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´╗┐Title: Medical Life in the Navy
Author: Stables, Gordon, 1840-1910
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 "Medical Life in the Navy" ***

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Medical Life in the Navy
By Gordon Stables
Published by Robert Hardwicke, 192 Picadilly, London.
This edition dated 1868.

Medical Life in the Navy, by Gordon Stables.





I chose the navy.  I am not at all certain what it was that determined
my choice; probably this--I have a mole on my left arm, which my
gossiping old nurse (rest the old lady's soul!) used to assert was a
sure sign that I was born to be a rover.  Then I had been several
voyages to the Arctic regions, and therefore knew what a sea-life meant,
and what it didn't mean; that, no doubt, combined with an extensive
acquaintance with the novels of Captain Marryat, had much to do with it.
Be this as it may, I did choose that service, and have never yet
repented doing so.

Well, after a six weeks' preparatory read-up I packed my traps, taking
care not to forget my class-tickets--to prove the number of lectures
attended each course--a certificate of age and another of virtue, my
degree in surgery (M.Ch.), and my M.D. or medical degree; and with a
stick in my hand, and a porter at my side, I set out for the nearest
railway station.  Previously, of course, I had bidden double adieus to
all my friends, had a great many blessings hurled after me, and not a
few old shoes; had kissed a whole family of pretty cousins, ingeniously
commencing with the grandmother, although she happened to be as yellow
as a withered dock-leaf, and wrinkled as a Malaga raisin; had composed
innumerable verses, and burned them as soon as written.

"Ticket for London, please," said I, after giving a final wipe to my
eyes with the cuff of my coat.

"Four, two, six," was the laconic reply from the Jack-in-the-box; and
this I understood to mean 4 pounds 2 shillings 6 pence of the sterling
money of the realm--for the young gentleman, like most of his class,
talked as if he were merely a column in a ledger and had pound shilling
penny written on his classic brow with indelible marking ink, an idea
which railway directors ought to see carried out to prevent mistakes.

I got on board the train, a porter banged-to the door so quickly that my
coat-tails were embraced between the hinges; the guard said "all right,"
though it wasn't all right; the whistle shrieked, the engine puffed, the
wheels went round with a groan and a grunt, and presently we were
rattling over the bridge that spans the romantic Dee, with the white
walls of the Granite City glimmering in the moonlight far behind us.
After extricating my imprisoned garment, I leant over the window, and
began to feel very dull and sentimental.  I positively think I would
have wept a little, had not the wind just then blown the smoke in my
face, causing me to put up the window in disgust.  I had a whole
first-class compartment to myself, so I determined to make the best of
it.  Impressed with this idea, I exchanged my hat for a Glengarry, made
a pillow of my rug, a blanket of my plaid, and laid me down to
sleep--"perchance to dream."  Being rather melancholy, I endeavoured to
lull myself to slumber by humming such cheering airs as `Kathleen:
Mavourneen,' `Home, sweet home,' etc--"a vera judeecious arrangement,"
had it continued.  Unfortunately for my peace of mind it did not; for,
although the night train to London does not stop more than half-a-dozen
times all the way, at the next station, and before my eyes had closed in
sleep, the door of the compartment was opened, a lady was bundled in,
the guard said "all right" again, though I could have sworn it wasn't,
and the train, like the leg of the wonderful merchant of Rotterdam, "got
up and went on as before."

Now, I'm not in the habit of being alarmed at the presence of ladies--no
British sailor is--still, on the present occasion, as I peered round the
corner of my plaid, and beheld a creature of youth and beauty, I _did_
feel a little squeamish; "for," I reasoned, "if she happens to be good,
`all right,' as the guard said, but if not then all decidedly wrong; for
why? she might take it into her head, between here and London, to swear
that I had been guilty of manslaughter, or suicide, or goodness knows
what, and then I feared my certificate of virtue, which I got from the
best of aged Scottish divines, might not save me."  I looked again and
again from below my Highland plaid.  "Well," thought I, "she seems mild
enough, any how;" so I pretended to sleep, but then, gallantry forbade.
"I may sleep in earnest," said I to myself, "and by George I don't like
the idea of sleeping in the company of any strange lady."

Presently, however, she relieved my mind entirely, for she showed a
marriage-ring by drawing off a glove, and hauling out a baby--not out of
the glove mind you, but out of her dress somewhere.  I gave a sigh of
relief, for there was cause and effect at once--a marriage-ring and a
baby.  I had in my own mind grievously wronged the virtuous lady, so I
immediately elevated my prostrate form, rubbed my eyes, yawned,
stretched myself, looked at my watch, and in fact behaved entirely like
a gentleman just awakened from a pleasant nap.

After I had benignly eyed her sleeping progeny for the space of half a
minute, I remarked blandly, and with a soft smile, "Pretty baby, ma'am."
(I thought it as ugly as sin.)

"Yes, sir," said she, looking pleasedly at it with one eye (so have I
seen a cock contemplate a bantam chick).  "It is so like its papa!"

"Is it indeed, ma'am?  Well, now, do you know, I thought it just the
very image of its mamma!"

"So he thinks," replied the lady; "but he has only seen its

"Unfortunate father!" thought I, "to have seen only the shadowy image of
this his darling child--its carte-de-visite, too! wonder, now, if it
makes a great many calls? shouldn't like the little cuss to visit me."

"Going far, ma'am?" said I aloud.

And now this queer specimen of femininity raised her head from the study
of her sleeping babe, and looked me full in the face, as if she were
only aware of my presence for the first time, and hadn't spoken to me at
all.  I am proud to say I bore the scrutiny nobly, though it occupied
several very long seconds, during which time I did not disgrace my
certificate of virtue by the ghost of a blush, till, seeming satisfied,
she replied, apparently in deep thought,--"To Lon--don."

"So am I, ma'am."

"I go on to Plymouth," she said.  "I expect to go there myself soon,"
said I.

"I am going abroad to join my husband."

"Very strange!" said I, "and _I_ hope to go abroad soon to join my,"
(she looked at me now, with parted lips, and the first rays of a rising
smile lighting up her face, expecting me to add "wife")--"to join my
ship;" and she only said "Oh!" rather disappointedly I thought, and
recommenced the contemplation of the moonfaced babe.

"Bah!" thought I, "there is nothing in you but babies and matrimony;"
and I threw myself on the cushions, and soon slept in earnest, and
dreamt that the Director-General, in a bob-wig and drab shorts, was
dancing Jacky-tar on the quarter-deck of a seventy-four, on the occasion
of my being promoted to the dignity of Honorary-Surgeon to the Queen--a
thing that is sure to happen some of these days.

When I awoke, cold and shivering, the sun had risen and was shining, as
well as he could shine for the white mist that lay, like a veil of
gauze, over all the wooded flats that skirt for many miles the great
world of London.  My companion was still there, and baby had woken up,
too, and begun to crow, probably in imitation of the many cocks that
were hallooing to each other over all the country.  And now my attention
was directed, in fact riveted, to a very curious pantomime which was
being performed by the young lady; I had seen the like before, and often
have since, but never could solve the mystery.  Her eyes were fixed on
baby, whose eyes in turn were fastened on her, and she was bobbing her
head up and down on the perpendicular, like a wax figure or automaton;
every time that she elevated she pronounced the letter "a," and as her
head again fell she remarked "gue," thus completing the word "ague,"
much to the delight of little moonface, and no doubt to her own entire
satisfaction.  "A-gue! a-gue!"

Well, it certainly was a morning to give any one ague, so, pulling out
my brandy-flask, I made bold to present it to her.  "You seem cold,
ma'am," said I; "will you permit me to offer you a very little brandy?"

"Oh dear, no! thanks," she answered quickly.

"For baby's sake, ma'am," I pleaded; "I am a doctor."

"Well, then," she replied, smiling, "just a tiny little drop.  Oh dear!
not so much!"

It seemed my ideas of "a tiny little drop," and hers, did not exactly
coincide; however, she did me the honour to drink with me: after which I
had a tiny little drop to myself, and never felt so much the better of

Euston Square Terminus at last; and the roar of great London came
surging on my ears, like the noise and conflict of many waters, or the
sound of a storm-tossed ocean breaking on a stony beach.  I leapt to the
platform, forgetting at once lady and baby and all, for the following
Tuesday was to be big with my fate, and my heart beat flurriedly as I
thought "what if I were plucked, in spite of my M.D., in spite of my
C.M., in spite even of my certificate of virtue itself?"



What if I were plucked?  What should I do?  Go to the American war,
embark for the gold-diggings, enlist in a regiment of Sepoys, or throw
myself from the top of Saint Paul's?  This, and such like, were my
thoughts, as I bargained with cabby, for a consideration, to drive me
and my traps to a quiet second-rate hotel--for my purse by no means
partook of the ponderosity of my heart.  Cabby did so.  The hotel at
which I alighted was kept by a gentleman who, with his two daughters,
had but lately migrated from the flowery lands of sunny Devon; so lately
that he himself could still welcome his guests with an honest smile and
hearty shake of hand, while the peach-like bloom had not as yet faded
from the cheeks of his pretty buxom daughters.  So well pleased was I
with my entertainment in every way at this hotel, that I really believed
I had arrived in a city where both cabmen and innkeepers were honest and
virtuous; but I have many a time and often since then had reason to
alter my opinion.

Now, there being only four days clear left me ere I should have to
present myself before the august body of examiners at Somerset House, I
thought it behoved me to make the best of my time.  Fain--oh, how
fain!--would I have dashed care and my books, the one to the winds and
the other to the wall, and floated away over the great ocean of London,
with all its novelties, all its pleasures and its curiosities; but I was
afraid--I dared not.  I felt like a butterfly just newly burst from the
chrysalis, with a world of flowers and sunshine all around it, but with
one leg unfortunately immersed in birdlime.  I felt like that gentleman,
in Hades you know, with all sorts of good things at his lips, which he
could neither touch nor taste of.  Nor could I of the joys of London
life.  No, like Moses from the top of Mount Pisgah, I could but behold
the promised land afar off; _he_ had the dark gates of death to pass
before he might set foot therein, and I had to pass the gloomy portals
of Somerset House, and its board of dread examiners.

The landlord--honest man! little did he know the torture he was giving
me--spread before me on the table more than a dozen orders for places of
amusement,--to me, uninitiated, places of exceeding great joy--red
orders, green orders, orange and blue orders, orders for concerts,
orders for gardens, orders for theatres royal, and orders for the opera.

Oh, reader, fancy at that moment my state of mind; fancy having the
wonderful lamp of Aladdin offered you, and your hands tied behind your
back I myself turned red, and green, and orange, and blue, even as the
orders were, gasped a little, called for a glass of water,--not beer,
mark me,--and rushed forth.  I looked not at the flaming placards on the
walls, nor at the rows of seedy advertisement-board men.  I looked
neither to the right hand nor to the left, but made my way straight to
the British Museum, with the hopes of engaging in a little calm
reflection.  I cannot say I found it however; for all the strange things
I saw made me think of all the strange countries these strange things
came from, and this set me a-thinking of all the beautiful countries I
might see if I passed.

"_If_, gracious heavens!" thought I.  "Are you mad, knocking about here
like a magnetised mummy, and Tuesday the passing day?  Home, you devil
you, and study!"

Half an hour later, in imagination behold me seated before a table in my
little room, with the sun's parting beams shemmering dustily in through
my window, surrounded with books--books--books medical, books surgical,
books botanical, books nautical, books what-not-ical; behold, too, the
wet towel that begirts my thoughtful brow, my malar bones leaning on my
hands, my forearms resting on the mahogany, while I am thinking, or
trying to think, of, on, or about everything known, unknown, or guessed

Mahogany, did I say?  "Mahogany," methinks I hear the examiner say,
"hem! hem! upon what island, tell us, doctor, does the mahogany tree
grow, exist, and flourish?  Give the botanical name of this tree, the
natural family to which it belongs, the form of its leaves and flower,
its uses in medicine and in art, the probable number of years it lives,
the articles made from its bark, the parasites that inhabit it, the
birds that build their nests therein, and the class of savage who finds
shelter beneath its wide-spreading, _if_ wide-spreading, branches;
entering minutely into the formation of animal structure in general, and
describing the whole theory of cellular development, tracing the gradual
rise of man from the sponge through the various forms of snail, oyster,
salmon, lobster, lizard, rabbit, kangaroo, monkey, gorilla, nigger, and
Irish Yahoo, up to the perfect Englishman; and state your ideas of the
most probable form and amount of perfection at which you think the
animal structure will arrive in the course of the next ten thousand
years.  Is mahogany much superior to oak?  If so, why is it not used in
building ships?  Give a short account of the history of shipbuilding,
with diagrams illustrative of the internal economy of Noah's ark, the
Great Eastern, and the Rob Roy canoe.  Describe the construction of the
Armstrong gun, King Theodore's mortar, and Mons Meg.  Describe the
different kinds of mortars used in building walls, and those used in
throwing them down; insert here the composition of gunpowder tea, Fenian
fire, and the last New Yankee drink?  In the mahogany country state the
diseases most prevalent among the natives, and those which you would
think yourself justified in telling the senior assistant-surgeon to
request the surgeon to beg the first lieutenant to report to the
commander, that he may call the attention of your captain to the
necessity of ordering the crew to guard against."

Then, most indulgent reader, behold me, with these and a thousand other
such questions floating confusedly through my bewildered brain--behold
me, I say, rise from the table slowly, and as one who doubteth whether
he be not standing on his head; behold me kick aside the cane-bottomed
chair, then clear the table with one wild sweep, state "Bosh!" with the
air and emphasis of a pasha of three tails, throw myself on the sofa,
and with a "Waitah, glass of gwog and cigaw, please," commence to read
`Tom Cwingle's Log.'  This is how I spent my first day, and a good part
of the night too, in London; and--moral--I should sincerely advise every
medical aspirant, or candidate for a commission in the Royal Navy, to
bring in his pocket some such novel as Roderick Random, or Harry
Lorrequer, to read immediately before passing, and to leave every other
book at home.



Next morning, while engaged at my toilet--not a limb of my body which I
had not amputated that morning mentally, not one of my joints I had not
exsected, or a capital operation I did not perform on my own person; I
had, in fact, with imaginary surgical instruments, cut myself all into
little pieces, dissected my every nerve, filled all my arteries with red
wax and my veins with blue, traced out the origin and insertion of every
muscle, and thought of what each one could and what each one could not
do; and was just giving the final twirl to my delicate moustache, and
the proper set to the bow of my necktie, when something occurred which
caused me to start and turn quickly round.  It was a soft modest little
knock--almost plaintive in its modesty and softness--at my door.  I
heard no footfall nor sound of any sort, simply the "tapping as of some
one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber-door; simply that and nothing

"This," thought I, "is Sarah Jane with my boots: mindful girl is Sarah
Jane."  Then giving voice to my thoughts, "Thank you, Sally," said I,
"just leave them outside; I'll have Finnon haddocks and oatcake for

Then, a voice that wasn't Sally's, but ever so much softer and more
kitten-like in tone, replied,--

"Hem! ahem!" and presently added, "it is only _me_."  Then the door was
pushed slightly open, while pressing one foot doubtfully against it I
peeped out, and to my surprise perceived the half of a little yellow
book and the whole of a little yellow face with whiskers at it, and an
expression so very like that of a one-year-old lady cat, that I remained
for a little in momentary expectation of hearing it purr.  But it
didn't, merely smiling and repeating,--

"It's only me."

