still the gallant Frenchmen fought on.  They were very unlike old
Pinchard and his men; but there was this difference, they were sailors,
whereas the others were soldiers, and it was the _mal de mer_ in that
instance deserved the credit of the victory more than we did.  This
close firing soon got our blood up, and I now felt anxious to run the
enemy aboard, that we might be at them with our cutlasses.  I have not
often found Frenchmen foolhardy: they know when they are beaten.
Englishmen don't, and so sometimes stumble against all rule into
victory.  Just as Perigal had ordered Bambrick to put the helm to
starboard, to run the enemy aboard, the French captain hauled down his
flag, and, coming to the gangway, made us a profound bow, as an
additional sign that he had struck.  We immediately ceased firing, and
as our boats had escaped damage, one was lowered, and McAllister and I
went on board to take possession.  We had certainly contrived in a short
hour considerably to spoil the beauty of the French schooner, and
dreadfully to diminish the number of her crew.  Her brave captain and
most of his officers were wounded, and six men were killed and ten
wounded.  Her captain received us on the quarter-deck, where he stood
ready to deliver his sword with the greatest politeness, as if it was
really a pleasant act he was performing, and assured us that it was the
fortune de la guerre, and that he had learnt to yield to fortune without
a murmur.

"He really is one of the pleasantest Frenchmen I have ever met,"
observed McAllister.  "We must treat him with all consideration."

Curiously enough, this remark of my messmate kept continually running in
my head, and I could not help repeating it.  We had plenty to do to bury
the dead, wash the decks, repair the masts, and spars, and bulwarks, and
to splice the rigging, and bend fresh sails.  McAllister was directed to
go as prize-master, and I with Bambrick, Foley and four other hands
accompanied him; some of the French crew were removed on board the
Espoir, but the captain, two officers, and eight men remained with us as
prisoners.

Perigal had, in fact, already, more prisoners than his own crew now
mustered.  Our new prize was the Audacieuse, a larger vessel and better
armed than the Espoir.  By nightfall we had made great progress in
getting the prize to rights, and as our own vessel had suffered but
little, we were able to bestow all our strength upon her.  Both Perigal
and McAllister were very anxious to continue the cruise together.  The
objection to this was the number of our prisoners.  Still, as McAllister
argued, the commander of the prize, Lieutenant Preville was a very quiet
sort of fellow, and the men left on board were orderly and well-behaved,
so that he should have no difficulty in keeping them under.

"But, remember, McAllister, that crews have sometimes risen against
their captors, and retaken their vessels.  It will be necessary to be
very careful," observed Perigal.

"Oh, never fear, my old fellow; I should think that we seven Englishmen
could keep a dozen or more Frenchmen in order," answered McAllister,
with a somewhat scornful laugh.  "If we go into action, we will clap
them under hatches, and they will be quiet enough, depend on that."

At length Perigal yielded, and the Audacieuse's mast-head having been
fished, and all other damages made good, we continued our cruise
together.  Lieutenant Preville was a gentleman, and really a very
pleasant fellow; and, to show our appreciation of his good qualities, we
invited him to live in his own cabin and to partake of the delicacies
which he had laid in for his own especial use, which was generous on our
part; and which conduct he did not fail to acknowledge by doing ample
justice to the viands.  He frequently, too, would tuck up his sleeves,
and, going into the galley, would cook dishes, which I doubt that any
Parisian chef could have surpassed.

"Ah, ma foi," he observed in French, when we complimented him on his
success, "in my opinion a man has no right to claim the character of a
civilised being, much less of a chef, unless he can produce a complete
dinner from an old tom-cat and a bundle of nettle-tops.  He should
depend on the fire and the sources managed by his own skill.  The rest
of the materials are nothing.  The fire brings everything to the same
condition."  Certainly Lieutenant Preville managed to give us an
infinite variety of dishes, to all appearance, the foundation of which,
to the best of my belief, was salt pork, and beef of a very tough and
dry nature.  Of course, such a man would soon win his way into the good
graces of far more stoical beings than English midshipmen are apt to be
at present, or were in those good old days.



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

"Well, Marmaduke, my boy, we are having a jolly cruise of it," observed
McAllister one afternoon, as we walked the deck together, having just
partaken of an especially good dinner, dressed by our most polite and
obsequious prisoner, Lieutenant Preville.  "If we could but fall in with
two or three more fat prizes we should be able to set up as independent
gentlemen when we get back home again, and I should be able to regain
the lands of the McAllisters from the southern churl who has dared to
take possession of them."

"They are not very extensive, then, I conclude," I observed.  "A
midshipman's share of prize-money, even for the richest galleon of old
Spain, would not go far to purchase much of an estate."

"Extensive! my boy; I wish you could just come north and have a look at
them," exclaimed McAllister.  "You can't see from one end to the other,
and there is the finest of fine old towers, which would be perfectly
habitable, if it were not for the want of windows, and floors, and
doors, and other woodwork; and as to the lands, to be sure there is a
somewhat considerable preponderance of bog and moor, but oats and
potatoes grow finely on the hillsides.  Ah, my boy, I know well enough
what's what--the value of rich pastures and corn-fields--but there's
nothing like the home of one's ancestors--the heathery hills of old
Scotland--for all that."

My shipmate spoke with deep feeling, though he had begun in a
half-joking vein.  Our prisoner joined us, and put a stop to the
conversation.  He offered to go down for his guitar, and, returning with
it on deck, he touched the strings, and sang a light French song with
much taste and with a fair voice.  We complimented him on his
performance.

"Ah, you like singing; I will sing to you night and day, ma foi," he
observed.  "It is a satisfaction to a man of sentiment to give pleasure
to his friends, and I look upon you as my friends in spite of our
relative positions.  They arise from the circumstances of war.  We are
friends--true friends--why should we be otherwise?"  Then he resumed his
guitar and sang again as gaily as before.

We and our consort kept close together, and as the sailing powers of the
two vessels were pretty equal, there was little danger of our being
separated.  Two days after this it fell a dead calm.  There we lay, not
quite steady, but rolling gently from side to side, moved by the
scarcely perceptible and glassy undulations which rose under our keels.
The sails went flap-flap against the masts in the most senseless manner,
till McAllister ordered them to be furled to prevent the wear and tear
they were undergoing.  As to the heat, I had never before felt anything
like it in the tropics.  We could have baked a leg of mutton almost,
much more fried a beefsteak, on the capstan-head, while below a dish of
apples might easily have been stewed.  I remembered Mr Johnson's
account of the heat in the West Indies, and began to fear that he had
not exaggerated it.  It went on growing hotter and hotter, or we felt
the heat more and more.  The smoke from the chimney of the galley went
right up in a thin column, and hung in wreaths over our heads, while
that from our cigars, being of a lighter character, ascended above our
noses, and finally disappeared in the blue, quivering air.  The Espoir
lay within hail of a speaking-trumpet, and as we had nothing else to do,
we carried on an animated conversation with each other, not very
dignified, but highly amusing to all concerned.  We had better have held
our tongues, I suspect.  Any departure from discipline is bad.  The
Frenchmen who were on deck soon began to imitate our example, and, as
they mostly spoke in a patois or jargon which we, of course, could not
understand, we did not know what they were saying.  I thought I saw a
peculiar expression on the faces of some of them, especially when now
and then they glanced round and looked at our men.  At last, I told
McAllister that I fancied the Frenchmen were plotting treason, and that
it would be wise to make them hold their tongues.  He laughed at the
notion, and asked if I supposed a set of frog-eating, grinning Frenchmen
would dare to lift a finger against such a crew of bull-dog Englishmen
as were our men.

"I cannot say they wouldn't," I answered; "they fought pretty toughly
before they gave in."

"Very true, but they had a chance of victory then.  Now the chances
would be all against them, and they might expect to be pitched overboard
if they failed," he replied, turning away as if he did not like the
suggestion.  He, however, soon after hailed Perigal, to say that he
thought we had had enough of that, and then, turning to the French
prisoners, told them to hold their tongues.  After a time a mist seemed
to be rising over the water, but the heat in no way decreased.

"There is something coming," I observed to McAllister.  "What do you
think?"

"Christmas, or perhaps a breeze," he answered, jokingly; "both to all
appearances equally far off.  I see one thing, though, which would make
me rather unwilling to jump overboard."  He pointed to a black
triangular object, below which was a long shadowy form that was moving
slowly round the ship.  "What's that?"

"The boatswain's pet shark, I suppose," said I, laughing.  "I should
almost expect to see the Doris coming up with a breeze from the
nor'ard."

"Just jump on his back, Merry, and see if he doesn't carry you off up to
the frigate.  It would astonish them not a little to see you coming,"
said McAllister.

"Thank you, I leave such wonderful performances to wonderful people like
Mr Johnson," said I.

Just then the monster, turning up the white of his undersides, made a
dart at a black bottle and a wisp of hay which had been thrown overboard
in the morning.  Down they went into his capacious maw.

"Unpleasant sort of pill.  I wonder if the glass will cut him," observed
McAllister.

I shuddered, for I could not help thinking what would have been the fate
of any human being who might have happened to be overboard.  The seamen
had found out their enemy, and were talking about him, and watching his
proceedings with suspicious glances.  They have an idea that when a
shark follows a vessel some one is about to die on board, and that he is
waiting for the corpse.  Sharks have been known to follow vessels for
days together, but undoubtedly it is simply that they may feed on the
offal thrown overboard.  Of course if any seaman happens to die during
the time, unless he is lashed up in a hammock with a shot at his feet,
they are likely to be the gainers.  I have, however, very often seen
them following a ship when nobody has died.  One example in support of a
superstitious idea does more to confirm it in the minds of the ignorant
than a hundred examples on the opposite side do to weaken the belief in
it.

Not long after this, Perigal hailed McAllister, and, pointing round to
the sky, told him that he did not like the look of things.  He then
signed to us to strike our topmasts, and make everything snug aloft.  At
the same moment the crew of the Espoir were seen swarming aloft to
shorten sail.  We had our sails lowered.  Hands were now sent aloft to
furl them carefully, and to strike upper yards and topmasts.  While the
hands were thus engaged, as I was standing by the compass to ascertain
the direction of the schooner's head, I saw Perigal point to the
westward, and make a sign to the men aloft to hurry with their work.  I
did the same, though we, having less to do, were ahead in our
proceedings of our consort.  I saw enough to convince me that there was
no time to be lost.  The blackest of black clouds had gathered with a
rapidity scarcely credible, and were rushing on towards us with headlong
speed.  It was not as is often the case when a storm is brewing; a few
light clouds come first like the skirmishers in advance of an army; but
the whole body came on in one dense mass, the sea below it foaming, and
hissing, and curling with a noise which we could hear even before the
wind reached us.  A hurricane was coming, and one of no ordinary
violence.

"Lie down! lie down, off the yards, all of you," shouted McAllister.
The men required no second command.  A glance at the quickly changing
sky and water told them what was approaching.  They slid down the
rigging, and in silence awaited the bursting of the tornado.  The
Frenchmen who were on the deck looked pale and anxious, as if they
dreaded the consequences of the hurricane.  Bambrick and another good
hand went to the helm.  A part of the fore-staysail was hoisted, just to
pay the vessel's head off.  We were not kept long in suspense.  With a
loud hiss and roar like thunder the hurricane struck us.  The schooner
heeled over to the gale; I thought she was going over altogether.  Many
fancied so likewise, and cries of terror escaped from several of the
Frenchmen.  Lieutenant Preville uttered an expression of annoyance at
the pusillanimity of his countrymen.

"They are brave garcons, though," he exclaimed, "and fight like heroes
with mortal foes of flesh and blood; but they are not like you bull-dog
English, who fear neither mortals nor spirits, and would do battle with
the prince of darkness himself, if you met him in the open seas on board
any craft he might be able to charter."

What more the lieutenant might have said I do not know, for the howling
of the tempest drowned his voice.  The foaming seas began to rush up the
schooner's deck, and dense masses of spray flew over her.  I thought,
indeed, that she was gone; but, recovering from the effects of the first
blast, she rose a little when her staysail felt the force of the wind.
Round went her head: another blast stronger than the first blew the
canvas from the bolt-ropes, but the desired effect had been produced,
and away she flew under bare poles through the ocean of seething foam;
the wind howling and shrieking, and the waters hissing and roaring as we
passed over them.

Till that moment, all my attention having been concentrated on our own
craft, I had not thought of our consort.  I now looked out for her.  She
was not to be found in the direction where I expected to see her.  I
cast my eyes round anxiously on every side.  The atmosphere was now so
dense with spray torn up from the surface of the ocean that the extent
of our horizon was much limited.  Yet I fancied that we must still be
close to our consort.  In vain I looked round.  I called out to
McAllister and told him my fears.  Certain it was that the Espoir was
nowhere to be seen.  I felt very sad.  I could not help dreading that
the Espoir had been struck as we were, and being less prepared, had
capsized and gone over.  I thought what had become of poor Grey, my
constant firm friend, and honest Perigal, and I pictured to myself how
his young wife would mourn his loss, and whether, if I ever got home, I
should have to go and tell her how it had happened.  I remembered that
huge monster of a shark, which had been swimming round the vessels, and
I bethought me that he had come for them if not for us.  I was not
singular, for when the Espoir was missed by others, as was soon the case
when they began to lose fear for themselves, I heard Bambrick observe to
his companion at the helm, "I thought so; I know'd that brute hadn't
come for nothing; they always knows better nor we or the port-admiral
himself what's in the wind.  He was as sartain sure as cheese is cheese
that this here Harry-cane was a coming, long before we'd even a notion
that it was a brewing."

The other seaman shook his head with a grave look, as he answered, "I
wonder how many of them poor fellows he's got down his hungry maw by
this time!"

Such was the style of conversation among our men.  What the Frenchmen
were saying I do not know.  They very soon recovered their spirits and
courage, and began laughing and chattering, and dancing about the deck
in higher spirits than ever.  Perhaps they did not always intend to
move, but the now fast rising seas gave the lively little vessel sudden
and unexpected jerks, which sent them jumping forward or aft, or from
side to side, whenever they happened not to be holding on to anything.
Still I did not feel that we were altogether free from danger.  The
hurricane blew fiercer and fiercer, the sea also got up rapidly, and
threw the vessel about in a way which made it very difficult to steer
before it.  Fortunately our topmasts were housed, or they would have
been jerked overboard.  I asked McAllister what he proposed doing.

"Doing!  Why, of course, scud on till the hurricane has blown itself
out," he answered.

"But doesn't the wind sometimes shift in a hurricane, and blow more
furiously from another quarter?"  I asked.

"Of course it does, and perhaps it will, and we shall be blown back
again as far as we have come," he said, taking a look at the compass.

"But suppose it was to blow us back farther than we have come," I
observed.

"Merry, just go and bring the chart to the companion stair," was his
answer.  "It will be blown away if we have it on deck, and I cannot go
below just now."

I brought the chart, at which he took a rapid glance.  Eastward, as we
were now driving, we had plenty of sea-room, and in a wholesome craft
like ours, there was nothing to fear; but westward there was the coast
of Central America, fringed by rocks and sandbanks, on which many a
noble ship has been stranded since Columbus discovered the western
world.

"It is to be hoped that the wind will not shift," he answered.  "It does
not always.  Don't let us anticipate evil."

Lieutenant Preville inquired what we were talking about.  We told him.
He shrugged his shoulders.  "Patience; the fortune of war; we seamen
must always be subject to such reverses," he remarked.

"The Frenchman takes things easily," observed McAllister.  "I wish that
I could do so."

I had never before pictured to myself what a West India hurricane really
was.  At times I thought that the schooner would be blown fairly out of
the water.  How her masts remained in her was a puzzle, from the way she
jerked and rolled, and plunged madly onward, struggling away from the
seas which seemed every moment as if they would catch and overwhelm her.
Even though thus flying before the gale, we felt as if we should be
blown down, had we not kept a good grip of the bulwarks, and those
forward had hard work to make their way aft.  Suddenly there was a lull.
The effect was curious; I can liken it to nothing but when, by shutting
a thick door, some loud hubbub of angry voices is no longer heard.  The
schooner tumbled about just as much as before, or even more, but,
instead of being driven onward, she was thrown madly from wave to wave,
backwards and forwards; it seemed as if they were playing a game of ball
with her.  McAllister ordered me to hurry forward and to get some head
sail on the schooner.  Some of the lower parts of the fore-staysail
remained.  There was no time to bend a new one.  There had been a little
wind before; it now fell a dead calm; the smoke of a cigar would have
ascended as it had done a few hours before.  It proved but treacherous:
I positively jumped from the suddenness with which the hurricane again
struck the vessel, and, as we had apprehended, from the eastward.
Happily the sail this time produced the desired effect, turning her head
from the wind, and then away the canvas flew from the bolt-ropes far off
upon the gale.  Onward we drove as before, still more tossed and
tumbled.  Had our friend, Colonel Pinchard, been with us, he would have
had some reason to complain of the _mal de mer_.  The Audacieuse was a
strong, tight vessel, or she would have sprung a dozen leaks, and gone
down with all the knocking about she got.  She, however, remained as dry
as a bottle.  Still, as we rushed on, every instant approaching nearer
and nearer the rocks and sandbanks of the coast of Central America, our
anxiety increased.  It was vain to hope that we could heave-to, or in
any way stop our mad career.  We had done all that could be done, and
had now only calmly to await our fate, whatever Providence had designed
that should be.  It is under such circumstances as this, that the
courage and resignation of men are most severely tried.  All action has
of necessity ceased, the body is at rest, the mind has now full time for
thought.  Numberless acts of the past life rise up to the recollection,
many a deed, and thought, and word, which must bring either pain or
fear; principles undergo a test which the wrong and baseless cannot
bear.  Death looks terribly near.  What can stand a man in good stead on
an occasion like this?  One thing, and one thing alone--sound Bible
religion; a firm faith in Him who took our nature upon Him, and died for
our sins, and rose again, that He might present us, rising with Him,
faultless before the throne of Grace.  I say that is the only thing that
can make a man feel perfectly happy under such circumstances.  I have
seen many men stand boldly up to meet expected death, who have no such
hope, no such confidence; but their cheeks have been pale, their lips
have quivered, and oh, the agony depicted in their eyes.  The soul was
speaking through them, and told of its secret dread.  Let no one be
deceived by the outward show, the gallant bearing of a man.  Too often,
all within is terror, horror unspeakable of the near-approaching unknown
future.  We had still a long way to drive before we could reach the
neighbourhood of the dreaded shoals and reefs.  Most of the men probably
were ignorant of the risks we were about to encounter.  Happily,
perhaps, for seamen, they seldom realise danger till it presents itself
palpably before them.  The Frenchmen, after a time gaining confidence,
began to laugh and joke as before.  Our men stood calm and grave at
their posts.  Not that they saw danger or felt fear, but that they were
engaged in their duty, and knew that much depended on their steadiness
and courage.  Night came on; it was far more trying than the day.  I
felt very tired, but as to turning in, that was out of the question.
Hours after hours we flew on, plunging headlong through the darkness,
and often, to my excited imagination, strange shrieks and cries seemed
to come out of the obscurity.  Once as we flew on, as I stood watching
black masses of water rising on our quarter and rolling on abeam of us,
I fancied that I saw a large ship, her hull with her lofty masts
towering up to the skies, close to us.  It appeared as if another send
of the sea would have driven us aboard her.  I thought that I could
distinguish people leaning over the bulwarks watching us with longing
eyes.  There was a gush of waters from her scuppers.  I could hear the
clang of the pumps; she was already deep in the water, rolling heavily;
cries arose from her decks; lower and lower she sank.  I watched her
with straining eyes.  A dark sea rose up between her and the schooner.
She was no longer where she had been; the tracery of her masts and
rigging appeared for an instant above the water, and then sank for ever.
I uttered a cry of regret.  McAllister shouted to me, and asked me why
I had gone to sleep.  I declared that I had been wide awake, and told
him what I had seen.

"You've sharper eyes than any one else," he answered.  "You must have
been asleep; we passed no ship, depend on that."

I insisted on it that we had, and that he had not been looking out as I
had; and from that day to this day I am uncertain which was right.  I
must, however, own that none of the men had seen the sinking ship; but
then I hold that neither were they looking out, and it was but a few
moments that she was in sight.

"Had all on board seen her we could have rendered her hapless crew no
assistance," I thought to myself, "so it does not signify."

On we drove.  I never spent a more trying night at sea.  I thought the
morning never would come or the gale end.  The morning, however, did
come, as it always does for those who wait for it.  We were still
driving on furiously, and as the cold grey light of the early dawn broke
on the world of waters, the tossing ocean seemed more foam-covered and
agitated than even on the previous day.  I could see no signs of the
cessation of the hurricane, nor did McAllister.  Bambrick, however,
observed that he thought there was less wind, and that it blew with more
steadiness than before.  The Frenchmen gave no opinion; indeed, most of
them were below asleep.  I worked my way forward to look out ahead.  I
stood by the side of the man stationed there for some minutes.

"The sea is terribly broken away on the starboard bow there," I said.

"Yes, sir, I don't like the looks of it," was the answer, as we
continued gazing.  We did not speak again for some minutes.  It was as I
feared though.

"Breakers! breakers ahead!" we both simultaneously shouted.  "Breakers!
breakers on the starboard bow!"

"Starboard the helm," cried McAllister, in a deep tone, without the
slightest sign of agitation.  It was doubtful if the vessel would feel
the effect of the helm sufficiently to prevent her drifting bodily to
leeward.  On we drove.  Another moment might see the vessel and all on
board hurled to destruction.  The stoutest vessel ever built could not
hold together for two minutes should she strike on rock or sandbank with
the awful sea then running dashing over her.  I drew my breath short and
clenched my teeth as we approached the broken water.  The spray flew
over our mastheads.  Still we did not strike; the dreaded breakers
appeared abeam.  We had passed the head of a bank or reef.  I saw some
rocks and sand with a few trees in the distance, probably part of an
island, easily discerned under ordinary circumstances above water.  The
danger for the moment was past, but there was no doubt that we had
reached that portion of the Caribbean Sea most studded with dangers.
Any moment we might again be among reefs.  All we could do was to look
out ahead, and pray and hope that we might escape them, as we had done
the first.  Half an hour or twenty minutes passed; some tall palm trees
amid the misty atmosphere appeared bending to the storm on the larboard
bow.  It was doubtful whether reefs might not run out to the northward,
and if so we could scarcely escape striking on them.  The helm was,
however, put to port, that we might pass as far as we could from the
island.  McAllister hurried forward, and, taking a steady look, declared
his conviction that there was a reef to the northward of the island, and
that if we could get a little sail on the schooner, we might run under
its lee and ride in safety till the tempest was over.  The very thought
of the possibility of this renewed our spirits.  The wind had certainly
lessened.  Rousing up the Frenchmen to lend a hand, we got a
main-trysail and fore-staysail hoisted.  The little craft heeled over,
as once more putting the helm to starboard we brought her closer to the
wind, in a way which made it seem probable that she would never recover
herself; but she did, though; and now we flew on, plunging through the
seas which broke on our larboard quarter, towards the island.  We drove,
of course, to leeward very fast, but still we had hopes that we might
round its northern end before we drove past it altogether.  Everybody on
board stood clustered on deck, watching the island, and ever and anon
casting anxious glances at the canvas.  It stood now, though an hour
before it would not have done so.  We approached the island.

"Breakers! breakers on the starboard bow! breakers on the larboard bow!"
shouted the men forward.  I caught sight of some less broken water
ahead.  We steered towards it.  In another moment our fate would be
decided.  We flew on; the sea broke terrifically on either hand, but the
schooner did not strike.  The water became calmer--the island grew more
and more abeam.  We flattened in the canvas, and, standing towards the
land, in another ten minutes found ourselves in a sheltered bay, where,
though our mastheads still felt the force of the gale, the wind scarcely
reached us on deck.  Our anchor was dropped and we rode in safety.  I
could have fallen on my knees and thanked Heaven for our merciful
preservation from so many dangers, but such an act was not in accordance
with our usual habits, and I was kept back from fear of what my
companions would say.  How miserable and contemptible is such a feeling!
We are not afraid of displeasing our all-beneficent Creator, or
appearing ungrateful for His mercies, and we are afraid of the ridicule
of our fellow-men, or even of a sneer from the lips of those we despise
the most.  I dare say, if the truth were known, that McAllister,
Bambrick, and others felt exactly as I did, and yet we were positively
afraid of showing our feelings to each other.  What a contrast did our
present position exhibit to the wild tossing to and fro, and the strife
of elements we had just passed through.  Here (for the wind dropped
rapidly) all was calm and quiet; the mist dissipated, the sun shone
forth, and the blue waters of the bay sparkled as they rippled gently on
the light yellow sand, strewed with numberless beautifully coloured
shells; while numerous tall palm trees and shrubs of lower growth formed
a bright fringe of green round the shores of the bay.

