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Title: The Green Hand - Adventures of a Naval Lieutenant
Author: Cupples, George, Mrs.
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.

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    THE GREEN HAND



    THE
    GREEN HAND

    Adventures of a Naval Lieutenant

    BY
    GEORGE CUPPLES
    AUTHOR OF "THE TWO FRIGATES"


    [Illustration]


    SANDS & COMPANY
    23 BEDFORD STREET, LONDON, W.C.
    AND EDINBURGH.



LIFE OF GEORGE CUPPLES

(AUTHOR OF "THE GREEN HAND")


Excepting for one short episode--that, indeed, to which we owe "The
Green Hand"--the life of George Cupples was almost devoid of those
external incidents and vicissitudes which lend the interest of romance
to biographical narrative. It is therefore possible, even within the
narrow limits assigned to the present sketch, to satisfy reasonable
curiosity regarding the mere facts of this distinguished author's
career.

Cupples was, by virtue of two or three generations, a son of the manse.
His grandfather, the Rev. George Cupples, was the minister of Swinton;
and his father, who bore the same name, was also a minister. The George
Cupples with whom we have to do was born at Legerwood, in Berwickshire,
on the 2nd of August 1822. He was the eldest of the family, which
consisted, including George, of three sons and one daughter. The father
was a clergyman of orthodox views, and from the descriptions of him that
have been left we may infer that the severity of his Calvinism had
imparted a decided severity to his character. "He was much respected,"
says his son Joseph, "and, indeed, a good deal feared." The children
were accordingly treated by him with rigid strictness, modified by their
mother's greater leniency.

This stern master was George's only teacher during the first ten years
of his life. His books were an Arithmetic, Cordery, Ruddiman's
Rudiments, and Cornelius Nepos. In his tenth year he and his brother
Joseph went to school at Earlston, "walking daily a weary four and a
half miles and back again--to lessons at home!"

George was in his twelfth year when his father was "translated" to
Stirling. While the family was settled here, the wish to go to sea
seems to have grown in the boy's mind to a settled determination,
fostered, it appears, by his reading of novels, of which he was
extremely fond. He was sixteen years of age when his father, probably
much against his will, allowed him to be apprenticed as a sailor. So it
came about that the minister's son, nurtured on the classics and
Calvinism with quite different purposes in view, made a voyage to India
and back--an eighteen months' affair it turned out--as a ship's boy.

On the nature of his experiences we need not speak here, for whoever
reads "The Green Hand" will understand it without further aid. As his
biographer strikingly says: "It had a physical effect on him ... made
him quiet and still in every expression, in every externality of life
afterwards." At all events, the young adventurer returned home perfectly
cured of his taste for the sea, petitioned his father to get his
indentures cancelled, and declared he would content himself for the
future on land.

Resuming his interrupted studies, he proceeded to Edinburgh University,
where he took the Arts course. One of the professors was Wilson, the
famous "Christopher North," for whom Cupples felt an admiration scarcely
short of hero-worship, and of whom he afterwards wrote a "Memorial
Sketch." Later on he went through the Divinity course, and had the
privilege of sitting at the feet of the great Chalmers, of whom he
always writes with enthusiasm.

But though prepared and equipped for the paternal calling, Cupples
"recoiled from the stairs of the pulpit," more, it would seem, from a
growing inclination to literature than from any heterodoxy in his
religious views. He became a contributor to _Blackwood's Magazine_,
where his essay on Emerson appeared in 1848. In _Maga_ also was first
published "The Green Hand," that magnificent story of the sea which we
are now sending forth, to delight and enthral, we feel sure, a new
generation of readers. Two opinions may here be quoted of the story, to
which each of our readers may afterwards add his own. George MacDonald
pronounced it "the best sea-novel I have ever read"; and Clark Russell,
whose right to speak on such a subject will scarcely be disputed,
declares "it is the colours of 'The Green Hand' that I have nailed to my
mast."

Cupples was a constant and unwearied writer. Much of his work was done
for newspapers and periodicals, but even the most ephemeral of his
productions bore testimony to the earnest and solid qualities of the
man. That these qualities were duly appreciated is proved by the
frequent kindly mention of him by men of the highest literary repute.

He was married, in 1858, to Ann Jane Douglas, an Edinburgh lady, who,
though much younger than her husband, was singularly congenial in her
tastes and pursuits. She has written a large number of books, mostly for
children.

Even before the time of his marriage, Cupples suffered from the
_sequelæ_ of hip-joint disease, and all the remainder of his life he
seems never to have been quite free from the burden of ill-health. His
home during his literary career was in different parts of Edinburgh or
its vicinity, latterly in Newhaven, where he succumbed to heart-disease
on the 17th of October 1891. His tombstone testifies to the admiration
of his friends for his "varied literary gifts, and his simple, upright,
and reverent character."

One of the literary projects which Cupples had long cherished has been
happily carried out since his death in the publication, by Messrs
Blackwood, of a splendid volume on "Scotch Deerhounds and their
Masters." This volume contains a fine portrait of the author, and also
an interesting memoir, written by Dr. Hutchison Stirling, which is in
itself at once a tribute and a testimony to the lasting impression which
both the works and the character of George Cupples made upon cultured
and critical minds.



AUTHOR'S PREFACE


The popularity of "The Green Hand," both among seamen and others, as
being true to life, has been wide. It has, however, been thought
desirable to issue a revised edition, freed from various expressions now
to a certain extent obsolete or otherwise unsuitable, so as to make it
more thoroughly fit for juvenile readers.

Some considerable time has now elapsed since the period to which these
adventures refer, not without producing a good deal of alteration in
much that goes on at sea, most especially in the outward accessories of
nautical life. The spanking frigate of former days, for instance, is now
no more; her place being, to the eye at any rate, ill taken up by the
ironclad screw-steamer. The mechanical appliances have been improved,
particularly in the merchant service, as, for example, by the
Patent-Reefing-Topsail, which is only one of the countless new helps to
the seaman. In navigation, instead of now taking five, six, or seven
months to reach Australia from this country, the captain of any
clipper-line sailing ship would be ashamed of himself if he did not do
it within three. Not to multiply cases, Jack himself has, as a rule,
added the moustache to his exuberance of whisker; he thinks better than
he used to do of these excellent institutions, the Sailors' Homes; he is
frequently a temperance man, and has even been known to take the chair
at a meeting for vindication of sailors' rights.

But the state of the case, from a plain practical point of view, is
pretty well illustrated by an anecdote current at sea among forecastle
story-tellers. According to them, a singular discovery was made, some
forty years or so back, in Portsmouth harbour, aboard no less
conspicuous a craft than that immortal three-decker hulk, H.M.S.
_Victory_ herself, when some alterations were being made down in her
lower decks. There certain of the dock-yard people, having occasion to
lift a small out-of-the-way lazarette hatch, down on the after-part of
the orlop, which had been long covered with old coils of hawsers or the
like, were surprised to find a man lying beneath, who rubbed his eyes,
stretched himself as if waking out of sleep, and was finally brought up
on deck. From undoubted evidence, it turned out that he had been shut
down in joke, under the effect of some strange potion, his rough
messmates having, of course, intended to release him before long; but a
sudden commotion of a more important nature had arisen, owing to which
they had forgotten him until too late, being themselves appointed on
active service abroad. Hence it occurred that he had been left there,
fast enclosed and asleep, ever since shortly after Trafalgar, when the
_Victory_ had come home with Nelson's body, and been paid off,
dismantled, and moored in her place as a hulk. From a young reefer, this
gentleman had meanwhile grown into a grizzled oldster, on midshipman's
half-pay, not likely to have his services further required, seeing that
the French had long ceased to offer battle afloat. He was, however,
freely invited into professional society, where his opinions on the
changes that had taken place were naturally much looked to. The things
he is said to have principally remarked as new, were that pigtails had
gone out of fashion; the midshipmen's messes were supplied with silver
forks; boatswains--in stimulating the men at work--put more force into
their language, less into their rattans, and that the leading-blocks of
the mizzen-topsail-reef-tackles hung at the slings of the yard instead
of being as formerly at the rim of the round-top; nor did he ever feel
sure that such changes were for the better. This yarn, with a good moral
tacked on at the end, in one form or another, still affords
entertainment to many a tarry audience in ships outward bound, at second
dog-watch time, when rolling down the Trades; particularly if spun by
some fluent ex-man-o'-war's-man from any of Her Majesty's iron-clads.
The said moral generally being to the effect, that little difference is
made in essentials at sea by progress in the mere shoregoing world.

In the following story no great amount of correction requires to be made
in bringing it up to date; and, except in a few minor points, I have
left this to be done by each juvenile reader for himself, supposing the
case that he should ever find reason in his own professional
experience. The terms _larboard_ and _starboard_ are both left in use
throughout the book, although the former has long been replaced by the
word port--which, in my time, was chiefly confined to the helm, when the
resemblance of sound would always have been dangerous at a sudden
emergency. The cry "All larbowlins ahoy!" no longer is added to the
summons that rouses the sleepy watch below. But after everything is
said, the main realities of sea-life continue to be what they were.
There is constant truth in those grand words known to us all:

     Thy shores are empires, changed in all save Thee--

       *       *       *       *       *

     Unchangeable, save to thy wild waves' play, Time writes no wrinkle
     on thine azure brow.

The strangeness of foreign sights and tropical wonders has not altered;
nor the thrill of excitement amid tempest; wind and weather are no-way
different; the sailor feels as much pride as ever in his ship's good
qualities; the occasion of danger still brings out his manhood;
hearts-of-oak will always be ready to man our floating bulwarks so long
as Britain remains.

If it were only in order to express a hearty belief in this, I am glad
to have had the opportunity afforded by the few words prefixed to a
fresh edition of "The Green Hand." And to all you young readers who must
ere long embark upon the troubled sea of life, success and a good voyage
to you is the cordial wish of your sincere friend,

  THE AUTHOR.

  _Edinburgh, August 31, 1878._



    CONTENTS


                           PAGE
    CHAPTER I                 1
    CHAPTER II               19
    CHAPTER III              38
    CHAPTER IV               58
    CHAPTER V                69
    CHAPTER VI               79
    CHAPTER VII              89
    CHAPTER VIII             98
    CHAPTER IX              109
    CHAPTER X               125
    CHAPTER XI              135
    CHAPTER XII             162
    CHAPTER XIII            170
    CHAPTER XIV             188
    CHAPTER XV              203
    CHAPTER XVI             218
    CHAPTER XVII            234
    CHAPTER XVIII           248
    CHAPTER XI              260
    CHAPTER XX              270
    CHAPTER XXI             290
    CHAPTER XXII            310
    CHAPTER XXIII           328
    CHAPTER XXIV            346
    CHAPTER XXV             357
    CHAPTER XXVI            372
    CHAPTER XXVII           390
    CHAPTER XXVIII          401
    CHAPTER XXIX            413
    CHAPTER XXX             420
    CHAPTER XXXI            429
    CHAPTER XXXII           436



THE GREEN HAND



CHAPTER I


"Ah! Come, old ship, give us a yarn!" said the younger forecastlemen to
an old one, on board of an Indiaman then swiftly cleaving the waves of
the western Atlantic before the trade-wind, and outward-bound, with a
hearty crew and a number of passengers. It was the second of the two
dog-watches; and, the ship being still in the region of evening
twilights, her men, in a good humour and with leisure, were then usually
disposed, as on this occasion, to make fast their roaming thoughts by
help of a good yarn, when it could be got. There were plenty of
individuals, amongst a crew of forty, calculated by their experience, or
else by their flow of spirits and fancy, to spin it. Each watch into
which they were divided had its especial story-teller, with whose merits
it twitted the other, and on opportunity of a general reunion, they were
pitted against one another like two fighting-cocks. The one was a grave,
solemn, old North-Sea whaler, with one eye, who professed to look down
with contempt upon all raw head-work, on navigation compared with
seamanship, and fiction against fact. As for himself, he rested all his
fame upon actual experience, and told long dry narratives of old
shipmates, of his voyages and adventures, and sometimes of the most
incredible incidents, with a genuine briny gusto, which pleased the
veteran stagers beyond expression. They were full of points of
seamanship--expedients for nice emergencies, tacks, knots, and splices;
he gave the very conversation of his characters, with all the "says he"
and "says I"; and one long recital of the old fellow's turned upon the
question between himself and a new-fangled second-mate, about the right
way to set up back-stays, in which he, the sailor, was proved correct by
the loss of the ship. The other story-teller, again, was a Wapping man;
a lively, impudent young Cockney, who had the most miraculous faculty of
telling lies--not only palpable lies, but lies absolutely impossible;
yet they were so sublimely told often, and he contrived to lug into them
such a quantity of gorgeous tinsel ornament, as, in his happier efforts,
decidedly to carry the day against his opponent. The London hand had
seen _life_ too, of which, with respect to what is called the world, his
competitor was as ignorant as a child. He had his sentimental vein,
accordingly, in which he took the last love-tale out of some "Penny
Story-Teller" or fashionable novel he had spelled over below, and made
of it a parody that would have thrown its unfortunate author into
convulsions of horror, and his critics into shrieks of laughter. The
fine language of lords and ladies, of romantic heroines, or of foreign
counts and bandits, was gravely retailed, and gravely listened to by a
throng of admiring jack-tars; while the old whaler smoked his pipe
sulkily apart, gave now and then a scornful glance out of his
weather-eye, and called it "all _high-dic'_ and soger's gammon."

On this occasion, however, the group for'ard did not solicit the
services of either candidate, as they happened to have present among
them a shipmate who, by general confession, "took the shine" out of
both, although it was rarely they could get hold of him. "Old Jack," the
captain's private steward, was the oldest seaman on board, and having
known the captain when the latter went to sea, had sailed with him
almost ever since he commanded a ship, as well as lived in his house on
shore. He did not now keep his watch, nor take his "trick at the helm,"
except when he chose, and was altogether a privileged sort of person, or
one of "the idlers." His name was Jacobs, which afforded a pretext for
calling him "Old Jack," with the sailor's fondness for that Christian
cognomen, which it is difficult to account for, unless because Jonah and
St John were seafaring characters, and the Roman Catholic holy clerk St
Nicholas was baptised "Davy Jones," with sundry other reasons good at
sea. But Old Jack was, at any rate, the best hand for a yarn in the
_Gloucester_ Indiaman, and had been once or twice called upon to spin
one to the ladies and gentlemen in the cuddy. It was partly because of
his inexhaustible fund of good-humour, and partly from that love of the
sea which looked out through all that the old tar had seen and
undergone, and which made him still follow the bowsprit, although able
to live comfortably ashore. In his blue jacket, his white canvas
trousers edged with blue, and glazed hat, coming forward to the galley
to light his pipe, after serving the captain's tea of an evening, Old
Jack looked out over the bulwarks, sniffed the sharp sea-air, and stood
with his shirt-sleeve fluttering as he put his finger in his pipe, the
very embodiment of the scene--the model of a prime old salt who had
ceased to "rough it," but could do so yet if needful.

"Come, old ship!" said the men near the windlass, as soon as Old Jack
came forward, "give us a yarn, will ye?" "Yarn!" said Jack,
smiling--"what yarn, mates? 'Tis a fine night, though, for that
same--the clouds flies high, and she's balling off a good ten knots sin'
eight bells." "That she is, bo'--so give us a yarn now, like a reg'lar
old A1, as you are!" said one. "'Vast there, mate," said a
man-o'-war's-man, winking to the rest--"you're always a-cargo-puddling,
Bill! D'ye think Old Jack answers to any other hail nor the Queen's? I
say, old three-decker in or'nary, we all wants one o' your close-laid
yarns this good night. Whaling Jim here rubs his down with a thought
overmuch o' the tar, an' young Joe dips 'em in yallow varnish--so if you
says nay, why, we'll all save our grog, and get slewed as soon as may
be." "Well, well, mates," said Jack, endeavouring to conceal his
flattered feelings, "what's it to be, though?" "Let's see," said the
man-o'-war's-man--"ay, give us the Green Hand!" "Ay, ay, the Green
Hand!" exclaimed one and all. This "Green Hand" was a story Old Jack had
already related several times, but always with such amusing variations,
that it seemed on each repetition a new one--the listeners testifying
their satisfaction by growls of rough laughter, and by the emphatic way
in which, during a pause, they squirted their tobacco-juice on the deck.
What gave additional zest to this particular yarn, too, was the fact of
its hero being no less than the captain himself, who was at this moment
on the poop quarter-deck of the ship, pointing out something to a group
of ladies by the round-house--a tall good-looking man of about forty,
with all the mingled gravity and frank good-humour of a sailor in his
firm weather-tinted countenance. To have the power of secretly
contrasting his present position and manners with those delineated by
Old Jack's episode from the "skipper's" previous biography, was the
_acme_ of comic delight to these rude sons of Neptune, and the narrator
just hit this point.

"Ye see," began he, "'tis about six-an'-twenty year gone since I was an
able seaman before the mast, in a small Indyman they called the _Chester
Castle_, lying at that time behind the Isle of Dogs in sight of
Grennidge Hospital. She was full laden, but there was a strong breeze
blowing up that wouldn't let us get under weigh; and, besides, we waited
for the most part of our hands. I had sailed with the same ship two
voyages before; so, says the captain to me one day, 'Jacobs, there's a
lady over at Greenwich yonder wants to send her boy to sea in the
ship--for a sickening I s'pose. I'm a-going up to town myself,' says he,
'so take the small quarter-boat and two of the boys, and go ashore with
this letter, and see the young fool. From what I've heard,' says the
skipper, 'he's a jackanapes as will give us more trouble than thanks.
However, if you find the lady's bent on it, why she may send him aboard
to-morrow if she likes. Only we don't carry no young gentlemen, and if
he slings his hammock here, you must lick him into shape. I'll make a
sailor of him, or else a cabin boy.' 'Ay, ay, sir,' says I, shoving the
letter into my hat; so in half-an-hour's time I knocks at the door of
the lady's house, rigged out in my best, and hands over the screed to a
fat fellow with red breeches and yaller swabs on his shoulders, like a
captain of marines, that looked frightened at my hail, for I thou't he'd
been deaf by the long spell he took before he opened the door. In five
minutes I hears a woman's v'ice ask at the footman if there was a sailor
a-waiting below. 'Yes, marm,' says he; and 'show him up,' says she.
Well, I gives a scrape with my larboard foot, and a tug to my hair, when
I gets to the door of _sich_ a fine room above decks as ever you see,
all full o' tables, an' chairs, an' sofers, an' piangers, an' them sort
o' high-flying consarns. There was a lady all in silks and satins on one
of the sofers, dressed out like a widow, with a pretty little girl as
was playing music out of a large portmankey--and a picter of a man upon
the wall, which I at once logged it down for his as she'd parted
company from. 'Sarvint, marm,' says I. 'Come in, my good man,' says the
lady. 'You're a sailor?' says she--asking, like, to be sure if I warn't
the cook's mate in dish-guise, I fancy. 'Well, marm' I raps out, 'I make
bould to say as I hopes I am!'--an' I catches a sight o' myself in a big
looking-glass behind the lady, as large as our sky-sail--and, being a
young fellow in them days, thinks I, 'Blow me, if Betsy Brown axed me
that now, I'd up an' hax her if _she_ war a _woman_!' 'Well,' says she,
'Captain Steel tells me, in this here letter, he's a-going to take my
son. Now,' says she, 'I'm sore against it----couldn't you say some'at to
turn his mind?' 'The best way for that, yer ladyship,' says I, 'is for
to let him go, if it was only the length of the Nore. The sea'll turn
his stomich for him, marm,' I says, 'an' then we can send him home by
the pilot.' 'He wanted for to go into the navy,' says the lady again,
'but I couldn't think on that for a moment, on account of this here
fearful war; an', after all, he'll be safer in sailing at sea nor in the
army or navy--doesn't you think so, my good man?' 'It's all you knows
about it,' thinks I; hows'ever, I said there wasn't a doubt on it. 'Is
Captain Steel a rash man?' says she. 'How so, marm?' says I, some'at
taken aback. 'I hope he does not sail at night, or in storms, like too
many of his profession, I'm afeard,' says she; 'I hope he always weighs
the anchor in such cases, very careful.' 'Oh, in course,' says I, not
knowin', for the life of me, what she meant. I didn't like to come the
rig over the poor lady, seein' her so anxious like; but it was no use,
we was on such different tacks, ye see. 'Oh yes, marm,' I says, 'Captain
Steel al'ays reefs taups'ls at sight of a squall brewing to wind'rd; and
then we're as safe as a church, ye know, with a man at the wheel as
knows his duty.' 'This relieves my mind,' the lady says, 'wery much';
but I couldn't think why she kept sniffing all the time at her
smelling-bottle, as she wor agoin' to faint. 'Don't take it to heart so,
yer ladyship,' I says at last; 'I'll look after the young gentleman till
he finds his sea-legs.' 'Thank you,' says she; 'but I beg your parding,
would ye be kind enough for to open the winder, and look out if you see
Edward? I think he's in the garding--I feel sich a smell of pitch and
tar!' I hears her say to the girl! and says she to me again, 'Do you
see Edward there?--give a call to him, please. Accordently, I couldn't
miss sight of three or four young slips alongside, for they made plenty
of noise--one of 'em on top of a water-barrel smoking a sea-gar; another
singing out inside of it for mercy; and the rest roaring round about it,
like so many Bedlamites. 'No wonder the young scamp wants off to sea,'
thinks I, 'he's got nothin' arthly to do but mischief.' 'Which be's the
young gentleman, marm?' says I, lookin' back into the room--'is it him
with the sea-gar and the red skull-cap?' 'Yes,' says the lady--'call him
up, please.' 'Hallo!' I sings out, and all runs off but him on the
barrel, and 'Hallo!' says he. 'You're wanted on deck here, sir,' I says;
and in five minutes in comes my young gemman, as grave as you please.
'Edward,' says his mother, 'this is one of Captain Steel's men.' 'Is he
going to take me?' says the young fellow, with his hands in his pockets.
'Well, sir,' I says, ''tis a very bad look-out, is the sea, for them as
don't like it. You'll be sorry ten times over you've left sich a berth
as this here, afore you're down Channel.' The young chap looks me all
over from clue to earing, and says he, 'My mother told you to say that!'
'No, sir,' says I, 'I says it on my own hook.' 'Why did you go yourself,
then?' says he. 'I couldn't help it,' answers I. 'Oh,' says the
impertinent little beggar, 'but you're only one of the common sailors,
ain't you?' 'Split me!' thinks I, 'if I doesn't show you the odds
betwixt a common sailor, as ye call it, and a lubber of a boy, before
long!' But I wasn't goin' to let him take the jaw out o' me, so I only
laughed, an' says I, 'Why, I'm captain of the foretop at sea, anyhow.'
'Where's your huniform, then?' says the boy, lowering his tone a bit.
'Oh,' I says, 'we doesn't al'ays wear huniform, ye know, sir. This
here's what we call ondress.' 'I'm sorry, sir,' says the lady, 'I didn't
ax you to sit down.' 'No offence at all, marm,' I says, but I took a
couple o' glasses of brandy as was brought in. I saw 'twas no use goin'
against the young chap; so, when he asked what he'd have to do aboard, I
told him nothing to speak of, except count the sails now and then, look
over the bows to see how the ship went, and go aloft with a spy-glass.
'Oh,' says his mother at this, 'I hope Captain Steel won't never allow
Edward to go up those dangerous ladders! It is my pertic'lar request he
should be punished if he does.' 'Sartinly, marm, I'll mention it to the
captain,' I says, 'an' no doubt he'll give them orders as you speak on.
The captain desired me to say the young gentleman could come aboard as
soon as he likes,' says I before goin' out of the door. 'Very well,
sir,' says the lady, 'I shall see the tailor this same arternoon, and
get his clothes, if so be it must.' The last word I said was, I puts my
head half in again to tell 'em, 'There was no use gettin' any huniforms
at present, seein' the ship's sailmaker could do all as was wanted
arterwards, when we got to sea.'

"Well, two or three days after, the captain sent word to say the ship
would drop down with the morning tide, and Master Collins had better be
aboard by six o'clock. I went ashore with the boat, but the young
gemman's clothes warn't ready yet; so it was reg'lar made up he was to
come on board from Gravesend the day after. But his mother and an old
lady, a friend of theirs, would have it they'd go and see his bedroom,
and take a look at the ship. There was a bit of a breeze with the tide,
and the old Indyman bobbed up and down on it in the cold morning; you
could hear the wash of the water a-poppling on to her counter, with her
running-gear blown out in a bend; and Missus Collins thought they'd
never get up the dirty black sides of the vessel, as she called 'em. The
other said her husband had been a captain, an' she laid claim to a
snatch of knowledge. 'Sailor,' says she to me, as we got under the
quarter, 'that there tall mast is the main-bowsprit, ain't it? and that
other is the gallant bowling you call it, don't you?' says she. 'No
doubt, marm,' says I, winking to the boys not to laugh. 'It's all
right,' I says. Howsoever, as to the bedroom, the captain showed 'em
over the cabin, and put 'em off by saying the ship was so out of order
he couldn't say which rooms was to be which yet, though they needn't
fear Master Ned would get all comfortable; so ashore the poor woman
went, pretty well pleased, considerin' her heart was against the whole
consarn.

"Well, the next afternoon, lying off Gravesend, out comes a wherry with
young master. One of the men said there was a midshipman in it.
'Midshipman be blowed!' says I; 'did ye ever see a reefer in a wherry,
or sitting anywheres out o' the starn-sheets? It's neither more nor less
nor this precious greenhorn as we've got.' 'Why don't the bo'sun pipe to
man side-ropes for him?' says t'other; but, 'my eye, Bob,' says he to
me, 'what a sight of traps the chap's got in the boat!--'twill be enough
to heel the _Chester Castle_ to the side he berths upon, on an even
keel. Do he mean to have the captain's cabin, I wonder!' Up the side he
scrambles, with the help of a side-ladder, all togged out to the nines
in a span-new blue jacket and anchor buttons, a cap with a gould band,
and white ducks made to fit--as jemmy-jessamy a looking fellow as you'd
see of a cruise along London parks--with the waterman singing out
alongside to send down a tackle for the dunnage, which it took a pair of
purchase-blocks to hoist them out on board. 'What's all this?' says the
mate, coming for'ard from the quarter-deck. ''Tis the young gemman's
traps, sir,' I says. Says the mate, 'D'ye think we've got spare room to
stow all this lumber? Strike it down into the fore-hold, Jacobs--and get
out a old blue shirt or two, and a Scotch cap, for the young whelp
first, if he wants to save that smooth toggery of his for his mammy.
You're as green as cabbage, I'm feared, my lad!' says he. By this time
the boy was struck all of a heap, an' didn't know what to say when he
saw the boat pulling for shore, except he wanted to have a sight of his
bedroom. 'Jacobs,' says the mate, laughing like an old bear, 'take him
below, and show him his bedroom, as he calls it!' So down we went to the
half-deck, where the carpenter, bo'sun, and three or four of the
'prentices, had their hammocks slung. There I leaves him to overhaul his
big donkey of a chest, which his mother had stowed it with clothes
enough for a lord ambassador, but not a blessed thing fit to use--I
wouldn't 'a given my bit of a black locker for the whole on it, ten
times over. There was another choke-full of gingerbread, pots o'
presarves, pickles, and bottles; and, thinks I, 'The old lady didn't
know what _shares_ is at sea I reckon. 'Twill all be gone for footing,
my boy, before you've seen blue water, or I'm a Dutchman.'

"In a short time we was up anchor, going down with a fast breeze for the
Nore; and we stood out to sea that night, having to join a convoy off
Spithead. My gentleman was turned in all standing, on top o' some sails
below; and next day he was as sick as a greenhorn could be, cleaning out
his land-ballast where he lay, nor I didn't see him till he'd got
better. 'Twas blowing a strong breeze, with light canvas all in aloft,
and a single reef in the tops'ls; but fine enough for the Channel,
except the rain--when what does I see but the 'Green Hand' on the
weather quarter-deck, holding on by the belaying pins, with a
yumbereller over his head. The men for'ard was all in a roar, but none
of the officers was on deck save the third mate. The mate goes up to
him, and looks in his face. 'Why,' says he, 'you confounded longshore,
picked-up son of a greengrocer, what _are_ you after?' an' he takes the
article a slap with his larboard-flipper, as sent it flying to leeward
like a puff of smoke. 'Keep off the quarter-deck, you lubber,' says he,
giving him a wheel down into the lee-scuppers--'it's well the captain
didn't catch ye! Come aft here, some of ye,' sings out the third mate
again, 'to brace up the main-yard; and you, ye lazy beggar, clap on this
moment and pull!' At this the greenhorn looks round doubtful, like, then
at last he takes out a pair o' double gloves, shoves his fingers into
'em, and tails on to the rope behind. 'Well!' says the mate, 'if I ever
see the likes o' that! Jacobs, get a tar-bucket and dip his fists in it;
larn him what his hands were made for! I never could a-bear to see a
fellow ashore with his flippers shoed like his feet; but at sea,
confound me, it would make a man green-sick over again.' If you'd only
seen how Master Collins looked when I shoved his missy fingers into the
tar, and chucked them gloves o'board! The next moment he ups fist and
made a slap at me, when in goes the brush in his mouth; the mate gives
him a kick astarn; and the young chap went sprawling down into the
half-deck ladder, where the carpenter had his shavin'-glass rigged to
crop his chin--and there he gets another clip across the jaws from
Chips. 'Now,' says the mate, 'the chap'll be liker a sailor to-morrow.
He's got some spunk in him, though, by the way he let drive at you, my
lad,' says he; 'that fellow'll either catch the cat or spoil the monkey.
Look after him, Jacobs, my lad,' says the third mate; 'he's in my watch,
and the captain wants him to rough it out; so show him the ropes, and
let him taste an end now an' then. Ha, ha, ha!' says he, again,
laughing, ''tis the first time I ever see a embrella loosed out at sea,
and but the second I've seen brought aboard even. He's the greenest
hand, sure enough, it's been my luck to come across! But green they
say's nigh to blue, so look out if I don't try to make a sailor of the
young spark!'

"Well, for the next three or four days the poor fellow was knocked about
on all hands; he'd got to go aloft to the 'gallant cross-trees, and out
on the yard foot-ropes the next morning, before breakfast; and, coming
down, in course, ye know, the men made him fast till he sent down the
key of his bottle-chest to pay his footing. If he closed his eyes a
moment in the watch, slash comes a bucketful o' Channel water over him.
The third mate would keep him two hours on end, larnin' to rig out a
sterns'l boom, or grease a royal mast. He led a dog's life of it,
likewise, in the half-deck; bein' last come, in course, he had al'ays to
go and fill the bread-barge, scrub the planks, an' do all the dirty
jobs. Them _owners' 'prentices_, sich as he had for messmates, is always
worse to their own kind by far nor the '_comming sailors_,' as the
longshore folks calls a foremast-man. I couldn't help takin' pity on the
poor lad, bein' the only one as had known the way of his upbringing, and
I feels a sort of a charge of him like; so one night I gets a quiet
spell with him in the watch, an' as soon 's I fell to speak kind-ways,
there I seed the water stand i' the boy's eyes. 'It's a good thing,'
says he, tryin' to gulp it down--'it's a goo--good thing mother don't
see all this!' 'Ho, ho!' says I, 'my lad, 'tis all but another way of
bein' sea-sick! You doesn't get the land cleared out, and sniff the blue
breeze nat'ral like, all at once! Hows'ever, my lad,' says I, 'take my
advice--bring your hammock an' chest into the foc'sle; swap half your
fine clothes for blue shirts and canvas trousers; turn to, ready and
willing, an' do all that's asked you--you'll soon find the differings
betwixt the men and a few petty officers an' 'prentices half out their
time. The men'll soon make a sailor of you; you'll see what a seaman is;
you'll larn ten times the knowledge; an', add to that, you'll not be
browbeat and looked jealous on!'

"Well, next night, what does he do but follers what I said, and afore
long most of his troubles was naterally over; nor there wasn't a
willin'er nor a readier hand aboard, and every man was glad to put Ned
through anything he'd got to do. The mates began to take note on him;
and though the 'prentices never left off calling him the Green Hand,
before we rounded the Cape he could take his wheel with the best of
them, and clear away a sternsail out of the top in handsome style. We
were out ten months, and Ned Collins stuck to the foc'sle throughout.
When we got up the Thames, he went ashore to see his mother in a check
shirt and canvas trousers made out of an old royal, with a tarpaulin hat
I built for him myself. He would have me to come the next day over to
the house for to have a supper; so, havin' took a kindness to the young
chap, why, I couldn't say nay. There I finds him in the midst of a lot
o' soft-faced slips and young ladies, a spinning the wonderfullest yarns
about the sea and the East Ingees, makin' em swallow all sorts of
horse-marines' nonsense, about marmaids, sea-serpents, and sich like.
'Hallo, my hearty!' says he, as soon as he saw me, 'heave a-head here,
and bring to an anchor in this here blessed chair. Young ladies,' says
he, 'this is Bob Jacobs, as I told you kissed a marmaid hisself. He's a
wonderful hand, is Bob, for the fair ones!' You may fancy how
flabbergasted I was at this, though the young scamp was as cool as you
please, and wouldn't ha' needed much to make him kiss 'em all round; but
I was al'ays milk-and-water alongside of women, if they topped at all
above my rating. 'Well,' thinks I, 'my lad, I wouldn't ha' said five
minutes agone, there was anything of the green about ye yet, but I see
'twill take another voy'ge to wash it all out.' For to my thinkin',
mates, 'tis more of a land-lubber to come the rig over a few poor
creaters that never saw blue water, than not to know the ropes you
warn't told. 'Oh, Mister Jacobs!' says Missus Collins to me that night,
before I went off, 'd'ye think Edward is tired of that 'ere horridsome
sea yet?' 'Well, marm,' I says, 'I'm afeared not. But I'll tell ye,
marm,' says I, 'if you wants to make him cut the consarn, the only thing
ye can do is to get him bound apprentice to it. From what I've seen of
him, he's a lad that won't bear aught again his liberty; an' I do
believe, if he thought he couldn't get free, he'd run the next day!'
Well, after that, ye see, I didn't know what more turned up of it; for I
went round to Hull, myself, and ships in a timber-craft for the Baltic,
just to see som'at new.

"Now, one day, the third voy'ge from that time, no sooner does we get up
to Blackwall than we hears of a strong press from the men-o'-war; and as
I'd got a desperate mislike to the sarvice, there was a lot of us
marchantmen kept stowed away close in holes an' corners till we could
suit ourselves. At last we got well tired, and a shipmate o' mine and I
wanted to go and see our sweethearts over in the town. So we hired the
slops from a Jew, and makes ourselves out to be a couple o' watermen,
with badges to suit, a-carrying of a large parcile and a ticket on it.
In the afternoon we came back again within sight of the Tower, where we
saw the coast was clear, and makes a fair wind along Rosemary Lane and
Cable Street. Just then we saw a tall young fellow, in a brown coat, an'
a broad-brim hat, a-standing in the door of a shop, with a paper under
his arm, on the look-out for someone. 'Twig the Quaker, Bob!' my
shipmate says to me. As soon as he saw us, out the Quaker steps, and
says he to Bill, in a sleepy sort of a v'ice, 'Friend, thou'rt a
waterman, I b'lieve?' 'Yes,' says Bill, with an oath, 'that's what we
hails for. D'ye want a boat, master?' 'Swear not, friend,' says the
broad-brim; 'but what I want is this, you see. We have a large vessel,
belonging to our house, for to send to Havannah, and willin' to give
double wages, but we can't find any marineers at this present time for
to navigate. Now,' says he, 'I s'pose this onfortunate state o' things
is on account of the sinful war as is a-goin' on--they're afraid of the
riskses. Hows'ever, my friends,' says he, 'perhaps, as you knows the
river, thee could put us upon a way of engagin' twenty or more bold
marineers, as is not afeared of venturing for good pay?' and with this
he looks into his papers; and says Bill, 'Well, sir, I don't know any
myself--do you, Bob?' and he gives me a shove, and says under the rose,
'No fear, mate,' says Bill, 'he's all over green--don't slip the chance
for all hands of us at Jobson's.' 'Why, master,' I says, 'what 'ud ye
give them marineers you speaks on, now?' 'Four pound a month, friend,'
says he, looking up; 'but we gives tea in place of spirits, and we must
have steady men. We can't wait, neither,' says he, 'more nor three days,
or the vessel won't sail at all.' 'My eye!' says Bill, ''twon't do to
miss, Bob!--stick to him, that's all.' 'Well, sir,' I says, 'I thinks I
does have a notion of some'at of the sort. If you sends your papers to
Jobson's Tavern to-night, second lane 'twixt Barnaby Street and the Blue
Anchor Road, over the water, why, I might get ye as many hands for to
sign as you wants.' 'Thanks, friend,' says the young broad-brim, 'I
will attend to thine advice.' So he bids us good-day, and stepped into
his door again. 'Bill,' says I, as we went off, 'now I think on it, I
can't help a notion I've seen that chap's face afore.' 'Very like,' says
Bill; 'for the matter o' that, 'tis the same with me--them broad-brims
is so much of a piece. But that 'ere fellow don't know nothin' of ships,
sure enough, or he wouldn't offer what he did, and the crimps' houses
all of a swarm with hands!'

"'Take my word, mate,' says I, 'it's a paying trip, or he wouldn't do
it--leave a Quaker alone for that. Why, the chap's a parfit youngster,
but I am blessed if he don't look as starched as if he'd sat over a dask
for twenty year!'

"Well, strike me lucky, mates all, if the whole affair warn't a complete
trap! Down comes a clerk with the papers, sure enough; but in ten
minutes more the whole blessed lot of us was puckalowed, and hard an'
fast, by a strong press-gang. They put us into a cutter off Redriff
Stairs, and the next noon all hands was aboard of the _Pandora_ frigate
at Sheerness. The first time of being mustered on deck, says Bill to me,
'Cuss my eyes, Bob, if there isn't the 'farnal Quaker!' I looked, and
sees a midshipman in uniform like the rest, and so it was. 'The sly,
soft-sawderin' beggar!' says I. 'All fair in war, and a press, mate!'
says one o' the frigate's men. All the while I kept looking and looking
at the midshipman; and at last I says to Bill when we got below, giving
a slap to my thigh, 'Blessed if it ain't! It's the _Green Hand_
himself!' 'Green Hand!' says Bill, sulky enough, 'who's the Green Hand?
Blow me, Bob, if I don't think we're the green hands ourselves, if
that's what you're upon!' So I told him the story about Ned Collins.
'Well,' says he, 'if a fellow was green as Chinee rice, cuss me if the
reefers' mess wouldn't take it all out on him in a dozen watches. The
softest thing I know, as you say, Bob, just now, it's to come the smart
hand when you're a lubber; but to sham green after that style, ye know,
why, it is a mark or two above either you or I, messmate. So, for my
part, I forgives the young scamp, 'cause I ought to ha' known better.'

"By the time the frigate got to sea the story was blowed over the whole
main-deck; many a good laugh it gived the different messes; and Bill,
the midshipman, and me, got the name of the 'Three Green Hands.'

"One middle-watch Mister Ned comes for'ard by the booms to me, and says
he, 'Well, Bob Jacobs, you don't bear a grudge, I hope?' 'Why,' says I,
'Mister Collins, 'twould be mutiny now, I fancy, you being my officer.'
So I gave a laugh; but I couldn't help feelin' hurt a little, 'twas so
like a son turnin' against his father, as 'twere. 'Why, Bob,' says he,
'did ye think me so green as not to know a seaman when I saw him? I was
afeared you'd know me that time.' 'Not I, sir,' I answers; 'why, if we
hadn't sailed so long in company, I wouldn't know ye now!' So Master Ned
gived me to understand it was all for old times he wanted to ship me in
the same craft; but he knew my misliking to the sarvice, though he said
he'd rather ha' lost the whole haul of 'em nor myself. So many a yarn we
had together of a dark night, and for a couple of years we saw no small
sarvice in the _Pandora_. But if ye'd seen Ned, the smartest reefer
aboard, and the best liked by the men, in the fore-tops'l bunt in a
gale, or over the main-deck hatch, with an enemy's frigate to leeward,
or on a spree ashore at Lisbon or Naples, you wouldn't ha' said there
was anything green in his eye, I warrant ye! He was made
acting-leftenant of a prize he cut out near Chairboorg, before he passed
examination; so he took me for his prize-bo'sun, and carried her into
Plymouth. Soon after that the war was ended, and all hands of the
_Pandora_ paid off. Master Ned got passed with flying colours, and
confirmed leftenant besides, but he had to wait for a ship. He made me
say where I'd be found, and we parted company for about a year.

"Well, I was come home from a short trip, and one day Leftenant Collins
hunts me up at Wapping Docks, where I'd had myself spliced, six years
before, to Betsy Brown, an' was laid up for a spell, having seen a good
deal of the sea. Ye must know the young leftenant was fell deep in love
with a rich Indy naboob's daughter, which had come over to take her back
to the East Ingees. The old fellow was hard close-hauled again the
match, notwithstanding of the young folks makin' it all up; so he'd
taken out berths aboard of a large company's ship, and bought over the
captain on no account to let any king's navy man within the gangways,
nor not a shoulder with a swab upon it, red or blue, beyond the ship's
company. But, above all, the old tyrant wouldn't have a blue-jacket,
from stem to starn, if so be he'd got nothing ado but talk sweet; I
s'pose he fancied his girl was mad after the whole blessed cloth. The
leftenant turns over this here log to me, and, says he, 'I'll follow her
to the world's end, if need be, Bob, and cheat the old villain!' 'Quite
right, too, sir,' says I. 'Bob,' says he,' I'll tell you what I wants
you for to do. Go you and enter for the _Seringapatam_ at Blackwall, if
you're for sea just now; I'm goin' for to s'cure my passage myself, an'
no doubt doorin' the voy'ge something'll turn up to set all square; at
any rate, I'll stand by for a rope to pull!' 'Why, here's a rum go!'
thinks I to myself. 'Is Ned Collins got so green again, spite of all
that's come and gone, for to think the waves is a-goin' to work wonders,
or ould Neptune under the line's to play the parson and splice all!'
'Well, sir,' I says, 'but don't you think the skipper will smoke your
weather-roll, sir, at sea, as you did Bill Pikes an' me, you know, sir?'
says I. 'Oh, Bob, my lad,' says the leftenant, 'leave you that to me.
The fellow most onlikest to a sailor on the Indyman's poop will be me,
and that's the way you'll know me.'

"Well, ship I does with the _Seringapatam_ for Bombay--plenty of
passengers she had; but only clerks, naboobs, old half-pay fellows, and
ladies, not to speak o' children and nurses, black and white. She sailed
without my seein' Leftenant Collins, so I thought I was to hear no more
on it. When the passengers began to muster on the poop, by the time we
got out o' Channel, I takes a look over the ladies, in coilin' up the
ropes aft, or at the wheel; I knowed the said girl at once by her good
looks, and the old fellow by his grumpy, yallow frontispiece. All on a
sudden I takes a note of a figger coming up from the cuddy, which I made
out at once for my Master Ned, spite of his wig and a pair o'
high-heeled boots, as gave him the walk of a chap a-treading amongst
eggs. When I hears him lisp out to the skipper at the round-house if
there was any fear of wind, 'twas all I could do to keep the juice in my
cheek. Away he goes up to windward, holding on by everything, to look
over the bulwarks behind his sweetheart, givin' me a glance over his
shoulder. At night I see the two hold a sort of collogue abaft the
wheel, when I was on my trick at the helm. After awhile there was a row
got up amongst the passengers, with the old naboob and the skipper, to
find out who it was that kept a-singing every still night in the first
watch, alongside of the ladies' cabin, under the poop. It couldn't be
cleared up, hows'ever, who it was. All sorts o' places they said it
comed from--mizzen-chains, quarter-galleries, lower-deck ports, and
davit-boats. But what put the old hunks most in a rage was, the songs
was every one on 'em such as 'Rule Britannia,' 'Bay of Biscay,'
'Britannia's Bulwarks,' and 'All in the Downs.' The captain was all at
sea about it, and none of the men would say anything, for by all
accounts 'twas the best pipe at a sea-song as was to be heard. For my
part, I knowed pretty well what was afloat. One night a man comed
for'ard from the wheel, after steering his dog-watch out, and 'Well, I'm
blessed, mates,' says he on the foc'sle, 'but that chap aft yonder with
the lady--he's about the greenest hand I've chanced to come across. What
d'ye think I hears him say to old Yallow-chops an hour agone?' 'What was
it, mate?' I says. 'Says he, "Do you know, Sar Chawls, is the hoshun
reelly green at the line--_green_ ye know, Sar Chawls, _reelly_ green?"
"No, sir," says the old naboob, "'tis blue." "Whoy, ye don't sa--ay so!"
says the young chap, pullin' a long face.' 'Why, Jim,' another hand
drops in, 'that's the very chap as sings them first-rate sea-songs of a
night. I seed him myself come out o' the mizzen-chains!' 'Hallo!' says
another at this, 'then there's some'at queer i' the wind! I _thought_ he
gave rather a weather-look aloft, comin' on deck i' the morning. I'll
bet a week's grog that chap's desarted from the king's flag, mates!'
Well, ye know, hereupon I couldn't do no less nor shove in my oar, so I
takes word from all hands not to blow the gaff,[1] an' then gives 'em
the whole yarn to the very day, about the Green Hand--for somehow or
another I was al'ays a yarning sort of a customer. As soon as they heard
it was a love consarn, not a man but swore to keep a stopper on his jaw;
only, at findin' out he was a leftenant in the Royal Navy, all hands was
for touching hats when they went past.

  [1] Let out the secret.

"Hows'ever, things went on till we'd crossed the line a good while; the
leftenant was making his way with the girl at every chance. But, as for
the old fellow, I didn't see he was a fathom the nearer with _him_;
though, as the naboob had never clapped eyes on him to know him like,
'twan't much matter before heaving in sight o' port. The captain of the
Indyman was a rum, old-fashioned codger, all for plain sailing and old
ways--I shouldn't say overmuch of a smart seaman. He read the sarvice
every Sunday, rigged the church an' all that, if it was anything short
of a reef-taups'l breeze. 'Twas queer enough, ye may think, to hear the
old boy drawling out, 'As 'twas in the beginning--'then, in the one key,
'Haul aft the mainsheet----' 'is now, and ever shall be----' 'Small pull
with the weather brace----' 'Amen----' 'Well the main-yard----' 'The
Lord be with you----' 'Taups'l yard well!' As for the first orficer, he
was a dandy, know-nothing young blade, as wanted to show off before the
ladies; and the second was afraid to call the nose on his face his own,
except in his watch; the third was a good seaman, but ye may well fancy
the craft stood often a poor chance of being rightly handled.

"'Twas one arternoon watch, off the west coast of Africay, as hot a day
as I ever mind on, we lost the breeze with a swell, and just as it got
down smooth, land was made out, low upon the starboard bow, about
south-east-and-by-sou', as near as may be. The captain was turned in
sick below, and the first orficer on deck. I was at the wheel myself,
and I hears him say to the second as how the land breeze would come off
at night. A little after, up comes Leftenant Collins, in his black wig
and his 'long-shore hat, an' he begins to squint over the starn to
nor'west'ard. 'Jacobs, my lad,' whispers he to me, 'how do ye like the
looks o' things?' 'Not overmuch, sir,' says I; 'small enough sea-room,
leastways for a sky like that 'ere.' Up goes he to the first officer,
after a bit. 'Sir,' says he, 'do ye notice how we've risen the land
within the last hour and a half?' 'No, sir,' says the first mate. 'What
d'ye mean?' 'Why, there's a current here, takin' us inside the point,'
says he. 'Sir,' says the Company's man, 'if I didn't know what's what,
d'ye think I'd learn it off a gentleman as is so confounded green?
There's nothing of the sort,' he says. 'Look on the starboard quarter,
then,' says the leftenant, 'at the man-o'-war bird afloat yonder with
its wings spread. Take three minutes' look!' says he. Well, the mate did
take a minute or two's squint through the mizzen-shroud, and pretty
blue he got, for the bird came abreast of the ship by that time.