"So I see," said I, quite taken aback as it were.  "So I see."  Then
"_Me_," slowly and gently overcame the resistance my right foot offered,
and, pushing open the door, held out the yellow tract, which I took to
be of a spiritual nature, and spoke to "I" as follows:--

"We--that is, he! he! my father and me, he! he! you see--had heard of
your going up to join the Navy."  At that moment it seemed to "I" the
easiest thing in the world, short of spending money, to "join" the Royal
Navy.  "And so," continued "_Me_", "you see, he! he! we thought of
making you a call, all in business, you see, he! he! and offering you
our estimate for your uniform."

Uniform! grand name to my ear, I who had never worn anything more gay
than a homespun coat of houden-grey and a Gordon tartan kilt.  I thought
it was my turn to say, "Hem! hem!" and even add an inaudible "Ho! ho!"
for I felt myself expanding inch by inch like a kidney bean.

"In that little book," _Me_ went on, "there,"--pointing to the front
page--"you will find the names of one hundred and fifty-seven officers
and gentlemen who have honoured us with their custom."

Then I exclaimed, "Dear me!" and Me added with animation, "You see: he!

Was it any wonder then, that I succumbed to such a flood of temptation,
that even my native canniness disappeared or was swept away, and that I
promised this gentleman of feline address that if I passed I would
assuredly make his father a call?  Alas! unfortunate greenhorn that I
was, I found out when too late that some on the list had certainly given
him their custom, and like myself repented only once but for ever; while
the custom of the majority was confined to a pair or two of duck
inexpressibles, a uniform cap, a dozen of buttons, or a hank of sewing

"We can proudly refer you," Me continued, as I bowed him to the door,
"to any of them, and if you do us the honour of calling you will be
enabled to judge for yourself; but," added he, in a stage whisper, at
the same time making a determined attempt, as I thought, to bite off my
ear, "be aware of the Jews."

"What," said I, "is your father not then a Jew? the name I thought--"

"Oh-h-h!" he cried, "they may call us so; but--born in England--bred in
London--neighbourhood of Bond Street, highly respectable locality.  Army
and Navy outfitters, my father and me, you see, he! he!  We invite
inspection, give satisfaction, and defy competition, you see, he! he!"
And he glided silently down stairs, giving me scarcely time to observe
that he was a young man with black hair, black eyes and whiskers, and
wearing goloshes.

I soon after went down to breakfast, wondering, as I well might, how my
feline friend had found out all about my affairs; but it was not till I
had eaten ninety and one breakfasts and a corresponding number of
dinners that I discovered he belonged to a class of fellows who live by
fleecing the poor victims they pretend to clothe.  Intending candidates,
beware of the Jews!

Tuesday came round at last, just as Tuesdays have always been in the
habit of doing, and at eleven o'clock precisely I, with my heart playing
a game of cricket, with my spine for the bat and my ribs for the wicket,
"repaired"--a very different mode of progression from any other with
which I am acquainted--to the medical department of Somerset House.  I
do not remember ever having entered any place with feelings of greater
solemnity.  I was astonished in no small degree at the people who passed
along the Strand for appearing so disgustingly indifferent,--

  "And I so weerie fu' o' care."

Had I been going to stand my trial for manslaughter or cattle-lifting, I
am certain I should have felt supremely happy in comparison.  I passed
the frowning gateway, traversed the large square, and crossed the
Rubicon by entering the great centre doorway and inquiring my way to the
examination room.  I had previously, be it observed, sent in my medical
and surgical degrees, with all my class tickets and certificates,
including that for virtue.  I was now directed up a great many long
stairs, along as many gloomy-looking corridors, in which I lost my way
at least half a dozen times, and had to call at a corresponding number
of green-baize-covered brass tacketed doors, in order to be put right,
before I at length found myself in front of the proper one, at which I
knocked once, twice, and even thrice, without in any way affecting or
diminishing the buzz that was going on behind the door; so I pushed it
open, and boldly entered.  I now found myself in the midst of a large
and select assortment of clerks, whose tongues were hard at work if
their pens were not, and who did not seem half so much astonished at
seeing me there as I felt at finding myself.  The room itself looked
like an hypertrophied law office, of which the principal features were
papers and presses, three-legged stools, calf-bound folios, and cobwebs.
I stood for a considerable time, observing but unobserved, wondering
all the while what to say, how to say it, and whom to say it to, and
resisting an inclination to put my finger in my mouth.  Moreover, at
that moment a war was going on within me between pride and modesty, for
I was not at all certain whether I ought to take off my hat; so being
"canny" and a Scot, I adopted a middle course, and commenced to wipe
imaginary perspiration from my brow, an operation which, of course,
necessitated the removal of my head-dress.  Probably the cambric
handkerchief caught the tail of the eye of a quieter-looking knight of
the quill, who sat a little apart from the other drones of the pen; at
any rate he quickly dismounted, and coming up to me politely asked my
business.  I told him, and he civilly motioned me to a seat to await my
turn for examination.  By-and-bye other candidates dropped in, each of
whom I rejoiced to observe looked a little paler, decidedly more blue,
and infinitely greener than I did myself!  This was some relief, so I
sat by the dusty window which overlooked the Thames, watching the little
skiffs gliding to and fro, the boats hastening hither and thither, and
the big lazy-like barges that floated on the calm unruffled bosom of the
great mysterious river, and thinking and wishing that it could but break
its everlasting silence and tell its tale, and mention even a tithe of
the scenes that had been acted on its breast or by its banks since it
first rolled its infant waters to the sea, through a forest of trees
instead of a forest of masts and spires, or tell of the many beings that
had sought relief from a world of sin and suffering under its dark
current.  So ran my thoughts, and as the river so did time glide by, and
two hours passed away, then a third; and when at last my name was
called, it was only to inform me that I must come back on the following
day, there being too many to be examined at once.

At the hour appointed I was immediately conducted into the presence of
the august assembly of examiners, and this, is what I saw, or rather,
this was the picture on my retina, for to see, in the usual acceptation
of the term, was, under the circumstances, out of the question:--A table
with a green cover, laid out for a feast--to me a ghastly feast--of
reason and flow of soul.  My reason was to form the feast, my soul was
to flow; the five pleasant-looking and gentlemanly men who sat around
were to partake of the banquet.  I did not walk into the room, I seemed
to glide as if in a dream, or as if I had been my own ghost.  Every
person and every thing in the room appeared strangely contorted; and the
whole formed a wonderful mirage, miraculously confused.  The fire hopped
up on the table, the table consigned itself to the flames at one moment,
and made an insane attempt to get up the chimney the next.  The roof
bending down in one corner affectionately kissed the carpet, the carpet
bobbing up at another returned the chaste salute.  Then the gentlemen
smiled on me pleasantly, while I replied by a horrible grin.

"Sit down, sir," said one, and his voice sounded far away, as if in
another world, as I tottered to the chair, and with palsied arm helped
myself to a glass of water, which had been placed on the table for my
use.  The water revived me, and at the first task I was asked to
perform--translate a small portion of Gregory's (not powder) Conspectus
into English--my senses came back.  The scales fell from my eyes, the
table and fire resumed their proper places, the roof and carpet ceased
to dally, my scattered brains came all of a heap once more, and I was
myself again as much as ever Richard was, or any other man.  I answered
most of the questions, if not all.  I was tackled for ten minutes at a
time by each of the examiners.  I performed mental operations on the
limbs of beings who never existed, prescribed hypothetically for
innumerable ailments, brought divers mythical children into the world,
dissected muscles and nerves in imagination, talked of green trees,
fruit, flowers, natural families, and far-away lands, as if I had been
Linnaeus, Columbus, and Humboldt all in one, so that, in less than an
hour, the august body leant their backs against their respective chairs,
and looked knowingly in each other's faces for a period of several very
long seconds.  They then nodded to one another, did this august body,
looked at their tablets, and nodded again.  After this pantomime had
come to a conclusion I was furnished with a sheet of foolscap and sent
back to the room above the Thames to write a dissertation on fractures
of the cranium, and shortly after sending it in I was recalled and
informed that I had sustained the dread ordeal to their entire
satisfaction, etc, and that I had better, before I left the house, pay
an official visit to the Director-General.  I bowed, retired, heaved a
monster sigh, made the visit of ceremony, and afterwards my exit.

The first gentleman (?)  I met on coming out was a short, middle-aged
Shylock, hook-nosed and raven-haired, and arrayed in a surtout of seedy
black.  He approached me with much bowing and smiling, and holding below
my nose a little green tract which he begged I would accept.

"Exceedingly kind," thought I, and was about to comply with his request,
when, greatly to my surprise and the discomposure of my toilet, an arm
was hooked into mine, I was wheeled round as if on a pivot, and found
myself face to face with another Israelite armed with a _red_ tract.

"He is a Jew and a dog," said this latter, shaking a forefinger close to
my face.

"Is he?" said I.  The words had hardly escaped my lips when the other
Jew whipped his arm through mine and quickly re-wheeled me towards him.

"He is a liar and a cheat," hissed he, with the same motion of the
forefinger as his rival had used.

"Indeed!" said I, beginning to wonder what it all meant.  I had not,
however, long time to wonder, being once more set spinning by the
Israelite of the red tract.

"Beware of the Jews?" he whispered, pointing to the other; and the
conversation was continued in the following strain.  Although in the
common sense of the word it really was no conversation, as each of them
addressed himself to me only, and I could find no reply, still, taking
the word in its literal meaning (from con, together, and _verto_, I
turn), it was indeed a conversation, for they turned me together, each
one, as he addressed me, hooking his arm in mine and whirling me round
like the handle of an air-pump or a badly constructed teetotum, and
shaking a forefinger in my face, as if I were a parrot and he wanted me
to swear.

_Shylock of the green tract_.--"He is a swine and a scoundrel."

_Israelite of the red_.--"He's a liar and a thief."

_Shylock of the green_.--"And he'll get round you some way."

_Israelite of red_.--"Ahab and brothers cheat everybody they can."

_Shylock of green_.--"He'll be lending you money."

_Red_.--"Whole town know them--"

_Green_.--"Charge you thirty per cent."

Red--"They are swindlers and dogs."

_Green_.--"Look at our estimate."

_Red_.--"Look at _our_ estimate."

_Green_.--"Peep at our charges."

_Red_.--"Five years' credit."

_Green_.--"Come with us, sir," tugging me to the right.

_Red_.--"This way, master," pulling me to the left.

_Green_.--"Be advised; he'll rob you."

_Red_.--"If you go he'll murder you."

"Damn you both!"  I roared; and letting fly both fists at the same time,
I turned them both together on their backs and thus put an end to the
conversation.  Only just in time, though, for the remaining ten tribes,
or their representatives, were hurrying towards me, each one swaying
aloft a gaudy-coloured tract; and I saw no way of escaping but by fairly
making a run for it, which I accordingly did, pursued by the ten tribes;
and even had.  I been a centipede, I would have assuredly been torn limb
from limb, had I not just then rushed into the arms of my feline friend
from Bond Street.

He purred, gave me a paw and many congratulations; was so glad I had
passed,--but, to be sure, knew I would,--and so happy I had escaped the
Jews; would I take a glass of beer?

I said, "I didn't mind;" so we adjourned (the right word in the right
place--adjourned) to a quiet adjoining hotel.

"Now," said he, as he tendered the waiter a five-pound Bank of England
note, "you must not take it amiss, Doctor, but--"

"No smaller change, sir?" asked the waiter.

"I'm afraid," said my friend (?), opening and turning over the contents
of a well-lined pocket-book, "I've only got five--oh, here are sovs, he!
he!"  Then turning to me: "I was going to observe," he continued, "that
if you want a pound or two, he! he!--you know young fellows will be
young fellows--only don't say a word to my father, he! he! he!--highly
respectable man.  Another glass of beer?  No?  Well, we will go and see

"But," said I, "I really must go home first."

"Oh dear no; don't think of such a thing."

"I'm deuced hungry," continued I.  "My dear sir, excuse me, but it is
just our dinner hour; nice roast turkey, and boiled leg of mutton

"Any pickled pork?"

"He! he! now you young _officers_ will have your jokes; but, he! he!
though we don't just eat pork, you'll find us just as good as most
Christians.  Some capital wine--very old brand; father got it from the
Cape only the other day; in fact, though I should not mention these
things, it was sent us by a grateful customer.  But come, you're hungry,
we'll get a cab."



The fortnight immediately subsequent to my passing into the Royal Navy
was spent by me in the great metropolis, in a perfect maze of pleasure
and excitement.  For the first time for years I knew what it was to be
free from care and trouble, independent, and quietly happy.  I went the
round of the sights and the round of the theatres, and lingered
entranced in the opera; but I went all alone, and unaccompanied, save by
a small pocket guide-book, and I believe I enjoyed it all the more on
that account.  No one cared for nor looked at the lonely stranger, and
he at no one.  I roamed through the spacious streets, strolled
delightedly in the handsome parks, lounged in picture galleries, or
buried myself for hour's in the solemn halls and classical courts of
that prince of public buildings the British Museum; and, when tired of
rambling, I dined by myself in a quiet hotel.  Every sight was strange
to me, every sound was new; it was as if some good fairy, by a touch of
her magic wand, had transported me to an enchanted city; and when I
closed my eyes at night, or even shut them by day, behold, there was the
same moving panorama that I might gaze on till tired or asleep.

But all this was too good to last long.  One morning, on coming down to
breakfast, bright-hearted and beaming as ever, I found on my plate,
instead of fried soles, a long blue official letter, "On her Majesty's
Service."  It was my appointment to the `Victory,'--"additional for
service at Haslar Hospital."  As soon as I read it the enchantment was
dissolved, the spell was broken; and when I tried that day to find new
pleasures, new sources of amusement, I utterly failed, and found with
disgust that it was but a common work-a-day world after all, and that
London was very like other places in that respect.  I lingered but a few
more days in town, and then hastened by train to Portsmouth to take up
my appointment--to join the service in reality.

It was a cold raw morning, with a grey and cheerless sky, and a biting
south-wester blowing up channel, and ruffling the water in the Solent.
Alongside of the pier the boats and wherries were all in motion,
scratching and otherwise damaging their gunwales against the stones, as
they were lifted up and down at the pleasure of the wavelets.  The
boatmen themselves were either drinking beer at adjacent bars, or
stamping up and down the quay with the hopes of enticing a little warmth
to their half-frozen toes, and rubbing the ends of their noses for a
like purpose.  Suddenly there arose a great commotion among them, and
they all rushed off to surround a gentleman in brand-new naval uniform,
who was looking, with his mouth open, for a boat, in every place where a
boat was most unlikely to be.  Knowing at a glance that he was a
stranger, they very generously, each and all of them, offered their
services, and wanted to row him somewhere--anywhere.  After a great deal
of fighting and scrambling among themselves, during which the officer
got tugged here and tugged there a good many times, he was at last
bundled into a very dirty cobble, into which a rough-looking boatman
bounded after him and at once shoved off.

The naval officer was myself--the reader's obsequious slave.  As for the
boatman, one thing must be said in his favour, he seemed to be a person
of religious character--in one thing at least, for, on the Day of
Judgment, I, for one, will not be able to turn round and say to him "I
was a stranger and ye took me not in," for he did take me in.  In fact,
Portsmouth, as a town, is rather particular on this point of
Christianity: they do take strangers in.