As we wanted water, and all agreed that some fresh cocoa-nuts would be
very pleasant, I took a boat with four hands, two Englishmen and two
Frenchmen, and, accompanied by Lieutenant Preville, pulled on shore.  I
also took a fowling-piece, in the hopes of getting a shot at some birds.
There was no lack of cocoa-nuts, which the hurricane had blown off, on
the ground, many of the trees themselves being laid prostrate.  We had
to hunt about some time before we found a spring.  At length we came on
one overshadowed by trees, where, by clearing away the ground with our
spades, we could fill our casks.  I with the two Englishmen was still at
the spring, when the French lieutenant and his two countrymen were
rolling down a cask to the boat.  I followed, and when yet at some
distance, I saw the Frenchmen step into the boat and begin shoving off.
I ran on, and, having some bullets in my waistcoat pocket, I dropped one
down the barrel of my fowling-piece, which I presented at the
lieutenant's head, ordering him to come back.  He did not at first pay
any attention to my threats; I hailed again, and told him that I had
loaded with a bullet, and that I did not approve of the joke he was
playing.  I, at the same time, saw some of the Frenchmen on board the
schooner making signs to him.  Suddenly he turned round, as if he had
only just seen me, and the boat pulled back to the shore.

"I demand a thousand pardons, monsieur," he exclaimed, with the blandest
of smiles.  "I was only joking, but I am afraid from your countenance,
that my vivacity carried me too far."  He went on for a considerable
time in this style, till my two men came down with their cask, and then,
shoving off, we returned on board.  I asked McAllister if he had
observed anything peculiar in the behaviour of the prisoners while I was
on shore.

"I was below for a short time, and when I came on deck I found them
clustering on the rigging forward," he answered, carelessly.  "I called
them down, as it is against orders, and they immediately obeyed."

I told him of the odd conduct of Lieutenant Preville, but he observed
that he thought it was only the Frenchman's joke, though it might be
wise to keep a stricter look-out on the prisoners than we had lately
done.  We had little time however, for, pretty well worn out with the
fatigues we had endured for the last four-and-twenty hours, we were glad
to take the opportunity of being in a snug harbour to turn in and go to
sleep.  Before doing so, however, I told Bambrick, who had charge of the
deck, to direct the sentry placed over the prisoners to keep his weather
eye open, lest they should play us any trick.  Tops are said to sleep
soundly; I know from experience that midshipmen do.  From the moment I
put my head on the pillow it seemed but a moment that I was roused up to
keep the morning watch.  I found a light breeze blowing from the
southward.  It would not do to lose this opportunity of getting clear
out to sea again; so I sent down to McAllister, who soon joined me, and
agreed that I was right.  The anchor was weighed, and under easy sail we
ran out through the passage by which we had entered this harbour of
refuge.  As I looked on the rocks on either side, now showing their dark
heads above water, it seemed wonderful how, with so terrific a hurricane
blowing, we had safely entered.  How often thus through life are we
steered safely by a merciful Providence, amidst hosts of dangers which
we do not at the time see, and for protection against which we are but
too often most miserably unthankful.  We were soon clear of the island,
but it was necessary to keep a very bright look-out to avoid running on
the reefs which we had before escaped.  Several times we saw rocks on
either hand, and breakers still dashing wildly up, showing that reefs or
banks were there, and more and more astonished were we that we had
passed between them in safety.  Lieutenant Preville shrugged his
shoulders.

"It would need a good pilot to carry a vessel in safety between those
reefs as we came yesterday," he observed.  "But, after all, the best
pilot is the Goddess Chance, who guided us."

"Chance, monsieur!  Chance!" exclaimed McAllister, with a vehemence in
which he seldom indulged.  "I do not believe that there is such a thing
as chance, much less a goddess.  I am not going to discuss the subject,
only don't talk to me of chance."

The Frenchman again shrugged his shoulders, hoped that he had not given
offence, and walked away, humming a tune.  He continued, however, as
polite and obliging as at first.  He declared that we wanted a good
dinner after our labours, and insisted on cooking it.  He outshone
himself, and with some shell-fish we had picked up, and two birds I had
shot, produced some wonderfully delicious dishes.  The wind held fair,
but it was light, and it required us constantly to be on the look-out to
thread our way among the dangers which surrounded us.  Our anxiety, too,
was very great for the fate of our consort.  She was nowhere to be seen,
and our fears were increased that she had gone down when first struck by
the hurricane.  We did not breathe freely till we were well out at sea,
clear of all reefs and shoals.  Lieutenant Preville especially
complimented us on the seamanship we had displayed, and assured us that
it was a great satisfaction to him to have been our shipmate through so
trying an event.  McAllister and I now agreed that if we did not fall in
with the Espoir it was undoubtedly our duty to return to Jamaica.  We
accordingly cruised about for two days, and then shaped a course for
that island.  The next night it was my middle watch on deck.  It had
struck seven bells, and I was contemplating the satisfaction I should
feel in turning in and going to sleep, when I suddenly found the French
lieutenant walking by my side.  This was against rule, as none of the
prisoners were allowed to come on deck at night without the permission
of the officer of the watch.  He apologised, saying that he was
oppressed with the heat, and knew that I would allow him to come.  In a
little time he professed to see a light ahead, and induced me to walk
forward to look at it.  Just as I was abreast of the foremast I found my
arms seized, a gag thrust into my mouth, and a handkerchief bound over
my eyes, so that I could neither struggle, cry out, nor see what was
going forward.  The horrible conviction came on me that the Frenchmen
were attempting to recapture the vessel.  I hoped that McAllister might
be awake, as he was so soon to relieve me.  The suspense, however, was
terrible.  I found myself secured to the bulwarks, and left to my
cogitations.  I augured the worst, because there was no cry; no shots
were fired.  There I sat, it seemed an age, listening for some sounds.
I was almost sure that the Frenchmen had mastered all our people on
deck, even Ned Bambrick.  At length I heard one of the French seamen
speaking; he was making a report to Lieutenant Preville.  A loud cheer
was the response, "Vive l'Empereur! vive la France!"  I knew full well
by this, that they were in entire possession of the vessel.  My heart
sank within me.  It was bad enough to lose our prize; it would be worse
to be thrown overboard, or to have our throats cut.  I did not, however,
think that the Frenchmen would do that.  They would take very good care,
though, that we did not regain the vessel.  Such being the case, I
really felt almost indifferent as to what became of us.  After all the
civility we had shown Lieutenant Preville, I thought that he might as
well have released me from my uncomfortable position, with my arms
lashed tightly behind me, and a gag in my mouth.  I heard some orders
issued in French, and the blocks rattling, and yards creaking as if the
sails were being trimmed, and the schooner's course altered.  Hour after
hour passed by; at last I fell asleep with a crick in my neck, and the
sound of a Frenchman's voice in my ear.

"Oh, pauvre miserable!" said the voice; "why we forgot him."

Such was the fact, not very complimentary to my importance.  I had been
overlooked.  The speaker took the handkerchief off my eyes.  It was
daylight, and the schooner was running under all sail before a fair
breeze.  Lieutenant Preville soon appeared, and, telling the men to cast
me loose, invited me, in a tone of irony, I fancied, to join my brother
officer at breakfast with him.

Poor McAllister looked dreadfully cast down.  We took our seats in
silence.  Our host, who had yesterday been our guest, was in high
spirits.

"It is the fortune of war, you well know, Monsieur Merry," he observed
with a provoking smile.  "Brave garcons like you know how to bear such
reverses with equanimity.  I can feel for you, though, believe me.
Monsieur McAllister, I drink to your health, though I fear that you will
not be a lieutenant as soon as you expected.  Here, take some of this
claret; it will revive your spirits."

My messmate seized the decanter of wine, which it is the custom of the
French to have on the table at breakfast, and drank off a large tumbler.
He drew a long breath after he had done so.

"You have the advantage of us this time undoubtedly, Monsieur Preville,"
he exclaimed bitterly; "but a day will come when we shall meet together
on equal terms, and then, I hope, as brave men we shall fight it out to
the death."

"With pleasure, assuredly," answered the Frenchman, with the politest of
bows and smiles.  "But in the mean time you must endeavour to restrain
your impetuosity.  At present it would be impossible to give you the
satisfaction you require."

Poor McAllister ground his teeth; the words were taunting, but the
expression of the Frenchman's countenance was more so.  He would have
sprung up and fought him then and there, with carving knives or any
weapons at hand; but he restrained himself for a good reason.  The
lieutenant had a brace of loaded pistols by his side on the table, and
two seamen stood on either side of us with loaded muskets, ready to blow
out our brains, had we exhibited any signs of insubordination.
McAllister went on eating his breakfast in silence.

The lieutenant pointed to the men and to his pistols.

"These are to do you honour," he observed.  "They are the greatest
compliment we can pay to your bravery.  Unless you were handcuffed, I
should not think myself safe a moment."

"We did not treat you so," I remarked.

"No, my friend," he said, smiling; "but you are prisoners, and I have
regained command of my schooner."

I had not a word to say, but I resolved to profit by the lesson in my
future career.

We were not allowed to communicate with any of our men, who were kept
under strict watch forward, and only permitted to come on deck one at a
time, in charge of a sentry.  McAllister and I even had no opportunity
of communicating with each other.  When we got on deck, an armed man
walked up and down by our side, and when we approached the compass, we
were ordered away, so that we could not tell what course we were
steering, except by guessing from the position of the sun.

Of course, with all the care the Frenchmen took, we had very little
hopes of being able to retake the schooner.  Neither could we tell what
was to be done with us, nor did Lieutenant Preville think fit to inform
us.  After all our anticipations of prize-money and pleasure on shore,
to have the inside of a French prison alone in view was very galling to
our feelings.  McAllister could do nothing but mourn his hard fate, and
mutter threatenings against France and Frenchmen should he ever regain
his liberty.  Our only hope was that one of our own cruisers might fall
in with the Audacieuse, and that we might thus be set at liberty.
Consequently, whenever we were on deck we scanned the horizon anxiously,
resolved, if we caught sight of a sail, not to give the Frenchmen too
early a notice of the fact.  At last one day we lay becalmed, while a
thick mist had settled down over the ocean.  I began to fear that we
were going to have another hurricane.  The Frenchmen did not think so,
but took things very easily.  The look-out came down from aloft, and,
except the man who was placed as sentry over us, all hands employed
themselves in mending their clothes and in other similar occupations.
The man at the helm stood leaning on the tiller, lazily watching his
companions.  Suddenly to the westward I saw the mist lift, and, directly
under the canopy thus formed, I distinctly saw a large ship standing
down under all sail towards us.  I was afraid by word or sign to point
her out to McAllister, and dreaded lest the expression of my countenance
might draw the attention of any of the crew towards her.  She could not
fail to pass close to us if she continued on the course she was
steering.  I only hoped that the mist would lift again, in time to show
the Audacieuse to those on board her.  The mist seemed, much to my
satisfaction, to be settling down again, when at that instant Lieutenant
Preville came on deck.  His quick eye instantly detected the stranger.
Having uttered some forcible expletives as to his opinion of his crew's
conduct in not keeping a better look-out, he ordered the sails to be
trimmed, and every stitch of canvas the schooner could carry to be set
in readiness for the coming breeze, McAllister's and my eagerness may be
easily conceived.  We both had an idea that the ship was English, and
that she would bring up the breeze.  What was our disappointment, then,
when we saw the schooner's sails rilling out.  Away she glided before
the breeze.  The mist soon afterwards entirely cleared away, and
exhibited the stranger about two miles off.  By her build and the cut of
her sails she was English.  When she saw us, all sail was made on board
her; but the Audacieuse had a fast pair of heels, and it was soon
evident that she was leaving her pursuer far astern.  Our hopes sank and
sank, and by nightfall we had run her out of sight.  When morning
returned the stranger was nowhere to be seen.

Four days thus passed by.  They were far from agreeable ones.  Early on
the sixth we found a substantial breakfast on the table, and after we
had partaken of it with a suspicion that it was to be our last on board,
we were ordered on deck.  Here we found the schooner hove-to, and all
our people assembled, while alongside lay one of the schooner's boats,
with oars and masts and sails, a water cask, and some hampers and cases
of provisions.  There was a tarpaulin, and the boat was fitted in other
respects, as far as she could be, to perform a long voyage.

"There, my friends," observed the lieutenant; "I wish to part with you
on friendly terms.  I do not desire to keep you as prisoners, as I am
bound on a long cruise, and I hope that you may regain your own ship in
safety.  I will give you your course for Jamaica, which you may reach in
a week; farewell."

We had not a word to say against this arrangement, so, thanking the
Frenchman for his courtesy, we followed our men, who had before been
ordered into the boat.  Even McAllister could not help putting out his
hand and exclaiming, "You are brave, as are most Frenchmen, but you are
honest and kind-hearted, and that is more than I, for one, will say of
some of your countrymen."

The lieutenant shrugged his shoulders and laughed as he shook our hands.
He was in high good spirits, as well he might be.  We stepped into the
boat, and he waved his hand; we shoved off, and, bowing as politely as
we could force ourselves to do, we hoisted our sails and shaped a course
for Jamaica.  The Audacieuse filled, and then, hauling her wind, stood
away to the eastward.



CHAPTER TWELVE.

It was satisfactory to be once more at liberty, but a voyage in an open
boat across the Caribbean Sea, when it was possible that we might have
to encounter another hurricane, was not altogether an exploit we should
have undertaken if we had had our choice.  However, as we had plenty of
provisions and enough water, we had no reason to complain.  We found,
indeed, on looking over our stores to select some food for our dinner,
that there were a dozen of claret and six bottles of brandy.

"Really, that fellow Preville is a trump," I exclaimed, as I poured out
a glass of the former, and handed it to McAllister.  "We'll drink his
health, for he deserves it.  Come, rouse up, my boy.  It's good liquor;
you'll not deny that."

"I'll drink his health and long life to him, that we may have a better
chance of meeting together in mortal combat," answered my messmate,
gloomily.  "To have our hard-won prize stolen out of our hands in this
way--it's more than I can bear.  And to have to make our appearance on
board the frigate without our vessel, and to report the loss of poor
Perigal and the others, is even worse."

I did my best to rouse up McAllister, and to make him see matters in a
more cheerful light, but it was no easy matter.  He was ever dwelling on
the fact that the prize had been placed under his charge, and that he
had lost her.  I was sometimes almost afraid that, if not watched at
night, he would be jumping overboard, so gloomy did he become.  Bambrick
entertained the same idea also, I suspected, and I was glad to see that
he watched him narrowly.  We also did our best to amuse him, and I got
the men to sing songs and spin yarns from morning till night.  Only one
story told by Ned Bambrick seemed to afford him much amusement.

"You must know, sir, when I was paid off during the last peace, I joined
a South Sea whaler.  You've heard tell of Botany Bay.  Well, that's
nowhere, or that's to say, it is not the place where they send
prisoners.  But there's a fine harbour near it, which they call Port
Jackson, and up it there's a town which they call the Camp, but which
has now got the name of Sydney.  It's what they call a colony, that's to
say, a good number of people of all sorts, besides convicts, goes out
there, and they've a governor set over them, who rules the land just
like any king.  He's a right, real sort of a governor, to my mind, for
he makes the laws and sees that they are obeyed, too.  He won't stand no
nonsense, and though he doesn't wear a wig and gown, like the judges at
home, he sits in a court, and tries all them who doesn't do what they
ought.  He hears both parties, and, when they've done, he sings out,
`Haul in the slack of your jaw-tackle, and belay all that,' and then he
goes for to say what each party must do, and he won't hear a word more
from either of them.  Well, as I was a saying, I joined a South Sea
whaler.  I can't say as how I had a pleasant time aboard, but it was
better than others had.  Our captain was one of them chaps as always
does what they choose, and he pretty often chose to do what was very
bad.  He had a quarrel with the doctor of the ship, who was a very
decent, well-behaved young man, and not wanting in spirit.  Their
disputes went on from bad to worse, so what does he do one day, but call
four or five hands aft, fellows always ready to do any dirty work for a
glass of grog, and getting hold of the poor doctor, clap him into one of
the hen-coops.  `Now,' says he, `you'll stay there till you beg my
pardon.'  `I'll never beg your pardon,' says the doctor.  `I'll see if I
can't make you,' says the captain.  Well, would you believe it? the
captain kept the poor doctor in there, day after day, and always took
his meals to him himself, cut up into little bits so that he could eat
them with a spoon.  When he put in the plate, he always used to sing
out, `Coopity! coopity! coopity!' just as he would have done if he was
feeding the fowls.  It aggravated the poor doctor, but he couldn't help
himself.  No one dared to speak to the captain, who always walked about
with a brace of pistols in his belt, and swore he'd shoot any one who
interfered with him.  You may be sure I and others felt for the doctor
when the savage used to go to him, with a grin on his face, and sing
out, `Coopity! coopity! coopity!'  The doctor would have been starved if
he hadn't taken the food when the captain brought it him, with his
`Coopity! coopity! coopity!'

"At last one day, the doctor wouldn't stand it any longer; so says he,
`If you don't let me out of this, I'll make you sing out "Coopity!
coopity!" from the other side of your mouth; so look out.'  The captain
laughed at him, and went on as before.  However, we had to put into Port
Jackson to refit, and it came to the ears of the governor that our
skipper had a man shut up in a hen-coop; so he sent some soldiers
aboard, and had the doctor taken out and brought ashore.  Then there was
a regular trial, and the governor heard what the doctor had to say, and
the skipper and we had to say, and then he says, `I decide that you,
Captain Crowfoot, shall pay Dr McGrath two hundred golden guineas
before you leave this court.'  The captain, with many wry faces, began
to make all sorts of excuses, but the governor wouldn't listen to one of
them, and Captain Crowfoot had to get a merchant to hand him out two
bags of guineas.  `Count them, captain, count them,' says the governor;
and as the skipper counted them out on the table, the doctor stood by
with another bag, and, as he swept them in with his hand, he kept
singing out `Coopity! coopity! coopity!'  Really it was pleasant to hear
the doctor go on with his `Coopity! coopity! coopity!'  Everybody in the
court laughed, and, I believe you, the skipper was glad enough to get
away when he had counted out all his money, and there was a regular
cheer of `Coopity! coopity! coopity!' as he rushed out of the court."  I
had not seen McAllister laugh since we had lost the prize.  He now gave
way to a hearty peal, exclaiming, "Ha! ha! ha!  I'll make the French
lieutenant sing out `Coopity! coopity! coopity!' before the world is
many years older."

I need not describe all that occurred in the boat.  We made fair way
while the wind continued fair, and the weather favourable, but Jamaica
still seemed a long distance off.  It is a large island however, so that
there was not much chance of our missing it.  Four days had passed since
we left the Audacieuse, when about midnight the wind suddenly shifted to
the northward, and, what was worse, it came on to blow very hard.  We
closely reefed our sail, and hove-to, but the seas constantly broke over
us, and we were obliged to keep two hands baling, or we should have been
swamped.  It was bad enough as it was, but it might come on worse, and
then, would the boat swim?  That was a question.  That was a dreary
night.  The rain came down too--as it knows well how to do in the
tropics.  We had no want of water, but we unwisely neglected to fill our
casks.  Expecting to make a quick run, we had not stinted ourselves in
the use of water.  Of course the boat all this time was drifting to
leeward, and we were losing all the distance we had made good during the
last day or so; if the gale continued we should lose still more.  At
last daylight came, but the wind blew as hard as ever--half a gale at
all events.  Two whole days more it blew.  At last it ceased, but it
left us a hundred miles nearly further from our destination than when it
commenced.  This was bad enough, but though there was little of it
remaining, that little was in our teeth.  We however hauled our wind,
and tried to beat up.  When the sea went down we got the oars out, and,
lowering the sails, pulled head to wind.  It was greatly trying to the
men, to know that after toiling away for hours, the entire distance
gained might be lost in a quarter of the time.  Still, as British seamen
always do, they persevered.  McAllister and I took our turn at the oars
with the rest.  For several days we laboured thus.  The prospect of a
quick run to Jamaica was over.  Our provisions were running short--our
water was almost expended.  Hunger and thirst began to stare us in the
face--things apt not only to stare people out of countenance, but out of
their good looks.  We at once went on short allowance, which grew
shorter and shorter.  As we gazed on each other's faces, we saw how
haggard our shipmates had become, each person scarcely aware of his own
emaciated appearance.  At last we had not a drop of water remaining.
Jamaica might still be a week's sail off, under favourable
circumstances.  The thirst we now endured was far worse than hunger, in
that climate, with a hot sun burning down on our heads all day.  Our
throats got hotter and more parched every hour; we drew in our belts,
and that silenced the cravings of hunger for a time, and we had some few
bits of biscuit, and ham, and chocolate, but nothing we could do could
allay our thirst.  We dipped our faces in water, and kept applying our
wet handkerchiefs to our mouths and eyes.  We got most relief from
breathing through our wet handkerchiefs; but it was only transient; the
fever within burned as fiercely as ever.  We had to work at the oars,
when we could not keep our handkerchiefs wet.  McAllister, like a brave
fellow as he was, aroused himself, and endeavoured to encourage us to
persevere.  He especially warned the men against drinking salt water,
telling them that it would be downright suicide, and that they might as
well jump overboard and be drowned at once.  We were certainly making
way, and every hour lessening our distance to Jamaica.  Again our hopes
were raised.  We had a few scraps of food to support life for two days
more; but it was the water we wanted.  I felt that I could not hold out
another twenty-four hours.  I must have water or die.  The wind,
however, came fair; we made sail, and ran merrily over the water--at
least the boat did.  Our feelings were heavy enough.  Still I must say
that we did our best to keep up each other's courage.  Again the wind
fell.  It shifted.  We might be driven back, and lose all the way we had
gained.  Dark clouds gathered--the feeling of the air changed.  "Get the
sail spread out flat, and the buckets, and cask, and mugs ready, boys,"
cried McAllister, "Open your mouths."

Scarcely had he spoken, when down came the rain.  Oh, how delicious were
the cool streams which flowed down our parched throats, and washed the
salt from our faces.  As the sail caught it, we let it run off into the
receptacles we had prepared.  Mugful after mugful we drained.  We filled
our cask and buckets.  The rain ceased just as we had done so, and then
it fell a dead calm.  But we all felt refreshed and invigorated.  New
life seemed put into us, and the dry morsels of biscuit and ham, which
we before could not swallow, were eaten with a relish.  This deliverance
from immediate death gave us hope; but still we might have again to
encounter all the difficulties we had before gone through, before
reaching land.  Could we possibly survive them?  I had often read of
similar adventures and sufferings, and had been so much interested and
amused, that I had felt considerably obliged to those who had gone
through them, and really felt that I should like to have been with them;
but I found the reality very different indeed.  The terrible reality was
presented to me with the gilding off--the romance vanished.  My great
wish was to escape from my present position.  I have no doubt that all
my companions felt with me.

The oars were again got out, and slowly we pulled to the northward.  It
was soon evident, however, that our strength was totally unequal to the
task.  One after the other the oars dropped from the men's feeble grasp.
It was terrible to see strong men thus reduced to weakness.  The calm
continued.  Even I began to despair.  A dizziness came over me.  I was
nearly sinking to the bottom of the boat, but I resisted the impulse by
a strong effort.  "I'll not give in while life and sense remain."  I
fancied that I felt a puff of air on my cheek.  I wetted my finger, and
held it up.  There was no doubt about it.  A breeze was coming from the
southward.  I stood up as well as I was able, and looked astern for the
expected blue line in the horizon.  My heart leaped within me when my
eye fell on the white sails of a vessel coming fast up with us.  I
shouted out the joyous news.  My companions lifted up their heads, some
scarcely understanding what I said.  McAllister, who had been asleep,
started up, and, with his hand over his eyes, gazed anxiously at the
stranger.  Bambrick, with a strength which surprised me, leaped up on
the thwart, holding on by the mast, and, after looking for some time, he
exclaimed, "She's the Espoir, as sure as my name is Ned Bambrick."

"The Espoir went down in the hurricane, and this craft is only some
phantom come to delude and mock us," muttered McAllister, gloomily.

"Nonsense! you don't believe in such stuff," I exclaimed.  "If yonder
craft is the Espoir, it's plain the Espoir did not go down in the
hurricane; and if the Espoir did go down in the hurricane, it is equally
plain that the vessel in sight is not she."