"'It's a underdrift,' says the leftenant, wonderful
knowing-like--'though it's nothing on the surfage, look ye, why, with
the draught the ship has it's a-taking her along like a tideway, below!
Now, d'ye think you'd weather that there point two hours after this, if
a gale come on from the nor'-west, sir?' 'Well,' says the first mate, 'I
dare say we shouldn't--but what of that?' 'Why, if you'd cruised for six
months off the coast of Africa, as I've done,' says the leftenant,
'you'd think there was something ticklish about that white spot in the
sky, to nor'-west! But on top o' that, the weather-glass is fell a good
bit since four bells.' 'Weather-glass!' the mate says, 'why, that don't
matter much in respect of a gale, I fancy.' Ye must understand,
weather-glasses wan't come so much in fashion at that time, except in
the Royal Navy. 'Sir,' says the mate again, 'mind _your_ business, if
you've got any, and I'll mind mine!' 'If I was you,' the leftenant says,
'I'd call the captain.' 'Thank ye,' says the mate--'call the captain for
nothing!' Well, in an hour more the land was quite plain on the
starboard bow, and the mate comes aft again to Leftenant Collins. The
clouds was beginning to grow out of the clear sky astarn too. 'Why,
sir,' says the mate, 'I'd no notion you was a _seaman_ at all! What
would you do yourself now, supposin' the case you put a little ago?'
'Well, sir,' says Mr Collins, 'if you'll do the thing, I'll put ye up to
it at once----'"

At this point of Old Jack's story, however, a cabin-boy came from aft,
to say that the captain wanted him. The old seaman knocked the ashes out
of his pipe, which he had smoked at intervals in short puffs, put it in
his jacket pocket, and got up off the windlass end. "Why, old ship!"
said the man-o'-war's-man, "are ye goin' to leave us in the lurch with a
_short yarn_ again?" "Can't help it, bo'," said old Jack; "orders must
be obeyed, ye know," and away he went. "Well, mates," said one, "if the
yarn's been overhauled before, what was the upshot of it? I didn't hear
it myself." "Blessed if I know," said several--"Old Jack didn't get the
length last time he's got now." "More luck!" said the man-o'-war's-man;
"'tis to be hoped he'll finish it next time!"



CHAPTER II


We left the forecastle group of the _Gloucester_ disappointed by the
abrupt departure of their story-teller, Old Jack, at so critical a
thread of his yarn. As old Jacobs went aft on the quarter-deck, where
the binnacle-lamp before her wheel was newly-lighted, he looked in with
a seaman's instinct upon the compass-boxes, to see how the ship headed;
ere ascending to the poop, he bestowed an approving nod upon his friend
the steersman, hitched up his trousers, wiped his mouth with the back of
his hand in a proper deference to female society, and then proceeded to
answer the captain's summons. The passengers, in a body, had left the
grand cabin to the bustling steward and his boys, previously to
assembling there again for tea--not even excepting the little coterie of
inveterate whist-players, and the pairs of inseparable chess-men, to
whom an Indian voyage is so appropriately the school for future nice
practice in etiquette, war, and commerce. Everybody had at last got rid
of sea-sickness, and mustered for a promenade; so that the lofty poop of
the Indiaman, dusky as it was, and exposed to the breeze, fluttered with
gay dresses like the midway battlement of a castle by the waves, upon
which its inmates have stolen out from some hot festivity. But the long
heave from below, raising her stern-end slowly against the western space
of clear-obscure, in the manner characteristic of a sea abaft the beam,
and rolling her to either hand, exhibited to the eyes on the forecastle
a sort of _alto relievo_ of figures, amongst whom the male, in their
blank attempts to appear nautical before the ladies, were distinguished
from every other object by their variety of ridiculous postures. Under
care of one or two bluff, good-humoured young mates--officers polished
by previous opportunities of a kind unknown either to Navy-men or mere
"cargo-fenders," along with several roguish little quasi-midshipmen--the
ladies were supported against the poop-rail, or seated on the
after-gratings, where their contented dependence not only saved them
from the ludicrous failures of their fellow-passengers, but gained them,
especially the young ones, the credit of being better sailors. An
accompaniment was contributed to this lively exercise on the part of the
gentlemen promenaders, which otherwise in the glimmering sea-twilight,
would have been striking in a different sense; by the efforts, namely,
of a little band of amateur musicians under the break of the poop, who,
with flute, clarionet, bugles, trombone, and violin, after sundry
practisings by stealth, had for the first time assembled to play "Rule
Britannia." What, indeed, with the occasional abrupt checks, wild
flourishes, and fantastic variations caused by the ship's roll; and what
with the attitudes overhead, of holding on refractory hats and caps, of
intensely resisting and staggering legs, or of sudden pausing above the
slope which one moment before was an ascent, there was additional force
in the designation quaintly given to such an aspect of things by the
foremast Jacks--that of a "cuddy jig." As the still increasing motion,
however, shook into side-places this central group of cadets, civilians,
and planters adrift, the grander features of the scene predominated: the
broad mass of the ship's hull--looming now across and now athwart the
streak of sinking light behind--drawn out by the weltering outline of
the waters; the entire length of her white decks ever and anon exposed
to view, with their parallel lines, their nautical appurtenances, the
cluster of hardy men about the windlass, the two or three "old salts"
rolling to and fro along the gangway, and the variety of forms blending
into both railings of the poop. High out of, and over all, rose the
lofty upper outline of the noble ship, statelier and statelier as the
dusk closed in about her--the expanse of canvas whitening with sharper
edge upon the gloom; the hauled-up clues of the main-course, with their
huge blocks, swelling and lifting to the fair wind--and the breasts of
the topsails divided by their tightened buntlines, like the shape of
some full-bosomed maiden, on which the reef-points heaved like silken
fringes, as if three sisters, shadowy and goddess-like, trod in each
other's steps towards the deeper solitude of the ocean; while the tall
spars, the interlacing complicated tracery, and the dark top-hamper
showing between gave graceful unity to her figure; and her three white
trucks, far overhead, kept describing a small clear arc upon the deep
blue zenith as she rolled: the man at the wheel midway before the doors
of the poop-cabin, with the light of the binnacle upon his broad throat
and bearded chin, was looking aloft at a single star that had come out
beyond the clue of the main-topsail.

The last stroke of "six bells," or seven o'clock, which had begun to be
struck on the ship's bell when Old Jack broke off his story, still
lingered on the ear as he brought up close to the starboard
quarter-gallery, where a little green shed or pent-house afforded
support and shelter to the ladies with the captain. The erect figure of
the latter, as he lightly held one of his fair guests by the arm, while
pointing out to her some object astern, still retained the attitude
which had last caught the eyes of the forecastle group. The musical
cadets had just begun to pass from "Rule Britannia" to "Shades of
Evening"; and the old sailor, with his glazed hat in his hand, stood
waiting respectfully for the captain's notice. The ladies, however, were
gazing intently down upon the vessel's wake, where the vast shapes of
the waves now sank down into a hollow, now rose seething up into the
rudder-trunk, but all marked throughout with one broad winding track,
where the huge body of the ship had swiftly passed. From foaming
whiteness it melted into yesty green, that became in the hollow a path
of soft light, where the sparks mingled like golden seed; the wave-tops
glimmered beyond; star-like figures floated up or sank in their long
undulations; and the broad swell that heaped itself on a sudden under
the mounting stern bore its bells, and bubbles, and flashes upwards to
the eye. When the ship rose high and steady upon it, and one saw down
her massy taffrail, it looked to a terrestrial eye rather like some
mystic current issuing from the archway under a tall tower, whose
foundations rocked and heaved; and so said the romantic girl beside the
captain, shuddering at the vividness of an image which so incongruously
brought together the fathomless deep and the distant shores of solid old
England. The eye of the seaman, however, suggested to him an image more
akin to the profession, as he directed his fair companion's attention to
the trough of the ship's furrow, where, against the last low gleam of
twilight, and by the luminous wake, could be seen a little flock of
black petrels, apparently running along it to catch what the mighty
ploughshare had turned up; while a grey gull or two hovered aslant over
them in the blue haze. As he looked round, too, to aloft, he exchanged
glances with the old sailor who had listened--an expression which even
the ladies understood. "Ah! Jacobs," said the captain, "get the lamp
lighted in my cabin, and the tea-kettle aft. With the roll she has on
her, 'twill be more ship-shape there than in the cuddy." "Ay, ay, sir,"
said the old seaman. "How does she head just now, Jacobs?"
"Sou'-west-and-by-south, sir." "She'd lie easier for the ladies though,"
said the captain, knowing his steward was a favourite with them, "were
the wind a point or two less fair. Our old acquaintance, Captain
Williamson of the _Seringapatam_ now, Jacobs, old-fashioned as he was,
would have braced in his lee-yard only to steady a lady's tea-cup." "Ay,
your honour," replied Jacobs, and his weather-eye twinkled, "and washed
the foc'sle under, too! But ye know, sir, he'd got a reg'lar-built
naboob aboard, and a beauty besides!" "Ah, Mr Jacobs!" exclaimed the
romantic young lady, "what was that? Is it one of your stories?" "Well,
your ladyship, 'tis a bit of a yarn, no doubt, and some'at of a cur'ous
one." "Oh!" said another of the captain's fair _protégées_, "I _do_ love
these 'yarns,' as you call them; they are so expressive, so--and all
that sort of thing." "Nonsense, my love," said her mother; "you don't
understand them, and 'tis better you should not--they are low, and
contain a great many bad words, I fear." "But think of the imaginative
feeling, aunt," rejoined the other girl, "and the adventures! Oh, the
ocean of all places for that! Were it not for sea-sickness, I should
dote upon it! As for the _storm_ just now, look how safe we are, and see
how the dear old ship rises up from the billows, with all her sails so
delightfully mysterious one over another!" "Bless your heart, marm,
yes," responded Old Jack, chuckling; "you talks just like a seaman,
beggin' your pardon. As consarns the tea, sir, I make bold to expect
the'll be a shift o' wind directly, and a slant deck, as soon as we get
fair into the stream, rid o' this bit of a bubble the tail of it kicks
up hereabouts." "Bear a hand then, Jacobs," said the captain, "and see
all right below for the party in the cabin--we shall be down in a few
minutes." The captain stood up on the quarter-gallery, to peer round
into the dusk and watch the lifting of the main-royal; but the next
minute he called to the ladies, and their next neighbours, to look
towards the larboard bow, and see the moon rise. A long edge of gray
haze lay around the eastern horizon, on which the dark rim of the sea
was defined beyond the roll of the waves, as with the sweep of a soft
brush dipped in indigo; while to westward it heaved up, weltering in its
own watery light against the gloom. From behind this low fringe of
vapour was silently diffusing, as it were, a pool of faint radiance,
like a brook bubbling from under ice; a thread of silver ran along the
line of haze, growing keener at one point, until the arch of the moon
shot slowly up, broad and fair: the wave-heads rising between were
crested here and there with light; the bow of the ship, the bellies of
her fore-canvas, her bowsprit with the jibs hanging idly over it, and
the figure-head beneath, were tinged by a gentle lustre, while the
hollow shadows stole out behind. The distant horizon, meanwhile, still
lay in an obscure streak, which blended into the dark side of the low
fog-bank, so as to give sea and cloud united the momentary appearance of
one of those long rollers that turn over on a beach, with their
glittering crest: you would expect to see next instant what actually
seemed to take place--the whole outline plashing over in foam, and
spreading itself clearly forward, as soon as the moon was free. With the
airy space that flowed from her came out the whole eastern seaboard
liquid and distinct, as if beyond either bow of the lifting Indiaman one
sharp finger of a pair of compasses had flashed round, drawing a
semi-circle upon the dull background, still cloudy, glimmering, and
obscure. From the waves that undulated towards her stern, the ship was
apparently entering upon a smoother zone, where the small surges leapt
up and danced in moonshine, resembling more the current of some estuary
in a full tide. To north-westward, just on the skirts of the dark, one
wing of a large, soft-grey vapour was newly smitten by the moon-gleam;
and over against it on the south-east, where the long fog-bank sank
away, there stretched an expanse of ocean which, on its farthest verge,
gave out a tint of the most delicate opal blue. The ship, to the
south-westward of the Azores, and going large before the trade-wind, was
now passing into the great Gulf Stream, which there runs to the
south-east; even the passengers on deck were sensible of the rapid
transition with which the lately cold breeze became warmer and fitful,
and the motion of the vessel easier. They were surprised, on looking
into the waves alongside, to perceive them struggling, as it were, under
a trailing network of seaweed; which, as far as one could distinctly
see, appeared to keep down the masses of water, like so much
oil--flattening their crests, neutralising the force of the wind, and
communicating a strangely sombre green to the heaving element. In the
winding track of the ship's wake the eddies now absolutely blazed; the
weeds she had crushed down rose to the surface again in gurgling circles
of flames, and the showers of sparks came up seething on either side
amongst the stalks and leaves; but as the moonlight grew more equally
diffused, it was evident that she was only piercing an arm of that local
weed-bed here formed, like an island, in the _bight_ of the stream.
Farther ahead were scattered patches and bunches of the true Florida
Gulf-weed, white and moss-like; which, shining crisp in the level
moonlight, and tipping the surges as it floated past, gave them the
aspect of hoary-bearded waves, or the garlanded horses of Neptune. The
sight still detained the captain's party on deck, and some of the ladies
innocently thought these phenomena indicative of the proximity of land.

"I have seldom seen the Stream so distinct hereabouts," said Captain
Collins to his first officer, who stood near, having charge of the
watch. "Nor I, sir," replied the chief mate; "but it no doubt narrows
with different seasons. There goes a flap of the fore-topsail, though!
The wind fails, sir." "'Tis only drawing ahead, I think," said the
captain; "the stream _sucks_ the wind with its heat, and we shall have
it pretty near from due nor'-west immediately." "Shall we round in on
the starboard hand, then, sir, and keep both wind and current _aft_?" "I
think not, Mr Wood," said the captain. "'Twould give us a good three
knots more every hour of the next twenty-four, sir," persisted the
officer eagerly--and chief mates generally confine their theories to
mere immediate progress. "Yes," rejoined the captain, "but we should
lose hold of the 'trade' on getting out of the stream again. I intend
driving her across, with the nor'-wester on her starboard beam, so as to
lie well up afterwards. Get the yards braced to larboard as you catch
the breeze, Mr Wood, and make her course south-west by west." "Very
well, sir." "Ladies," said the captain, "will you allow me to hand you
below, where I fear Jacobs will be impatient with the tea?"

"What a pity, Captain Collins," remarked the romantic Miss Alicia,
looking up as they descended the companion--"what a pity that you cannot
have that delicious moonlight to shine in at your cabin windows just
now; the sailors yonder have it all to themselves." "There is no favour
in these things at sea, Miss Alicia," said the captain, smiling. "Jack
shares the chance there, at least, with his betters; but I can promise
those who honour my poor suite of apartments this evening both fine
moonshine and a steadier floor." On reaching the snug little
after-cabin, with its swinging lamp and barometer, its side
"state-room," seven feet long, and its two stern-windows showing a dark
glimpse of the rolling waters, they found the tea-things set, nautical
style, on the hard-a-weather, boxed-up table--the surgeon and one or two
elderly gentlemen waiting, and old Jacobs still trimming up the
sperm-oil lights. Mrs St Clair, presiding in virtue of relationship to
their host, was still cautiously pouring out the requisite half-cups,
when, above all the bustle and clatter in the cuddy, could be heard the
sounds of ropes thrown down on deck, of the trampling watch, and the
stentorian voice of the first officer. "Jacobs!" said the captain, a
minute or two afterwards; and that worthy factotum instantly appeared
from his pantry alongside of the door--from whence, by-the-way, the old
seaman might be privy to the whole conversation--"stand by to _dowse_
the lamp when she heels," an order purposely mysterious to all else but
the doctor. Everyone soon felt a change in the movement of their
wave-born habitation; the rolling lift of her stern ceased; those who
were looking into their cups saw the tea apparently take a decided
inclination to larboard--as the facetious doctor observed, a "tendency
to _port_." The floor gradually sloped down to the same hand, and a
long, wild, gurgling wash was suddenly heard to run careering past the
timbers of the starboard side.

"Dear me!" fervently exclaimed every lady at once; when the very next
moment the lamps went out, and all was darkness. Captain Collins felt a
little hand clutch his arm in nervous terror, but the fair owner of it
said nothing; until, with still more startling effect than before, in a
few seconds there shot through both stern windows the full rays of the
moon, pouring their radiance into the cabin, shining on the backs of the
books in the hanging shelves by the bulkhead, on the faces of the party,
and the bald forehead of old Jacobs "standing by" the lamp--lastly, too,
revealing the pretty little Alicia with her hand on the captain's arm,
and her pale, terrified face. "Don't be alarmed, ladies!" said the
surgeon, "she's only hauled on the starboard tack!" "And her counter to
the east," said the captain.

"But who put out the lamp?" rejoined the doctor. "Ah, I see, sir!--'But
when the moon, refulgent lamp of night.'" "Such a surprise!" exclaimed
the ladies, laughing, although as much frightened for a moment by the
magical illumination as by the previous circumstances. "You see," said
the captain, "we are not like a house--we can bring round our scenery to
any window we choose." "Very prettily imagined it was, too, I declare!"
observed a stout old Bombay officer, "and a fine compliment to the
ladies, by Jingo, sir!" "If we had any of your pompous Bengal '_Quy
hies_' here though, colonel," said the doctor, "they wouldn't stand
being choused so unceremoniously out of the weather side, I suspect."
"As to the agreeable little surprise I meant for the ladies," said
Captain Collins, "I fear it was done awkwardly, never having commanded
an Indiaman before, and laid up ashore these half-a-dozen years. But
one's old feelings get freshened up, and without knowing the old
_Gloucester's_ points, I can't help reckoning her as a lady too--a very
particular old 'Begum,' that won't let anyone else be humoured before
herself--especially as I took charge of her to oblige a friend." "How
easily she goes now!" said the doctor, "and a gallant sight at this
moment, I assure you, to anyone who chooses to put his head up the
companion." "Ah, mamma!" said one of the girls, "couldn't you almost
think this was our own little parlour at home with the moonlight coming
through the window on both sides of the old elm, where we were sitting a
month ago hearing about India and papa?"

"Ah!" responded her cousin, standing up, "but there was no track of
moonshine dancing beyond the track of the ship yonder! How blue the
water is, and how much warmer it has grown of a sudden!"

"We are crossing the great Gulf Stream," said the captain--"Jacobs! open
one of the stern-ports." "'Tis the very place and time, this is,"
remarked a good-humoured cotton-grower from the Deccan, "for one of the
colonel's tiger-hunts, now!" "Sir!" answered the old officer, rather
testily, "I am not accustomed to thrust my _tiger-hunts_, as you choose
to call my humble experiences, under people's noses!" "Certainly not, my
dear sir," said the planter--"but what do you say, ladies, to one of
the captain's sea-yarns, then? Nothing better, I'm sure, here now,
sir--eh?" Captain Collins smiled, and said he had never spun a yarn in
his life, except when a boy, out of matter-of-fact old junk and tar.
"Here is my steward, however," continued he, "who is the best hand at it
I know, and I daresay he'll give you one." "Charming!" exclaimed the
young ladies; and "What was that adventure, Mr Jacobs," said Miss
Alicia, "with a beauty and a nabob in it, that you alluded to a short
time ago?" "I didn't to say disactly include upon it, your ladyship,"
replied old Jacobs, with a tug of his hair, and a bow not just _à la
maître_; "but the captain can give you it better nor I can, seeing as
his honour were the Nero on it, as one may say." "Oh!" said the surgeon,
rubbing his hands, "a lady and a rupee-eater in the case!" "There seems
something curious about this said adventure of yours, my dear captain,"
said Mrs St Clair, archly, "and a beauty too! It makes me positively
inquisitive, but I hope your own fair lady has heard the story?" "Why,
not exactly, ma'am," replied Captain Collins, laughing as he caught the
doctor looking preternaturally solemn, after a sly lee-wink to the
colonel, who, having his back to the moonlight, stretched out his legs
and indulged in a grim, silent chuckle, until his royal-tiger
countenance was unhappily brought so far _flush_[2] in the rays as to
betray a singular daguerreotype, resembling one of those cut-paper
phantasmagoria thrown on a drawing-room wall, unmistakably black and
white, and in the character of Malicious Watchfulness. The rubicund,
fidgety little cotton-grower twiddled his thumbs, and looked modestly
down on the deck, with half-shut eyes, as if expecting some bold
revelation of nautical depravity; while the romantic Miss Alicia
coloured and was silent. "However," said the captain, coolly, "it is no
matrimonial secret, at any rate! We both talk of it sometimes when we
read the Church Service of a Sunday night at home, with Jacobs for the
clerk." "Do, Mr Jacobs, oblige us!" requested the younger of the girls.
"Well, miss," said he, smoothing down his hair in the doorway, and
hemming, "'tain't neither for the likes o' me to refuse a lady, nor
accordin' to rules for to give such a yarn in presence of a supperior
officer, much less the captain; with a midship helm, ye know, marm, ye
carn't haul upon one tack nor the other. Not to say but next forenoon
watch----" "I see, Jacobs, my man," interrupted Captain Collins,
"there's nothing for it but to fore-reach upon you, or else you'll be
'Green-Handing' me aft as well as forward; so I must just make the best
of it, and take the _winch_ in my own fashion at once!" "Ay, ay,
sir--ay, ay, your honour!" said Old Jack demurely, and concealing his
gratification as he turned off into the pantry, with the idea of for the
first time hearing the captain relate the incidents in question. "My old
shipmate," said the latter, "is so fond of having trained his future
captain, that it is his utmost delight to spin out everything we ever
met with together into one endless yarn, which would go on from our
first acquaintance to the present day, although no ship's company ever
heard the last of it. Without falling knowingly to leeward of the truth,
he makes out every lucky coincidence almost to have been a feat of mine,
and puts in little fancies of his own, so as to give the whole thing
more and more of a marvellous air the farther it goes. The most amusing
thing is, that he almost always begins each time, I believe, at the very
beginning, like a capstan without a paul--sticking in one thing he had
forgot before, and forgetting another; sometimes dwelling longer on one
part--a good deal like a ship making the same voyages over again. I
knew, now, this evening, when I heard the men laughing, and saw Old Jack
on the forecastle, what must be in the wind. However, we have shared so
many chances, and I respect the old man so much, not to speak of his
having dandled my little girls on his knee, and being butler, steward,
and flower-gardener at home, that I can't really be angry at him, in
spite of the sort of every man's rope he makes of me!" "How very amusing
a character he is!" said one young lady. "A thought too tarry, perhaps?"
suggested the surgeon. "So very original and like a--a seaman!" remarked
Miss Alicia, quietly, but as if some other word that crossed her mind
had been rejected, as descriptive of a different variety, probably
higher. "_Original_, by Jove!" exclaimed the colonel; "if my
_Khansa-man_, or my _Abdar_,[3] were to make such a dancing dervish and
_tumasha_[4] of me behind back, by the holy Vishnu, sir, I'd rattan him
myself within an inch of his life!"

  [2] _Flush_--_i.e._ level.

  [3] Steward and butler.

  [4] Sport.

"Not an unlikely thing, colonel," put in the planter; "I've caught the
scoundrels at that trick before now." "What did you do?" inquired the
colonel, speculatively. "Couldn't help laughing, for my soul, sir; the
_puckree-bund_[5] rascals did it so well, and so funnily!" The irascible
East-Indian almost started up in his imaginative fury, to call for his
palkee, and chastise his whole verandah, when the doctor reminded him
that it was a long way there. "Glorious East!" exclaimed the medico,
looking out astern, "where we may cane our footmen, and whence,
meanwhile, we can derive such Sanscrit-sounding adjurations, with such
fine moonlight!"

  [5] Turban-wearing.

The presence of the first officer was now added to the party, who came
down for a cup of tea, fresh from duty, and flavouring strongly of a
pilot cheroot. "How does she head, Mr Wood?" asked the captain.
"Sou'-west-by-west, sir--a splendid night, under everything that will
draw--spray up to the starboard cathead!"

"But as to this story, again, Captain Collins?" said Mrs St Clair, as
soon as she had poured out the chief mate's cup. "Well," said the
captain, "if you choose to listen till bedtime to a plain draught of the
affair, why I suppose I must tell it you; and what remains then may
stand over till next fine night. It _may_ look a little romantic, being
in the days when most people are such themselves, but, at any rate, we
sailors--or else we should never have been at sea, you know; so you'll
allow for that, and a spice to boot of what we used to call at sea
'lovemaking'; happily there were no soft speeches in it, like those in
books, for then I shouldn't tell it at all.

       *       *       *       *       *

"By the time I was twenty-four, I had been nine years at sea, and at the
end of the war, was third lieutenant of a crack twenty-eight, the saucy
_Iris_--as perfect a sloop-model, though over-sparred certainly, as ever
was eased off the ways of Chatham, or careened to a north-easter. The
Admiralty had almost learned to build by that day, and a glorious ship
she was, _made_ for going after the small fry of privateers, pirates,
and slavers, that swarmed about the time. Though I had roughed it in all
sorts of craft, from a first-rate to a dirty French lugger prize, and
been eastward, so as to see the sea in its pride at the Pacific, yet the
feeling you have depends on the kind of ship you are in. I never knew
so well what it was to be fond of a ship and the sea; and when I heard
of the poor _Iris_, that had never been used to anything but blue water
on three parts of the horizon at least, laying her bones not long after
near Wicklow Head, I couldn't help a gulp in the throat. I once dreamt I
had gone down in her, and risen again to the surface with the loss of my
brains, such as I had had; while at the same moment, there I was, still
sitting below on a locker in the wardroom, with the arms of her
beautiful figure-head around me, and her mermaid's tail like the
best-bower cable, with an anchor at the end of it far away out of
soundings, over which I bobbed and dipped for years and years, in all
weathers, like a buoy. We had no Mediterranean time of it, though, in
the _Iris_, off the Guinea coast, from Cape Palmas to Cape Negro;
looking out to windward for white squalls, and to leeward for black
ones, and in-shore for Spanish cattle-dealers, as we called them, had
made us all as sharp as so many marling-spikes; and our captain was a
man that taught us seamanship, with a trick or two beyond. The slavers
had not got to be so clever then, either, with their schooners and
clippers: they built for stowage, and took the chance, so that we sent
in _bale_ after bale to the West India admiral, made money, and enjoyed
ourselves now and then at the Cape de Verdes. However, this kind of
thing was so popular at home, as pickings after the great haul was over,
that the _Iris_ had to give up her station to a post-frigate, and be
paid-off. The war was over, and nobody could expect to be promoted
without a friend near the blue table-cloth, although a quiet hint to a
secretary's palm would work wonders, if strong enough. But most of such
lucky fellows as ourselves dissipated their funds in blazing away at
balls and parties, where the gold band was everything, and the ladies
wore blue ribbons and anchor brooches in honour of the navy. The men
spent everything in a fortnight, even to their clothes, and had little
further chance of eating the king's biscuit with hopes of prize-money; I
used to see knots of them, in red shirts and dirty slops, amongst the
foremast Jacks in outward-bound ships, dropping past Greenwich, and
waving their hats to the Hospital. You knew them at once by one of them
giving the song for the topsail-halliards, instead of the merchantmen's
bull's chorus; indeed, I could always pick off the dashing
men-o'-war's-men, by face and eye alone, out from among the others, who
looked as sober and solitary, with their serious faces and way of going
about a thing, as if everyone of them was the whole crew. I once read a
bit of poetry called the 'Ancient Mariner,' to old Jacobs, who by-the-by
is something of a breed betwixt the two kinds, and his remark was: 'That
old chap warn't used to hoisting altogether with a run, your honour! By
his looks I'd say he was bred where there was few in a watch, and the
watch-tackle laid out pretty often for an eke to drag down the
fore-tack.'

"As I was riding down to Croydon in Surrey, where my mother and sister
had gone to live, I fell in with a sample of the hard shifts the
men-o'-war's-men were put to in getting across from harbour to some
merchant port, when all their money was chucked away. It was at a little
town called Bromley, where I brought to by the door of a tavern and had
a pail for the horse, with a bottle of cider for myself at the open
window, the afternoon being hot. There was a crowd of townspeople at the
other end of the street, country bumpkins and boys--women looking out at
the windows, dogs barking, and children shouting--the whole concern
bearing down upon us.

"'What's all this?' said I to the ostler.

"'Don't know, sir,' said he, scratching his head; ''tis very hodd, sir!
That corner _is_ rather a sharp turn for the coach, sir, and she do
sometimes run over a child there, or somethink. But 'tain't her time
yet! Nothink else hever 'appens 'ere, sir.'

"As soon as I could hear or see distinctly for the confusion, I observed
the magnet of it to be a party of five or six regular blue-jackets, a
good deal battered in their rig, who were roaring out sea-songs in grand
style as they came along, leading what I thought at first was a bear.
The chief words I heard were what I knew well. 'We'll disregard their
tommy-hawks, likewise their scalping-knives--and fight alongside of our
mates to save our precious lives--like British tars and sowldiers in the
North Americay!'

"On getting abreast of the inn door, and finding an offing with good
holding-ground, I suppose, they hove to and struck up the 'Buffalo,'
that finest of chants for the weather forecastle with a spanking
breeze, outward bound, and the pilot lately dropped:

          "Come, all you young men and maidens, that _wishes_ for to sail,
            And I will let you hear of where you must a-roam;
          We'll embark into a ship which her taups'ls is let fall,
            And all unto an ileyand where we never will go home;
          Especiallye you _ladies_ that's anxious for to rove--
            There's _fishes_ in the sea, my love, likewise the buck an'
            doe,
          We'll lie down--on the _banks_--of yon pleasant shadye gro-ove,
    Through the wild woods we'll wander and we'll chase the
    buffalo--ho--ho--
    We'll chase the buffalO!

"I really couldn't help laughing to see the slapping, big-bearded
fellows, like so many foretopmen, showing off in this manner--one
mahogany-faced thoroughbred leading, the rest thundering in at the
chorus, with a tremendous stress on the 'Lo--ho--ho,' that made the good
Bromley folks gape. As to singing for money, however, I knew no true tar
with his members whole would do it; and I supposed it to be merely some
'spree ashore,' until the curious-looking object from behind was lugged
forward by a couple of ropes, proving to be a human figure above six
feet high, with a rough canvas cover as far as the knees. What with
three holes at the face, and the strange colour of the legs, which were
bare--with a pair of turned-up India shoes, and the whole shape like a
walking smoke-funnel over a ship's caboose--I was puzzled what they
would be at. The leading tar immediately took off his hat, waved it
round for a clear space, and gave a hem! while he pointed to the
mysterious creature. 'Now my lads!' said he, 'this here wonderful bein'
is a savitch we brought aboard of us from the Andyman Isles, where he
was caught one mornin' paddling round the ship in a canoe made out of
the bark of a sartain tree. Bein' the ownly spice of the sort brought to
this country as yet is, and we havin' run short of the needful to take
us to the next port, we expects every lady and gemman as has the
wherewithal will give us a lift by consideration of this same cur'ous
sight, and doesn't----' 'Heave ahead, Tom, lad!' said another
encouragingly, as the sailor brought up fairly out of breath. 'Doesn't
want no man's money for nou't d' ye see, but all fair an' above board.
We're not agoin' to show this ere sight excep' you makes up
half-a-guinea amongst ye--arter that all hands may see shotfree--them's
the articles!' 'Ay, ay, Tom, well said, old ship!' observed the rest;
and, after a considerable clinking of coin amongst the crowd, the
required sum was poured, in pence and sixpences, into Tom's hat. 'All
right!' said he, as soon as he had counted it--'hoist away the
tarpaulin, mates!' For my part, I was rather surprised at the rare
appearance of this said savage, when his cover was off--his legs and
arms naked, his face streaked with yellow, and both parts the colour of
red boom-varnish; his red hair done up in a tuft, with feathers all
round it, and a bright feather tippet over his shoulders, as he stood,
six feet in his yellow slippers, and looking sulkily enough at the
people. 'Bobbery puckalow!' said the nautical head-showman, and all at
once up jumped the Andaman islander, dancing furiously, holding a
little Indian _punkah_ over his head, and flourishing with the other
hand what reminded me strongly of a ship's top-maul--shouting
'Goor--goor--gooree!' while two of the sailors held on by the ropes. The
crowd made plenty of room, and Tom proceeded to explain to them very
civilly, that 'in them parts 'twas so hot the natives wouldn't fight,
save under a portiable awning.' Having exhibited the points of their
extraordinary savage, he was calmed again by another uncouth word of
command, when the man-o'-war's-man attempted a further _traverse_ on the
good Bromley folks, for which I gave him great credit. 'Now, my lads and
lasses,' said he, taking off his hat again, 'I s'pose you're all British
subjects and Englishmen!' at which there was a murmur of applause. 'Very
good, mates all!' continued the foretopman, approvingly. 'Then, in
course, ye knows as how whatsomever touches British ground is _free_!'
'Britons never, never shall be slaves!' sung out a boy, and the
screaming and hurrahing was universal. Tom stuck his tongue in his cheek
to his messmates, and went on: 'Though we was all pressed ourselves, and
has knocked about in sarvice of our king and country, an' bein' poor
men, we honours the flag, my lads!' 'Hoorah! hoorah! hoor-r-ray!' 'So
you see, gemmen, my shipmates an' me has come to the resolve of lettin'
this here wild savidge go free into the woods--though bein' poor men, d'
ye see, we hopes ye'll make it up to us a bit first! What d' ye say, all
hands?--slump together for the other guinea, will ye, and off he goes
this minute, and--Eh? what d' ye say, shipmates?' 'Ay, ay, Tom, sink
the damage, too!' said his comrades; 'we'll always get a berth at
Blackwall, again!'

"'Stand by to ease off his tow-lines, then,' said Tom--'now look sharp
with the shiners there, my lads--ownly a guinea!' 'No, no!' murmured the
townspeople, 'send for the constable--we'll all be scalped and murdered
in our beds!--no, no, for God's sake, mister sailors!' A grocer ran out
of his door to beg the tars wouldn't think of such a thing, and the
village constable came shoving himself in with the beadle. 'Come, come,'
said the constable, in a soothing style, while the beadle tried to look
big and blustering, 'you mustn't do it, my good men--not on no
desideration, _here_--in his majesty's name. Take un on to the next
parish--I horder all good subjects to resist me!' '_What!_' growled the
foretopman, with an air of supreme disgust, 'han't ye no feelin's for
liberty hereaway? Parish be blowed! Bill, my lad, let go his moorings,
and give the poor wretch his nat'ral freedom!' 'I'm right down ashamed
on my country,' said Bill. 'Hullo, shipmates, cast off at once, an'
never mind the loss--I hasn't slept easy myself sin' he wor cotched!'
'Nor me either,' said another; 'but I'm feared he'll play old Harry when
he's loose, mate.'

"I had been watching the affair all this time from inside, a good deal
amused, in those days, at the trick--especially so well carried out as
it was by the sailors. 'Here, my fine fellows,' said I at last, 'bring
him in, if you please, and let me have a look at him.' Next minute in
came the whole party, and supposing from my plain clothes I was merely
some longshore traveller, they put their savage through his dance with
great vigour. 'Wonderfully tame he's got, your honour!' said the topman;
'it's nothing to what he does if you freshens his nip.' 'What does he
eat? 'I asked, pretending not to understand the hint. 'Why, nought to
speak on, sir,' said he; 'but we wonst lost a boy doorin' the cruise,
nobody know'd how--though 'twas thought he went o'board, some on us had
our doubts.' 'Curiously tatooed, too,' I said; 'I should like to examine
his arm.' 'A bit obstropolous he is, your honour, if you handles him.'
'Never mind,' said I, getting up and seizing the wrist of the Andaman
islander, in spite of his grins; and my suspicions were immediately
fulfilled by seeing a whole range of familiar devices marked in blue on
the fellow's arm--amongst them an anchor with a heart transfixed by a
harpoon, on one side the word 'Sal,' and on the other 'M. O., 1811.'
'Where did you steal this top-maul, you rascal?' said I, coolly looking
in his face; while I noticed one of the men overhauling me suspiciously
out of his weather-eye, and sliding to the door. 'I didn't stale it at
all,' exclaimed the savage, giving his red head a scratch, ''twas Bill
Green there--by japers! whack pillalew, mates, I'm done!' 'Lor! oh lor!'
said Bill himself, quite crestfallen, 'if I didn't think 'twas him.
We're all pressed again, mate, it's _the_ leftenant.' 'Pressed, bo'?'
said Tom; 'more luck, I wish we was--but they wouldn't take ye now for a
bounty, you know.' Here I was fain to slack down and give a hearty
laugh, particularly at recognising Bill, who had been a shipmate of
Jacobs and myself in the old _Pandora_, and was nicknamed 'Green'--I
believe from a small adventure of ours--so I gave the men half-a-guinea
a piece to carry them on. 'Long life to your honour,' said they; and
said Tom, 'If I might make so bould, sir, if your honour has got a ship
yet, we all knows ye, sir, and we'd enter, if 'twas for the North Pole
itself.' 'No, my lad,' said I, 'I'm sorry to say I have not got so far
yet. Dykes, my man, can you tell me where your old messmate Jacobs has
got to?' 'Why, sir,' replied Bill, 'I did hear he was livin' at Wapping
with his wife, where we means to give him a call too, sir.' 'Good day,
your honour,' said all of them, as they put on their hats to go, and
covered their curiosity again with his tarpaulin. 'I'm blessed, Bill,'
said Tom, 'but we'll knock off this here carrivanning now, and put
before the wind for Blackwall,' 'Won't you give your savage his freedom,
then?' I asked. 'Sartinly, your honour,' replied the roguish foretopman,
his eye twinkling as he saw that I enjoyed the joke. 'Now, Mick, my lad,
ye must run like the devil so soon as we casts ye off.' 'Oh, by the
powers, thry me!' said the Irishman; 'I'm sick tired o' this cannible
minnatchery. By the holy Moses, though, I must have a dhrop o' dew in
me, or I'll fall!' Mick accordingly swigged off a noggin of gin, and
declared himself ready to start. 'Head due nor'-east from the sun, Mick,
and we'll pick you up in the woods, and rig you out all square again,'
said the captain of the gang, before presenting himself to the mob
outside. 'Now, gemmen and ladies all,' said the sailor coolly, 'ye see
we're bent on givin' this here poor unfort'nate his liberty--an' bein'
tould we've got the law on our side, why, we means to do it. More by
token, there's a leftenant in the Roy'l Navy aboard there, as has made
up the little salvage-money, bein' poor men, orderin' us for to do
it--so look out. If ye only gives him a clear offing, he'll not do no
harm. Steady, Bill--slack off the starboard sheet, Jack--let go--all!'
'Oh! oh!--no! no!--for God's sake!' screamed the bystanders, as they
scuttled off to both hands--'shame, shame--knock un down, catch
un--tipstaff, beadle!' 'Hurrah!' roared the boys, and off went Mick
O'Hooney in fine style, flourishing his top-maul, with a wild
'hullaloo,' right away over a fence, into a garden, and across a field
towards the nearest wood. Everybody fell out of his way as he dashed on;
then some running after him, dogs barking, and the whole of the seamen
giving chase with their tarpaulins in their hands, as if to drive him
far enough into the country. The whole thing was extremely rich, seen
through the open air from the tavern window, where I sat laughing till
the tears came into my eyes, at Jack-tars' roguishness and the stupefied
Kent rustics, as they looked to each other; then at the sailors rolling
away full speed along the edge of the plantation where the outlandish
creature had disappeared; and, lastly, at the canvas cover which lay on
the spot where he had stood. They were actually consulting how to guard
against possible inroads from the savage at night, since he might be
lurking near, when I mounted and rode off; I daresay even their hearing
that I was a live and real lieutenant would cap the whole story.

"Croydon used to be a pretty, retired little town, you know, so quiet
and old-fashioned that I enjoyed the unusual rest of it, and the very
look of the canal, the market-place, the old English trees and
people--by comparison with even the _Iris's_ white decks, and her
circumference of a prospect, so different every morning or hour of the
day. My mother and my sister Jane were so kind--they petted me so, and
were so happy to have me down to breakfast and out walking, even to feel
the smell of my cigar--that I hardly knew where I was. I gave them an
account of the places I had seen, with a few tremendous storms and a
frigate-fight or two, instead of the horse-marine stories about mermaids
and flying Dutchmen I used to pass upon them when a conceited
youngster. Jane, the little gipsy, would listen with her ear to a large
shell, when we were upon sea matters, and shut her eyes, saying she
could fancy the things so well that way. Or was it about India, there
was a painted sandal-wood fan carved in open-work like the finest lace,
which she would spread over her face, because the seeing through it, and
its scent, made her feel as if she were in the tropics. As for my
mother, good simple woman, she was always between astonishment and
horror, never having believed that lieutenants would be so heartless as
to mast-head a midshipman for the drunkenness of a boat's crew, nor
being able to understand why, with a gale brewing to seaward, a captain
tried to get his ship as far as he could from land. The idea of my going
to sea again never entered her head, the terrible war being over, and
the rank I had gained being invariably explained to visitors as at least
equal to that of a captain amongst soldiers. To the present day, this is
the point with respect to seafaring matters on which my venerated and
worthy parent is clearest: she will take off her gold spectacles,
smoothing down her silver hair with the other hand, and lay down the law
as to reform in naval titles, showing that my captain's commission puts
me on a level with a military colonel. However, as usual, I got tired by
little and little of this sort of thing; I fancy there's some peculiar
disease gets into a sailor's brain that makes him uneasy with a firm
floor and no offing beyond; certainly the country about Croydon was to
my mind, at that time, the worst possible--all shut in, narrow lanes,
high hedges and orchards, no sky except overhead, and no horizon. If I
could only have got a hill, there would have been some relief in having
a look-out from it. Money I had no want of; and as for fame or rank, I
neither had the ambition, nor did I ever fancy myself intended for an
admiral or a Nelson; all my wish was to be up and driving about, on
account of something that was _in_ me. I always enjoyed a good breeze as
some do champagne; and the very perfection of glory, to my thinking, was
to be the soul of a gallant ship in a regular Atlantic howler: or to
play at long bowls with one's match to leeward, off the ridges of a sea,
with both weather and the enemy to manage. Accordingly, I wasn't at all
inclined to go jogging along in one of your easy merchantmen, where you
have nothing new to find out; and I only waited to hear, from some
friends who were bestirring themselves with the Board, of a ship where
there might be something to do. These were my notions in those days,
before getting sobered down, which I tell you for the sake of not
seeming such a fool in this said adventure.



CHAPTER III


"Well, one evening my sister Jane and I went to a race-ball at Epsom,
where, of course, we saw all the 'beauty and fashion,' as they say, of
the country round, with plenty of the army men, who were in all their
glory, with Waterloo and all that; we two or three poor nauticals being
quite looked down upon in comparison, since Nelson was dead, and we had
left ourselves nothing at the end to fight with. I even heard one belle
ask a dragoon 'what uniform that was--was it the horse-artillery corps?'
'Haw!' said the dragoon, squinting at me through an eyeglass, and then
looking with one eye at his spurs, and with the other at his partner,
'not at all sure! I _do_ think, after all, Miss----, 'tis the--the
marine body--a sort of amphibious animals! They weren't with _us_,
though, you know--_couldn't_ be, indeed, though it _was Water_loo! Haw!
haw! you'll excuse the joke, Miss----?' 'Ha! ha! how extremely witty,
Captain----!' said the young lady, and they whirled away towards the
other end of the hall. I never felt more inclined to pull a fellow's
nose, till all of a sudden my head turned, and I forgot there was such a
thing as a dragoon in the world, for I saw what I thought the loveliest
young creature ever crossed my eyes, coming out of the refreshment-room
with two ladies, an old and an elderly one. The first was finely dressed
out, and I set her down for an aunt, she was so unlike; the other for a
governess. The young lady was near sixteen to appearance, all in white.
There were many beauties in the ball-room you would have called
handsomer; but there was something about her altogether I could compare
to nothing else but the white figure-head of the _Iris_, sliding gently
along in the first curl of a breeze, with the morning sky far out on the
bow--curious as you may think it, ladies! Her hair was brown, and her
complexion remarkably pale notwithstanding; while her eyes were as dark
blue, too, as--as the ocean near the line, that sometimes, in a clear
calm, gets to melt till you scarcely know it from the sky. 'Look,
Edward!' whispered my sister, 'what a pretty creature! She can't be
English, she looks so different from everybody in the room. And such
pearls in her hair! such a beautifully large diamond in that brooch! Who
can she be, I wonder?' I was so taken up, however, that I never
recollected at all what Jane said till at night, in thinking the matter
over; and then a whole breeze of whisperings seemingly came from every
corner of the cloakroom, of 'Who is she?' 'Who can she be?' 'Who's her
father?' and so on, which I remembered to have heard. I only noticed at
the time that somebody said she was the daughter of some rich East India
nabob or other, just come home. A post-captain who was present--one of
Collingwood's flag-lieutenants--went up to the old _chaperon_, whom he
seemed to know, and got into talk with her: I found afterwards she was
an admiral's widow. In a little I saw him introduced to the young lady,
and ask her to dance; I fancied she hung back for a moment, but the next
she bowed, gave a slight smile to the captain's gallant sea-fashion of
deep respect to the sex, and they were soon swimming away in the first
set. Her dancing was more like walking with spread wings upon air than
upon planks with one's arms out, as the captain did. I'd have given my
eyes, not to speak of my commission and chances to come, to have gone
through that figure with _her_. When the captain had handed her to her
seat again, two or three of the dragoons sauntered up to Lady Somers's
sofa: it was plain they were taken; and after conversing with the old
lady, one of them, Lord Somebody, as I understood, got introduced, in
his turn, to the young beauty. As may be supposed, I kept a look-out for
his asking her to dance, seeing that, if she had done so with one of the
embroidered crew, and their clattering gear, I'd have gone out that
instant, found out the Waterloo fellow next day, and, if not shot
myself, have drilled him with an anchor button for a bullet, and run off
in the first craft I could get. The cool, easy, impertinent way this
second man made his request, though--just as if he couldn't be refused,
and didn't care about it--it was as different from the captain of the
_Diomede's_ as red from blue! My heart went like the main-tack blocks
thrashing when you luff too much; so you may guess what I felt to see
the young lady, who was leaning back on the sofa, give her head a
pettish sort of turn to the old one, without a word, as much as to say
she didn't want to. 'My love!' I heard the old lady say, 'I fear you are
tired! My Lord, your lordship must excuse Miss Hyde on this occasion, as
she is in delicate health!' The dragoon was a polite nobleman, according
to his cloth; so he kept on talking and smiling, till he could walk off
without seeming as if he'd got his sabre betwixt his feet; but I fancied
him a little down by the head when he did go. All the time the young
beauty was sitting with her face as quiet and indifferent as may be,
only there was a sparkle in her blue eyes, and in nothing else but the
pearls in her hair, as she looked on at the dancing; and, to my eye,
there was a touch of the rose came out on her pale cheek, clear though
it was before the dragoon spoke to her. Not long after, an oldish
gentleman came out with a grey-haired old general from the
refreshment-room: a thin yellow-complexioned man he was, with no
whiskers and bald forehead, and a bilious eye, but handsome, and his
face as pompous and solemn-looking as if he'd been First Lord, or had
got a whole court-martial on his shoulders for next day. I should have
known him from a thousand for a man that had lived in the East, were it
nothing but the quick way he looked over his shoulder for a servant or
two, when he wanted his carriage called--no doubt just as one feels when
he forgets he's ashore, like I did every now and then, looking up out to
windward, and getting a garden-wall or a wood slap into one's eyesight,
as 'twere. I laid down the old gentleman at once for this said nabob; in
fact, as soon as a footman told him his carriage was waiting, he walked
up to the young lady and her companions, and went off with them, a
steward and a lady patroness convoying them to the break of the steps.
The only notion that ran in my head, on the way home that night with my
sister, was, 'By heavens! I might just as well be in love with the bit
of sky at the end of the flying-jibboom!' and all the while the
confounded wheels kept droning it into me, till I was as dizzy as the
first time I looked over the fore-royal-yard. The whole night long I
dreamt I was mad after the figure-head of the _Iris_, and asked her to
dance with me, on which she turned round with a look as cold as water,
or plain 'No.' At last I caught firm hold of her and jumped overboard;
and next moment we were heaving on the blue swell in sight of the black
old Guinea coast--when round turned the figure and changed into Miss
Hyde; and the old nabob hauled us ashore upon a beautiful island, where
I woke and thought I was wanted on deck, although it was only my mother
calling me.