"Where away to?" asked the jolly waterman, leaning a moment on his oars.

"H.M.S. `Victory,'" replied I.

"Be going for to join, I dessay, sir?"

"You are right," said I; "but have the goodness to pull so that I may
not be wet through on both sides."

"Can't help the weather, sir."

"I'll pay here," said I, "before we go alongside."

"Very good, sir."

"How much?"

"Only three shillings, sir."

"_Only_ three shillings!"  I repeated, and added "eh?"

"That's all, sir--distance is short you know."

"Do you mean to say," said I, "that you really mean to charge--"

"Just three bob," interrupting me; "flag's up--can see for yourself,

"The flag, you see--I mean my good man--don't tell me about a flag, I'm
too far north for you;" and I tried to look as northish as possible.

"Flag, indeed! humph!"

"Why, sir," said the man of oars, with a pitying expression of
countenance and voice, "flag means double fare--anybody'll tell you
that, sir."

"Nonsense?" said I; "don't tell me that any one takes the trouble of
hoisting a flag in order to fill your confounded pockets; there is half
a crown, and not a penny more do you get from me."

"Well, sir, o' condition you has me again, sir, you know, sir,--and my
name's McDonald;" and he pocketed the money, which I afterwards
discovered was a _leetle_ too much.  "McDonald," thought I--"my
grandmother's name; the rascal thinks to come round me by calling
himself a Scotchman--the idea of a McDonald being a waterman!"

"Sir," said I, aloud, "it is my unbiassed opinion and firm conviction
that you are--" I was going to add "a most unmitigated blackguard," but
I noticed that he was a man of six feet two, with breadth in proportion,
so I left the sentence unfinished.

We were now within sight of the bristling sides of the old `Victory,' on
the quarter-deck of which fell the great and gallant Nelson in the hour
of battle and triumph; and I was a young officer about to join that
service which can boast of so many brave and noble men, and brave and
noble deeds; and one would naturally expect that I would indulge in a
few dreams of chivalry and romance, picture to myself a bright and
glorious future, pounds' weight of medals and crosses, including the
Victoria, kiss the hilt of my sword, and all that sort of thing.  I did
not.  I was too wretchedly cold for one reason, and the only feeling I
had was one of shyness; as for duty, I knew I could and would do that,
as most of my countrymen had done before me; so I left castle-building
to the younger sons of noblemen or gentry, whose parents can afford to
allow them two or three hundred pounds a year to eke out their pay and
smooth the difficulties of the service.  Not having been fortunate
enough to be born with even a horn spoon in my mouth, I had to be
content with my education as my fortune, and my navy pay as my only

"Stabird side, I dessay, sir?" said the waterman.

"Certainly," said I, having a glimmering idea that it must be the proper

A few minutes after--"The Admiral's gig is going there, sir,--better
wait a bit."  I looked on shore and _did_ see a gig, and two horses
attached to it.

"No," said I, "decidedly not, he can't see us here, man.  I suppose you
want to go sticking your dirty wet oars in the air, do you?"--(I had
seen pictures of this performance).  "Drive on, I mean pull ahead, my
hearty"--a phrase I had heard at the theatre, and considered highly

The waterman obeyed, and here is what came of it.  We were just
approaching the ladder, when I suddenly became sensible of a rushing
noise.  I have a dim recollection of seeing a long, many-oared boat,
carrying a large red flag, and with an old grey-haired officer sitting
astern; of hearing a voice--it might have belonged to the old man of the
sea, for anything I could have told to the contrary--float down the

"Clear the way with that (something) bumboat!"  Then came a crash, my
heels flew up--I had been sitting on the gunwale--and overboard I went
with a splash, just as some one else in the long boat sang out.  "Way

Way enough, indeed! there was a little too much way for me.  When I came
to the surface of the water, I found myself several yards from the
ladder, and at once struck out for it.  There was a great deal of noise
and shouting, and a sailor held towards me the sharp end of a boathook;
but I had no intention of being lugged out as if I were a pair of canvas
trowsers, and, calling to the sailor to keep his pole to himself--did he
want to knock my eye out?--I swam to the ladder and ascended.  Thus then
I joined the service, and, having entered at the foot of the ladder, I
trust some day to find myself at the top of it.

And, talking of joining the service, I here beg to repudiate, as an
utter fabrication, the anecdote--generally received as authentic in the
service--of the Scotch doctor, who, going to report himself for the
first time on board of the `Victory,' knocked at the door, and inquired
(at a marine, I think), "Is this the Royal Nauvy?--'cause I'm come till
jine."  The story bears "fib" on the face of it, for there is not a
Scottish schoolboy but knows that one ship does not make a navy, any
more than one swallow does a summer.

But, dear intending candidate, if you wish to do the right thing, array
yourself quietly in frock-coat, cap--not cocked hat, remember--and
sword, and go on board your ship in any boat you please, only keep out
of the way of gigs.  When you arrive on board, don't be expecting to see
the admiral, because you'll be disappointed; but ask a sailor or marine
to point you out the midshipman of the watch, and request the latter to
show you the commander.  Make this request civilly, mind you; do not
pull his ear, because, if big and hirsute, he might beat you, which
would be a bad beginning.  When you meet the commander, don't rush up
and shake him by the hand, and begin talking about the weather; walk
respectfully up to him, and lift your cap as you would to a lady; upon
which he will hurriedly point to his nose with his forefinger, by way of
returning the salute, while at the same time you say--

"_Come_ on board, sir--to _join_, sir."

It is the custom of the Service to make this remark in a firm, bold,
decided tone, placing the emphasis on the "_come_" to show clearly that
you _did come_, and that no one kicked, or dragged, or otherwise brought
you on board against your will.  The proper intonation of the remark may
be learned from any polite waiter at a hotel, when he tells you,
"Dinner's ready, sir, please;" or it may be heard in the "Now then,
gents," of the railway guard of the period.

Having reported yourself to the man of three stripes, you must not
expect that he will shake hands, or embrace you, ask you on shore to
tea, and introduce you to his wife.  No, if he is good-natured, and has
not had a difference of opinion with the captain lately, he _may_
condescend to show you your cabin and introduce you to your messmates;
but if he is out of temper, he will merely ask your name, and, on your
telling him, remark, "Humph!" then call the most minute midshipman to
conduct you to your cabin, being at the same time almost certain to
mispronounce your name.  Say your name is Struthers, he will call you

"Here, Mr Pigmy, conduct Mr Stutters to his cabin, and show him where
the gunroom--ah!  I beg his pardon, the wardroom--lies."

"Ay, ay, sir," says the middy, and skips off at a round trot, obliging
you either to adopt the same ungraceful mode of progression, or lose
sight of him altogether, and have to wander about, feeling very much
from home, until some officer passing takes pity on you and leads you to
the wardroom.



It is a way they have in the service, or rather it is the custom of the
present Director-General, not to appoint the newly-entered medical
officer at once to a sea-going ship, but instead to one or other of the
naval hospitals for a few weeks or even months, in order that he may be
put up to the ropes, as the saying is, or duly initiated into the
mysteries of service and routine of duty.  This is certainly a good
idea, although it is a question whether it would not be better to adopt
the plan they have at Netley, and thus put the navy and army on the same

Haslar Hospital at Portsmouth is a great rambling barrack-looking block
of brick building, with a yard or square surrounded by high walls in
front, and with two wings extending from behind, which, with the chapel
between, form another and smaller square.

There are seldom fewer than a thousand patients within, and, independent
of a whole regiment of male and female nurses, sick-bay-men, servants,
cooks, _et id genus omne_, there is a regular staff of officers,
consisting of a captain--of what use I have yet to learn--two medical
inspector-generals, generally three or four surgeons, the same number of
regularly appointed assistant-surgeons, besides from ten to twenty
acting assistant-surgeons [Note 1] waiting for appointments, and doing
duty as supernumeraries.  Of this last class I myself was a member.

Soon as the clock tolled the hour of eight in the morning, the
staff-surgeon of our side of the hospital stalked into the duty cabin,
where we, the assistants, were waiting to receive him.  Immediately
after, we set out on the morning visit, each of us armed with a little
board or palette to be used as a writing-desk, an excise inkstand slung
in a buttonhole, and a quill behind the ear.  The large doors were
thrown open, the beds neat and tidy, and the nurses "standing by."  Up
each side of the long wards, from bed to bed, we journeyed; notifying
the progress of each case, repeating the treatment here, altering or
suspending it there, and performing small operations in another place;
listening attentively to tales of aches and pains, and hopes and fears,
and just in a sort of general way acting the part of good Samaritans.
From one ward to another we went, up and down long staircases, along
lengthy corridors, into wards in the attics, into wards on the basement,
and into wards below ground,--fracture wards, Lazarus wards, erysipelas
wards, men's wards, officers' wards; and thus we spent the time till a
little past nine, by which time the relief of so much suffering had
given us an appetite, and we hurried off to the messroom to breakfast.

The medical mess at Haslar is one of the finest in the service.
Attached to the room is a nice little apartment, fitted up with a
bagatelle-table, and boxing gloves and foils _ad libitum_.  And, sure
enough, you might walk many a weary mile, or sail many a knot, without
meeting twenty such happy faces as every evening surrounded our
dinner-table, without beholding twenty such bumper glasses raised at
once to the toast of Her Majesty the Queen, and without hearing twenty
such good songs, or five times twenty such yarns and original bons-mots,
as you would at Haslar Medical Mess.  Yet I must confess we partook in
but a small degree indeed of the solemn quietude of Wordsworth's--

  "--Party in a parlour cramm'd,
  Some sipping punch, some sipping tea,
  But, as you by their faces see,
  All silent--and all damned."

I do not deny that we were a little noisy at times, and that on several
occasions, having eaten and drunken till we were filled, we rose up to
dance, and consequently received a _polite_ message from the inspector
whose house was adjoining, requesting us to "stop our _confounded_ row;"
but then the old man was married, and no doubt his wife was at the
bottom of it.

Duty was a thing that did not fall to the lot of us supers every day.
We took it turn about, and hard enough work it used to be too.  As soon
as breakfast was over, the medical officer on duty would hie him away to
the receiving-room, and seat himself at the large desk; and by-and-bye
the cases would begin to pour in.  First there would arrive, say three
or four blue-jackets, with their bags under their arms, in charge of an
assistant-surgeon, then a squad of marines, then more blue-jackets, then
more red-coats, and so the game of _rouge-et-noir_ would go on during
the day.  The officer on duty has first to judge whether or not the case
is one that can be admitted,--that is, which cannot be conveniently
treated on board; he has then to appoint the patient a bed in a proper
ward, and prescribe for him, almost invariably a bath and a couple of
pills.  Besides, he has to enter the previous history of the case,
verbatim, into each patient's case-book, and if the cases are numerous,
and the assistant-surgeon who brings them has written an elaborate
account of each disease, the duty-officer will have had his work cut out
for him till dinner-time at least.  Before the hour of the patient's
dinner, this gentleman has also to glance into each ward, to see if
everything is right, and if there are any complaints.  Even when ten or
eleven o'clock at night brings sleep and repose to others, his work is
not yet over; he has one other visit to pay any time during the night
through all his wards.  Then with dark-lantern and slippers you may meet
him, gliding ghost-like along the corridors or passages, lingering at
ward doors, listening on the staircases, smelling and snuffing, peeping
and keeking, and endeavouring by eye, or ear, or nose, to detect the
slightest irregularity among the patients or nurses, such as burning
lights without orders, gambling by the light of the fire, or smoking.
This visit paid, he may return to his virtuous cabin, and sleep as
soundly as he chooses.

Very few of the old surgeons interfere with the duties of their
assistants, but there _be_ men who seem to think you have merely come to
the service to learn, not to practise your profession, and therefore
they treat you as mere students, or at the best hobble-de-hoy doctors.
Of this class was Dr Gruff, a man whom I would back against the whole
profession for caudle, clyster, castor-oil, or linseed poultice; but
who, I rather suspect, never prescribed a dose of chiretta, santonin, or
lithia-water in his life.  He came to me one duty-day, in a great hurry,
and so much excited that I judged he had received some grievous bodily
ailment, or suffered some severe family bereavement.

"Well, sir," he cried; "I hear, sir, you have put a case of ulcer into
the erysipelas ward."

This remark, not partaking of the nature of question, I thought required
no answer.

"Is it true, sir?--is it true?" he continued, getting blue and red.

"It is, sir," was the reply.

"And what do you mean by it, sir?  What do you mean by it?" he
exclaimed, waxing more and more wroth.

"I thought, sir--" I began.

"You thought, sir!"

"Yes, sir," continued I, my Highland blood getting uppermost, "I _did_
think that, the case being one of ulcer of an _erysipelatous_ nature, I

"Erysipelatous ulcer!" interrupting me.  "Oh!" said he, "that alters the
case.  Why did you not say so at first?  I beg your pardon;" and he
trotted off again.

"All right," thought I, "old Gruff.  I guess you are sorry you spoke."

But although there are not wanting medical officers in the service who,
on being promoted to staff-surgeon, appear to forget that ever they wore
less than three stripes, and can keep company with no one under the rank
of commander, I am happy to say they are few and far between, and every
year getting more few and farther between.

It is a fine thing to be appointed for, say three or four years to a
home hospital; in fact, it is the assistant-surgeon's highest ambition.
Next, in point of comfort, would be an appointment at the Naval Hospital
of Malta, Cape of Good Hope, or China.


Note 1.  The acting assistant-surgeons are those who have not as yet
served the probationary year, or been confirmed.  They are liable to be
dismissed without a court-martial.



For the space of six weeks I lived in clover at Haslar, and at the end
of that time my appointment to a sea-going ship came.  It was the
pleasure of their Lordships the Commissioners, that I should take my
passage to the Cape of Good Hope in a frigate, which had lately been put
in commission and was soon about to sail.  Arrived there, I was to be
handed over to the flag-ship on that station for disposal, like so many
stones of salt pork.  On first entering the service every medical
officer is sent for one commission (three to five years) to a foreign
station; and it is certainly very proper too that the youngest and
strongest men, rather than the oldest, should do the rough work of the
service, and go to the most unhealthy stations.

The frigate in which I was ordered passage was to sail from Plymouth.
To that town I was accordingly sent by train, and found the good ship in
such a state of internal chaos--painters, carpenters, sail-makers, and
sailors; armourers, blacksmiths, gunners, and tailors; every one engaged
at his own trade, with such an utter disregard of order or regularity,
while the decks were in such confusion, littered with tools, nails,
shavings, ropes, and spars, among which I scrambled, and over which I
tumbled, getting into everybody's way, and finding so little rest for
the sole of my foot, that I was fain to beg a week's leave, and glad
when I obtained it.  On going on board again at the end of that time, a
very different appearance presented itself; everything was in its proper
place, order and regularity were everywhere.  The decks were white and
clean, the binnacles, the brass and mahogany work polished, the gear all
taut, the ropes coiled, and the vessel herself sitting on the water
saucy as the queen of ducks, with her pennant flying and her beautiful
ensign floating gracefully astern.  The gallant ship was ready for sea,
had been unmoored, had made her trial trips, and was now anchored in the
Sound.  From early morning to busy noon, and from noon till night, boats
glided backwards and forwards between the ship and the shore, filled
with the friends of those on board, or laden with wardroom and gunroom
stores.  Among these might have been seen a shore-boat, rowed by two
sturdy watermen, and having on board a large sea-chest, with a naval
officer on top of it, grasping firmly a Cremona in one hand and holding
a hat-box in the other.  The boat was filled with any number of smaller
packages, among which were two black portmanteaus, warranted to be the
best of leather, and containing the gentleman's dress and undress
uniforms; these, however, turned out to be mere painted pasteboard, and
in a very few months the cockroaches--careless, merry-hearted
creatures--after eating up every morsel of them, turned their attention
to the contents, on which they dined and supped for many days, till the
officer's dress-coat was like a meal-sieve, and his pantaloons might
have been conveniently need for a landing-net.  This, however, was a
matter of small consequence, for, contrary to the reiterated assurance
of his feline friend, no one portion of this officer's uniform held out
for a longer period than six months, the introduction of any part of his
person into the corresponding portion of his raiment having become a
matter of matutinal anxiety and distress, lest a solution of continuity
in the garment might be the unfortunate result.