"No, no, yonder craft is but a mocking phantom.  I'm destined never to
see my bonnie home and fair Scotland again," he answered, in a low
voice, speaking more to himself than to me.

There was no use in then contradicting him.  Half an hour or less would,
I hoped, show that the stranger astern was a real palpable vessel, with
human beings on board who would relieve our distress, and no phantom
craft.  Poor McAllister sank down in the stern-sheets again through
weakness, but continued to gaze at the stranger, as we all did, with our
eyeballs almost starting, in our eagerness, from their sockets.

The stranger proved to be a schooner; and, as she approached, she
appeared to be more and more like the Espoir.  There was at length no
doubt about it, but McAllister still shook his head, muttering "A
phantom--a phantom--but very like the craft--there's na doubt about
that."  I do not know what he might have thought when the schooner
shortened sail, and glided up slowly alongside our boat.  There were
Perigal, and Grey, and Macquoid, and Bobus, and others, looking at us
over the bulwarks.  They must have known us by our uniforms to be
English, but they had no idea we were their own shipmates.  I guessed
this by hearing Macquoid say to Bobus--

"Who can they be?  Some poor fellows whose vessel must have gone down in
the hurricane."

"Hand them up carefully, now," said Perigal to the men who descended
into the boat.

We were all soon lifted on deck, for we were utterly unable to help
ourselves, and we had positively to say who we were before we were
recognised.

The foremost to rush forward and welcome me was Toby Bluff; and,
forgetful of all the proprieties of the quarter-deck, he was very nearly
throwing his arms round me and giving me a hearty hug, so overcome was
he with joy at having the young squire restored to him.

"Oh!  Measter Merry, they will be main glad at the Hall when they learns
that after all you didn't go down in that mighty terrible hurricane we
had t'other day," he exclaimed.  "I'd never have gone back to see them--
that I wouldn't--I could have never faced them without the young
measter!"

Warm and sincere, indeed, were the congratulations of all our friends.
Macquoid at once took charge of us--ordered us all into our hammocks,
and would not allow us to swallow more than the most moderate quantity
of food, nor to listen nor talk.  Owing to his judicious management, we
all speedily got round, with the exception of McAllister, who had been
the last to give in.  His spirit and moral courage had supported him,
till at length his physical powers yielded to his sufferings.

We carried on the breeze till we sighted Jamaica.  Of course Perigal was
very much vexed at hearing of the loss of the prize, but he did not
blame McAllister, though, as he observed, it would have been wiser had
we not placed so much confidence in our agreeable and plausible
prisoner.  The Espoir had lost sight of us in the hurricane from the
first, and apprehensions for our safety had till now been entertained,
and so our friends looked upon us as happily restored to them from the
dead, and were not inclined to find undue fault with us.  We found that
they had been placed in even greater danger than we had, and had
suffered more damage, but finally they were enabled to take shelter
under an island more to the south than the one we gained.  Here they
remained for some time to refit, and thus were brought to our rescue
just in time to preserve us from destruction.  We were all tolerably
recovered and presentable by the time we entered Port Royal harbour.
Here we found the frigate almost ready for sea, and, to our
satisfaction, Spellman with our first prize had arrived safely.  Among
those who most cordially welcomed me was Mr Johnson, the boatswain.

"We felt that hurricane even here, Mr Merry; and, thinking you might
feel it too, I was anything but happy about you," he observed, shaking
me by the hand.  "I was once out in just such another--only it blew a
precious deal harder.  Some of our hands had their pigtails carried
away, and two or three fellows who kept their mouths open had their
teeth blown down their throats.  It was the gale when the Thunderer and
so many others of His Majesty's ships went down.  You've heard of it, I
dare say?"

I told him that I had read about it in a naval history we had on board,
but that the account of the pigtails and teeth was not given.

"No, I dare say not; historians seldom enter as they ought into
particulars," he answered, laughing.

Grey received an equally friendly welcome from Mr Johnson, with whom he
was as great a favourite as I was.  He made us give him an account of
all our adventures, and amused himself with quizzing me, without
ceasing, at having been so tricked by the French lieutenant.  I
believed, and do to this day, that Preville was civil and light-hearted
from nature, and that it was only when he found us off guard that the
idea of seizing the vessel occurred to him.

McAllister did not get off as easily as I did.  Wherever he went he was
quizzed for having been tricked by the Frenchman and losing his prize.
He unfortunately could not stand quizzing, and, taking what was said too
seriously, he became at times quite sulky and morose.

As the Doris had no hands to spare, the tender was laid up, and once
more the frigate put to sea in search of the enemies of our country.  We
knew that several of their frigates were at sea, and we hoped to fall in
with one of them.  If we missed them, we were not likely to object to
pick up a few rich merchantmen.

Soon after I rejoined, I was invited to the gun-room to give an account
of my adventures on board the Audacieuse.  Thinking he was going to be
quizzed McAllister would not say a word on the subject.  I was not so
particular, and amused the officers very much with an account of the way
in which the polite lieutenant used to dress our dinners for us, and
used to sing and play for our amusement.  Mr Fitzgerald seemed highly
entertained.

"He must be a broth of a boy, indeed!  If we ever catch him, we'll make
him dress our dinners," he exclaimed, laughing.

He was himself stranger than ever, and, with his curious performances, I
used to wonder how he managed not to get into more scrapes than he did.
Our captain was much of the same opinion, for I heard him remark that he
really was glad to get to sea, for fear Mr Fitzgerald should do
something to bring himself into difficulty on shore.  The words were
reported to Mr Fitzgerald, who remarked--

"Och! where there's a will there's a way.  We'll see what we can do,
even out here on the big salt sea!"

Not long after this, during a light breeze, we chased a vessel to the
southward.  We came up with her hand over hand.  When, however, we were
about five miles off, it fell a dead calm.  What she was we could not
ascertain, though she did not look like an armed vessel.  It was
necessary to overhaul her, so Mr Fitzgerald volunteered to take the gig
and six hands to board her, and Grey and I got leave to accompany him.
We had a hot pull, the sun coming down full on our heads, and as we had
come away without any water, the men were anxious to get on board the
stranger, that they might quench their thirst.  She was rigged as a
barque, and she proved as we guessed; she was a Yankee, and a neutral.
Though undoubtedly laden with stores for our enemies, we could not touch
her.  Her skipper was very civil, and invited us into the cabin, where a
fine display of decanters and tumblers gave promise of good cheer, in
which we were not disappointed.  Mr Fitzgerald was soon deep in the
mysteries of cocktail and similar mixtures.  He seemed to enjoy them
amazingly, for he quaffed tumbler after tumbler, till I began to fear
that he was getting rather too deep into the subject.  Grey and I took
our share, but we both of us were from inclination very temperate.
Independent of other considerations, I have always held that a splitting
headache, and the risk of getting into trouble, was a high price to pay
for the pleasure of tickling one's palate, or artificially raising one's
spirits for a short time.  The men were hospitably entertained forward,
one or two of them finding old messmates; indeed American vessels at
that period were manned principally with English seamen.  We remained on
board altogether much longer than we ought to have done, but at last Mr
Fitzgerald, looking at his watch, jumped up, exclaiming that he must be
off.  We thanked the skipper for his civility, and, not without
difficulty, getting the men into the boat, away we pulled towards the
frigate.  The men were all high in praise of the Yankees, and I have no
doubt that they were all put up to run from the ship at the first
American port at which they might touch.

The calm still continued, and from the lazy way in which the men pulled,
it was clear that they were in no hurry to get on board.  Grey and I, of
course, were not; indeed Mr Fitzgerald, who was in great spirits, kept
us highly amused by his stories, so full of racy humour.  Our movements
were, however, considerably expedited by the report of a gun from the
frigate, as a signal for us immediately to return.  The men now bent to
their oars, and gave way in earnest.  We had not pulled far, however,
when another puff of smoke was seen to burst forth from the frigate's
side, followed by the report of the gun, which came booming over the
smooth ocean.

"Och! the skipper's in a mighty hurry," muttered the lieutenant to
himself.  "We are making all the haste flesh and blood is capable of,
with the sun boiling up our marrow at this rate."

"Give way, lads, give way," he shouted aloud.  "The captain is in a
hurry, for there's something in the wind, depend on that."

We were, I suspect, so completely in a position under the sun, as
observed from the frigate, that we could not be seen.  Presently the
report of another gun struck our ears.  On this Mr Fitzgerald seemed to
lose all patience.

"Hand me an oar and a boat-hook," he exclaimed, "and some rope-yarn."

What was our surprise to see him strip off his trousers, and make the
waistband fast to the boat-hook, which he secured for a yard across the
blade of an oar stepped upright as a mast.  Having secured some pieces
of rope-yarn to the legs of his unmentionables, he stood up and began
blowing away with might and main into the upper portions, stopping every
now and then to gain breath, and to shout, "Give way, lads, with a
will--give way like troopers--give way, ye hardy sons of Neptune, or of
sea-cooks, if you prefer the appellation.  Give way like Tritons.  We
are doing all that men can do.  Who dare say we can do more?  But we
must not stop to talk."  Then, once more filling out his cheeks, he
began to blow and puff with might and main as before.

Grey and I, though not a little shocked, were convulsed with laughter;
so of course were the men, whose countenances, as they bent to their
oars, were wreathed in the broadest of broad grins, while shouts of
scarce suppressed laughter burst ever and anon from their throats.

"Faith, the captain can't say it's my fault if we don't get aboard in
time.  I've done all that any officer in His Majesty's service could do
to expedite matters, at all events," he observed at length, stopping to
draw breath.

"And more than most officers would dream of doing, Mr Fitzgerald," I
answered, quietly, really fearing that he had gone mad.

"Och, yes, I was always celebrated for my zeal," he answered.  "There's
nothing like zeal, Mr Merry.  When my Lords Commissioners of the
Admiralty think fit to promote one of their own nephews over the heads
of any lot of us poor fellows who don't happen to have any interest in
high quarters, it's always on account of zeal--they are such very
zealous and promising young men.  They don't say what they promise.  I
could never learn that.  I once posed the First Lord by simply asking
the question.  I went up just to ask for my promotion--for there's
nothing like asking, you know, youngsters.  The First Lord received me
with wonderful civility.  He took me for another Fitzgerald, and I was
fool enough to tell him which I really was, or I believe he would have
handed me out my commission and appointment to a fine brig I had in my
eye, there and then.  I saw by his change of countenance that I had made
a mistake, and, as I was in for it, I determined not to be abashed.
With the blandest of smiles he remarked, `Undoubtedly, Mr Fitzgerald, I
will keep you in sight, but I have on my list so many zealous and
promising young officers, that I fear you will have some time to wait.'
His cold eye told me he'd do nothing for me, so says I, `My lord, I
should just like to have an example of this zeal, that I may learn to
imitate it; but as to promises, faith, my lord, I should like to see any
man who can beat me at making them.'  I put on a face as I spoke, and he
couldn't help laughing, but he told me, when I made my bow, that I might
be sure he wouldn't forget me.  Whether he has or has not, I can't say;
but here am I, a descendant of Brian Boroo, and I don't know how many
kings and queens of ould Ireland besides, nothing but a humble
lieutenant, standing with my breeches off, and endeavouring to fill this
epitome of a boat's sail with all the wind in my mortal body.  I must
stop talking, though, youngsters; it's setting you a bad example," and
he began to puff away again.

We were now drawing so near the frigate that I felt sure, if any glasses
were turned towards us, his extraordinary condition could be seen.  I
was anxious to prevent his getting into disgrace, so I asked--

"Wouldn't it be better, sir, if you were to put on your breeches, and
let the men pull up alongside in proper style?"

"What, youngster, and lose this magnificent opportunity of exhibiting my
zeal?" he exclaimed, indignantly.  "I shall request the captain to write
an official letter to the Admiralty, that a proper record may be made of
it."

"But Grey and I will bear witness to the truth of your statement, if you
think fit, to-morrow, to make a report of the proceeding," I observed.
"You must allow, sir, that officers do not generally come alongside a
ship with their breeches off, though of course it is very laudable to
make use of them as a boat's sail, or in any other way, for the good of
the service; but, if you have any enemies, a wrong construction may be
put on the matter."

He did not appear to be listening to what I was saying, but continued
puffing out his cheeks and blowing as before.  As I was steering, I told
Grey to look through the telescope we had with us at the ship.

"I see several glasses turned this way," he answered, "and there are
numbers of men in the rigging."

I made no remark, but Mr Fitzgerald soon afterwards lowered the oar,
and, without saying anything, quietly put on his breeches.  We were soon
alongside; the boat was hoisted in, and a light breeze having sprung up,
which had long been seen coming, all sail was made in chase of a vessel
to the eastward.

Mr Fitzgerald then made his report.

"You seemed to be carrying some sail," observed the captain.  "You had
but little wind, though, to make it of use."

"There was all the wind I could make," blurted out the lieutenant, who
had now got sober, and was as much ashamed of himself as it was in his
nature to be.  "However, Captain Collyer, you know my zeal for the
service, and there isn't a thing I wouldn't do for its good."

"Even to make use of your breeches as a sail, and compelling your mouth
to do duty as _Molus_," said the captain, gravely.  "However, Mr
Fitzgerald, though I never like making mountains of molehills, don't let
your zeal, or your love of a joke, carry you so far again.  Discipline
would quickly vanish if the officers were to forget their dignity, as
you did just now.  No officer should ever appear in public without his
breeches."

"I'll make a note of that, Captain Collyer, and take care that it never
again occurs," answered Mr Fitzgerald, with inimitable gravity, but
with an expression on his comical features which made our good-natured
skipper almost burst into a fit of laughter.

Two or three nights after this, while it was Mr Fitzgerald's watch, in
which I was placed, it being very dark, the frigate, without any
warning, was struck by a heavy squall, which threw her in an instant on
her beam ends.  I thought that she was going down.  There was a loud
crash--the fore-topmast had gone over the side.  Lightning flashed from
the sky; the thunder roared.  A loud clap was heard overhead--the
main-topsail had split, and, rent in fragments, was carried out of the
bolt-ropes, lashing itself in fury round the yard.  All seemed
confusion.  Everybody on the first crash had rushed on deck, mostly in
very scanty costume.  The captain had slipped on his coat, which, with
his shirt and slippers, formed his costume.  There he stood, his shirt
tails fluttering in the breeze, while with his deep-toned voice he was
bringing order out of seeming chaos.  When the main-topsail went the
frigate righted.  We had work enough to do to clear the wreck of the
fore-topmast and all its hamper, and it was broad daylight before the
captain could leave the deck.  When the ship was put a little to rights,
and those officers who had appeared in limited costume had gone below to
don the usual amount of dress, Mr Fitzgerald walked up to Mr Bryan,
the first-lieutenant, and said--

"I wish, Bryan, that you would ascertain what are and what are not the
regulations of this ship.  Two days ago the captain told me that it was
against his express orders that any officers should appear on the
quarter-deck without their breeches, and now he appears himself without
his, and so do Haisleden and the master, and some other fellows
besides."

"There are some occasions when it does not do to stick at trifles,"
answered Mr Bryan, who found it very necessary to humour his eccentric
brother officer.

"Well, at all events, the captain cannot find fault with me after that,"
said the second lieutenant; "I am always saying the same--I never stick
at trifles."

"No, indeed you do not; but sometimes it is just as well to look at
them, and ascertain if they are trifles," observed Mr Bryan.

It was found that the frigate had received so much damage that it was
necessary to put back to Port Royal.  It was a matter of very little
consequence to us midshipmen.  We were chiefly interested because we
knew that we should get a supply of fresh meat and vegetables, which we
preferred to the salt pork and weevilly biscuits served out to the navy
in those days, and for very many days later; indeed, where is the naval
officer, under the rank of a commander, or I may say a lieutenant, who
does not tap every bit of biscuit on the table before he puts it into
his mouth?  He taps mechanically now, but he learned the habit when it
was necessary to knock out the weevils.

We soon had the ship as much to rights as circumstances would allow.  In
the evening Grey and I went below, and found the boatswain seated on a
stool in his cabin, with his legs stretched out at full length before
him.

"Ah, young gentlemen, I know what you've come for," he exclaimed when he
saw us.  "You're curious to hear some more of my yarns.  It's natural,
and I'll not baulk you.  There's one thing you may depend on, it will be
a long time before I shall spin them all out.  You needn't tell me where
I left off.  I was telling you about my pet shark and the dreadful event
connected with it.  It's a warning to people not to have pet sharks, as
you'll say when you hear more.  But come in, young gentlemen, and make
yourselves comfortable.  Ah, Mr Gogles, I'm glad to see you here;
you've not heard any of my veracious narrative, but now you shall hear
something to astonish you, I guess."

Gogles was a young midshipman, the son of a planter at Jamaica, who had
joined us when we were last there.  His countenance exhibited a large
capacity for imbibing the wonderful and improbable, a fact which had not
escaped Mr Johnson's acute observation.

By the time Toby Bluff had brought the boatswain his usual evening glass
of grog, and he had cleared his throat, and, as he remarked, brought up
his thoughts from the store-lockers of memory, a large audience was
collected in and outside the cabin.

"Listen then, and let no one doubt me," continued Mr Johnson.  "I told
you the Lady Stiggins was bound round Cape Horn.  We were running down
the coast of America, when somewhere to the southward of the latitude of
Demerara it came on to blow very hard from the north and west.  The
clouds came rushing along the sky like a mass of people all hurrying to
see the king open parliament, or a clown throw a summersault at a fair,
or anything of that sort, while the wind howled and screeched in the
rigging as I have heard wild beasts in the woods in Africa, and the sea
got up and tumbled and rolled as if the waves were dancing for their
very lives.  You need not believe it, but the foam flew from them so
thick that it actually lifted the ship at times out of the water.  We
had sent down our topgallant yards, and had just furled the courses, and
were in the act of lowering our main-topsail to reef it close, when a
squall, more heavy than before, came right down upon us.  I was at the
helm at the time, and heard it roaring up astern.  The main-topsail yard
had just reached the cap, and the fore-topsail was the only sail showing
to the breeze.  The blast struck us; a clap, as if of thunder, was
heard, and away flew our fore-topsail clean out of the bolt-ropes, and
clear of everything.  Off it flew, right away to leeward, down upon the
breeze.  I kept my eye on it, and observed that instead of sinking, from
the strength and buoyant power of the wind, it retained precisely the
same elevation above the sea that it had done when spread to the yard.
I did not mention the circumstance to anyone, but took care not to lose
sight of the sail.  This was a hint to us not to set more canvas, so the
main-topsail was furled, and away we scudded, under bare poles, right in
the wake of the fore-topsail.  Instead of abating, the wind increased
till it blew a perfect hurricane.  I, however, kept at the helm, and
explaining to the captain the occurrence I had observed, begged to be
allowed to remain there.  At first he would scarcely believe me, and
declared that it was a white cloud ahead of us, but I was so positive,
that at last he let me have my way.  Well, we steered straight on all
that day, and when night approached I took the bearings of the sail that
we might follow it as before.  The wind did not vary, and in the morning
there it was, exactly in its former position, only I think we had gained
a little on it.  On, on we ran, tearing rather over than through the
foaming ocean, but still we did not come up with the fail.  At last I
was obliged, from very weariness, to let a careful hand relieve me at
the helm, and, desiring to be called if we neared the sail, I turned in
and went to sleep.  Now you will want to know, young gentlemen, why I
was so anxious to come up with the sail?  The fact is that I had taken a
notion into my head, which I will tell you presently.  Well, I was so
weary that I slept for five-and-twenty hours without turning, and I
could scarcely believe that I had been in my hammock more than an hour,
for when I came on deck everything was exactly as I had left it.
Feeling much refreshed, and having swallowed two dozen of biscuits, a
leg of pork, and a gallon of rum and water, I took the helm, resolved to
carry out my intentions.  It wasn't, however, till the next morning,
when the sun broke out from behind the clouds, that it shone directly on
our fore-topsail, now not the eighth of a mile ahead of us.  For some
reason or other, which I have never been able satisfactorily to explain,
we were coming rapidly up with it.  I now saw that the moment was
approaching for carrying my plan into execution.  Accordingly I sent the
people on to the fore-yard, and also on the fore-topsail yard, which was
hoisted right up, some with palm needles and others with earings and
lashings.  It was a moment of intense interest.  I kept the brig's head
directly for the sail.  We approached it rapidly; it was over the
bowsprit end.  My eye did not fail me, and, to my inexpressible
satisfaction, we shot directly up to the sail.  The men on the yards
instantly secured it, and in five minutes it was again spread aloft as
if it had never left its place.  There, young gentlemen, if you ever see
anything done like that, you may open your eyes with astonishment.  I
gained some credit for my performance, though there are people, I own,
who do not believe in the fact, which is not surprising, as it isn't
every day in the week that a ship recovers a topsail which has been
blown away in a gale of wind."

There was a considerable amount of cachinnations along the deck outside,
while a gruff voice grunted out, "Well, bo'sun, that is a jolly
crammer;" at which Mr Johnson looked highly indignant, and we were
afraid that he would not continue his narrative, but a glance at
Gogles's deliciously credulous and yet astonished countenance, as he sat
with his eyes and mouth wide open, staring with all his might, seemed
fully to pacify him.  I never met a man who enjoyed his own jokes,
though certainly they were of the broadest kind, more thoroughly than
did Mr Johnson.



CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

On the evening of which I was speaking in my last chapter, Mr Johnson
was evidently in the vein for narrating his veracious history.  I saw
this by the twinkle of his eye, by the peculiar curls round his mouth--
which poets speak of when describing Euphrosyne, or any charming young
lady of mortal mould, as "wreathed smiles," but which, in the
boatswain's case, could not possibly be so called--by the gusto with
which he smacked his lips, after each sip of grog, and the quiet
cachinnations in which he indulged, that there was no fear of his
breaking off for some time, unless compelled by his duties to do so.  I
was right.  After stretching out his legs, folding his arms, and bending
down his head, as if to meditate for a few minutes, he looked up with
his usual humorous expression, and taking a fresh sip of grog,
recommenced--

"Some of you young gentlemen have been in a gale of wind, and a pretty
stiff one too, but except the little blow we had the other day, you, Mr
Gogles, have no practical experience of what a real downright hurricane
is," he continued.  "Why, I once was in a ship where, after we had
carried away our masts, we were obliged to run under a marlinespike
stuck up in the bows, but even that was too much for her, and we were
obliged to send the carpenter forward with a sledge-hammer to take a
reef in it by driving it further into the deck.  It must blow hard,
you'll allow, when it becomes necessary to take a reef in a
marlinespike.  In the same gale, the man at the helm had all his hair
blown clean off his head; the cook, as he looked out of his caboose, had
his teeth driven down his throat, and one of the boys, who was sent on
deck to see how the wind was (for we were obliged to batten down and get
below), had his eyelids blown so far back that it took all the ship's
company to haul them down again.  You don't know what a gale of wind is
till you have seen it."

Some loud shouts of laughter were heard outside the berth, but Mr
Johnson, without heeding them, continued:

"But, by the bye, I was describing my voyage round the Horn in the Lady
Stiggins, and now I am coming to the melancholy part of my history.  No
sooner had we recovered our topsail than the gale abated, and nothing of
moment occurred till we hauled up to the westward to round the Horn.
For some days we had light winds and fine weather, but those who have
doubled that Cape know well that it blows there pretty hard at times,
and we soon had to learn this to our cost.  Soon after noonday it came
on to blow, and such a sea got up as I had never seen before.  That was
a sea.  Sometimes we were at the top of one wave, while my pet shark,
who had faithfully followed us, would be in the trough below, looking no
larger than a minnow in a millstream, and sometimes when we were at the
bottom we could see him looking lovingly down upon us, high above our
topgallant-mast-head.  At last we were driven back right in upon the
coast of Patagonia, and had we not found a harbour in which to take
shelter, we should have lost the ship and our lives.

"The land of Patagonia is bleak and barren, and, as you all know, the
few scattered inhabitants make up for the scarcity of their numbers by
their personal stature, for they are, without exception, the tallest
people I have ever met.  I felt quite a pigmy alongside them.  They have
large rolling eyes, long shaggy hair, and thick snub noses: indeed, they
are as ugly a race as I ever set eyes on.  Perhaps, for certain reasons,
I might have been prejudiced, but of that you shall judge.