"All I had found out about them was, that Sir Charles Hyde was the name
of the East Indian, and how he was a Bengal judge newly come home; where
they lived, nobody at the ball seemed to know. At home, of course, it
was so absurd to think of getting acquainted with a rich Indian judge
and his daughter, that I said no more of the matter; although I looked
so foolish and care-about-nothing, I suppose, that my mother said to
Jane she was sure I wanted to go to sea again, and even urged me to
'take a trip to the Downs, perhaps.' As for going to sea, however, I
felt I could no more stir, _then_, from where I was, than with a best
bower down, and all hands drunk but the captain. There was a favourite
lazy spot of mine near the house, where I used to lie after dinner, and
puff away amongst the grass, at the back of a high garden-wall with two
doors in it, and a plank across a little brook running close under them.
All round was a green paddock for cows; there was a tall tree at hand,
which I climbed now and then half-mast high, to get a look down a long
lane that ran level to the sky, and gave you a sharp gush of blue from
the far end. Being a luxurious dog in those days, like the cloth in
general when hung up ashore, I used to call it 'The Idler's Walk,' and
'The Lazy Watch,' where I did duty somewhat like the famous bo'sun that
told his boy to call him every night and say the captain wanted him,
when he turned over with a polite message, and no good to the old
tyrant's eyes.

"Well, one afternoon I was stretched on the softest bit of this retreat,
feeling unhappy all over, and trying to think of nothing in particular,
as I looked at the wall and smoked my cheroot. Excuse me if I think
that, so far as I remember, there is nothing so consolatory, though it
can't of course cure one, as a fine Manilla for the 'green sickness,' as
our foremast fellows would say. My main idea was that nothing on earth
could turn up to get me out of this scrape, but I should stick
eternally, with my head sails shivering aback, or flapping in a
sickening dead calm. It was a beautiful hot summer afternoon, as quiet
as possible, and I was weary to death of seeing that shadow of the
branch lying against the white wall, down to the keyhole of the nearest
door. All of a sudden I heard the sweetest voice imaginable, coming down
the garden as it were, singing a verse of a Hindostanee song I had heard
the Bengal girls chant with their pitchers on their heads at the well,
of an evening:

    La li ta la, ta perisi,
    La na comalay ah sahm-rè,
    Madna, ca--rahm
    Ram li ta, co-ca-la lir jhi!
    La li ta la, vanga-la ta perisi.

'Coc-coka-cokatoo!' screamed a harsh voice, which I certainly could
distinguish from the first. 'Pretty cockatoo!' said the other coaxingly;
and the next minute the large pink-flushed bird itself popped his head
over the top-stones above the door, floundering about with his throat
foul of the silver chain fast to his leg, till he hung by his beak on my
side of the wall, half-choked, and trying to croak out--'Pretty--pretty
cocky!' Before I had time to think, the door opened, and, by heavens!
there was my very charmer herself, with the shade of the green leaves
showered over her distressed face. She had scarcely seen me before I
sprang up and caught the cockatoo, which bit me like an imp incarnate,
till the blood ran down my fingers as I handed it to its mistress, my
heart in my mouth, and more than a quarter-deck bow in my cap. The young
lady looked at me first in surprise, as may be supposed, and then, with
a smile of thanks that set my brain all afloat, 'Oh, dear me!' exclaimed
she, 'you are hurt!' '_Hurt!_' I said, looking so bewildered, I suppose,
that she couldn't help laughing. 'Tippoo is very stupid,' continued she,
smiling, 'because he is out of his own country, I think. You shall have
no sugar to-night, mister cockatoo, for biting your friends.'

"'Were you--ever in India--madam?' I stammered out. 'Not since I was a
child,' she answered; but just then I saw the figure of the nabob
sauntering down the garden, and said I had particular business and must
be off. 'You are very busy here, sir?' said the charming young creature
archly. 'You are longing till you go to sea, I daresay--like Tippoo and
me.' 'You?' said I, staring at the keyhole whilst she caught my eye, and
blushed a little, as I thought 'Yes, we are going--I long to see India
again, and _I_ remember the sea, too, like a dream.'

"Oh, heavens! thought I, when I heard the old gentleman call out--'Lota!
Lota, _beebee-lee_! _Kabultah, meetoowah?_'[6] and away she vanished
behind the door, with a smile dropped to myself. The tone of the judge's
voice, and his speaking Hindoo, showed he was fond of his daughter at
any rate. Off I went, too, as much confused as before, only for the new
thought in my head. 'The sea, the sea!' I shouted, as soon as out of
hearing, and felt the wind, as 'twere, coming from aft at last, like the
first ripple. 'Yes, by George!' said I, 'outward bound for a thousand.
I'll go, if it was before the mast.' All at once I remembered I didn't
know the ship's name, or when. Next day, and the next again, I was
skulking about my old place, but nobody appeared--not so much as a
shadow inside the keyhole. At last one evening, just as I was going
away, the door opened; I strolled slowly along, when, instead of the
charming Lota, out came the flat brown turban of an ugly _kitmagar_,
with a moustache, looking round to see who was there. '_Salaam_, sah'b,'
said the brown fellow, holding the door behind him with one paw. '_Burra
judge sahib bhote bhote salaam_ send uppiser[7] sah'b--'ope not
_dekhe_[8] after sahib cook-maid.' '_Joot baht, hurkut-jee_,'[9] said I,
laughing. 'Sah'b been _my_ coontree?' inquired the Bengalee more
politely. '_Jee_, yes,' I said, wishing to draw him out 'I Inglitsh can
is-peek,' continued the dark footman, conceitedly; 'ver well sah'b, but
one misfortune us for come i-here. Baud _carry_ make--plenty too much
_poork_--too much graug drink. Termeric--chili--banana not got--not
coco-tree got--pah! Baud coontree, too much i-cold, sah'b?' 'Curse the
rascal's impudence,' I thought, but I asked him if he wasn't going back.
'Yis, sah'b, _such baht_[10] Al-il aláh? Mohummud _burra Meer-kea_. Bote
too much i-smell, _my_ coontree.' 'When are you going?' I asked,
carelessly. 'Two day this time, sah'b.' 'Can you tell me the name of the
ship?' I went on. The _kitmagar_ looked at me slyly, stroked his
moustache, and meditated; after which he squinted at me again, and his
lips opened so as to form the magic word, _Buckshish_? '_Jee_,' said I,
holding out a crown piece, 'the ship's name and the harbour?' 'Se,'
began he; the coin touched his palm--'ring'; his fingers closed on it,
and 'patahm,' dropped from his leathery lips. 'The _Seringapatam_?' I
said. '_Ahn_, sah'b.' 'London, eh?' I added; to which he returned
another reluctant assent, as if it wasn't paid for, and I walked off.
However, I had not got round the corner before I noticed the figure of
the old gentleman himself looking after me from the doorway; his worthy
_kitmagar_ salaaming to the ground, and no doubt giving information how
the 'cheep uppiser' had tried to pump him to no purpose. The nabob
looked plainly as suspicious as if I had wanted to break into his house,
since he held his hand over his eyes to watch me out of sight.

  [6] Little girl! Do you hear, sweet one?

  [7] Officer.

  [8] Look.

  [9] 'Tis a lie, you scoundrel.

  [10] That is true.

"At night, I told my mother and sister I should be off to London next
day for sea. What betwixt their vexation at losing me, and their
satisfaction to see me more cheerful, with talking over matters, we sat
up half the night. I was so ashamed, though, to tell them what I
intended, considering what a fool's chase it would seem to anyone but
myself, that I kept all close; and, I am sorry to say, I was so full of
my love-affair, with the wild adventure of it, the sea, and everything
besides, as not to feel their anxiety enough. How it was to turn out I
didn't know; but somehow or other I was resolved I'd contrive to make a
rope if I couldn't find one; at the worst, I might carry the ship, gain
over the men, or turn pirate and discover an island. Early in the
morning I packed my traps, drew a cheque for my prize-money, got the
coach, and bowled off for London, to knock up Bob Jacobs, my sea
godfather; this being the very first step, as it seemed to me, in making
the plan feasible. Rough sort of confidant as he may look, there was no
man living I would have trusted before him for keeping a secret. Bob was
true as the topsail sheets; and if you only gave him the course to
steer, without any of the 'puzzlement,' as he called the calculating
part, he would stick to it, blow high, blow low. He was just the fellow
I wanted for the lee brace, as it were, to give my weather one a
purchase, even if I had altogether liked the notion of setting off all
alone on what I couldn't help suspecting was a sufficiently harebrained
scheme as it stood; and, to tell the truth, it was only to a
straightforward, simple-hearted tar like Jacobs that I could have
plucked up courage to make it known. I knew he would enter into it like
a reefer volunteering for a cutting out, and make nothing of the
difficulties--especially when a love matter was at the bottom of it: the
chief question was how to discover his whereabouts, as Wapping is rather
a wide word. I adopted the expedient of going into all the tobacco-shops
to inquire after Jacobs, knowing him to be a more than commonly hard
smoker, and no great drinker ashore. I was beginning to be tired out,
however, and give up the quest, when, at the corner of a lane near the
docks, I caught sight of a little door adorned with what had apparently
been part of a ship's figure-head--the face of a nymph or nereid, four
times as large as life, with tarnished gilding, and a long wooden pipe
in her mouth that had all the effect of a bowsprit, being stayed up by a
piece of marline to a hook in the wall, probably in order to keep clear
of people's heads. The words painted on its two head-boards, as under a
ship's bow, were 'Betsy Jacobs,' and 'licensed' on the top of the door;
the window was stowed full of cakes of cavendish, twists of negrohead,
and coils of pigtail; so that, having heard my old shipmate speak of a
certain Betsy, both as sweetheart and partner, I made at once pretty
sure of having lighted, by chance, on his very dry-dock, and went in
without more ado. I found nobody in the little shop, but a rough voice,
as like as possible to Jacobs' own, was chanting the sea-song of 'Come,
cheer up, my lads, 'tis to glory we steer,' in the back-room, in a
curious sleepy kind of drone, interrupted every now and then by the suck
of his pipe, and a mysterious thumping sound, which I could only account
for by the supposition that the poor fellow was mangling clothes, or
gone mad. I was obliged to kick on the counter with all my might, in
competition, before an eye was applied from inside to the little window;
after which, as I expected, the head of Jacobs was thrust out of the
door, his hair rough, three days' beard on his chin, and he in his shirt
and trousers. '_Hisht!_' said he, in a low voice, not seeing me
distinctly for the light, 'you're not calling the watch, my lad! Hold on
a bit, and I'll serve your orders directly.' After another stave of
'Hearts of oak are our ships,' etc., in the same drawl, and a still more
vigorous thumping than before, next minute out came Bob again; with a
wonderful air of importance, though, and drawing in one hand, to my
great surprise, the slack of a line of 'half-inch,' on which he gave now
and then a tug and an ease off, as he came forward, like a fellow
humouring a newly-hooked fish. 'Now, then, my hearty!' said he, shading
his eyes with the other hand, 'bear a----' 'Why, Jacobs, old ship,' I
said, 'what's this you're after? Don't you know your old apprentice,
eh?'

"Jacobs looked at my cap and epaulette, and gave out his breath in a
whistle, the only other sign of astonishment being that he let go his
unaccountable-looking piece of cord. 'Lord bless me, Master Ned!' said
he--'I axes pardon, Lieutenant Collins, your honour!' 'Glad you know me
this time, Bob, my lad, 'said I, looking round--'and a comfortable berth
you've got of it, I daresay. But what the deuce _are_ you about in
there? _You_ haven't a savage, _too_, like some friends of yours I fell
in with a short time ago! Or perhaps a lion or a tiger, eh, Jacobs?'
'No, no, your honour--lions be blowed!' replied he, laughing, but
fiddling with his hands all the while, and standing between me and the
room, as if half-ashamed. ''Tis ownly the tiller-ropes of a small craft
I am left in charge of, sir. But won't ye sit down, your honour, till
such time as my old 'ooman comes aboard to relieve me, sir? Here's a
_cheer_, and may be you'd make so free for to take a pipe of prime
Americane, your honour?' 'Let's have a look into your cabin though, Bob,
my man,' said I, curious to know what was the secret; when all at once a
tremendous squall from within let me sufficiently into it. The old salt
had been rocking the cradle, with a fine little fellow of a baby in it,
and a line made fast to keep it in play when he served the shop. 'All
the pitch is in the fire now, your honour,' said he, looking terribly
nonplussed; 'I've broached him to, and he's all aback till his mammy
gets a hold of him.' 'A good pipe the little rogue's got though,' said
I; 'and a fine child he is, Jacobs--do for a bo'sun yet.' 'Why, yes,
sir,' said he, rubbing his chin with a gratified smile, as the urchin
kicked, threw out his arms, and roared like to break his heart; 'I'm
thinking he's a sailor all over, by natur', as one may say. He don't
like a calm no more nor myself; but that's the odds of being ashore,
where you needs to keep swinging the hammocks by hand, instead of havin'
it done for you, sir.' In the midst of the noise, however, we were
caught by the sudden appearance of Mistress Jacobs herself--a
good-looking young woman, with a market-basket full of bacon and greens,
and a chubby little boy holding by her apron, who came through the shop.
The first thing she did was to catch up the baby out of the cradle, and
begin hushing it, after one or two side-glances of reproach at her
husband, who attempted to cover his disgrace by saying, 'Betsy, my girl,
where's your manners? why don't you off hats to the leftenant?--it's my
wife, your honour.' Mrs Jacobs curtsied twice very respectfully, though
not particularly fond of the profession, as I found afterwards; and I
soon quite gained her smiles and good graces by praising her child, with
the remark that he was too pretty ever to turn out a sailor; for, sharp
as mothers are to detect this sort of flattery to anybody else's
bantling, you always find it take wonderfully with respect to their own.
Whenever Jacobs and I were left to ourselves, I struck at once into my
scheme--the more readily for feeling I had the weather hand of him in
regard of his late appearance. It was too ridiculous, the notion of one
of the best foretopmen that ever passed a weather-earing staying at home
to rock his wife's cradle and attend the shop; and he was evidently
aware of it as I went on. It was a little selfish, I daresay, and Mrs
Jacobs would perhaps have liked me none the better for it; but I
proposed to him to get a berth in the Indiaman, sail with me for Bombay,
and stand by for a foul hitch in something or other. 'Why, sir,' said
he,' it shan't be said of Bob Jacobs he were ever the man to hang back
where a matter was to be done that must be done. I doesn't see the whole
bearings of it as yet, but ownly you give the orders, sir, and I'll
stick to 'em.' ''Tis a long stretch between this and Bombay, Jacobs,'
said I, 'and plenty of room for chances.' 'Ay, ay, sir, no doubt,' said
he, 'your honour can _talk_ the length of the best bower cable.' 'More
than that, Bob, my lad,' said I, 'I know these Company men; if they once
get out of their regular jog, they're as helpless as a pig adrift on a
grating; and before they grow used to sailing out of convoy, with no
frigates to whip them in, depend upon it Mother Carey will have to teach
them a new trick or two.' 'Mayhap, sir,' put in Jacobs, doubtfully, 'the
best thing 'ud be if they cast the ship away altogether, as I've seen
done myself for the matter of an insurance. Ye know, sir, they lets it
pass at Lloyd's now the war's over, seein' it brings customers to the
underwriters, if so be ownly it don't come over often for the profits.
Hows'ever it needs a good seaman to choose his lee-shore well, no
doubt.' 'Oh!' answered I, laughing, 'but the chances are, all hands
would want to be Robinson Crusoe at once! No, no--only let's get aboard,
and take things as they come.' 'What's the ship's name, sir?' inquired
Jacobs, sinking his voice, and looking cautiously over his shoulder
toward the door. 'The _Seringapatam_--do you know her?' I said. 'Ay, ay,
sir, well enough,' said he, readily--'a lump of a ship she is, down off
Blackwall in the stream, with two more--country-built, and tumbles home
rather much from below the plank-sheer for a sightly craft, besides
being flat in the eyes of her, and round in the counter, just where she
shouldn't, sir. Them Par_chee_ Bombay shipwrights _does_ clap on a lot
of onchristien flummeries and gilt mouldings, let alone
quarter-galleries fit for the king's castle!' 'In short, she's
tea-waggon all over,' said I, 'and just as slow and as leewardly, to
boot, as teak can make her?' 'Her lines is not that bad, though, your
honour,' continued Jacobs, 'if you just knocked off her poop--and she'd
bear a deal o' beating for a sea-boat. They've got a smart young mate,
too; for I seed him t'other day a-sending up the yards, and now she's as
square as a frigate, all ready to drop down river.' The short and long
of it was, that I arranged with my old shipmate, who was fully bent on
the cruise, whether Mrs Jacobs should approve or not, that, somehow or
other, we should both ship our hammocks on board of the
_Seringapatam_--he before the mast, and I wherever I could get. On going
to the agent's, however--which I did as soon as I could change my
uniform for plain clothes--I found, to my great disappointment, from a
plan of the accommodations, that not only were the whole of the
poop-cabins taken, but those on the main-deck also. Most of the
passengers, I ascertained, were ladies, with their children and nurses,
going back to India, and raw young cadets, with a few commercial and
civilian nondescripts; there were no troops or officers, and room
enough, except for one gentleman having engaged the entire poop, at an
immense expense, for his own use. This I, of course, supposed was the
nabob, but the clerk was too close to inform me. 'You must try another
ship, sir,' said he, coolly, as he shut the book. 'Sorry for it, but we
have another booked to sail in a fortnight. A1, sir; far finer
vessel--couple of hundred tons larger--and sails faster.' 'You be
hanged!' muttered I, walking out; and a short time after I was on board.
The stewards told me as much again; but on my slipping a guinea into the
fingers of one, he suddenly recollected there was a gentleman in
state-room No. 14, starboard side of the main skylight, who, being
alone, might perhaps be inclined to take a chum, if I dealt with him
privately. 'Yankee, sir, he is,' said the steward, by way of a useful
hint. However, I didn't need the warning, at sight of the individual's
long nose, thin lips, and sallow jaw-bones, without a whisker on his
face, and his shirt-collar turned down, as he sat overhauling his traps
beside the carronade, which was tethered in the state-room, with its
muzzle through the port. He looked a good deal like a jockey beside his
horse; or, as a wit of a schoolboy cadet said afterwards, the Boston
gentleman, calling himself Daniel C. Snout, Esquire--like Daniel praying
in the lion's den, and afraid it might turn round and roar. I must say
the idea didn't quite delight me, nor the sight of a fearful quantity of
baggage which was stowed up against the bulkhead; but after introducing
myself and objecting to the first few offers, I at last concluded a
bargain with the American for a hundred guineas, provisions exclusive,
which, he remarked, was 'considerable low, I prognosticate, mister!'
'However,' said he, 'I expect you're a conversationable individual a
little: I allowed for that, you know, mister. One can't do much of a
trade at sea--that's a fact; and I calculate we'll swap information by
the way. I'm water-pruff, I tell you, as all our nation is. You'll not
_settle_ at Bumbay, I reckon, mister?' But though I meant to pay my new
messmate in my own coin at leisure afterwards, and be as frank and open
as day with him--the only way to meet a Yankee--I made off at present as
fast as possible to bring my things aboard, resolving to sleep at
Blackwall, and then to stow myself out of sight for sick, until there
was somebody to take off the edge of his confounded talk.

"Next afternoon, accordingly, I found myself once more afloat, the
Indiaman dropping down with the first breeze. The day after, she was
running through the Downs with it pretty strong from north-east, a fair
wind--the pilot-boat snoring off close-hauled to windward, with a white
spray over her nose; and the three _dungaree_ topsails of the
_Seringapatam_ lifting and swelling, as yellow as gold, over her white
courses in the blue Channel haze. The breeze freshened till she rolled
before it, and everything being topsyturvy on deck, the lumber in the
way, the men as busy as bees setting her ship-shape--it would have been
as much as a passenger's toes were worth to show them from below; so
that I was able to keep by myself, just troubling my seamanship so much
as to stand clear of the work. Enjoy it I did, too; the first sniff of
the weather was almost enough to make me forget what I was there for. I
was every now and then on the point of fisting a rope, and singing out
to the men; till at length I thought it more comfortable, even for me,
to run up the mizzen shrouds when everybody was forward, where I stowed
myself out of sight in the cross-trees.

"About dusk, while I was waiting to slip down, a stronger puff than
ordinary made them clue up the mizzen-royal from deck, which I took upon
myself to furl offhand--quick enough to puzzle a couple of boys that
came aloft for the purpose, especially as, in the meantime, I had got
down upon the topsail-yard-arm out of their notice. When they got on
deck again, I heard the little fellows telling some of the men, in a
terrified sort of way, how the mizzen-royal had either stowed itself, or
else it was Dick Wilson's ghost, that fell off the same yard last
voyage--more by token, he used always to make fast the gaskets just that
fashion. At night, however, the wind having got lighter, with half
moonlight, there was a muster of some passengers on deck, all sick and
miserable, as they tried to keep their feet, and have the benefit of
air--the Yankee being as bad as the worst. I thought it wouldn't do for
me to be altogether free, and accordingly stuck fast by Mr Snout, with
my head over the quarter-deck bulwarks, looking into his face, and
talking away to him, asking all sorts of questions about what was good
for sea-sickness, then giving a groan to prevent myself laughing, when
the spray splashed up upon his 'water-pruff' face, he responding to it
as Sancho Panza did to Don Quixote, when the one examined the other's
mouth after a potion. All he could falter out was, how he wondered I
could speak at all when sick. 'Oh! oh dear!' said I with another howl.
'Yes--'tis merely because I can't _think_! And I daresay you are
thinking so much you can't _talk_--the sea is so full of meditation, as
Lord Byron----oh--oh--this water will be the death of me!' 'I feel as
if--the whole--tarnation Atlantic was--inside of my bowels!' gasped he
through his nostrils. 'Oh!' I could not help putting in, as the ship and
Mr Snout both gave a heave up, 'and coming out of you!'

"During all this time I had felt so sure of my ground as scarcely to
trouble myself about the Bengal judge and his treasure of a daughter;
only in the midst of the high spirits brought up by the breeze, I hugged
myself now and then at the thought of their turning out by degrees as
things got settled. Nobody would suspect the raw chap I looked, with
smooth hair and a high collar, of any particular cue: I must say there
was a little vanity at the bottom of it, but I kept thinking more and
more how snug and quietly I'd enjoy all that went on, sailing on one
tack with the passengers and the old nabob himself, and slipping off
upon the other when I could come near the charming young Lota. The
notion looks more like what some scamp of a reefer, cruising ashore,
would have hit upon, than suits my taste nowadays; but the cockpit had
put a spice of the imp in me, which I never got clear of till this very
voyage, as you'll see, if we get through the log of it.

"The first time I went down into the cuddy was that evening to tea,
where all was at sixes and sevens like the decks; the lamps ill-trimmed,
stewards out of the way, and a few lads trying to bear up against their
stomachs by the help of brandy and biscuits. The main figure was a
jolly-looking East Indian, an indigo-planter, as he turned out, with a
bald forehead, a hook nose, and his gills covered with white whiskers
that gave him all the cut of a cockatoo. He had his brown servant
running about on every hand, and being an old stager, did his best to
cheer up the rest; but nothing I saw showed the least sign of the party
I looked after. I was sure I ought to have made out something of them by
this time, considering the stir such a grandee as Sir Charles Hyde would
cause aboard; in fact, there didn't seem to be many passengers in her,
and I began to curse the lying scoundrel of a _kitmagar_ for working
'Tom Cox's traverse' on me, and myself for being a greater ass than I'd
fancied. Indeed, I heard the planter mention by chance that Sir Charles
Hyde, the district judge, had come home last voyage from India in this
very _Seringapatam_, which, no doubt, I thought, put the Mahommedan
rascal up to his trick.

"I was making up my mind to an Indian trip, and the pure pleasure of
Daniel Catoson Snout, Esquire's, company for two blessed months, when
all of a sudden I felt the ship bring her wind a-quarter, with a furious
plunge of the Channel water along her bends, that made every landman's
bowels yearn as if he felt it gurgle through him. One young fellow, more
drunk than sick, gave a wild bolt right over the cuddy table, striking
out with both arms and legs as if afloat, so as to sweep half of the
glasses down on the floor. The planter, who was three cloths in the wind
himself, looked down upon him with a comical air of pity as soon as he
had got cushioned upon the wreck. 'My dear fellow,' said he, 'what do
you feel--eh?' 'Feel, you--old blackguard!' stammered the griffin, 'I
feel _everything_! Goes through--through my vitals as if--I was a
con--founded _whale_! C--can't stand it!' 'You've drunk yourself
aground, my boy!' sung out the indigo-man; 'stuck fast on the coral--eh?
Never mind, we'll float you off, only don't flounder that way with your
tail!--by George, you scamp, you've ruined my toe--oh dear!' I left the
planter hopping round on one pin, and holding the gouty one in his hand,
betwixt laughing and crying; on deck I found the floating Nab Light
bearing broad on our lee-bow, with Cumberland Fort glimmering to
windward, and the half-moon setting over the Isle of Wight, while we
stood up for Portsmouth Harbour. The old captain, and most of the
officers, were on the poop for the first time, though as stiff and
uncomfortable from the sort of land-sickness and lumber-qualms that
sailors feel till things are _in_ their places, as the landsmen did
until things were _out_ of them. The skipper walked the weather side by
himself and said nothing; the smart chief officer sent two men, one
after another, from the wheel for 'cows' that didn't know where their
tails were; and as for the middies, they seemed to know when to keep out
of the way. In a little, the spars of the men-of-war at Spithead were to
be seen as we rose on a sea; before the end of the first watch, we were
running outside the Spit Buoy, which was nodding and plashing with the
tide in the last slant of moonshine, till at last we rounded to, and
down went the anchor in five fathoms, off the Motherbank. What the
Indiaman wanted at Portsmouth I didn't know; but, meantime, I had given
up all hopes of the nabob being in her, and the only question with me
was, whether I should take the opportunity of giving all hands the slip
here, even though I left my Yankee friend disconsolate, and a clear
gainer by dollars beyond count.

"Early next morning there were plenty of wherries looking out for fares;
so, as the Indiaman was not to sail before the night-ebb, when the
breeze would probably spring up fair again, I hailed one of them to go
ashore at the point, for a quiet stroll over Southsea Common, where I
meant to overhaul the whole bearings of the case, and think if it
weren't better to go home, and wait the Admiralty's pleasure for a ship.
I hadn't even seen anything of Jacobs, and the whole hotel-keeping ways
of the Indiaman began to disgust me, or else I should have at once
decided to take the chance of seeing Lota Hyde somehow or other in
India; but, again, one could scarcely endure the notion of droning on in
a frigate without so much as a Brest lugger to let drive at. It was
about six o'clock; the morning-gun from the guard-ship off the dock-yard
came booming down through the harbour, the blue offing shone like
silver, and the green tideway sparkled on every surge, up to where they
were flashing and poppling on the copper of the frigates at Spithead. I
noticed them crossing yards and squaring; the farthest out hove up
anchor, loosed fore-topsail, cast her head to starboard, and fired a gun
as she stood slowly out to sea under all sail, with a light air
freshening abeam. The noble look of her almost reconciled me of itself
to the service, were it for the mere sake of having a share in driving
such a craft between wind and water. Just then, however, an incident
turned up in spite of me, which I certainly didn't expect, and which had
more, even than I reckoned at the time, to do with my other adventure;
seeing that it made me, both then and afterwards, do the direct opposite
of what I meant to do, and both times put a new spoke in my wheel, as we
say at sea here.

"I had observed a seventy-four, the _Stratton_, lying opposite the Spit
Buoy, on board of which, as the waterman told me, a court-martial had
been held the day before, where they broke a first lieutenant for
insulting his captain. Both belonged to one of the frigates: the captain
I had seen, and heard of as the worst tyrant in the navy; his ship was
called a 'perfect hell afloat'; that same week one of the boys had tried
to drown himself alongside, and a corporal of marines, after coming
ashore and drinking a glass with his sweetheart, had coolly walked down
to the point, jumped in between two boats and the jetty, and kept
himself under water till he was dead. The lieutenant had been dismissed
the service, and as I recognised the name, I wondered whether it could
actually be my schoolfellow, Tom Westwood, as gallant a fellow and as
merry as ever broke biscuit. Two sail-boats, one from around the
_Stratton's_ quarter, and the other from over by Gosport, steering on
the same tack for Southsea, turned my attention as I sauntered down to
the beach. The bow of the nearest wherry grounded on the stones as I
began to walk quicker towards the town-gates, chiefly because I was
pretty ready for an early breakfast at the old Blue Posts, and also
because I had a slight notion of what these gentlemen wanted on Southsea
Beach at odd hours. Out they jumped, however--one man in naval undress,
another a captain in full fig, the third a surgeon--coming right athwart
my course to bring me to. The first I almost at once remembered for the
notorious captain of the _Orestes_, or _N'Oreste_, as the midshipmen
called her, from her French build and her character altogether. 'Hallo,
you sir!' said the other captain, decidedly, 'you must stand still.'
'Indeed,' said I; 'and why so, if you please?' 'Since you _are_ here, we
don't intend allowing you to pass for some few minutes.' 'And what if I
should do as I choose, sir?' I asked. 'If you stir two steps, sir, I
shall shoot you,' replied the captain, who was one of the bullying
school. 'Oh, very well,' I said, rather confounded by his impertinence,
'then I shall stay'; and I accordingly stood stock-still, with my arms
folded, until the other boat landed a party of two. They were in plain
clothes; nor did I give them any particular heed till the seconds had
stationed their men, when the captain of the _Orestes_ had his back to
me, and his antagonist stood directly facing. As his pale resolved
features came out before me with the morning sun on them, his lips
together, and his nostrils large, I recognised my old friend Westwood.
The captain had broke him the day before, and now had accepted his
challenge, being a known dead shot, while the lieutenant had never fired
a bullet in cold blood; there was, no doubt, a settled purpose in the
tyrant to crush the first man that had dared to thwart his will.
Westwood's second came forward and mentioned to the other that his
friend was still willing to withdraw the words spoken in first heat, and
would accordingly fire in the air. 'Coward!' shouted the captain of the
_Orestes_ immediately, 'I shall shoot you through the heart!' 'Sir,'
said I to his second, 'I _will not_ look on; and if that gentleman is
shot, I will be witness against you both as murderers.' I dropped down
behind a stone out of the line of fire, and to keep my eyes off the
devilish piece of work, though my blood boiled to knock the fellow down
that I was speaking to. Another minute, and the suspense was too great
for me to help looking up. Just at that moment I saw how _set_
Westwood's face was; he was watching his enemy with an eye that showed
to me what the other's must be--seeking for his life. The seconds gave
the word to each other in the middle, and dropped two white
handkerchiefs at once with their hands together; I caught the flash of
Westwood's pistol, when, to my astonishment, I saw the captain of the
_Orestes_ next moment jerk up his arm betwixt me and the sky, fire in
the air, and slowly fall back--he was dead!--shot through the heart. One
glance at his face gave you a notion of the devilish meaning he had had;
but what was my surprise when his second walked up to Westwood, and said
to him, 'Sir, you are the murderer of Captain Duncombe--my friend fired
in the air as you proposed.' 'You are mistaken, sir,' answered Westwood,
coldly; 'Captain Duncombe sought my life, and I have used the privilege
of self-defence.' 'The surgeon is of my opinion,' said the other; 'and I
am sorry to say that we cannot allow you to depart.' 'I shall give
myself up to the authorities at once,' said Westwood. 'We have only your
word for that, which I must be permitted, in such a case, to doubt,'
replied the captain, whose evident wish it was to detain Westwood by
force or threats while he sent off his surgeon. The worst of it was, as
I now found, that since the court-martial and the challenge, an
Admiralty order had arrived, in consideration of several gallant acts
during the war, as well as private representation, restoring him to the
service; so that he had, in fact, called out and shot his superior
officer. As for the charge now brought forward, it was too absurd for
any to believe it, unless from rage or prejudice; the case was bad
enough, at any rate, without it.

"In the meantime I had exchanged a word or two with Westwood's friend;
after which, lifting a second pistol which lay on the sand, I went up to
the captain. 'Sir,' said I, 'you used the freedom, a little ago, of
forcing me into your concerns, and I have seen the end of it. I have now
got to tell you, having watched your conduct, that either you must
submit to be made fast here for a bit, else, by the God that made me,
I'll shoot you through the head.' The captain looked at me, his surgeon
sidled up to him; and being a man near my own size, he suddenly tried to
wrench the pistol out of my hands. However, I had him the next moment
under my knee, while Westwood's second secured the little surgeon, and
took a few round sea-turns about his wrists and ankles with a
neckerchief. My companion then gave me a hand to do the same with his
superior officer--the medico all the time singing out like a bull, and
the captain threatening--while the dead body lay stark and stiff behind
us, the eyes wide, the head down, and the breast up, the hand clenching
a pistol, just as he had fallen. Westwood stood quite unconscious of
everything we did, only he seemed to be watching the knees drawn up as
they stiffened, and the sand-flies gathering about the mouth. 'Shall we
clap a stopper between their teeth?' said the second to me--he had been
at sea, but who he was I never knew--'the surgeon will be heard on the
walls, he bellows so!' 'Never mind,' said I, 'we'll just drop them
beyond tide-mark--the lee of the stones yonder.' In fact, from the noise
the tide was making, I question if the shots could have been heard even
by the watermen, who had prudently sheered out of sight round a point. I
couldn't help looking, when we had done this, from the captain's body to
his own frigate, as she was sluing round head on to us, at single
anchor, to the turn of tide, with her buoy dancing on the brisk blue
sweep of water, and her figure-head shining in the sunlight. As soon as
we had covered over the corpse with tangle, Westwood started as if we
had taken something away from him, or freed him of a spell. 'Westwood!'
said I, laying my hand on his shoulder, 'you _must_ come along with
me.' He said nothing, but followed us quietly round to the wherries,
where I told the watermen that the other party had gone a different way
to keep clear, and we wanted them to pull for Gosport. At Gosport we had
Westwood rigged out in black clothes, his hair cropped, and whiskers
shaved off--as I thought it the fittest thing for his case, and what he
could best carry out, to go aboard of the Indiaman with me as if he were
a missionary. Poor fellow! he didn't well know _what_ he was. So, having
waited till dusk, to let the watermen lose our track, and his friend
having posted off for Dover, he and I both got safe over to the
_Seringapatam_, where I had him stowed in the first convenient
state-room I could find. I had actually forgot, through the excitement,
all about having missed my first chase; from one hour to another I kept
watching the tide-marks ashore, and the dog-vane on the ship's quarter,
all impatience to hear the word given for 'all hands up anchor,' and
hoping our worthy friends on Southsea Beach were still lying within
hearing of the Channel flood. At last the order did come; round went the
capstan merrily enough, till she had hove short and up with fore-topsail
set; the anchor was catted, and off went the lumbering old craft through
the Solent about midnight, before a fine rattling breeze, in company
with six or seven others, all running for the Needles. They were loosing
the Indiaman's royals when I heard a gun from the guard-ship in harbour;
and a little after up went a rocket, signalling to some frigate or other
at Spithead; away they kept at it, with lights from the telegraph to her
mast-head, for several minutes. 'All's up!' thought I, 'and both
Westwood and myself are in for it!'

"Next morning at daybreak, accordingly, no sooner did the dawn serve to
show us Portland Light going out on the weather quarter, with a whole
fleet of Channel craft and Mediterranean brigs about us, we surging
through it as fast as the Indiaman could go--than _there_ was a fine
forty-four standing off and on right in our course, in fact the very
identical _Orestes_ herself! She picked us out in a moment--bore up,
stood across our weather-bow, and hailed. 'What ship's that?' said the
first luff in her mizzen rigging.

"'The _Seringapatam_, Honourable Company's ship, Captain Williamson!'
sung out our first officer, with his cap off. 'Heave to, till I send a
boat aboard of you,' hailed the naval man, and there we bobbed to each
other with mainyards backed. In a few minutes a master's mate with gig's
crew was under our lee-quarter, and the mate came on deck. 'Sir,' said
he, 'the Port Admiral will thank you to deliver these despatches for Sir
Charles Hyde, who I believe is aboard.' 'Certainly, sir,' said the first
officer, 'they shall be given to him in an hour's time.'

"'Good morning, and a fine voyage,' said the master's mate politely; and
I took the occasion of asking if Captain Duncombe were on board the
_Orestes_. 'No, sir,' answered the midshipman, 'he happens to be ashore
at present.' I have seldom felt so relieved as when I saw the frigate
haul round her main-yard, and go sweeping off to leeward, while we
resumed our course. By noon we had sunk the land about Start Point, with
a breeze which it was no use wasting at that season to take
'departures'; and as the afternoon set in hazy, we were soon out of
sight of old England for good. For my part, I was bound eastward at last
with a witness, and, like a young bear again, 'all my troubles before
me.'

"There is two bells though," interrupted the narrator, starting. "Let us
see what sort of night it is before the ladies retire."



CHAPTER IV


The evening after that on which the commander of the _Gloucester_
Indiaman introduced his adventures, nearly the same party met on the
poop to hear them continued.

"Well then," began Captain Collins, leaning back against a stanchion of
the quarter-rail, with folded arms, legs crossed, and his eyes fixed on
the weather-leech of the mizzen-topsail to collect his thoughts; "well
then, try to fancy the _Seringapatam_ in chase of the _Gloucester_; and
if I _do_ use a few extra seaterms, I consider the ladies good enough
sailors for them already. At any rate, just throw a glance aloft now and
then, and our good old lady will explain herself; to her own sex, she
ought to be as good as a dictionary, with signs for the hard words!

"The second day out we had the wind more from seaward, which broke up
the haze into bales of cloud, and away they went rolling in for the Bay
of Biscay; with a longer wave and darker water, and the big old Indiaman
surged over it as easily as might be, the blue breeze gushing right into
her main-tack through the heave of the following seas, and the tail of
the trade-wind flying high above her trucks in shreds and patches.
Things got more ship-shape on deck; anchor-flukes brought in-board on
the head-rail, and cables stowed away--the very best sign you can have
of being clear of the land. The first officer, as they called him, was a
good-looking fellow, that thought no small-beer of himself, with his
glossy blue jacket and Company's buttons, white trousers, and a gold
thread round his cap; he had it stuck askew to show how his hair was
brushed; and changed his boots every time he came on deck. Still he
looked like a sailor, if but for the East-India brown on his face, and
there was no mistake about his knowing how to set a sail, trim yards, or
put the ship about; so that the stiff old skipper left a great deal to
him, besides trusting him for a first-rate navigator that had learned
head-work at a naval school. The crew were to be seen all mustering
before tea-time in the dog-watch, with their feet just seen under the
foot mat of the fore-course, like actors behind a playhouse curtain--men
that I warrant you had seen every country under heaven amongst them--as
private as possible, and ready to enjoy their pots of tea upon the
forecastle, as well as their talk.

"However, all this was nothing to me, as I saw no sign of the passengers
I had counted on. I could do little for poor Westwood but leave him to
mope below, over his own thoughts.

"If the Indian judge really chanced to be on board after all, he
evidently fought shy of company, and perhaps meant to have his own
mess-table under the poop as long as the voyage lasted; scarcely any of
the ladies had apparently got their sea-qualms over yet, and, for all I
knew, _she_ might not be with him, even if he were there; or, if she
were, her father seemed quite Turk enough to keep her boxed up with
jalousie-blinds, Calcutta fashion, and give her a walk in the middle
watch, with the poop tabooed till morning. The jolly, red-faced
indigo-planter was the only one that tried to get up anything like
spirit at the table; indeed, he would have scraped acquaintance with
me, if I had been in a mood for it; all I did was to say 'Yes' and 'No,'
and to take wine with him. 'Poor fellow!' said he, turning to three or
four of the cadets, that stuck by him like pilot-fish to an old shark,
'he's thinking of his mother at home, I daresay.' The fools thought this
was meant for a joke, and began to laugh. 'Why, you unfledged griffins
you,' said the planter, 'what d'ye see to nicker at, like so many
jackals in a trap? D'ye suppose one thinks the less of a man for having
a heart to be sick in, as well as a stomach--eh?' 'Oh, don't speak of
it, Mr Rollock!' said one. 'Come, come, old boy,' said another, with a
white moustache on his lip, ''twon't do for you to go the sentimental,
you know.' 'Capsize my main-spanker, 'tis too funny, though,' put in a
fellow who wore a glazed hat on deck, and put down all the ropes with
numbers on paper, as soon as he had done being sick. The planter leant
back in his chair, looked at them coolly, and burst out a-laughing.
'Catch me ever "going home" again,' said he. 'Of all the absurd
occasions for impudence with the egg-shell on its head coming out, hang
me if these fifteen thousand miles of infernal sea-water ain't the
worst. India for ever!--that's the place to _try_ a man. He's either
sobered or gets room to work there; and just wait, my fine fellows, till
I see _you_ on the Custom-house _Bunda_ at Bombay, or setting off up
country--you're all of you the very food for _sircars_ and _coolies_.
That quiet lad there, now, soft as he looks'--meaning me--'I can tell by
his eye he won't be long a griff--he'll do something. I tell you what,
as soon as he's tasted his first mango-fish, he'll _understand_ the
country. Why, sir,' said he again, smacking his lips, ''tis worth the
voyage of itself--you begin a new existence so to speak. I'll be bound
all this lot o' water don't contain one single mango-fish. Remember,
boys, I promised you all a regular blow-out of mango-fish, and
_florican_ with bread-sauce, whenever you can get across to Chuckbully
Factory.' 'Blow, good breeze, then; blow away the main jib!' said the
nautical young gentleman; 'I'll join you, old fellow!' 'Not the best way
to bring it about, though,' said the indigo-planter, good-naturedly, not
knowing but there _was_ such a sail on the ship.

"The yellow setting sun was striking over the starboard quarter-boat,
and the Bay of Biscay lay broad down to leeward for a view--a couple of
large craft, with all studding-sails set before the wind, making for
land, far enough off to bring their canvas in a piece, and begin to look
blue with the air--one like a milk-woman with pitchers and a hoop; the
other like a girl carrying a big bucketful of water, and leaning the
opposite way to steady herself. There was one far to north-east, too, no
more than a white speck in the grey sky; and the land-cloud went up over
it into so many sea-lions' heads, all looking out of their manes. The
children clapped their hands and laughed; and the ladies talked about
the vessels, and thought they saw land--Spain or the Pyrenees, perhaps.
However, it wasn't long before my American friend Snout caught sight of
me in the midst of his meditations, as he turned bolt round on his toes
to hurry aft again. 'The fact is, mister,' said he, '_I'm_ riled a
little at _the_ tarnation pride of you Britishers. There now,' said he,
pointing at the blaze of the sun to westward, with his chin, 'there's
_a_ consolation. I calculate the sun's just over Noo-York, which I
expect to give you old country folks considerable pain.'

"'No doubt,' said I, with a sigh; 'one can't help thinking of a banker
run off with ever so much English gold.' 'You're a sensible chap, you
are. It's _a_ right-down asylum _for_ oppressed Eur_o_pains--that can't
be denied.' 'And Africans, too,' I put in. 'Indy, now,' said he; 'I
reckon there's a sight of dollars made in that country--you don't s'pose
I'm goin' out there for _nothing_? We'll just take it out o' your hands
yet, mister. I don't ought to let you into the schim till I know you
better, you see; but I expect to want a sort o' company got up before we
land. There's one of your nabobs now came into the ship at Possmouth,
with a whole tail of niggurs dressed up----' 'And a lady with him, I
think?' said I, as coolly as I could. 'I'll somehow open on that chap
about British tyranny, I guess, after gettin' a little knowledge out of
him. We'd just _rise_ the niggurs, if they had _not_ such a right-down
cur'ous _my_thullogy--but I tell you now, mister, that's one of the very
p'ints I expect to meet. Miss'naries won't do it so slick off in two
thousand years, I kinder think, as this identical specoolation will in
_ten_--besides payin' like Peruvain mines, which the miss'nary line
don't. I'm a regoolar down-easter, ye see--kinder piercin' into a
subject, like our nation in gin'ral--and the whull schim hangs together
a little, I calculate, mister?' 'So I should think, Mr Snout, indeed,' I
said. Here the American gave another chuckle, and turned to again on his
walk, double quick, till you'd have thought the whole length of the poop
shook, when who should I see with the tail of my eye but my friend the
_kitmagar_ salaaming to Mr Snout by the break of the quarter-deck. The
Yankee seemed rather taken aback at first, and didn't know what to make
of him. 'S'laam sah'b,' said the dark servant with an impudent look, and
loud enough for me to hear, as I stepped from aft. 'Judge sahib i-send
genteeman salaam--say too much hivvy boot he get--all same as
_illimphant_. S'pose master not so much loud walk _this_ side?'
'_Well!_' broke out the American, looking at the Bengalee's flat turban
and moustache, as if he were too great a curiosity to be angry with,
then turning on his heel to proceed with his walk. 'Now, mister,' said
he to me, 'that's what I call an incalculable imp_u_dent black; but he's
the first I ever saw with hair on his lip, it's a fact.' 'Master not
_mind_?' said the _kitmagar_, raising his key next time Mr Snout wheeled
round. 'Judge sahib burra burra buhadoorkea!--ver' great man!' 'Low
niggur!' said Mr Snout, tramping away aft; 'there's your British
regoolations, I say, young man--niggurs bààing on the quarter-deck, and
free-born citizens put off it!' '_Bhote khoob_, mistree!' squeaked out
the native again; 'burra judge sahib not to i-sleep apter he dine, eh?
Veri well; I tell the sahib, passiger mistree moor stamp-i-stamp all the
moor I can say!' So off he went to report in the poop-cabin. A little
after up shot a head wrapped in a yellow bandana, just on the level of
the poop-deck, looking through the breast-rail; and the next thing I saw
was the great East-Indian himself, with a broad-flapped Manilla hat over
his topgear, and a red-flowered dressing-gown, standing beside the
binnacle with Captain Williamson. 'What the deuce, Captain Williamson,'
said the judge, with an angry glance up to the poop,' cannot I close my
eyelids after dinner for one instant--in my own private apartments,
sir--for his hideous noise? Who the deuce _is_ that person there--eh,
eh?' 'He's an American gentleman, I believe, Sir Charles,' replied the
captain. '_Believe_, sir,' said the judge; 'you ought to _know_ every
individual, I think, Captain Williamson, whom you admitted into this
vessel. I expressly stipulated for quiet, sir--I understood that no
suspicious or exceptionable persons should travel in the same conveyance
with _my_ suwarry. I'd have taken the whole ship, sir!' 'I've no more to
do than tell him the regulations aboard, Sir Charles,' said the captain,
'and the annoyance will cease.' '_Tell_ him, indeed!' said the judge, a
little more good-humouredly. 'Why, captain, the man looks like a
sea-pirate. You should have taken only such raw griffins as that young
lad on the other side. Ho, _kitmagar_!' '_Maharaj?_' said the footman,
bowing down to the deck. '_Slippers lao!_' '_Jee khodabund_,' answered
the native, and immediately after he reappeared from the round-house
door, with a pair of turned-up yellow slippers. 'Take them up with my
salaam to that gentleman there,' said Sir Charles, in Hindoostanee, 'and
ask him to use them.' 'Hullo!' sung out Mr Snout, on being hove-to by
the _kitmagar_, with one hand on his breast, and the other holding the
slippers, 'this won't do! You'd better not _rile_ me again, you cussed
niggur you. Out o' my way!' There they went at it along the poop
together, Mr Snout striding right forward with his long legs, and the
_kitmagar_ hopping backward out of his way, as he tried to make himself
understood; till, all at once, the poor darkey lost his balance at the
ladderhead, and over he went with a smash fit to have broken his neck,
if the captain's broad back hadn't fortunately been there to receive it.
The rage of Sir Charles at this was quite beyond joking; nothing else
would satisfy him but the unlucky Yankee's being shoved off the poop by
main force, and taken below--the one stamping and roaring like an old
buffalo, and the other testifying against all 'aristocratycal
t_y_ranny.'