About six o'clock on a beautiful Wednesday evening, early in the month
of May, our gallant and saucy frigate turned her bows seaward and slowly
steamed away from amidst the fleet of little boats that--crowded with
the unhappy wives and sweethearts of the sailors--had hung around us all
the afternoon.  Puffing and blowing a great deal, and apparently panting
to be out and away at sea, the good ship nevertheless left her anchorage
but slowly, and withal reluctantly, her tears falling thick and fast on
the quarter-deck as she went.

The band was playing a slow and mournful air, by way of keeping up our

_I_ had no friends to say farewell to, there was no tear-bedimmed eye to
gaze after me until I faded in distance; so I stood on the poop, leaning
over the bulwarks, after the fashion of Vanderdecken, captain of the
Flying Dutchman, and equally sad and sorrowful-looking.  And what did I
see from my elevated situation?  A moving picture, a living panorama; a
bright sky sprinkled with a few fleecy cloudlets, over a blue sea all in
motion before a fresh breeze of wind; a fleet of little boats astern,
filled with picturesquely dressed seamen and women waving handkerchiefs;
the long breakwater lined with a dense crowd of sorrowing friends, each
anxious to gain one last look of the dear face he may never see more.
Yonder is the grey-haired father, yonder the widowed mother, the
affectionate brother, the loving sister, the fond wife, the beloved
sweetheart,--all are there; and not a sigh that is sighed, not a tear
that is shed, not a prayer that is breathed, but finds a response in the
bosom of some loved one on board.  To the right are green hills,
people-clad likewise, while away in the distance the steeple of many a
church "points the way to happier spheres," and on the flagstaff at the
port-admiral's house is floating the signal "Fare thee well."

The band has ceased to play, the sailors have given their last ringing
cheer, even the echoes of which have died away, and faintly down the
wind comes the sound of the evening bells.  The men are gathered in
little groups on deck, and there is a tenderness in their landward gaze,
and a pathos in their rough voices, that one would hardly expect to

"Yonder's my Poll, Jack," says one.  "Look, see! the poor lass is
crying; blowed if I think I'll ever see her more."

"There," says another, "is _my_ old girl on the breakwater, beside the
old cove in the red nightcap."

"That's my father, Bill," answers a third.  "God bless the dear old

"Good-bye, Jean; good-bye, lass.  Ah! she won't hear me.  Blessed if I
don't feel as if I could make a big baby of myself and cry outright."

"Oh!  Dick, Dick," exclaims an honest-looking tar; "I see'd my poor wife
tumble down; she had wee Johnnie in her arms, and--and what will I do?"

"Keep up your heart, to be sure," answers a tall, rough son of a gun.
"There, she has righted again, only a bit of a swoon ye see.  I've got
neither sister, wife, nor mother, so surely it's _me_ that ought to be
making a noodle of myself; but where's the use?"

An hour or two later we were steaming across channel, with nothing
visible but the blue sea all before us, and the chalky cliffs of
Cornwall far behind, with the rosy blush of the setting sun lingering on
their summits.

Then the light faded from the sky, the gloaming star shone out in the
east, big waves began to tumble in, and the night breeze blew cold and
chill from off the broad Atlantic Ocean.

Tired and dull, weary and sad, I went below to the wardroom and seated
myself on a rocking chair.  It was now that I began to feel the
discomfort of not having a cabin.  Being merely a supernumerary or
passenger, such a luxury was of course out of the question, even had I
been an admiral.  I was to have a screen berth, or what a landsman would
call a canvas tent, on the main or fighting deck, but as yet it was not
rigged.  Had I never been to sea before, I would have now felt very
wretched indeed; but having roughed it in Greenland and Davis Straits in
small whaling brigs, I had got over the weakness of sea-sickness; yet
notwithstanding I felt all the thorough prostration both of mind and
body, which the first twenty-four hours at sea often produces in the
oldest and best of sailors, so that I was only too happy when I at last
found myself within canvas.

By next morning the wind had freshened, and when I turned out I found
that the steam had been turned off, and that we were bowling along
before a ten-knot breeze.  All that day the wind blew strongly from the
N.N.E., and increased as night came on to a regular gale of wind.  I had
seen some wild weather in the Greenland Ocean, but never anything
before, nor since, to equal the violence of the storm on that dreadful
night, in the Bay of Biscay.  We were running dead before the wind at
twelve o'clock, when the gale was at its worst, and when the order to
light fires and get up steam had been given.  Just then we were making
fourteen knots, with only a foresail, a fore-topsail, and main-topsail,
the latter two close-reefed.  I was awakened by a terrific noise on
deck, and I shall not soon forget that awakening.  The ship was leaking
badly both at the ports and scupper-holes; so that the maindeck all
around was flooded with water, which lifted my big chest every time the
roll of the vessel allowed it to flow towards it.  To say the ship was
rolling would express but poorly the indescribably disagreeable
wallowing motion of the frigate, while men were staggering with anxious
faces from gun to gun, seeing that the lashings were all secure; so
great was the strain on the cable-like ropes that kept them in their
places.  The shot had got loose from the racks, and were having a small
cannonade on their own account, to the no small consternation of the men
whose duty it was to re-secure them.  It was literally sea without and
sea within, for the green waves were pouring down the main hatchway,
adding to the amount of water already _below_, where the chairs and
other articles of domestic utility were all afloat and making voyages of
discovery from one officer's cabin to another.

On the upper deck all was darkness, confusion, and danger, for both the
fore and main-topsails had been carried away at the same time, reducing
us to one sail--the foresail.  The noise and crackling of the riven
canvas, mingling with the continuous roar of the storm, were at times
increased by the rattle of thunder and the rush of rain-drops, while the
lightning played continually around the slippery masts and cordage.
About one o'clock, a large ship, apparently unmanageable, was dimly seen
for one moment close aboard of us--had we come into collision the
consequences must have been dreadful;--and thus for two long hours,
_till steam was got up_, did we fly before the gale, after which the
danger was comparatively small.

Having spent its fury, having in fact blown itself out of breath, the
wind next day retired to its cave, and the waves got smaller and
beautifully less, till peace and quietness once more reigned around us.

Going on deck one morning I found we were anchored under the very shadow
of a steep rock, and not far from a pretty little town at the foot of a
high mountain, which was itself covered to the top with trees and
verdure, with the white walls of many a quaint-looking edifice peeping
through the green--boats, laden with fruit and fish and turtle,
surrounded the ship.  The island of Madeira and town, of Funchal.  As
there was no pier, we had to land among the stones.  The principal
amusement of English residents here seems to be lounging about, cheroot
in month, beneath the rows of trees that droop over the pavements,
getting carried about in portable hammocks, and walking or riding (I
rode, and, not being able to get my horse to move at a suitable pace, I
looked behind, and found the boy from whom I had hired him sticking like
a leech to my animal's tail, nor would he be shaken off--nor could the
horse be induced to kick him off; this is the custom of the Funchalites,
and a funny one it is) to the top of the mountain, for the pleasure of
coming down in a sleigh, a distance of two miles, in twice as many
minutes, while the least deviation from the path would result in a
terrible smash against the wall of either side, but I never heard of any
such accident occurring.

Three days at Madeira, and up anchor again; our next place of call being
Saint Helena.  Every one has heard of the gentleman who wanted to
conquer the world but couldn't, who tried to beat the British but
didn't, who staked his last crown at a game of _loo_, and losing fled,
and fleeing was chased, and being chased was caught and chained by the
leg, like an obstreperous game-cock, to a rock somewhere in the middle
of the sea, on which he stood night and day for years, with his arms
folded across his chest, and his cocked hat wrong on, a warning to the
unco-ambitious.  The rock was Saint Helena, and a very beautiful rock it
is too, hill and dell and thriving town, its mountain-sides tilled and
its straths and glens containing many a fertile little farm.  It is the
duty of every one who touches the shores of this far-famed island to
make a pilgrimage to Longwood, the burial-place of the "great man."  I
have no intention of describing this pilgrimage, for this has been done
by dozens before my time, or, if not, it ought to have been: I shall
merely add a very noticeable fact, which others may not perchance have
observed--_both sides_ of the road all the way to the tomb are strewn
with _Bass's beer-bottles_, empty of course, and at the grave itself
there are hogsheads of them; and the same is the case at every place
which John Bull has visited, or where English foot has ever trodden.
The rule holds good all over the world; and in the Indian Ocean,
whenever I found an uninhabited island, or even reef which at some
future day would be an island, if I did not likewise find an empty
beer-bottle, I at once took possession in the name of Queen Victoria,
giving three hips! and one hurrah! thrice, and singing "For he's a jolly
good fellow," without any very distinct notion as to who _was_ the jolly
fellow; also adding more decidedly "which nobody can deny"--there being
no one on the island to deny it.

England has in this way acquired much additional territory at my hands,
without my having as yet received any very substantial recompense for my



The duties of the assistant-surgeon--the modern Roderick Random--on
board a line-of-battle ship are seldom very onerous in time of peace,
and often not worth mentioning.  Suppose, for example, the reader is
that officer.  At five bells--half-past six--in the morning, if you
happen to be a light sleeper, you will be sensible of some one gliding
silently into your cabin, rifling your pockets, and extracting your
watch, your money, and other your trinkets; but do not jump out of bed,
pray, with the intention of collaring him; it is no thief--only your
servant.  Formerly this official used to be a marine, with whom on
joining your ship you bargained in the following manner.

The marine walked up to you and touched his front hair, saying at the
same time,--

"_I_ don't mind looking arter you, sir," or "I'll do for you, sir."  On
which you would reply,--

"All right! what's your name?" and he would answer "Cheeks," or whatever
his name might be.  (Cheeks, that is the real Cheeks, being a sort of
visionary soldier--a phantom marine--and very useful at times, answering
in fact to the Nobody of higher quarters, who is to blame for so many
things,--"Nobody is to blame," and "Cheeks is to blame," being
synonymous sentences.)

Now-a-days Government kindly allows each commissioned officer one half
of a servant, or one whole one between two officers, which, at times, is
found to be rather an awkward arrangement; as, for instance, you and,
say, the lieutenant of marines, have each the half of the same servant,
and you wish your half to go on shore with a message, and the lieutenant
requires his half to remain on board: the question then comes to be one
which only the wisdom of Solomon could solve, in the same way that
Alexander the Great loosed the Gordian knot.

Your servant, then, on entering your cabin in the morning, carefully and
quietly deposits the contents of your pockets on your table, and, taking
all your clothes and your boots in his arms, silently flits from view,
and shortly after re-enters, having in the interval neatly folded and
brushed them.  You are just turning round to go to sleep again, when--

"Six bells, sir, please," remarks your man, laying his hand on your
elbow, and giving you a gentle shake to insure your resuscitation, and
which will generally have the effect of causing you to spring at once
from your cot, perhaps in your hurry nearly upsetting the cup of
delicious ship's cocoa which he has kindly saved to you from his own
breakfast--a no small sacrifice either, if you bear in mind that his own
allowance is by no means very large, and that his breakfast consists of
cocoa and biscuits alone--these last too often containing more weevils
than flour.  As you hurry into your bath, your servant coolly informs

"Plenty of time, sir.  Doctor himself hain't turned out yet."

"Then," you inquire, "it isn't six bells?"

"Not a bit on it, sir," he replies; "wants the quarter."

The rogue has lied to get you up.

At seven o'clock exactly you make your way forward to the sick-bay, on
the lower deck at the ship's bows.  Now, this making your way forward
isn't by any means such an easy task as one might imagine; for at that
hour the deck is swarming with the men at their toilet, stripped to the
waist, every man at his tub, lathering, splashing, scrubbing and
rubbing, talking, laughing, joking, singing, sweating, and swearing.
Finding your way obstructed, you venture to touch one mildly on the bare
back, as a hint to move aside and let you pass; the man immediately
damns your eyes, then begs pardon, and says he thought it was Bill "at
his lark again."  Another who is bending down over his tub you touch
more firmly on the _os innominatum_, and ask him in a free and easy sort
of tone to "slue round there."  He "slues round," very quickly too, but
unfortunately in the wrong direction, and ten to one capsizes you in a
tub of dirty soapsuds.  Having picked yourself up, you pursue your
journey, and sing out as a general sort of warning--

For the benefit of those happy individuals who never saw, or had to eat,
weevils, I may here state that they are small beetles of the exact size
and shape of the common woodlouse, and that the taste is rather insipid,
with a slight flavour of boiled beans.  Never have tasted the woodlouse,
but should think the flavour would be quite similar.

"Gangway there, lads," which causes at least a dozen of these worthies
to pass such ironical remarks to their companions as--

"Out of the doctor's way there, Tom."

"Let the gentleman pass, can't you, Jack?"

"Port your helm, Mat; the doctor wants you to."

"Round with your stern, Bill; the surgeon's _mate_ is a passing."

"Kick that donkey Jones out of the doctor's road,"--while at the same
time it is always the speaker himself who is in the way.

At last, however, you reach the sick-bay in safety, and retire within
the screen.  Here, if a strict service man, you will find the surgeon
already seated; and presently the other assistant enters, and the work
is begun.  There is a sick-bay man, or dispenser, and a sick-bay cook,
attached to the medical department.  The surgeon generally does the
brain-work, and the assistants the finger-work; and, to their shame be
it spoken, there are some surgeons too proud to consult their younger
brethren, whom they treat as assistant-drudges, not assistant-surgeons.

At eight o'clock--before or after,--the work is over, and you are off to

At nine o'clock the drum beats, when every one, not otherwise engaged,
is required to muster on the quarter-deck, every officer as he comes up
lifting his cap, not to the captain, but to the Queen.  After inspection
the parson reads prayers; you are then free to write, or read, or
anything else in reason you choose; and, if in harbour, you may go on
shore--boats leaving the ship at regular hours for the convenience of
the officers--always premising that one medical man be left on board, in
case of accident.  In most foreign ports where a ship may be lying,
there is no want of both pleasure and excitement on shore.  Take for
example the little town of Simon's, about twenty miles from Cape Town,
with a population of not less than four thousand of Englishmen, Dutch,
Malays, Caffres, and Hottentots.  The bay is large, and almost
landlocked.  The little white town is built along the foot of a lofty
mountain.  Beautiful walks can be had in every direction, along the hard
sandy sea-beach, over the mountains and on to extensive table-lands, or
away up into dark rocky dingles and heath-clad glens.  Nothing can
surpass the beauty of the scenery, or the gorgeous loveliness of the
wild heaths and geraniums everywhere abounding.  There is a good hotel
and billiard-room; and you can shoot where, when, and what you please--
monkeys, pigeons, rock rabbits, wild ducks, or cobra-di-capellas.  If
you long for more society, or want to see life, get a day or two days'
leave.  Rise at five o'clock; the morning will be lovely and clear, with
the mist rising from its flowery bed on the mountain's brow, and the
sun, large and red, entering on a sky to which nor pen nor pencil could
do justice.  The cart is waiting for you at the hotel, with an awning
spread above.  Jump in: crack goes the long Caffre whip; away with a
plunge and a jerk go the three pairs of Caffre horses, and along the
sea-shore you dash, with the cool sea-breeze in your face, and the
water, green and clear, rippling up over the horses' feet; then, amid
such scenery, with such exhilarating weather, in such a life-giving
climate, if you don't feel a glow of pleasure that will send the blood
tingling through your veins, from the points of your ten toes to the
extreme end of your eyelashes, there must be something radically and
constitutionally wrong with you, and the sooner you go on board and dose
yourself with calomel and jalap the better.