"We anchored the brig in a snug cove, where she lay completely sheltered
from the tempest which raged without, and we were thus enabled to go
ashore to procure wood and water, of which we stood much in need.  For
two days we saw no signs of inhabitants, and thus we incautiously
strolled about without arms in our hands to stretch our legs.  I was
always of an inquisitive turn, fond of exploring strange countries; so
one day, having parted from my companions, I walked on into the
interior.  I was thinking of turning back, for the day was far advanced,
when my attention was attracted by a column of smoke ascending from
among a grove of trees in a valley at no great distance from me, and
being curious to ascertain the cause of it, I proceeded in that
direction.

"On reaching a hill which overlooked the spot, I perceived several human
beings seated round a large fire in front of a rude hut, and busily
employed in cutting slices from an ox, which was roasting whole before
it, and which they transferred to their mouths, smacking their lips to
signify their high relish for the feast.

"I was very hungry, and certainly felt an inclination for a piece of the
savoury morsels, the odour of which ascended to where I stood, but
prudence advised me to retire, for I could not tell what the disposition
of the savages might be.  For what I knew to the contrary, they might
spit and roast me as their dessert.

"There appeared to be a family group.  There were an old man and woman
whom I took to be the father and mother, three younger females, whom I
judged to be daughters, and two sons.  All of them were dressed in
skins, and I was enabled to distinguish the females by their having
petticoats, and their hair braided in long plaits, which reached to the
ground.  Their personal appearance was not prepossessing, and their
voices were so loud that I could hear every word they uttered, though of
course I could not understand their language.  I was on the point of
retreating, when one of the young ladies, turning her head, perceived me
watching them, and, with a loud cry, rising from her seat, she ran
towards me.  I had not before remarked the height of the savages, but as
they all stood up, I now perceived that she was full ten feet high, and
yet the shortest of the party.  Although not afraid, for fear was a
stranger to my bosom, I yet did not relish the thoughts of having to
encounter such formidable-looking personages, and therefore set off
towards the shore as fast as my legs would carry me, but I soon found,
by the shouts astern, that the young giantess had made chase, and,
turning my head over my shoulder, I saw that she was coming up hand over
hand with me.  I was on the top of the hill and she was at the bottom,
but that made little difference to her, for on she bounded, like a
kangaroo or a tiger, and I felt convinced that on flat ground I should
have no chance of escape; I therefore suddenly brought up, tacked about,
and faced her with my arms expanded, to make me look of more
considerable size.  She was coming on full tilt.  I did not think she
was so near, and the consequence was, as she was stooping down, I found
my arms round her neck, with my feet off the ground, while I clung to
her in a very affectionate embrace.  She uttered some words which I
could not understand, and, covering my face with kisses, ran back with
me towards her companions, just as a young lady does a little child she
has run after, laughing with pleasure.

"Here I was fairly caught, but I argued from the behaviour of the young
lady that I was not likely to be very severely treated by the rest.
When she got back to her family with me in her arms, she introduced me
in form to them, and made me sit down by her side, while the rest
examined me minutely from head to foot.  After they had gratified their
curiosity, and satisfied themselves that I was a human being, she,
observing my eyes turned towards the roasted ox, cut off a slice and
handed it to me.  The animal was of prodigious size, and would beat a
London prize ox hollow.  The meat was of delicious flavour, though
rather too fat for my taste, but in cold climates such is generally
preferred.  I found, however, that that is not the usual food of these
people, but is considered a great delicacy, as they live for most part
of the year on whales and seals, which they catch with much ingenuity
with a rod and line.  A whale, however, requires, they told me, great
skill and patience to kill, as it is apt to break the tackle.  The
savages, with my slight assistance, having picked the bones of the ox
almost clean, washed down this repast with huge flagons full of a liquor
which smacked of a taste remarkably like the best schiedam.  It was,
however, far more potent, as I found to my cost, for the effect was such
that I fell fast asleep.  In fact, I was dead drunk; I don't say that I
didn't take a good swig of it, but still it must be strong stuff to
capsize me.  How long I slept, or what happened during that time, I'm
sure I don't know: when I awoke the scene was completely changed.  I
found myself at the mouth of a cavern, lying on the ground and wrapped
up in bears' skins, with wild rugged rocks rising on every side around
me.  I tried to rise, but to my dismay I discovered that my limbs were
bound, and as I gazed on every side I saw not the sign of an outlet by
which I might make my escape.  In my rage I bawled out lustily, when I
heard a step approaching, which might, by its sound, have been the foot
of a young elephant.  It was, however, that of the young lady who had
made me prisoner.  When she saw that I was awake she sat herself down by
my side, and taking my hand slobbered it over with kisses, and when I
rated her pretty roundly for what she'd done, she almost drowned me with
her tears.  They came down in whole buckets full, like a heavy shower in
the tropics: it wasn't pleasant, I can assure you.  What was the matter
with the woman I could not tell; in fact, I've found very little
difference in 'em from one end of the world to the other; they are
complete mystifications; when you wants 'em to love you they won't, and
when you don't want 'em they will.  What I now wanted was to get my legs
and arms loose to be able to run away.  After making a number of signs
to the lady, she comprehended my wishes, and to my great satisfaction
cast off the thongs of hide with which I found she had bound me to
prevent me escaping, should I awake during her absence.  She then asked
me my name, when she let me understand that hers was Oilyblubbina,
which, I afterwards learned, means, in the Patagonian tongue, softener
of the soul.  I heard her pronouncing my name over and over again to
herself, so I repeated hers, Oilyblubbina, Oilyblubbina, Oilyblubbina,
several times, which pleased her mightily.  She then produced from a
basket a few rounds of beef and some loaves a yard long, of which she
pressed me to partake.  I did so gratefully, for I was in want of my
breakfast.  She next pulled out a bottle of schiedam, but I remembered
the effects of what I took the day before, and was cautious.  Having
satisfied my hunger, I made signs to her that I was anxious to wish her
a very good morning, and to return to my ship, but not one of my hints
would she take.  I shook her warmly by the hand, told her that I was
much obliged to her for her hospitality, and then walked away, but
wherever I went she dodged my steps and would not let me out of her
sight for a minute.  I did my best in every way to escape, but it was no
go; in fact, young gentlemen, I found myself the slave of this monster
of fat and ugliness, for I am sorry to say that I cannot speak in more
flattering terms of the fair Oilyblubbina.  Seeing that for the present
it was hopeless to attempt to escape, I pretended to be reconciled to my
lot, and offering my arm in the politest way possible, walked quietly by
her side, though, I confess, that I had to put my best foot foremost to
keep up with her.  She was evidently pleased with my altered behaviour,
and smiled and ogled me most lovingly.  How her eyes did roll!

"The effect, however, was very different to what she intended.  I dare
say her heart was as tender as that of women of more moderate
dimensions, but I cannot say that I liked those ogles of hers.  Well, on
we walked, talking a great deal all the time, though I don't pretend I
understood a word she uttered, nor do I suppose she did what I said.
She told me, however, a very long story, which by her actions I judged
intimated that she had lost some one, and that I was to supply his
place.  All I know is that, after weeping a great deal, she finished by
taking me in her arms and covering me with kisses.  I had before
suspected, from the absence of any of that bashful timidity found in a
young girl, that she was a widow, and such I learned from her father was
the case.

"We were now close to the hut where I had first seen the savages, and
there her father and two brothers appeared before us, while I found the
old mother and two sisters had been stowed away in the brushwood,
watching our proceedings.  Instead of appearing angry, the father took
me by the hand, and warmly pressing it, placed it in that of his
daughter, and then he rubbed our noses together, which I found was a
sign of betrothal, and then all the family came and hugged me, one after
the other.  In fact, I found that I was become one of the domestic
circle, and was to supply the place of a lost husband to the young
widow.  It was by no means pleasant, let me tell you, that hugging and
kissing, for the oil and fat those people consume give them a very
unpleasant odour, and it was some time before I could get it out of my
nostrils.  These considerations, with my anxiety to proceed on my
voyage, determined me not to yield tamely to my fate, for, as to having
to spend the rest of my days in the society of Oilyblubbina, that was
out of the question.  I had, however, no reason to complain of my
treatment by them, for they would not allow me to do any work, but
brought me the best food, and did everything for me.  Yet,
notwithstanding all her tenderness, the charms of the loving
Oilyblubbina could not move my flinty heart; but I was obliged to hide
my real sentiments, for I had no fancy, unarmed as I was, to fight the
father and two brothers, not to speak of having to contend against the
rage of the disappointed lady and her female relatives.

"Three not over agreeable days had thus passed, and I was beginning to
fear lest my shipmates, giving me up for lost, might have sailed away
without me, though I knew that they valued me too much to desert me till
all hopes were gone.  That day the family dinner was composed of a large
mess of whales' flesh and blubber, boiled in a cauldron, and washed down
as usual with huge beakers of schiedam; but I watched my opportunity,
and each time the cup was passed to me I emptied it by my side
unperceived by the rest.  I all the time made them suppose that I was
drinking more than usual, and appearing to be perfectly drunk, pretended
to fall off into a sound sleep.  When it grew dark the young lady, as
was her custom, carried me into the cavern, and bound my hands and feet
to prevent my running away, but as she was fastening the thongs I
contrived to slip my hands out of them.  While I thus lay I looked out
carefully through my half-opened eyelids, and observed all the family
retiring to their different roosting-places.  It was an anxious time;
one after the other they dropped asleep, and then, to my great
satisfaction, commenced a chorus of snoring which sounded more like the
roaring of a hundred bulls than anything I had ever before heard.  The
moon was fortunately high in the heavens, and there was light enough for
me to see my way, which I had been careful to note well.  Crawling
therefore out of my skins, I put a block of wood where my head had been
and rolled them up again to make it appear that I was still there, and
then cautiously crept away in the direction of the cove where I had left
my ship.  As soon as I was out of hearing I set off and ran as fast as
my legs would carry me, up hill and down dale, through woods and across
moors, without stopping to look behind me, for I knew that when a man is
running away from an angry lady he must put his best foot foremost.

"I had just reached the top of the hill, whence, to my great joy, I
beheld my ship floating calmly in the bay below me, when I heard a loud
cry in the rear.  I looked round--it was the loving Oilyblubbina.  She
came on at a furious pace, tearing up the young trees as she passed, in
her eagerness to catch me.  I dashed down the hill--I flew rather than
ran--I rushed through rivulets, I jumped down precipices, nothing
stopped me--I made light of a leap of a hundred feet.  I have run very
fast at times, but I never ran so fast before or since; she, however,
was gaining on me; in a few minutes more she would be up with me.  It
was very awful.  A high cliff was before me; without hesitation I threw
myself over it; death was preferable to slavery--and such slavery.  I
reached the shore in safety, but, horror of horrors! she came after me,
and alighted unhurt on the shore.  The ship was at some distance, but I
plunged into the sea to swim on board.  I now thought myself safe, for I
had no idea that she could swim, but she could, and after me she came,
blowing like a grampus.  It takes my breath away even now to think of
it.  I struck out boldly, the water bubbled and hissed as I threw it
aside.  I told you I was a good swimmer, but so was she.  On she came,
and every instant I expected to feel my foot in her grasp.  If a man can
have any reason for being afraid, I surely then had one.  We had swam a
mile, and the brig was some way off.  I hallooed to my shipmates, but
they did not hear me.  Louder and louder grew the blowing of the lady as
she spluttered the salt water from her mouth she was within a few yards
of me, and in another minute I should have been captured, when a dark
object passed close to me--it was my pet shark.  There was a loud scream
and a gurgling noise.  A dreadful thought occurred to me--it was too
true!  I was safe, but the loving Oilyblubbina had been swallowed by the
monster.  She must have been a tough morsel, for after his performance
he lay some time on his back utterly unable to move.  A revolution had
taken place in my feelings I did not wish her death, I only wanted to
run away from her, and I mourned her untimely fate.  I, however,
considered that my lamentations could not restore her to her afflicted
family, so, as soon as the shark had recovered, I placed myself on his
back, and made him convey me alongside my ship.  It was time for me to
be off, for as I was throwing my legs across him I saw by the light of
the moon the whole family rushing down the hill to plunge into the sea
after me, and I doubt if he could have swallowed any more of them.

"Thus I was delivered from one of the greatest dangers it has ever been
my lot to encounter.  When I got on board, my shipmates welcomed me
warmly, and sincerely congratulated me on my escape.  The gale had
abated, and as old Blowhard had been only waiting for my return to put
to sea, we instantly made sail and stood out of the harbour with our
faithful shark in company.  I dare say to this day the Patagonian chief
fully believes that we carried off his daughter; so, in a certain sense,
we did, but not exactly in the way he supposes.  Poor man, it was better
that he should not.  It was very dreadful."

Jonathan was silent; he took a long pull at his tumbler, and gave a deep
sigh, which sounded not unlike a peal of thunder along the decks.
Gogles' eyes had been growing larger and larger, and rounder and
rounder, and his mouth had been gaping more and more.

"What a dreadful thing!" he exclaimed, drawing his breath.  "I wonder
you could bring yourself to sit on the shark's back after what he'd
done."

Mr Johnson did not answer; he only sighed.  He was meditating on the
tragic fate of his loving Oilyblubbina.

We again began to be afraid that, overcome by the recollections which he
had been conjuring up, he might not continue his narrative.

"That was, indeed, a dreadful way to lose your intended wife," observed
Grey, wishing to rouse him up.

Mr Johnson's eyes twinkled.

"It was--it was," he answered emphatically.  "Poor Oilyblubbina!  I
would rather have found a pleasanter for her sake, but it was sure.
There was little chance of her coming to life again.  Dreadful!  I
believe you, it was dreadful.  I was not sorry when we lost sight of the
high land of Patagonia, so full of painful recollections to me.  For two
or three days the weather was fine, but our ill-luck had not deserted
us, for another gale sprang up and drove us back again very nearly into
the very harbour near which the family of Oilyblubbina resided.  I never
felt so uncomfortable in my life lest I should fall into their hands,
and they might insist on my marrying another daughter.  To do her
justice, my poor lost Oilyblubbina was by far the best looking of the
female members of the family.  However, we managed to keep the sea, and
at length recovered our lost ground.  Once well round the Cape, we
steered north, putting into several ports, but nothing extraordinary
happened.  Our pet shark followed us and always kept watch round the
ship.  I invariably used to ride him about the harbours, just as if he
had been a sea-horse, and astonished the Dons not a little, I calculate.
In fact I had some thoughts of having a high saddle made to fit his
back, so as to keep my feet out of the water.  In calms he was very
useful in towing the ship in and out of harbour.  By the bye, I omitted
to tell you of an occurrence which took place while we were on the
eastern coast.  One night when I had charge of the deck, feeling that
there was no use keeping the men out of their hammocks, as they had been
hard worked lately, and I could do as much any day as half the ship's
company, I told them to turn in.  You've all heard, of course, of the
Pampeiros of South America.  They are heavy squalls which come off the
Pampas of that extraordinary country.  For an hour or more I stood at
the helm, admiring the stars and thinking of the number of strange
things which had happened to me, when on a sudden, without the slightest
warning, I found my teeth almost blown down my throat, and, before I
could sing out to shorten sail, over the vessel went on her beam ends
with such force that even the sea didn't stop her; but while I hung on
to the wheel for dear life, down went her masts perpendicularly, and up
she came on the other side, and to my infinite satisfaction righted
herself with a jerk, which sent everything into its place again.  So
rapid was the movement that nothing was washed away, nor were any of the
people awakened.  Indeed, they would not believe what had happened even
when I told them, till they found a turn in the clews of their hammocks,
for which they could not otherwise account.  Many of my old shipmates in
the Lady Stiggins are still alive, and will vouch for the truth of my
statement."

"Are you certain, bos'un, that you did not take the turns yourself while
the people were on deck and then get them all to go to sleep that you
might make them believe your story?" asked some one outside in a feigned
voice.

"Wouldn't it be easier, stupid, to invent the story from beginning to
end, if I wanted to impose on any one?" asked Mr Johnson, with
pretended indignation.  "However, as I have more than once observed, I
have an especial objection to be interrupted by cavillers and doubters;
so I'll thank you, Mr Dubersome, to keep your notions bottled up in the
empty skull which holds all the wits you've got.  Ho! ho! ho!  I
generally contrive to give as much as I get.  But I must, I see, proceed
with my veracious narrative.

"We at last left the coast to visit some of the islands in the South
Pacific.  The first place we touched at was the island of Pomparee.  It
was then governed by a king and queen, who had an only daughter, the
Princess Chickchick.  The ship wanted some repairs, and as we hove her
down here, I had plenty of time to become acquainted with the people.
Everything in that island was made of coral.  In the first place it was
coral itself, then the reefs which surrounded it were coral, and the
rocks were coral, and the sand was composed of bits of coral.  The
palace of the king was built of coral, and so were the houses of the
people, only his was red, which is scarce, and theirs of plebeian white.
It had a very pretty effect, I can assure you.  The chairs and tables
would, I doubt not, have been made of coral, only they did not use them;
in fact, their notion of furnishing a house is very different to ours.
A few mats, and baskets, and pipkins are all they require.  Their
garments are somewhat scanty too, but the weather is all the year round
so warm that it would be absurd for them to dress up as we do.  The
king's dress on grand occasions was a crown of gay-coloured feathers,
and a sort of Scotch kilt of the same material, with a cloak over his
shoulder.  The queen also wore a petticoat, and so did little
Chickchick, but not a rap else, nor did they seem to think it was
necessary.  The king's name was Rumfiz, and her majesty was called
Pillow.  They were an amiable couple, and remarkably fond of each other.
When I observed that everything in the island was made of coral, I did
not mean to say that there were no trees, for there were a great many
very beautiful ones, bread-fruit trees, and cocoa-nuts, and palms, and
many others.  I made the acquaintance of his august majesty after I had
been on the island a few days.  I was one evening walking by myself some
little way inland, when I found myself almost in front of the king's
palace.  He had been snoozing after eating his dinner to get an appetite
for supper, when he was awoke by hearing his courtiers cry out that a
white man was come among them.  He jumped up, rubbed his eyes, and
addressed me in the following harangue:--

"You Englishman, why you come now?--Come by-by, eat supper plenty."

"By this I understood that his majesty was inviting me to supper, which
was the fact.  I accordingly lighted my pipe, and sat down under a tree
to smoke, while the king got into his hammock again and went to sleep.
Presently a number of courtiers came and spread mats in the shade near
where I was sitting, and others brought baskets filled with bread-fruit,
and cocoa-nuts, and grapes; and the King Rumfiz got up, and came and sat
down with Queen Pillow and the Princess Chickchick, and several other
lords and ladies.  They all looked as if they were waiting for
something, and presently they set up a loud shout as a number of slaves
appeared with large baskets on their heads, dripping with water.  I
watched what was to be done, when I saw the king lean back, and a slave
pull out a live fish from the basket, which he clapped into his
majesty's mouth.  The fish wriggled his tail about a little, and the
king rolled his eyes with delight till it slipped down his throat, and
then he rubbed the region to which it had descended, as if it had
afforded him the highest satisfaction.

"The queen's turn came next, and I thought she would have been choked
with the size of the fish, which went wriggling all alive down her
throat.  The courtiers were next allowed to enjoy the same luxury, while
little Chickchick and the ladies-in-waiting amused themselves by letting
handfuls of prawns playfully skip down their throats.  After a little
time the king made signs that he was ready for another fish, which in
like manner was let down his throat, and in this way he consumed two or
three dozen live fish (I like to be under the mark), and the queen and
courtiers nearly the same number each.  In that country it is the royal
prerogative of the king to eat more than any of his subjects.  They were
all much surprised to find that I could not eat the live fish, for as
they thought me a superior being to any of themselves, they fancied that
I could do more than they could.  I did try to swallow a few prawns, but
they stuck in my throat, and made me terribly husky for all the rest of
the evening.  I, however, soon learned to eat live fish as well as the
best of them, and before I left the island I could swallow one as large
as a tolerable-sized salmon; but then, of course, they had no spikes on
their backs.  I once saw the king swallow a conger;--I don't think I
could have managed one myself, but you never know what you can do till
you try.

"After supper the maids of honour and the courtiers got up to have a
dance, and I toed-it and heeled-it with the princess to her heart's
content.  Didn't I come the double-shuffle in fine style!  No man could
ever beat me in dancing, and when I got a princess for my partner it was
the time to show off.  The king was delighted, and asked me at once to
come and put up at his palace, and to bring a few bottles of rum, and
some pipes and baccy with me.  This I did as soon as the duties of the
ship would allow me.  Well, I soon became great friends with the king
and queen, and I used to go up to the palace every day and sit and smoke
a pipe with his majesty in a cosy way, and frequently the queen would
come and take a whiff out of my pipe, till she learnt to smoke too, and
I then taught her to chaw baccy.  She was very fond of a quid, let me
tell ye, and we became as friendly as two mice.  All the time little
Chickchick used to sit up in a corner by herself, making a mat or a
straw hat, or some such sort of thing, looking up at me with her
beautiful eyes, and listening to all I was saying, though, for the
matter of that, she could not understand much of my lingo.  At last I
caught the dear little thing at it, and I thought she would like to
learn to smoke also, so I taught her, and I was not long in finding out
that she had fallen desperately in love with me.  Of course, I could not
do less than return the compliment, and told her so, which pleased her
mightily.  In fact, the king and queen and I, with the princess, had a
pleasant life of it, with nothing to do and plenty to eat and drink.

"`Now,' said the king one day to me, as we were sitting over our pipes
and grog, `you won't go away in big ship--you no go--you stay marry
Chickchick--be my son--moch better.  Enemy come, you fight; friend come,
you talk.'

"By this I concluded he wanted me to become his prime minister--a sort
of first-lieutenant kings have to do all the work for them.

"`I'll think the matter over, your majesty,' I answered, `and if I can
manage it, I'll stay.'

"This answer seemed to please him mightily, and little Chickchick came
up laughing and singing to me soon afterwards, and told me she was so
glad of that; she should like to be my wife above all things.  It was a
little bit of unsophisticated nature which pleased me amazingly.  I then
arranged with the captain to remain there while he went cruising among
the other islands, and he was then to come back and take me to the South
Polar Sea, where we were bound on a whaling cruise.  The ship sailed
away, and so did my pet shark, who I afterwards heard pined and grew
thin, and wouldn't even take his food when he found I was not on board.
It was a mark of affection which touched me sensibly.

"I thus became, by my own intrinsic merits, a prime minister and
son-in-law to a king.  I had not an unpleasant life of it altogether;
the princess was very fond of me, and the people were easily governed.
The secret was to let them do exactly what they liked.  I used, also, to
make them huge promises, which, though I never kept, served to amuse
them for the time, and I always had the knack of wriggling out of a
scrape, which is the secret of all government.  The first thing I did
was to tell them that I would advise the king to abolish all taxes which
were made on bread-fruit, and when by this means I became very popular
as a liberal minister, I published an edict, ordaining that every man
should send twice as many cocoa-nuts to the imperial treasury as before.
The people had enjoyed a long peace, and had become unwarlike, so when
they cried out that it was useless trouble making spears and bows and
arrows and building war canoes, I let them have their own way, which
made me still more popular.  I took the precaution, however, of keeping
my own musket ready in my house in case of accidents, as it was the only
fire-arm in the kingdom.  There were numerous islands in the
neighbourhood, and on some of them King Rumfiz had in his youth
inflicted a signal chastisement, which they had never forgotten nor
forgiven.

"They had, in the meantime, knocked over two or three of their own
kings, and had established what they called a republic.  From what I
could make out, one half of the people were trying to become governors,
and the other half trying not to be governed.  They had for some time
past been eating each other up, but having got tired of that fun, and
wanting a change of diet, they thought it would be pleasanter to attack
some other people.  I discovered that they had already a large
expedition on foot, and numerous canoes--ready to transport them, though
it was pretended that these forces were to attack another island to the
eastward of them.  A spy, however, brought me the intelligence of what
they were about, so I endeavoured to make preparations to give them a
warm reception; but the people would not hear of it, and said it was a
great deal too much trouble to make bows and arrows, and build canoes to
guard against a danger which might never arrive.

"There were several fellows among them, some of whom, I verily believe,
had been bribed by the enemy, who persuaded them that it was much wiser
to make mats and hats and cloths to sell to the merchantmen than to
think of fighting.

"Such was the condition of the country, when one morning, as I was
walking on the sea-shore meditating on the affairs of state, I observed
a large fleet of canoes pulling towards the island; I ran back to the
palace to tell the king, and sent messengers in every direction to warn
the people.  All was now hurry, and confusion, and dismay.  The first
thing they did was to tumble the peace counsellors into the sea with
lumps of coral round their necks, and they then set to work to string
their bows and to point their arrows and their spears.  All the generals
had plans of their own; some proposed letting the enemy land, while they
defended the king's palace; some to meet him half-way, others to
capitulate, while I collected as many men as I could and marched them
down to the beach.  I had my musket and ammunition concealed in a bush
for a last effort, should the day be against us.  The king came out in
his best dress, and harangued his army to the following effect:--

"`We much fine fellows--much brave--much good; de enemy great
blackguard--much coward--much bad--much beast; shoot arrow, kill
plenty.'