"At eight bells again I found it a fine, breezy night, the two upper
mates walking the weather quarter-deck in blue-water style, six steps
and a look to windward, then a wheel round, and, now and then, a glance
into the binnacle. I went aft and leant over the _Seringapatam's_ lee
quarter, looking at the white back-wash running aft from her bows, in
green sparks, into the smooth alongside, and the surge coming round her
counter to meet it. Everything was set aloft that could draw, even to a
starboard main-topmast stunsail; the high Indiaman being lighter than if
homeward-bound, and the breeze strong abeam, she had a good heel-over to
port; but she went easily through the water, and it was only at the
other side you heard it rattling both ways along the bends. The shadow
of her went far to leeward, except where a gleam came on the top of a
wave or two between the sails and under their foot. Just below the sheer
of the hull, aft, it was as dark as night, though now and then the light
from a port struck on it and went in again; but every time she sank, the
bight of her wake from astern swelled up away round the counter, with
its black side as smooth as a looking-glass. I kept peering into it, and
expecting to see my own face, while all the time I was very naturally
thinking of one quite different, and felt uneasy till I should actually
see her. 'Confound it,' I thought, 'were it only a house, one might walk
round and round it till he found out the window.' I fancied her
bewitching face through the garden-door, as clearly as if I saw it in
the dark head of the swell; but I'd have given more only to hear that
imp of a cockatoo scream once--whereas there was nothing but the water
working up into the rudder-case; the pintles creaking, and the
tiller-ropes cheeping as they traversed; and the long welter of the sea
when the ship eased down, with the surgeon and his friends walking about
and laughing up to windward. From that again, I ran on putting things
together, till, in fact, Jacobs' notion of a shipwreck seemed by far the
best. No doubt Jacobs and Westwood, with a few others, would be saved,
while I didn't even object much to the old nabob himself, for
respectability's sake, and to spare crape. But, by Jove, wouldn't one
bring him to his bearings soon enough there? Every sailor gets hold of
this notion some night-watch or other, leaning over the side, with
pretty creatures aboard he can scarce speak to otherwise; and I was
coiling it down so fast myself, at the moment, that I had just begun to
pitch into the nabob about our all being Adam's sons and daughters,
under a knot of green palm-trees, at the door of a wooden house, half
thatched with leaves, when I was brought up with a round turn by seeing
a light shining through the hazy bull's-eye in the deck where I stood.
No doubt the sweet girl I had been thinking of was actually there, and
going to bed; I stretched over the quarter, but the heavy mouldings were
in the way against seeing more than the green bars of the after
window--all turned edgeways to the water, where the gallery hung out
like a corner turret from the ship's side. Now and then, however, when
she careened a little more than ordinary, and the smooth lee swell went
heaping up opposite, I could notice the light through the venetians from
the state-room come out upon the dark water in broad bright lines, like
the grate across a fire, then disappearing in a ripple, till it was gone
again, or somebody's shadow moved inside. It was the only lighted window
in the gallery, and I looked every time it came as if I could see in;
when at last, you may fancy my satisfaction, as, all of a sudden, one
long slow heave over of the ship showed me the whole bright opening of
the port, squared out of her shadow, where it shone upon the glassy
round of the swell. 'Twas as plain as from a mirror in a closet--the
lighted gallery window with its frame swung in, a bit of the deck-roof I
was standing on, and two female figures at the window--mere dark shapes
against the lamp. I almost started back at the notion of their seeing
me, but away lengthened the light on the breast of the swell, and it
sank slowly down into a black hollow, as the Indiaman eased up to
windward. Minute by minute, quite breathless, did I watch for such
another chance; but next time she leant over as much, the port had been
closed, and all was dark; although those few moments were enough to send
the heart into my mouth with sheer delight. The figure I had seen,
holding with one hand by the port-sill, and apparently keeping up her
dress with the other, as if she were looking down steadily on the heave
of the sea below--it couldn't be mistaken. The line of her head, neck,
and shoulders, came out more certain than if they hadn't been filled up
with nothing but a black shadow; it was just Lota Hyde's, as she sat in
the ball-room amongst the crowd, I'd have bet the _Victory_ to a bumboat
on it; only her hair hung loose on one side, while the girl behind
seemed to be dressing the other, for it was turned back, so that I saw
clear past her cheek and neck to where the lamp was, and her ear gleamed
to the light. For one moment nothing could be plainer than the glimpse
old Davy Jones gave me by one of his tricks; but the old fellow was
quite as decorous in his way as a chamber-blind, and swallowed his
pretty little bit of blab as quickly as if it had been a mermaid caught
at her morning toilet. Whenever I found there was to be no more of it
for the night, the best thing to calm one's feelings was to light a
cigar and walk out the watch; but I took care it should rather be over
the nabob's head than his daughter's, and went up to the weather side,
where there was nobody else by this time, wishing her the sweetest of
dreams, and not doubting I should see her next day.

"I daresay I should have walked out the first watch, and the second too,
if Westwood hadn't come up beside me before he turned in.

"'Why, you look like the officer of the watch, Ned!' said my friend,
after taking a glance round at the night. 'Yes--what?--a--a--I don't
think so,' stammered I, not knowing what he said, or at least the
meaning of it, though certainly it was not so deep. 'I hope not though,
Tom!' said I again; ''tis the very thing I don't want to look like!'
'You seem bent on keeping it up, and coming the innocent, at any rate,'
said he; 'I really didn't know you the first time I saw you in the
cuddy.' 'Why, man, you never saw our theatricals in the dear old _Iris_,
on the African station! I was our best female actor of tragedy there,
and _did_ Desdemona so well that the black cook, who stood for Othello,
actually cried. He said, "Nobody but 'ee dibble umself go for smudder
Missee Dasdemoner!"' 'I daresay,' said Westwood; 'but what is the need
for it _now_, even if _you_ could serve as a blind for me?' 'My dear
fellow,' said I, 'not at all--you've kept it up very well so far--just
go on.' 'Keep it up, Ned?' inquired he--'what do you mean? I've done
nothing except keep quiet from mere want of spirits.' 'So much the
better,' I said; 'I never saw a man look more like a prophet in the
wilderness; it doesn't cost you the least trouble--why you'd have done
for Hamlet in the _Iris_, if for nothing else! After all, though, a
missionary don't wear blue pilot cloth trousers, nor tie his neckerchief
as you do, Tom. You must bend a white neck-cloth to-morrow morning! I'm
quite serious, Westwood, I assure you,' continued I. 'Just think of the
suspicious look of two navy men being aboard an Indiaman, nobody knows
how! Why, the first frigate we speak, or port we touch at, they'd hand
one or both of us over at once--which I, for my part, shouldn't at all
like!' 'Indeed, Collins,' said Tom, turning round, 'I really cannot
understand _why_ you went out in her! It distresses me to think that
here you've got yourself into this scrape on my account! At least you'll
put back in the first home-bound ship we----' "'Oh!' exclaimed I,
blushing a little in the dark though, both at Westwood's simplicity, and
my not wishing to tell him my secret yet--'I'm tired of shore--I _want_
to see India again--I'm thinking of going into the _army_!' 'The _army_,
indeed!' said Westwood, laughing for the first time, 'and you still
midshipman all over. No, no--that won't do! I see your drift, you can't
deceive _me_! You're a true friend, Ned, to stand by an old schoolmate
so!' 'No, Tom!' said I; ''tis you yourself that has too kind a heart,
and more of a sailor's, all fair and above-board, than I can manage! I
_won't_ humbug _you_, at any rate--I tell you I've got a scheme of my
own, and you'll know more of it soon.' Tom whistled; however I went on
to tell him, 'The long and the short of it is, Westwood, you'll bring
both of us down by the head if you don't keep up the missionary.'
'Missionary!' repeated he; 'you don't mean to say you and Neville
intended all that long toggery you supplied my kit with, for me to sail
under _missionary_ colours? I tell you what, Ned, it's not a character I
like to cut jokes upon, much less to sham.' 'Jokes!' said I; 'there's no
joking about it; 'tis serious enough.' 'Why,' said Westwood, '_now_ I
know the reason of a person like a clergyman sighting me through his
spectacles for half an hour together, these two evenings below! This
very afternoon he called me his brother, and began asking me all manner
of questions, which I could no more answer than the cook's mate.'
'Clergyman be hanged!' said I, 'you must steer clear of him, Tom--take
care you don't bowse up your jib too much within hail of him! Mind, I
gave your name, both to the head-steward and the skipper, as the
Reverend Mr Thomas, going back to Bombay. There was nothing else for it,
Westwood,' I said, 'when you were beyond thinking for yourself. All
you've got to do with that solemn dissenting chap in the spectacles is
just to look as wise as possible, and let him know you belong to the
_Church_. And as for shamming, you needn't sham a bit--_take to it_, my
dear fellow, if that will do you good.' I said this in joke, but
Westwood seemed to ponder on it for a minute or two. 'Indeed, Collins,'
said he gravely, 'I _do_ think you're right. What do we sailors do but
give up everything in life for a mere schoolboy notion, and keep turning
up salt water for years together like the old monks did the ground; only
they grew corn and apples for their pains, and we have nothing but ever
so many dull watches and wild cruises ashore to remember! How many
sailors have turned preachers and missionaries, just because something,
by accident, as it were, taught them to put to account what you can't
help feeling now and then in the very _look_ of the sea. What does it
mean in the Scriptures, Ned, about "seeing the wonders of the Lord in
the deep?"' As Westwood said this, both of us stopped on the taffrail,
and, somehow or other, a touch of I didn't well know _what_ went through
me. I held my breath, with his hand on my arm, just at the sight I had
seen a thousand times--the white wake running broad away astern, with a
mark in the middle as if it had been torn, on to the green yeast of the
waves, then right to their black crests plunging in the dark. It was
midnight ahead, and the clouds risen aloft over where I had been looking
half-an-hour before; but the long ragged split to westward was opened
up, and a clear glaring glance of the sky, as pale as death, shot
through it on the horizon. '_I_ can't be sorry for having gone to sea,'
said Westwood again; 'but isn't it a better thing to leave home and
friends, as those men do for the sake of carrying the Gospel to the
heathen?' As soon as we wheeled round, with the ship before us, leaning
over and mounting to the heave, and her spread of canvas looming out on
the dark, my thoughts righted. 'Well,' said I, 'it may be all very well
for some--everyone to his rope; but, for my part, I think if man hadn't
been made for the sea, he couldn't have built a ship, and where would
your missionaries be _then_? You're older than I am, Westwood, or I'd
say you let some of your notions run away with you, like a Yankee ship
with her short-handed crew!' 'Oh, Ned,' said he, 'of all places in the
world for one's actions coming back on him the sea is the worst,
especially when you're an idler, and have nothing to do but count the
sails or listen to the passengers' feet on deck. These two days, now,
I've thought more than I ever did in my life. I can't get that man's
death out of my head; every time the sea flashes round me as I come from
below, I think of him--it seems to me he is lying yet by the side of the
Channel. I can't help having the notion he perhaps _fired in the air_!'
''Twas a base lie!' said I; 'if _he_ weren't _there_, you wouldn't be
here, I can tell you, Westwood.' 'I don't know how I shall ever drag
through this voyage,' continued he. 'If there were a French gunboat to
cut out to-morrow morning, or if we were only to have a calm some day in
sight of a Spanish slaver--'tis nothing but a jogging old Indiaman
though! I shall never more see the flag over my head with pride--every
respect I had was in the service!'



CHAPTER V


"Next morning was fine, and promised to be hot; the ship still with a
side-wind from near south-west, which 'twas easy to see had slackened
since midnight with a pour of rain, the sails being all wet, and coats
hung to dry in the fore-rigging; she was going little more than five or
six knots headway. The water was bluer, lifting in long waves, scarce a
speck of foam except about the ship; but instead of having broke up with
the sun, or sunk below the level, the long white clouds were risen high
to leeward, wandering away at the top, and facing us steady below out of
the sky, a pretty sure sign they had more to do. However, the Indiaman
was all alive from stem to stern; decks drying as clean as a table; hens
and ducks clucking in the coops at their food; pigs grunting; stewards
and cabin-boys going fore and aft, below and above, and the men from
aloft coming slowly down for breakfast, with an eye into the galley
funnel. Most of the passengers were upon deck, in knots all along the
poop-nettings, to look out for Corvo and Flores, the western-most of the
Azores, which we had passed before daybreak.

"'I say, Fawd!' said the warlike cadet with the moustache, all of a
sudden yawning and stretching himself, as if he'd been struck with the
thing himself, 'cussed dull this vessel already, ain't it?' 'No,' said
Ford, the nautical man; 'that's because you're not interested in the
ocean--the sea--as I am! You should study the _craft_, Bob, my boy! I'll
teach you to go aloft. I only wish it would blow harder--not a mere
capful of wind, you know, but a tempest!' 'By Jove! Fawd,' said the
other, '_how_ we _shall_ enjoy India--even that breakfast with old
Rollock! By-the-by, ain't breakfast ready yet?' These two fellows, for
my part, I took for a joint-model, just trying to hit a mid-helm
betwixt them, else I couldn't have got through it; accordingly they both
patronised me. 'Haw, Cawlins!' said one, nodding to me. 'Is that you, my
boy?' said the other; 'now, you're a fellow _never_ would make a
sailor!' 'I daresay not,' I said gravely, 'if they have all to commence
as horse-marines.' 'Now, such ignorance!' said Ford; 'marines don't ride
horses, Collins, you fellow!--how d'you think they could be _fed_ at
sea, eh?' 'Well--now--that didn't occur to me!' said I, in the cadet
key. 'Fawd, my boy, you know too much--you're quite a sea-cook!' 'Oh,
now! But I'm afraid, Winterton, I never shall land ashore in India--I
_am_ tempted to go into the navy, instead.' 'I say, Mr Ford,' put in a
fat unlicked cub of a tea-middy, grinning as he listened, 'I've put you
up to a few _rises_ aboard, but I don't think I told you we've got a
dozen or so of _donkeys_[11] below in the steerage?' 'Donkeys!--no?'
said the griffin. 'Yes,' replied the midshipman; 'they kick like mad,
though, if they get loose in a gale: why mine, now, would knock a hole
through the side in no time--I'll show you them for a glass of grog, Mr
Ford.'

  [11] Sea slang for sailors' chests.

"'Done!' and away they went. 'That fool, Fawd, you know, Cawlins, makes
one sick with his stuff; I declare he chews little bits of tobacco in
our room till he vomits as much as before,' said Winterton. 'I tell you
what, Cawlins, you're a sensible man--I'll let you into a secret! What
do you think--there's the deucedest pretty girl in the vessel, we've
none of us seen except myself; I caught a sight of her this very
mawning. She don't visit the cuddy at all; papa's proud, you pusseeve--a
nabob, in short!' 'Oh dear!' said I. 'Yes, I do assure you, quite a
bew-ty! What's to be done?--we absolutely must meet her, eh, Cawlins?'
Here I mused a bit. 'Oh!' said I, looking up again, 'shall we send a
deputation, do you think?' 'Or get up a ball, Cawlins? Hallo, what's
this?' said he, leaning over the breast-rail to look at a stout lady who
was lugging a chubby little boy of three or four, half dressed, up the
poop-stair, while her careful husband and a couple of daughters blocked
it up above. 'See, Tommy, dear!' said she, 'look at the _land_--the nice
land, you know, Tommy.' 'Come away, my love,' said her spouse, 'else
you won't see it.' Tommy, however, hung back manfully. 'Tommy don't want
wook at _yand_,' sang out he, kicking the deck; 'it all such 'mell of a
sheep, ma; me wook at 'at man wis _gate feel_. Fare other _feel_, man?
Oh, fat a ugwy man!' The honest tar at the wheel pulled up his shirt,
and looked terribly cut at this plain remark on his phiz, which
certainly wasn't the most beautiful; meanwhile he had the leech of the
mainto'gallant-sail shaking. 'Mind your helm, there,' sung out the
second mate from the capstan. 'My good man,' said the lady, 'will you be
so kind as to show us the land?' 'Ay, ay, sir,' growled he, putting up
his weather spokes; 'sorry I carn't, ma'am--please not to speak to the
man at the wheel.' Jacobs was coiling down the ropes on a carronade
close by, and stepped forward: 'Beg your ladyship's pardon,' said he,
'but if ye'll give me charge o' the youngster till you goes on the
poop--why, I've got a babby at home myself.' The stout lady handed him
over, and Jacobs managed the little chap wonderfully. This was the first
time Tommy had been on deck since leaving home, and he couldn't see over
the high bulwarks, so he fancied it was a house he was in. 'Oh, suts big
_tees, man_,' shouted he, clapping his hands as soon as he noticed the
sails and rigging aloft; 'suts warge birds in a _tees_.' 'Ay, ay, my
little man,' answered Jacobs, 'that's the wonderful _tree_. Did ye ever
hear Jack and the Bean-stalk, Tommy?' 'Oh, 'ess, to be soo, _man_,' said
Tommy, scornfully, as if he should think he had.

"'Well, little un,' said Jacobs, 'that's it, ye see. It grows up every
night afore Jack's door--and them's Jack an' his brothers a-comin' down
out on the wonderfowl country aloft, with fruits in their hands.' The
little fellow was delighted, and for going aloft at once. 'Ye must wait
a bit, Tommy, my lad, till you're bigger,' said Jacobs; 'here, I'll show
you the country, though'; so he lifted the boy up to let him see the
bright blue sea lying high away round the sky. In place of crying, as he
would have done otherwise, Tommy stared with pleasure, and finished by
vowing to get as soon big as possible, Jacobs advising him to eat always
as hard as he had been doing hitherto.

"That morning the breakfast party was in high spirits; Mr Finch, the
chief officer, rigged up to the nines in white trousers and Company's
jacket, laying himself out to please the young ladies, with whom he
began to be a regular hero. He was as blustering as a young lion, and as
salt-tongued as a Channel pilot to the men; but with the ladies, on the
poop or in the cabin, he was always twisting his sea-talk into fine
language, like what you see in books, as if the real thing weren't good
enough. He rubbed his hands at hearing the mate on deck singing out over
the skylight to trim yards, and gave a look along to the captain. 'You
must understand, ladies,' said the mate, 'this is what we mariners call
the "ladies' wind"!' 'Oh, delightful!' 'Oh, _so_ nice!' 'You sailors
_are_ so polite!' exclaimed the young ladies--'then does it actually
_belong_ to us?' 'Why it's a _Trade_ wind, Miss Fortescue!' said Ford,
the nautical cadet, venturing to put in a word; but the ladies paid no
attention to him, and the chief mate gave him a look of contempt. 'You
see, ladies, the reason is,' said the mate, in a flourishing way,
'because it's so regular, and as gentle as--as--why it wafts your bark
into the region of, you see--the----' 'The "Doldrums,"' put in the third
mate, who was a brinier individual by far, and a true seaman, but wished
to pay his compliments, too, between his mouthfuls. 'At any rate,' Finch
went on, 'it's congenial, I may say, to the feelings of the fair--you
need never touch her braces from one day to another. I just wish, Miss
Fortescue, you'd allow me the felicity of letting you see how to put the
ship about.' 'A _soldier_ might put her in stays, miss,' said the third
mate again, encouragingly, 'and out of 'em again; she's a remarkably
easy craft, owing to her----' 'Confound it, Mr Rickett,' said the first
mate, turning round to his unlucky inferior, 'you're a sight too coarse
for talking to ladies. Well the captain didn't hear you!' Rickett looked
dumfoundered, not knowing what was wrong; the old ladies frowned; the
young ones either blushed or put their handkerchiefs to their mouths,
and some took the occasion for walking off.

"The weather began to have a different turn already by the time we got
up--the clouds banking to leeward, the sea dusky under them, and the
air-line between rather bluish. Two or three lazy gulls in our wake
began to look alive and show themselves, and a whole black shoal of
porpoises went tumbling and rolling across the bows for half an hour,
till down they dived of a sudden, head-foremost, one after another in
the same spot, like so many sheep through a gap.

"My gentleman-mate was to be seen everywhere about the decks, and active
enough, I must say; the next minute he was amongst two or three young
ladies aft, as polite as a dancing-master, showing them everything in
board and out, as if nobody knew it except himself. Here a young girl,
one of Master Tommy's sisters, came skipping aft, half in a fright. 'Oh,
Miss Fortescue!' cried she, 'just think!--I peeped over into a nasty
black hole there, with a ladder in it, and saw ever so many common
sailors hung up in bags from the ceiling. Oh, what do you think, one of
them actually kissed his hand to me.' 'Only one of the watch below
awake, miss,' said the mate; 'impertinent swab--I only wish I knew which
it was.' 'Poor fellows,' said the young ladies, 'pray don't be harsh to
them; but what have they been doing?' 'Oh, nothing,' said he, with a
laugh, 'but swing in their hammocks since eight bells.' 'Then are they
so lazy as to dislike getting up to such delightful-looking
occupations?' 'Why, ma'am,' said the mate, staring a little, 'they've
been on deck last night two watches, of four hours each, I must say that
for them.' 'Dear me!' broke out the ladies; and on this the chief
officer took occasion to launch out again concerning 'the weary vigils,'
as he called them, 'which we mariners have to keep, far distant from
land, without a smile from the eyes of the fair to bless us. But,
however, the very thought of it gives courage to the sailor's manly
heart, to disregard the billows' fearful rage, and reef topsails in the
tempest's angry height!' Thought I, 'He'd much better do it before.'
However, the young ladies didn't seem to see that, evidently looking
upon the mate as the very pink of seamen! and he actually set a second
lower stud-sail, to show them how fast she could walk.

"'D'ye know, sir,' put in the third mate, coming from forward, 'I'm in
doubt it's going to be rather a sneezer, sir, if ye look round the
larboard stun-s'ls.' Sure enough, if our fine gentleman had had time,
amidst his politeness, just to cast an eye beyond his spread of cloth,
he would have noticed the clouds gathered all in a lump to
north-eastward, one shooting into another--the breast of them lowering
down to the horizon, and getting the same colour as the waves, till it
bulked out bodily in the middle. You'd have fancied the belly of it
scarce half-a-mile off from the white yard-arms, and the hollow of it
twenty--coming as stealthily as a ghost, that walks without feet after
you, its face to yours, and the skirt of its winding-sheet in
'kingdom-come' all the while. I went up on the poop, and away behind the
spanker I could see the sun gleam for one minute right on the eye of a
stray cloud risen to nor'-west, with two short streaks of red, purple,
and yellow together--what is called a 'wind-gall'; then it was gone. The
American was talking away with jovial old Rollock and Ford, who began to
look wise, and think there was mischief brewing in the weather. 'Mind
your helm there, sirrah!' sung out the mate, walking aft to the wheel,
as everything aloft fluttered. 'She won't lie her course, sir,' said the
man. 'All aback, for'ud!' hailed the men at work on the bowsprit; and
hard at it went all hands, trimming yards over and over again; the wind
freshening fast, stu'nsails flapping, booms bending, and the whole
spread of canvas in a cumber, to teach the mate not to be in such a
hurry with his absurd merchantman's side-wings next time. The last
stu'nsail he hauled down caught full aback before the wheel could keep
her away quick enough; the sheet of it hitched foul at the boom-end, and
crack through went the boom itself, with a smash that made the ladies
think it a case of shipwreck commencing. The loose scud was flying fast
out from behind the top of the clouds, and spreading away overhead, as
if it would catch us on the other side; while the clouds themselves
broke up slowly to both hands, and the north-east breeze came sweeping
along right into the three topsails, the wind one way and the sea
another. As she rounded away steadying before it, you felt the masts
shake in her till the topsails blew out full; she gave one sudden bolt
up with her stern, like an old jackass striking behind, which capsized
three or four passengers in a heap, and next minute she was surging
along through the wide heave of the water as gallantly as heart could
wish, driving a wave under her bows that swung back under the
fore-chains on both sides, with two boys running up the rigging far
aloft on each mast to stow the royals. The next thing I looked at was
poor Ford's nautical hat lifting alongside on the top of a wave, as if
it were being handed up to him; but no sooner seen, than it was down in
the hollow a quarter of a mile off, a couple of white gulls making
snatches at it and one another, and hanging over it again with a
doubtful sort of scream. Still the wind was as yet nothing to speak of
when once aft; the sea was getting up slowly, and the Indiaman's easy
roll over it made everyone cheerful, in spite of the shifts they were
put to for getting below. When the bell struck for dinner, the sun was
pretty clear, away on our starboard bow; the waves to south-westward
glittered as they rose; one side of the ship shone bright to the leech
of the mainto'gallant-sail, and we left the second mate hauling down the
jibs for want of use for them.

"The splendid pace she went at was plain, below in the cuddy, to
everybody; you felt her shoving the long seas aside with the force of a
thousand horses in one, then sweep they came after her, her stern
lifted, she rolled round, and made a floating rush ahead. In the middle
of it, something darkened the half-open skylight, where I perceived the
Scotch second mate's twisted nose and red whiskers, as he squinted down
with one eye aloft, and disappeared again; after which I heard them clue
up to'gallant-sails. Still she was driving through it rather too bodily
to let the seas rise under her; you _heard_ the wind hum off the
main-topsail, and sing through betwixt it and the main-course, the scud
flying over the skysail-mast truck, which I could see from below. The
second mate looked in once more, caught the first officer's eye with a
glance aloft, and the gallant mate left attending to the ladies to go on
deck. Down went the skylight frame, and somebody carefully threw a
tarpaulin over it, so that there was only the light from the port
windows, by which a dozen faces turned still whiter.

"The moment I shoved my head out of the booby-hatch, I saw it was like
to turn out a regular gale from nor'-east. Both courses brailed close
up, and blowing out like rows of big bladders; the three topsail-yards
down on the caps to reef, their canvas swelling and thundering on the
stays like so many mad elephants breaking loose; the wild sky ahead of
us staring right through in triumph, as it were, and the wind roaring
from aft in her bare rigging; while a crowd of men in each top were
laying out along the foot-ropes to both yard-arms. Below, they were
singing out at the reef-tackles, the idlers tailing on behind from the
cook to the cabin-boys, a mate to each gang, and the first officer, with
his hands to his mouth, before the wheel, shouting, 'Bear a hand!--d'ye
hear!----two reefs.' It did one's heart good, and I entered into the
spirit of it, almost forgiving Finch his fine puppy lingo, when I saw
him take it so coolly, standing like a seaman, and sending his bull's
voice right up with the wind into the bellies of the topsails--so I e'en
fell to myself, and dragged with the steward upon the mizzen reef-tackle
till it was chock up. There we were, running dead before it, the huge
waves swelling long and dark after us out of the mist, then the tops of
them scattered into spray; the glaring white yards swayed slowly over
aloft, each dotted with ten or a dozen sturdy figures, that leant over,
with the reef-points in their hands, waiting till the men at the
_earings_ gave the word; and Jacobs' face, as he turned round to do
so--hanging on heaven knows what at one of the ends--was as distinct as
possible against the gray scud miles off, and sixty feet above water. A
middy, without his cap, and his hair blowing out, stood holding on in
the maintop to quicken them; the first mate waved his hand for the
helmsman to 'luff a little.' The ship's head was rounded slowly up as
she rose on a big blue swell, that caught a wild gleam on it from
westward, when I happened to glance towards the wheel. I could scarcely
trust my eyes--in fact it had never been less in my mind since coming
aboard than at that very point--but outside one of the round-house
doors, which was half open, a few feet from the bulwark I leant over--of
all moments in the day, _there_ stood Lota Hyde herself at last. Speak
of faces!--why I hadn't even power to turn farther round, and if I was
half out of breath before, what with the wind and with pulling my share,
I was breathless now--all my notions of her never came up to the look of
her face at that instant. She just half stopped, as it were, at sight of
the state of things, her hands letting go of the large shawl, and her
hair streaming from under a straw hat tied down with a ribbon--her lips
parted betwixt dread and bewilderment, and her eyes wandering round till
they settled to gazing straight at the scene ahead in pure delight. I
actually looked away aloft from her again, to catch what it was she
seemed to see that could be so beautiful!--the second reef just made
fast, men crowding in to run down and hoist away with the rest, till,
as they tailed along decks, the three shortened topsails rose faster up
against the scud, and their hearty roaring chorus was as loud as the
gale. 'Keep her away, my lad,' said the mate, with another wave of his
hand; the topsails swelled fair before it, and the Indiaman gave a
plunge right through the next sea, rising easily to it, heave after
heave. The setting sun struck two or three misty spokes of his wheel
through a cloud, that made a big wave here and there glitter; the ship's
white yards caught some of it, and a row of broad backs, with their feet
stretching the foot-rope as they stowed the foresail, shone bright out,
red, blue, and striped, upon the hollow of the yellow fore-topsail, in
the midst of the gale; while just under the bowsprit you saw her black
figure-head, with his white turban, and his hand to his breast, giving a
cool salaam now and then to the spray from her bows. At that moment,
though, Lota Hyde's eye was the brightest thing I could find--all the
blue gone out of the waves was in it. As for her seeing myself, I hadn't
had space to think of it yet, when all of a sudden I noticed her glance
light for the first time, as it were, on the mate, who was standing all
the while with his back to her on the same plank of the quarter-deck.
'Down main-course!' he sung out, putting one hand in his jacket-pocket;
'down both tacks--that's it, my men--down with it!'--and out it flapped,
slapping fiercely as they dragged it by main force into the
bulwark-cleets, till it swelled steady above the main-stay, and the old
ship sprang forward faster than before, with a wild wash of the Atlantic
past her sides.

"'Another hand to the wheel, here!' said the first officer. He took a
look aloft, leaning to the rise of her bows, then to windward as she
rolled; everything looked trim and weatherly, so he stepped to the
binnacle, where the lamp was ready lighted; and it just struck me what a
smart, good-looking fellow the mate was, with his sunburnt face; and
when he went to work, straightforward, no notion of showing off.

"'Confound it, though,' thought I of a sudden, seeing _her_ eyes fixed
on him again, and then to seaward. 'Mr Macleod,' said he to the second
mate, 'send below the watch, if you please. This breeze is first-rate,
though!'

"When he turned round he noticed Miss Hyde, started, and took off his
cap with a fine bow. 'I beg pardon, ma'am,' said he, 'a trifle of wind
we have. I hope, Miss Hyde, it hasn't troubled you in the round-house?'
What Miss Hyde might have said I don't know, but her shawl caught a gust
out of the spanker, though she was in the lee of the high poop; it blew
over her head, and then loose--I sprang forward--but the mate had hold
of it, and put it over her again. The young lady smiled politely to the
mate, and gave a cold glance of surprise, as I thought, at me. I felt
that moment I could have knocked the mate down and died happy. 'Why,
sir,' said he, with a cool half-sneer, 'I fancied none of you gentlemen
would have favoured us this capful of wind--plenty of air there is on
deck, though.'

"It just flashed through my mind what sort of rig I was in--I looked
over my infernal longshore toggery, and no wonder she didn't recollect
me at all. '_Curse_ this confounded folly!' muttered I, and made a dart
to run up the poop-steps, where the breeze took me slap aback, just as
the judge himself opened the larboard door. 'Why, Violet,' exclaimed he,
surprised at seeing his daughter, 'are you exposing yourself to this
disagreeable--I declare a perfect _storm_.' 'But see, papa!' said she,
taking hold of his arm, 'how changed the sea is!--and the ship!--just
look where the sun was!' 'Get in--get in, do!' kept on her father; 'you
can see all that again in some finer place; you should have had a
servant with you, at least, Violet.' 'I shall come out oftener than I
thought, papa, I can tell you!' said she, in an arch sort of way, before
she disappeared.

"The mate touched his cap to the judge, who asked where the captain was.
''Gad, sir,' said the judge crossly, 'the floor resembles an
earthquake--every piece of furniture swings, sir; 'tis well enough for
sleeping, but my family find it impossible to dine. If this
_oolta-poolta_ continues in my apartments, I must speak to Captain
Williamson about it. He must manage to get into some other part of the
sea, where it is less rough,' saying which, he swayed himself in and
shut the door.

"I still kept thinking and picturing _her_ face--Lota Hyde's--when she
noticed the mate. After all, any one that knew tack from bowline might
reef topsails in a fair wind; but a girl like _that_ would make more
count of a man knowing how to manage wind and sea than of the Duke on
his horse at Waterloo beating Bonaparte; and as for talk, he would jaw
away the whole voyage, no doubt, about moonlight and the ocean, and your
genteel fancy mariners. 'By George, though!' thought I, 'if the mate's a
better man than me, hang me--it's all right; but burn my wig if I don't
go and turn a Hindoo fakeer, with my one arm stuck up in the air till I
die. Go it, old lady,' said I, as I glanced over the side before going
below for the night, 'roll away, only shake something or other to _do_
out of the pace you're going at.'



CHAPTER VI


"The next morning, when Westwood and I went on deck, there was still a
long sea running after us. However, by noon the sun came sifting through
aloft, the breeze got warm, the decks were dry as a bone, and one just
saw the large dark-blue swells lift up alongside with a shower of spray,
between the seams of the bulwarks. By six o'clock, again, it was got
pretty dusk ahead, and I strolled forward right to the heel of the
bowsprit with Westwood, looking down through her head-boards into the
heap of white foam that washed up among the woodwork every time she
plunged. One knot of the men were sitting with their legs over the break
of the top-gallant forecastle, swinging as she rolled--laughing,
roaring, and singing as loud as they could bawl, since the wind carried
it all forward out of the officers' hearing. I was rather surprised to
see and hear that Jacobs' friends, Bill Dykes and Tom, were there; the
rogues were taking back their savage to the Andaman Isles again, I
suppose.

"'Well, my lads,' said Tom, a regular sample of the man-o'-war's-man,
'this is what I calls balling it off. That mate knows how to make her
go, anyhow.' 'We'll soon be into tropical regents, I consider,' remarked
Bill, who made a point of never using sea-phrases except ashore, when he
came out double salt, to make up for his gentility afloat. 'Hum,'
grumbled a big ugly fellow, the same so flattered at the wheel by
little Tommy, 'I doesn't like your fair winds. I'll tell you what,
mates, we'll be havin' it puff more from east'ard ere third watch.'
'What's the odds, Harry, old ship?' said Tom, 'a fair wind still.' 'I
say, my lads,' exclaimed Tom again, looking along toward the poop,
'yonder's the ould naboob squinting out of the round-house
doors!--what's he after now, I wonder?'

"On stooping down, accordingly, I could see the judge's face with the
binnacle light shining on it, as he swayed to and fro in the doorway,
seemingly in a passion at something or other. 'Why,' said Bill, 'I
consider he can't altogether circumstand the shindy as this here roll
kicks up inside of his blessed paliss.' 'Nabob, does ye call him,' said
Harry, sulkily; 'I'll tell you what, mates, he ben't nothin' but a
reg'lar ould tyrant. T'other mornin' there, I just chances to brush
against him as I kiles up a rope; says he, "_Fellow_" an' says he to the
skipper, "I'd take it kind," says he, "if ye'd horder them common
sailors for to pay more contention alongside o' _my_ legs, Captain
Williamson." Why, do the old beggar not think as a feller ben't a _man_
as well as hisself, with his _comming sailors_, an' be blowed to him.'
'Well, though, Harry, old ship,' said Tom, 'ain't that daurter of his'n
a jewel! I say, mates, she's all rounded into the head, and a clear run
from aft, like a corvette model. My eye, that hair of hers is worth
gold; I'd go down on the deck to please her, d'ye see.' 'No doubt,'
says Bill, 'she's what I call a exact sparkler.' 'Well, I doesn't
know,' said Harry, 'last vy'ge but one we'd got one aboard, a'most
beautifuller--half as high again, an' twice her beam--I'm not sure but
_she_----' 'All my eye, messmates,' broke in Tom; 'that one were built
for _stowing_, ye see, bo', like yer cargo lumpers. No, this here young
gal 'minds me o' no other blessed thing but the _Nymph_ corvette's
figure-head--and that warn't her match, neither. She don't look down
upon a sailor, I can tell ye; there, I see her t'other morning-watch
a-talkin' to Jacobs yonder, as pleasant and cheery as----Hullo, there's
the captain comed out of the naboob's cabin, and speaking with the mate
by the compass--blest if they ain't a-goin' to alter her course.'

"'Send aft here to the braces!' sung out the first officer to the
boatswain. 'Blow me, shipmates, that's yeer naboob now, I'll bet a
week's grog,' growled Harry; 'ship's course as fair as a handspike
through a grummit; couldn't bring the wind more aft; my eyes, the sea's
comin' to be bought and sold.' Whatever it might be for, in came the
starboard yard-arms till she lay over a little; down studding and
topgallant-sails, as neither of them could stand it except from aft; and
off went the old ship rising high athwart the seas, her head
sou'-south-east, and one streak of broken yellow light, low down to
westward on her lee quarter. It was beginning to blow harder, too, and
by eight bells it was 'Reef topsails, single reef.' The waves played
slap on her weather side, the heavy sprays came showering over her
bulwarks forward, and the forecastle planks were far from being so
comfortable for a snooze as the night before.

"As soon as the wheel was relieved, and the other watch below, 'the ugly
man' and his companions returned. 'Mates,' said he, solemnly, planting
his back against the bitts, 'I've sailed this five-and-twenty year
before the mast, an' I never yet seed the likes o' _that_! Take my say
for it, we're _on_ a wind now, but afore next mornin' we'll be
close-hauled, beating up against it.' 'Well,' said another, 'she leaks a
deal in the eyes of her below; in that case, Harry, _your_ watch as
slings in the fore-peak 'll be all afloat by that time.' 'What day did
this craft sail on, I asks?' said the sailmaker gravely. 'Why, a
Thursday night, old ship,' replied several eagerly. 'No,' went on the
sailmaker; 'you counts sea-fashion, shipmates; but till ye're clear o'
the pilot, ye know, it's land-fashion ye ought for to go by. 'Twas a
_Friday_ by that 'ere said reckoning, shipmates.' 'No! so it was
though,' said the rest; 'it don't _look_ well.' 'Howsomedever I'm not
goin' to come for to go and be a croaker,' continued the sailmaker, in a
voice like a ghost's. 'Well, luck or no luck, mates,' grumbled big
Harry, 'if so be them larboard bowlines is hauled taut by the morning
watch, blow me if I don't be upsides with that 'ere ould naboob--that's
all.'

"Next morning, after all, it was easy to feel the ship had really been
hauled close on a wind. When we went up the weather was clearing, though
with a strongish gale from eastward, a heavy sea running, on which the
Indiaman strained and creaked as she rose, rolling slowly to windward
with her three double-reefed topsails strained full, then pitched head
into it as a cloud of foam and spray flew over her weather-bow. It was
quite early, the decks lately washed down, and the Indian judge walking
the weather quarter-deck as grave and comfortable as if it was all
right. The captain was with him, and two mates to leeward. 'Sail ho!'
hailed a man on the foreyard. 'Whereaway?' sang out the mate of the
watch. 'Broad abeam!'

"The captain went up to the poop, and I stood on the foremost carronade
near the main rigging, where I could just see her now and then white
against the blue haze between the hollows of the waves, as the Indiaman
lifted. 'There she is!' said I, thinking it was Westwood that stopped
behind me; it was the judge, however, and as soon as I got down he
stepped up, holding on with one hand to a back-stay. The ship was rising
after a pitch, every bulkhead and timber in her creaking, when all of a
sudden I felt by my feet what all sailors feel the same way--she was
coming up in the wind too fast to mount with the next wave, and a
regular _comber_ it was going to be. I looked to the wheel--there was
big Harry himself with a grin on his face, and his eye on Sir Charles,
as he coolly gave her half a weather-spoke more, and then whirled it
back again to meet her. 'For heaven's sake, look out, sir!' exclaimed I.
'Why, so I do,' said the judge, rather good-naturedly. 'Zounds!
what's----' You felt the whole ship stop creaking for a moment, as she
hung with the last wave--'Hold on!' shouted a mid--she gave a dull
quiver from stem to stern, and I fairly pulled the judge close into the
bulwark, just as smash, like thunder, came a tremendous green sea over
us, three in one, washing down into the lee scuppers. The old gentleman
staggered up, dripping like a poodle, and unable to see--one heard the
water trickling through the skylights, and stepping away downstairs like
a fellow with iron heels; while there was the sailor at the wheel
grinding down his spokes in right earnest, looking aloft at the shaking
fore-topsail, and the Indiaman seemingly doubtful whether to fall off or
broach-to. Up she rose again, however, and drove round with her Turkhead
in the air, then dip through the spray as gallantly as ever.

"'Send that lubber from the wheel, Mr Macleod!' said the captain
angrily, when he came down, 'he nearly broached the ship to just now!'
The 'ugly man' put on a double-gloomy face, and grumbled something
about her 'steering wild'; but the knowing squint he gave Jacobs, who
relieved him, was enough to show me he was one of the best helmsmen
aboard. As for the judge, he hadn't the least notion that it was
anything more than a natural mischance, owing to exposing himself. He
eyed the bulwark as if he couldn't understand how any wave was able to
rise over it, while the captain was apologising, and hoping he wouldn't
be the worse. 'Eh, young gentleman!' said Sir Charles of a sudden,
turning round to me, after a glance from the weather side to the lee
one, 'now I observe the circumstances, the probability is I should have
had myself severely injured on the opposite side there, had it not been
for your presence of mind, sir--eh?' Here I made a bow, and looked as
modest as I could. 'I perceive you are wet, young gentleman,' said he
again; 'you'd better change your dress--eh?' 'Thank you, sir!' I said;
and as he walked off quite drenched to his cabin with the captain, I
heard him remark it was 'wonderfully intelligent in a mere griffin.'

"However, the wind soon got down to a fine top-gallant breeze; less of a
sea on, the clouds sunk in a long grey bank to leeward, and the strange
sail plain abeam of us--a large ship steering seemingly more off the
wind than the _Seringapatam_, with topgallant-sails set--you could just
see the heads of her courses, and her black lower-yards, when both of us
rose together. Our first officer was all alive at the sight; the reefs
were out of our topsails already, and he soon had us ploughing along
under ordinary canvas, though still hugging the wind. In a short time
the stranger appeared to take the challenge, for he slanted his yards,
clapped on royals and hauled down a stu'nsail, heading our course, till
he was one body of white cloth on the horizon. For awhile we seemed to
gain on her; but after dinner, there was the other ship's hull up on our
lee-bow, rising her white streak out of the water steadily, and just
lifting at times on the long blue seas; she was fore-reaching on us as
plain as could be. The mate gave a stamp on the deck, and kept her away
a little to set a stu'nsail. 'Why,' said I to Westwood, 'he'll fall to
leeward of himself!' 'She's too much _by the head_, Collins,' said
Westwood; 'that's it!' 'Hasn't he the sense to take the fore-course off
her?' said I, 'instead of packing more on! Why that craft weathers on
us like a schooner--I wish you and I had the Indiaman for an hour or
two, Tom!'

"It wasn't an hour before we could see the very waves splashing up under
her black weather-side, and over her high bows, as she slanted right
through it and rose to windward again, standing up to cross our
course--a fine frigate-built Indiaman, sharper stemmed than her kind in
ordinary, and square in her spread; one yard-arm just looking over the
other as they ranged aloft, and all signs of a weatherly craft. 'That's
the _Duke o' Bedford_!' said a sailor at the braces to his companions,
'all oak planks, and not a splinter of teak in _her_! No chance!' Out
flew the British colours from her mizzen-peak, and next the Company's
striped ensign at her fore-royal mast-head, as a signal to speak.
However, the _Seringapatam_ only answered by showing her colours, and
held on. All of a sudden the other Indiaman was seen slowly falling off
before the wind, as if in scorn at such rude manners, and sure of
passing us if she chose. For a moment the red sunset glanced through
betwixt all three of her masts, every rope as fine as wire! then the
canvas swung broad against it, blood-red from the sun, and she showed us
her quarter-gallery, with a glimpse of her stern-windows glittering--you
even made out the crowd of passengers and soldiers on her poop, and a
man or two going up her rigging. The sea beyond her lay as blue as blue
could be, what with the crimson streak that came zigzag on both sides of
her shadow, and gleamed along the smooth troughs, taking a crest or two
to dance on by the way; and what with the rough of it near hand, where
the tops of the dark waves ran hither and thither in broad white flakes,
we surging heavily over them.

"In a few minutes more the sun was not only down, but the clouds banked
up to westward of a deep purple; and almost at once you saw nothing of
the other ship except when a stray streak somehow or other caught her
rising, or her mast-heads came across a pale line in the clouds. The
breeze got pleasanter as the night went on, and the _Seringapatam_
rattled away in fine style, careening to it by herself.

"Well, you know, nothing could be better for a good understanding and
high spirits amongst us than a fast course, fine weather, and entering
the tropics. As for the tropics, if you have only a roomy ship and a
good run of wind, as we had, in those latitudes, everything outside of
you seems almost to have double the stuff in it that air and water have
in other places; while _inside_ of one, again, one felt twice the life
he had before, and everybody else came out _newer_ a good deal than on
the parlour-rug at home. As the days got each hotter than the last, and
the sea bluer and bluer, we began to think better of the heavy old
_Seringapatam's_ pace, teak though she was, and her sole good point
right before the wind. Every night she lighted her binnacle sooner, till
deuce the bit of twilight there was, and the dark sky came down on us
like the extinguisher over a candle. However, the look of things round
and aloft made full amends for it, as long as we held the "Trades"; old
Neptune shifting his scenes there so quickly, that nobody missed getting
weather and air, more than he could help, were it only a sight how the
Indiaman got on, without trouble to any living soul save the man at the
wheel, as one long, big, bright wave shoved her to another, and the
slower they rose the more business she seemed to do of herself. By the
time they had furbished her up at their leisure, the _Seringapatam_ had
a queer Eastern style, too, throughout; with her grass mattings and
husky _coir_ chafing-gear, the yellow varnish about her, and her three
topsails of country canvas, cut narrow towards the head--bamboo
stu'nsail booms, and spare bits of bamboo always ready for everything;
besides the bilious-like gold-coloured patches here and there in the
rest of her sails, and the outlandish figure-head, that made you
sometimes think there might be twenty thousand of them under the bows,
dancing away with her like Juggernaut's travelling pagoda.

"The decks were lively enough to look at; the men working quietly by
twos and threes about the bulwarks all day long, and pairs of them to be
made out at different points aloft, yarning away comfortably together,
as the one passed the ball for the other's serving-mallet, with now a
glance at the horizon, and now a grin at the passengers below, or a
cautious squint at the top of the mate's cap. White awnings triced over
poop and quarter-deck, the cover of the waist hammock-netting clean
scrubbed, and the big shady main-course half brailed-up, rustling and
bulging above the boats and booms amidships; every hatchway and door
with a round funnel of a wind-sail swelling into it, and their bellies
moving like so many boa-constrictors come down from aloft, and going in
to catch cadets. You saw the bright white sky dazzling along under the
awning-cheeks, that glared on it like snow; and the open quarter-deck
ports let in so many squares of shifting blue light, with a draught of
air into the hot carronade muzzles, that seem to gasp for it, with their
red tompions stuck out like tongues. The very look of the lifting blue
water on the shady side was refreshing, and the brighter the light got,
_it_ grew the darker blue. You listened for every cool splash of it on
the bends, and every rustle of the canvas aloft; and instead of
thinking, as the landsmen did, of green leaves and a lazy nook for
shelter, why to my fancy there's a great deal more satisfaction in good
_dark blue_, with a spray over the cathead to show you're going, and
with somewhat to go for! For want of better, one would have given his
ears to jump in head-foremost, and have a first-rate bathe--the very sea
itself kept rising up alongside, to make an easy dive for one, and
sinking into little round troughs again, where the surges would have
sprinkled over your head. Now and then a bigger wave than ordinary would
go swelling up, and out sprang a whole glittering shower of flying-fish,
freckling the dark side with drops, and went flittering over into the
next, or skimming the crests out of sight into a hollow.

"The writers and cadets were in high feather at knowing they were in the
same latitude as India, and appeared in all sorts of straw hats, white
trousers, and white jackets. Ford had left off talking of going aloft
for awhile, to flourish about his swimming--when he looked over with the
surgeon into the smooth of a hollow, and saw something big and green,
like an immense cucumber, floating along within a fathom or two of the
ship, deep down in the blue water. While the griffin asked what it was,
a little ripple broke above, a wet black horn came right out of it, and
two fiendish round eyes glared up at us ahead of it, as we leant over
the quarter, set wide in a broad black snout, shaped like a
gravedigger's shovel; then it sank away into the next wave. Ford
shivered, in spite of the heat. 'The devil?' inquired one of the
writers, coolly, to the surgeon. 'Not just him,' said the Scotchman;
'it's only the first _shark_!'

"The young ladies, in their white dresses, now made you think of angels
gliding about: as to the only one I had an eye for, by this time it
wasn't of not seeing her often enough I had to complain, as she seemed
to delight in nothing else but being somewhere or other upon deck, first
one part of the ship, then another, as if to see how different the
look-out could be made, or to watch something in the waves or the
horizon. Instead of sitting with a needle or a book, like the rest, with
the corner of one eye toward the gentlemen, or talking and giggling away
at no allowance, she would be noticing a man aloft as if she were there
herself, or trying to see past a sail, as if she fancied there was
something strange on the other side of it. The rest of the girls
appeared shy of her at first, no doubt on account of the judge's
separate quarters and his grandee style; next, they made acquaintance,
she speaking and smiling just as if she had known them before; then
again most of them seemingly got jealous because the cadets squinted
after her, while old Rollock said Miss Hyde would be the beauty on
Chowringee Course, and the first officer was eternally pointing out
things to her, like a showman at a fair.