Arrived at Cape Town, a few introductions will simply throw the whole
city at your command, and all it contains.

I do not intend this as a complete sketch of your trip, or I would have
mentioned some of the many beautiful spots and places of interest you
pass on the road--Rathfeldas for example, a hotel halfway, a house
buried in sweetness; and the country round about, with its dark waving
forests, its fruitful fields and wide-spreading vineyards, where the
grape seems to grow almost without cultivation; its comfortable
farm-houses; and above all its people, kind, generous, and hospitable as
the country is prolific.

So you see, dear reader, a navy surgeon's life hath its pleasures.  Ah,
indeed, it hath! and sorry I am to add, its sufferings too; for a few
pages farther on the picture must change: if we get the lights we must
needs take the shadows also.



We will suppose that the reader still occupies the position of
assistant-surgeon in a crack frigate or saucy line-of-battle ship.  If
you go on shore for a walk in the forenoon you may return to lunch at
twelve; or if you have extended your ramble far into the country, or
gone to visit a friend or lady-love--though for the latter the gloaming
hour is to be preferred--you will in all probability have succeeded in
establishing an appetite by half-past five, when the officers'
dinner-boat leaves the pier.

Now, I believe there are few people in the world to whom a good dinner
does not prove an attraction, and this is what in a large ship one is
always pretty sure of, more especially on guest-nights, which are
evenings set apart--one every week--for the entertainment of the
officers' friends, one or more of whom any officer may invite, by
previously letting the mess-caterer know of his intention.  The
mess-caterer is the officer who has been elected to superintend the
victualling, as the wine-caterer does the liquor department, and a
by-no-means-enviable position it is, and consequently it is for ever
changing hands.  Sailors are proverbial growlers, and, indeed, a certain
amount of growling is, and ought to be, permitted in every mess; but it
is scarcely fair for an officer, because his breakfast does not please
him, or if he can't get butter to his cheese after dinner, to launch
forth his indignation at the poor mess-caterer, who most likely is doing
all he can to please.  These growlers too never speak right out or
directly to the point.  It is all under-the-table stabbing.

"Such and such a ship that I was in," says growler first, "and such and
such a mess--"

"Oh, by George!" says growler second, "_I_ knew that ship; that was a
mess, and no mistake?"

"Why, yes," replies number one, "the lunch we got there was better than
the dinner we have in this old clothes-basket."

On guest-nights your friend sits beside yourself, of course, and you
attend to his corporeal wants.  One of the nicest things about the
service, in my opinion, is the having the band every day at dinner; then
too everything is so orderly; with our president and vice-president, it
is quite like a pleasure party every evening; so that altogether the
dinner, while in harbour, comes to be the great event of the day.  And
after the cloth has been removed, and the president, with a preliminary
rap on the table to draw attention, has given the only toast of the
evening, the Queen, and due honour has been paid thereto, and the
bandmaster, who has been keeking in at the door every minute for the
last ten, that he might not make a mistake in the time, has played "God
save the Queen," and returned again to waltzes, quadrilles, or
selections from operas,--then it is very pleasant and delightful to loll
over our walnuts and wine, and half-dream away the half-hour till coffee
is served.  Then, to be sure, that little cigar in our canvas
smoking-room outside the wardroom door, though the last, is by no means
the least pleasant part of the _dejeuner_.  For my own part, I enjoy the
succeeding hour or so as much as any: when, reclining in an easy chair,
in a quiet corner, I can sip my tea, and enjoy my favourite author to my
heart's content.  You must spare half an hour, however, to pay your last
visit to the sick; but this will only tend to make you appreciate your
ease all the more when you have done.  So the evening wears away, and by
ten o'clock you will probably just be sufficiently tired to enjoy
thoroughly your little swing-cot and your cool white sheets.

At sea, luncheon, or tiffin, is dispensed with, and you dine at
half-past two.  Not much difference in the quality of viands after all,
for now-a-days everything worth eating can be procured, in hermetically
sealed tins, capable of remaining fresh for any length of time.

There is one little bit of the routine of the service, which at first
one may consider a hardship.

You are probably enjoying your deepest, sweetest sleep, rocked in the
cradle of the deep, and gently swaying to and fro in your little cot;
you had turned in with the delicious consciousness of safety, for well
you knew that the ship was far away at sea, far from rock or reef or
deadly shoal, and that the night was clear and collision very
improbable, so you are slumbering like a babe on its mother's breast--as
you are for that matter--for the second night-watch is half spent; when,
mingling confusedly with your dreams, comes the roll of the drum; you
start and listen.  There is a moment's pause, when birr-r-r-r it goes
again, and as you spring from your couch you hear it the third time.
And now you can distinguish the shouts of officers and petty officers,
high over the din of the trampling of many feet, of the battening down
of hatches, of the unmooring of great guns, and of heavy ropes and bars
falling on the deck: then succeeds a dead silence, I soon broken by the
voice of the commander thundering, "Enemy on the port bow;" and then,
and not till then, do you know it is no real engagement, but the monthly
night-quarters.  And you can't help feeling sorry there isn't a real
enemy on the port bow, or either bow, as you hurry away to the cockpit,
with the guns rattling all the while overhead, as if a real live
thunderstorm were being taken on board, and was objecting to be stowed
away.  So you lay out your instruments, your sponges, your bottles of
wine, and your buckets of water, and, seating yourself in the midst,
begin to read `Midsummer Night's Dream,' ready at a moment's notice to
amputate the leg of any man on board, whether captain, cook, or

Another nice little amusement the officer of the watch may give himself
on fine clear nights is to set fire to and let go the lifebuoy, at the
same time singing out at the top of his voice, "Man overboard."

A boatswain's mate at once repeats the call, and vociferates down the
main hatchway, "Life-boat's crew a-ho-oy!"

In our navy a few short but expressive moments of silence ever precede
the battle, that both officers and men may hold communion with their

The men belonging to this boat, who have been lying here and there
asleep but dressed, quickly tumble up the ladder pell-mell; there is a
rattling of oars heard, and the creaking of pulleys, then a splash in
the water alongside, the boat darts away from the ship like an arrow
from a bow, and the crew, rowing towards the blazing buoy, save the life
of the unhappy man, Cheeks the marine.

And thus do British sailors rule the waves and keep old Neptune in his
own place.



If the disposing, in the service, of even a ship-load of
assistant-surgeons, is considered a matter of small moment, my disposal,
after reaching the Cape of Good Hope, needs but small comment.  I was
very soon appointed to take charge of a gunboat, in lieu of a gentleman
who was sent to the Naval Hospital of Simon's Town, to fill a death
vacancy--for the navy as well as nature abhors a vacuum.  I had seen the
bright side of the service, I was now to have my turn of the dark; I had
enjoyed life on board a crack frigate, I was now to rough it in a

The east coast of Africa was to be our cruising ground, and our ship a
pigmy steamer, with plenty fore-and-aft about her, but nothing else; in
fact, she was Euclid's definition of a line to a t, length without
breadth, and small enough to have done "excellently well" as a Gravesend
tug-boat.  Her teeth were five: namely, one gigantic cannon, a
65-pounder, as front tooth; on each side a brass howitzer; and flanking
these, two canine tusks in shape of a couple of 12-pounder Armstrongs.
With this armament we were to lord it with a high hand over the Indian
Ocean; carry fire and sword, or, failing sword, the cutlass, into the
very heart of slavery's dominions; the Arabs should tremble at the roar
of our guns and the thunder of our bursting shells, while the slaves
should clank their chains in joyful anticipation of our coming; and best
of all, we--the officers--should fill our pockets with prize-money to
spend when we again reached the shores of merry England.  Unfortunately,
this last premeditation was the only one which sustained disappointment,
for, our little craft being tender to the flag-ship of the station, all
our hard-earned prize-money had to be equally shared with her officers
and crew, which reduced the shares to fewer pence each than they
otherwise would have been pounds, and which was a burning shame.

It was the Cape winter when I joined the gunboat.  The hills were
covered with purple and green, the air was deliciously cool, and the
far-away mountain-tops were clad in virgin snow.  It was twelve o'clock
noon when I took my traps on board, and found my new messmates seated
around the table at tiffin.  The gunroom, called the wardroom by
courtesy--for the after cabin was occupied by the lieutenant
commanding--was a little morsel of an apartment, which the table and
five cane-bottomed chairs entirely filled.  The officers were five--
namely, a little round-faced, dimple-cheeked, good-natured fellow, who
was our second-master; a tall and rather awkward-looking young
gentleman, our midshipman; a lean, pert, and withal diminutive youth,
brimful of his own importance, our assistant-paymaster; a fair-haired,
bright-eyed, laughing boy from Cornwall, our sub-lieutenant; and a "wee
wee man," dapper, clean, and tidy, our engineer, admitted to this mess
because he was so thorough an exception to his class, which is
celebrated more for the unctuosity of its outer than for the smoothness
of its inner man.

"Come along, old fellow," said our navigator, addressing me as I entered
the messroom, bobbing and bowing to evade fracture of the cranium by
coming into collision with the transverse beams of the deck above--"come
along and join us, we don't dine till four."

"And precious little to dine upon," said the officer on his right.

"Steward, let us have the rum," [Note 1] cried the first speaker.

And thus addressed, the steward shuffled in, bearing in his hand a black
bottle, and apparently in imminent danger of choking himself on a large
mouthful of bread and butter.  This functionary's dress was remarkable
rather for its simplicity than its purity, consisting merely of a pair
of dirty canvas pants, a pair of purser's shoes--innocent as yet of
blacking--and a greasy flannel shirt.  But, indeed, uniform seemed to be
the exception, and not the rule, of the mess, for, while one wore a blue
serge jacket, another was arrayed in white linen, and the rest had
neither jacket nor vest.

The table was guiltless of a cloth, and littered with beer-bottles,
biscuits, onions, sardines, and pats of butter.

"Look out there, Waddles!" exclaimed the sub-lieutenant; "that beggar
Dawson is having his own whack o' grog and everybody else's."

"Dang it!  I'll have _my_ tot to-day, I know," said the
assistant-paymaster, snatching the bottle from Dawson, and helping
himself to a very liberal allowance of the ruby fluid.

"What a cheek the fellow's got!" cried the midshipman, snatching the
glass from the table and bolting the contents at a gulp, adding, with a
gasp of satisfaction as he put down the empty tumbler, "The chap thinks
nobody's got a soul to be saved but himself."

"Soul or no soul," replied the youthful man of money as he gazed
disconsolately at the empty glass, "my _spirit's_ gone."

"Blessed," said the engineer, shaking the black bottle, "if you devils
have left me a drain! see if I don't look out for A1 to-morrow."

"Where's the doctor's grog?" cried the sub-lieutenant.

"Ay, where's the doctor's?" said another.

"Where is the doctor's?" said a third.

And they all said "Where is the doctor's?" and echo answered "Where?"

"Steward!" said the middy.

"Ay, ay, sir."

"See if that beggarly bumboat-man is alongside, and get me another pat
of butter and some soft tack; get the grub first, then tell him I'll pay

These and such like scraps of conversation began to give me a little
insight into the kind of mess I had joined and the character of my
future messmates.  "Steward," said I, "show me my cabin."  He did so;
indeed, he hadn't far to go.  It was the aftermost, and consequently the
smallest, although I _ought_ to have had my choice.  It was the most
miserable little box I ever reposed in.  Had I owned such a place on
shore, I _might_ have been induced to keep rabbits in it, or
guinea-pigs, but certainly not pigeons.  Its length was barely six feet,
its width four above my cot and two below, and it was minus sufficient
standing-room for any ordinary-sized sailor; it was, indeed, a cabin for
a commodore--I mean Commodore Nutt--and was ventilated by a scuttle
seven inches in diameter, which could only be removed in harbour, and
below which, when we first went to sea, I was fain to hang a leather
hat-box to catch the water; unfortunately the bottom rotted out, and I
was then at the mercy of the waves.

My cabin, or rather--to stick to the plain unvarnished truth--my burrow,
was alive with scorpions, cockroaches, ants, and other "crawlin'

  "That e'en to name would be unlawfu'."

My dispensary was off the steerage, and sister-cabin to the pantry.  To
it I gained access by a species of crab-walking, squeezing myself past a
large brass pump, and edging my body in sideways.  The sick came one by
one to the dispensary door, and there I saw and treated each case as it
arrived, dressed the wounds and bruises and putrefying sores, and
bandaged the bad legs.  There was no sick-berth attendant; to be sure
the lieutenant-in-command, at my request, told off "a little cabin-boy"
for my especial use.  I had no cause for delectation on such an
acquisition, by no means; he was not a model cabin-boy like what you see
in theatres, and I believe will never become an admiral.  He managed at
times to wash out the dispensary, or gather cockroaches, and make the
poultices--only in doing the first he broke the bottles, and in
performing the last duty he either let the poultice burn or put salt in
it; and, finally, he smashed my pot, and I kicked him forward, and
demanded another.  _He_ was slightly better, only he was seldom visible;
and when I set him to do anything, he at once went off into a sweet
slumber; so I kicked him forward too, and had in despair to become my
own menial.  In both dispensary and burrow it was quite a difficult
business to prevent everything going to speedy destruction.  The best
portions of my uniform got eaten by cockroaches or moulded by damp,
while my instruments required cleaning every morning, and even that did
not keep rust at bay.

Imagine yourself dear reader, in any of the following interesting

Very thirsty, and nothing but boiling hot newly distilled water to
drink; or wishing a cool bath of a morning, and finding the water in
your can only a little short of 212 degrees Fahrenheit.

To find, when you awake, a couple of cockroaches, two inches in length,
busy picking your teeth.

To find one in a state of decay in the mustard-pot.

To have to arrange all the droppings and eggs of these interesting
creatures on the edge of your plate, previous to eating your soup.

To have to beat out the dust and weevils from every square inch of
biscuit before putting it in your mouth.

To be looking for a book and put your band on a full-grown scaly
scorpion.  Nice sensation--the animal twining round your finger, or
running up your sleeve.  _Denouement_--cracking him under foot--
full-flavoured bouquet--joy at escaping a sting.

You are enjoying your dinner, but have been for some time sensible of a
strange titivating feeling about the region of your ankle; you look down
at last to find a centipede on your sock, with his fifty hind-legs--you
thank God not his fore fifty--abutting on to your shin.  _Tableau_--
green and red light from the eyes of the many-legged; horror of yourself
as you wait till he thinks proper to "move on."