"On this the army cheered and waved their spears and bows.  We reached
the beach but just in time to receive the enemy, who were mightily
disappointed, expecting to land without any trouble, and to make a fine
feast of our carcases.  On seeing us they set up a terrific shout, in
the hopes of frightening us away, but it was no go, and then they began
to pepper us with their arrows, which came as thick as hail about our
ears.  Under cover of this shower they pulled into the beach.  Our
warriors were brave, but they were long unaccustomed to fighting, and
many were killed and driven back by the enemy.  I trembled for my
father-in-law's throne, when I considered that the time had arrived to
bring my musket into play.  The first fire astonished them not a little,
but when they found that this patent thunder-maker (as they called it)
knocked over two or three fellows every time it spoke, they thought it
was high time to turn tail and be off.  As soon as the enemy began to
retreat, the mob came forward in crowds to attack them, shrieking and
swearing, and abusing them like pickpockets, though they had, while
there was any danger, kept carefully out of the way.  I continued firing
on the retreating foe as long as they continued in sight, for my gun
could carry farther than any other in existence.  It was made under my
own directions, and was a very extraordinary weapon.  If it had not been
for that gun, I believe King Rumfiz would have lost his kingdom.  He was
very grateful to me, as, to do them justice, were all his subjects; and
I found that I was unanimously elected as the heir to the throne.  My
honours did not make me proud, for I felt that I deserved them, and I
became, for some time, more popular than ever.  A neighbouring island,
however, which had been for centuries attached to the dominions of King
Rumfiz, gave me much trouble, for though many of the inhabitants were
descended from his own people, they insisted on making themselves
independent (as they called it), and having a king of their own.  They
were great cannibals, and used to eat each other up without ceremony,
and as for hissing, hooting, and swearing, few people could match them.
The name of the island was Blarney Botherum.  When I first visited them,
I thought, from their own account, that they were a nation of heroes
kept in chains by King Rumfiz for his own especial pleasure and
amusement, and that if I could make them free they would set a bright
example to the rest of the world of intelligence, civilisation, and all
the virtues which adorn human nature.  I soon, however, discovered that
the people of Blarney Botherum were the greatest humbugs under the sun.
They had got a set of people among them whom they called medicine men,
who told them that there was a big medicine man in a distant part of the
world, whom they were to obey instead of King Rumfiz, and that, provided
they told him the truth, and gave them cocoa-nuts and breadfruits, they
might tell as many lies as they liked to the king, and might rob and
cheat him as much as they pleased.  Whenever, therefore, the little
medicine men wanted cocoa-nuts and bread-fruits, they used to tell the
people the big one required food, and their whole occupation was to
throw dust in the eyes of King Rumfiz (as the Turks say), so that he
might not find out their knavery."



CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

Mr Johnson leaned back in his seat, when, slowly stooping down for his
tumbler, he brought it deliberately to his mouth, and took a prolonged
sip.  Then shaking his head, he observed, "Politics are awful things to
meddle with--the very thought of what I endured, turns my throat into a
dust-hole."  Again he sipped, and again he shook his head.  "Young
gentlemen," he said solemnly, "if ever any of you rise to the top of the
profession, and I hope you may--and should his Majesty, King George,
send for you, and offer to make you a Prime Minister, take an old man's
advice, and respectfully decline the honour.  Say that standing at the
helm of one of his ships, and fighting her as long as there is a shot in
the locker, is one thing, and standing at the helm of State, and being
badgered by friends and foes alike, is another.  You may quote me as an
authority.  Well, I was telling you how I managed when I was Prime
Minister to King Rumfiz, and of the trouble caused me by certain
personages in the island of Blarney Botherum.

"I was not long in discovering the tricks of these medicine men, and of
their friends who lived on a trade they called patriotism, but the
difficulty was to catch them.  I at last, however, found a few tripping,
and having hung them up, the rest were very soon brought into a state of
implicit obedience to my commands.

"As soon as I had restored peace to the country, I thought that it would
be advisable to reform the constitution.  I had some slight difficulty
in comprehending its principles, especially as I only as yet imperfectly
understood the language.  My notions were, however, so opposed by the
sages of the country, and so great was the commotion created, that it
was with no slight satisfaction I saw the Lady Stiggins approaching the
island under full sail, as I was one morning sitting on the beach
cutting ducks and drakes with oyster shells over the calm blue water of
the bay.

"I have a good strong voice of my own even now, but then I could make
myself heard three or four miles off at least, and sometimes, when I was
in tone, much farther.  The only other man I ever met at all equal to me
was a Frenchman, the master of a privateer; and we once carried on a
conversation together, he sitting on the shores of Calais, I on the
cliffs of Dover.  Well, I stood up, and hailing the Lady Stiggins, waved
my hat over my head.  My former shipmates heard me, though for a long
time they could not tell where the voice came from.  Another old friend,
however, was more quick of hearing, and sight too.  I saw a commotion in
the water, as if an arrow was passing through it, so fast did it draw
near.  Presently a black fin appeared, and then there was a tremendous
rush, and then who should pop his head out of the water till he ran
himself almost high and dry on the beach, but my pet shark?  In his
delight at seeing me he almost got hold of my leg, which, in a fit of
joyful forgetfulness, I believe he would have bitten off, had I not
jumped out of the way.

"Well, as I was saying, the shark did not bite off my leg; the delay
would, at all events, have been inconvenient had he done so.  I stroked
his cheeks, and he looked up most lovingly into my face with his
piercing eyes, and then, after he had floundered back into the water, I
got on his back and away we went out to sea towards my ship.  My
companions were delighted to see me; the wonder was how they got on
without me.  When we dropped our anchor, King Rumfiz and Queen Pillow,
with my wife the Princess Chickchick, came off in a canoe to the ship,
and very much surprised they were to see me on board, not knowing that
my pet shark was in company.  My little wife, indeed, thought I was a
ghost, and in her fright jumped overboard, when she was as near as
possible sharing the fate of poor Oilyblubbina, and would have done so
had I not leaped after her and saved her.  Not to disappoint my pet, we
gave him afterwards half a dozen fat hogs, which he infinitely
preferred.  The captain was so generous with his liquor, that he sent my
royal father and mother-in-law on shore roaring drunk.  They were so
happy that they insisted on having a ball at the palace, for which
purpose I issued a decree summoning all the principal people of the
island; and a jolly night we had of it too, the old king toeing-it and
heeling-it away right merrily in the centre of a circle of his admiring
subjects.  Everything must have an end, so had my residence in the
island.  As I had begun to get rather tired of the monotony of my life
on shore, I determined to make a voyage for the benefit of my health."

"Did you take your wife with you?" asked Gogles, who had swallowed every
word uttered by the boatswain.

"My wife?  Oh no; I left her on shore for the benefit of hers.  Poor
thing, she cried very much when I went away; it was the last time I saw
her."

"How was that, Mr Johnson?" enquired Grey, "you seem to have been
unfortunate with your wives."

"Yes, indeed, I was," replied the unhappy widower; "I have had ten of
them, too.  When I came back, I found that the island had been attacked
by the savages, who had carried off my wife and eaten her.  It's a fact.
If they had had a reform, and kept me and my gun among them, it
wouldn't have happened--of that I'm certain.  Having taken in a supply
of wood, water, and provisions, the Lady Stiggins once more made sail
for the southward."

"I wonder you survived all your misfortunes, Mr Johnson," observed
Spellman, who, next to Gogles and Toby Bluff, seemed to place the most
perfect belief in the boatswain's veracious narratives, as he was
pleased to designate his amusing inventions.

"Why, do you see, Mr Spellman, I'm tough--very tough!" he answered,
with a hoarse laugh.  "I doubt if even the head cook of the monarch of
the cannibal islands--King Hoki Poki--could ever make me tender.  So you
see I've held out through them all; and there's one thing I may say,
trying as they may have been, they have never taken away my appetite.
Now, young gentlemen, you've had a good long yarn, and my throat feels
like a dust-hole with talking, so I must knock off."

"But you'll tell us the end of your adventures some day, Mr Johnson;
won't you now?" said Gogles, imploringly.

"I'll continue them, perhaps, young gentleman," answered the boatswain,
laughing.  "But let me tell you it will take a mighty long time before I
ever get to the end of them.  They're inexhaustible--something like the
mint, young gentlemen, where the King has his guineas struck which he
pays to us seamen for fighting for him.  We should be in a bad way if
his shiners were to come to an end; and one thing I may promise you, as
long as I've got a brain to think and a tongue to wag, I shall be able
to continue my wonderful and veracious history."

Gogles and Spellman, and even Grey, looked puzzled.  I had long
suspected that the origin of Mr Johnson's history was derived from a
source considerably removed from fact; and from the peculiar way in
which he screwed up his mouth, and the merry twinkle of his one eye--for
the other he shut with the comic twist of his nose--I now had not the
slightest doubt of the matter.  I cannot say that his narratives were
exactly instructive, but they were at all events highly amusing to us
youngsters.  The watch being just then called, an interruption was put
to his narrative.  Toby Bluff, and some of the other boys, who had been
listening outside, were scuttling along the deck, spluttering out their
laughter, while the young gentlemen whose watch it was hurried on deck,
and the rest retired to the berth.  We left Mr Johnson chuckling
complacently at his own conceits.

I went to the berth, now magnificently lighted by two purser's dips,
which stood on the table, dropping fatness, in company with a
bread-barge of biscuit, some tumblers, earthenware and tin mugs, a
bottle of rum and a can of water, and surrounded by most of the members
of the mess not on duty.  Gogles followed me, and took his seat.  The
can of water and the biscuit was shoved over to him.  He eyed the black
bottle wistfully.

"No, no; that isn't good stuff for babies," said Perigal, shaking his
head; "if we had some milk you should have it, Gogles."

"I wish we had; why don't we keep some cows on board?" whispered Gogles.

"What would you feed them on?" asked Grey.

"Grass and hay, when we could get them, of course," answered Gogles,
sagaciously.

"Not at all," remarked Bobus.  "Carpenters' shavings are the things.  On
board a ship to which I belonged, we had two goats and a cow to feed our
captain's baby, and whenever we ran short of hay or grass, what do you
think the captain did?  Cut their throats and eat them?  No, not he.
Why, he was a very ingenious man, and so he had some pairs of green
spectacles made, which he used to clap over their eyes, and then when
the shavings were chopped up fine, they used to eat them greedily,
believing they were grass.  He first gave them all the old straw hats he
could collect, but that was an expensive way of feeding them."

"I should think so, Bobus," observed McAllister, who did not like joking
himself, and had an especial antipathy to Bobus's jokes or stories, or
to Bobus himself.  "May I ask what ship that was in?"

"What ship? why, the old Thunderer, to the best of my recollection,"
answered Bobus, seriously.

"Everything wonderful happened on board the old Thunderer," observed
McAllister.  "Bobus having been left drunk on shore, is the only
survivor of her crew, and there is no one to contradict him."

"I wasn't drunk; I was sick, and you know that perfectly well,"
exclaimed Bobus, getting angry.  "I won't have my veracity called in
question.  I've the feelings of a gentleman, and my honour to support,
as well as others."

"But you shouldn't support it by telling crammers," said McAllister, who
took a pleasure in irritating poor Bobus.

"Order!" cried Perigal, who was always a peacemaker.  "Come, Mac, let
Bobus spin his yarns, and do you spin yours; and now just go on with
that story about the Highlands which you had begun the other evening,
when the squall struck the ship."

McAllister was soon in the midst of some wonderful Highland legend,
while attempting to listen to which I fell fast asleep.

We were once more at anchor in Port Royal harbour.  Several other ships
of war were there.  On one occasion I had the honour of dining with
Captain Collyer, when two or three captains and several lieutenants and
midshipmen were present.  Among the captains was rather a fine-looking
man, a Captain Staghorn, commanding the Daring frigate.  He was an
Irishman, and though I thought our boatswain could beat any man at
pulling the longbow, I must say Captain Staghorn equalled him.  He
poured forth the most astounding stories with wonderful rapidity and
self-assurance.  I observed that all the other officers bowed politely
at the end of each, no one questioning any of his statements.  Even
Captain Collyer let him run on without differing from him in the
slightest degree.  I took a dislike to him from the first from his
overbearing manner at times.  Still he was certainly amusing, and
everybody present laughed very much at his jokes.  He talked
incessantly, and did not scruple to interrupt anybody speaking.  Among
his stories was an account he gave of his own prowess, when a lieutenant
in command of a schooner.  He was sent in search of a piratical craft.
He came up with her, and running alongside, sprang on board, expecting
his men to follow.  The vessels, he declared, separated, but he laid
about him with such good will that he not only kept the pirates at bay,
but drove them below before his own schooner again got alongside.
Captain Collyer, politely bowing, observed that he had often heard of
his having taken a piratical craft in a very gallant way, which, in
fact, he had, but not, as he asserted, alone; he had a dozen stout hands
to back him, which makes all the difference.  The name of a cousin of
mine, Captain Ceaton, was mentioned.  I had just before received the
news from home that he had been appointed to the command of a corvette
which would very probably be sent out to the West Indies.  He was only a
lieutenant when I came to sea, and had not long been a commander.  I had
seen but little of him, but I knew him to be a thoroughly brave honest
fellow.  What, therefore, was my surprise and annoyance to hear Captain
Staghorn open out roundly on him, and abuse him in no measured terms.
One of the other captains asked why he did so.

"Why?" exclaimed Captain Staghorn, "five years ago or more he was a
lieutenant of a ship I commanded.  On his being superseded, at length,
the lieutenant who succeeded him asked him what sort of a person I was,
and he had the impudence to say that I was a very good sort of fellow,
but used the longbow pretty frequently.  I won't say how this came to my
ears, but I made a vow, and I'll keep it, that I'll force him to go out
with me, and I'll shoot him."

The other captains tried to convince Captain Staghorn that Ceaton could
not have intended to offend him, as he was a man who would never offend
anyone.  Captain Staghorn muttered within his teeth, "I will, though."
I was very much induced to say "But you do draw with the longbow, and
Ceaton only spoke the truth."  I restrained myself, however, wisely; for
though the other captains might be convinced that I only said what was
the case, they would very much disapprove of a midshipman expressing
himself freely about a post-captain.  Coffee was soon handed round, and
we midshipmen, according to wont, retired.  We repaired to the
quarter-deck, where the master, as he occasionally did in harbour, had
taken charge of the watch, the rest of the lieutenants not dining in the
cabin being on shore.  He was a very worthy man, but we had no great
respect for him, and we took liberties on which we should not have
ventured with Mr Bryan or the third lieutenant, or even with Mr
Fitzgerald.  For some time the influence of the cabin was on us, and we
behaved with sufficient dignity.  One of the midshipmen of the Daring
walked the deck with me, and opened out confidentially with regard to
his captain, whom, however, he held in great awe.  He told me that he
was very brave, and had done all sorts of wonderful things; that he did
not seem to set value on his own life or on that of anyone else; that he
was very quarrelsome, and a dead shot; that he had killed three men in
duels, and wounded half a dozen more; and that he never forgot or
forgave what he considered an insult or an injury.  My friend continued,
"When we dine with him, he tells us the most extraordinary stories, and
if we do not laugh at the right place and pretend to believe them, we
are sure to get mast-headed, or punished in some other way, before many
hours are over."

"A very unpleasant character," I observed, though its hideousness did
not strike me so forcibly in those days as it does now.  "I shouldn't
like to serve with him."

"Nor did I at first," said my friend, "but I have got accustomed to his
style; and some of our fellows have taken a leaf out of his book, and
boast and quarrel as much as he does."

I thought to myself of the old saying, "Like master, like men," and
adapted it, "Like captain, like midshipmen."

"I would rather serve under Captain Collyer," I remarked.  "He does not
quarrel with or shoot his companions, and I do not believe that there is
a braver man in the service."

Our conversation was interrupted by a chase after poor Gogles, whom
Spellman and others had started up the mizen-rigging, giving him a
minute's start.  If they caught him he was to receive a cobbing; if he
escaped he was to give them one, if he could.  Poor Gogles had certainly
made but a bad bargain.  All the rest of the youngsters, including the
Daring's midshipman and me, soon joined in the chase--not all, however,
to catch Gogles, but rather to impede his pursuers, and to give him a
better chance of escape.  Although he had not an over allowance of wits,
he was very active, and had great tenacity of grip--qualities more
valuable to skylarking midshipmen, rope-dancers, and monkeys, than
brains.

Up went Gogles valiantly to the topgallant mast-head, and, waiting till
Spellman had got close up to him, under pretence of being tired, he slid
down the lift on to the yard-arm, and running in on the yard, had
descended to the cross-trees, leaving all his pursuers above him.  In
similar ways he contrived to evade his pursuers, I and others helping
him by pulling at their legs, or getting above them and stopping their
way up.  He had, I considered, fairly won the right to cob all the
party; but, grown bold by his success, he descended by the lift to the
topsail yard-arm, and was about to stoop down to traverse the brace to
the mainmast, when, from hearing Spellman's shout, he looked up, and,
missing his grasp, over he went headlong into the water.

I was at the time on the cross-jack yard.  I ran to the end.  Though
Gogles could swim, he was, I at once saw, stunned by the fall.  I did
not stop to consider whether there was danger or not, but, slipping off
my jacket, which I threw in board, and kicking off my shoes, I plunged
in after him, fortunately not losing my breath in my fall.  I looked
about for Gogles.  He was just sinking.  I swam towards him, for there
was a current running which had drifted him already to some distance.
No sooner did I reach him, however, than like a squid he threw his arms
about me, and made it impossible for me to strike out.  I entreated him
to free me, but he evidently did not understand what I said.  The dread
that we should both be drowned came over me.  I kicked my legs about as
much as I could, but I could not shout out for fear of filling my mouth
with water.  I thought of sharks--indeed of all sorts of horrible
things.  We appeared to be drifting farther from the ship.

Preparations were being made to lower a boat, but I felt that before it
could reach me I must sink.  Just then I caught sight of the boatswain's
long nose over the hammock nettings, and the next instant he had slid
down a rope overboard, and was striking out towards me.  "Shout, boy I
shout, my son! and kick away--kick away," he kept exclaiming, as with
sturdy strokes he clave the water, in his progress making himself all
the time as much noise as possible.

I guessed the reason of his cries, for I saw a black fin in the
distance.  Had I been alone when I saw that ill-omened fin I believe
that I should have quickly sunk; but the feeling that I had my messmate
to support, and that the honest boatswain was coming to my help, kept me
up.  I did as Mr Johnson directed me, and kept kicking with all my
might, and shouting too, whenever I could get my mouth clear of the
water.  Still I got more down it than was pleasant.  I saw something
gleaming in Mr Johnson's hand.  It was a long Spanish knife.

Gogles had been quiet for some time, but just then he began to struggle,
and again clasped me round the neck.  I felt as if I was sinking, and
was earnestly wishing that Mr Johnson was a few yards nearer, when I
saw him suddenly turn aside and strike off to the left.  My eye followed
him with an intensity of interest such as I cannot describe.  It caught
the gleam of his knife, and then what was my horror to find that he had
disappeared.  It was but for a moment.  Directly afterwards he rose
again, surrounded by a circle of crimson, and a huge black body floated
up near him, lashing the water.  He darted forward, and, seizing Gogles,
released me from his grasp.

"Swim on, Mr Merry, swim on," he shouted, shoving me before him.  "Here
comes the boat."

The men bent to their oars, and the brave boatswain swam on with all his
might.  With a jerk he threw Gogles into the boat, and gave me a shove
up as I was climbing in, which very nearly sent me over on the other
side; he then sprang after us with surprising agility, turning as soon
as he had got his feet out of the water, and striking with all his might
at a huge creature which followed close at our heels.  I saw the flash
of the monster's white throat.

"Habet," shouted our third lieutenant, who was--a rare thing in those
days in the navy--somewhat of a scholar.  Mr Johnson had inflicted a
mortal wound on another shark, who was immediately surrounded by his
amiable brethren, eager to devour him as they had missed us.  It is not
difficult to conceive what would have been our fate had we remained
another minute in the water, after the boatswain had killed the first
shark.

"You indeed did that bravely, Mr Johnson," said Mr Haisleden, as we
returned to the frigate.  "I never saw anything like it.  Where did you
learn that trick?"

"In the south seas, sir," answered the boatswain in a quiet tone, very
different from his usual boastful manner.  "I was once wrecked on an
island, where I saw the natives swim off and attack sharks with their
common knives; and I said to myself, what a savage does an Englishman
can do, if he takes time and practises.  So as I had little chance of
getting away for many months, or it might be years, I set to and learned
to swim like the natives, and then to fight the sharks.  It was no easy
matter, and at first it was trying work to see one of the monsters
making towards me and the native who accompanied me; but after I had
seen the way in which he managed, I was no longer afraid, and soon
became as expert as any of them.  No man knows what he can do till he
tries.  I've been the means of saving the life of more than one shipmate
by thus knowing how to manage the brutes."

"Why, you've ridden on a shark, Mr Johnson," said Gogles, opening his
eyes.

"Gammon!" answered the boatswain, twisting his nose.  "I am speaking the
truth now."

By this time we had reached the side of the frigate.  Captain Collyer
was on deck.  He warmly thanked Mr Johnson for his gallantry in jumping
over to save us, and we received the congratulations of our friends at
our escape, but I found that it was generally supposed I had fallen
overboard as well as Gogles; nor did I feel inclined to explain matters.
"I should have mast-headed the youngsters for sky larking on board the
Daring," observed Captain Staghorn to one of our officers, as he took a
sharp and hurried turn on the quarter-deck.

"I'm glad I don't belong to your ship, my jewel," thought I, as I
overheard him.

Gogles and I were sent below to our hammocks, and Mr Johnson followed
us to put on dry clothes.

"I'll set all to rights, Mr Merry," he observed, in a kind tone; "I saw
how it all happened, and the brave way in which you jumped after the
other youngster; but I wouldn't say anything before that strange
captain.  I know him well.  He's a pest in the service, and always was.
Had it not been for him I should have been on the quarter-deck.
However, I must go and shift myself.  Turn in and take a glass of grog;
you'll be all to rights to-morrow morning."

Now the excitement was over, I felt very weary and uncomfortable, and
was not sorry to follow his advice.  As Mr Johnson had predicted, the
next day I was not a bit the worse for my adventure; but poor Gogles
took several days to recover from his fright, and the quantity of salt
water he had imbibed.

I found that Captain Collyer treated me with more than his usual
kindness, nor was I long in discovering that this arose from the account
the boatswain took care should be conveyed to him of my conduct.  I
felt, however, that I was far more indebted to Mr Johnson than Gogles
was to me.  I had jumped overboard from impulse, he with forethought and
deliberate coolness.  The circumstance cemented our friendship more
closely than ever, and I am certain that he loved me as a son.  With his
rough exterior, loud voice, and bravery, his heart was as gentle as a
woman's.  I have seen tears trickle down his rough cheeks at a tale of
sorrow, while with purse and sympathy he was ever ready to relieve
distress, and I am convinced that he never wronged man, woman, or child
in his life.

Two days after this, the signal was made that the Pearl corvette was in
the offing.  As soon as she entered the harbour, I got leave to pay my
cousin Ceaton a visit.  He was an admirer of my sister Bertha, if not
actually engaged to her, which I thought he might be by this time, and I
was anxious to get news from home, as well as to see him.  A kinder,
better fellow never breathed.  His manners were most gentlemanly, and
gentle, too, and, though brave as a lion, he had never been known to
quarrel with a shipmate or any other person.  He received me as a
brother, and very soon told me that, on his return to England, he hoped
to assume that character.  He had a great deal to tell me about home,
and said that I must stay on board and dine with him.

Our pleasant conversation was interrupted by the announcement of Major
O'Grady.  The name made me feel uncomfortable, for he was one of the
soldier officers who had dined on board the Doris, and appeared to be on
very intimate terms with Captain Staghorn.  He was just that stiff,
punctilious-mannered, grey-eyed person, for whom I have had always a
peculiar antipathy.  He hummed and hawed, and looked sternly at me, as
if he could have eaten me up, and thought my presence especially
impertinent; but budge for him I would not, till desired by my cousin to
do so.  At last he had to say, "I beg your pardon, Commander Ceaton, but
the business I have come on cannot be discussed in the presence of a
youngster."