"However, she seemed not to mind it at all, either way; those that did
talk to her would scarce hear her answer ere they lost her, and there
she was, looking quietly down by herself into the ripples alongside; a
minute after she would be half-playing with little Tommy, and making
companions of Tommy's young sisters, to see the sheep, the pigs, and the
cow, or feed the poultry. As for the handsome 'first officer,' when he
caught occasion for his politeness, she took it graciously enough, and
listened to all he said, till, of a sudden, a smile would break over her
face, and she seemed to me to put him off as easy as a duchess--on the
score, it might be, of the judge's looking for her off the poop, or
something else of the kind. 'Twas the more curious how much at home she
seemed amongst the men at work, when she chanced to go 'forward' with
Tommy and his sisters, as they skipped hither and thither: the rough
blue-shirted fellows took the quids out of their cheeks as soon as they
saw the party coming from aft, and began to smirk, shoving the
tar-buckets and ropes aside.

"One forenoon, an old lady under the poop awning, where she and her
daughter were sewing together at a bright strip of needlework, asked me
to hold her woollen yarns for her as she balled them off--being the red
coat for a sepoy killing a tiger, which her daughter was making in
yellow. I couldn't well refuse, seeing that amongst the ladies I was
reckoned a mild, quiet young man. Even in these days I must say I had a
good deal of that look, and at home they used always to call me 'quiet
Ned.' My mother, good soul, never would believe I broke windows, killed
cats, or fought; and the mystery to her always is _why_ the neighbours
had a spite at me, for if I had been a wild boy, she said, or as noisy
as little Brown next door, why she wouldn't have objected to my going to
sea!--that noisy little Brown, by-the-by, is now a fat banker. So in I
had to stick my thumbs at arms'-length, and stoop down to the old lady,
the more with a will since I guessed what they were talking of.

"'Well though, Kate,' continued the old lady, winding away at the
thread, 'you cannot deny her to be a charming creature, my love?' 'Oh,
if you mean _pretty_!' said the girl, 'I don't _want_ to deny it--not
_I_, ma'am--why should I, indeed?' 'Pity she's a little light-headed,'
said her mother in a musing way. '_Affected_, you mean, mother!' said
Miss Fortescue, 'and haughty.' 'Do you know, Kate,' replied the old
lady, sighing, 'I fear she'll soon _go_ in India!' '_Go?_' said the
daughter, sharply. 'Yes; she won't stand the hot season as I did--these
flighty girls never do. Poor thing! she certainly hasn't _your_ stamina
now, my love!'

"Here Miss Fortescue bit her lip, tossed her head, and was saying that
wasn't what she cared about, though in fact she looked ready to cry;
when just at the moment I saw Lota Hyde herself half above the little
gallery stair, gazing straight at me, for the first time, too; a curious
kind of half-smile on her face, as I stood with my paws out, the old
lady jerking the yarn off my wrists, and I staring right over her big
bonnet at the sky astern of the awning, pretending not to listen. All at
once my mouth fell, and before she could turn her face away from the
funny countenance I no doubt put on, I saw her cheek rosy and her eyes
sparkle with laughter, instead of seeming like one to die soon.

"For my part I couldn't stand it at all, so I just bolted sheer round
and made three strides to the poop-ladder, as dignified as was
possible, with ever so many plies of red yarn foul of my wrists, and a
big red ball hopping after me when I'd vanished, like a fellow running
from a hot shot! I daresay they thought on the poop I'd had a stroke of
the sun on my brain, but till next day I kept clear of the passengers,
and took to swigging off stiff nor'-westers of grog as long as Westwood
would let me.



CHAPTER VII


"Next evening, when the cuddy dinner was scarce over, I went up to the
poop, where there was no one to be seen; the sun just setting on our
starboard-quarter in a golden blaze that stretched overhead, with flakes
of it melting, as 'twere, all over the sky to port, and dropping in it
like threads of oil in water; the ship with a light breeze aft, and
stu'nsails packed large upon her, running almost due for the line. The
waves to westward were like liquid light, and the eddies round our
counter came glittering out, the whole spread of her mizzen and main
canvas shining like gold cloth against the fore: then 'twas but the
royals and sky-sails brighter than ever, as the big round sun dipped
down with a red streak or two, and the red water-line, against his hot
old face. Every blue surge between had a clear green edge about its
crest, the hollows turning themselves inside out from deep purple into
bright blue, and outside in again--and the whole rim of the sea grew out
cool and clear, away from the ship's taffrail. A pair of sharp-headed
dolphins that had kept alongside for the last few minutes, swimming near
the surface, turned tail round the moment I put my nose over the
bulwark, and shot off like two streaks of a rainbow after the
flying-fish.

"I was just wondering where Lota Hyde could be this time, when on a
sudden I observed little Tommy poke his curly head out of the
booby-hatch, peeping cautiously round; seeing nobody, however, save the
man at the wheel, who was looking over his shoulder at the sun, the
small rogue made a bolt out of the companion, and scampered aft under
the awning to the judge's starboard door, with nothing on but his
night-shirt. There he commenced kicking and shoving with his bare feet
and arms, till the door flew open, and over went Tommy on his nose,
singing out in fine style. The next thing I heard was a laugh like the
sound of a silver bell; and just as the boy's sister ran up in a fright
lest he had gone overboard, Violet Hyde came out leading the little chap
wrapped in a long shawl that trailed astern of him, herself with a straw
bonnet barely thrown upon her head. 'Tommy says you put him in bed too
soon, Jane!' said she, smiling. 'Iss!' said Master Thomas, stoutly, 'go
'way, Dzane!' 'You hadn't bid me good-night--wasn't that it, Tom? But
oh! _what_ a sea!' exclaimed she, catching sight of it under the awning.
The little fellow wanted to see it, too; so the young lady lifted him up
in her arms, no small weight I daresay, and they both looked over the
bulwark: the whole sky far out of the awning to westward being spotted
with orange scales, turning almost scarlet, faster than the dusk from
both ends could close in; the clear greenish tint of it above the
openings of the canvas going up into fathomless blue overhead, the
horizon purple, and one or two still black clouds tipped with vermilion
against the far sky--while the Indiaman stole along, scarce plashing
under her bends.

"Every now and then you heard a whizz and a flutter, as the flying-fish
broke out of a bigger surge, sometimes just missing the ship's side; at
last two or three fell over the mizzen chains, and pop came one all of a
sudden right into the white breast of Miss Hyde's dress inside her
scarf, where only the wings kept it from disappearing. She started, Jane
screamed, but the little boy coolly pulled it out, commencing to
overhaul it in great delight. 'Oh, fat a funny ickoo bird!' shouted he;
'it's fell down out of 'ese t'ees!' looking aloft. 'No, no,' said Miss
Hyde, laughing, as she drew her shoulders together with a
shiver--'birds' noses don't drop water! 'Twill die if you don't put it
in again, Tommy--'tis a fish!' 'A fish!' said he, opening his eyes
wider, and smacking his lips. 'Yes, Tommy eat it for my beckfust!'
However, the young lady took it out of his hand, and dropped it
overboard; on which the small ogre went off rather discontented, and
kissed her more as a favour than otherwise. It was almost dark already,
the water shining up in the ship's wake, and the stars coming out aloft;
so I was left wondering at the impudence of flying-fish, and the
blessings of being a fat little imp in a frock and trousers, compared
with this puzzle of a 'traverse,' betwixt _being_ a third lieutenant and
hailing for a 'griffin.'

"The night following, after a sultry hot day, the wind had varied a good
deal, and the ship was running almost close-hauled on a warm
south-easterly breeze, with somewhat of a swell in the water. Early in
the first watch there was a heavy shower, after which I went on deck,
leaving Westwood at his book. The half-moon was just getting down to
leeward, clear of a ragged dark cloud, and a long space of faint white
light spread away on the horizon, behind the sheets of the sails hauled
aft; so that you just saw a sort of a glimmer under them, on the black
heave of the swell between. Every time she rolled to leeward on it, a
gleam of the moonshine slipped inside the shadow of her high bulwarks,
from one wet carronade to another, and went glistening over the moist
decks, and among the boats and booms, that looked like some big brute or
other lying stretched out on his paws, till you saw the men's faces on
the forecastle as if they were so many mutineers skulking in the dark
before they rush aft: then up she righted again, and all was dark
in-board.

"The awnings were off, and the gruff third mate creaking slowly to and
fro in his soaked shoes; the judge stood talking with the captain before
one of the round-house doors; directly after I noticed a young lady's
figure in a white dress close by the mizzen-rigging, apparently intent
on the sea to leeward. 'Well, now or never!' thought I, stepping over in
the shadow of the mainsheet. I heard her draw a long breath; and then,
without turning her head at the sound of my foot, 'I wonder if there is
anything so strange in India,' exclaimed she; '_is_ there now?' 'No, no,
madam!' said I, starting, and watching as the huge cloud grew darker,
with a rusty stain in it, while three or four broad-backed swells, one
beyond the other, rose up black against the setting moon, as if they'd
plunge right into her. Miss Hyde turned round, with one hand on the
bulwark to steady herself, and half looked at me. 'I thought,' said
she--'where is papa?--I thought my father----' I begged pardon for
intruding, but next minute she appeared to have forgotten it, and said,
in a musing sort of way, partly to herself, partly to me--'I seem to
_remember_ it all--as if I just saw that black wave--and--that monstrous
cloud over again! Oh! really that is the _very_ same top it had
_then_--see!'--'Yes,' said I, leaning forward, with a notion I _had_
seen it before, though heaven knew when. 'Did you ever read about
Columbus and Vasco di Gama?' asked she, though directly afterwards her
features broke into a laughing smile as she caught sight of mine--at the
thought, I suppose, of my ridiculous figure the last time she saw me.
'No, never,' said I; 'but look to windward, ma'am; 'tis coming on a
squall again. For heaven's sake, Miss Hyde, go in! We're to have another
shower, and that pretty thick. I wonder the mate don't stow the royals.'
'What do you mean?' said she, turning. 'Why are you alarmed, sir? I see
nothing particular.' The sea was coming over, in a smooth round-backed
swell, out of a dirty, thick jumble of a sky, with a pitch-black line
behind--what Ford would have called 'wild' by daylight; but the young
lady's eye naturally saw no more in it than a dark night.

"Here the judge came over from the binnacle, giving me a nod, as much as
to say he recollected me. 'I am afraid, sir,' said I, 'if you don't make
haste, you'll get wet.' 'How!' said Sir Charles, ''tis an exceedingly
pleasant night, I think, after such a very hot day. They don't know how
to cool rooms here--this perpetual wood retains heat till midnight, sir!
That detestable pitch precludes walking--the sea absolutely glares like
tin. _Why_ do you suppose so now--eh, young gentleman?' said he again,
turning back, all of a sudden, with his daughter on his arm.

"'Why--why--why, Sir Charles,' said I, hesitating betwixt sham innocence
and scarce knowing what reason to give; 'why, I just think--that is to
say, it's my feeling, you see.' 'Ah, ah, I _do_ see,' replied the judge,
good-humouredly; 'but you shouldn't ape the sailor, my good fellow, as I
fancy you do a little. I don't particularly admire the class, but they
always have grounds for what they say in their profession, frequently
even acute. At your aunt's, Lady Somers's now, Violet, who was naturally
so surrounded by naval officers, what I had to object to was, not their
want of intelligence, but their forwardness. Eh--eh! who--what is
_that_?' exclaimed he suddenly, looking straight up into the dark, as
five or six large drops fell on his face out of it. All at once you
heard a long sigh, as it were, in the canvas aloft, a clap like two or
three carronades fired off, as all the sails together went into the
masts--then a hum in the air far and near--and whish! rush! came the
rain in sheets and bucketfuls off the edge of a cloud over our very
heads, plashing and washing about the deck with coils of rope; ship
rolling without a breath of wind in her sails; sails flapping out and
in; the rain pouring down ten times faster than the scupper-holes would
let it out, and smoking grey in the dark hollow of the swells, that sank
under the force of it.

"The first officer came on deck, roaring in the hubbub to clue up and
furl the royals before the wind came again. It got pitch-dark, you
couldn't see your hand before you, and we had all lost mark of each
other, as the men came shoving in between us. However, I knew
whereabouts Miss Hyde was, so I felt along the larboard rigging till I
found a back-stay clasped in her hands, and the soaked sleeve of her
muslin dress, while she leant back on a carronade, to keep from being
jerked down in the water that washed up over her feet with every roll,
full of ropes and a capstan bar or two. Without saying a word, I took up
Lota in my arms, and carried her aft in spite of the roll and confusion,
steering for the glimmer of the binnacle, till I got her inside one of
their own cabins, where there was a lamp swinging about, and laid her on
a sofa. I felt somehow or other, as I went, that the sweet creature
hadn't fainted, though all the while as still as death; accordingly I
made off again at once to find the judge, who, no doubt, was calling for
his daughter, with a poor chance of being heard.

"In a minute or two more the rain was over; it was light enough to make
out the horizon, as the belt of foam came broadening out of it; the ship
gave two or three wild bounds, the wheel jolting and creaking; up
swelled the black waves again over one side, the topsails flapped full
as the squall rushed roaring into them, and away she rose; then tore
into it like a scared horse, shaking her head and throwing the
snow-white foam into her fore-chains. 'Twas as much as three men could
do to grind down her wheel, leaning and grinning to it; you saw just the
Indiaman herself, scarce so far forward as the booms, and the broad
swell mounting with her out of the dark, as she slowly squared yards
before it, taking in to'gallant-sails while she did so with her
topsail-yards lowered on the caps. However, the look of it was worse
than its force, else the swell wouldn't have risen so fast, as every
sailor knew; and by two bells of the mid-watch she was bowling under
all, as easy as before, the mate of the watch setting a stunsail.

"When I went down, shaking myself like a Newfoundland, Westwood was
swinging in his cot with a book turned to the lamp, reading _Don
Quixote_ in Spanish. 'Bless me, Ned!' said he, 'you seem to like it!
paying fair and weathering it too!' 'Only a little adventure, Westwood!'
said I, laughing. 'Why, here have I been enjoying better adventures than
we seem likely to have,' said he, 'without stirring a hand, except for
the wild swings you gave me from deck. Here's _Don Quixote_----' 'Don
Quixote be hanged!' said I: 'I'd rather wear ship in a gale, myself,
than all the humbug that never happened--_out_ of an old play-book.
What's the use of _thinking_ you see service, when you don't? After all,
you couldn't _expect_ much till we've crossed the Line--nothing like the
tropics, or the Cape, for thickening a plot, Tom. Then there's the
Mozambique, you know!' 'Well, we'll see,' said Westwood, lazily, and
half asleep.

"The whole next day would have been weary enough in itself, as not a
single glimpse of the fair Lota could I catch; and the weather, between
the little puffs of air and squalls we had, was fit to have melted poor
Ford to the bone, but for the rain. However, that day was sufficient, by
fits and starts, to bring us up to the Line; and before crossing it,
which we did by six o'clock in one of the black squalls, half of the
passengers had been pretty well ducked by Neptune and his gang besides.

"Rare fun we had of it for three or four hours on end; the cadets and
writers showing fight in a body, the Yankee being regularly keelhauled,
tarred, and feathered, though I believe he had crossed the Line twice by
land; while the Scotch surgeon was found out, in spite his caution,
never to have been lower than the West Indies--so he got double ration.
A word to Jacobs took Westwood scot-free; but, for my own part, wishing
of course to blind the officers, I let the men stick the tar-brush in my
mouth the first word I spoke, and was shaved like the mischief, not to
speak of plumping afterwards behind the studding-sail curtain into three
feet water, where I absolutely saved Ford from drowning, he being as
sick as a dog.

"Late at night the breeze held and freshened, and, being Saturday night,
the gentlemen in the cuddy kept it uproariously after their troubles;
drinking and singing songs--Tom Little's and your sentimental affairs;
till, being a bit flushed myself, I was on the point of giving them one
of Dibdin's, when I thought better of it, and went on deck instead. The
mate was there, however, and his red-whiskered Scotch sub with the
twisted snout, leaning on the capstan with their noses together. The
night was dark, and the ship made a good noise through the water; so
'Hang it!' thought I, 'somehow or other I'll have out a stave of
"Black-eyed Susan" at the top of my pipe, though overboard I go for it.

"There was an old square topsail-yard slung alongside to larboard, as
far as the quarter-boat, and I went up to the poop to get over and sit
on it; especially when I found Ford's friend the fat midshipman was in
the boat itself, 'caulking'[12] his watch out, as he did every night in
a fresh place.

  [12] Sleeping on deck.

"I was no sooner there again, than I saw a light in the aftermost
gallery window, and took it in my head if I sung _there_, why, in place
of being afraid there was someone under her casement, that and the wind
and water together would put her to sleep, if she was the worse of last
night--in fact, I may say I was a little '_slewed_'[13] at the time. How
to get there, though, was the matter, it being rather a nice practice to
sling over an Indiaman's quarter-gallery, bulging out from her steep
counter; accordingly, first I took the end of coil round the
mizzen-shrouds, and made a bowline-knot to creep down the
stern-mouldings with, and then swing free by help of a guide-line to
boot. Just before letting go of the taffrail, another fancy struck me,
to hitch the guide-line to the trigger of the life-buoy that hung ready
for use; not that I'd the notion of saving myself if I went overboard,
but just because of the good joke of a fellow slipping his own
life-buoy, and then cruising away, with a light at his mast-head, back
to the Line.

[Footnote 13: Anglicé, _not_ sober.]

"'Twas curious, but when I was 'two or three sheets in the wind,' far
from growing stupid, I used always to get a sort of cunning that would
have made me try and cheat a purser; so away I lowered myself till the
rope was taut, when I slipped easy enough round the counter, below the
window. Every time she rolled, out I swung, and in again, till I
steadied with my feet, slacking off the other line from one hand. Then I
began to give voice like old Boreas himself, with a sort of a notion, at
each shove I got, how I was rocking the Indiaman like a big cradle, as
Jacobs did his baby. All at once I felt the rope was _giving_ off the
belaying-pin, till I came down with a jolt under the window below; only
singing the louder, as it was half open, and I could just look in. With
every wash of the waves the water, a couple of fathoms under my feet,
blazed up like fire, and the wake ran boiling out from the black stern
by the rudder, like the iron out of a furnace; now and then there came a
sulky flare of dumb lightning to leeward, and showed the black swell out
of the dark for miles.

"I fancied I didn't care for the water, but I began to think 'twas
rather uncomfortable the notion of sousing into such an infernally
flame-looking stream; I was actually in a fright at being boiled, and
not able to swim. So I dropped chorus to haul myself up, when of a
sudden, by the lamp inside the state-room, I saw Winterton and Ford come
reeling in, one after the other, as drunk as lords. Winterton swayed
about quietly on his legs for a minute, and then looked gravely at Ford,
as if he'd got a dreadful secret to make known.

"'Ford!' said he. 'Ay,' said Ford, feeling to haul off his
trousers--'ay--avast you--blub-lub-lubber!' 'I say, Ford!' said the
cadet again, in a melancholy way, fit to melt a marling-spike, and then
fell to cry--Ford all the time pulling off his trousers, with a cigar in
his mouth, till he got on a chest, and contrived to flounder into his
cot with his coat on. After that he stretched over to put the lamp out,
carefully enough, but he let fall his cigar, and one leg of his nankeen
trousers hung out of the cot, just scraping the deck every time he
swung. I watched, accordingly, holding on by the sill, till I saw a
spark catch in the stuff, and there it was, swinging slowly away in the
dark, with a fiery ring creeping round the leg of the trousers, ready to
blow into a flame as soon as it had a clear swing. No doubt the fool
would come down safe enough himself with his cot; but I knew Winterton
kept powder in the cabin sufficient to blow up the deck above, where
that sweet girl was sleeping at the moment. 'Confound it,' I thought,
quite cooled by the sight, 'the sooner I get on deck the better.'

"However, you may fancy my thoughts when I heard men at the taffrail,
hauling on the spanker-boom guys; so I held on till they'd go forward
again; suddenly the mate's voice sung out to know 'what lubber had
belayed the slack of a topsail clueline _here_?' Down I went with the
word, as the rope was thrown off, with just time to save myself by a
clutch of the port-sill at arm's-length--where, heaven knew, I couldn't
keep long. The mate looked over and caught sight of my face, by a
flicker of the summer lightning, as I was slipping down: I gave him one
curse as loud as I could hail, and let go the moulding. 'Man overboard,'
shouted he, and the men after him; however, I wasn't altogether
overboard yet, for I felt the other part of the rope bring me up with a
jerk and a swing right under the quarter-boat, where I clung like a cat.

"How to get on deck again without being seen was the question, and
anxious enough I was at thought of the burning train inside, when out
jumped someone over my head; I heard a splash in the water, and saw a
fellow's face go sinking into the bright wake astern, while the boat
itself was coming down over me from the davits. I still had the
guide-line from the life-buoy round my wrist, and one moment's thought
was enough to make me give it a furious tug, when away I sprang clear
into the eddies. The first thing I saw at coming up was the ship's
lighted stern-windows driving to leeward, then the life-buoy flaring and
dipping on a swell, and a bare head, with two hands, sinking a few feet
off. I made for him at once, and held him up by the hair as I struck out
for the buoy. A couple of minutes after, the men in the boat had hold of
us and it; the ship came sheering round to the wind, and we were very
shortly on board again.

"'Confound it, Simm, what took you overboard, man?' asked the mid in the
boat at his dripping messmate, the fat reefer. 'Oh, bother!' said he,'if
you must know--why, I mistook the quarter-boats; I thought 'twas the
_other_ I was in when you kicked up that shindy. Now I remember, though,
there was too much _rain_ in it for comfort.' 'Well, youngster,' said
Tom, the man-o'-war's-man, 'this here gentleman saved your life,
anyhow!' 'Why, mate,' whispered Bill, ''tis the wery same greenhorn we
puckalowed so to-day. Didn't he jump sharp over, too?' 'Pull! for your
lives, my lads!' said I, looking up at Ford's window; and the moment we
got on deck, below I ran into the state-room, and cut Ford down by the
heels, with the tinder hanging from him, and one leg of his trousers
half gone. As for the poor reefer, a pretty blowing up he got; the men
swore I had jumped overboard after him, and the mate would have it that,
instead of sleeping, he wanted to get into the judge's cabins;
especially when next day Sir Charles was in a rage at his daughter being
disturbed by some sailor or other singing outside.



CHAPTER VIII


"You must surely be tired by this time, ma'am, of this long-winded yarn
of mine?" said the commander of the _Gloucester_ to the elder of his
fair listeners, next evening they met with the evident expectation of
hearing further; "but after all, this voyage must be dull work for you
at present, so I daresay you are amused with anything by way of a
change.

"Well, one morning, when Westwood and I went on deck, it was a stark
staring calm; as dead as a mill-pond, save for the long winding heave
that seemed to come miles up out of the stale blue water, and get tired
with the journey--from the horizon to us in one lazy coil, and on every
side, just serving to jerk the wheel a spoke back and forward, with
nobody at it. The very bits of pumpkin-paring and fat which the cook had
thrown overboard the night before lay still alongside, with an oily
track oozing round about them from the 'slush'[14]--the sails hanging
from the yards, up and down, like clothes on a screen--and when you
looked over the side away from the sun, you saw your own face, like a
fellow's that had been long drowned, peering back at you, as it were,
round the keel--in fact, there you scarce knew where the water _was_.

  [14] Cook's grease.

"Somehow or other the ship kept sheering round, by little and little,
till, although one had chosen a shady spot, all of a sudden the blazing
sun came right into his eyes; or the single streak of white cloud lying
behind you, to starboard, a while after stuck itself before your face
from the very opposite quarter--you fancying, too, you had your eye the
whole time on the same bit of water. Being lost in a wood or a fog was
nothing to it, especially with the sun at noon drawn up right overhead,
so that you couldn't look aloft, and staring down into the sea out of a
pool of bright light; 'like one tremendously keen little eye,' as some
of the passengers said, 'examining a big blind one.' 'Why,' put in one
of the writers, 'I fear he wants to take the _mote_ out of his brother's
eye--this vessel, that is to say!' 'Hang it, I hope not!' said
Winterton, rather alarmed. 'He promises well to do it, then,' said
another young civilian, 'but I wish he'd take the _beam_ out of his own
first, ha, Smythe?' However, few men have the spirit to laugh at little
in a calm near the Line, so Smythe gave no more than a sickly grin,
while Westwood looked the clergyman very properly.

"Both passengers and crew, all of us that could swim, gave wistful looks
now and then alongside at the water, hot as it seemed, for a bathe; just
floating up, as it were, with the mere huge size of it, under a dazzle
of light, and so blue and smooth you couldn't see a hair's-breadth
below; while, a bit off, the face of it and the very air appeared to
dance and quiver like little streams of glass. However, all thoughts of
bathing were put out of your head when you saw the black three-cornered
affair, with a rake aft, somewhat like the end of a scythe, that went
steering slowly round us; then cruising hither and thither, till its
infernal horn was as dry as the deck; and at times driving straight off,
as if it ran in a groove through the level surface; when back again it
came from the other side, creeping lazily towards us, till it sank with
a light _tip_, and a circle or two on the blue water. The hook and chain
were hanging up and down over the taffrail, with the piece of rank pork
looking green in the shadow near the rudder, where you read the white
figures of her draught as plain as in dock; but the shark, a
fifteen-feet customer, if he was an inch, was too knowing to have
touched it.

"'Pity he's gone, Collins,' said Ford to me, after we had watched him at
last out of sight; 'wasn't there any plan of catching him, I wonder! Now
we shall have a bathe though, at any rate.' 'Gone?' said I, 'he won't
leave us in a hurry, if we don't leave _him_!' 'Poh, man!' said Ford, 'I
tell you he's tired out and gone away!' Five minutes after Ford was
leaning over the quarter and wiping his face, while he fanned himself
with his straw hat, which fell out of his hand into the water. He had
got over into the mizzen-chains to throw a line round it, when he gave a
loud shriek, and jumped in-board again. Two or three fathoms of green
came up from the keel, balancing on a pair of broad fins under Ford's
hat, and a big round snout touched it; then a dozen feet of white belly
gleamed in the water, the hat gave a gulp as it was drawn down, and a
few small air-bells rose to the top. 'He prefers some flavours to
others, you see, Ford,' said I. ''Tis the second hat I've seen you lose:
I hope your head won't be in the _third_; but you mariners, you see----'
However, Ford had bolted to his cabin.

"On turning round I perceived Miss Hyde, with the general's lady, under
the awning on the other side, where the old lady leant against a
cushion, with her hands crossed and her bonnet strings loose--though a
strapping raw-boned Irishwoman she was--and kept Miss Hyde's maid
fanning her from behind with a large feather _punkah_. The old lady had
started at Ford's cry, and gave a look round at me, half fierce and half
orderly, as if she expected to know what was the matter at once. 'Only
my friend lost his hat, ma'am,' said I, stepping forward. 'These cadets
are so 'tagious, my dear!' said she to the young lady, falling back
again without the least more notice of me. 'They plague the life of me,
but the brigadier can't drill them as he would if this were a
troopship--I wish he could, for the sake of the profession!--now, my
dear, _you_ kape out of the s-hun!' However, I stuck where I was,
fancying I caught the slightest bit of an arch twinkle in the corner of
the young lady's eye, though she didn't look at me. 'Keep going, can't
ye!' said the old lady crossly to the maid. 'No, ma'am, indeed!' said
the girl, glancing over to her young mistress, 'I'm ready to drop!'
'Send up papa's _kitmagar_, then, Wilkins,' said Miss Hyde; and the girl
went off toward the gallery stair, muttering she 'hoped she didn't
come--here to be--made a black Indian slave of--at least to a old'--the
remainder being lost in the stair.

"As I leant on the rail-netting, behind the old lady, I happened to
tread on her fat pug-dog's tail, whereupon the ugly brute made its teeth
meet, without further notice, in the small of my leg, after which it
gave a yelp, and ran beneath the chairs. 'What's that, Die?' exclaimed
its mistress; 'good hivens! is that same griffin here _yet_, my dear!
Hadn't he ayven the spirit to take a hint?--I say, was it _you_ hurt
Dianny, young man?' 'Oh dear no, ma'am, not for the world!' said I,
looking at my trousers, hard as the thing was to stand, but thinking to
smooth her over, though I wasn't quite up to the old Irishwoman it
turned out. 'Ha! ha! so she bit you?' said she, with a flash of her
hawk's eye, and leaning back again coolly. 'If he'd only kicked poor Die
for it under my chair now, I'd have forgiven him; but he hadn't ayven
the heart at the time to drop her a curse--and _I_ thinking all the
while, too, by the luke of his eye he was from the County Clare! My
heart warms to the County Clare always, because, although I'm not Irish
myself, you know, I'd once a schoolfellow was born in it--without
counting all my relations! Oh, the smooth spalpeen!' continued she,
harder than before, glancing at me as I looked all abroad from one to
the other; 'listen, niver you let that fellow spake to you, my dear!
he's too----' But here I walked quietly off to put the poop's length
betwixt me and the talking old vixen, cursing her and her dog both,
quite enough to have pleased her Irish fancy.

"On the quarter-deck, the judge and the general seemed really to enjoy
the heat and quiet, sitting with their feet up before the round-house,
and smoking their long red twisted hookahs, while they watched the
wreaths of smoke go whirling straight up from the bowls to the awning,
and listened to the faint bubble of it through the water in the bottles,
just dropping a word now and then to each other. A tall, thin 'native'
servant with long sooty hair hanging from his snow-white turban, stood
behind the judge's chair, bolt upright, with his arms folded, and twice
as solemn as Sir Charles himself; you saw a stern-window shining far
abaft, through one of the round-house doors, and the fat old fellow of a
_consumah_[15] busy laying the cloth for tiffin, while the sole breath
of air there was came out of thereaway.

  [15] East Indian steward.

"Suddenly eight bells struck, and everyone seemed glad of something
new; the judge's _consumah_ came out salaaming to say tiffin was ready;
the cuddy passengers went below for wine-and-water and biscuit; and the
men were at dinner. There being nothing to take care of on deck, and
the heat of course getting greater, not a soul stayed up but myself;
but I preferred at the moment lighting a cheroot, and going up aft
to see clear of the awnings. The cockatoo had been left on the
poop-rail, with its silver chain hitched round one of the mizzen
back-stays, where it shifted from one leg to the other, hooked itself
up the back-stay as far as it could go, then hurried down again, and
mused a bit, as wise as Solomon--then screamed out at the top of its
voice--'Tip--tip--pr-r-retty cacka--tippoo--cok-ka--whee-yew-ew-ew!'
finishing by a whistle of triumph fit to have split one's ears, or
brought a gale of wind--though not on account of skill in its books, at
any rate. Again it took to swinging quietly head-down, at furious rate,
and then slewed upright to plume its feathers, and shake the pink tuft
on its head.

"No sooner had I got up the stair, however, than, to my perfect delight,
I saw Violet Hyde was still sitting aft, and the old Irishwoman gone; so
I stepped to the taffrail at once, and, for something to be about, I
hauled up the shark-hook from astern. The moment I caught her eye, the
young lady smiled--by way of making up, no doubt, for the old one. 'How
_very_ solitary it is!' said she, rising and looking out; 'the ship
almost seems deserted, except by us!' 'By Jove! I almost wish it were,'
thought I. 'A dead calm, madam,' I said, 'and likely to hold--the
under-swell's gone quite down, and a haze growing.' 'Are we sure _ever_
to leave this spot then?' asked she, with a slight look of anxiety.
'Never fear it, ma'am,' said I; 'as soon as the haze melts again, we're
near a breeze, I assure you--only, by the length of the calm and the
heat together, not to speak of our being so far to east'ard, I'm afraid
we mayn't get rid of it without a gale at the end to match.' 'Indeed?'
said Miss Hyde.

"The fact was, Westwood and I had been keeping a log, and calculated
just now we were somewhere to south-eastward of Ascension; whereas, by
the captain and mate's reckoning she was much farther to west.

"'I never thought the sea could appear so dreadful,' said she, as if to
herself--'much more than in a storm.' 'Why, madam,' said I, 'you
haven't exactly seen one this voyage--one needs to be close-hauled off
the Cape for that.'

"Somehow or other, in speaking to _her_, by this time I forgot entirely
about keeping up the sham cadet, and slipped into my own way again; so
all at once I _felt_ her two dark-blue eyes looking at me curiously.
'How!--why,' exclaimed she suddenly, and then laughing, 'you seem to
know all about it!--why, you speak--have you been studying sea affairs
so thoroughly, sir, with your friend, who--but I _do_ think, now, one
can scarcely _trust_ to what you have said?' 'Well--why--well,' said I,
fiddling with the shark-hook, 'I don't know how it is, but I feel as if
I must have been at sea some time or other before; you wouldn't suppose
it, ma'am, but whenever I fix my eyes on a particular rope, I seem
almost to know the name of it.' 'And its _use_ too?' asked she, merrily.
'I shouldn't wonder!' said I; 'perhaps I was _born_ at sea, you know,
madam!' and I gave a side-look to notice how she took it. 'Ah! perhaps!'
said Miss Hyde, laughing: 'but do you know one sometimes fancies these
things; and now I think of it, sir, I even imagined for a moment I had
seen _yourself_ before!' 'Oh,' said I, 'that couldn't be the case; I'm
sure, for my part, I should recollect clear enough if I'd seen--a--a
_lady_ anywhere! I think you said something of the kind, ma'am, that
night of the last squall--about the water and the clouds, ma'am, you
remember?' The young lady looked away, though a notion seemed to flash
through her mind. 'Yes,' said she, 'that terrible rain, _you_ were----'
'Washed into the lee-scuppers,' said I, indifferently, for I didn't want
her to suspect it was _I_ that had kissed her hand in the dark as I
carried her in. 'I hope Sir Charles and yourself got in safe, Miss
Hyde?' However, she was watching the water alongside, and suddenly she
exclaimed, 'Dear! what a pretty little fish!' 'By heavens!' said I,
seeing the creature with its sharp nose and blue bars, as it glanced
about near the surface, and then swam in below the ship's bilge again,
'that's one of the old villain's pilots--he's lying right across our
keel! I wish I could catch that shark!'

"The pork was of no use for such an old sea-lawyer, and I cast a wistful
eye on the Irishwoman's fat pug-dog stretched asleep on her shawl by the
bulwark; 'he'd take _that_ in a trice though!' I even laid out some
marline from a stern-locker, and noticed how neatly one could pass the
hook under her belly round to the tail, and seize her so snugly on,
muzzled and all; but it was no go, with the devil to pay afterwards. All
of a sudden I heard somebody hawking and spitting above the awning
forward, near where the cockatoo kept still trying to master his own
name. 'The Yankee, for a thousand!' thought I; 'is Daniel trying to walk
along the spanker-boom?' Next, someone sung out, 'Hal-loo-oo-oo!' as if
there was a tomahawk over him, ready to split his brain. Miss Hyde
looked alarmed, when the Scotch mate, as I thought, roared, 'Shiver my
tops'ls!' Then it was a sailor hailing gruffly, 'Bloody Capting
Brown--bloody Capting Brown--Capting Brown!'

"'Somebody drunk aloft!' thought I, walking forward to see; when a funny
little black head peeped round the awning with a yellow nose as sharp as
a marling-spike, and red spectacles, seemingly, round its keen little
eyes; then, with a flutter and a hop, the steward's pet mina-bird[16]
came down, and lighted just under the cockatoo. 'Ha!' said I, laughing,
'it's only Parson Barnacle!' as the men called him--a sooty little
creature scarce bigger than a blackbird, with a white spot on each wing,
and a curious pair of natural glasses on his head, which they kept in
the forecastle and taught all sorts of 'jaw,' till they swore he could
have put the ship about, took kindly to tar, and hunted the cockroaches
like a cat.

  [16] _Mina-bird_, or grakle, a frequent pet in homeward-bound
       East-Indiamen, and singular for its mimetic faculty; but impudent,
       and, from educational disadvantages, not particularly select in its
       expressions: appearance as described by the lieutenant.

"No doubt he was glad to meet his countryman the cockatoo, but Tippoo
stuck up his crest, swelled his chops, and looked dreadfully frightened;
while the mina-bird cocked his head on one side, gave a knowing wink as
it were, though all the time as grave, with his spectacles, as a real
parson. 'How's her head?' croaked he, in a voice like a quartermaster's;
'blowing hard!' 'Old Capting Brown!' and hopped nearer to the poor
cockatoo, who could stand it no longer, but hooked himself up the
back-stay as fast as possible, out of sight, the chain running with him;
and just as I swung myself clear of the awning to run aloft for a catch
of it, out flew Parson Barnacle to the end of the crojack-yard, while
the cockatoo gave a flap that loosed the _kitmagar's_ lubberly hitch,
and sent him down with his wings spread on the water.

"At another time it wouldn't have cost me a thought to go head-foremost
after him, when I heard his young mistress exclaiming, 'Oh, poor dear
Tippoo will be drowned!' but recollecting our hungry green friend on the
other side, I jumped down for the end of a rope to slip myself quietly
alongside with. However, at the very moment, Tom, the man-o'-war's-man,
happening to come up from the forehatchway to throw something overboard,
and seeing Miss Hyde's cockatoo, off went his shoes and jacket at once,
and I heard the splash as he struck the water. I had scarce time to
think, either, before I saw Mick O'Hooney's red head shoot up on deck,
and heard him sing out, 'Man overboard, be the powers, boys! Folly my
lader! Hurroo!' and over he sprang. 'Here's dip,' said another, and in
half a minute every man that could swim was floundering in the smooth
water alongside, or his head showing as it came up--pitching the
cockatoo to each other, and all ready to enjoy their bathe; though, for
my part, I made but one spring to the ship's starboard quarter, to use
the only chance of saving the thoughtless fellows from a bloody fate to
some of them.

"I knew the shark would be cautious at first, on such a sudden to-do,
and I had marked his whereabouts while the men were well toward the
bows; and 'hang it,' thought I, seeing the old woman's fat pug in my
way, 'Dianny, or die all; I bear no malice, but you must go for it, my
beauty!' As quick as thought, I made one turn of marline round her nose,
took off the pork, and lashed her fast on to the hook all standing, in
spite of her squeaks; then twisted the lady's shawl round the chain for
a blind to it, and flung the whole right over the larboard quarter,
where I guessed the old fellow would be slewing round astern to have a
look out before he went fairly in chase. I watched the line sink slowly
with the weight over the gunwale for half a minute, afraid to let him
see my head, and trembling for fear I should hear a cry from one of the
men: when jerk went the rope clear of a belaying-pin as he ran off with
his bait. I took a quick turn to hook him smartly in the throat, and
then eased off again till the 'cleets' brought him up with a 'surge' fit
to have parted the line, had it not been good new inch-and-a-half
rope--though, as it was, the big Indiaman would soon have sheered
stern-round to the force of it, if he'd only pulled fair.

"The young lady stood noticing what I did, first in a perplexed sort of
a way, and then with no little surprise, especially when the shark gave
every now and then a fiercer tug, as he took a sweep astern; by this
time, however, everybody was on deck in a crowd, the passengers all in a
flurry, and half of the men scrambling up from alongside to tail on to
the line, and run him out of water. So away they went with it full-speed
towards the bows, as soon as the ladies were out of the way--dragging
two or three cadets back-foremost, head over heels, down the poop
stair--till, in spite of his tugging, the shark's round snout showed
over the taffrail, with the mouth wide open under his chin, as it were,
and one row of teeth laid flat behind another, like a comb-maker's
shop-counter. A running bowline passed round his handsome waist, then
another pull, and over he came on the poop, floundering fourteen feet
long, and flourishing his tail for room, till the carpenter chopped it
across, in a lucky moment with his axe.

"All hands gathered round the shark to see him cut up, which was as good
as a play to them, becalmed as we were; when, to my no small dismay, I
heard Mrs Brigadier Brady's loud voice asking where her dog was; and the
brigadier himself, who seemed more afraid of his wife than anybody else,
kept poking about with his red-faced English butler to find the animal.
'For God's sake,' said he, in a half whisper, twenty times over,
'haven't ye seen Mrs Brady's dog, any of ye?--she'll rout the ship
inside out for it, captain, if we don't soon ase her mind.' However, I
knew only Miss Hyde was aware who caught the shark, and as she didn't
appear to have told, why of course I kept all fast myself. 'Here's a
'baccy-box!' sung out the big old boatswain, standing astride over the
tail, while the cook and his black mate ripped away from the tail up.
'Hand over, if ye please, sir,' said 'ugly' Harry, 'it's mine, Mr
Burton!' Harry gave it a wipe on his knee, and coolly bit a quid off the
end of his lost pigtail. The next thing was Ford's hat, which no one
claimed, so black Sambo clapped it on his woolly head.

"'What's that you've got there now, Sambo?' said the boatswain: 'out
with it, my lad!' 'Golly!' chuckled the nigger, rolling the whites of
his eyes and grinning like mad; 'oh sar, Misser Barton! dis 'ere shark
riglar navligator! I 'clare to you, sar, um got chr'ometer aboard. Oh
gum; berry much t'ink dis your own lost silber tickler, Misser Barton.'
'Bless me, so it is, my lad,' said the boatswain, as the black handed
him a silver watch as big as a turnip, and he looked at the cook, who
was busy fumbling with his knife. 'Sorry as you was _taxed_ with it,
doctor,'[17] said he, doubtfully; 'well, I'm blowed, though, it only
goes an hour and a half--and here it's a-ticking yet.' Here a burst of
laughter went round, and somebody sung out, 'Maybe the ould pawn-broking
Judas of a shark winded it up hisself, just to mark the time o' his
"goin' off the hooks."' 'I say, doctor,' hailed another, 'too bad, ain't
it though, to cut up _your uncle_?' 'Ha, ha, ha,' cried the cadets and
writers, looking at the Scotch surgeon; 'd' ye hear that, doctor? I
wouldn't stand it. They say you ain't particular in Edinbro', though.
Some rum mistakes happened there, eh, doctor?'

  [17] Familiar metonymy, or nickname, at sea, for the ship's cook.

"The Scotchman got into a passion at this, being the worst cut they
could give any fellow from a country where they were famous for kindred
and body-snatching at once--but all of a sudden there was a 'Hulloo!
Shiver my taw'sels! What's this? Let's see'; and the whole poopful of us
were shoving together, and jumping on each other's shoulders to have a
look. 'Well, we-ell,' said the old boatswain, as he peered curiously
into the mess of shark's bowels--'I'll be blowed.' 'The likes o' that
now!' croaked the old sailmaker, lifting up his two hands, ''tain't
lucky, Mr Burton!' 'My eye! them's not young _sharks_, anyhow!' said one
of the men. 'What's t'ou think they be, mun,' said the north-country
Chips, 'but litter o' young blind poops? an' here's t' ou'd un, see, as
deed's mutton! Dang him, but someun's got an' baited t' hook wi't,
there's nou't else in 's guts.'

"The whole poop was one roar of laughing, when Mrs Brady's pug was found
delivered of four pups inside the shark, since she went overboard, and
two of 'em alive; the news ran fore and aft in a moment. '_Took short_
she's been, Jack!' said one. 'Beats the prophet Joney!' 'I say, mate,
them whelps is born twice over. Blessed if my Sal at home, now, wouldn't
give a year's 'lotment for one on 'em.'

"'Look out, all hands of ye,' cried someone, 'there's the old girl
herself coming on deck; sharp's the word.' And away we scuttled right
and left, some aloft, and some down one poop-ladder, as Mrs Brady, with
the brigadier and his butler after her, came fuming up the other. The
black made one spring over the quarter as soon as he saw her; but the
Irish topman, Mick, slipped his foot amongst the shark's blood, and
rolled on his back, while the old bo'sun made stand in the thick of it
behind. 'Saze the villains, I charge ye, brigadier,' screamed Mrs Brady,
though he and his manservant only kept dodging the boatswain round a
sort of a quagmire of blood and grease, while the old vixen caught Mick
by his red hair and whiskers. 'Where's my dog, ye murderous spalpeen?'
said she, panting for breath; 'what have ye done with my Dianny, ye
monsther? Spake, or I'll----' 'Be the holy elaven thousand, yer
ladyship!' said Mick, 'an' it's _lost_ did ye think she wor! Isn't there
_five_ of 'em back! Whisper! yer ladyship's riv'rence--she's _laid in_,
poor craythure, an'----' '_Oh!_ you Irish thief!' Tug came both Mrs
Brady's hands through his hair, while the butler caught a kick in the
stomach from Mick's foot. 'Murther!' gasped the poor fellow, 'sure an' I
dun' know she was ayven a faym'le, fur me own part; bad luck t' ye
mates, give uz a hand. Och, an' is this the road ye thrate a
counthryman, mim?' '_Me_ your countryman! ye bog-trottin' wretch ye!'
screamed the old fury, her brogue getting worse the more she
heated--'take _that_!--don't rise, if ye dare.' 'Faix thin, yer ladyship
darlin',' said O'Hooney, grinning in spite of his hard usage, 'I tould a
lie--och, lave some o' me hair!--murther intirely! I'm----'

"All the time none of us could stir for sheer laughing, but seeing poor
Mike like to fare hard with the old vixen, who was near as big as
himself, and as strong as a horse, I whispered to the men to run round
and let go the poop awning--so down it came, with a few buckets of water
in it, over the five of them; and you just saw Mrs Brady's sharp elbow
through the canvas, lifted for the next slap, when we had her all fast,
struggling like a cat in a bag, while O'Hooney and the boatswain crept
out below. 'Stiff breeze that as we've had!' said the bo'sun shaking
himself on the forecastle. 'Couldn't ye've bowsed over on the old jade's
pitticuts, Mick?' said one of his shipmates, 'and capsized her all
standing?' 'Sorra fut you'd stir, yourself, mate,' said he, wiping his
face, 'wid such a shay grinnydeer! she'd man-handle ye as asy's twurl a
mop!'



CHAPTER IX


"After all this, you may suppose one didn't weary so much, even of the
calm. As soon as the decks were clear, most of us took tea on the poop,
for fear of meeting the brigadier's lady below, everyone holding his cup
ready for a start. Rollock, the planter, who had slept and swung in his
cot half the day, was like to split his sides when he heard the story;
by-the-way, I believe both the little pups lived and throve on goat's
milk, and the men called one of them 'Young Jonah,' though he had so
much of the terrier that the old lady disowned him.

"It was quite dark, and cool for a night near the Line, though not a
ripple stirred, and I stayed after the rest to smoke a cigar, stopping
every now and then near the aftermost bull's-eye, that shone through the
deck, and thinking of Lota. 'By Jove!' thought I, 'she hasn't said a
word to the judge about our having met before. Think of having a secret,
almost, with _her_!' After all, though, I felt well enough I might as
soon hope for the Emperor of China's daughter as for such a creature,
unless something wonderfully strange fell out; deucedly in love as I
was, I wasn't puppy enough to fancy I'd ever succeed by mere talk; 'but
here's for a bold heart and a weather eye,' I thought; 'and if these
can't do it, I _will_!' said I aloud, when someone clapped me on the
shoulder.

"'Well, Tom, are you there?' said I, thinking it was Westwood. 'Why,'
answered old Rollock, laughing, 'not so far wrong, my boy--but as it's
thirty years since anyone called me so, I thought you _were_, for a
moment!--Meditating, eh?' 'Only a cigar before bedtime--will you have
one, sir?' 'Ah--well,' said the planter, 'I'll take a light at
least--queer life this, eh? Shouldn't know this _was_ water, now--more
like train-oil! Looks _junglish_ a little under the stars yonder.'
'Nothing but the haze come down,' said I; ''tis clear enough aloft,
though--look out for squalls ere long.' 'As your friend Ford would have
it,' said Rollock; 'but how a lad of your spirit can manage to stand
this so well, I can't think!' 'Deyvilish dull, sir!' said I, with a lazy
drawl, 'but can't be helped, you know.' 'Come, come, now, don't mend it
by copying poor Winterton,' chuckled Rollock; 'you're no fool, Collins,
so don't pretend to be. I say though, Collins, my boy,' continued he
rather gravely, 'there is one really soft piece I begin to notice in you
lately--I fear you're falling in love with that girl!' '_I_, sir!' said
I; 'dear me, what makes you----' 'My dear boy,' went on the kind-hearted
old fellow, 'I take an interest in you; no lad of your stuff practises
all this tomfoolery without something under it, and I see you've _some_
serious meaning or other. Did you know her before?' 'Oh--why--not
exactly,' I dropped out, taken rather short. 'I see, I see!' he went on;
'but I tell you what, Collins, a cadet can do nothing madder than marry
at first landing; she had better be a cold-hearted flirt, after
all--though, God knows, no man can say what _that_ does but one
that's--felt it!--_I_--I mean I _knew_--a young fellow that went out as
ambitious as you can be, and he----'

"Here the planter's voice shook a little, and he stopped, puffing at his
cheroot till the short end of it just lighted up his hook nose and part
of his big white whiskers in the dark, only you saw his eye glistening,
too. 'Devil take it!' thought I, 'who'd have expected the old boy to be
so sharp, though?' 'Well but, Collins,' said he at last, 'just you enter
heart and soul into your profession; I'd stake my life you'll rise, who
knows how far--when you get captain's pay even, _then_ you may think of
it--that is, if she----' 'Why,' said I, 'd'ye suppose the judge
would----' '_Judge!_' exclaimed Mr Rollock--'worse and worse! Weren't we
talking of pretty little Kate Fortescue? My _dear_ boy, you don't intend
to say you mean Miss Hyde! I left _that_ to your puppy of a "first
officer," as they call him! Why, that young girl will be the beauty of
Calcutta.' At this I fancied someone else gave a whistle near us. 'Of
course, sir,' said I, raising my voice, 'you didn't suppose me such a
fool.' In fact, Miss Fortescue had never entered my head at all.
'Something strange about _you_, Collins!' said the planter, a little
shortly; 'you puzzle me, I must say.' As we turned to go below, I heard
somebody walk down the poop-ladder, and then the mate's voice sung out
from the binnacle to 'strike eight bells!'