To awake in the morning, and find a large and healthy-looking tarantula
squatting on your pillow within ten inches of your nose, with his
basilisk eyes fixed on yours, and apparently saying, "You're only just
awake, are you?  I've been sitting here all the morning watching you."

You know if you move he'll bite you, somewhere; and if he _does_ bite
you, you'll go mad and dance _ad libitum_; so you twist your mouth in
the opposite direction and ejaculate--

"Steward!" but the steward does not come--in fact he is forward, seeing
after the breakfast.  Meanwhile the gentleman on the pillow is moving
his horizontal mandibles in a most threatening manner, and just as he
makes a rush for your nose you tumble out of bed with a shriek; and, if
a very nervous person, probably run on deck in your shirt.

Or, to fall asleep under the following circumstances: The bulkheads, all
around, black with cock-and-hen-roaches, a few of which are engaged
cropping your toe-nails, or running off with little bits of the skin of
your calves; bugs in the crevices of your cot, a flea tickling the sole
of your foot, a troop of ants carrying a dead cockroach over your
pillow, lively mosquitoes attacking you everywhere, hammer-legged flies
occasionally settling on your nose, rats running in and rats running
out, your lamp just going out, and the delicious certainty that an
indefinite number of earwigs and scorpions, besides two centipedes and a
tarantula, are hiding themselves somewhere in your cabin.


Note 1.  Officers, as well as men, are allowed one half-gill of rum
daily, with this difference,--the former pay for theirs, while the
latter do not.



It was a dark-grey cloudy forenoon when we "up anchor" and sailed from
Simon's Bay.  Frequent squalls whitened the water, and there was every
indication of our being about to have dirty weather; and the tokens told
no lies.  To our little craft, however, the foul weather that followed
seemed to be a matter of very little moment; for, when the wind or waves
were in any way high, she kept snugly below water, evidently thinking
more of her own convenience than our comfort, for such a procedure on
her part necessitated our leading a sort of amphibious existence, better
suited to the tastes of frogs than human beings.  Our beds too, or
matresses, became converted into gigantic poultices, in which we nightly
steamed, like as many porkers newly shaven.  Judging from the amount of
salt which got encrusted on our skins, there was little need to fear
danger, we were well preserved--so much so indeed, that, but for the
constant use of the matutinal freshwater bath, we would doubtless have
shared the fate of Lot's wife and been turned into pillars of salt.

After being a few days at sea the wind began to moderate, and finally
died away; and instead thereof we had thunderstorms and waves, which, if
not so big as mountains, would certainly have made pretty large hills.

Many a night did we linger on deck till well nigh morning, entranced by
the sublime beauty and terrible grandeur of those thunderstorms.  The
roar and rattle of heaven's artillery; the incessant _floods_ of
lightning--crimson, blue, or white; our little craft hanging by the bows
to the crest of each huge inky billow, or next moment buried in the
valley of the waves, with a wall of black waters on every side; the wet
deck, the slippery shrouds, and the faces of the men holding on to the
ropes and appearing so strangely pale in the electric light; I see the
whole picture even now as I write--a picture, indeed, that can never,
never fade from my memory.

Our cruising "ground" lay between the island and town of Mozambique in
the south, to about Magadoxa, some seven or eight degrees north of the

Nearly the whole of the slave-trade is carried on by the Arabs, one or
two Spaniards sometimes engaging in it likewise.  The slaves are brought
from the far interior of South Africa, where they can be purchased for a
small bag of rice each.  They are taken down in chained gangs to the
coast, and there in some secluded bay the dhows lie, waiting to take
them on board and convey them to the slave-mart at Zanzibar, to which
place Arab merchants come from the most distant parts of Arabia and
Persia to buy them.  Dhows are vessels with one or two masts, and a
corresponding number of large sails, and of a very peculiar
construction, being shaped somewhat like a short or Blucher boot, the
high part of the boot representing the poop.  They have a thatched roof
over the deck, the projecting eaves of which render boarding exceedingly
difficult to an enemy.

Sometimes, on rounding the corner of a lagoon island, we would quietly
and unexpectedly steam into the midst of a fleet of thirty to forty of
these queer-looking vessels, very much to our own satisfaction, and
their intense consternation.  Imagine a cat popping down among as many
mice, and you will be able to form some idea of the scramble that
followed.  However, by dint of steaming here and there, and expending a
great deal of shot and shell, we generally managed to keep them together
as a dog would a flock of sheep, until we examined all their papers with
the aid of our interpreter, and probably picked out a prize.

I wish I could say the prizes were anything like numerous; for perhaps
one-half of all the vessels we board are illicit slaveholders, and yet
we cannot lay a finger on them.  One may well ask why?  It has been
said, and it is generally believed in England, that our cruisers are
sweeping the Indian Ocean of slavers, and stamping out the curse.  But
the truth is very different, and all that we are doing, or able at
present to do, is but to pull an occasional hair from the hoary locks of
the fiend Slavery.  This can be proved from the return-sheets, which
every cruiser sends home, of the number of vessels boarded, generally
averaging one thousand yearly to each man-o'-war, of which the half at
least have slaves or slave-irons on board; but only two, or at most
three, of these will become prizes.  The reason of this will easily be
understood, when the reader is informed, that the Sultan of Zanzibar has
liberty to take any number of slaves from any one portion of his
dominions to another: these are called household slaves; and, as his
dominions stretch nearly all along the eastern shores of Africa, it is
only necessary for the slave-dealer to get his sanction and seal to his
papers in order to steer clear of British law.  This, in almost every
case, can be accomplished by means of a bribe.  So slavery flourishes,
the Sultan draws a good fat revenue from it, and the Portuguese--no
great friends to us at any time--laugh and wink to see John Bull paying
his thousands yearly for next to nothing.  Supposing we liberate even
two thousand slaves a year, which I am not sure we do however, there are
on the lowest estimate six hundred slaves bought and sold daily in
Zanzibar mart; two hundred and nineteen thousand in a twelvemonth; and,
of our two thousand that are set free in Zanzibar, most, if not all,
by-and-bye, become bondsmen again.

I am not an advocate for slavery, and would like to see a wholesale raid
made against it, but I do not believe in the retail system; selling
freedom in pennyworths, and spending millions in doing it, is very like
burning a penny candle in seeking for a cent.  Yet I sincerely believe,
that there is more good done to the spread of civilisation and religion
in one year, by the slave-traffic, than all our missionaries can do in a
hundred.  Don't open your eyes and smile incredulously, intelligent
reader; we live in an age when every question is looked at on both
sides, and why should not this?  What becomes of the hundreds of
thousands of slaves that are taken from Africa?  They are sold to the
Arabs--that wonderful race, who have been second only to Christians in
the good they have done to civilisation; they are taken from a state of
degradation, bestiality, and wretchedness, worse by far than that of the
wild beasts, and from a part of the country too that is almost unfit to
live in, and carried to more favoured lands, spread over the sunny
shores of fertile Persia and Arabia, fed and clothed and cared for;
after a few years of faithful service they are even called sons and feed
at their master's table--taught all the trades and useful arts, besides
the Mahommedan religion, which is certainly better than none--and, above
all, have a better chance given them of one day hearing and learning the
beautiful tenets of Christianity, the religion of love.

I have met with few slaves who after a few years did not say, "Praised
be Allah for the good day I was take from me coontry!" and whose only
wish to return was, that they might bring away some aged parent, or
beloved sister, from the dark cheerless home of their infancy.

Means and measures much more energetic must be brought into action if
the stronghold of slavedom is to be stormed, and, if not, it were better
to leave it alone.  "If the work be of God ye cannot overthrow it; lest
haply ye be found to fight even against God."



It might have been that our vessel was launched on a Friday, or sailed
on a Friday; or whether it was owing to our carrying the devil on board
of us in shape of a big jet-black cat, and for whom the lifebuoy was
thrice let go, and boats lowered in order to save his infernal majesty
from a watery grave; but whatever was the reason, she was certainly a
most unlucky ship from first to last; for during a cruise of eighteen
months, four times did we run aground on dangerous reefs, twice were we
on fire--once having had to scuttle the decks--once we sprung a bad leak
and were nearly foundering, several times we narrowly escaped the same
speedy termination to our cruise by being taken aback, while, compared
to our smaller dangers or lesser perils, Saint Paul's adventures--as a
Yankee would express it--wern't a circumstance.

On the other hand, we were amply repaid by the many beautiful spots we
visited; the lovely wooded creeks where the slave-dhows played at hide
and seek with us, and the natural harbours, at times surrounded by
scenery so sweetly beautiful and so charmingly solitary, that, if
fairies still linger on this earth, one must think they would choose
just such places as these for their moonlight revels.  Then there were
so many little towns--Portuguese settlements--to be visited, for the
Portuguese have spread themselves, after the manner of wild
strawberries, all round the coast of Africa, from Sierra Leone on the
west to Zanzibar on the east.  There was as much sameness about these
settlements as about our visits to them: a few houses--more like tents--
built on the sand (it does seem fanny to see sofas, chairs, and the
piano itself standing among the deep soft sand); a fort, the guns of
which, if fired, would bring down the walls; a few white-jacketed
swarthy-looking soldiers; a very polite governor, brimful of hospitality
and broken English; and a good dinner, winding up with punch of

Memorable too are the pleasant boating excursions we had on the calm
bosom of the Indian Ocean.  Armed boats used to be detached to cruise
for three or four weeks at a time in quest of prizes, at the end of
which time they were picked up at some place of rendezvous.  By day we
sailed about the coast and around the small wooded islets, where dhows
might lurk, only landing in sheltered nooks to cook and eat our food.
Our provisions were ship's, but at times we drove great bargains with
the naked natives for fowls and eggs and goats; then would we make
delicious soups, rich ragouts, and curries fit for the king of the
Cannibal Islands.  Fruit too we had in plenty, and the best of oysters
for the gathering, with iguana most succulent of lizards, occasionally
fried flying-fish, or delicate morsels of shark, skip-jack, or devilled
dolphin, with a glass of prime ram to wash the whole down, and three
grains of quinine to charm away the fever.  There was, too, about these
expeditions, an air of gipsying that was quite pleasant.  To be sure our
beds were a little hard, but we did not mind that; while clad in our
blanket-suits, and covered with a boat-sail, we could defy the dew.
Sleep, or rather the want of sleep, we seldom had to complain of, for
the blue star-lit sky above us, the gentle rising and falling of the
anchored boat, the lip-lipping of the water, and the sighing sound of
the wind through the great forest near us--all tended to woo us to
sweetest slumber.

Sometimes we would make long excursions up the rivers of Africa,
combining business with pleasure, enjoying the trip, and at the same
time gleaning some useful information regarding slave or slave-ship.
The following sketch concerning one or two of these may tend to show,
that a man does not take leave of all enjoyment, when his ship leaves
the chalky cliffs of old England.

Our anchor was dropped outside the bar of Inambane river; the grating
noise of the chain as it rattled through the hawse-hole awoke me, and I
soon after went on deck.  It was just six o'clock and a beautiful clear
morning, with the sun rising red and rosy--like a portly gentleman
getting up from his wine--and smiling over the sea in quite a pleasant
sort of way.  So, as both Neptune and Sol seemed propitious, the
commander, our second-master, and myself made up our minds to visit the
little town and fort of Inambane, about forty--we thought fifteen--miles
up the river.  But breakfast had to be prepared and eaten, the magazine
and arms got into the boat, besides a day's provisions, with ram and
quinine to be stowed away, so that the sun had got a good way up the
sky, and now looked more like a portly gentleman whose dinner had
disagreed, before we had got fairly under way and left the ship's side.
Never was forenoon brighter or fairer, only one or two snowy banks of
cloud interrupting the blue of the sky, while the river, miles broad,
stole silently seaward, unruffled by wave or wavelet, so that the hearts
of both men and officers were light as the air they breathed was pure.
The men, bending cheerfully on their oars, sang snatches of Dibdin--
Neptune's poet laureate; and we, tired of talking, reclined astern,
gazing with half-shut eyes on the round undulating hills, that, covered
with low mangrove-trees and large exotics, formed the banks of the
river.  We passed numerous small wooded islands and elevated sandbanks,
on the edges of which whole regiments of long-legged birds waded about
in search of food, or, starting at our approach, flew over our heads in
Indian file, their bright scarlet-and-white plumage showing prettily
against the blue of the sky.  Shoals of turtle floated past, and
hundreds of rainbow-coloured jelly-fishes, while, farther off, many
large black bodies--the backs of hippopotami--moved on the surface of
the water, or anon disappeared with a sullen plash.  Saving these sounds
and the dip of our own oars, all was still, the silence of the desert
reigned around us, the quiet of a newly created world.

The forenoon wore away, the river got narrower, but, though we could see
a distance of ten miles before us, neither life nor sign of life could
be perceived.  At one o'clock we landed among a few cocoa-nut trees to
eat our meagre dinner, a little salt pork, raw, and a bit of biscuit.
No sooner had we "shoved off" again than the sky became overcast; we
were caught in, and had to pull against, a blinding white-squall that
would have laid a line-of-battle on her beam ends.  The rain poured down
as if from a water-spout, almost filling the boat and drenching us to
the skin, and, not being able to see a yard ahead, our boat ran aground
and stuck fast.  It took us a good hour after the squall was over to
drag her into deep water; nor were our misfortunes then at an end, for
squall succeeded squall, and, having a journey of uncertain length still
before us, we began to feel very miserable indeed.

It was long after four o'clock when, tired, wet, and hungry, we hailed
with joy a large white house on a wooded promontory; it was the
Governor's castle, and soon after we came in sight of the town itself.
Situated so far in the interior of Africa, in a region so wild, few
would have expected to find such a little paradise as we now beheld,--a
colony of industrious Portuguese, a large fort and a company of
soldiers, a governor and consulate, a town of nice little detached
cottages, with rows of cocoa-nut, mango, and orange trees, and in fact
all the necessaries, and luxuries of civilised life.  It was, indeed, an
oasis in the desert, and, to us, the most pleasant of pleasant

Leaving the men for a short time with the boat, we made our way to the
house of the consul, a dapper little gentleman with a pretty wife and
two beautiful daughters--flowers that had hitherto blushed unseen and
wasted their sweetness in the desert air.