"Go on deck, Marmaduke," said my cousin.

Unwillingly I obeyed.  My worst apprehensions were confirmed.  Captain
Staghorn was resolved to carry out his diabolical intentions.  What
could be done?  I felt that Charles Ceaton had never fired a pistol
except in open warfare, and as to practising for the sake of being the
better able to kill a fellow-creature, I knew that was abhorrent to his
nature.

I hurried on deck as ordered, but as the skylight was off, and Major
O'Grady spoke in a loud, and it seemed a bullying voice, I could hear
nearly every word he said, nor did I consider myself wrong in drawing
near to listen.

"I am not at all aware of ever having made use of the words imputed to
me," said my cousin, calmly.

"That is as much as to say, Commander Ceaton, that you consider my
friend capable of uttering a falsehood," answered the Major, in a
deliberate tone.

"Not at all, sir.  I am simply stating the fact, that I cannot clearly
recall having uttered the expressions you mention," said my cousin.

"Then you do not deny that you said something of the sort; indeed
something to afford my friend Captain Staghorn sufficient ground for
demanding an ample and perfect apology?" said the Major, in his former
slow way.

"I shall deny nothing," said my cousin, at length nettled beyond
endurance.  He must be, too, I was certain, well aware of Captain
Staghorn's reputation as a dead shot, and on that account resolved to go
out and fight him.  In those days, for an officer of the army of navy to
refuse to fight a duel, however thrust on him, was to be disgraced in
the eyes of his professional brethren, poor weak mortals like
themselves.  They forgot that the code of honour by which they chose to
act, was not the code by which they were to be tried in another world.

"Then, Commander Ceaton, you cannot, of course, refuse to give Captain
Staghorn the satisfaction he demands?" said the Major.

"Certainly not," answered my cousin.

"You, of course, have a friend with whom I may settle preliminaries,"
said the major.  "The sooner these affairs are got over the better."

"Undoubtedly," said my cousin, with unusual bitterness in his tone.  "My
first-lieutenant wid act for me.  He is a man of honour and a friend.  I
have perfect confidence in him.  I will send him to you."

I moved away from the skylight.  My cousin came on deck, where he was
joined by Mr Sandford, who, after a minute's conversation, went into
the cabin.  He and the major very quickly came on deck, the latter
bowing stiffly as he descended to his boat alongside.  I felt very much
inclined to walk up to him, and to say, "If your friend shoots my
cousin, and brother that is to be, I'll shoot you;" but I did not.  I,
however, watched with no friendly eyes the soldier officer, as he sat in
his boat stiff as a ramrod, while he returned to the Daring.  I pondered
how I could prevent this duel.  I felt that it was not fair that one man
who had never held a duelling-pistol in his hand, should be compelled to
fight another who could snuff a candle at twelve paces without putting
it out.  I wanted to find out when and where they were to meet.

My cousin returned to the cabin with Mr Sandford.  The latter remained
with him for some time, and when he returned on deck he looked very
grave and sad.  Never more clearly were the evils of duelling brought
home to me.  Here was a man in the prime of life, who might long be
useful to his country and mankind, about to be murdered, simply because
he would not apologise for expressions which he could not recollect
having uttered.  My poor sister Bertha, too--how miserable his untimely
death would make her.

I walked the deck feeling more unhappy than I had ever before done.  The
midshipmen of the corvette kept aloof from me, fancying that my cousin
had communicated some ill news, or perhaps that I was in disgrace.  I
don't know.  I was glad that no one came and spoke to me.  The dinner
hour at last arrived, and I went into the cabin.  Of course I was
supposed not to know anything about the contemplated duel, and I tried
to appear as cheerful as before.  Besides Mr Sandford, the purser dined
in the cabin, and no allusion even was made to the major's visit.  My
cousin endeavoured to keep up the conversation, and smiled at the
purser's bad puns, which he had probably heard a hundred times before.
I talked whenever I could about home--the dear old hall--my sisters and
brothers, and my father and mother.  I observed that a shade of pain
passed over his countenance whenever I mentioned my sisters.  I was
unwise in doing so, unless it could have had the effect of shaking his
resolution, and inducing him to send to Captain Staghorn, and to tell
him that of men the world might say what they chose, but that he would
not go forth to break the law of God, to take his life or to lose his
own.  But why do I say that?  I now know that nothing but the love of
God, and of God's law implanted in his heart, would have induced him
thus to act.  Abstractedly he knew that he was about to do a wrong
thing, but had he been really making God's law the rule of his life, he
would not have hesitated one moment, but the moment Major O'Grady had
opened the subject, he would have told him plainly that he feared God
more than man; that if he wronged Captain Staghorn, even though
unintentionally, he would make him all the amends in his power, but that
fight he would not.  His conduct, however, very clearly showed--brave,
and honest, and generous, and kind-hearted as he was, a man to be
esteemed and loved--that he feared man, and what man might say, more
than God, and how God would judge.  Numbers act thus; but numbers perish
of a plague.  That there are many, does not save them.

It must be understood that I did not think thus at the time.  I was only
a little, less careless and thoughtless than those around me.  I was
very sorry, though, that my cousin was going out to fight with a man who
was a dead shot, because I was afraid he would be killed, and that my
sister Bertha, whom I loved dearly, would be made miserable.  It did
occur to me, as I looked at his open and intelligent countenance, his
broad chest and manly form, how sad it was that, by that time the next
day, he might be laid in the cold grave.

Dinner progressed slowly.  Under other circumstances he would have
thought me especially stupid, for there was a feeling in my throat and a
weight at my heart which effectually stopped me from being lively.
After coffee had been taken, I mechanically rose with the rest, and went
on deck.  I had not been there long, before it occurred to me that I
ought to have wished him goodbye, as a boat was alongside to carry some
liberty-men on board the Doris.  I desired the sentry to ask if I might
see him, and was immediately admitted.

"I am glad that you are come, Marmaduke," he observed.  "We cannot tell
what may happen to us in this climate.  Yellow Jack may lay his fist on
us, or a hurricane may send our craft to the bottom; so, you see, I have
thought it better to do up a little packet, which, in case of anything
happening to me, I wish you would give to Bertha from me.  I don't wish
to die, but in case I should, tell her that my last thoughts were about
her, and my prayers for her welfare.  Oh!  Marmaduke, she is one in a
thousand.  Cherish her as the apple of your eye.  You do not know her
excellences."

He went on very justly praising Bertha for some time, till there was a
tremulousness came into his voice which compelled him to stop, and I
very nearly blubbered outright.  At last he told me to return to the
Doris, and come and dine with him the next day.

"That is to say," he added, "if Yellow Jack has not got a grip of me in
the meantime."

With a heavy heart I went back to the frigate.  I took two or three
turns on deck, considering if I could do anything, when it occurred to
me that I would confide the matter to Mr Johnson, and get his advice,
and, it might be, assistance.  I found him as usual, when the duties of
the day were over, seated in his cabin, reading a book by the light of a
ship's lantern.  He put down his book when I entered, and seeing by my
countenance that something was wrong, said--

"What is the matter now, Mr Merry?  I'll do what I can, depend on
that."

I told him all I knew, and asked him if there was any way of preventing
my cousin being shot.  He looked grave and thoughtful.

"And these men pretend to have sense in their heads!" he muttered.
"Sense! they haven't ten grains of it.  Haven't they a chance, every day
of their lives, of having their brains knocked out all in the way of
duty, and they must needs try and kill each other very contrary to the
way of duty.  I never really wished to be a Lord of the Admiralty, but
if I was, and had my way, I would break every officer who called out
another, or accepted a challenge, or acted as second."

"Then you'd have those hung who killed their men?"  I exclaimed,
entering into his views.

"No, I would not.  I would leave them to the just punishment their own
consciences would inflict ere long," he answered gravely.  "But I would
not allow men like Captain Staghorn to retain His Majesty's commission,
and to ride roughshod over his brother officers, just because he fears
God's wrath less than they do.  But you ask me how this duel is to be
prevented?  If you were to let the admiral himself know, he would not
interfere.  The only way I can think of, would be to shoot Captain
Staghorn first, and that wouldn't be quite the thing.  Even if we could
give him a settler, we must never do evil that good may come of it; I
know that.  The fact is, I am at fault, Mr Merry.  If either of them
were living on shore, something might be done; but it's no easy matter,
and that you'll allow, to get hold of two captains of men-of-war living
on board their own ships."

I agreed with him with a heavy heart.  We twisted and turned the matter
over in every way, but did not succeed in seeing daylight through it.
Perhaps if we had known how and where to seek for assistance, we might
have found it.  It was my first watch.  After our supper of biscuits and
rum and water, I went on deck, and when my watch was over, turned into
my hammock with cruel apprehensions as to the news I should hear in the
morning.

I was somewhat surprised to find myself sent for, as soon as I was
dressed, into the captain's cabin.  I felt anxious, for I thought that
it must be something about my cousin.  The captain, however, wanted
simply to tell me to take a note on board the Daring, and to return with
an answer.

It was a lovely morning; the water was as smooth as glass, the sky pure
and bright, and the distant landscape which I have before described
looking romantic and lovely in the extreme.  As I shoved off from the
frigate I saw a boat from the Pearl; the captain's gig I guessed, cross
our bows and pull towards the shore of the Palisades some little way up
the harbour.  I was soon alongside the Daring, and as I crossed the
quarter-deck with the note in my hand, I saw that Captain Staghorn, who
was in full uniform, was about to go on shore.  The officers on duty
were ranged on either side of the gangway in the usual manner.  Major
O'Grady, stiff and sour, was by his side.  There was a terrible savage
look, I thought, in Captain Staghorn's grey evil eye.  I stepped across
the deck to deliver my note.  Before I gave it, I heard him say as he
walked along the deck, "I only intend to wing the fellow, major.  I
swore long ago I'd punish him, and I will keep my word."

The major made a grim face, and muttered, "The brain is the best
billet."  I handed my note.

"Wait, youngster," he said, sharply, "I shall be back presently, I'll
send an answer then;" and crumpling up the note, he put it in his
pocket.

As he was just stepping down the gangway ladder, he turned, and said
aloud to his first-lieutenant, "Should the admiral and Captain so-and-so
arrive before I return give my compliments and say that I was compelled
to go on shore, but shall be back immediately."  I found that Captain
Staghorn had invited a large party to breakfast with him on that
morning, and that their arrival on board was every minute expected.
"Ay, ay, sir," answered the first-lieutenant; and Captain Staghorn and
Major O'Grady took their seats.  The oars fell with a splash into the
water, and the gig darted away in the direction taken by the Pearl's
boat.  I watched the two boats pulling up the harbour as long as they
continued in sight.  I had never in my life felt so anxious and grieved.
From what I had been told of Captain Staghorn, and of his wonderful
skill as a shot, I did not for a moment doubt that my poor cousin's life
was completely in his power, and from the words uttered by that
evil-visaged major, I had a dreadful apprehension that he would exercise
his skill to my relative's destruction.  My grief was not only on his
account, but on that of my dear sister Bertha.  I thought of the bitter
sorrow she would suffer when she heard how he had died.  Had he been
killed in action with the enemies of his country, she would have mourned
his loss long and deeply; for time, I knew, would soften such sorrow;
but to hear that, weakly yielding to an abominable custom, he had died
infringing the laws of God and man, would prove to a person with a mind
and opinions such as hers almost unsupportable.  "It will kill her, it
will kill her!"  I kept exclaiming to myself, and I could scarcely help
wringing my hands and giving way to tears.  I have often since thought,
that if boys and men did but reflect more than they are apt to do of the
sorrow and suffering which their acts may cause to those they leave at
home, whom they love dearly, and on whom they would be really unwilling
to inflict the slightest pain, they would often pause before they
plunged into sin and folly.  I fancied that no one would know what the
two captains had gone about, and was walking the deck in solitude,
meditating, as I have said, on the cruel event about to occur, when I
was accosted by the midshipman who had paid the Doris a visit a few days
before, and invited down to breakfast.



CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

I was ushered with due form into the midshipmen's berth of the Daring.
A large party were assembled, discussing an ample supply of food
prepared for breakfast.  They seemed a very free and easy set, and it
was no fault of theirs if I did not find myself at home; but I was far
too anxious to do justice to the good things placed before me, nor could
I keep my mind from dwelling on the sad work I believed then going
forward.  I soon found that the object of the captain's visit to the
shore was no secret.  He had been boasting the evening before of what he
had done in the duelling way, and congratulating himself on at length
being able to reap the revenge he had so long sought, swearing at the
time that he would shoot Captain Ceaton through the head, as he would
any man who dared to impugn his veracity.  Was, then, his remark, that
he would only wing him, the result of some momentary compunction of
conscience, to be banished by the counsels of that Mephistopheles-like
major?  I feared so.  The midshipmen did not know that Captain Ceaton
was my relative, and though some seemed to feel for my anxiety, others
only laughed, and told me that I might as well begin to pipe my eye, for
by that time my cousin would have a hole drilled through him, I might
depend on it.  They seemed, indeed, to be proud of their captain's
performances in that way, and anxious to imitate him.  Two or three of
them boasted of having fought duels with midshipmen of other ships,
though, as they used not over sharp cutlasses, there had been no fatal
results.  I was very glad that I did not belong to the ship, for a more
boastful, quarrelsome set of fellows I never fell among.  The sort of
things Mr Johnson said in joke, they uttered in grave earnest, and they
were excessively angry if they were not believed.  However, I managed to
keep my temper, and at last to eat some breakfast, in spite of my
anxiety about my cousin.  As soon as I could, I returned on deck, where
I was joined by my former acquaintance.  He begged that I would not mind
what had been said.

"You see," he observed, "the captain sets the fashion and the greater
number follow it.  If we had had a different captain, these same fellows
would have had very different ideas."

I have often since then had occasion to make the remark, that, as a
rule, drinking, swearing, profligate captains turn out officers of the
same character.  A brave, virtuous, and good commander cannot make all
those under him like himself; but his example will induce imitation
among some, and act as a curb to vice among others.  Great, indeed, is
the responsibility of a captain of a man-of-war; indeed, of any ship
where there are officers and men looking up to him.  We had not been on
deck long when the admiral came off in his barge from the shore, and
three or four captains arrived in their gigs, as well as some military
men in shore boats.  The first-lieutenant made Captain Staghorn's
apologies, saying that affairs of importance had taken him early on
shore, but that he would be off immediately.

The admiral walked up and down the deck rather impatiently, and looked
annoyed, as if Captain Staghorn was not treating him with proper
respect.  He was also very hungry probably, and he kept continually
pulling out his watch and replacing it hurriedly in his fob.  The
captains and other officers, aware, probably, of Captain Staghorn's
eccentricities, were less annoyed; but even they at times gave signs of
impatience.  At length the signal midshipman announced that the
captain's gig was coming off down the harbour.  My heart beat quick.  I
never felt so anxious.  Some midshipmen were in the main chains.  I
joined them, eager to ascertain if my cousin's boat was also coming down
the harbour.  I borrowed a glass.  After a time I thought that I could
distinguish my cousin's boat coming down.  Had he escaped; or had the
duel been prevented?  I made out two officers seated in the stern, but
the boat passed at a distance from the Daring, and I was uncertain who
they were.  I had been so eagerly watching the Pearl's gig, that I had
not observed the Daring's, which now approached.  A murmur ran through
the ship--there was something solemn in the sound.  I looked down with
an indefinite feeling of dread.  Still, I expected to see Captain
Staghorn sitting upright, with his disagreeable companion by his side.
The major was there, but a human form lay in the stern-sheets, with a
boat's flag thrown over the face, to keep off the buzzing flies which
were clustering above it.  The murmur increased into unmistakable
accents; the captain was dead--shot through the heart.  I hurried to the
gangway, round which the admiral and officers and men were assembling.
The captain had returned at the hour he promised; but how differently!
The flag fell from his face as the corpse was being lifted on deck.  The
eyes were open and staring horribly; the teeth were clenched, and the
mouth wore that same bad, disagreeable expression it had worn two short
hours before, when, full of life and strength, and confiding in the
firmness of his nerve and his correct eye, he had stepped carelessly
down the companion-ladder, determined grievously to wound or to take the
life of a fellow-creature.  The doctor went through the form of
examining him to ascertain that he was dead.  He lifted up a hand; it
fell heavily on the deck.

"There's no doubt about it," observed the major, coolly.  "You never saw
a man alive with a hole drilled through him like that;" and he
scientifically pointed out the course the bullet had taken.

The admiral and other officers collected round, and he continued, "I
never saw anything more unexpected.  He walked to the ground with the
air of a man going to a ball, laughing and joking the whole way.  Not a
muscle shook as he took the pistol and placed himself in position
directly I had measured off the ground.  I must say that Commander
Ceaton behaved with courage and as a gentleman; but it was evident that
neither he nor his second had the slightest notion of how to conduct
affairs of the sort.  Commander Ceaton placed himself with his full
front facing his antagonist; and when I remonstrated with his second, as
he was not thus giving himself a fair chance, he said that his captain
chose to stand in that way, and that he would not change his position.
I then returned to my principal.  I naturally asked where he intended to
hit his opponent.  `In the head,' he replied; `his very look annoys me.'
I retired to give the signal.  Which pistol went off first I do not
know; but instead of seeing Commander Ceaton drop, as I expected, I saw
my principal leap into the air and fall flat to the ground; while
Commander Ceaton stood unmoved.  I never saw a man so cut up about a
thing.  I should have supposed that he had killed a friend, instead of a
deadly enemy.  We had positively to send the doctor to him to prevent
his fainting.  And poor Staghorn here, he never expected such an
ending."

"But never was one more richly deserved," muttered the admiral, turning
away with a look of thorough disgust at the major's cold-blooded
indifference to his friend's awful death.

However, the admiral and other officers retired into the cabin to
discuss the breakfast prepared for them, though their host was not
present, with what appetite I cannot say.  As I could not get an answer
to the note I had brought, I returned to the Doris to report what had
occurred.

"He has met his deserts; and yet how awful," said Captain Collyer half
aloud, as I told him of Captain Staghorn's death.

All in our berth were eager to hear what I had to tell them about the
duel, and I could not help observing how different the remarks of my
messmates were from those which had been uttered in the Daring's berth.
Hearty satisfaction was also expressed that my cousin had escaped.  I
was eager to go on board the Pearl to congratulate him and to take him
back Bertha's package, as I now knew why he had given it to me.  I could
not, however, go till the evening, when Mr Bryan gave me leave to take
the dinghy.  I sent down my name, and was told to go into the cabin.  I
found Captain Ceaton seated at a table, with a book before him.  He
lifted up his head from his hand, on which it had been resting, when I
entered.  I had never seen so great a change in any person in so short a
time.  His countenance was pale and haggard, his eyes sunk, and his
whole look would have made me suppose that he had undergone a year of
the most severe mental suffering, or some painful illness of still
longer duration.  I was going to congratulate him on having come off the
victor, but I could not bring out the words I had intended to use.  I
merely murmured out, "I am so very glad you are alive.  I have brought
back the package for Bertha.  I know now why you gave it to me."

"Keep it still, Marmaduke," he answered gloomily.  "I feel that I shall
soon be summoned hence.  God's wrath rests on the willing homicide, and
I have sent that man without an evil deed repented of into the presence
of his Maker.  I was too eager to fire.  Almost before the word was
given I had lifted my hand to do the accursed deed.  I would far, far
rather have been shot myself.  Let my misery be a warning to you.  Never
on any account lift your hand against the life of a fellow-creature,
unless you are fighting for your country or attacked by assassins.  The
world may gloss over the deed as it will; the conscience cannot gild a
crime."

He said a good deal more in the same style.  I tried to comfort him as
well as I could, and talked about my sister and the future.

"What, unite a spotless hand to that of one stained with the blood of a
fellow-creature!" he exclaimed.  "No, Marmaduke, when she knows the
truth, she will shudder at the thought."

I now saw that he was altogether unnerved, and I hoped that, if his
surgeon was a sensible man, he might do him more good than I could with
any arguments at my command.  After a time I went on deck, and finding
the surgeon walking by himself, I went up to him and told him what I
thought.

"Very sensible, youngster.  Some soothing draught is what he wants.
I'll get him to take it," he answered.  "Your relative, let me tell you,
had a narrow escape.  Did he show you where the bullet grazed his head
and took off the hair?"

"No, indeed.  I did not know even that Captain Staghorn had fired," said
I.

"Ay, but he did though, and he aimed at your cousin's brain," said the
surgeon.  "Mr Sandford tells me that, as he looked at his antagonist's
evil eye, he never expected to hear the captain speak again.  He's
unhappy now, and shocked; very natural for a man of fine feeling; but
he'll get over it, don't be afraid."

"Then the wretched man took the advice of his evil counsellor, and
resolved to kill my poor cousin," I thought to myself.  I was afraid,
however, that the fact would be no comfort to him, but would rather
aggravate his suffering when he thought that the last feeling which had
animated the bosom of the man who had been so suddenly sent to his dread
account was that of bitter animosity and revenge.  I instinctively felt
this, and so, when I returned to the cabin before leaving the ship, I
refrained from touching on the subject.  I did not know at the time, nor
did anyone else on board, I am afraid, in a position to speak to him,
where alone he could seek for comfort and consolation in his
wretchedness, for wretched he was, and almost hopeless.

However, I must not longer dwell on the subject.  I returned to the
Doris, but I got leave on most days to visit my cousin.  I did not see
any great change in him for the better.  An enquiry took place with
regard to the duel, but the evidence in his favour was so strong, and
Captain Staghorn's character was so notorious, that he was acquitted of
all blame in the matter.  I was truly glad to find that we and the Pearl
were to sail together and cruise in company for some time, in search of
some of the enemy's privateers, which had been committing havoc among
our merchantmen.  The day before we sailed we received a visit from old
Colonel Pinchard, and we invited him down to dinner.  He seemed in high
feather, having got as many pupils as he could manage to instruct in
French, and, moreover, as he told us, he had hopes that he had softened
the heart of a Creole lady, who, though somewhat weighty herself, was
outweighed by the bags of doubloons of which she was the owner, not to
speak of a number of male and female slaves, who acknowledged her as
their mistress.  "Ah, you see, vary good, vary good," he added.  "You
see, moch obliged to you for take me prisoner.  I drink to de sante of
all de young gentlemans of de Doris."  The old colonel certainly
contrived to make himself very happy, and we sent him on shore singing
alternately the Marseillaise hymn, some Royalist tunes, and God Save the
King, while he kept occasionally shouting out "Vive Napoleon!"

"Vive l'Angleterre!"

"Vive la France!" exhibiting in his cups the real cosmopolitan feelings
which inspired him--the feelings of most old soldiers of fortune.  They
start probably with some vague notions of seeking honour and glory, but,
finding the objects at which they aim thoroughly unsatisfying, they in
most cases become intensely selfish, and think only how they can make
themselves most comfortable under any circumstances in which they are
placed, or how they can secure the largest amount of plunder.  This was
the last time I saw Colonel Pinchard, but I heard that he married the
Creole widow, foreswore France, and settled in Jamaica.

We were all glad to get to sea again, as we had little pleasure from
being in harbour, for, though the West Indies has many charms, and at
some seasons no fault can be found with the climate, yet Yellow Jack is
an unpleasant customer, whose visits we were happy to avoid.  I have not
named any of my messmates for some time.  Poor McAllister was the only
one much changed; the climate certainly affected him, but he got a great
deal of badgering from the officers of his own standing in the service,
and especially from the mates of other ships, for having been outwitted
by the Frenchman, and for losing his prize.  He took his bantering ill
in public, and brooded over the subject in private, till he began to
believe that his courage was doubted, and that he must do some very
daring deed to retrieve it.  But I must do old Perigal the credit to say
that he never bantered him, though Spellman did whenever he thought he
could give a sly hit with impunity.  I did what I could to comfort him,
and the liking for me, which he had always entertained, evidently
increased.  I was in his watch, and, as we walked the deck together, he
would talk to me by the hour of Scotland, and the estate of his
ancestors, which he hoped one day to recover.  Suddenly he would break
off, and in a tone of deep melancholy, exclaim, "Ah, but those are
dreams--all dreams--never to be realised.  I am never to see bonnie
Scotland again; her heathery hills, and blue, blue lochs, and my own
Mary; but I've never told you of her.  She's been the pole-star to me
since I came to sea.  She was but a young girl then, but when I had
returned from my first voyage, she'd grown into the fairest maiden for
many a mile round, and soon she promised to be mine, when I should get
my promotion.  I won't talk more of her, though; but you'll undertake,
Merry, when you go home, should I lose the number of my mess, to go and
find out the poor girl, and tell her all about me."  And so he ran on.
Of course I promised to do all he wished.  Midshipmen always do promise
each other all sorts of things of a similar nature, and intend to fulfil
their promises faithfully, though I am not prepared to assert that they
always do so.