"The calm was as dead as ever next morning, and, if possible, hotter
than before--not a rope changed aloft, nor a cloth in the sails moved;
but it was pretty hazy round us, which made the water a sort of pale
old-bottle blue, that sickened you to look at; and a long dipping and
drawling heave gradually got up as if there were blankets on it; the
ship, of course, shifting round and round again slowly, like a dog going
to lie down, and the helm giving every now and then a sudden jolt. Near
noon it cleared up with a blaze of light, as it were; the sole
difference at first being, that what looked like melting lead before now
turned into so many huge bright sheets of tin, every sudden bend of it
as good as flashing up thousands of needles in your eyes. A good deal
surprised we were, however, shortly after, to find there was a sail in
sight, another square-rigged vessel, seemingly standing up on the
horizon six or seven miles off. Being end on to us at the time, though
every glass in the ship was brought to bear on her, 'twas hard to say
what she was; then she and we went bobbing and going up and down with a
long round heave between us, slowly enough, but always at cross
purposes, like two fellows see-sawing on a plank over a dyke. When she
was up, we were down, and we just caught sight of her royal, no bigger
than a gull on the water; jerk went our rudder, and next time she seemed
to have vanished out of the glasses altogether, till we walked round to
the other side, and made her out again under the awning on the opposite
beam. At length she lifted broad to us for a moment or two, showing a
long pale sort of hull with a red streak, apparently without ports, and
brig-rigged, though the space betwixt her two masts was curious for that
kind of craft.

"'Wonderful light-sparred for her size that brig, sir,' said the third
officer, dropping his glass. 'Ay, so she is, Mr Small,' replied Captain
Williamson; 'what would you call her then? You've as good knowledge of
craft as any man, Mr Small, I think.' 'Why,' said the old mate, screwing
his eye harder for a long look, 'I'd say she's--not a cruiser, Captain
Williamson--no, nor a Greenock Indyman--nor a----' 'Oh!' said Finch,
'some African timberer or other, I daresay, Small.' 'Well, Mr Finch,'
said the third mate, handing him the glass, 'mayhap you'll just say
yourself, sir.' 'No, no, Mr Small,' said the captain; 'I'd trust to you
as soon as any man, sir, in a matter of the kind.' 'Why, the hull of
her's wonderful Yankee-like, sir,' said Small again; 'I'm thinking
they've been and _squared_ her out of a schooner--and made a bad job of
it too, sir! Bless us! what a lean-headed pair o' taups'ls--as high as
our fore one, sir.' Suddenly the old mate gave his thigh a slap, and
laid down his glass on the capstan; 'Lor', sir!' said he, 'that's the
thing; she's nothing more nor less but a John Crapeau, Captain
Williamson!'

"'I daresay you're right, Mr Small,' said the skipper, taking the glass;
'just so--ay, ay--I thought it myself!' 'Pity Old Nap's boxed up yonder
nowadays, then, sir,' said the first officer, rubbing his hands and
pointing to eastward, where he thought St Helena was; 'why, sir, we
should have the peppering of the Frenchman; I don't suppose we'd need to
care though she were twice the size--and what's more, we want fresh
water before seeing the Cape, sir!' 'Well,' said the old skipper,
laughing, 'that is the worst of it, Finch! As for spirit, you've as much
as any man, Mr Finch, and I _do_ think we'd know how to take the
weather-hand of him--eh?' 'I'll be bound we should!' said Finch,
laughing too. As for the Frenchman, both Westwood and I had made him out
by his rig at once, thanks to man-o'-war practice; but we smiled to each
other at the notion of making a prize of Monsieur, under Finch's
management, with not a gun that could have been used for half a day, and
everything else at sixes and sevens.

"In a little while it was proposed amongst the cadets, hot as the calm
was, to make a party to go and see the French vessel. Ford of course was
at the head of it. Winterton thought they would no doubt have plenty of
champagne on board, and some others, who could row, wanted to try their
hands. Accordingly the captain's gig was got ready, a sort of awning
rigged over it, and two or three of them got in; when one, who was Miss
Fortescue's cousin, persuaded her to join, if Mr Rollock would come.
Then the brigadier, being rather a good-humoured man, said he should
like to face the French once more, and Daniel Snout shoved himself
eagerly in without asking, by your leave. One of the men was sent to
take charge; and as there was room still, I was just going to jump in
too, for the amusement of it, when Mrs Brady hurried to the taffrail
with her parasol up, and said, if the brigadier went she should go as
well--in fact, the old woman's jealousy of her rib was always laughably
plain. 'Hang it! then,' thought I, 'catch me putting myself in the same
boat with _her_! the same ship is enough in all conscience!' So away
they were lowered off the davits, and began pulling in tolerable style
for the brig, a couple of hours' good work for such hands at midday,
smooth water as it was.

"'Now, gentlemen,' said the first officer briskly, as we looked after
them dipping over the long bright blue heave--'now, gentlemen, and
ladies also, if you please, we'll have another party as soon as the men
get their dinner--give these gentlemen a full hour's law, we'll overhaul
them. See the larboard quarter-boat clear, Jacobs.' It was just the
least possible hazy again behind the brig in the distance, and as the
judge stood talking to his daughter on the poop, I heard her say, 'Is
the other vessel not coming nearer already, papa? See how much more
distinct its sails are this moment--there!--one almost observes the
white canvas!' 'Pooh, Lota, child!' answered Sir Charles, 'that cannot
be--'tis perfectly calm, don't you know?' In fact, however, Lota showed
a sailor's eye for air, and I was noticing it myself; but it was _only_
the air made it look so. 'Ah! now,' exclaimed she again, ''tis as
distant as ever! That must have been the light'; besides, the brig had
been lifting on a wide swell.

"'I beg pardon, Sir Charles,' said the mate, coming up and taking off
his cap, 'but might I use the freedom--perhaps yourself and Miss Hyde
would like to visit the French brig?' The judge looked at his daughter
as much as to ask if she would like it. 'Oh yes! so much!' exclaimed
she, her bright eyes sparkling, 'shall we?' 'No! Not _I_!' said Sir
Charles. 'I shall take my siesta. Quite safe, sir--eh?' 'Oh, quite safe,
Sir Charles!' said Finch, 'a dead calm, sir--I'll take the utmost care
you may be sure, Sir Charles--as safe as the deck, sir!' 'Oh, very
well,' replied the judge, and he walked down to see after his tiffin.
The young lady was going down the quarter-gallery stair, when I caught
my opportunity to say--'I hope you'll excuse it, Miss Hyde, ma'am--but
I _do_ trust you'll not risk going in the boat so far, just now!' Half a
minute after I spoke, she turned round, and looked at me with a curious
sort of expression in her charming face, which I couldn't make
out--whether it was mischievous, whether it was pettish, or whether
'twas inquisitive.

'Dear me!' said she, 'why--do you----' 'The weather might change,' I
said, looking round about, 'and I shouldn't wonder if it did--or a swell
might get up--or----' 'I must say, Mr--Mr Collins,' said she, laughing
slightly, 'you are very gloomy in your anticipations--almost timorous, I
declare! I wonder how you came to be so weather-wise! But why did you
not advise poor Mrs Brady, now?' I couldn't see her face as she spoke,
but the tone of the last words made me feel I'd have given worlds to
look round and see what it was like at the moment. 'Perhaps, ma'am,'
said I, 'you may remember the _rain_?' 'Well, we shall see, sir!'
replied she, glancing up with a bright sparkle in her eye for an
instant, but only toward the end of the spanker-boom, as it were; and
then tripping down the stair.

"I kept watching the gig pull slowly toward the brig in the distance,
and the cutter making ready on our quarter till the men were in, with
Jacobs amongst them; where they sat waiting in no small glee for the
mate and his party, who came up a few minutes after; and I was just
beginning to hope that Violet Hyde had taken my advice, when she and
another young lady came out of the round-house, dressed for the trip,
and the captain gallantly handed them in. 'My compliments to the French
skipper, Mr Finch,' said the captain, laughing, 'and if he ain't better
engaged, happy to see him to dinner at--two bells[18] in the dog-watch,
we'll make it!' 'Ay, ay, sir,' said Finch. 'Now then!--all ready?'
'Smythe's coming yet.' said a 'writer.' 'We can't wait any longer for
him,' replied the mate; 'ease away the falls, handsomely, on deck!'
'Stop,' said I, 'I'll go then!' 'Too late, young gentleman,' answered
the mate, sharply, 'you'll cant us gunnel up, sir!--lower away, there!'
However, I caught hold of a rope and let myself down the side, time
enough to jump lightly into her stern-sheets the moment they touched the
water. The officer stared at me as he took the yoke-lines to steer, but
he said nothing, and the boat shoved off; while Miss Hyde's blue eyes
only opened out, as it were, for an instant, at seeing me drop in so
unceremoniously; and her companion laughed.

  [18] Five o'clock P.M.

"'I shouldn't have supposed you so nimble, Mr Collins!' said the writer,
looking at me through his eyeglass. 'Oh,' said I, 'Ford and I have
practised climbing a good deal lately.' 'Ha! ha!' said the civilian,
'shouldn't be surprised, now, if your friend were to take the navigation
out of Mr Finch's hands, some day!' 'Bless me, yes, sir!' said Finch,
with a guffaw, as he sat handling the lines carelessly, and smiling to
the ladies, with his smart cap over one ear; 'to be sure--ha! ha!
ha!--it's certain, Mr Beveridge! Wouldn't you take the helm here, sir?'
to me. 'Oh, thank you, no, sir!' replied I, modestly, 'I'm not quite so
far _yet_--but we've got a loan of Hamilton Moore and Falconer's
Dictionary from the midshipmen, and mean to----' 'No doubt you'll teach
us a trick or two yet!' said Finch, with a sneer. 'Now, for instance,'
said I, coolly, 'aloft yonder, you've got the _throat halliards_ jammed
in the block with a gasket, and the mizzen-topsail cluelines rove wrong
side of it, which Hamilton Moore distinctly----'

"'Hang the lubber that did it, so they are!' exclaimed the mate, looking
through the spy-glass we had with us. 'Now you've your _jibs_ hauled
down, sir,' continued I, 'and if a squall came on abeam, no doubt they'd
wish to shorten sail from _aft_, and keep her away--however, she would
broach-to at once, as Hamilton Moore shows must----' 'You and Hamilton
Moore may----Well, no fear of a squall just now, at any rate, ladies,'
said he. 'Stretch out, men--let's head upon Mr Ford and his gig, yet!'

"Terribly hot it was, close to the water, and so stifling that you
scarce could breathe, while the long glassy swell was far higher than
one thought it from the ship's deck; however, we had an awning hoisted,
and it refreshed one a little both to hear the water and feel it below
again, as the cutter went sliding and rippling over it to long slow
strokes of the oars; her crew being all men-o'-war's-men, that knew how
to pull together and take it easy. The young ladies kept gazing rather
anxiously at the big old _Seringapatam_, as she rose and dropped heavily
on the calm, amused though they were at first by a sight of their late
home turning 'gable' on to us, with her three masts in one, and a white
straw hat or two watching us from her taffrail; whereas, ahead, they
only now and then caught a glimpse of the brig's upper canvas, over a
hot, hazy, sullen-looking sweep of water as deep-blue as indigo--with
six hairy brown breasts bending before them to the oars, and as many
pair of queer, rollicking, fishy sort of eyes, fixed steadily on the
bonnets aft, in a shame-faced, down-hill kind of way, like fellows that
couldn't help it. In fact, I noticed a curious grin now and then on
every one of the men's faces, and a look to each other when they caught
sight of myself sitting behind the mate, as he paid out his high-flying
speeches; Jacobs, again, regarding me all the while out of the whites of
his eyes, as it were, in a wooden, unknowing fashion fit to have made a
cat laugh--seeing he never missed his mark for one moment, and drew back
his head at every pull with the air of a drunken man keeping sight of
his own waistcoat buttons.

"By the time we were halfway, the swell began to get considerable, and
the mate stepped up abaft to look for the gig. 'Can't see the boat yet,'
said he; 'give way there, my lads--stretch out and bend your backs!
there's the brig!' 'Hallo!' exclaimed he again, 'she's clued up royals
and to'gallants'ls! By heavens! there go her tops'ls down too! Going to
bend new sails, though, I daresay, for it looks clear enough there.'
'The ship's run up a flag, aft sir,' said Jacobs. 'The----so she has,'
said Finch, turning round; 'recall signal! What's wrong? Sorry _we_
can't dine aboard the French vessel this time, ladies!' said he,
'extremely _so_--and the griffins there after all, too. I hope _you_
won't be disappointed in any great measure, Miss Hyde; but if you wished
it now, miss, I'd even _keep_ on, and----'

"The young lady coloured a little at this, and turned to her companion
just as I remembered her doing from the dragoon in the ball-room. 'Do
you not think, Miss Wyndham,' said she, '_we_ ought not to wish any
officer of the ship should get reproved, perhaps, on _our_ account?' 'Oh
dear, no,' said Miss Wyndham: 'indeed, Mr Finch, you had better go back,
if the captain orders you.'

"'Hold on there with your larboard oars, you lubbers!' sang out Finch,
biting his lip, and round we went, pulling for the Indiaman again; but
by this time the swell was becoming so heavy as to make it hard work,
and it was soon rarely we could see her at all; for nothing gets up so
fast as a swell, sometimes, near the Line; neither one way nor the
other, but right up and down, without a breath of wind, in huge smooth
hills of water darker than lead, not a speck of foam, and the sky hot
and clear. 'Twas almost as if a weight had been lifted from off the long
heaving calm, and the whole round of it were going up dark into the sky,
in one weltering jumble, the more strange that it was quiet; sweep up it
took the boat, and the bright wet oar-blades spread feathering out for
another stroke to steady her, let alone making way; though that was
nothing to the look of the Indiaman when we got near. She was rolling
her big black hull round in it as helpless as a cask; now one side, then
the other, dipping gunwale to in the round swell that came heaping up
level with her very rail, and went sheeting out bright through the
bulwarks again; the masts jumping, clamps and boom-irons creaking on the
yards, and every sail on her shaking, as her lower yard-arms took it by
turns to aim at the water--you heard all the noise of it, the plunge of
her flat broadside, the plash from her scuppers, the jolts of her
rudder, and voices on board; and wet you may be sure she _was_ from stem
to stern.

"'Comfortable,' thought I; 'we've come home too soon of a washing-day,
and may wait at the door, I fear!' 'Oh dear,' exclaimed the three
griffins, 'how are we to get in!' and the young ladies looked pale at
the sight. The mate steered for her larboard quarter without saying a
word, but I saw he lost coolness and got nervous--not at all the man for
a hard pinch: seemingly, he meant to make a dash alongside and hook on.
'If you do, sir,' said I, 'you'll be smashed to staves'; and all at once
the ship appeared almost over our heads, while the boat took a send in.
I looked to Jacobs and the men, and they gave one long stroke off, that
seemed next heave to put a quarter of a mile between us. 'Close shave
that,' said the bowman. 'Begs pardon, sir,' said Jacobs, touching his
hat, with his eyes still fixed past the mate, upon me; 'hasn't we better
keep steadying off, sir, till such time as a sulk in the swell----'
'Hold your jaw, sirrah,' growled Finch, as he looked ahead still more
flurried; 'there's a _squall_ coming yonder, gentlemen, and if we don't
get quick aboard, we may lose the ship in it! Pull round, d' ye hear
there!' Sure enough, when we lifted, there was the French brig clear
out against a sulky patch of dark-grey sky, growing in, as it were, far
off behind the uneven swell, till _it_ began to look pale; the
Indiaman's topsails gave a loud flap out, too, one after the other, and
fell to the mast again.

"Suddenly I caught the glance of Violet Hyde's eyes watching me
seriously, as I sat overhauling the Indiaman for a notion of what to do,
and I fancied the charming girl had somehow got nearer to me during the
last minute or two, whether she knew it or not; at any rate, the thought
of having such a creature to protect made all my blood tingle. 'Never
fear, ma'am,' said I, in a half whisper; when Finch's eye met mine, and
he threw me a malicious look, sufficient to show what a devil the fellow
would be if ever he had occasion; however, he gave the sign for the men
to stretch out again, and high time it was, as the Indiaman's
main-topsail made another loud clap like a musket-shot. Still he was
holding right for her _quarter_--the roll the ship had on her was
fearful, and it was perfect madness to try it; but few merchant mates
have chanced to be boating in a Line swell, I daresay; when just as we
came head on for her starboard counter, I took the boat's tiller a
sudden shove with my foot, as if by accident, that sent us sheering in
close under her _stern_. The bowman prized his boat-hook into the
rudder-chains, where the big hull swung round us on both sides like an
immense wheel round its barrel, every stern window with a face watching
us--though one stroke of the loose rudder would have stove us to bits,
and the swell was each moment like to make the men let go, as it hove us
up almost near enough to have caught a hand from the lower-deck.

"'For God's sake steady your wheel,' said I; 'hard a port!' while the
mate was singing out for a line. 'Now, up you go,' said I to Jacobs in
the hubbub, 'look sharp, and send us down a whip and basket from the
boom-end, as we did once in the _Pandora_, you know!' Up the rope went
Jacob like a cat, hand over hand; and five minutes after, down came the
'basket' over our heads into the boat, made out of a studding-sail and
three capstan-bars, like a big grocer's scale dangling from the
spanker-boom. The mate proposed to go up first with Miss Hyde, but she
hung back in favour of her companion; so away aloft went Miss Wyndham
and he, swinging across the Indiaman's stern as she rolled again, with a
gant-line to steady them in--Finch holding on to the whip by one hand,
and the other round the young lady, while my blood crept at the thought
how it might have been Lota herself!

"As soon as it came down again, she looked for a moment from me to
Jacobs, when Captain Williamson himself shouted over the taffrail!
'Sharp, sharp, there! the squall's coming down! she'll be up in the
wind! let's get the helm free!' and directly after I found myself
swinging twenty feet over the water with Violet Hyde, as the ship heeled
to a puff that filled the spanker, and rose again on a huge swell,
gathering steerage way, while every bolt of canvas in her flapped in
again at once like thunder. I felt her shudder and cling to me--there
was one half-minute we swung fairly clear of the stern; they stopped
hoisting--and I almost thought I'd have wished that same half-minute
half-a-day; but a minute after she was in the judge's arms on the poop;
the men had contrived to get the cadets on board, too, and the boat was
dragging astern, with the line veered out, and her crew still in it
baling her out.

"I fixed my eyes at once, breathless as we of the boat party were, on
the weather-signs and the other vessel, which everybody on the poop was
looking at, as soon as we were safe, and our friends in the gig had to
be thought of. The short top-swell was beginning to soften in long
regular seas, with just air enough aloft to give our light sails a
purchase on it, and put an end to the infernal clatter; but the vapour
had gathered quicker than you could well fancy behind the brig in the
distance, so that she looked already a couple of miles nearer, rising up
two or three times on as many huge swells that shone like blue glass,
while she steadied herself like a tight-rope dancer on the top of them,
by a studding-sail set high from each side. On the far horizon beyond
her, you'd have thought there was a deep black ditch sunk along under
the thickening blue haze, as it stretched out past her to both hands,
till actually the solid breast of it seemed to shove the brig bodily
forward over the oily-like water, every spar and rope distinct; then the
fog lifted below as if the teeth of a saw came splitting through it, and
we saw her bearing down towards us--cloud, water, and all, as it
were--with a white heap of foam at her bows.

"'Brace up sharp, Mr Finch!' said the old skipper hastily, 'and stand
over to meet her. Confound this! we _must_ have these people out of
that brig in a trice; we shall soon have a touch of the Horse Latitudes,
or my name's not Richard Williamson--ay, and bid good-bye to 'em too, I
think!'

"For a quarter of an hour or so, accordingly, we kept forging slowly
ahead, while the brig continued to near us. No one spoke, almost--you
heard the lazy swash of the water round our fore-chains, and the
stillness aboard had a gloomy enough effect, as one noticed the top of
the haze creep up into round vapoury heads upon the sky, and felt it
darkening aloft besides. We were scarce three-quarters of a mile apart,
and could see her sharp black bows drip over the bright sheathing, as
she rolled easily on the swell; when the Indiaman suddenly lost way
again, sheered head round, and slap went all her sails from the royals
down, as if she had fired a broadside. Almost the next moment, a long
low growl ran muttering and rumbling far away round the horizon, from
the clouds and back to them again, as if they had been some huge monster
or other on the watch, with its broad green muzzle shooting quietly over
us as it lay; the brig dipped her gilt figure-head abeam of us, and then
showed her long red streak; the swell sinking fast, and the whole sea
far and wide coming out from the sky as dark and round as the mahogany
drum-head of the capstan.

"'Bless me, Small,' said the captain, 'but I hope they've not knocked a
hole in my gig--ay, there _they_ are, I think, looking over the brig's
quarter--but don't seem to have a boat to swim! Get the cutter hauled
alongside, Mr Stebbing,' continued he to the fourth mate, 'and go aboard
for them at once--confounded bothering, this! Mind get my gig safe, sir,
if you please--can ye _parley-voo_, though, Mr Stebbing?' 'Not a word,
sir,' said the young mate, a gentlemanly, rather soft fellow, whom the
other three all used to snub. 'Bless me, can't we muster a bit o' French
amongst us?' said the skipper; 'catch a _monshoor_ that knows a word of
English like any other man--'specially if they've a chance of keeping my
gig!' 'Well, sir,' said I, 'I'll be happy to go with the officer, as I
can speak French well enough!' 'Thank ye, young gentleman, thank ye,'
said he, 'you'll do it as well as any man, I'm sure--only look sharp, if
you please, and bring my gig with you!' So down the side we bundled into
the cutter, and pulled straight for the brig, which had just hoisted
French colours, not old 'three-patches,' of course, but the new
Restoration flag.

"I overhauled her well as we got near, and a beautiful long
schooner-model she was, with sharp bows, and a fine easy-run hull from
stem to stern, but dreadfully dirty and spoilt with top-bulwarks, as if
they meant to make her look as clumsy as possible; while the brig-rig of
her aloft, with the ropes hanging in bights and hitches, gave her the
look of a hedge-parson on a race-horse; at the same time, I counted six
closed ports of a side, in her red streak, the exact breadth and colour
of itself. Full of men, with a long gun, and schooner-rigged, she could
have sailed round the Indiaman in a light breeze, and mauled her to any
extent.

"They hove us a line out of the gangway at once, the mate got up her
side as she rolled gently over, and I followed him: the scene that met
our eyes as soon as we reached the deck, however, struck me a good deal
on various accounts. We couldn't at first see where Mr Rollock and his
party might be, for the shadow of a thick awning after the glare of the
water, and the people near the brig's gangway; but I saw two or three
dark-faced, very French-like individuals, in broad-brimmed straw hats
and white trousers, seemingly passengers; while about twenty Kroomen and
negroes, and as many seamen with unshaven chins, earrings, and striped
frocks, were in knots before the long-boat, turned keel up amidships,
careless enough, to all appearance, about us. One of the passengers
leant against the mainmast, with his arms folded over his broad chest,
and his legs crossed, looking curiously at us as we came up; his dark
eyes half closed, the shadow of his hat down to his black moustache, and
his shirt-collar open, showing a scar on his hairy breast; one man, whom
I marked for the brig's surgeon, beside him; and another waiting for us
near the bulwarks--a leathery-faced little fellow, with twinkling black
eyes, and a sort of cocked hat fore-and-aft on his cropped head. '_Moi_,
monsieur,' said he, slapping his hand on his breast as the mate looked
about him, 'oui, je suis capitaine, monsieur.'

"'Good-day, sir,' said Stebbing, 'we've just come aboard for our
passengers--and the gig--sir, if you please.' 'Certainement, monsieur,'
said the French skipper, bowing and taking a paper from his pocket,
which he handed to the mate, 'I comprind, sare--monsieur le
capitaine d' la frégate Anglaise, il nous demande nos--vat you
call--_peppares_--voilà! I have 'ad le honneur, messieurs, to be already
sarch by vun off vos _crusoes_--pour des _esclaves_! vous imaginez
_cela_, messieurs!' and here the worthy Frenchman cast up his hands and
gave a grin which seemed meant for innocent horror. '_Slaifs! chez_ le
brigantin _Louis Bourbon_, Capitaine Jean Duprez? _Non!_' said he,
talking away like a windmill, 'de Marseilles à l'Isle de France, avec
les vins choisis----' 'You mistake, monsieur,' said I, in French; 'the
ship is an Indiaman, and we have only come for our _friends_, who are
enjoying your wine, I daresay, but we must----' 'Comment?' said he,
staring, '_what_, monsieur? have de gotness to----'

"Here the moustached passenger suddenly raised himself off the mast, and
made one stride between us to the bulwarks, where he looked straight out
at the Indiaman, his arms still folded, then from us to the French
master. He was a noble-looking man, with an eye I never saw the like of
in anyone else, 'twas so clear, bold, and prompt--it actually went
_into_ you like a sword, and I couldn't help fancying him in the thick
of a battle, with thousands of men and miles of smoke. 'Duprez,' said
he, quickly, 'je vous le dis encore--debarquez ces misérables!--nous
_combattrons_!' 'Then, mon ami,' said the surgeon, in a low, cool,
determined tone, stepping up and laying a hand on his shoulder, 'aussi,
_nous couperons les ailes de l'Aigle_, seulement!--Hush, mon ami,
restrain this unfortunate madness of yours!--c'est bien mal-à-propos à
present!' and he whispered something additional, on which the passenger
fell back and leant against the mainmast as before. 'Ah!' said the
French master in his own language, shaking his head, and giving his
forehead a tap, 'le pauvre homme-là! He has had a coup-de-soleil,
messieurs, or rather of the _moon_, you perceive, from sleeping in its
rays! _Ma foi!_' exclaimed he, on my explaining the matter, 'c'est
pos-_sible_?--we _did_ suppose your boat proposed us the honour to
visit, when evidently deterred by the excessive undulation!--My friends,
resign yourselves to a misfort----' 'Great heavens! Mr Stebbing,' said
I, 'the boat is _lost_!' 'By George! what _will_ the captain say, then!'
replied he; however as soon as I told him the sad truth, poor Stebbing,
being a good-hearted fellow, actually put his hands to his face and
sobbed.

"All this time the brig's crew were gabbling and kicking up a confounded
noise about something they were at with the spare spars, and in throwing
tarpaulins over the hatches; for it was fearfully dark, and going to
rain heavy; the slight swell shone and slid up betwixt the two vessels
like oil, and the clouds to south-westward had gathered up to a steep
black bank, with round coppery heads, like smoke over a town on fire.
'Will you go down, messieurs,' said the Frenchman, politely, 'and taste
my _vin de_----' 'No, sir,' said I, 'we must make haste off, or
else--besides, by-the-way, we couldn't, for you've got all your hatches
battened down!' 'Diable, so they are!' exclaimed he, '_par honneur_,
gentlemen, I regret the occasion of--ha!' Just before, a glaring brassy
sort of touch had seemed to come across the face of the immense cloud;
and though everything, far and wide, was as still as death, save the
creaking of the two ships' yards, it made you think of the last
trumpet's mouth! But at this moment a dazzling flash leaped zigzag out
of it, running along from one cloud to another, while the huge dark
mass, as it were, tore right up, changing and turning it inside out like
dust--you saw the sea far away under it, heaving from glassy blue into
unnatural-like brown--when crash broke the thunder over our very heads,
as if something had fallen out of heaven, then a long bounding roar. The
mad French passenger stood up, walked to the bulwarks, and looked out
with his hand over his eyes for the next; while the young mate and I
tumbled down the brig's side without further to-do, and pulled fast for
the ship, where we hardly got aboard before there was another wild
flash, another tremendous clap, and the rain fell in one clash, more
like stone than water, on sea and decks. For half an hour we were
rolling and soaking in the midst of it, the lightning hissing through
the rain, and showing it glitter; while every five minutes came a burst
of thunder and then a rattle fit to split one's ears. At length, just as
the rain began to slacken, you could see it lift bodily, the standing
sheets of it drove right against our canvas and through the
awnings--when we made out the French brig with her jib, topsails, and
boom-mainsail full, leaning over as she clove through it before the
wind.

"The squall burst into our wet topsails as loud as the thunder, with a
flash almost like the lightning itself, taking us broad abeam; the ship
groaned and shook for a minute ere gathering way and falling off, and
when she rose and began to go plunging through the black surges no brig
was to be seen: every man on deck let his breath out almost in a cry,
scarce feeling as yet but it was equal to losing sight for ever of our
late shipmates, or the least hope of them. The passengers, ladies and
all, crowded in the companion-hatch in absolute terror, every face
aghast, without thinking of the rain and spray; now and then the sulky
crest of a bigger wave would be caught sight of beyond the bulwarks, as
the sea rose with its green back curling over into white; and you'd have
said the shudder ran down into the cabin, at thought of seeing one or
other of the lost boat's crew come weltering up from the mist and vanish
again. I knew it was of no use, but I held on in the weather
mizzen-rigging, and looked out to westward, against a wild break of
light which the setting sun made through the troughs of the sea; once
and again I could fancy I saw the boat lift keel up, far off betwixt me
and the fierce glimmer.

"'Oh, do you see them? _do_ you not see it yet?' was passed up to me
over and over, from one sharp-pitched voice to another; but all I could
answer was to shake my head. At last, one by one, they went below; and
after what had happened, I must say I could easily fancy what a chill,
dreary-like, awful notion of the sea must have come for the first time
on a landsman, not to speak of delicate young girls fresh from home, at
sight of the drenched quarter-deck leaning bare down to leeward, the
sleet and spray battering bleak against the round-house doors, where I
had seen Miss Hyde led sobbing in, with her wet hair about her face;
then the ship driving off from where she had lost them, with her three
strong lower masts aslant into the gale, ghastly-white and dripping--her
soaked sheets of canvas blown grey and stiff into the rigging, and _it_
strained taut as iron; while you saw little of her higher than the tops,
as the scud and the dark together closed aloft. Poor Miss Fortescue's
mother was in fits below in her berth--the two watches were on the yards
aloft, where no eye could see them, struggling hard to furl and reef; so
altogether it was a gloomy enough moment. I stayed awhile on deck,
wrapped in a pea-coat, keeping my feet and hanging on, and thinking how
right down in earnest matters _could_ turn of a sudden. I wasn't
remarkably thoughtful in these days, I daresay, but there did I keep,
straining my eyes into the mist to see, I couldn't tell what, and
repeating over and over again to myself these few words out of the
Prayer-book, 'In the midst of life we are in death,' though scarce
knowing what I said.



CHAPTER X


"However, the Indiaman's officers and crew had work enough in managing
her at present: after a sunset more like the putting out of him than
anything else, with a flaring snuff and a dingy sort of smoke that
followed, the wind grew from sou'-west into a regular long gale, that
drove the tops of the heavy seas into the dead-lights astern, rising aft
out of the dark like so many capes, with the snow drifting off them over
the poop. At midnight, it blew great guns, with a witness; the ship,
under storm staysails and close-reefed main-topsail, going twelve knots
or more, when, as both the captain and mate reckoned, we were near St
Helena on our present course, and to haul on a wind was as much as her
spars were worth; her helm was put hard down, and we lay-to for morning,
the ship drifting off bodily to leeward with the water. The night was
quite dark, the rain coming in sudden spits out of the wind; you only
heard the wet gale sob and hiss through the bare rigging into her storm
canvas, when the look-out men ahead sung out, 'Land--land close to
starboard!' 'Bless me, sir,' said the mate to the captain, 'it's the
Rock--well that we _did_--' 'Hard up! hard up with the helm!' yelled the
men again, 'it's a _ship_!'

"I ran to the weather main-chains and saw a broad black mass, as it
were, rising high abeam, and seeming to come out from the black of the
night, with a gleam or two in it which they had taken for lights ashore
in the island. The _Seringapatam's_ wheel was put up already, but she
hung in the gale, doubtful whether to fall off or not; and the moment
she _did_ sink into the trough, we should have had a sea over her
broadside fit to wash away men, boats, and all--let alone the other
ship bearing down at twelve knots. 'Show the _head_ of the
_fore-topmast-staysail_!' shouted I with all my strength to the
forecastle, and up it went slapping its hanks to the blast--the Indiaman
sprang round heeling to her ports on the next sea, main-topsail before
the wind, and the staysail down again. Next minute a large ship, with
the foam washing over her cat-heads, and her martingale gear dripping
under the huge white bowsprit, came lifting close past us--as black as
shadows aloft, save the glimmer of her main-tack to the lanterns
aboard--and knot after knot of dim faces above her bulwarks shot by,
till you saw her captain standing high in the mizzen-chains, with a
speaking-trumpet. He roared out something or other through it, and the
skipper sung out under both his hands, 'Ay, ay, sir,' in answer; but it
turned out after that nobody knew what it was, unless it might be, as I
thought, '_Where_ are you going?' The minute following, we saw her
quarter-lanterns like two will-o'-the-wisps beyond a wave, and she was
gone--a big frigate running under half her canvas, strong though the
gale blew.

"'Why, Mr Finch,' said Captain Williamson, as soon as we had time to
draw breath, 'who was _that_ bid show the fo'topmast-stays'l; twan't
_you_?' 'No,' said the mate, 'I'd like to know who had the hanged
impudence to give orders here without----' 'Well now, Finch,' continued
the old skipper, 'I'm not sure but that was our only chance at the
moment, sir; and if 'twas one of the men, why I'd pass it over, or even
give him an extra glass of grog in a quiet way.' No one could say who it
was, however; and, for my part, the sight of the frigate made me still
more cautious than before of letting out what Westwood and I were. In
fact, I couldn't help feeling rather uneasy, and I was glad to hear the
superstitious old sailmaker whispering about how he feared there was no
luck to be looked for 'when drowned men and _ghostesses_ began to work
the ship!'

"The first streak of dawn was hardly seen, when a sail could be made out
in it, far on our lee bow, which the officers supposed to be the
frigate. Westwood and I, however, were of opinion it was the French
brig, although by sunrise we lost sight of her again. Everyone in the
cuddy talked of our unfortunate friends and their melancholy fate; even
Ford and Winterton were missed, while old Mr Rollock had been the life
of the passengers. But there was naturally still more felt for the poor
girl Fortescue; it made all of us gloomy for a day or two; though the
fresh breeze and the Indiaman's fast motion, after our wearisome spell
of a calm, did a great deal to bring things round again. Westwood was
greatly taken up with my account of the brig and her people, both of us
agreeing there was somewhat suspicious about her, though I thought she
was probably neither more nor less than a slaver, and he had a notion
she was after something deeper: what that might be, 'twas hard to
conceive, as they didn't appear like pirates. One thing, however, we
_did_ conclude from the matter, that the brig couldn't have been at all
inclined for visitors; and, in fact, there was little doubt but she
_would_ actually refuse letting the boat aboard, if they reached her; so
in all likelihood our unhappy friends had been swamped on that very
account, just as the squall came on. When this idea got about the ship,
of course you may suppose neither passengers nor crew to have felt
particularly amiable towards the French vessel; and if we had met her
again, with any good occasion for it, all hands were much inclined to
give her a right-down thrashing, if not to make prize of her as a bad
character.

"'Well, Tom,' said I to Westwood one day, 'I wish these good folks
mayn't be disappointed, but I do suspect this blessed mate of ours will
turn out to have run us into some fine mess or other with his
navigation! Did you notice how _blue_ the sky looked this morning, over
to eastward, compared with what it did just now where the sun _set_?'
'No,' said Westwood, 'not particularly; but what of that?' 'Why, in the
_Iris_,' replied I, 'we used always to reckon that a sign, hereabouts,
of our being near the _land_! Just you see now, to-morrow morning, if
the dawn hasn't a hazy yellow look in it before the breeze fails; in
which case 'tis the African coast to a certainty! Pity these "Hyson
Mundungo" men, as Jack calls them, shouldn't have their eyes about them
as well as on the log-slate. I daresay now,' continued I, laughing, 'you
heard the first mate bothering lately about the great variation in the
compass here? Well, what do you suppose was the reason of it, but that
sly devil of a _kitmagar_ shoving in his block for grinding curry under
the feet of the binnacle every time he was done using it! I saw him get
a kick one morning from the man at the wheel, who chanced to look down
and notice him. Good solid iron it is, though painted and polished like
marble, and the circumcised rascal unluckily considered the whole
binnacle as a sort of second Mecca for security.' 'Hang the fellow!'
said Westwood, 'but I don't see much to laugh at, Ned. Why, if you're
right, we shall all be soaked and fried into African fever before
reaching the Cape, and we've had misfortunes enough already. Only think
of an exquisite creature like Miss----' 'Oh,' interrupted I, fancying
Master Tom began lately to show sufficient admiration for her, 'betwixt
an old humdrum and a conceited fool like that, what could you expect?
All I say is, my dear parson, stand by for a pinch when it comes.'

"On going down to tea in the cuddy, we found the party full of spirits,
and for the first time there was no mention of their lost
fellow-passengers, except amongst a knot of cadets and writers rather
elevated by the Madeira after dinner, who were gathered round the
Reverend Mr Knowles, pretending to talk regretfully of his Yankee friend
Mr Daniel Snout. 'Yes, gentlemen,' said the missionary, who was a
worthy, simple-hearted person, 'in spite of some uncouthness, and
perhaps limited views, the result of defective education, he was an
excellent man, I think.' 'Oh certainly, certainly,' said a writer,
looking to his friends, 'and the one thing needful you spoke of just
now, sir, I daresay he had it always in his eye, now?' 'Mixed, I fear,'
replied the missionary, 'with some element of worldly feeling, for in
America they _are_ apt to make even the soul, as well as religious
association, matter of commerce; but Mr Snout, I have reason to be
assured, had the true welfare of India at heart. We had much interesting
conversation on the subject.' 'Ah,' said the sharp civilians, 'he was
fond of getting information, was poor Daniel. Was that why he asked you
so many questions about the Hindoo gods, Mr Knowles?' 'He already
possessed much general knowledge of their strange mythology himself,'
answered the missionary, 'and I confess I was surprised at it,
especially as he confessed to me that that gorgeous country, with its
many boundless capabilities, should have occupied his thoughts more and
more from boyhood, amidst the secular activity of modern life--even as
it occurred unto myself!'

"Here the worthy man took off his large spectacles, gave them a wipe,
and put them on again, while he finished his tea. 'Before this
deplorable dispensation,' continued he again, 'he was on the point of
revealing to me a great scheme at once for the enlightenment, I believe,
of that benighted land, and for more lucrative support to those engaged
in it. I fear, gentlemen, it was enthusiasm--but I have grounds for
thinking that our departed friend has left in this vessel many packages
of volumes translated into several dialects of the great Hindoo
tongue--not omitting, I am convinced, the best of books.' 'Where?'
exclaimed several of the cadets, rather astonished. '_Well!_ poor Snout
can't have been such a bad fellow, after all!' 'All hum!' said the
writer, doubtfully, 'depend upon it. I should like now to have a peep at
Jonathan's bales!' 'I myself have thought also,' said the missionary,
'it would gratify me to look into his apartment--and were it permitted
to use one or two of the volumes, I should cheerfully on our arrival in
Bom----' 'Come along,' said the cadets--'let's have a look!--shouldn't
wonder to see Daniel beside his lion yet, within! or hear "Guess I
ain't."' 'My young friends,' said the missionary, as we all went along
the lighted passage, 'such levity is unseemly'; and indeed the look of
the state-room door, fastened outside, as the steward had left it before
the gale came on, made the brisk cadets keep quiet till the lashing on
it was unfastened--'twas so like breaking in upon a ghost. However, as
it chanced, Mr Snout's goods had got loose during her late roll, and
heaped down to leeward against the door--so, whenever they turned the
handle, a whole bundle of packages came tumbling out of the dark as it
burst open, with a shower of small affairs like so many stones after
them.

"'What's all this?' exclaimed the cadets, stooping to look at the
articles by the lamp-light, strewed as they were over the deck. The
reverend gentleman stooped, too, stood straight, wiped his spectacles,
and fixed them on his nose, then stooped again; at length one long
exclamation of surprise broke out of his mouth. They were nothing but
little ugly images done in earthenware, painted and gilt, and all
exactly the same: the writer dived into a canvas package, and there was
a lot of a different kind, somewhat larger and uglier. Everyone made
free with a bale for himself, shouting out his discoveries to the rest.
'I say, Smythe, this is Vishnu, it's marked in the corner!' 'I say,
Ramsay, here's Brahma!' 'Ha! ha! ha! if I haven't got Seeva!' 'I say,
what's this though?' screamed a young lad, hauling at the biggest bale
of all, while the missionary stood stock upright, a perfect picture of
bewilderment, '_Lo!_' being all he could say. The lad had lighted on a
gross or so of hideous gentlemen and ladies with three heads and five
arms, packed nicely through each other in cotton, but inside the
state-room. At this last prize, however, the poor missionary could stand
it no longer. 'Oh! oh!' groaned he, clapping his hand to his head, and
walking slowly off to his berth; while, as the truth gleamed on the
cadets and us, we sat down on the deck amidst the spoil, and roared with
laughter like to go into fits, at the unfortunate Yankee's scheme for
converting India.[19] I had found the American by no means to my fancy
as a berth-mate, so, after some dealings with the steward, I not only
had secured a pretty comfortable berth for my poor friend Westwood, but
one for myself. This had been, in short, soon afterwards managed, with
the help of some shifting among the best-natured of the young cadets.

  [19] It is here due to the credit of our friend the captain, who was
       not unusually imaginative for a sailor, to state, that this
       speculation, as a commercial one, is strictly and literally a
       _fact_, as the Anglo-Indian of Calcutta can probably testify. The
       bold and all but poetical catholicity of the idea could have been
       reached, perhaps, by the "progressing" American intellect alone,
       while Staffordshire, it is certain, furnished its realisation; the
       investment, it is nevertheless believed, proved eventually
       unprofitable.

"'Well--hang me!' said a writer, as soon as he could speak, 'but this
_is_ a stroke beyond the Society for Diffusing Useful Knowledge!' 'Every
man his own priest--ha! ha! ha!' shouted another. 'I say, Smythe,' sung
out a cadet, 'just fancy--ha! ha! "D. Snout, Esquire, and Co."--ho! ho!
ho! you know it's too rich to enjoy by ourselves, "_My_thullogy store,"
Bombay, near the cathedral!' 'Cheap Brahmas, wholesale and retail--eh?
families supplied!' 'By George! he's a genius lost!' said Smythe; 'but
the parson needn't have broken with him for that--I shouldn't wonder,
now, if they had joined partnership, but Daniel might have thought of
mining all their clay heads with gunpowder and percussion locks, so that
the missionary could have gone round afterwards and blown up heathenship
by a touch!'

"The noise of all this soon brought along the rest of the gentlemen, and
few could help laughing. When the thing got wind on deck, however,
neither the old skipper nor the men seemed to like it much; what with
the notion of the ship's being taken, as it were, by a thousand or two
of ugly little imps and Pagan idols, besides bringing up a drowned
man's concerns, and 'yawhawing,' as they said, into his very door--it
was thought the best thing to have them all chucked overboard next
morning.

"'Twas a beautifully fine night, clear aloft, and the moon rising large
on our larboard bow, out of a delicate pale sort of haze, as the ship
headed south'ard with the breeze; for I marked the haze particularly, as
well as the colour of the sky, that lay high over it, like a deep-blue
hollow going away down beyond, and filling up with the light. There was
no living below for heat, and the showers of cockroaches that went
whirring at the lamps, and marching, with their horrid feelers out,
straight up your legs; so, fore and aft, the decks were astir with us
all. Talk of moonlight on land! but even in the tropics you have to see
it pouring right down, as it was then, the whole sky full of it aloft as
the moon drew farther up, till it came raining, as it were, in a single
sheet from one bend of the horizon to another, the water scarce rippling
to the breeze, only heaving in long low swells that you heard just wash
her bends; one track brighter than the rest, shining and glancing like a
looking-glass drawn out, for a mile or so across our quarter, and the
ship's shadow under her other bow. You saw the men far forward in her
head, and clustered in a heap on the bowsprit-heel, enjoying it
mightily, and looking out or straight aloft, as if to polish their
mahogany faces, and get their bushy whiskers silvered; while the awnings
being off the poop, the planks in it came out like so much ivory from
the shade of the spanker, which sent down a perfect gush of light on
everyone moving past. For the air, again, as all the passengers said, it
was balmy, though for my part--perhaps it might be a fancy of mine--but
now and then I thought it sniffed a little too much _that_ way to be
altogether pleasant in the circumstances.

"Of course, no sooner had I caught sight of Sir Charles Hyde than I
looked for his daughter, and at last saw someone talking to a young lady
seated near the after-gratings, with her head turned round seaward, whom
it didn't require much guessing for me to name. Not having seen her at
all since the affair of the boats, I strolled aft, when I was rather
surprised to find that her companion was Tom Westwood, and they seemed
in the thick of an interesting discourse. The instant I got near,
however, they broke it off; the young lady turned her head--and never,
I'd swear, was woman's face seen fairer than I thought hers at that
moment--when the bright moonlight, that had seemed trying to steal round
her loose bonnet and peep in, fell straight down at once from her
forehead to her chin, appearing, as it were, to dance in under her long
eyelashes to meet her eyes: while one fall of her brown hair hung bright
in it, glistening against the shadow round her cheek, that drew the
charming line of her nose and lip as clear as the horizon on the sky!
The very moment, in fact, that a bitter thought flashed into my mind,
for to my fancy she looked vexed at seeing me, and a colour seemed
mounting up to her cheek, even through the fairy sort of glimmer on it.
_Could_ Tom Westwood have been acting no more than the clerical near
such a creature? and if a fellow like him took it in his head, what
chance had _I_? The next minute, accordingly, she rose off her seat, and
gave me a slight bow in answer to mine, and walked direct to the gallery
stair, where she disappeared.

"'We were talking of that unlucky adventure the other day,' said
Westwood, glancing at me, but rather taken aback, as I thought. 'Ay?'
said I, carelessly. 'Yes,' continued he; 'Miss Hyde had no idea you and
I were particularly acquainted, and seems to think me a respectable
clergyman, but I must tell you, Ned, she has rather a suspicious opinion
of yourself!' 'Oh, indeed!' said I, suddenly. 'Fact, Ned,' said he; 'she
even remembers having seen you before, somewhere or other--I hope, my
dear fellow, it wasn't on the stage?' 'Ha! ha! how amusing!' I said,
with the best laugh I could get up. 'At any rate, Collins,' he went on,
'she sees through your feigned way of carrying on, and knows you're
neither griffin nor land-lubber, but a sailor, for I fancy this is not
the first time the young lady has met with the cloth! _What_ do you
suppose she asked me now, quite seriously?' 'Oh, I couldn't guess, of
course,' replied I, almost with a sneer; 'pray don't----' 'Why, she
inquired what could be the design of one concealing his profession so
carefully--and actually appearing to be on a secret understanding with
some of the sailors! Directly after, she asked whether that brig
mightn't really have been a pirate, and taken off the poor general, Miss
Fortescue, and the rest?' 'Ah,' said I, coldly, 'and if I might venture
to ask, what did you----' 'Oh, of course,' replied Westwood, laughing,
'I could only hide my amusement and profess doubts, you know, Ned!'
'Very good joke, Mr Westwood,' thought I to myself, 'but at least you
can't weather on _me_ quite so innocently, my fine fellow! I didn't
_think_ it of him, after all! By Heaven, I did _not_!'