Our welcome was most warm.  After making us swallow a glass of brandy
each to keep off fever, he kindly led us to a room, and made us strip
off our wet garments, while a servant brought bundle after bundle of
clothes, and spread them out before us.  There were socks and shirts and
slippers galore, with waistcoats, pantaloons, and head-dresses, and
jackets, enough to have dressed an opera troupe.  The commander and I
furnished ourselves with a red Turkish fez and dark-grey dressing-gown
each, with cord and tassels to correspond, and, thus, arrayed, we
considered ourselves of no small account.  Our kind entertainers were
waiting for us in the next room, where they had, in the mean time, been
preparing for us the most fragrant of brandy punch.  By-and-bye two
officers and a tall Parsee dropped in, and for the next hour or so the
conversation was of the most animated and lively description, although a
bystander, had there been one, would not have been much edified, for the
following reason: the younger daughter and myself were flirting in the
ancient Latin language, with an occasional soft word in Spanish; our
commander was talking in bad French to the consul's lady, who was
replying in Portuguese; the second-master was maintaining a smart
discussion in broken Italian with the elder daughter; the Parsee and
officer of the fort chiming in, the former in English, the latter in
Hindostanee; but as no one of the four could have had the slightest idea
of the other's meaning, the amount of information given and received
must have been very small,--in fact, merely nominal.  It must not,
however, be supposed that our host or hostesses could speak _no_
English, for the consul himself would frequently, and with a bow that
was inimitable, push the bottle towards the commander, and say, as he
shrugged his shoulders and turned his palms skywards, "Continue you, Sar
Capitan, to wet your whistle;" and, more than once, the fair creature by
my side would raise and did raise the glass to her lips, and say, as her
eyes sought mine, "Good night, Sar Officeer," as if she meant me to be
off to bed without a moment's delay, which I knew she did not.  Then,
when I responded to the toast, and complimented her on her knowledge of
the "universal language," she added, with a pretty shake of the head,
"No, Sar Officeer, I no can have speak the mooch Englese."  A servant,--
apparently newly out of prison, so closely was his hair cropped,--
interrupted our pleasant confab, and removed the seat of our Babel to
the dining-room, where as nicely-cooked-and-served a dinner as ever
delighted the senses of hungry mortality awaited our attention.  No
large clumsy joints, huge misshapen roasts or bulky boils, hampered the
board; but dainty made-dishes, savoury stews, piquant curries, delicate
fricassees whose bouquet tempted even as their taste and flavour
stimulated the appetite, strange little fishes as graceful in shape as
lovely in colour, vegetables that only the rich luxuriance of an African
garden could supply, and numerous other nameless nothings, with
delicious wines and costly liqueurs, neatness, attention, and kindness,
combined to form our repast, and counteract a slight suspicion of
crocodiles' tails and stewed lizard, for where ignorance is bliss a
fellow is surely a fool if he is wise.

We spent a most pleasant evening in asking questions, spinning yarns,
singing songs, and making love.  The younger daughter--sweet child of
the desert--sang `Amante de alguno;' her sister played a selection from
`La Traviata;' next, the consul's lady favoured us with something
pensive and sad, having reference, I think, to bright eyes, bleeding
hearts, love, and slow death; then, the Parsee chanted a Persian hymn
with an "Allalallala," instead of Fol-di-riddle-ido as a chorus, which
elicited "Fra poco a me" from the Portuguese lieutenant; and this last
caused our commander to seat himself at the piano, turn up the white of
his eyes, and in very lugubrious tones question the probability of
"Gentle Annie's" ever reappearing in any spring-time whatever; then,
amid so much musical sentimentality and woe, it was not likely that I
was to hold my peace, so I lifted up my voice and sang--

  "Cauld kail in Aberdeen,
  An' cas ticks in Strathbogie;
  Ilka chiel maun hae a quean
  Bit leeze me on ma cogie--"

with a pathos that caused the tears to trickle over and adown the nose
of the younger daughter--she was of the gushing temperament--and didn't
leave a dry eye in the room.  The song brought down the house--so to
speak--and I was the hero for the rest of the evening.  Before parting
for the night we also sang `Auld lang syne,' copies of the words having
been written out and distributed, to prevent mistakes; this was supposed
by our hostess to be the English national anthem.

It was with no small amount of regret that we parted from our friends
next day; a fresh breeze carried us down stream, and, except our running
aground once or twice, and being nearly drowned in crossing the bar, we
arrived safely on board our saucy gunboat.


"Afric's sunny fountains" have been engaged for such a length of time in
the poetical employment of "rolling down their golden sands," that a
bank or bar of that same bright material has been formed at the mouth of
every river, which it is very difficult and often dangerous to cross
even in canoes.  We had despatched boats before us to take soundings on
the bar of Lamoo, and prepared to follow in the track thus marked out.
Now, our little bark, although not warranted, like the Yankee boat, to
float wherever there is a heavy dew, was nevertheless content with a
very modest allowance of the aqueous element; in two and a half fathoms
she was quite at home, and even in two--with the help of a few
breakers--she never failed to bump it over a bar.  We approached the bar
of Lamoo, therefore, with a certain degree of confidence till the keel
rasped on the sand; this caused us to turn astern till we rasped again;
then, being neither able to get back nor forward, we stopped ship, put
our fingers in our wise mouths, and tried to consider what next was to
be done.  Just then a small canoe was observed coming bobbing over the
big waves that tumbled in on the bar; at one moment it was hidden behind
a breaker, next moment mounting over another, and so, after a little
game at bo-peep, it got alongside, and from it there scrambled on board
a little, little man, answering entirely to Dickens's description of

"Quilp!" said the commander.

"Quilp!! by George!" repeated our second-master.

"Quilp!!!" added I, "by all that's small and ugly."

"Your sarvant, sar," said Quilp himself.  "I am one pilot."  There
certainly was not enough of him to make two.  He was rather darker in
skin than the Quilp of Dickens, and his only garment was a coal-sack
without sleeves--no coal-sack _has_ sleeves, however--begirt with a
rope, in which a short knife was stuck; he had, besides, sandals on his
feet, and his temples were begirt with a dirty dishclout by way of
turban, and he repeated, "I am one pilot, sar."

"Can you take us over the bar?" asked the commander.

"How much water you?"

"Three fathoms."

"I do it, sar, plenty quick."

"Twenty shillings if you do."

"I do it, sar.  I do him," cried the little man, as he mounted the
bridge; then cocking his head to one side, and spreading out his arms
like a badly feathered duck, he added, "Suppose I no do him plenty
proper, you catchee me and make shot."

"If the vessel strikes, I'll hang you, sir."

Quilp grinned--which was his way of smiling.

"Up steam, sar!" he cried; the order was obeyed.

"Go 'head.  Stabird a leetle."

"And a half three," sung the man in the chains; then, "And a half four;"
and by-and-bye, "And a half three" again; followed next moment by, "By
the deep three."

The commander was all in a fidget.  We were on the dreaded bar; on each
side of us the big waves curled and broke with a sullen boom like
far-off thunder; only, where we were, no waves broke.

"Mind yourself now," cried the commander to Quilp; to which he in wrath

"What for you stand there make bobbery?  _I_ is de cap'n; suppose you is
fear, go alow, sar."

"And a quarter less three."

"Steady!" and a large wave broke right aboard of us, almost sweeping us
from the deck, and lifting the ship's head into the sky.  Another and
another followed; but amid the wet and the spray, and the roar of the
breakers, firmly stood the little pilot, coolly giving his orders, and
never for an instant taking his eyes from the vessel's jib-boom and the
distant shore, till we were safely through the surf and quietly steaming
up the river.

After proceeding some miles, native villages began to appear here and
there on both shores, and the great number of dhows on the river, with
boats and canoes of every description, told us we were nearing a large
town.  Two hours afterwards we were anchored under the guns of the
Sultan's palace, which were belching forth fire and smoke in return for
the salute we had fired.  We found every creature and thing in Lamoo as
entirely primitive, as absolutely foreign, as if it were a city in some
other planet.  The most conspicuous building is the Sultan's lofty fort
and palace, with its spacious steps, its fountains and marble halls.
The streets are narrow and confused; the houses built in the Arab
fashion, and in many cases connected by bridges at the top; the
inhabitants about forty thousand, including Arabs, Persians, Hindoos,
Somali Indians, and slaves.  The wells, exceedingly deep, are built in
the centre of the street without any protection; and girls, carrying on
their heads calabashes, are continually passing to and from them.
Slaves, two and two, bearing their burdens of cowries and ivory on poles
between, and keeping step to an impromptu chant; black girls weaving
mats and grass-cloth; strange-looking tradesmen, with stranger tools, at
every door; rich merchants borne along in gilded palanquins; people
praying on housetops; and the Sultan's ferocious soldiery prowling
about, with swords as tall, and guns nearly twice as tall, as
themselves; a large shark-market; a fine bazaar, with gold-dust, ivory,
and tiger-skins exposed for sale; sprightly horses with gaudy trappings;
solemn-looking camels; dust and stench and a general aroma of savage
life and customs pervading the atmosphere, but law and order
nevertheless.  People of all religions agree like brothers.  No
spirituous liquor of any sort is sold in the town; the Sultan's soldiers
go about the streets at night, smelling the breath of the suspected, and
the faintest odour of the accursed fire-water dooms the poor mortal to
fifty strokes with a thick bamboo-cane next morning.  The sugar-cane
grows wild in the fertile suburbs, amid a perfect forest of fine trees;
farther out in the country the cottager dwells beneath his few cocoa-nut
trees, which supply him with all the necessaries of life.  One tree for
each member of his family is enough.  _He_ builds the house and fences
with its large leaves; his wife prepares meat and drink, cloth and oil,
from the nut; the space between the trees is cultivated for curry, and
the spare nuts are sold to purchase luxuries, and the rent of twelve
trees is only _sixpence_ of our money.  Happy country! no drunkenness,
no debt, no religious strife, but peace and contentment everywhere!
Reader, if you are in trouble, or your affairs are going "to pot," or if
you are of opinion that this once favoured land is getting used up, I
sincerely advise you to sell off your goods and be off to Lamoo.



Of the "gentlemen of England who live at home at ease," very few can
know how entirely dependent for happiness one is on his neighbours.  Man
is out-and-out, or out-and-in, a gregarious animal, else `Robinson
Crusoe' had never been written.  Now, I am sure that it is only correct
to state that the majority of combatant [Note 1] officers are, in simple
language, jolly nice fellows, and as a class gentlemen, having, in fact,
that fine sense of honour, that good-heartedness, which loves to do as
it would be done by, which hurteth not the feelings of the humble, which
turneth aside from the worm in its path, and delighteth not in plucking
the wings from the helpless fly.  To believe, however, that there are no
exceptions to this rule would be to have faith in the speedy advent of
the millennium, that happy period of lamb-and-lion-ism which we would
all rather see than hear tell of; for human nature is by no means
altered by bathing every morning in salt water, it is the same afloat as
on shore.  And there are many officers in the navy, who--"dressed in a
little brief authority," and wearing an additional stripe--love to lord
it over their fellow worms.  Nor is this fault altogether absent from
the medical profession itself!

It is in small gunboats, commanded perhaps by a lieutenant, and carrying
only an assistant-surgeon, where a young medical officer feels all the
hardships and despotism of the service; for if the lieutenant in command
happens to be at all frog-hearted, he has then a splendid opportunity of
puffing himself up.

In a large ship with from twenty to thirty officers in the mess, if you
do not happen to meet with a kindred spirit at one end of the table, you
can shift your chair to the other.  But in a gunboat on foreign service,
with merely a clerk, a blatant middy, and a second-master who would fain
be your senior, as your messmates, then, I say, God help you! unless you
have the rare gift of doing anything for a quiet life.  It is all
nonsense to say, "Write a letter on service about any grievance;" you
can't write about ten out of a thousand of the petty annoyances which go
to make your life miserable; and if you do, you will be but little
better, if, indeed, your last state be not worse than your first.

I have in my mind's eye even now a lieutenant who commanded a gunboat in
which I served as medical officer in charge.  This little man was what
is called a sea-lawyer--my naval readers well know what I mean; he knew
all the Admiralty Instructions, was an amateur engineer, only needed the
title of M.D. to make him a doctor, could quibble and quirk, and in fact
could prove by the Queen's Regulations that your soul, to say nothing of
your body, wasn't your own; that _you_ were a slave, and _he_ lord--god
of all he surveyed.  Peace be with him! he has gone to his account; he
will not require an advocate, he can speak for himself.  Not many such
hath the service, I am happy to say.  He was continually changing his
poor hard-worked sub-lieutenants, and driving his engineers to drink,
previously to trying them by court-martial.  At first he and I got on
very well; apparently he "loved me like a vera brither;" but we did not
continue long "on the same platform," and, from the day we had the first
difference of opinion, he was my foe, and a bitter one too.  I assure
you, reader, it gave me a poor idea of the service, for it was my first
year.  He was always on the outlook for faults, and his kindest words to
me were "chaffing" me on my accent, or about my country.  To be able to
meet him on his own ground I studied the Instructions day and night, and
tried to stick by them.

Malingering was common on board; one or two whom I caught I turned to
duty: the men, knowing how matters stood between the commander and me,
refused to work, and so I was had up and bullied on the quarter-deck for
"neglect of duty" in not putting these fellows on the sick-list.  After
this I had to put every one that asked on the sick-list.

"Doctor," he would say to me on reporting the number sick, "this is
_wondrous_ strange--_thirteen_ on the list, out of only ninety men.
Why, sir, I've been in line-of-battle ships,--_line-of-battle_ ships,
sir,--where they had not ten sick--_ten sick_, sir."  This of course
implied an insult to me, but I was like a sheep before the shearers,

On Sunday mornings I went with him the round of inspection; the sick who
were able to be out of hammock were drawn up for review: had he been
half as particular with the men under his own charge or with the ship in
general as he was with the few sick, there would have been but little
disease to treat.  Instead of questioning _me_ concerning their
treatment, he interrogated the sick themselves, quarrelling with the
medicine given, and pooh-pooh-ing my diagnosis.  Those in hammocks, who
most needed gentleness and comfort, he bullied, blamed for being ill,
and rendered generally uneasy.  Remonstrance on my part was either taken
no notice of, or instantly checked.  If men were reported by me for
being dirty, giving impudence, or disobeying orders, _he_ became their
advocate--an able one too--and _I_ had to retire, sorry I had spoken.
But I would not tell the tenth part of what I had to suffer, because
such men as he are the _exception_, and because he is dead.  A little
black baboon of a boy who attended on this lieutenant-commanding had one
day incurred his displeasure: "Bo'swain's mate," cried he, "take my boy
forward, hoist him on an ordinary seaman's back, and give him a
rope's-ending; and," turning to me, "Doctor, you'll go and attend my
boy's flogging."

I dared not trust myself to reply.  With a face like crimson I rushed
below to my cabin, and--how could I help it?--made a baby of myself for
once; all my pent-up feelings found vent in a long fit of crying.

True, I might in this case have written a letter to the service about my
treatment; but, as it is not till after twelve months the
assistant-surgeon is confirmed, the commander's word would have been
taken before mine, and I probably dismissed without a court-martial.

That probationary year I consider more than a grievance, it is a _cruel

Cabins?  There is a regulation--of late more strictly enforced by a
circular--that every medical officer serving on board his own ship shall
have a cabin, and the choice--by rank--of cabin, and he is a fool if he
does not enforce it.  But it sometimes happens that a sub-lieutenant
(who has no cabin) is promoted to lieutenant on a foreign station; he
will then rank above the assistant-surgeon, and perhaps, if there is no
spare cabin, the poor doctor will have to give up his, and take to a
sea-chest and hammock, throwing all his curiosities, however valuable,
overboard.  It would be the duty of the captain in such a case to build
an additional cabin, and if he did not, or would not, a letter to the
admiral would make him.

Does the combatant officer treat the medical officer with respect?
Certainly, unless one or other of the two be a snob: in the one case the
respect is not worth having, in the other it can't be expected.