By the bye, it is rather curious that at least half my messmates who
confided their attachments to me were in love with young ladies of the
name of Mary.  Sometimes, I suspect, they were myths, but they did
equally well to talk about.  To a sailor's ear there is something very
attractive in the name; certainly I have known several most charming
Maries, and one especially--but I am not going to make confessions.

The Pearl sailed well, and kept easily in company with us.  After
getting clear of Jamaica we stood to the eastward, to run down among the
French islands, where we might have a chance of falling in with some of
the privateers starting on their cruise.  We had before long done a good
deal of mischief among them; we captured three, sunk one, burnt another,
and drove two on shore.  At last, one morning at daybreak, a large
schooner was reported in sight, standing to the southward.  Both we and
the corvette made all sail in chase.  There was no doubt that she was an
enemy, as she spread all the canvas she could set for the purpose of
escaping.  The wind was light, which was to her advantage, and from the
first it seemed very doubtful that we should overtake the chase.  Still,
while there was a chance, Captain Collyer was not the man to give it up.
The wind was about abeam.  The corvette was ordered to keep well to
windward, to prevent the schooner from hauling up, and thus escaping;
while there was no doubt that, should she attempt to escape before the
wind, fast as she might sail we should come up with her.  Our aim was to
jam her down on the land, as we had done other vessels, when we should
drive her on shore or capture her.

During the morning I was several times on the forecastle, where I found
McAllister with his glass eagerly fixed on the chase.

"I am certain of it," he exclaimed.  "As true as I'm a Highland
gentleman, and my name is McAllister, that craft ahead of us is the
Audacieuse.  I know her by second sight, or, if you don't believe in it,
by the cut of her canvas, even at this distance.  I'm certain of it.  I
would give my patrimony, and more wealth than I am ever likely to
possess, to come up with her.  I'll make Lieutenant Preville pay dearly
for the trick he played us."

Though I thought very likely that the schooner in sight was our former
prize, I could not be certain.  Neither were the men who had been with
us, nor were the crew of the Espoir at all certain as to the vessel in
sight.  As Ned Bambrick observed, "She might be her, or she might not be
her; but one French schooner, at the distance of seven or eight miles,
looked very like another, and that's all I can say, do ye see, sir, for
certain.  The only way is to overhaul her, and then we shall know."

Perigal was inclined to side with McAllister, from the satisfaction
which the so doing afforded him; indeed, he now appeared in far better
spirits than he had done since our mishap.

At last the breeze freshened, and we rose the land, the coast of Cuba,
beyond the chase.  Her chance of escape was consequently much lessened,
unless she could haul up along shore, or there was any harbour up which
she might run for shelter.  We were now clearly gaining on her, and as
we drew nearer McAllister became more and more certain that she was the
Audacieuse, while others also agreed with him.  I, of course, hoped that
he was right.

"We will make Preville cook for us.  He shall be employed in dressing
ragouts all day long," he exclaimed, rubbing his hands.  "But I hope he
won't yield without fighting.  I wish it would fall calm, and I may be
sent in command of the boats to take him.  That would be the most
satisfactory thing."

I agreed with him in the latter point, but argued that the Frenchmen had
only treated us as we should have attempted to treat them under similar
circumstances, so that we had no reason to complain, while they had also
behaved most liberally to us when giving us a boat to reach Jamaica.  My
poor messmate was, however, far too excited to listen to reason.

The day wore on.  Nothing would induce McAllister to leave the deck.  We
sent him up some cold meat and biscuit for dinner, but he would scarcely
touch the food, continually keeping his eye on the chase.  The day was
advancing, and we were drawing in with the land.  It was still uncertain
whether we should catch her, as she might more easily escape us during
darkness.  We were about two miles from the land, against the dark
outline of which her sails appeared shining brightly in the rays of the
sun, just sinking into the ocean.  The wind was dropping.  If the land
breeze came off, we might not be able to work up to her, though she
might anchor, and then McAllister's wish would be gratified.

I had returned to the forecastle, where a good many of the officers were
assembled, watching the chase.  The sun had sunk below the horizon.  The
gloom came down with a rapidity unknown in northern latitudes.  There
was the schooner.  Our eyes were on her.  Suddenly she disappeared.
McAllister stamped with his foot, and I thought would have dashed his
glass on the deck, when he could no longer discover her.  So
unexpectedly had the chase vanished that some began to pronounce her the
Flying Dutchman, or a phantom craft of that description.  The master,
however, very soon appeared, and announced the fact that inside of us
was a strongly-fortified harbour, and that of course the cause of the
chase being no longer seen was that she had run up it, and rapidly
furled her sails.

We now hauled off the land, and hove-to, and Captain Ceaton coming on
board, it was agreed that an attempt should be made to cut out the
schooner, and any other vessels which might be in the harbour.  The plan
was very simple.  The marines, with a party of seamen, were to land and
attack the forts in the rear, while the ships' boats, manned by all the
blue jackets who could be spared, were to take possession of the vessels
in the harbour, if they could.

The harbour was reported as strongly fortified, and it was important,
therefore, if possible, to take the enemy by surprise.  The captains
consequently resolved to put off the attack till another night.  This
did not suit poor McAllister's impatience.  He was eager to commence the
undertaking without delay.

The two ships now stood off to such a distance that they could not be
seen from the shore, and we then hove-to.  All those to be employed were
busily preparing for the work in hand.  It was understood that it would
be far more severe than anything in which we had yet engaged.  Captain
Ceaton begged leave to lead the expedition, and, Mr Bryan being ill,
Mr Fitzgerald was to be second in command.  The land forces were led by
Lieutenant Fig of the marines.  Though his name was short, he was not;
and he was, moreover, a very gallant fellow.  The second lieutenant of
the corvette had charge of the boats for landing the soldiers.  In such
exploits it is seldom that the senior captain himself commands; indeed,
they are generally confided to the lieutenants who have their
commissions to win.  McAllister, to his great satisfaction, got command
of one boat, with Grey as his companion; and Mr Johnson, whom I
accompanied, took charge of another.  We were to have three boats from
the frigate, and two from the corvette, the rest being employed in
landing the soldiers.  My cousin was unwell, and in the evening his
surgeon sent on board to say that he was utterly unfit to accompany the
proposed expedition, the command of which was therefore claimed by Mr
Fitzgerald.

"If it was daylight, his phiz would go far to secure us the victory,"
observed Perigal, who did not hold our eccentric second lieutenant in
high estimation.  "However, he can shriek, and that is something."

As soon as it was dark, we once more stood towards the land, but the
night wind came off, and we worked up at a slow rate, which sorely tried
our patience.  The hours of darkness passed by; still, we had night
enough left to do the work.  The ships hove-to, and the boats were piped
away.  My heart beat high.  I longed almost as much as McAllister to
regain possession of the Audacieuse, should the schooner prove to be
her.  There was no time to be lost, lest daylight might surprise us.  We
shoved off, and away we went right merrily, with muffled oars, the men
bending their backs to them with a will.

There was supposed to be a little cove outside the chief harbour, and
here the soldiers were to land and form.  A rocket sent up by our part
of the expedition, as soon as we were alongside the schooner or
discovered by the enemy, was to be the signal for the soldiers to
advance and storm the works.  At some little distance from the harbour's
mouth we parted from the land forces, and now still more rapidly we
advanced.  On a hill overlooking the harbour we could distinguish the
outline of a formidable-looking fort, or rather castle; while close
under its guns lay, not only the schooner, but rising up, with the
tracery of their spars and rigging pencilled against the sky, appeared a
large three-masted ship, either a heavy corvette or a frigate, with
three or four more vessels moored head and stern of her, while the
schooner lay more out, with her guns pointing down the harbour--so that,
to get at her, we should have to pass under the fire of all the rest,
while the guns from the fort above could plunge their fire right down
upon us.

The tide was running strong out of the harbour, and the grey streaks of
dawn were already appearing in the east.  These circumstances might be
to our advantage, if we were once in possession of the schooner, but
were at present very much against us.  What other officers might have
done in a similar case I am not prepared to say; but Paddy Fitzgerald
was not the man to turn his back on an enemy till he had crossed blades
with him.  So on we pulled, rather slowly though, against the current.
I hoped that the enemy had not discovered us, for it seemed as if no
watch even was kept on board the vessels, and that all their crews were
wrapped in sleep.

"Don't be too sure of that," whispered Mr Johnson.  "They are not like
heavy-sterned Dutchmen or Russians; these Frenchmen always sleep with
one eye open."

Whether he was right or not I do not know, but just as the boats, all
keeping close together in beautiful order, had got abreast of the lowest
vessel, our eccentric leader, either by accident or on purpose, for the
sake of giving the enemy a better chance of knocking us to pieces, sent
up the rocket right over their heads.  The first whiz must have startled
the sleeping watch, and in a few seconds drums were heard beating to
quarters, and officers bawling and shouting, and lights gleaming about
in all directions.  The crew of the schooner, too, gave evidence that
they were on the alert, for several shots came flying down the harbour
over our heads.  They had not got the range, but they would soon.  Mr
Fitzgerald's voice was heard shouting--

"We've awoke them up.  Erin go bragh!  Hurra, lads! push on!"

A deep voice was heard joining the shout, "For the schooner!  The
schooner's our aim!"  It was that of McAllister.

On shore, too, and in the fort, there was a great commotion; drums there
also were beating, and officers calling the garrison to the ramparts,
while bright flashes and the rattle of musketry showed that those of the
land expedition were well performing their part of the undertaking.

We dashed on as fast as we could urge the boats against the current,
right under the broadsides of the corvette and other vessels, which
began pouring in on us a terrific fire of great guns and small-arms,
which soon made fearful havoc among our crews.  Still we pulled on.
Three men in the boatswain's boat had been struck, one of whom was
killed, when a shower of grape-shot came plunging down directly into
her, killing another man, and tearing right through her sides.  She
filled rapidly.  A cry arose from our poor fellows, as they found
themselves sinking.  We were close to another boat.  Mr Johnson,
seizing one of the wounded men, and telling me to follow him, and the
coxswain grasping the other, we all leaped into her.  We found she was
McAllister's.  Two men in her were killed, and poor Grey lay in the
stern-sheets badly hurt.  McAllister was all excitement, utterly
regardless of the shot like hail flying round him, and urging the men to
pull towards the schooner.  We had nearly reached her, when Mr
Fitzgerald, who had hitherto been cheering on the men, fell back
wounded, giving the order, as he did so, to retreat.  It was too evident
that success was no longer possible; one quarter of the party were
either killed or wounded, and many more must be lost before we could
ever gain the deck of the schooner.  McAllister thought differently; the
object for which he had so long been wishing seemed within his grasp.
He sprang forward, and in the grey light of morning I could see his
figure as he stood up, and waving his hand, shouted--

"My name is McAllister, of ancient lineage, and the rightful owner of a
broad estate in the Highlands, and it shall never be said that I turned
my back to the foe.  On, lads, and the Audacieuse will be ours!"

Scarcely had he uttered the words, when a round-shot struck him on the
breast and knocked him overboard, before anyone could grasp him.
Instantly Mr Johnson sprang up, and shouted--

"My name is not McAllister, and I haven't an acre of land in Scotland or
elsewhere, and so give way, my lads, with the starboard oars, and back
with the larboard ones, and let us get out of this as fast as we can, or
not one of us will have a whole skin to cover his bones."

The men obeyed.  I was very glad they did, for I had had quite enough of
the work, and getting the boat round, the current soon carried us out of
the hottest part of the fire.  Still the shot came whistling after us,
and when I considered the terrific fire to which we had been so long
exposed, I could only feel thankful at finding myself and any of my
companions still in the land of the living.  As it was, two of our boats
were knocked to pieces and sunk, and fully half those who had formed the
expedition were either killed or wounded.

My attention was now turned towards my friend Grey, who lay in the
stern-sheets groaning with pain.  I was stooping forward to bind my
handkerchief over his arm, when a round-shot flew by, which Mr Johnson
told me would have taken off my head had I been sitting upright.  For
his sake, and that of the wounded men, I was very anxious to return on
board, but I found that we had first to go in and cover the embarkation
of the soldiers, in case they had been defeated and followed, or to give
them notice of our failure should they still be persevering in the
attack.  On getting into the little harbour, no one was found on the
beach, and I was therefore despatched to direct Lieutenant Fig to
retire.  It was an undertaking of no little hazard, for I might be made
a prisoner by the enemy, or lose my way and be unable to return to the
harbour.

Toby Bluff, who had stowed himself away in one of the other boats,
entreated that he might be allowed to accompany me.  I was very glad to
have a companion.  Two people can often carry out an object in which one
may fail.

Off we set, having taken the supposed bearings of the fort, as fast as
we could manage to get along through the gloom.  The first part of our
path was through sand, with rocks sticking up here and there, over which
we stumbled several times, and broke our shins, but we picked ourselves
up as well as we could, and not having time to give them a rub, hurried
on.  We were soon among maize fields, and then some coffee or other
plantations, but fortunately there were no tall trees near yet further
to darken the road.  The path was somewhat rough, but I believed that it
was the only one leading to the fort.  The firing had entirely ceased.
I could not, however, tell whether this was a good or a bad sign;
whether our marines had entered the fort, or had been driven back.
Eager to ascertain, and to deliver my orders, we continued to push on.
Suddenly, as we were passing a narrow place, with thick bushes on either
side, some large hands were laid on my shoulders, and a rough negro
voice said--

"Qui etes-vous, jeunes gens?"

"Amis, j'espere," I replied readily, summoning to my aid a large
proportion of the French I had learned from Colonel Pinchard.

"Ou allez-vous donc?" was next asked.

This was a puzzler, for I could not remember the name of the fort, or,
indeed, of a castle in French.  Another big negro had caught Toby Bluff,
and, of course, could elicit no information from him.  They both
laughed, as I fancied, at my attempts to speak French.  I wanted to
escape, if possible, without fighting; but when I found that we were
discovered, I put my hand to my belt to draw a pistol.  It was
immediately grasped by my captors, and wrenched out of my hand,
exploding at the moment, though fortunately without injuring me.  The
negro was lightly clad, and possessed of three times my strength, so
that I in vain struggled to free myself from him.  Toby also was
completely overpowered, and they now began dragging us along up the
hill.

I felt very uncomfortable.  We had failed in the object of our
expedition, and I thought we should either be knocked on the head by our
captors, or perhaps be shot for spies by the French, while, at all
events, if allowed to live, we should be kept as prisoners for months or
years to come.  Worked up to desperation by these ideas, I struggled
violently to get free, calling to Toby to do the same.  In my struggles,
I fortunately gave my captor a severe kick on the shins, when he,
instinctively stooping down to rub them, let go his hold.  At the same
moment, on my telling Toby what I had done, he imitated my example, and
also getting free, off we set at full speed, pursued by the negroes.
Where we were going I could not tell, except that we were not running
towards the shore.  The negroes, having stopped for a few moments to rub
their shins, came along almost as fast as we did, shrieking and shouting
out to us all the time to stop.  The louder they shouted the faster we
ran, till we were brought up with the point of a bayonet, and the
challenge of:--

"Who goes there?"

"Friend--Doris!"  I answered, recognising the voice of one of our
marines.

The negroes, hearing an Englishman speak, bolted off through a
plantation to the right, tumbling over each other, and had we been quick
about it, we might have made them both prisoners.  The marine told us
that his party was a little farther in advance, that they had been
defeated in the attempt to storm the fort, and that Lieutenant Fig was
waiting for further orders.  We hurried on.  Daylight was making rapid
strides, and as the French would soon discover the smallness of our
numbers, we should have their whole force down upon us, and we should be
cut to pieces or taken prisoners.

As soon as I had delivered the order to the marine officer, he gave the
word, "March--double-quick," and off we set at a pretty smart run.
Drums and fifes were sounding in the fort, and as we crossed a ridge, I
saw from the top of it a large body of troops coming out of the gate in
pursuit of us.  We could not proceed faster than we were marching, on
account of the wounded, who were carried by the bluejackets in the
centre of the party.  As it was, I perceived that many of the poor
fellows, from the groans to which they gave vent, were suffering
dreadfully.  Still it was impossible to leave them behind, for though
the French might have treated them with humanity, the negroes would
probably have murdered them, had they fallen into their hands.  Daylight
was increasing, of course exposing us more clearly to the enemy.  I
never before had had to run away, and I cannot say that I liked the
feeling, still there can be no doubt that in this instance discretion
was the best part of valour.  It would have been folly to stop and
fight, as at any moment parties might appear, landed from the vessels we
had attacked, and who might cut us off.  The lieutenant of the Pearl,
who commanded the seamen, had been killed in the attack, so that the
entire command devolved on Lieutenant Fig, and, to do him justice, he
behaved with great judgment.

The enemy, in strong force, were now rapidly approaching us.  At length
we came in sight of the boats: the wounded were sent on, while the rest
of the party faced about to encounter our foes.  On they came, but the
steady front exhibited by the marines made them halt.  Once more they
advanced.  We received them with a hot fire, and stood our ground,
driving them back to some distance, but only for a few minutes, for as
we were about to continue our retreat, again they came on, expecting by
their greatly superior numbers to overwhelm us.  Again and again they
charged us.  Several of our men had fallen, and it was too evident that
they would soon cut us to pieces.  Should we be once thrown into
disorder, we should be destroyed before we could reach the boats.  I
found, too, that our ammunition was almost expended.  Again the enemy
came on, when, at the same moment, a loud huzza was heard in the rear,
led by a voice which I recognised as that of Jonathan Johnson, and on he
came at the head of some twenty bluejackets, flourishing their cutlasses
like a body of Highlanders, and shouting at the top of their voices.
This timely support encouraged our men, and charging at the same moment,
we drove the enemy headlong before us.

I had picked up a musket, and charged with the rest, and was carried by
my ardour, or from not knowing exactly what I was about, ahead of my
companions.  I felt excited and highly delighted.  The Frenchmen,
however, as they retreated, faced about every now and then, and fired.
As I was cheering lustily, a shot struck me, and I fell.  I thought no
one had noticed me, as I heard Lieutenant Fig give the order to retreat.
The enemy at the same moment halted, and encouraged by the arrival of
another officer, they again came on.  It seemed all up with me, but my
faithful follower, Toby Bluff, had seen me fall, and, springing forward,
he threw himself in front of me, shouting--

"If any on you Johnny Crapeaus dares to hurt the young measter, now he's
down, I'll have the life out of you!"

Struck by Toby's bravery, the Frenchmen for a moment hung back, but they
were again coming on, and would soon have overpowered him, when, on
looking up, I saw Mr Johnson stooping over me.  In a moment he had
lifted me, as if I had been a baby, on his left arm, and, telling Toby
to run, with his cutlass in his right hand, he kept the Frenchmen who
pressed on him at bay.

Thus fighting and retreating we reached the boats, and one of them
having brought her bow-gun to bear on the enemy, loaded with grape, kept
them at a respectable distance, while the rest of us embarked.  They did
not, indeed, approach the shore till we were fairly off, and though they
peppered us with musketry, only one or two men were slightly hurt.
However, altogether our expedition had been more disastrous than any in
which I had ever been engaged.

With heavy hearts we pulled on board.  Mr Johnson, with the gentleness
of a woman, bound up my wound.  Poor Grey lifted up his head as he saw
me placed by his side in the stern-sheets, and said--

"What, Merry, are you hurt too?  There will be no need of shamming this
time, to deceive Macquoid."

"I am afraid not," I answered faintly.  "But still I hope that we may
live to fight the Frenchmen another day."

"No fear of that, young gentlemen," said Mr Johnson, who had overheard
us.  "Keep up your spirits; young flesh and sinews soon grow together,
and there are no bones broken in either of you, I hope."

We all got at length safely on board, when the wounded were without
delay carried below, and placed under the surgeon's care.  He repeated
the boatswain's advice to Grey and me, and told us that if we followed
it we should soon be well.  Two or three of the poor fellows brought on
board alive, died of their wounds that night.  We heard that Captain
Collyer and Commander Ceaton were very much cut up at the failure of the
expedition, and the loss of so many officers and men.  I was especially
sorry for McAllister's death.  Though eccentric in some of his notions,
he was every inch an officer and a gentleman.

We at once made sail, I understood, from the fatal spot, but the general
wish was that we might fall in with the schooner elsewhere, or return
and take her.

Before many days had passed, I received a visit from my cousin.  Sorrow
had worked a sad change in him, and I felt grieved as I looked up at his
countenance, at the bad report I should have to give of him to poor
Bertha.

It was fortunate for Grey and me that we kept at sea, for the weather
was tolerably cool, and our hurts rapidly healed.

The Doris had now been nearly four years in commission, so that we
expected, as soon as the cruise was up, to be sent home.  We had all had
enough of the West Indies, and we looked forward with eager satisfaction
to the time when the white cliffs of Old England should once more greet
our eyes.  One sorrow only broke in on our anticipations of pleasure.
It was when we thought of our gallant shipmates who had been cut off,
who had hoped, as we were doing, once more to be united to those they
loved so dearly at home.  I should have been more sorry for Perigal than
for anybody else, had he been killed, but happily neither bullet nor
fever seemed to hurt him, and I hoped that he might once more be united
to his wife.  I thought, too, of poor McAllister's Mary, and of the sad
news I should have to convey to her.  However, I cannot say that I
indulged in these, or other mournful reflections, for any length of
time.  I was more thoughtful than I had been when I came to sea four
years ago, but that was only at times when some occurrences made me
think.  Generally I spoke of myself as Merry by name and merry by
nature, and was, I fear, still but a harum-scarum fellow after all.

As may be supposed, the general subject of conversation in the berth or
during the night-watches, was home.  Those who have never been from
home, can scarcely understand the pleasure seamen experience, who have
been long absent, in simply talking about returning home.  There they
expect to find peace, and quiet, and rest, those who love them, and can
sympathise with them, and listen to their accounts of all their
exploits, and dangers, and hardships.  Such at that time were my
feelings, and those of my friend Grey, but I am very certain that they
cannot be the feelings of those who have given way to vicious habits,
and whose only expectation is to enjoy their more unbridled indulgence.
The thought of a pure and quiet home can afford no joy to them; they
lose, I may say, one of the chief recompenses which those obtain whose
duty calls them away from home, and all the loved ones there.

Still our hope was deferred.  We were, however, the gainers, in one
respect, by this, for we took some of the richest prizes captured on the
station, so that even we midshipmen began to feel that we were persons
of boundless wealth.  At length our orders arrived, and the shout ran
along the decks--

"Hurrah, we are homeward-bound!"



CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

  To England we with favouring gale,
  Our gallant ship up Channel steer;
  When running under easy sail,
  The light blue western cliffs appear.

How often and often have those cheerful lines been sung by young, and
light, and happy hearts, beating high with anticipations of happiness,
and thoughts of the homes they are about to revisit after long years of
absence.  Such was the song sung in the midshipmen's berth of the Doris,
as once more our gallant frigate entered the chops of the Channel, and
we were looking forward to seeing again those western cliffs which often
and often we had pictured to ourselves awake, and seen in our dreams
asleep.

I will not dwell on the feeling with which "Sweethearts and wives" was
drunk on the last Saturday evening in the midshipmen's berth as well as
in every mess in the ship; not that the young gentlemen themselves had
any one who could properly be designated as one or the other, but they
might hope to have, and that was the next thing to it.

I thought of poor McAllister, cut down in his early manhood, and of his
poor Mary, and I resolved if possible to fulfil his request, and to go
and tell her about him.  It was a task I would gladly have avoided.
Then again, what an unsatisfactory account I must give to Bertha of poor
Ceaton.  His expectation of dying soon might be mere fancy, but it was
very evident that his spirits had never recovered the shock he had
received when he killed Captain Staghorn, and he felt himself branded
with the mark of Cain.

I was far from recovered from my last wound, and, altogether, my
anticipations of pleasure were tempered with many causes for sorrow.
However, I do not wish to appear sentimental, though I do wish to hint
that midshipmen, even when returning home, must not expect to find
unclouded happiness.

We had still some leagues to traverse, and it was possible that we might
fall in with an enemy, and have another battle to fight, before we could
reach home.  Not that any one had any objection to so doing; on the
contrary, no one expected for a moment that we could meet an enemy
without coming off the victor, and being able to sail into Portsmouth
harbour with our prize.  A sharp look-out was accordingly kept on every
side, as we sailed up Channel, but by that time few French cruisers
remained daring enough to show themselves near the British coasts, and
the Needle Rocks at length hove in sight, and with a leading breeze we
ran up inside the Isle of Wight, and anchored at Spithead among a large
fleet there assembled.