"'By-the-by, Collins,' exclaimed Westwood in a little, as he kept his
eye astern, 'there's something away yonder on our lee quarter that I've
been watching for these last ten minutes--what do you think it may be?
Look! just in the tail of the moonshine yonder!' What it might be, I
cared little enough at the time, but I did give a glance, and saw a
little black dot, as it were, rising and falling with the long run of
the water, apparently making way before the breeze. 'Only a bit of wood,
I daresay,' remarked I; 'but whatever it is, at any rate, the drift will
take it far to leeward of us, so you needn't mind.' Here we heard a
steward come up and say to the first officer, who was waiting with the
rest to take a lunar observation, that Captain Williamson had turned in
unwell, but he wanted to hear when they found the longitude; accordingly
they got their altitude, and went on making the calculations on deck.
'Well, steward,' said the mate, after a little humming and hawing, 'go
down and tell the captain, in the meantime, about _five east_; but I
think it's a good deal over the mark--say I'll be down myself directly.'

"'A long sight _below_ the mark, rather!' said I, walking aft again,
where Westwood kept still looking out for the black dot. 'You'll see it
nearer now, Ned,' said he; 'more like a negro's head, or his hand, than
a bit of wood--eh?' 'Curious!' I said; 'it lies well up for our beam
still, _'spite_ of the breeze. Must be a shark's back fin, I think,
making for convoy.' In ten minutes longer the light swell in the
distance gave it a lift up fair into the moonshine; it gleamed for a
moment, and then seemed to roll across into the blue glimmer of the sea.
'I say, Collins,' said Westwood, gazing eagerly at it, ''tis more like a
bottle, to _my_ sight!' We walked back and forward, looking each time
over the taffrail, till at length the affair in question could be seen
dipping and creeping ahead in the smooth shining wash of the surface,
just like to go bobbing across our bows and be missed to windward.
'Crossing our hause I _do_ declare!--Hanged if _that_ ain't
fore-reaching on us, with a witness!' exclaimed the two of us together:
'And a _bottle_ it _is_!' said Westwood.

"I slipped down the poop-stair, and along to the forecastle, where I
told Jacobs; when two or three of the men went out on the
martingale-stays, with the bight of a line and a couple of blocks in it,
ready to throw round this said floating oddity, and haul it alongside as
it surged past. Shortly after, we had it safe in our hands; a
square-built old Dutchman it was, tight corked, with a red rag round the
neck, and crusted over with salt--almost like one of Vanderdecken's
messages home, coming up as it did from the wide glittering sea, of a
tropical moonlight night, seven weeks or so after our leaving land. The
men who had got it seemed afraid of their prize, so Westwood and I had
no difficulty in smuggling it away below to our berth, where we both sat
down on a locker and looked at one another. 'What poor wretch hove this
overboard, I wonder, now?' said he; 'I daresay it may have knocked
about, God knows how long, since _his_ affair was settled.' 'Why, for
that matter, Westwood,' replied I, 'I fancy it's much more important to
find there's a strong easterly current hereabouts just now.'[20]

  [20] Currents are designated from the direction they run _towards_;
       winds, the quarter they blow _from_.

"Here Westwood got a corkscrew, and pulled out the cork with a true
parson-like gravity; as we had expected, there was a paper tacked to it,
crumpled up, and scrawled over in what we could only suppose was
_blood_.

"'No. 20,' read he, 'what does that mean?' 'The twentieth bottle
launched, perhaps,' said I, and he went on--'For God's sake, if you find
this, keep to the south-west--we are going that way, we think--we've
fallen amongst regular Thugs, I fear--just from the folly of these three
griffins--(they're looking over my shoulder, though)--we are not
ill-treated yet, but kept below and watched--yours in haste----' 'What
this signature is I can't say for the life of me, Ned; no date either.'
'Did the fellow think he was writing by post, I wonder?' said I, trying
to make it out. 'By the powers, Westwood, though,' and I jumped up,
'that bottle _might_ have come from the Pacific, 'tis true--but what if
it were old Rollock, after all! _Thugs_, did you say? Why, I shouldn't
wonder if the jolly old planter were on the hooks still. _That_
rascally brig!' And accordingly, on trying the scrawl at the end, over
and over, we both agreed that it was nothing but 'T. ROLLOCK.'"



CHAPTER XI


The next evening our friend the captain found his fair audience by the
taffrail increased to a round dozen, while several of the gentlemen
passengers lounged near, and the chief officer divided his attention
between the gay group of ladies below and the "fanning" main-topsail
high up, with its corresponding studding-sail hung far out aloft to the
breeze; the narrative having by this time contracted a sort of
professional interest, even to his matter-of-fact taste, which enabled
him to enjoy greatly the occasional glances of sly humour directed to
him by his superior, for whom he evidently entertained a kind of
admiring respect, that seemed to be enhanced as he listened. As for the
commander himself, he related the adventures in question with a spirit
and vividness of manner that contributed to them no small charm;
amusingly contrasted with the cool, dry, indifferent sort of gravity of
countenance amidst which the keen grey seawardly eye, under the peak of
the naval cap, kept changing and twinkling as it seemed to run through
the experience of youth again--sometimes almost approaching to an
undeniable wink. The expression of it at this time, however, was more
serious, while it appeared to run along the dotted reef-band of the
mizzen-topsail above, as across the entry in a log-book, and as if there
were something interesting to come.

"_Well_, my dear captain," asked his matronly relative, "what comes
next? You and your friend had picked up a--a--what was it _now_!"

"Ah! I remember, ma'am," said the naval man, laughing; "the bottle--that
was where I was. Well, as you may conceive, this said scrap of
penmanship in the bottle _did_ take both of us rather on end; and for
two or three minutes Westwood and I sat staring at each other and the
uncouth-looking fist, in an inquiring sort of way, like two cocks over a
beetle. Westwood, for his part, was doubtful of its being the planter's
writing at all; but the whole thing, when I thought of it, made itself
as clear to me, so far, as two half-hitches, and so the angrier I was at
myself for being _done_--by a frog-eating bloody-politeful set of
Frenchmen like these. Could we only have clapped eyes on the villanous
thieving craft at the time, by Jove! if I wouldn't have manned a boat
from the Indiaman, leave or no leave, and boarded her in another
fashion. But where they were now, what they meant, and whether we should
ever see them again, Heaven only knew. For all we could say, indeed,
something strange might have turned up at home in Europe--a new war, old
Boney got loose once more, or what not; and I could scarce fall asleep
for guessing and bothering over the matter, as restless as the first
night we cruised down the Channel in the old _Pandora_.

"Early in the morning-watch a sudden stir of the men on deck woke me,
and I bundled up in five minutes' time. But it was only the second mate
setting them to wash decks, and out they came from all quarters,
yawning, stretching themselves, and tucking up their trousers, as they
passed the full buckets lazily along; while a couple of boys could be
seen hard at work to keep the head-pump going, up against the grey sky
over the bow. However, I was so anxious to have the first look-out
ahead, that I made a bold push through the thick of it for the bowsprit,
where I went out till I could see nothing astern of me but the
Indiaman's big black bows and figure-head, swinging as it were round the
spar I sat upon, with the spread of her canvas coming dim after me out
of the fog, and a lazy snatch of foam lifting to her cutwater as the
breeze died away.

"The sun was just beginning to rise; ten minutes before it had been
almost quite dark; there was a mist on the water, and the sails were
heavy with dew; when a circle began to open round us, where the surface
looked as smooth and dirty as in a dock, the haze seeming to shine
through, as the sunlight came sifting through it, like silver gauze. You
saw the big red top of the sun glare against the water-line, and a wet
gleam of crimson came sliding from one smooth blue swell to another;
while the back of the haze astern turned from blue to purple, and went
lifting away into vapoury streaks and patches. All of a sudden the ship
came clear out aloft and on the water, with her white streak as bright
as snow, her fore-royal and truck gilded, her broad foresail as red as
blood, and every face on deck shining as they looked ahead, where I felt
like a fellow held up on a toasting fork, against the fiery wheel the
sun made ere clearing the horizon. Two or three strips of cloud melted
in it like lumps of sugar in hot wine; and after overhauling the whole
seaboard round and round, I kept straining my eyes into the light, with
the notion there was something to be seen in that quarter, but to no
purpose; there wasn't the slightest sign of the brig or any other
blessed thing. What struck me a little, however, was the look of the
water just as the fog was clearing away; the swell was sinking down, the
wind fallen for the time to a dead calm; and when the smooth face of it
caught the light full from aloft, it seemed to come out all over
long-winding wrinkles and eddies, running in a broad path, as it were,
twisted and woven together, right into the wake of the sunrise.

"When I came in-board from the bowsprit, big Harry and another grumpy
old salt were standing by the bitts, taking a forecastle observation,
and gave me a squint, as much as to ask if I had come out of the east,
or had been trying to pocket the flying-jibboom. '_D'you_ notice
anything strange about the _water_ at all?' I asked in an offhand sort
of way, wishing to see if the men had remarked aught of what I
suspected. The old fellow gave me a queer look out of the tail of his
eye, and the ugly man seemed to be measuring me from head to foot. 'No,
sir,' said the first, carelessly; 'can't say as how I does'; while Harry
coolly commenced sharpening his sheath-knife on his shoe. 'Did you ever
hear of currents hereabouts?' said I to the other man. 'Hereaway!' said
he. 'Why, bless ye, sir, it's unpossible as I _could_ ha' heerd tell on
sich a thing, 'cause, ye see, sir, there ain't none so far out at sea,
sir--al'ays axin' _your_ parding, ye know, sir!' while he hitched up his
trousers and looked aloft, as if there were somewhat wrong about the
jib-halliards.

"The Indiaman by this time had quite lost steerage-way and came sheering
slowly round, broadside to the sun, while the water began to glitter
like a single sheet of quicksilver, trembling and swelling to the firm
edge of it far off; the pale blue sky filling deep aloft with light, and
a long white haze growing out of the horizon to eastward. I kept still
looking over from the fore-chains with my arms folded, and an eye to the
water on the starboard side, next the sun, where, just a fathom or two
from the bright copper of her sheathing along the water-line, you could
see into it. Every now and then little bells and bubbles, as I thought,
would come up in it, and break short of the surface; and sometimes I
fancied the line of a slight ripple, as fine as a rope-yarn, went
turning and glistening round one of the ship's quarters, across her
shadow. Just then the old sailor behind me shoved his face over the
bulwark, too, all warts and wrinkles, like a ripe walnut-shell, with a
round knob of a nose in the middle of it, and seemed to be watching to
see it below, when he suddenly squirted his tobacco-juice as far out as
possible alongside, and gave his mouth a wipe with the back of his tarry
yellow hand; catching my eye in a shame-faced sort of way, as I glanced
first at him and then at his floating property.

"I leant listlessly over the rail, watching the patch of oily yellow
froth as it floated quietly on the smooth face of the water; till all at
once I started to observe that beyond all question it had crept slowly
away past our starboard bow, clear of the ship, and at last melted into
the glittering blue brine. The two men noticed my attention, and stared
along with me; while the owner of the precious cargo himself kept
looking after it wistfully into the wake of the sunlight, as if he were
a little hurt; then aloft and round about, in a puzzled sort of way, to
see if the ship hadn't perhaps taken a sudden sheer to port. 'Why, my
man,' I said, meeting his oyster-like old sea-eye, 'what's the reason of
_that_?--perhaps there is some current or other here, after all, eh?'
Just as he meant to answer, however, I noticed his watch-mate give him a
hard shove in the ribs with his huge elbow, and a quick screw of his
weather top-light, while he kept the lee one doggedly fixed on myself. I
accordingly walked slowly aft as if to the quarter-deck, and came round
the long-boat again, right abreast of them.

"Harry was pacing fore and aft with his arms folded, when his companion
made some remark on the heat, peering all about him, and then right up
into the air aloft. 'Well then, shipmate,' said Harry, dabbing his
handkerchief back into his tarpaulin again, 'I've seen worse,
myself--ownly, 'twas in the Bight o' Benin, look ye--an' afore the end
o' it, d'ye see, we hove o'erboard nine o' a crew, let alone six dozen
odds of a cargo!' 'Cargo!' exclaimed his companion, in surprise. 'Ay,
black _passingers_ they was, ye know, old ship!' answered the ugly
rascal, coolly; 'an' I tell ye what it is, Jack, I never sails yet with
passengers aboard, but some'at bad turned up in the end--al'ays one or
another on 'em's got a foul turn in his conscience, ye see! I say,
mate,' continued he, looking round, 'didn't ye note that 'ere longshore
looking customer as walked aft just now, with them soft quest'ns o' his
about----' 'Why,' says Jack, 'it's him Jacobs and the larboard watch
calls the Green Hand, an' a blessed good joke they has about him, to all
appearance, but they keeps it pretty close.' 'Close, do they,' growled
Harry, 'I doesn't like the cut of his jib, I tell ye, shipmate! Jist you
take my word for it, that 'ere fellow's done some'at bad at home, or
he's bent on some'at bad afloat--it's all one! Don't ye mark how he
keeps boxhaulin' and skulking fore an' aft, not to say looking out to
wind'ard every now an' again, as much as he expected a sail to leave in
sight?' 'Well, I'm blowed, but you're right, Harry!' said the other,
taking off his hat to scratch his head, thoughtfully. 'Ay, and what's
more,' went on Harry, 'it's just comed ath'art me as how I've clapped
eyes on the chap somewheres or other afore this--if I don't think it was
amongst a gang o' Spanish pirates I saw tried for their lives, and let
off, in the Havanney!'

"'Thank you, my man,' thought I, as I leant against the booms on the
other side. 'Did you?--a wonder it wasn't in the Old Bailey, which would
have been more possible, though less romantic--seeing in the Havannah I
never was!' The curious thing was that I began to have a faint
recollection, myself, of having seen this same cross-grained beauty, or
heard his voice, before; though where and how it was I couldn't for the
life of me say at the moment.

"'Lor' bless us, Harry!' faltered out the old sailor, 'ye don't mean
it!--sich a young, soft-looked shaver, too!' 'Them smooth-skinned sort
o' coves is kimmonly the worst, mate,' replied Harry; 'for that matter
ye may be quite sure he's got his chums aboard--an' how does _we_ know
but the ship's _sold_, from stem to starn? There's that 'ere
blackavizzed parson, now, and one or two more aft--cuss me if that 'ere
feller smells brine for the first time! An' as for this here Bob Jacobs
o' yours, blow me if there ain't over many of his kind in the whole
larboard watch, Jack! A man-o'-war's-man's al'ays a blackguard out on a
man-o'-war, look-ye!' 'Why, bless me, shipmate,' said Jack, lowering his
voice, 'by that recknin', a man don't know his friends in this here
craft! The sooner we gives the mate a hint the better, to my thinking?'
'No, blow me, no, Jack,' said Harry, 'keep all fast, or ye'll kick up a
worse nitty, old boy! Just you hould on till ye see what's to turn
up--ownly stand by and look out for squalls, that's all! There's the
skipper laid up below in his berth, I hears--and to my notions, that
'ere mate of ours is no more but a blessed soldier, with his navigation
an' his head-work, an' be blowed to him: where's he runned the ship, I'd
like to know, messmate!' 'Well, strike me lucky if I'm fit to guess!'
answered Jack, gloomily. 'No, s'help me Bob, if he knows hisself!' said
Harry. 'But here's what _I_ says, anyhow--if so be we heaves in sight of
a pirate, or bumps ashore on a ileyand i' the dark, shiver my tawsels if
I doesn't have a clip with a handspike at that 'ere soft-sawderin' young
blade in the straw hat!' 'Well, my fine fellow,' thought I, 'many thanks
to you again, but I certainly shall look out for _you_!'

"All this time I couldn't exactly conceive whether the sulky rascal
really suspected anything of the kind, or whether he wasn't in fact
sounding his companion, and perhaps others of the crew, as to how far
they would go in case of an opportunity for mischief; especially when I
heard him begin to speculate if 'that 'ere proud ould beggar of a
naboob, aft yonder, musn't have a sight o' gould and jowels aboard with
him! Why, for the matter o' that, mate,' continued he, 'I doesn't
signify the twinklin' of a marling-spike, mind ye, what lubberly trick
they sarves this here craft, so be ownly ye can get anyhow ashore, when
all's done! It's nouther ship-law nor shore-law, look ye, mate, as
houlds good on a lonely dazart!' 'Ay, ay, true enough, bo',' said the
other, 'but what o' that? there ain't much signs of a dazart, I reckon,
in this here blue water!' 'Ho!' replied Harry, rather scornfully,
'that's 'cause you blue-water, long-v'yage chaps isn't up to them,
brother. There's you and that 'ere joker in the striped slops, Jack,
chaffing away over the side jist now about a current--confounded sharp
he thinks hisself, too--but d'ye think Harry Foster ain't got his
weather-eye open? For my part, I thinks more of the streak o' haze
yonder-away, right across the starboard bow, nor all the currents
in----' 'Ay, ay,' said Jack, stretching out again to look, 'the heat,
you means?' 'Heat!' exclaimed the ugly topman, 'heat be blowed! Hark ye,
mate, it _may_ be a strip o' cloud, no doubt, or the steam over a
sand-bank; but so be the calm lasts so long, and you sees that 'ere
streak again by sundown with a touch o' yallow in 't----'

"'What--_what_--shipmate?' asked Jack, breathless with anxiety. 'Then
it's the black coast iv Africay, and _no_ mistake,' said Harry. 'And
what's more,' continued the fellow, coolly, after taking a couple of
short turns, 'if there _be's_ a current, why look ye, it'll set dead in
to where the land lays--an' I'm blessed if there's one aboard, breeze or
no breeze, as is man enough for to take her out o' the suck of a
Africane current.' 'The Lord be with us!' exclaimed the other sailor, in
alarm, 'what's to be done, Harry, bo'; when do you mean for to let them
know aft?' 'Why, maybe I'm wrong, ye know, old ship,' said Harry, 'an' a
man mustn't go for to larn his betters, ye know; by this time half o'
the watch has a notion on it, at any rate. There's Dick White, Jack
Jones, Jim Sidey, an' a few more Wapping men, means to stick together in
case o' accidents; so Jack, man, ye needn't be in sich an a taking. What
the' (here he came out with a regular string of top-gallant oaths),
'when you finds a good chance shoved into your fist, none o' your doin',
ain't a feller to haul in the slack of it 'cause he's got a tarry paw
and ships before the mast? I tell ye what it is, old ship, 'tain't the
first time you an' me's been cast away, an' I doesn't care the drawin'
of a rope-yarn, in them 'ere latitudes, if I'm cast away again. Hark ye,
ould boy: grog to the mast-head, a grab at the passengers' wallibles,
when they ha'n't no more use for 'em, in course; and the pick of the
ladies, jist for the takin' o' them ashore!'

"'Lord love ye, Harry, belay there!' said Jack; 'what's the good o'
talkin' on what ain't like to be?' 'Less like things turn up,' said
Harry. 'More by token, if I hasn't pitched upon my fancy lass a'ready;
an' who knows, old ship, but you marries a naboob's darter yet, and
gets yourself shoved all square, like a riglar hare, into his heestate,
as they calls it? For my part, I've more notion of the _maid_! An' it'll
go hard with me if we doesn't manage to haul that 'ere mishynar parson
safe ashore on the strength of it.' 'God bless ye, Harry,' answered
Jack, somewhat mournfully, 'I'm twice spliced already!' 'Third time's
lucky, though,' replied Harry, with a chuckle, as he walked towards the
side again and looked over; the rest of the watch being gathered on the
other bow, talking and laughing; the passengers beginning to appear on
the poop, and the Scotch second mate standing up aft on the taffrail,
feeling for a breath of wind. The big topman came slowly back to his
companion, and leant himself on the spars again. 'Blowed if I don't
think you're right, mate,' said he, 'you and that 'ere lawyer. You'd
a'most say there's a ripple round her larboard bow just now, sure
enough--like she were broadside on to some drift or another. Hows'ever,
that's neither here nor there; for my part, I sets more count by the
look o' the sky to east'ard; an' be blowed, shipmate, if that same
yonder don't make me think of _woods_.' 'Well,' said Jack, '_I_ goes by
sunrise, messmate, an' I didn't like it overmuch myself, d' ye see! That
'ere talk o' yours, Harry, consarnin' dazarts and what not--why, bless
me, it's all my eye--this bout, at any rate--seein' as how, if we
doesn't have a stiff snuffler out o' that very quarter afore twenty-four
hours is over, you call me lubber!'

"'Ho, ho! old salt,' chuckled Harry, 'none o' them saws holds good
hereaway; if it's the coast of Africay, mate, _two_ watches 'll settle
our hash in them longitudes, without going the length o' _six_! Ha'n't I
knocked about the bloody coast of it six weeks at a time, myself, let
alone livin' as many months in the woods?--so I knows the breedin' of a
turn_a_dy a cussed sight too well, not to speak on the way the landblink
looms afore you sights it!'

"'_Lived_ in them there woods, did ye?' inquired Jack. 'Ay, bo', an' a
rum rig it was too, sure enough,' said Harry; 'the very same time I told
you on, i' the Bight o' Benin.' 'My eye,' exclaimed the other, 'a man
never knows what he may come to. Let's into the rights of it, Harry,
can't ye, afore eight bells strikes?'

"'Woods!' said Harry, 'I b'lieve ye, ould ship. I see'd enough o'
woods, that time, arter all--and 'twan't that long agone, either--I'll
not say _how_ long, but it wa'n't _last_ v'yage. A sharp, clinker-built
craft of a schooner she wor; I'm not goin' to give ye her right name,
but they called her the _Lubberhater_[21]--an' if there wa'n't all sorts
on us aboard, it's blaming ye--an' a big double-jinted man-eatin' chap
of a Yankee was our skipper, as sly as slush--more by token, he had a
wart alongside o' one eye as made him look two ways at ye--Job Price by
name--an' arter he'd made his fortin, I heard he's took up a teetotal
chapel afloat on the Missishippey. She'd got a strapping long nose, that
'ere schooner, so, my boy, we leaves everything astarn, chase or race, I
promise ye; an' as for a blessed ould ten-gun brig what kept a-cruising
thereaway, why, we jest got used to her, like, and al'ays lowers our
mainsail afore takin' the wind of her, by way o' good-bye, quite
perlite. Blowed if it warn't rum, though, for to see the brig's white
figger'ed over the swell, rollin' under a cloud o' canvas, stens'ls
crowded out alow an' aloft, as she jogged arter us. Then she'd haul her
wind an' fire a gun, an' go beating away up in chase of some other
craft, as caught the chance for runnin' out whenever they sees the
_Lubberhater_ well to sea--why, s' help me Bob, if the traders on the
coast didn't pay Job Price half-a-dozen blacks apiece every trip, jist
for to play that 'ere dodge. At last, one time, not long after I joined
the craft, what does he do but nigh-hand loses her an' her cargo, all
owin' to reckonin' over much on this here traverse. Out we comes one
night in the tail of a squall, an' as soon as it clears, there sure
enough we made out the brig, hard after us, as we thinks--so never a rag
more Job claps on, 'cause two of his friends, ye see, was jist outside
the bar in the Noon river. Well, very soon the cruiser begins to
overhaul us, as one gaff-taups'l wouldn't do, nor yet another, till the
flying-jib and bonnets made her walk away from them in right
'arnest--when slap comes a long-shot that that took the fore-topmast out
of us in a twinkling. So when the moonlight comed out, lo an' behold,
instead o' the brig's two masts stiff and straight against the haze,
there was _three_ spanking sticks all ataunto, my boy, in a fine new
sloop-o'-war as had fresh come on the station--the _Iris_, they called
her--and a fast ship she wor. But all said and done, the schooner had
the heels of her in aught short of a reef-taups'l breeze--though, as for
the other two, the sloop-o'-war picked off both on 'em in the end.'

  [21] Query--Liberator?

"At this point of the fellow's account, I, Ned Collins, began to prick
up my ears, pretty sure it was the dear old _Iris_ he was talking of;
and, thought I, 'Oho, my mate, we shall have you directly--listening's
all fair with a chap of this breed.'

"'Well,' said he, ''twas the next trip after that, we finds the coast
clear, as commonly was--for, d' ye see, they couldn't touch us if so be
we hadn't a slave aboard--in fact, we heerd as how the cruiser was up by
Serry Lony, and left some young leftenant or other on the watch with a
sort o' lateen-rigged tender. A precious raw chap he was, by all
accounts--and, sure enough, there he kept plying off and on, in-shore,
'stead of out of sight to seaward till the craft would make a bolt; an'
as soon as ye dropped an anchor, he'd send a boat aboard with a reefer,
to ax if ye'd got slaves in the hold. In course, ye know, Job Price
sends back a message, "palm-ile an' iv'ry, an' gould if we can"--h'ists
the Portingee colours, brings up his Portingee papers, and makes the
Portingee stoo'rd skipper for the spell--but anyhow, bein' no less nor
three slavers in the mouth of the Bonny river at the time, why, he meant
to show fight if need be, and jest man-handle the young navy sprig to
his heart's content. Hows'ever, the second or third night, all on a
suddent we found he'd sheered off for a decency's sake, as it might be,
an hour or two afore we'd began to raft off the niggers. Well, mate,
right in the midst of it there comes sich a fury of a turnady off the
land, as we'd to slip cable and run fair out to sea after the other
craft what had got sooner full--one on 'em went ashore in sight, an' we
not ninety blacks aboard yet, with barely a day's water stowed in.

"'The next morning, out o' sight of land, we got the sea-breeze, and
stood in again under everything, till we made Fernandy Po ileyand, three
leagues off, or thereby, an' the two ebony-brigs beating out in company,
so the skipper stands over across their course for to give them a hail,
heaves to and pulls aboard the nearest, where he stays a good long spell
and drinks a stiff glass, as ye may fancy, afore partin'. Back comes
Job Price in high glee, and tould the mate as how that mornin' the brigs
had fell foul o' the man-o'-war tender, bottom up, an' a big
Newfoundling dog a-howlin' on the keel--no doubt she'd turned the turtle
in that 'ere squall--more by token, he brought the dog alongst with him
in a present. So away we filled again to go in for the Bonny river, when
the breeze fell, and shortly arter there we was all three dead becalmed,
a couple o' miles betwixt us, sticking on the water like flies on glass,
an' as hot, ye know, as blazes--the very moral o' this here. By sundown
we hadn't a drop of water, so the skipper sent to the nearest brig for
some; but strike me lucky if they'd part with a bucketful for love,
bein' out'ard bound. As the Spanish skipper said, 'twas either hard
dollars or a stout nigger, and t' other brig said the same. A slight
puff o' land-wind we had in the night, though next day 'twas as calm as
ever, and the brigs farther off--so by noon, my boy, for two blessed
casks, if Job Price hadn't to send six blacks in the boat. Shorter yarn,
Jack, but the calm held that night too, and blowed if the brigs would
sell another breaker--what we had we couldn't spare to the poor devils
under hatches, and the next day, why they died off like rotten sheep,
till we hove the last on 'em o'board; and frighterful enough it was,
mind ye, for to see about fifty sharks at work all round the schooner at
once, as long as it lasted.

"'Well, in the arternoon we'd just commenced squabbling aboard amongst
ourselves, round the dreg water, or whether to board one o' the brigs
and have a fair fight, when off come a bit of a breeze, betwixt the two
high peaks on Fernandy Po, both the brigs set stensails, and begins
slipping quietly off--our skipper gived orders to brace after them, and
clear away the long gun amidships; but all on a suddent we made out a
lump of a brig dropping down before it round the ileyand, which we
knowed her well enough for a Bristol craft as had lost half her hands up
the Callebar, in the gould an' iv'ry trade. Down she comed, wonderful
fast for the light breeze, if there hadn't been one o' yer currents
besides off the ileyand, till about half-a-mile away she braces up,
seemingly to sheer across it and steer clear of us. Out went our boat,
an' the skipper bids every man of her crew to shove a short cutlash
inside his trousers. Says he, "I guess we'll first speak 'em fair, but
if we don't ha' water enough, it'll be 'tarnall queer, that's all,"
says he--an' Job was a man never swore, but he _looked_ mighty _bad_
that time, I must say; so we outs oars and pulls right aboard the
trader, without answerin' ever a hail, when up the side we bundled on
deck, one arter the other, mad for a drink, and sees the master with
five or six of a crew, all as white as ghostesses, and two or three
Kroomen, besides a long-legged young feller a-sittin' and kicking his
feet over the kimpanion hatch, with a tumblerful o' grog in his fist, as
fresh to all seemin' as a fish, like a supper-cargo or some'at o' the
sort, as them craft commonly has.

"'"What schooner's that?" axes the master, all abroad like; an' says
Job--says he, out o' breath, "Never you mind; I guess you'll let 's have
some water, for we wants it mighty keen!" "Well," says the other,
shaking his head, "I'm afeared we're short ourselves--anyhow," says he,
"we'll give ye a dipper the piece"--and accordingly they fists us along
a dozen gulps, hand over hand. "'Twon't do, I guess, mister," says our
skipper; "we wants a cask!" Here the master o' the brig shakes his head
again, and guv a look to the young long-shore-like chap aft, which sings
out as we couldn't have no more for love nor money--an' I see Captin
Price commence for to look savitch again, and feel for the handle on his
cutlash. "Rather you'd ax iv'ry or gould-dust!" sings out the
supper-cargo; "hows'ever," says he, "as ye've tooken sich a fancy to it,
short o' water as we is, why a fair exchange ain't no robbery," says he:
"you wants water, an' we wants hands; haven't ye a couple o' niggers for
to spare us, sir, by way of a barter now?" he says. "Well, mate, I'll be
blowed if I ever see a man turn so wicked fur'ous as Job Price turns at
this here, an says he, through his teeth, "If ye'd said a nigger's
nail-parin', I couldn't done it, so it's no use talkin'." "Oh come,
captin," says the young fellow, wonderful angshis-like, "say _one_,
jist--it's all on the quiet, ye know. Bless me, captin," says he, "I'd
do a deal for a man in a strait, 'tickerly for yerself--an' I think we'd
manage with a single hand more. I'll give ye two casks and a bag o'
gould dust for _one_ black, and we'll send aboard for him just now,
ourselves!" "No!" roars Job Price, walkin' close up to him; "ye've riz
me, ye cussed Britisher ye, an' I tell ye we'll _take_ what we wants!"
"No jokes though, captin!" says the feller; "what's _one_ to a whole
raftful I heerd of ye shipping?" "Go an' ax the sharks, ye beggar!"
says the skipper; "here, my lads!" says he, an' makes a grab at the
other's throat, when slap comes a jug o' rum in his eye-lights, and the
young chap ups fist in quick-sticks, and drops him like a cock, big as
he was. By that time, though, in a twinklin' the master was flat on
deck, and the brig's crew showed no fight--when, lo an' behold, my boy,
up bundles a score o' strapping man-o'-war's-men out of the cabing. One
or two on us got a cut about the head, an' my gentleman supper-cargo
claps a pistol to my ear from aft, so we knocked under without more
to-do. In five minutes' time every man jack of us had a seizing about
his wrists and lower pins; and says Job Price, in a giving-up sort o'
v'ice, "You're too cust spry for playin' jokes on, I calc'late, squire,"
he says. "Jokes!" says the young feller, "why, it's no joke--in course
you knows me?" "Niver see'd ye atween the eyes afore," says Job, "but
don't bear no malice, mister, now." "That's it," says the t'other,
lookin' at the schooner again, "no more I does, so jist think a bit;
ha'n't you really a nigger or so aboard o' ye--if it was jist one?"
"Squash the one!" says Job, shakin' his head nellicholly like--an'
"Sorry for it," says the chap, "'cause ye see I'm the leftenant
belongin' to the _Irish_, an' I carn't titch yer schooner if so be ye
ha'n't a slave aboard." "Lawk a'mighty!--no!" sings out Job Price,
'cause, bein' half-blinded he couldn't ha' noted the lot o'
man-o'-war's-men sooner. "But I _can_," says the other, "for piratecy,
ye see; an' what's more," he says, "there's no help for it now, I'm
afeard, mister what-they-call-ye."

"'Well, mate, after that ye may fancy our skipper turns terrible down in
the mouth; so without a word more they parbuckles us all down below into
the cabin--an' what does this here leftenant do but he strips the whole
lot, rigs out as many of his men in our duds, hoists out a big cask o'
water on the brig's far side, and pulls round for the schooner--hisself
togged out like the skipper, and his odd hands laid down in the boat's
bottom.' You won't wonder at my being highly amused with the fellow's
yarn, since the fact was that it happened to be one of my own adventures
in the days of the _Iris_, two or three years before, when we saw a good
many scenes together, far more wild and stirring, of course, in the
thick of the slave trade; but really the ugly rascal described it
wonderfully well.

"'Well,' said Harry, 'I gets my chin shoved up in the starn-windy, where
I seed the whole thing, and tould the skipper accordently. The
schooner's crew looked out for the water like so many oysters in a tub;
the leftenant jumps up the side with his men after him, an' not so much
as the cross of two cutlashes did we hear afore the onion-jack flew out
a-peak over her mains'l. In five minutes more, the schooner fills away
before the breeze, and begins to slide off in fine style after the pair
o' brigs, as was nigh half-hull down to seaward by this time. There we
was, left neck and heel below in the trader, and he hauled up seemin'ly
for the land; an' arter a bit, says the skipper to me, "Foster, my lad,
I despise this way o' things," says he; "ain't there no way on gettin'
clear?" "Never say die, captin!" I says; an' says he, "I calc'late they
left considerable few hands aboard?" "None but them sleepy-like scum o'
iv'ry men," I says, but be blowed if I see'd what better we was, till
down comes a little nigger cabin-boy for some'at or other, with a knife
in his hand. Job fixes his eye on him--I've heerd he'd a way in his eye
with niggers as they couldn't stand--an' says he, soft-sawderin' like,
"Come here, will ye, my lad, an' give us a drink," so the black come
for'ard with a pannikin, one foot at a time, an' he houlds it out to the
skipper's lips--for, d'ye see, all on us had our flippers lashed behind
our backs. "Now," says he, "thankee, boy--look in atwixt my legs, and
ye'll find a dollar." With that, jest as the boy stoops, Job Price
ketches his neck fast betwixt his two knees, an' blowed if he didn't jam
them harder, grinning all the time, till down drops the little black
throttled on the deck. "That's for thankin' a nigger!" says he, lookin'
as savitch as a fiend, and got the knife in his teeth, when he turned to
and sawed through the seizing round my wrists--an' in course I sets
every man clear in quick-sticks. "_Now!_" says Job, looking round, "the
quicker the better--that cussed lubber-ratin' hound's got my schooner,
but maybe, my lads, this here iv'ry man'll pay expenses: if I'm made out
a pirate, I'll arn the name!"

"'Well, we squints up the hatchway, and see'd a young midshipman
a-standing with his back to us, watching the brig's crew at the braces,
an' a pistol in one hand--when all at once our skipper slips off his
shoes, runs up the stair as quiet as a cat, an' caught the end of a
capstan-bar as lay on the scuttle. With that down he comes crash on the
poor fellow's scull from aft, and brained him in a moment. Every man of
us got bloody-minded with the sight, so we scarce knowed what we did, ye
know, mate, afore all hands o' them was gone--how, I ain't goin' for to
say, nor the share as one had in it more nor another. The long an' the
short on it was, we run the brig by sundown in amongst the creeks up the
Camaroons river, thinkin' to lie stowed away close thereabouts till all
wor cold. Hows'ever, they kicked up the devil's delight about a
piratecy, and the sloop-o'-war comes back shortly, when night an' day
there was that young shark of a leftenant huntin' arter us, as sharp as
a marling-spike--we dursn't come down the river nohow, till what with a
bad conscience, fogs, and sleepin' every night within stink o' them
blasted muddy mangroves an' bulrushes together, why, mate, the whole ten
hands died off one arter the other in the fever--leaving ownly me an'
the skipper. Job Price was like a madman over the cargo, worth good
knows how many thousand dollars, as he couldn't take out; but for my
part, I gets the brig's punt one night and sculls myself ashore, and off
like a hare into the bush by moonlight. No use, ye know, for to say what
rum chances I meets with in the woods, livin' up trees and the like for
fear o' illiphants, sarpents, an' high-annies; but, blow me, if I didn't
think the farther ye went aloft, the more monkeys an' parrykeets you
roused out, jabberin' all night so as a feller couldn't close an
eye--an' as for the sky, be blowed if I ever once sighted it. So, d' ye
see, it puts all notions o' fruits an' flowers out o' my head, an' all
them jimmy-jessamy sort o' happy-go-lucky yarns about barbers' ileyands
and shipherdresses what they used for to spell out o' dicshinars at
school--all gammon, mate!'

"'Lor' love ye, no, surely,' said Jack; 'it's in the Bible!'

"'Ay, ay,' said Harry, 'that's arter ye've gone to Davy Jones, no doubt;
but I've been in the Southsy ileyands since, myself, an' be blowed if
it's much better there! Hows'ever, still anon, I took a new fancy, an'
away I makes for the river, in sarch of a nigger villache, as they calls
'em; and sure enough it warn't long ere right I plumps in the midst on a
lot o' cane huts amongst trees. But sich a shine and a nitty as I kicks
up, ye see, bein' half-naked, for all the world like a wild man o' the
woods, an' for a full hour I has the town to myself, so I hoists my
shirt on a stick over the hut I took, by way of a flag o' truce, an' at
last they all begins for to swarm in again. Well, ye see, I knowed the
ways o' the natifs thereabouts pretty well, an' what does I do but I'd
laid myself flat afore an ugly divvle of a wooden himmache, as stood on
the flour, an' I wriggles and twists myself, and groans like a chap in a
fit--what they calls _fittish_, thereaway--an' in course, with that they
logs me down at once for a rig'lar holy 'possel from Jerusalem. The long
an' the short on it was, the fittish-man takes me under charge, and sets
me to tell fortins or the like with an ould quadrant they got
somewheres--gives me a hut an' two black wives, begad! and there I lives
for two or three weeks on end, no doubt, as proud as Tommy; when, one
fine morning, what does I see off shore in the river but that confounded
man-o'-war tender, all ship-shape an' ataunto again. So, my boy, I gives
'em to understand as how, bein' over vallible at home with the king of
England, in course he'd sent for to puckalow me away--an' no sooner
said, but the whole town gets in a fluster--the fittish-man, which a
knowin' chap he was, takes and rubs me from heel to truck with ile out
on a sartin nut as turned me coal-black in half-an-hour, an' as soon as
I looks in the creek, mate, be blowed if I'd a knewn myself from a
nigger, somehow!'

"To tell the truth, as _I_ thought to myself, it was no wonder, as
Master Harry's nose and lips were by no means in the classic style, and
his skin, as it was, didn't appear of the whitest.

"'So there, ye know, I sits before a hut grindin' away at maize, with
nothink else but a waist-cloth round me, and my two legs stuck out, till
such a time as the leftenant an' two boats' crews had sarched the
villache, havin' heerd, no doubt, of a white man thereabouts--an' at
last off they went. Well, in course, at first this here affair gives the
fittish-man a lift in the niggers' eyes, by reason o' havin' turned a
white man black--'cause, ye see, them fittish-men has a rig'lar-bred
knowledge on plants and sich-like. But hows'ever, in a day or two I
begins for to get rayther oneasy, seein' it didn't wash off, an'
accordently I made beknown as much to the fittish-man, when, my boy, if
he doesn't shake his mop-head, and rubs noses, as much as to say, "We
ain't agoin' to part." 'Twas no use, and thinks I, "Ye man-eating scum,
be blowed if I don't put your neck out, then!" So I turns too with my
knife on a log o' wood, carves a himmache twice as big an' ugly as
his'n, and builds a hut over it, where I plays all the conjerin' tricks
I could mind on--till, be hanged if the niggers didn't begin to leave
the fittish-man pretty fast, and make a blessed sight more o' me. I
takes a couple more wives, gets drunk every day on palm-wine and toddy
juice--as for the hogs an' the yams they brought me, why I couldn't stow
'em away; an' in place o' wanting myself white again, I rubs myself over
and over with that 'ere nut, let alone palm-ile, till the ould
fittish-man looks brown alongside o' me. At last the king o' the niggers
thereaway--King Chimbey they called him, or some'at o' that sort--he
sends for to see me, an' away to his town they takes me, a mile or two
up the country, where I see'd him; but I'm blowed, Jack, if he'd got a
crown on at all, ownly a ould red marine's coat, an' a pair o'
top-boots, what was laid away when he warn't in state. Hows'ever, he
gives me two white beans an' a red un in sign o' high favour, and gives
me to know as I wor to stay there. But one thing I couldn't make out,
why the black king's hut an' the josst-house as they calls it, was all
stuck round with bones an' dead men's skulls!--'twan't long, though, ere
I finds it out, mate! That 'ere fittish-man, d 'ye see, wor a right-down
imp to look at, and wicked enough he eyed me; but still anon I sends
over for my wives, turns out a black feller out on his hut, an' slings a
hammock in it, when the next day or so I meets the first fittish-man in
the woods, an' the poor divvle looks wonderful friendly-like, makin' me
all kinds o' woful signs, and seemin'ly as much as to say for to keep a
bright look-out on the other one. All on a suddent what does he do, but
he runs a bit as far as a tree, picks up a sort of a red mushroom, an'
he rubs with it across the back o' my hand, gives a wink, and scuttles
off. What it meaned I couldn't make out, till I gets back to the town,
when I chanced to look at my flipper, and there I see a clean white
streak alongst it! Well, I thinks, liberty's sweet, an' I'm blessed if a
man's able to cruise much to windward o' right-down slavery, thinks I,
if he's black! Howsomever, thinks I, I'll jest hold on a _bit_ longer.

"'Well, next day, the black king had the blue-devils with drinking rum,
an' he couldn't sleep nohow, 'cause, as I made out, he'd killed his
uncle, they said--I doesn't know but he'd eaten him, too--anyhow, I
see'd him eat as much of a fat hog, raw, as ud sarve out half the
watch--so the fittish-man tells him there's nought for it but to please
the fittish. What that wor, blowed if I knew; but no sooner sundown nor
they hauls me out o' my hut, claps me in a stinking hole as dark as
pitch, and leaves me till mornin', as I thought. Jist about the end o'
the mid-watch, there kicks up a rumpus like close-reef taups'ls in a
hurricane--smash goes the sticks over me; I seed the stars, and a whole
lot o' strange blacks with long spears, a-fightin', yellin', tramplin',
an' twistin' in the midst of the huts--and off I'm hoisted in the gang,
on some feller's back or other, at five knots the hour, through the
woods--till down we all comes in a drove, plash amongst the very swamps
close by the river, where, lo an' behold! I makes out a schooner afloat
at her anchor. The next thing I feels a red-hot iron come hiss across my
shoulders, so I jumped up and sang out like blazes, in course. But, my
flippers bein' all fast, 'twas no use; I got one shove as sent me
head-foremost into a long canoe, with thirty or forty niggers stowed
away like cattle, and out the men pulls for the schooner. A big bright
fire there was ashore, astarn of us, I mind, where they heated the
irons, with a chap in a straw hat sarvin' out rum to the wild blacks
from a cask; and ye saw the pitch-black woods behind, with the branches
shoved out red in the light on it, and a bloody-like patch on the water
under a clump o' sooty mangroves. An', Jack, if I didn't feel the life
sick in me, that time--for, d' ye see, I hears nothin' spoke round me
but cussed French, Portingeese, an' nigger tongue--'specially when it
jist lighthens on me what sort on a case I were in; an' thinks I, "I'm
took for a _slave_, arter all!--an' be hanged, but I left that 'ere
'farnal mushroom a-lying under that there tree yonder!" I begins for to
think o' matters an' things, an' about Bristol quay, an' my old mother,
an' my sister as was at school--mind ye, mate, all atwixt shovin' off
the mangroves an' coming bump agen the schooner's side--an' blow me if I
doesn't turn to, an' nigh-hand commences for to blubber--when jist then
what does I catch sight on, by the lantern over the side, but that 'ere
villain of a fittish-man, an' what's more, King Chimbey hisself, both
hauled in the net. And with that I gives a chuckle, as ye may suppose,
an' no mistake; for thinks I, so far as consarns myself, this here can't
last long, blow me, for sooner or later I'll find some un to speak to,
even an I nivver gets rid o' this here outer darkness--be blowed if I
han't got a white mind, any ways, an' free I'll be, my boy! But I
laughs, in course, when I see'd the fittish-man grin at me--for thinks
I, "My cocks, you're logged down for a pretty long spell of it!"

"'Well, bo,' somehow I knows no more about it till such time as I sort
o' wakes up in pitch-dark, all choke and sweat, an' a feller's dirty big
toe in my mouth, with mine in some un else's eye; so out I spits it, an'
makes a scramble for my life. By the roll and the splash I knowed I wor
down in the schooner's hold; an' be hanged if there warn't twenty or
thirty holding on like bees to a open weather-port, where the fresh wind
and the spray come a-blowing through--but there, my boy, 'twere no go
for to get so much as the tip o' yer nose. Accordently, up I prizes
myself with my feet on another poor devil's wool--for d' ye see, by that
time I minds a man's face no more nor so much timber--an' I feels for
the hatch over me, where by good luck, as I thought, there I finds it
not battened down yet, so I shoved my head through on deck like a
blacksmith's hammer.

"'Well, mate, there was the schooner's deck wet, a swell of a sea on
round her, well off the land, no trifle of a morning gale, and the craft
heeling to it; a lot o' hands up on her yards, a-reefing at the boom
mains'l and fo'taups'l, an' if my heart doesn't jump into my mouth with
the sight, for I feels it for all the world like a good glass o' grog,
settin' all to rights. Two or three there was walkin' aft the
quarter-deck, so out I sings, "Hullo! hullo there, shipmates, give us a
hand out o' this!" Two on 'em comes for'ard, one lifts a handspike, but
both gives a grin, as much as to say it's some nigger tongue or other in
place o' good English--for, d' ye see, they'd half their faces
black-beard, and rings i' their ears--when up walks another chap like
the skipper, an' more the looks of a countryman. "I'm a free-born
Briton!" roars I again; with that he lends me a squint, looks to the
men, and gives some sort of a sign, when they jams-to the hatch and nips
me fast by the neck. "Devil of a deep beggar, this 'ere!" says he;
"jist give him the gag, my lads," says he; "the planters often thinks
more of a dumby, 'cause he works the more, and a stout piece o' goods
this _is_!" says he. Well, mate, what does they do but one pulls out a
knife, an' be blowed if they warn't a-goin' for to cut out my tongue;
but the men aloft sung out to hoist away the yards; so they left me
ready clinched till they'd belay the ropes. Next a hand for'ard, by good
luck, hailed "Sail ho!" and they'd some'at else to think o' besides me;
for there, my boy, little more nor three miles to wind'ard, I see'd the
_Irish_ as she come driving bodily out o' the mist, shakin' out her
three to'gallant-sails, an' a white spray flying with her off one surge
to another. Rather bad it was, mind ye, for my windpipe, for every time
the schooner pitched, away swings my feet clear o' the nigger's
heads--'cause, d' ye see, we chanced for to be stowed on the
'tween-decks, an' another tier there was, stuffed in her lower hold--an'
there I stuck, mate, so as I couldn't help watchin' the whole chase,
till at last the hatch slacks nip a bit, and down I plumps into the dark
again.

"'Well, bo', the breeze got lighter, an' to all seemin' the cursed
schooner held her own; but hows'ever, the sloop-o'-war kept it up all
day, and once or twice she tips us a long shot; till by sunset, as I
reckoned, we hears no more on her. The whole night long, again, there we
stews as thick as peas--I keeps harknin' to the sighs and groans, an'
the wash along the side, in a sort of a doze; an' s'help me Bob, I
fancies for a moment I'm swinging in my hammock in the foc'sle, an it's
no more but the bulkheads and timbers creakin'. Then I thinks it's some
un else I dreams on, as is oneasy, like to choke for heat and thirst;
and I'm a-chucklin' at him--when up I wakes with the cockroaches
swarming over my face. Another groan runs from that end to this, the
whole lot on us tries hard, and kicks their neighbours to turn, an' be
blowed if I knowed but I was buried in a churchyard, with the horrid
worms all a-crawl about me. All on a suddent, nigh-hand to daybreak it
was, I hears a gun to wind'ard, so with that I contrives for to scramble
up with my eye to the scuttle-port. 'Twas a stiffish breeze, an' I see'd
some'at lift on a sea like a albatross's wing, as one may say--though
what wor this but the _Irish's_ bit of a tender, standing right across
our bows--for the schooner, ye see, changed her course i' the
night-time, rig'lar slaver's dodge, thinkin' for to drop the
sloop-o'-war, sure enough. But as for the little f'lucca, why they
hadn't bargained for her at all, lying-to as she did, with a rag o' sail
up, in the troughs of the sea, till the schooner was close on her.