In the military branch you shall find many officers belonging to the
best English families: these I need hardly say are for the most part
gentlemen, and gentle men.  However, it is allowed in most messes that

  "The rank is but the guinea's stamp,
  A man's man for a' that;"

and I assure the candidate for a commission, that, if he is himself a
gentleman, he will find no want of admirers in the navy.  But there are
some young doctors who enter the service, knowing their profession to be
sure, and how to hold a knife and fork--not a carving-fork though--but
knowing little else; yet even these soon settle down, and, if they are
not dismissed by court-martial for knocking some one down at cards, or
on the quarter-deck, turn out good service-officers.  Indeed, after all,
I question if it be good to know too much of fine-gentility on entering
the service, for, although the navy officers one meets have much that is
agreeable, honest, and true, there is through it all a vein of what can
only be designated as the coarse.  The science of conversation, that
beautiful science that says and lets say, that can listen as well as
speak, is but little studied.  Mostly all the talk is "shop," or rather
"ship."  There is a want of tone in the discourse, a lack of refinement.
The delicious chit-chat on new books, authors, poetry, music, or the
drama, interspersed with anecdote, incident, and adventure, and
enlivened with the laughter-raising pun or happy bon-mot, is, alas! but
too seldom heard: the rough joke, the tales of women, ships, and former
ship-mates, and the old, old, stale "good things,"--these are more
fashionable at our navy mess-board.  Those who would object to such
conversation are in the minority, and prefer to let things hang as they
grew.  Now, only one thing can ever alter this, and that is a good and
perfect library in every ship, to enable officers, who spend most of
their time out of society, to keep up with the times if possible.  But I
fear I am drifting imperceptibly into the subject of navy-reform, which
I prefer leaving to older and wiser heads.


Note 1.  Combatant (from combat, a battle), fighting officers,--as if
the medical offices didn't fight likewise.  It would be better to take
away the "combat," and leave the "ant"--ant-officers, as they do the
work of the ship.



There is one grievance which the medical officers, in common with their
combatant brethren, have to complain of--I refer to _compulsory
shaving_; neither is this by any means so insignificant a matter as it
may seem.  It may appear a ridiculous statement, but it is nevertheless
a true one, that this regulation has caused many a young surgeon to
prefer the army to the navy.  "Mere dandies," the reader may say, "whom
this grievance would affect;" but there is many a good man a dandy, and
no one could surely respect a man who was careless of his personal
appearance, or who would willingly, and without a sigh, disfigure his
face by depriving it of what nature considers both ornate and useful--
ornate, as the ladies and the looking-glass can prove; and useful, as
the blistered chin and upper lip of the shaven sailor, in hot climates,
points out.  From the earliest ages the moustache has been worn,--even
the Arabs, who shave the head, leave untouched the upper lip.  What
would the pictures of some of the great masters be without it?  Didn't
the Roman youths dedicate the first few downy hairs of the coming
moustache to the gods?  Does not the moustache give a manly appearance
to the smallest and most effeminate?  Does it not even beget a certain
amount of respect for the wearer?  What sort of guys would the razor
make of Count Bismark, Dickens, the Sultan of Turkey, or Anthony
Trollope?  Were the Emperor Napoleon deprived of his well-waxed
moustache, it might lose him the throne of France.  Were Garibaldi to
call on his barber, he might thereafter call in vain for volunteers, and
English ladies would send him no more splints nor sticking-plaster.
Shave Tennyson, and you may put him in petticoats as soon as you please.

As to the moustache movement in the navy, it is a subject of talk--
admitting of no discussion--in every mess in the service, and thousands
are the advocates in favour of its adoption.  Indeed, the arguments in
favour of it are so numerous, that it is a difficult matter to choose
the best, while the reasons against it are few, foolish, and despotic.
At the time when the Lords of the Admiralty gave orders that the navy
should keep its upper lip, and three fingers' breadth of its royal chin,
smooth and copper-kettlish, it was neither fashionable nor respectable
to wear the moustache in good society.  Those were the days of
cabbage-leaf cheeks, powdered wigs, and long queues; but those times are
past and gone from every corner of England's possessions save the navy.
Barberism has been hunted from polite circles, but has taken refuge
under the trident of old Neptune; and, in these days of comparative
peace, more blood in the Royal Navy is drawn by the razor than by the

In our little gunboat on the coast of Africa, we, both officers and men,
used, under the rose, to cultivate moustache and whiskers, until we fell
in with the ship of the commodore of the station.  Then, when the
commander gave the order, "All hands to shave," never was such a
hurlyburly seen, such racing hither and thither (for not a moment was to
be lost), such sharpening of scissors and furbishing up of rusty razors.
On one occasion I remember sending our steward, who was lathering his
face with a blacking-brush, and trying to scrape with a carving-knife,
to borrow the commander's razor; in the mean time the commander had
despatched his soapy-faced servant to beg the loan of mine.  Both
stewards met with a clash, nearly running each other through the body
with their shaving gear.  I lent the commander a Syme's bistoury, with
which he managed to pluck most of the hairs out by the root, as if he
meant to transplant them again, while I myself shaved with an amputating
knife.  The men forward stuck by the scissors; and when the commander,
with bloody chin and watery eyes, asked why they did not shave,--"Why,
sir," replied the bo'swain's mate, "the cockroaches have been and gone
and eaten all our razors, they has, sir."

Then, had you seen us reappear on deck after the terrible operation,
with our white shaven lips and shivering chins, and a foolish grin on
every face, you would, but for our uniform, have taken us for tailors on
strike, so unlike were we to the brave-looking, manly dare-devils that
trod the deck only an hour before.

And if army officers and men have been graciously permitted to wear the
moustache since the Crimean war, why are not we?  But perhaps the navy
took no part in that gallant struggle.  But if we _must_ continue to do
penance by shaving, why should it not be the crown of the head, or any
other place, rather than the upper lip, which every one can see?

One item of duty there is, which occasionally devolves on the medical
officer, and for the most part goes greatly against the feelings of the
_young_ surgeon; I refer to his compulsory attendance at floggings.  It
is only fair to state that the majority of captains and commanders use
the cat as seldom as possible, and that, too, only sparingly.  In some
ships, however, flogging is nearly as frequent as prayers of a morning.
Again, it is more common on foreign stations than at home, and boys of
the first or second class, marines, and ordinary seamen, are for the
most part the victims.

I do not believe I shall ever forget the first exhibition of this sort I
attended on board my own ship; not that the spectacle was in any way
more revolting than scores I have since witnessed, but because the sight
was new to me.

I remember it wanted fully twenty minutes of seven in the morning, when
my servant aroused me.

"Why so early to-day?"  I inquired as I turned out.

"A flaying match, you know, sir," said Jones.

My heart gave an anxious "thud" against my ribs, as if I myself were to
form the "ram for the sacrifice."  I hurried through with my bath, and,
dressing myself as if for a holiday, in cocked hat, sword, and undress
coat, I went on deck.  We were at anchor in Simon's Bay.  All the
minutiae of the scene I remember as though it were but yesterday,
morning was cool and clear, the hills clad in lilac and green, seabirds
floating high in air, and the waters of the bay reflecting the bine of
the sky and the lofty mountain-sides, forming a picture almost dreamlike
in its quietness and serenity.  The men were standing about in groups,
dressed in their whitest of pantaloons, bluest of smocks, and neatest of
black silk neckerchiefs.  By-and-bye the culprit was led aft by a file
of marines, and I went below with him to make the preliminary
examination, in order to report whether or not he might be fit for the

He was as good a specimen of the British marine as one could wish to
look upon, hardy, bold, and wiry.  His crime had been smuggling spirits
on board.

"Needn't examine me, Doctor," said he; "I ain't afeard of their four
dozen; they can't hurt me, sir,--leastways my back you know--my breast
though; hum-m!" and he shook his head, rather sadly I thought, as he
bent down his eyes.

"What," said I, "have you anything the matter with your chest?"

"Nay, Doctor, nay; its my feelins they'll hurt.  I've a little girl at
home that loves me, and--bless you, sir, I won't look her in the face
again no-how."

I felt his pulse.  No lack of strength there, no nervousness; the artery
had the firm beat of health, the tendons felt like rods of iron beneath
the finger, and his biceps stood out hard and round as the mainstay of
an old seventy-four.

I pitied the brave fellow, and--very wrong of me it was, but I could not
help it--filled out and offered him a large glass of rum.

"Ah! sir," he said, with a wistful eye on the ruby liquid, "don't tempt
me, sir.  I can bear the bit o' flaying athout that: I wouldn't have my
messmates smell Dutch courage on my breath, sir; thankee all the same,
Doctor."  And he walked on deck and surrendered himself.

All hands had already assembled, the men and boys on one side, and the
officers, in cocked hats and swords, on the other.  A grating had been
lashed against the bulwark, and another placed on deck beside it.  The
culprit's shoulders and back were bared, and a strong belt fastened
around the lower part of the loins for protection; he was then firmly
tied by the hands to the upper, and by the feet to the lower grating; a
little basin of cold water was placed at his feet; and all was now
prepared.  The sentence was read, and orders given to proceed with the
punishment.  The cat is a terrible instrument of torture; I would not
use it on a bull unless in self-defence: the shaft is about a foot and a
half long, and covered with green or red baize according to taste; the
thongs are nine, about twenty-eight inches in length, of the thickness
of a goose-quill, and with two knots tied on each.  Men describe the
first blow as like a shower of molten lead.

Combing out the thongs with his five fingers before each blow, firmly
and determinedly was the first dozen delivered by the bo'swain's mate,
and as unflinchingly received.

Then, "One dozen, sir, please," he reported, saluting the commander.

"Continue the punishment," was the calm reply.

A new man and a new cat.  Another dozen reported; again, the same reply.
Three dozen.  The flesh, like burning steel, had changed from red to
purple, and blue, and white; and between the third and fourth dozen, the
suffering wretch, pale enough now, and in all probability sick, begged a
comrade to give him a mouthful of water.  There was a tear in the eye of
the hardy sailor who obeyed him, whispering as he did so--

"Keep up, Bill; it'll soon be over now."

"Five, six," the corporal slowly counted--"seven, eight."  It is the
last dozen, and how acute must be the torture!  "Nine, ten."  The blood
comes now fast enough, and--yes, gentle reader, I _will_ spare your
feelings.  The man was cast loose at last and put on the sick-list; he
had borne his punishment without a groan and without moving a muscle.  A
large pet monkey sat crunching nuts in the rigging, and grinning all the
time; I have no doubt _he_ enjoyed the spectacle immensely, _for he was
only an ape_.

Tommie G--was a pretty, fair-skinned, blue-eyed boy, some sixteen
summers old.  He was one of a class only too common in the service;
having become enamoured of the sea, he had run away from his home and
joined the service; and, poor little man! he found out, when too late,
that the stern realities of a sailor's life did not at all accord with
the golden notions he had formed of it.  Being fond of stowing himself
away in corners with a book, instead of keeping his watch, Tommie very
often got into disgrace, spent much of his time at the mast-head, and
had many unpleasant palmar rencounters with the corporal's cane.  One
day, his watch being over, he had retired to a corner with his little

Nobody ever knew one-half of the beloved nicknacks and valued nothings
he kept in that wee box: it was in fact his private cabin, his sanctum
sanctorum, to which he could retreat when anything vexed him; a sort of
portable home, in which he could forget the toils of his weary watch,
the giddy mast-head, or even the corporal's cane.  He had extracted, and
was dreamily gazing on, the portrait of a very young lady, when the
corporal came up and rudely seized it, and made a very rough and
inelegant remark concerning the fair virgin.

"That is my sister," cried Tommie, with tears in his eyes.

"Your sister!" sneered the corporal; "she is a--" and he added a word
that cannot be named.  There was the spirit of young England, however,
in Tommie's breast; and the word had scarcely crossed the corporal's
lips, when those lips, and his nose too, were dyed in the blood the
boy's fist had drawn.  For that blow poor Tommie was condemned to
receive four dozen lashes.  And the execution of the sentence was
carried out with all the pomp and show usual on such occasions.  Arrayed
in cooked-hats, epaulets, and swords, we all assembled to witness that
helpless child in his agony.  One would have thought that even the rough
bo'swain's mate would have hesitated to disfigure skin so white and
tender, or that the frightened and imploring glance Tommie cast upward
on the first descending lash would have unnerved his arm.  Did it?  No,
reader; pity there doubtless was among us, but mercy--none.  Oh! we were
a brave band.  And the poor boy writhed in his agony; his screams and
cries were heartrending; and, God forgive us! we knew not till then he
was an orphan, till we heard him beseech his mother in heaven to look
down on her son, to pity and support him.  Ah! well, perhaps she did,
for scarcely had the third dozen commenced when Tommie's cries were
hushed, his head drooped on his shoulder like a little dead bird's, and
for a while his sufferings were at an end.  I gladly took the
opportunity to report further proceedings as dangerous, and he was
carried away to his hammock.

I will not shock the nerves and feelings of the reader by any further
relation of the horrors of flogging, merely adding, that I consider
corporal punishment, as applied to men, _cowardly, cruel_, and debasing
to human nature; and as applied to boys, _brutal_, and sometimes even
_fiendish_.  There is only one question I wish to ask of every
true-hearted English lady who may read these lines--Be you sister, wife,
or mother, could you in your heart have respected the commander who,
with folded arms and grim smile, replied to poor Tommie's frantic
appeals for mercy, "Continue the punishment"?

The pay of medical officers is by no means high enough to entice young
doctors, who can do anything like well on shore, to enter the service.
Ten shillings a day, with an increase of half-a-crown after five years'
service on full pay, is not a great temptation certainly.  To be sure
the expenses of living are small, two shillings a day being all that is
paid for messing; this of course not including the wine-bill, the size
of which will depend on the "drouthiness" of the officer who contracts
it.  Government provides all mess-traps, except silver forks and spoons.
Then there is uniform to keep up, and shore-going clothes to be paid
for, and occasionally a shilling or two for boat-hire.  However, with a
moderate wine-bill, the assistant-surgeon may save about four shillings
or more a day.

Promotion to the rank of surgeon, unless to some fortunate individuals,
comes but slowly; it may, however, be reckoned on after from eight to
ten years.  A few gentlemen out of each "batch" who "pass" into the
service, and who have distinguished themselves at the examination, are
promoted sooner.

It seems to be the policy of the present Director-General to deal as
fairly as possible with every assistant-surgeon, after a certain
routine.  On first joining he is sent for a short spell--too short,
indeed--to a hospital.  He is then appointed to a sea-going ship for a
commission--say three years--on a foreign station.  On coming home he is
granted a few months' leave on full pay, and is afterwards appointed to
a harbour-ship for about six months.  By the end of this time he is
supposed to have fairly recruited from the fatigues of his commission
abroad; he is accordingly sent out again to some other foreign station
for three or four years.  On again returning to his native land, he
might be justified in hoping for a pet appointment, say to a hospital,
the marines, a harbour-ship, or, failing these, to the Channel fleet.
On being promoted he is sent off abroad again, and so on; and thus he
spends his useful life, and serves his Queen and country, and earns his
pay, and generally spends that likewise.

Pensions are granted to the widows of assistant-surgeons--from forty to
seventy pounds a year, according to circumstances; and if he leaves no
widow, a dependent mother, or even sister, may obtain the pension.  But
I fear I must give, to assistant-surgeons about to many, Punch's advice,
and say most emphatically, "Don't;" unless, indeed, the dear creature
has money, and is able to purchase a practice for her darling doctor.

With a little increase of pay ungrudgingly given, shorter commissions
abroad, and less of the "bite and buffet" about favours granted, the
navy would be a very good service for the medical officer.

However, as it is, to a man who has neither wife nor riches, it is, I
dare say, as good a way of spending life as any other; and I do think
that there are but few old surgeons who, on looking back to the life
they have led in the navy, would not say of that service,--"With all thy
faults I love thee still."


The End.

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