After waiting two days, uncertain as to our fate, we received orders to
go into harbour to be paid off.  I need not describe the operation, nor
the scenes which took place after it.  Each man received a considerable
sum, and I believe that before many days were over, half the number had
spent, in the most childish way, the larger portion, and some, every
shilling of their hard-earned gains, and were ready again to go afloat.

Most of the officers had gone on shore, and Spellman, and Grey, and I,
and other midshipmen, were preparing to take our departure, when we went
to bid farewell to Mr Johnson.

"Mr Merry, I hope that we shall not part just yet," he said with great
feeling, taking my hand.  "The ship is to be left in charge of the
gunner, and I have obtained leave to go up to London to visit my wife,
and for other reasons.  Now it will afford me great pleasure if you and
Mr Grey will make my house your resting-place on your way home, or
rather I should say my wife's house, for, as I told you, she is a lady
of independent fortune.  Indeed, Mr Merry, friends as we are afloat, I
know the customs of the service too well to ask you, a quarter-deck
officer, to my house under other circumstances."

"Don't speak of that, Mr Johnson," said I, feeling sure that he would
be pleased if I accepted his invitation, and wishing perhaps a little to
gratify my own curiosity.  "I shall be delighted to go to your house.
You forget how much I am indebted to you for having several times saved
my life, and that puts us on an equality on shore, if not on board;
besides, remember I know all about your wife, and I do not think that I
ever returned you the letter you gave me for her when you thought you
might be killed."

"All right, Mr Merry; don't let's have any protestations; we're brother
seamen and shipmates, and thoroughly appreciate each other, though some
of the incidents I mentioned in my wonderful narratives might shake some
people's confidence in my veracity," he remarked, again grasping my
hand.

"However, that is neither here nor there.  You understand me, and that's
enough.  If you and Mr Grey like, we will take a post-chaise between
us, and post up to town.  I am impatient to be at home, and you will
have no objection, I dare say, to whisk as fast along the road as four
posters can make the wheels go round."

Grey and I willingly agreed to Mr Johnson's proposition.  Spellman was
not asked, and had he been, we concluded that he would not have accepted
the invitation, so we said nothing about it to him.  We had a jolly
paying-off dinner, with the usual speeches, and compliments, and toasts.
After the health of the King was drunk and all the Royal family, and
other important personages, Mr Bryan got up and said--

"Now, gentlemen, I have to propose the health of a shipmate, of, I may
say, a brother officer of mine, Lieutenant Perigal, with three times
three."  Saying this, he pulled out of his pocket one of those long
official documents, such as are well-known to emanate from my Lords
Commissioners of the Admiralty.

"Come at last! hurrah!--well, it will make my dear wife happy," were the
first words the delighted Perigal could utter.  I honoured him for them.
Faithful and honest, he was a true sailor.  I afterwards had the
pleasure of meeting his young wife, and she was worthy of all the
eulogiums he had delighted when absent to pass on her.  He had picked up
a fair share of prize-money, otherwise his half-pay of ninety pounds a
year was not much on which to support a wife and to keep up the
appearance of a gentleman.  I was in hopes that Mr Bryan would himself
have been promoted, but he was not.  Mr Fitzgerald, however, very
shortly afterwards received his commission as a commander.  Bobus
declared that it was because he had stood on his head before the King
and made him laugh, or because he had amused some other great person by
one of his wonderful stories.  I met him one day, and congratulated him.

"Ah, merit, merit does everything, Mr Merry, next to zeal," he
exclaimed, with a chuckle.

"You always were a zealous officer; and now I think of it, you are the
very midshipman who took off his trousers and blew into them, when no
other sail or wind was to be had for love or money, and the captain was
in a hurry to get your boat back.  I've often told the story since of
you, and set it all down to your zeal."

"Well, let this be your consolation, if others do not recognise your
services, I will when I am one of the Lords of the Admiralty."

"Well, sir," said I, "I hope that you will make haste to climb up into
that honourable position, or the war will be over, and I shall not have
secured my commission."  I did not think that it would be polite to have
replied, I thank you for nothing, but certainly I did not expect ever to
benefit much by his patronage.

To return to the paying-off dinner.  I wish that I could say that all
present retired quietly to their respective inns and lodgings as sober
as judges; but, with the exception of Grey and me, I believe that not
one could have managed to toe a plank, had they been suddenly ordered to
make the attempt.  I speak of things as they were in those days, not as
they are now.  Happily at the present day it is considered highly
disgraceful for an officer to be drunk; and not only is it disgraceful,
but subversive of discipline, whether he is on or off duty, and thus
injurious to the interests of the service, and prejudicial to his own
health and morals.  Taking the matter up only in a personal point of
view, how can a man tell how he will behave when he has allowed liquor
to steal away his wits? what mischief he may do himself, what injury he
may inflict on others?  In the course of my career I have seen hundreds
of young men ruined in health and prospects, and many, very many,
brought to a premature grave by this pernicious habit of drinking.

"But what is the harm of getting drunk once in a way?"  I have heard
many a shipmate ask.

I say, a vast deal of harm.  How can you tell what you will do, while
you are thus once-in-a-way drunk?  I, an old sailor, and not an over
strait-laced one either, do warn most solemnly you young midshipmen, and
others, who may read my memoirs, that numbers have had to rue most
bitterly, all their after lives, that once-in-a-way getting drunk, or, I
may say, taking more than a moderate allowance of liquor.  Many fine
promising young fellows, who have at first shown no signs of caring for
liquor, have ultimately become addicted to drinking, from that most
dangerous habit of _taking a nip_ whenever they have an opportunity.

"But why call that a dangerous habit?" shipmates have asked me.  "A nip
is only _just a taste_ of spirits, raw it may be, or perhaps even
watered.  It's a capital thing for the stomach, and keeps out cold, and
saves many a fellow from illness."

So it may, say I.  But it is the nip extra I dread, with good reason;
the nip when no such necessity exists, or rather excuse, for a man may
pass years without positively requiring spirits to preserve his health.
However, not to weary my readers with the subject, I will conclude it,
by urging them to be most watchful, lest they take the first step in
this or any other vice.  How many fall, because they think that vice is
manly.  Which is the most manly person, he who yields to his foes, or he
who, with his back to a tree, boldly keeps them at bay?  No greater foes
to a man's happiness and prosperity than his vices--or sin.  No man can
expect to escape being attacked by sin, and those who are its slaves
already cry out, "Yield to it; yield to it.  It's a pleasant master.
Just try its yoke; you can get free, you know, whenever you like."

Never was a greater falsehood uttered, or one more evidently invented by
the father of lies.  The yoke of sin is most galling; it is the hardest
of task-masters.  The people who talk thus do their utmost to hide their
chains, to conceal their sufferings, which giving way to sin has brought
upon them.  Do not trust to them, whatever their rank or character in
the world.  I would urge you from the highest of motives, from love for
the Saviour who died for you, not to give way to sin; and I would point
out to you how utterly low, and degrading, and unmanly it is to yield to
such a foe--a foe so base and cowardly, that if you make any real effort
to withstand him, he will fly before you.  Don't be ashamed to pray for
help through Him, and you are not on equal terms unless you do.  That's
not unmanly.  Sin has got countless allies ever ready to come to its
support.  By prayer you will obtain one--but that One is all powerful,
all sufficient.  It is my firm belief that He, and He alone, is the only
ally in whom you can place implicit reliance.  Others may fall away at
the times of greatest need.  He, and He alone, will never desert you;
will remain firm and constant till the battle of life is over.

Now some of my readers, perhaps, will exclaim, "Hillo, Mr Midshipman
Marmaduke Merry, have _you_ taken to preaching?  You, who have been
describing that extraordinary old fellow Jonathan Johnson, with his
veracious narratives, and wonderful deeds.  You've made a mistake.
You've taken it into your head to write some sermons for sailors, and
you've got hold by mistake of the manuscript of your own adventures."

Pardon me, I have made no mistake, I reply.  When I was Midshipman
Marmaduke Merry, I did not preach; I did not often give good advice as I
do now.  I wish that I had, and I wish that I had taken it oftener than
I did.  What I do now is to afford the result of my experience at the
close of a long life; and it is that experience by which I wish you to
benefit.  I quote the Scriptures, and I believe in the Scriptures for
many reasons.  One of them is--that I have ever seen Scripture promises
fulfilled, and Scripture threats executed.  Now let me ask you what
would you say to a man whose father, or some other relative, had been
storing up gold or other articles of value, and which, when offered to
him, he should refuse to accept, on the plea that they cost much
trouble, and occupied so many years to collect, that they must be
useless?  You would say that such a man is an idiot.  Yet is not
experience, or rather the good advice which results from experience,
treated over and over again by worldly idiots exactly in that way?  Do
not you, dear readers, join that throng of idiots.  Take an old man's
advice, and ponder over the matters of which I have just now been
speaking.  This exhortation has arisen out of our paying-off dinner.  I
might have given you a very amusing account of that same feast--though
it was not "a feast of reason," albeit it might have been a "flow of
soul;" but I am not in the vein, the fact being, that paying-off dinners
are melancholy affairs to look back at.  How few of those assembled
round the festive board, who have been our companions for the previous
three, or four, or perhaps five years, through storm and battles and
hardships, ever meet again!

Some have grown in honour, some have sunk in dishonour; some have
struggled on with services unrequited, and have become soured and
discontented; others again, in spite of their humble worldly position,
have retained good spirits and kindly feelings, and though now old
lieutenants with grey hairs, appear to be the same warm happy-hearted
beings they were when midshipmen.  Should any of the readers not meet
with the success they desire, I hope that they will belong to the last
class; but I am very certain that they will not, unless, as midshipmen,
they avoid evil courses, and fall not into the paths of sin.

The morning after that paying-off dinner, Grey and I were up early, and
had breakfasted, when a yellow chaise drew up at the door of the Blue
Posts, and in the interior appeared seated a very dignified-looking
gentleman in plain clothes, whom we had no difficulty in distinguishing
as Mr Jonathan Johnson.  Toby Bluff, who was on the box, got down and
opened the door, when Mr Johnson, getting out, inquired with a paternal
air, whether we were ready to start.

Our portmanteaus, flattened and wrinkled, containing the remainder of
those articles which on starting could with difficulty be stowed in our
bulky chests, being strapped on, we jumped in, followed by Mr Johnson,
and Toby remounting the box, up High Street we rattled at a tremendous
pace, exactly suited to our feelings.

"This is pleasant, isn't it, young gentlemen?" exclaimed Mr Johnson,
rubbing his hands.  "I never like to let the grass grow under my feet
either ashore or afloat.  Sometimes, to be sure, one has to sit still,
and wait to do nothing, the most trying thing in the world to do.
However, when you do keep moving, take care to move forward.  Some
people move backward, remember.  I have from time to time given you bits
of good advice, and I dare say that you have been surprised to hear them
from an old fellow who could spin such an outrageous yarn as my
veracious narrative, but I hope that its very extravagance will have
prevented you from supposing for a moment that I am capable of falsehood
myself, or would encourage it in others; still I must own that I have
been guilty of a piece of deceit, though I did not at the first intend
to deceive.  I will tell you the circumstances of the case, and then
condemn me as I deserve.  I told you that my wife was a lady of rank and
education.  My father was really very well connected, and when I was a
young man staying with him, I met the daughter of a country gentleman of
property, with whom I fell in love, and she had no objection to me.  Her
parents, however, would not hear of the match, and I was sent off to
sea.  Though only a warrant officer, I always liked good society when I
could enter it, and on one occasion some few years back, having gone for
that purpose to Bath, I was introduced to a lady who was, I was
informed, the Baroness Strogonoff.  Before long I discovered that she
was the widow of a Russian baron, and that she was no other than my old
flame.  I found that she had always felt an interest for me, and in fact
that she would have married me had she been allowed.  I naturally asked
her if she would now, and she said Yes.  I told her that I was now in
the navy, and an officer, and though this was true, I felt that I
committed a great fault in not telling her that I was only a warrant
officer.  I was flush of prize-money at the time, and could make a very
good appearance, which, as you may suppose, I did not fail to do.  The
result was that all her old affection for me returned, and that, to cut
the matter short, we married.

"Here was I, a poor boatswain, the husband of a rich baroness, she of
course, you'll understand, not knowing that I was a poor boatswain, or
rather, what a boatswain is.  Now, if there's one thing more than
another sticks in my throat, it is the thought of a man being dependent
on a woman, let her be who she may, for his support, if he can support
himself.  Now I had the greatest affection and respect for my wife, but
this feeling always came between me and my happiness.  While living with
her I only spent my own prize-money on myself; and though I would gladly
have remained with her, as soon as I was appointed to a ship I resolved
to go to sea.  I was not worse off than any post-captain or other
officer in the service in this respect.  I told her that duty called me
to sea, and, though evidently with great unwillingness, she would not
stop me in the path of duty.  Ah, young gentlemen, my Baroness is a true
woman, and I only wish for her sake that I was a post-captain, and in
the fair way of becoming an admiral.  She deserves it, anyhow.  I have,
I believe, a distant cousin a baronet, and as I believe that it gives me
some importance in the eyes of her friends, I talk about him
occasionally in their presence.  Not that I care a fig for rank myself,
except as far as it may gratify her.  So packing up my traps I joined my
ship, not allowing any one on board to know even that I was married.  I
felt very sad, but I kept my affairs to myself, and tried to do my duty
to the best of my power.  I went to India, and you may be sure I
collected all the most beautiful presents I could think of for my dear
wife.  I picked up, too, a good share of prize-money, so that I felt I
might return home with a clear conscience, and the prospect of being
well received.  I was not mistaken, for my wife was overjoyed at my
return, and would, I believe, have been so had I come back without a
single jewel or shawl for her, and without a guinea in my pocket.  This
time I was able to leave a handsome sum of money with her, of which I
begged her acceptance, for you see I knew that if she died before me, I
had always my pension to fall back on, or Greenwich, and that I should
have ample for all my wants; and I felt a proud satisfaction in adding
to her comfort and enjoyment by every means in my power, for I doubt if
any other boatswain in the service can boast of having a baroness for
his wife."

"I should think not, Mr Johnson," said I.  "But then, I do not think
that any other boatswain in the service deserves one so much as you."
He pulled up his shirt collar and looked highly pleased at this remark.

"You think so, Mr Merry?  You are a young gentleman of discernment in
most matters, and I hope are so in this respect," he answered.
"However, when you see the Baroness, I think that you will confess that
a man must be worth something to be worthy of her."

Thus we talked on, and I fancy that our tongues were not silent for a
minute together during the whole journey.

The last stage we had four horses.

"I like to go home in style," observed Mr Johnson.  "Not on my own
account, you'll understand, but because it pleases the Baroness, and
makes her neighbours suppose that her husband is a person of
consequence."

We darted along at a fine rate, and at length drew up at the door of a
very pretty villa in the neighbourhood of London, without having had to
drive through the city itself.  We sat still, while Mr Johnson sprang
out, and we saw him through the windows cordially welcomed by a really
very handsome-looking lady of somewhat large proportions, whom we had no
doubt was the Baroness herself.  In this conjecture we were right, and
Mr Johnson soon returning, introduced us in due form to her.  She
received us most graciously and kindly, indeed in the most good-natured
manner, and told us that we were welcome to stay at her house as long as
we pleased.  She seemed a warm-hearted unsophisticated person, and I
should have said not over-refined or highly educated.  Had she been so,
I confess that I do not think she would have married my worthy friend
Jonathan Johnson.  A room was quickly prepared for us, and we found
ourselves in five minutes perfectly at home.  We were shortly discussing
a capital dinner, and as I looked at our well-dressed host at the foot
of the table, I could scarcely believe that he was the same person who,
a few days before, was carrying on duty with chain and whistle round his
neck as boatswain of the Doris.  During dinner the Baroness announced
that she had fixed on the following evening, before she knew of her
husband's intended return, to give a rout, and she pressed us so warmly
to stay for it, that we, nothing loath, consented to do so.  We were
able to do this, as we had not mentioned any day positively for our
appearance at our own homes.  We spent the next morning in visiting with
Mr Johnson the sights of London, but we returned early, as he was
unwilling to be long absent from his wife.  After dinner a host of
servants came in, and in a rapid space of time prepared the house for
the reception of the expected guests.  It was well lighted up, and I was
quite dazzled with its appearance.  Still more so was I, when the
Baroness came down glittering with jewels, and the guests began to
assemble, and, as far as I could judge, there appeared to be a number of
people of some rank and consequence among them.  There was a
conservatory and a tent full of flowers at the end of a broad passage,
all gaily lighted up, and several rooms thrown open for dancing, and a
band soon struck up, and the Baroness introduced Grey and me to some
capital partners, and we were soon toeing and heeling-it away to our
hearts' content.  We had plenty to say to the young ladies about our
battles and other adventures, and of course we took care not to speak of
Mr Johnson, though more than one, I thought, pointedly asked what his
rank was in the navy.  I replied, carelessly, that he was a very brave
officer, who had greatly distinguished himself, and that he had more
than once saved my life, so that there was no man in existence for whom
I had a greater regard.  I believe that my remarks, without departing in
the slightest degree from the truth, were calculated to raise the
gallant boatswain in the estimation of his wife's friends.  Scarcely had
I sat down, than I was again on my legs, prancing with my partners up
and down the room.  I was standing quiet for a moment, having reached
the foot of the dance, and placed my partner in a seat, when I felt a
tap on my shoulder, and looking round, whom should I see but Captain
Collyer.

"What, you here, Merry!" he exclaimed.  "How had you the good fortune to
be introduced to the Baroness?"

"Mr Johnson brought us here, sir," said I, very naturally, without a
moment's reflection.

"Mr Johnson!" muttered the captain, in a tone of surprise.  "Who is
he?"

I was about to reply, when, on looking up, there I saw him across the
room, standing looking at us with a comical expression of vexation on
his countenance.  His eye catching that of the captain, he immediately
advanced, and said quietly--

"I was not aware, Captain Collyer, that you were coming here, or I
should have let you know beforehand my position in this house.  I know,
as you are aware, the difference between a post-captain and a boatswain,
and I should not have presumed to invite you, though as master here, I
am honoured by receiving you; but you see, sir, that you may do me much
harm in my social position, or render me considerable service, in the
way you treat me.  I am in your hands."

"I wish to treat you as one of the bravest and most dashing officers in
His Majesty's service deserves to be treated," answered the captain,
warmly.  "How you became the husband of a lady of title, I will not stop
to enquire, but I cannot help thinking that you will be wise to give up
the sea, and to remain by her side.  The service will lose one of the
best boatswains who ever served His Majesty, but the Baroness will gain
a good husband; and I shall be happy to associate with one I esteem as a
friend and equal, which the etiquette of the service would prevent me
under present circumstances from doing."

"I thank you most cordially, Captain Collyer--from my heart, I do,"
exclaimed Mr Johnson.  "But you see, sir, I love the service dearly,
and should be loath to quit it; and I love my independence, and should
be unwilling to lose that.  I mean that I should be sorry to become
dependent even on my wife for support, while I am able to work for it
myself.  I have explained my feeling and motives, and I hope that you
will consider them right."

"Indeed I do, and honour you for them," answered the captain.  "But
still, Mr Johnson, I think that you should take the lady's opinion on
the subject.  I suspect that when she knows the true state of the case,
she would far rather you remained at home than have to go knocking about
the salt ocean, without the prospect of bettering yourself."

"That's the only fault I have to find with the service," said Mr
Johnson.  "Perhaps I have been dreaming, when living on in hopes that
some change might be made whereby I might benefit myself, that is, rise
in the service, which has ever been my ambition.  Why should not a
warrant be a stepping-stone to a commission through extraordinary good
conduct in the navy, just as a sergeant may hope to rise in the army?  I
don't mean, sir, that I wish to see the present class of boatswains
obtain commissions, but with that reward in view, a better class of men
would enter the service, and it would improve the character of the
warrant officers."

"So it might, but a large proportion would fail in obtaining their ends,
and then we should have a number of discontented warrant officers,
instead of being, as at present, the best satisfied men in the service."

"There's force in that objection, Captain Collyer; the matter requires
consideration," answered our host.  "You must not rank me, however,
among the discontented ones.  I have long made up my mind to take things
as they are, though I hope that I should not have been found wanting,
had I attained a far higher rank than I now hold."

While we were talking, I had observed a dapper little well-dressed man
come into the room, and look eagerly around.  He soon discovered the
Baroness, and having talked to her for some time in an animated style,
he advanced with her towards us.  He then ran forward, and taking Mr
Johnson's huge paw in his hand, he wrung it warmly, exclaiming--

"I congratulate you, Sir Jonathan Johnson, and your amiable and charming
lady--indeed I do, from the bottom of my heart--on your accession to
title and property.  As you never saw, or indeed, I fancy, never heard
of, your relative the late baronet, your grief need not be very poignant
on that account, so we'll say nothing about it just now.  I have been
working away like a mouse in a cheese ever since I got an inkling that
you were the rightful heir, and have only just discovered the last link
in the chain of evidence; and then, having rigged myself out, as you
nautical gentlemen would say, in a presentable evening suit, I hurried
off here; and so there's no doubt about it, and I should like to give
way to an honest hearty cheer to prove my satisfaction."

Our friend's countenance was worthy of the pencil of a painter, while
the little lawyer was thus running on.  His astonishment for a time
overpowered his satisfaction.

"I Sir Jonathan Johnson!" he at length slowly exclaimed.  "I a baronet--
I the possessor of a title and fortune--I no longer a rattan-using,
call-blowing, grog-drinking, pipe-smoking, yarn-spinning boatswain, but
a right real English baronet--my dear Baroness!  I am proud, I am happy,
I am," and he threw his arms round his wife's neck, in spite of all the
company present, and bestowing on her a hearty kiss, gave way to a
jovial cheer, in which Grey and I and the lawyer, and even Captain
Collyer, could not help joining.

The new Sir Jonathan, however, very soon recovering himself, became
aware of the absurdity of his conduct, and the guests, collected by the
cheer, coming round to congratulate him, he apologised in a fitting way
for his unwonted ebullition of feeling.  In a wonderfully short time he
was himself again, and no man could have borne his honours with a better
grace.

When the captain and Grey and I again congratulated him, he replied, "I
am much obliged to all my kind friends here, but I know that your good
wishes are sincere."

Numberless speeches on the subject were made at supper, and when Captain
Collyer shook his late boatswain by the hand at parting, he assured Sir
Jonathan that nothing had given him greater pleasure than so doing.

"All I'll ask, Captain Collyer, is, that when you get a ship, you'll
give me a cruise some day.  I don't think that I could go to sleep
happily if I was to fancy that I should never have the salt spray again
dashing into my face, or feel the deck lifting under my feet."

The promise asked was readily given, and Sir Jonathan Johnson was
afterwards engaged in one of the most gallant actions during the war,
when, as a volunteer, he led the boarders in his old style, and was
mainly instrumental in capturing the enemy.

After peace was established he bought a yacht, and many a pleasant
cruise I took with him during those piping times, our old shipmate
Perigal, to whom he had thus an opportunity of offering a handsome
salary, acting as his captain.

Toby Bluff, by his steady behaviour and sturdy bravery, became a
boatswain, and has now charge of a line-of-battle ship in ordinary at
Portsmouth.

The captain's old servant at last came on shore, and took to gardening,
but as he usually pulled up the flowers instead of the weeds, he was
directed to confine himself to sweeping the walks, which he did
effectually, with delightful slowness and precision.  He was one day in
summer found sprinkling the housemaid's tea leaves over them, as he
remarked, to lick up the dust.

I have said nothing about my own family.  It is a sad subject.  Poor
Bertha!  The gallant Ceaton never came home.  His health gave way, but
he did not die of disease.  He fell on the deck of his own ship in
action, at the moment the enemy's flag was seen to come down, the cheers
of his victorious crew ringing in his ears.

Now, dear readers, old and young, farewell.  I must bring these
recollections of my early career as a Midshipman to a conclusion.  I
wish that I had reason to believe they were as edifying as I hope they
may have proved amusing.  All I ask is, that you will deal lightly with
the faults of the work.  Take whatever good advice you may have found
scattered through the previous pages, and do not, by imitating the bad
example of any of my old shipmates, give me cause to regret that I
undertook to write this veracious history, as Mr Jonathan Johnson would
say, of the early days of...

MARMADUKE MERRY, THE MIDSHIPMAN.

THE END.





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