"'Well, no sooner does they go about, my boy, but the muskeety of a
cruiser lets drive at her off the top of a sea, as we hung broadside to
them in stays. Blessed if I ever see sich a mark!--the shot jist takes
our fore top fair slap--for the next minute I seed the fore-topmast come
over the lee-side, an' astarn we begins to go directly. What's more,
mate, I never see a small craft yet handled better in a sea, as that
'ere chap did--nor the same thing done, cleaner at any rate--for they
jist comes nigh-hand tip on our bowsprit-end, as the schooner
lifted--then up in the wind they went like clockwork, with a starnway on
as carried the f'lucca right alongside on us, like a coachman backing up
a lane, and _grind_ we both heaved on the swell, with the topmast hamper
an' its canvas for a fender atwixt us. Aboard jumps the
man-o'-war's-men, in course, cutlash in hand, an' for five minutes some
tough work there was on deck, by the tramp, the shots, an' the curses
over our heads--when off they shoved the hatches, and I seed a tall
young feller in a gold-banded cap look below. Be blowed if I wasn't
goin' to sing out again, for, d' ye see, I'm blessed if I took mind on
the chap at all, as much by reason o' the blood an' the smoke he'd got
on his face as aught else. Hows'ever, I holds a bit meantime, on account
o' Job Price an' that 'ere piratecy consarn--till what does I think, a
hour or two arter, when I finds as this here were the very leftenant as
chased us weeks on end in the Camaroons. So a close stopper, sure
enough, I keeps on my jaw; an' as for scentin' me out amongst a couple
o' hundred blacks in the hold, why, 'twere fit to 'ppal my own mother
herself.

"'Well, Jack, by this time bein' near Serry Loney, next day or so we got
in--where, what does they do but they _lubberrates_ us all, as they
calls it, into a barracoon ashore, till sich time as the slaver ud be
condemned--an' off goes the tender down coast again. Arter that, they
treats us well enough, but still I dursn't say a word; for one day, as
we goed to work makin' our huts, there I twigs a printed bill upon the
church-wall, holdin' out a reward, d' ye see, consarnin' the piratecy,
with my oun name and my very build logged down--ownly, be hanged if they
doesn't tack on to it all, by way of a topgallant ink-jury to a man,
these here words--"He's a very ugly feller--looks like a furriner."
Well, mate, I ain't a young maiden, sure enough, but, thinks I, afore I
fell foul o' that blasted fittish-man an' his nut, cuss me if I looks
jist so bad as that 'ere! So ye know this goes more to my heart nor
aught else, till there I spells out another confounded lie in the bill,
as how Captin Price's men had mutinied again him, and murdered the
brig's crew--when, in course, I sees the villain's whole traverse at
once. So sayin', I watched my chance one night an' went aboard a Yankee
brig as were to sail next day; an' I tells the skipper part o' the
story, offerin' for to work my passage across for nothing; which, says
he, "It's a hinterestin' narritif"--them was his words; and, says he,
"It's a land o' freedom is the States, an' no mistake--ain't there no
more on ye in the like case?" he says. "Not as I knows on, sir," I
answers; an' says he, "Plenty o' coloured gen'lmen there is yonder, all
in silks an' satins; an' I hear," says he, "there's one on 'em has a
chance o' bein' President next time--anyhow I'm your friend," says he,
quite hearty.

"'Well, the long an' short of it was, I stays aboard the brig, works my
spell in her, an' takes my trick at the hellum--but I'm blowed, Jack, if
the men 'ud let me sleep in the foc'sle, 'cause I was a black, so I
slung my hammock aft with the nigger stoord. D' ye see, I misgived
myself a bit when we sank the coast, for, thinks I, it's in Africay as
that 'ere blessed mushroom are to be found, to take the colour off
me--hows'ever, I thinks it carn't but wear out in time, now I've got out
o' that 'ere confounded mess, where, sure enough, things was against me.
So at last the v'yage were up, an' the brig got in to New Orleans. There
I walks aft to the skipper for to take leave, when says he, wonderfly
friendly like, "Now, my lad," says he, "I'm goin' up river a bit for to
see a friend as takes a interest in your kind--an' if ye likes, why I'll
pay yer passage that far?" In course I agrees, and up river we goes,
till we lands at a fine house, where I'm left in a far-handy, ye know,
while the skipper an' his friend has their dinner. All at once the
gen'lman shoves his head out of a doure, takes a look at me, an' in
again--arter that I hears the chink o' dollars--then the skipper walks
out, shuts the doure, and says he to me, "Now," he says, "that's a
'cute sort o' tale ye tould me, my lad, but it's a lie, I guess!" "Lie,
sir!" says I, "what d' ye mean?" for ye see that 'ere matter o' the
iv'ry brig made me sing small at first. "No slack, Pumpey," says he,
liftin' his forefinger like a schoolmaster; "ain't yer name Pumpey?"
says he. "Pumpey!" says I, "my name's Jack Brown," for that wor the name
I'd gived him afore. "Oh!" says he, "jest say it's Gin'ral Washington,
right off. Come," says he, "I guess I'd jest tell ye what tripe you
belongs to--you're a Mandigy nigger," says he. "It's all very well," he
says, "that 'ere yarn, but that's wot they'd all say when they comes,
they've been dyed black! Why," says he, "doesn't I see that 'ere brand
one night on yer back--there's yer arms all over pagan tattooin'----"
"Bless ye, captin," I says, a-holdin' up my arm, "it's crowns an'
anchors!" "Crowns!" says he, turnin' up his nose, "what does we know o'
crowns hereaway--_we_ ain't barbers yet, I guess"--of what he meant by
_barbers_ here, mate, I'm hanged if I knowed. "'Sides," says he, "you
speaks broken Aimerricane!" "'Merricain?" I says, "why, I speaks good
English! an' good reason, bein' a free-born Briton--as white's yerself,
if so be I could ownly clap hands for a minnet on some o' them mushrooms
I tould ye on!" "Where does they grow, then?" axes he, screwin' one eye
up. "In Africay yonder, sir," I says, "more's the pity I hadn't the
chance to lay hands on them again!" "Phoo!" says he, "glad they ain't
_here_! An' does you think we 're a-goin' for to send all the way over
to Africay for them mushrooms you talks on? Tell ye what, yer free
papers 'ud do ye a sight more good _here_!" says he; "it's no use with a
black skin for to claim white laws; an' what's more, ye're too tarnation
ugly-faced for it, let alone colour, Pumpey, my man," he says. "I tell
ye what it is, Captin Edwards," says I, "my frontispiece ain't neither
here nor there, but if you calls me Pumpey again, blowed an' I don't
pitch inty ye!"--so with that I handles my bones in a way as makes him
hop inside the doure--an' says the skipper houldin' it half-shut,
"Harkee, lad," he says, "it's no go your tryin' for to run, or they'll
make ye think angels o' bo'sun's-mates. But what's more," says he,
"nivver you whisper a word o' what ye tells me, about nuts an'
mushrooms, or sich like trash--no more will I; for d' ye see, my lad, in
that case they'd jest _hush ye up_ for good!" "Who d' ye mean?" I says,
all abroad, an' of a shiver like--mindin' on the slave-schooner again.
"Why, the planter's people," says he, "as I've sold ye to." An' with
that he pints into his mouth, and shuts the doure.

"'Well, mate, ye may fancy how I feels! Here I stands, givin' a look
round for a fair offing; but there was bulwarks two fadom high all round
the house, a big bloodhound lyin' chained, with his muzzle on his two
paws, an' nobody seem'd for to mind me. So, I see'd it were all up wonst
more; an' at the thou't of a knife in my tongue, I sits right down in
the far-handy, rig'lar flabbergasted, when out that 'ere blasted skipper
snoots his head again, an' says he, "Pumpey, my lad, good-day," says he;
"you knows some'at o' the water, an' as they've boat-work at times
hereaway, I don't know but, if you behaves yerself, they'll trust you
with an oar now an' then: for I tould yer master jist now," says he, "as
how you carn't speak no English!" Well, I gives him a hoath, 'cause by
that time I hadn't a word to throw at a dog; and shortly arter, up comes
the overseer with his black mate, walks me off to a shed, strips me, and
gives me a pair o' cotton drawers and a broad hat--so out I goes the
next mornin' for to hoe sugarcane with a gang o' niggers.

"'Well, mate, arter that I kept close enough--says no more, but mumbles
a lot o' no-man's jargon, as makes 'em all log me down for a sort o'
double-Guinea savitch--'cause why, I were hanged afeard for my tongue,
seein', if so be I lost it, I'd be a nigger for ever, sure enough. So
the blacks, for most part being country-bred, they talks nothin' but a
blessed jumble, for all the world like babbies at home; an' what does
they do but they fancies me a rig'lar African nigger, as proud as Tommy,
an' a'most ready for to washup me they wor--why, the poor divvles 'ud
bring me yams and fish; they kisses my flippers an' toes as I'd been the
Pope; an' as for the young girls, I'm blowed if I warn't all the go
amongst 'em--though I carn't say the same where both's white, ye know!
What with the sun an' the cocoa-nut ile, to my thinkin', I gets blacker
an' blacker--blessed if I didn't fancy a feller's very mind turned
nigger. I larns their confounded lingo, an' I answers to the name o'
Pumpey, blast it, till I right-down forgets that I'd ever another. As
for runnin', look ye, I knowed 'twas no use thereaway, as long as my
skin tould against me, an' as long as Africay wor where it wor. So, my
boy, I see'd pretty clear, ye know, as this here world 'ud turn a man
into a rig'lar built slave-nigger in the long run if he was an angel out
o' heaven!

"'Well, mate, one day I'm in the woods amongst a gang, chopping firewood
for the sugar-mill, when, what does I light on betwixt some big
ground-leaves and sich like, but a lot o' them very same red mushrooms
as the fittish-man shows me in Africay!--blowed if there warn't a whole
sight o' them round about, too! So I pulls enough for ten, ye may be
sure, stuffs 'em in my hat, an' that same night, as soon as all's dark,
off I goes into the woods, right by the stars, for the nearest town
'twixt there and New Orleans. As soon as I got nigh-hand it, there I
sits down below a tree amongst the bushes, hauls off my slops, an' I
turns to for to rub myself all over, from heel to truck, till daybreak.
So, in course, I watches for the light angshis enough, as ye may
suppose, to know what colour I were. Well, strike me lucky, Jack, if I
didn't jump near a fadom i' the air, when at last I sees I'm _white_
wonst more!--blessed if I didn't feel myself a new man from stem to
starn! I makes right for a creek near by, looks at my face in the water,
then up I comes again, an' every yarn o' them cussed slave-togs I pulls
to bits, when I shoves 'em under the leaves. Arter that I took fair to
the water for about a mile, jist to smooth out my wake, like; then I
shins aloft up a tree, where I stowed myself away till noon--'cause,
d'ye see, I knowed pretty well what to look for next. An' by this time,
mind ye, all them queer haps made a fellow wonderful sharp, so I'd
scheme out the whole chart aforehand how to weather on them cussed
Yankees.

"'Accordently, about noon, what does I hear but that 'ere savitch
bloodhound comin' along up creek, with a set o' slave-catchers astarn,
for to smell out my track. With that, down I went in the water again,
rounds a point into the big river, where I gets abreast of a landin'
place, near the town, with craft laying out-stream, boats plyin', an'
all alive. D' ye see, bo', I'd got no clothes at all, an' how for to rig
myself again, 'blowed if I knows--seein' as how by this time I'd turned
as white as the day I were born, an' a naked white man in a town arn't
no better than a black nigger. So in I swims like a porpus afore a
breeze, an' up an' down I ducks in the shallow, for all the world like a
chap a-takin' a bath; an' out I hollers to all an' sundry, with a Yankee
twang i' my nose, for to know if they had seen my clothes, till a whole
lot on 'em crowds on the quay. Hows'ever, I bethinks me on that 'ere
blasted brand atwixt my shoulders, an' I makes myself out as modest as a
lady, kicks out my legs, and splashes like a whale aground, an' sticks
out my starn to 'em for to let 'em see it's white. "Hullo!" I sings out,
"han't ye seen my clothes?" "No, stranger," says they, "someun's runned
off with 'em, we cal'clates!" With that I tells 'em I'm a Boston skipper
new comed up from New Orleans; an' not being used to the heat, why I'd
took a bath the first thing; an' I 'scribes the whole o' my togs as if
I'd made 'em--"split new," says I, "an' a beaver hat, more by token
there's my name inside it; an'," says I, "there's notes for a hundred
dollars in my trousers!"

"'By this time down comes the slave-catchers, an' says they, hearin' on
it, "That 'ere tarnation nigger's gone off with 'em, we'll know 'un by
them marks well enough," says they, an' off they goes across river.
"Hullo!" I sings out to the folks, "I'm a-gettin' cold here, so I guess
I'll come ashore again, slick off!" I twangs out. "Guess ye can't,
straunger!" they hails; "not till we gets ye some kiverin's!--we 're
considerable proper here, we are!" "Ain't this a free country, then?" I
says, givin' a divvle of a splash; an' with that they begs an' axes me
for to hould on, an' they'd fix me, as they calls it, in no time. "Well,
mate, what does they do but one an' another brings me somethin' as like
what I 'scribed as could be, hands 'em along on a pole, an' I puts 'em
on then an' there. Arter that, the ladies o' the place bein' blessed
modest, an' all of a fright leest I'd a comed out an' gone through the
town--why, out o' grannytude, as they says, they gets up a
supperscription on a hundred dollars to make up my loss--has a public
meetin' logged down for the evenin', when I'm for to indress the
citizens, as they says, all about freedom an' top-gallantry, an'
sich-like. Hows'ever, I jist sticks my tongue in my cheek, eats a
blessed good dinner in a hot-ell, watches my chance, an' off by a
track-boat at sundown to New Orleans, where I shipped aboard a English
barque, an' gets safe out to sea wonst more.

"'Lord love ye, Harry!' exclaimed Jack hereupon, 'the likes o' that now!
But I've heerd say, them fittish-men you talks on has wonderful
knowledge--why, mayhap it's them as keeps all the niggers black, now?'
'Well, bo',' said Harry, 'I don't doubt but if them 'Merricain slaves
jist knowed o' that 'ere red mushroom, why they'd show the Yankees more
stripes nor stars! D' ye see, if a Yankee knowed as his own father were
a-hoein' his sugar-canes, blowed if he wouldn't make him work up his
liberty in dollars! All the stripes, d' ye see, mate, is for the blacks,
an' all the stars is for the whites, in them Yankee colours as they
brags so much about! But what I says is, it's cussed hard to get through
this 'ere world, shipmate, if ye doesn't keep well to the wind'ard of
it!'

"I was the more amused with this account of the ugly rascal's adventures
that I remembered two or three of the occasions he mentioned, and he
told them pretty exactly so far as I had to do with them. As for the
fetish-man's curious nut, and that extraordinary mushroom of his, why
'ten to one,' thought I, 'but all the while the fellow never once
touched a piece of _soap_!' which, no doubt, had as much to do with it
as anything besides. Somehow or other, notwithstanding, I had taken
almost a fancy to the villain--such a rough sample of mankind he was,
with his uncouth grumpy voice, and his huge black beard; and he gave the
story in a cool, scornful sort of way that was laughable in itself. 'So,
my lad,' I thought, 'it seems you and I have met twice before; but if
you play any of your tricks this time, Master Harry, I hope you've found
your match'; and certainly, if I had fancied my gentleman was in the
slaver's hold that time off the African coast, I'd have 'lubberrated'
him with a vengeance.

"'I say, mates,' said he again, with a sulky kind of importance, to
those of the watch who had gathered round during the last half of his
yarn, 'there's three things I hates--an' good reason!' 'What be's they,
Harry?' asked the rest. 'One's a Yankee,' said he, 'an' be blowed to
him; the second's a slaver; and the third is--I carn't abide a nigger,
nohow. But d' ye see, there's one thing I _likes_----' Here eight bells
struck out, and up tumbled the watch below, with Jacobs' hearty face
amongst them: so I made my way aft, and, of course, missed hearing what
that said delightful thing might be, which this tarry Æsop approved of
so much.



CHAPTER XII


"While I was listening, I had scarcely noticed, that within the last few
minutes a light air had begun to play aloft among the higher canvas, a
faint cat's-paw came ruffling here and there a patch of the water, till
by this time the Indiaman was answering her wheel again, and moving
slowly ahead, as the breeze came down and crept out to the leeches of
her sails, with a sluggish lifting of her heavy fore-course. The men
were all below at breakfast, forward, and, of course, at that hour the
poop above me was quite a Babel of idlers' voices; while I looked into
the compass and watched the ship's head falling gradually off from
north-east-by-north, near which it had stuck pretty close since
daybreak. The sun was brought before her opposite beam, and such a
perfect gush of hazy white light shot from that quarter over the
larboard bulwarks, that thereaway, in fact, there might have been a
fleet of ships, or a knot of islands, and we none the wiser, as you
couldn't look into it at all.

"The chief mate came handing a wonderfully timid young lady down the
poop-ladder with great care, and as soon as they were safe on the
quarter-deck, she asked, with a confiding sort of lisp, 'And where are
we going _now_ then, Mr Finch?' 'Well, miss,' simpered he, 'wherever
_you_ please, I'll be glad to conduct you!' 'Oh, but the ship I mean,'
replied she, giggling prettily. 'Why,' said Finch, stooping down to the
binnacle, 'she heads due south-east at present, miss.' 'I _am_ so glad
you are going on again!' said the young lady; 'but oh! when shall we see
dear _land_ once more, Mr Finch?' 'Not for more than a week, I fear,'
answered the mate, 'when we arrive at the Cape of Good Hope. But there,
miss, your poetic feelings will be gratified, I assure you. The hills
there, I might say, Miss Brodie,' he went on, 'not to speak of the
woods, are quite dramatic! You mustn't suppose the rough mariner, rude
as he seems, Miss Brodie, is entirely devoid of romance in his
sentiments, I hope!' and he looked down for the twentieth time that
morning at his boots as he handed her down the cabin hatchway, longing
to see the Cape, no doubt. 'Much romance, as you call it, there is in
ugly Harry yonder!' thought I; and comparing this sort of stuff, aft,
with the matter-of-fact notions before the mast, made me the more
anxious for what might turn up in a few hours, with this gallant first
officer left in full charge, and the captain, as I understood, unable to
leave his cot. A good enough seaman the fellow was, so far as your
regular deep-sea work went, which those India voyagers had chiefly to do
with then; but for aught out of the way, or a sudden pinch, why, the
peace had just newly set them free of their leading-strings, and here
this young mate brought his new-fangled school navigation, forsooth, to
run the _Seringapatam_ into some mess or other; whereas, in a case of
the kind, I had no doubt he would prove as helpless as a child.

"By this time, for my part, all my wishes for some ticklish adventure
were almost gone, when I thought of our feelings at the loss of the
boat, as well as the number of innocent young creatures on board, with
Lota Hyde herself amongst them; while here had I got myself fairly set
down for a raw griffin. Yet neither Westwood nor I, unless it came to
the very worst, could venture to make himself openly useful! I was
puzzled both what to think of our exact case, and what to do; whereas a
pretty short time in these latitudes, as the foremast-man had said,
might finish our business altogether; indeed, the whole look of things,
somehow or other, at that moment, had a strange unsettled touch about
it, out of which one unaccustomed to those parts might be sure some
change would come. The air, a little ago, was quite suffocating, the
heat got greater; and the breeze, though it seemed to strengthen aloft,
at times sank quietly out of her lower canvas like a breath drawn in,
and caught it again as quietly ere it fell to the masts. What with the
slow huge heave of the water, as it washed glittering past, and what
with the blue tropical sky overhead, getting paler and paler at the
horizon astern, from fair heat--while the sunlight and the white haze on
our larboard beam, made it a complete puzzle to behold--why, I felt just
like some fellow in one of those stupid dreams after a heavy supper,
with nothing at all in them, when you don't know how long or how often
you've dreamt it before. Deuce the hand or foot you can stir, and yet
you've a notion of something horrid that's sure to come upon you.

"We couldn't be much more than a hundred miles or so to south'ard of St
Helena; but we might be two thousand miles off the land, or we might be
fifty. I had only been once in my life near the coast thereaway, and
certainly my recollections of it weren't the most pleasant. As for the
charts, so little was known of it that we couldn't depend upon them; yet
there was no doubt the ship had been all night long in a strong set of
water toward north-east, right across her course. For my own part, I was
as anxious as anyone else to reach the Cape, and get rid of all this
cursed nonsense; for since last night, I saw quite well by her look that
Violet Hyde would never favour me, if I kept in her wake to the day of
judgment. There was I, too, every time I came on deck and saw those
round-house doors, my heart leapt into my throat, and I didn't know port
from starboard! But what was the odds, that I'd have kissed the very
pitch she walked upon, when _she_ wasn't for _me_!--being deep in love
don't sharpen the faculties neither, and the more I thought of matters
the stupider I seemed to get. 'Green Hand!' thought I, 'as Jacobs and
the larboard watch call me, it appears--why, they're right enough! A
green hand I came afloat nine years ago, and, by Jove! though I know the
sea and what belongs to it, from sheer liking to them, as 'twere--it
seems a green hand I'm to stick--seeing I know so blessed little of
womankind, not to speak of that whole confounded world ashore! With all
one's schemes and one's weather-eye, something new always keeps turning
up to show one what an ass he is; and hang me, if I don't begin to
suppose I'm only fit for working small traverses upon slavers and
jack-nasty-faces, after all! There's Westwood, without troubling
himself, seems to weather upon me, with her, like a Baltimore clipper on
a Dutch schuyt!' In short, I wanted to leave the _Seringapatam_ as soon
as I could, wish them all a good voyage together away for Bombay, sit
down under Table Mountain, and then perhaps go and travel amongst the
Hottentots by way of a change.

"The chief officer came aft towards the binnacle again, with a strut in
his gait, and more full of importance than ever, of course. 'This
breeze'll hold, I think, Macleod?' said he to the second mate, who was
shuffling about in a lounging, unseamanlike way he had, as if he felt
uncomfortable on the quarter-deck, and both hands in his jacket pockets.
'Well,' said the Scotchman, 'do ye not think it's too early begun, sir?'
and he looked about like an old owl, winking against the glare of light
past the mainsheet to larboard; 'I'll not say but it will, though,'
continued he, 'but 'odsake, sir, it's terrible warm!' 'Can't be long ere
we get into Cape Town now,' said the mate, 'so you'll turn the men on
deck as soon as breakfast's over, Mr Macleod, and commence giving her a
coat of paint outside, sir.' 'Exactly, Mr Finch,' said the other, 'all
hands it'll be, sir? For any sake, Mr Finch, give they lazy scoundrels
something to do!' 'Yes, all hands,' said Finch; and he was going below,
when the second mate sidled up to him again, as if he had something
particular to say. 'The captain'll be quite better by this time, no
doubt, Mr Finch?' asked he. '_Well_--d' ye mean?' inquired the mate,
rather shortly; 'why no, sir, when the surgeon saw him in the morning
watch, he said it was a fever, and the sooner we saw the Cape the better
for him.' 'No doubt, no doubt, sir,' said the second mate, thoughtfully,
putting his forefinger up his twisted nose, which I noticed he did in
such cases, as if the twist had to do with his memory--'no doubt, sir,
that's just it! The doctor's a sharp Edinbro' lad--did he see aucht by
common about the captain, sir?' 'No,' said Finch, 'except that he wanted
to go on deck this morning, and the surgeon took away his clothes and
left the door locked.' 'Did he, though?' asked Macleod, shaking his
head, and looking a little anxious; 'didna he ask for aucht in
particular, sir?' 'Not that I heard of, Mr Macleod,' replied the mate;
'what do you mean?' 'Did he not ask for a green leaf?' replied the
second mate. 'Pooh,' said Finch, 'what if he did?' 'Well, sir,' said
Macleod, 'neither you nor the doctor's sailed five voyages with the
captain, like me. He's a quiet man, Captain Weelumson, an' well he knows
his calling; but sometimes warm weather doesn't do with him, more
especial siccan warm weather as this, when the moon's full, as it is the
night, ye know, Mr Finch. There's something else besides that, though,
when he's taken that way.' 'Well, what is it?' asked the mate,
carelessly. 'Oo!' said Macleod, 'it can't be _that_ this time, of
course, sir--it's when he's near the _land_! The captain knows the smell
of it, these times, Mr Finch, as well as a cockroach does--an' it's then
he asks for a green leaf, and wants to go straight ashore--I mind he did
it the voy'ge before last, sir. He's a quiet man, the captain, as I
said, for ord'nar'--but when he's roused, he's a----' 'Why, what was the
matter with him?' said Finch, more attentive than before; 'you don't
mean to say?--go on, Mr Macleod.' The second mate, however, looked
cautious, closed his lips firmly, and twirled his red whiskers, as he
glanced with one eye aloft again. 'Hoo!' said he, carelessly, 'hoo, it's
nothing, nothing--just, I'm thinking, sir, what they call disgestion
ashore--all frae the stommach, Mr Finch. We used just for to lock the
state-room door, an' never let on we heard--but at any rate, sir, _this_
is no the thing at all, ye know! Mester Semm,' continued he to the fat
midshipman, who came slowly up from the steerage, picking his teeth with
a pocket-knife, 'go forrid and get the bo'sun to turn up all hands.'

"'Sir,' said I, stepping up to the mate next moment, before the
round-house, 'might I use the freedom of asking whereabouts we are at
present?' Finch gave me a look of cool indifference, without stirring
head or hand; which I saw, however, was put on, as, ever since our
boating affair, the man evidently detested me, with all his pretended
scorn. 'Oh certainly, sir!' said he, 'of course!--sorry I haven't the
ship's log here to show you--but it's two hundred miles or so below St
Helena, eight hundred miles odd off the south-west African coast, with a
light westerly breeze bound for the Cape of Good Hope--so after that you
can look about you, sir!' 'Are you _sure_ of all that, sir?' asked I,
seriously. 'Oh no, of course not!' said he, still standing as before,
'not in the least, sir! It's nothing but quadrant, sextant, and
chronometer work, after all--which every young gentleman don't believe
in!' Then he muttered aloud, as if to himself, 'Well, if the captain
_should_ chance to ask for a _green_ leaf, I know where to find it for
him!'

"I was just on the point of giving him some angry answer or other, and
perhaps spoiling all, when I felt a tap on my shoulder, and on turning
round saw the Indian judge, who had found me in the way either of his
passage or his prospect, on stepping out of the starboard door. 'Eh!'
said he, jocularly, as I begged his pardon, 'eh, young sir--I've
nothing to do with pardons--always leave that to the governor-general
and councillors! Been doing anything wrong, then? Ah, what's this--still
calm, or some of your wind again, Mr Officer?' 'A fine breeze like to
hold, Sir Charles,' answered the mate, all bows and politeness. 'So!'
said Sir Charles; 'but I don't see Captain Williamson at all this
morning--where is he?' 'I am sorry to say he is very unwell, Sir
Charles,' said Finch. 'Indeed!' exclaimed the judge, with whom the
captain stood for all the seamanship aboard, and looking round again
rather dissatisfied. 'Don't like that, though. I hope he won't be long
unable to attend to things, sir--let me know as soon as he is recovered,
if you please.' 'Certainly, Sir Charles,' said the chief officer,
touching his cap with some appearance of pique; 'but I hope, sir, I
understand my duties in command, Sir Charles.' 'Daresay, sir,' said the
judge, '_as_ officer, probably. Commander absent--horrible accidents
already,' he muttered, crossly, changing his usual high sharp key to a
harsh croak, like a saw going through a heavy spar, 'something sure to
go wrong--wish we'd done with this deuced tiresome voyage. Ha, young
gentleman,' exclaimed he, turning as he went in, 'd'ye play
chess--suppose not--eh?' 'Why yes, sir,' said I, 'I do.' 'Well,'
continued he, overhauling me more carefully than he had done before,
though latterly I had begun to be somewhat in his good graces when we
met by chance, 'after all, you've a _chess_ eye, if you know the game at
all. Come in, then, for God's sake, and let's begin. Ever since the poor
brigadier _went_, I've had only myself or a girl to play against. 'Gad,
sir, there is something, I can't express how horrible to my mind, in
being matched against _nobody_--or, what's worse, against a _woman_! But
recollect, young gentleman, I can not bear a tyro'; and he glanced at me
as we walked into the large poop-cabin as sharply and as cold as a
nor'-wester, ere it breaks to windward.

"Now I happened to know the game, and to be particularly fond of it; so,
restless as I felt otherwise, I gave the old nabob a quiet nod, laid
down my griffin-looking straw hat on the sofa, and in two minutes there
we were, sitting opposite over a splendid China-made chess-board, with
elephants, emperors, mandarins, and Chinamen, all square and ataunto,
as if they'd been set ready for days. The dark _kitmagar_ commenced
fanning over his master's head with a bright feather punka, the other
native servant handed him his twisted hookah and lighted it, after which
he folded his arms and stood looking down on the board like a pundit at
some campaign of the Great Mogul; while the judge himself waited for my
first move, as if it had been some of our plain English fellows in
Hindostan commencing against your whole big India hubbub and finery, to
get hold of it all in the end. For my part I sat at first all of a
tingle and tremble, thinking how near his lovely daughter might be; and
there were the breakfast-cups laid out on a round table at the other
side, behind me.

"However, I made my move, Sir Charles made his, and pitched into the
game in a half-impatient, half long-headed sort of way, anxious to get
to the thick of it, as it were, once more. Not a word was said, and you
only heard the suck of the smoke bubbling through the water-bottle of
his pipe, after each move the judge made; till I set myself to the play
in right earnest, and, owing to the old gentleman's haste at the
beginning, or his over-sharpness, I hooked him into a mess with which I
used to catch the old hands at chess in the cockpit, just by fancying
what _they_ meant to be at. The judge lifted his head, looked at me, and
went on again. 'Your queen is in check, Sir Charles!' said I, next time,
by way of a polite hint. '_Check_, though, young gentleman!' said he,
chuckling, as he dropped one of his outlandish knights, which I wasn't
yet up to the looks of, close to the windward of my blessed old Turk of
a king; so the skirmish was just getting to be a fair set-to, when I
chanced to lift my eyes, and saw the door from the after-cabin open,
with Miss Hyde coming through. 'Now, papa,' exclaimed she on the moment,
'you must come to breakfast'--when all of a sudden, at seeing another
man in the cabin, she stopped short. Being not so loud and griffin-like
in my toggery that morning, and my hat off, the young lady didn't
recognise me at first--though the next minute, I saw by her colour and
her astonished look, she not only did that, but something else--no doubt
remembering at last where she had seen me ashore. 'Well, child,' said
the judge, 'make haste with it, then!--Recollect where we are, now,
young gentleman--and come to breakfast.' She had a pink muslin
morning-dress on, with her brown hair done up like the Virgin Mary in a
picture, and the sea had taken almost all the paleness off her cheek
that it had in the ball-room at Epsom, a month or two ago--and, by Jove!
when I saw her begin to pour out the tea out of the silver teapot, I
didn't know _where_ I was! 'Oh, I forgot,' said the judge, waving his
hand from me to her, in a hurry, 'Mr Robins, Violet! ho, _kitmagar_,
curry l'ao!' 'Oh,' said she, stiffly, with a cold turn of her pretty
lip, 'I have met Mr--Mr----' 'Collins, ma'am,' said I. 'I have met this
gentleman by accident _before_.' 'So you have--so you have,' said her
father; 'but you play chess well, Mr--a--a--what's his name?--ah! Colly.
Gad, you play _well_, sir--we must have it out!'

"The young lady glanced at me again with a sort of astonishment; at last
she said, no doubt for form's sake, though as indifferently as possible:
'You have known your friend the missionary gentleman long, I believe,
sir?--the Reverend Mr Thomas--I think that is his name?' 'Oh no, ma'am!'
said I hastily, for the judge was the last man I wished should join
Westwood and me together, 'only since we crossed the Line, or so.' 'Why,
I thought he said you were at school together!' said she, in surprise.
'Why--hem--certainly not, ma'am--a--a--I--a--a--I don't remember the
gentleman there,' I blundered out. 'Eh, what?--check to your queen,
young gentleman, surely?' asked Sir Charles. 'What's this, though!
Always like to hear a mystery explained, so'--and he gave me one of his
sharp glances. 'Why, why--surely, young man, now I think of it in that
way, I've seen you before in some peculiar circumstances or other--on
land, too. Why, where was it--let me see now?' putting his finger to his
forehead to think; while I sat pretty uneasy, like a small pawn that had
been trying to get to the head of the board, and turn into a knight or a
bishop, when it falls foul of a grand figured-out king and queen.
However, the queen is the only piece you need mind at a distance, and
blessed hard it is to escape from _her_, of course. Accordingly, I cared
little enough for the old nabob finding out I had gone in chase of them;
but there sat his charming little daughter, with her eyes on her
tea-cup; and whether the turn of her face meant coolness, or malice, or
amusement, I didn't know--though she seemed a little anxious too, I
thought, lest her father should recollect me.

"'It wasn't _before_ me, young man?' asked he, looking up of a sudden:
'no, that must have been in India--_must_ have been in England, when I
was last there--let me see.' And I couldn't help fancying what a man's
feelings must be, tried for his life, as I caught a side-view of his
temples working, dead in my wake, as it were. The thing was laughable
enough, and for a moment I met Lota's eye as he mentioned England--'twas
too short a glimpse, though, to make out; and, thought I, 'he'll be down
on Surrey directly, and then Croydon--last of all, the back of his
garden-wall, I suppose!' 'Check' it was, and what I was going to say I
couldn't exactly conceive, unless I patched up some false place or
other, with matters to match, and mentioned it to the old fellow, though
small chance of its answering with such a devil of a lawyer--when all at
once I thought I heard a hail from aloft; then the second mate's voice
roared close outside, 'Hullo!--aloft there!' The next moment I started
up, and looked at Miss Hyde, as I heard plainly enough the cry, 'On deck
there--land O!' I turned round at once, and walked out of the
round-house to the quarter-deck, where, two minutes after, the whole of
the passengers were crowding from below, the judge and his daughter
already on the poop. Far aloft, upon the fore-to'-gallant-yard, in the
hot glare of the sun, a sailor was standing with his hand over his eyes,
and looking to the horizon, as the Indiaman stood quietly before the
light breeze. 'Where-away-ay?' was the next hail from the deck. 'Broad
on our larboard bow, sir,' was the answer."



CHAPTER XIII


"Well, ma'am," continued the naval man, on again resuming his narrative,
"as I told you, the sudden hail of 'Land!' brought us all on deck in a
twinkling, in the midst of my ticklish conversation with the judge.
'Hallo! you aloft!' shouted the chief officer himself, 'd'ye hear,
sirrah! use your eyes before hailing the deck!' 'Land, sir!' came
falling down again out of the sunlight; 'land it is, sir--broad away on
our larboard bow, sir.'

"By this time it was about half-past nine, or ten o'clock, of the
morning. Heading nearly due south-east, as we now were, the Indiaman's
bowsprit ran up into the full white blaze of light, in which her flying
jib-boom seemed to quiver and writhe far away from her like an eel in
water; while the spread of her sails against it loomed twice as large as
ordinary from the sort of hazy double-edged look they had, with a
twinkling thread of sun drawing all round them like a frame, as if one
saw through a wrong-screwed glass. You'd have thought by the glance
under the fore-course, over the ship's head-gratings, she was travelling
off quietly into some no-man's-land or other, where it would be so
bright we should have to wear blue spectacles: the light breeze being
almost direct from nor'-west, and so fairly in her favour, with the help
of her studding-sails she was making wonderful progress for such a mere
breath--about four knots to the hour, as I reckoned. The air aloft
appeared in the meantime to be steadying and _sucking_ though the water
kept smooth, and her bows scarce made a noise in it: the wide soft
swells of the sea just floated up of a pale blue, and lifted her on,
till she went seething gently down into it again; only, if you put your
head over the starboard side, and listened, you thought you heard a sort
of dull poppling ripple coming along the bends from round her counter.
As for the line of horizon on one bow or the other, 'twas hardly to be
made out at all, with a streaky white haze overlying it, up in the sky
as it were, on both sides, behind the dazzle of light. However, the
passengers were fancying all kinds of fine tropical matters lay hidden
thereaway; and in fact, what with the notion of land after a long
voyage, and what with the faint specks of bright cloud that seemed to be
melting far off in the glare--to anyone last from Gravesend, that had
never seen anything stranger than Richmond Hill of a Sunday, the whole
thing ahead of the ship would have rather an enchanted sort of a look.
At length the third mate was seen to shove his spy-glass together in the
top-gallant cross-trees, and came slowly down the rigging. 'Well, Mr
Rickett,' said the chief officer, meeting him, as he landed on deck.
'Well, sir,' said Rickett, 'it is land after all, Mr Finch!' The mate
rapped out an oath, and took another turn: Macleod screwed his mouth as
if he were going to whistle, then pulled his red whiskers instead, and
looked queer at Rickett; while Rickett stood peering into his spy-glass
as he would have done into his hat, had he still been a foremast-man.
The mate's eye met his, then turned to the passengers leaning over the
poop-railing; and they all three walked to the capstan, where they began
to overhaul the charts, and laid their heads together out of earshot.

"Now, whether this said land just made out on the north-east trended
away back to south-east, as the clearer look of the horizon to starboard
made one think, it was hard to say--though in _that_ way of it, there
were _seemingly_ two plans for widening her distance. Either Finch might
think it better to keep hold of a fair wind, and just edge her off
enough to drop the point on her weather quarter--when, of course, if
things stood as they were, we should soon set a good stretch of water
betwixt us and the coast; or else they might brace direct round on the
other tack, and head right south-west'ard, out to sea again; though if
we were still in it, the current would set us every bit as much in its
own direction as ever. Accordingly, I sidled nearer to the capstan, and
watched anxiously for what the third mate had to propose, after humming
and hawing a little, and scratching his head under his cap for half a
minute. 'At any rate, Mr Finch, sir,' said he, 'more especially the
captain being off charge, I may say, why, I'd advise ye, sir, to----'
Here he dropped his voice; but Finch apparently agreed to what he said.

"'Ready about ship, there!' said the second mate aloud to the boatswain
forward; and in ten minutes afterwards the _Seringapatam_ was fairly
round, as I had expected, heading at a right-angle to her former course,
with the breeze before her starboard beam, and the sun blazing on the
other. I walked forward to the bows, and actually started to hear how
loud and clear the ripple had got under them of a sudden; meeting her
with a plash, as if she were making six or seven knots headway, while
the canvas seemed to draw so much stiffer aloft, you'd have supposed the
breeze had freshened as soon as the helm was put down. The mates looked
over the side and aloft, rubbing their hands and smiling to each other,
as much as to say how fast she was hauling off the bad neighbourhood she
was in, though the heat was as great as ever, and you didn't feel a
breath more air below, nor see the water ruffle. To _my_ notion, in
fact, it was just the set of the current against her that seemingly
freshened her way, the ship being now direct in its teeth; so that, of
course, it would keep bearing her up all the time away north-eastward,
with _her_ own leeway to help it; and the less could anyone notice the
difference betwixt the water going past her side, and her passing the
water. This tack of hers, which Rickett, no doubt, thought such a safe
plan, might be the very one to put her in a really dangerous way yet:
for when they did discover this under-tow, how were they to take her out
of it, after all? Probably by trying to stand fair across the stream of
it to southward, which, without three times the wind we had, would at
best take us out many miles nearer the land it set upon, or leave us
perhaps becalmed in the midst of it.

"The truth was, that although I hadn't seen what like the land was, and
couldn't have said, by the chart, _where_ we were, I began to have a
faint notion of whereabouts we possibly soon might be, from what I
remembered hearing an old quartermaster in the _Iris_ say, a couple of
years before, regarding a particular spot on the south-west coast, where
the currents at some seasons, as he phrased it, made a regular
racecourse meeting. The old fellow gave me also, at the time, some
bearings of the nearest coast, with the landmarks at the mouth of a
river a little farther north--which, he said, he would know if you set
him down there of a dark night, though he had been in his bed at Gosport
the minute before, if there was just a bright streak of sky to the
eastward--namely, a big black rock like two steps, and a block at the
foot of them, somewhat the shape of a chipped holystone, running down on
one side out of a high headland, like an admiral's cocked hat, with six
mop-headed trees upon the root of the rock, for all the world like hairs
on a wart. Here I recollected how my worthy authority pointed modestly
for example to a case of the kind on his own nose. The opposite shore of
its mouth was flat, with a heavy white surf; but it shut in so far upon
the other, he said, that, steering from the south'ard, one would never
know there was a river there at all. The Bambar he called it; but if he
meant the Bembarooghe, we could scarcely be near _it_, or that much
toward being abreast of St Helena. For all I saw, indeed, we might have
nothing to eastward of us save a hard coast, or else the sandy coast
farther down, shoaling out of sight of land. At any rate, I knew we must
have got into the tail of the great sea-stream from round the Cape of
Good Hope, which would, no doubt, split out at sea on Viana's Bank, and
turn partly to north-eastward thereabouts; so that it wasn't a very bad
guess to suppose we were getting up somewhere near Cape Frio, the
likeliest place in the world to find old Bob Martin's 'Maze,' which we
used to joke about so in the _Iris_.

"What was done, though, required to be done quickly, and I looked about
for Tom Westwood, till I saw him on the poop amongst the rest, talking
again to Miss Hyde, as they all crowded towards the lee-quarter to watch
the land-haze seemingly dropping astern. My heart swelled as it were
into my throat, however, at such an appearance of good understanding
betwixt the two--whereas there was _she_, an hour ago that very morning,
would scarce favour me with a look or a word!--and, for the life of me,
I couldn't have spoken to Westwood at the time, much less gone hand in
hand; for that matter he didn't seem to be suspecting aught wrong to
trouble himself about. What to say or do, either, I couldn't think;
since the more he cut me out, and the less friendly I felt to him, the
less could I risk the chance of showing us both up for what we
_were_--which, of course, would bring him in for the worst of it; as if
_I_, by Jove, were going to serve him some low trick for the sake of
shoving _him_ out with the young lady.

"Meantime I kept fidgeting about, as if the deck were too hot for me,
snatching a glance now and then, in spite of myself, at Violet Hyde's
fairy-like figure; so different from the rest of them, as she stretched
eagerly from below the awning over the ship's quarter-gallery, trying to
make out where the land lay--now putting her little hand over her eyes
to see better, then covering them altogether from the dazzle, as she
drew in her head again and shook her bright brown hair in the shadow,
answering Westwood--confound him! The Indian servant each time carefully
poking out the red and yellow punkah-fringe for a cover over her, while
the passengers were one and all ready to cry at not seeing the land, and
leaving it behind. The judge himself was the only man that seemed to
have a dim notion of something queer in the whole case; for every few
minutes he walked quietly to the break of the poop, where I noticed him
cast a doubtful look down upon the 'chief officer'; and when the surgeon
came up, he asked anxiously how Captain Williamson was, and if he
couldn't be seen below. However, the surgeon told him the captain had
just fallen for the first time into a good sleep, and there was no
admittance, but he was likely to be much better soon.

"By this time there was no standing out from under the awnings, and the
quarter-deck and poop had to be well swabbed to keep them at all cool,
the steam of it rising inside with a pitchy, hempen sort of smell you
never feel save in the Tropics; the _Seringapatam_ still feeling the
breeze aloft, and lifting on the water with a ripple forward, although
her big courses went lapping fore and aft every time she swung. The long
white haze on the horizon began to melt as the sun heightened, clearing
from under the wake of the light, till now you could fairly see the sky
to eastward. Near noon, in fact, we had almost dropped the haze
altogether on the ship's quarter; and at first I was glad to see how
much way she had made in the two hours, when on second thoughts, and by
noticing some marks in the loom of it, I had no doubt but though she
might be farther off, why it was only while she set more up to
north-eastward, so that we were actually, so to speak, leaving it by
getting nearer! However, as the men were at dinner, and most of the
passengers gone off the poop, down to 'tiffin,' I made up my mind to try
what I could do in a quiet way, towards making the mate think of it more
seriously.

"'Ah,' said I, in a would-be brisk and confidential kind of way, 'glad
we're leaving that--a--you know, that land, Mr Finch.' 'Indeed, sir,'
said he indifferently. 'Oh, you know,' said I, 'it's all very well for
the _passengers_ there to talk fine about land--land--but you and I, Mr
Finch, don't need to be told that it's always dangerous at sea, you
know.' The mate lifted his head and eyed me for a moment or two between
the disgust a sailor feels at seeing a fellow pretend to aught like
seamanship, and a particular sort of spite toward me which I'd noticed
growing in him for the last few days--though I daresay my breakfasting
that morning in Sir Charles's cabin might have brought it to a height.

"'Land dangerous, sir!' answered he carelessly, as he went on wiping
his quadrant again; 'who put _that_ into your head?' 'Oh, well,'
returned I, just as carelessly, 'if it's to leeward of course--or with a
current taking you towards it--only then. But I've no doubt, Mr Finch,
if this wind _were_ to--ah--you know, heave more abaft, that's to say
get stronger, the craft would at least stand still, till you got her.'
'What on earth _are_ you talking about, Mr Ford--Collins, I mean?' asked
he sharply. 'Really, sir, I've got something more to attend to at
present, than such trash about a current, and the devil knows what
else!' 'How, why, Mr Finch,' said I, seemingly surprised in my turn,
'_are_ we not in a current just now, then?' 'Current!' replied Finch,
almost laughing outright, 'what _does_ the man mean?' 'Why, every one
thinks so, in the cuddy,' said I, as if rather taken aback, and
venturing what you fair ladies call a 'fib,' 'ever since we picked up
the bottle last night.' This, by-the-by, had got spread through some of
the men to the passengers, though, of course, nobody knew what had been
in it yet. '_There_, I declare now,' continued I, pointing to our
lee-bow, where I'd had my eyes fixed during the five minutes we spoke,
'we can try it again. Do you see that bird yonder on the water?' The
mate turned his head impatiently, and 'Look, watch him, sir,' said I.

"This was a tired man-o'-war bird afloat about twenty fathoms off, with
its sharp white wings stretched just clear of the water, and its black
eye sparkling in the sunlight, as it came dipping on the long, smooth,
hot-blue swell into the lee of the ship's lofty hull, till you saw its
very shadow in the glitter below it. The Indiaman seemed to pass him as
if he rode there at anchor; only the curious thing was, that the bird
apparently neared her up from leeward, crossing her larboard quarter
within a fathom or two, when all of a sudden he got becalmed, as it
were, in the wake right astern, and by the time either of us could walk
to the ship's taffrail, she was close over him; as if, whenever her hull
was end-on, it took his surface-drift away from him, and, what was more,
as if the _ship_ kept hold of it--her eighteen feet or so to his little
inch of a draught--for it couldn't be owing to the wind.

"However, the man-o'-war bird took offer of the next swell to get air in
his wings, and rose off the heave of it with a sharp bit of a scream,
away after some black boobies diving for fish, which no doubt he would
catch, as they dropped them at sight of him.

"The mate upon this started and looked round, then aloft. 'Confound it!'
said he to himself, 'if this breeze would only freshen! There _is_ a
sort of set on the surface just now,' continued he to me, coolly enough,
'though how you idlers happened to have an idea of it puzzles me, unless
because you've nothing else to do but watch the water. Currents are
pretty frequent hereabouts, however.' 'Dear me!' said I, 'but if we
should----' 'Stuff, sir!' said he, quickly, 'the coast here must be
steep-to enough, I should think, since if it weren't for the haze, we'd
have sighted it thirty miles off! What we want is wind--wind, to let's
cross it.' 'But then a calm, Mr Finch,' I said; 'I'm hanged afraid of
those calms!' 'Well, well, sir,' said he, not liking just to shake me
off at once, after my proving less of a ninny in sea matters than he had
supposed, 'these long currents never set right ashore; even if we lose
the wind, as we may soon, why, she'll take off into the eddy seaward,
sir, if you _must_ know--the dead-water in-shore, and the ebb-tide,
always give it a safe turn!'

"All this, of course, was as much to satisfy himself as me. 'Well,
that's delightful,' said I, as if quite contented, and Mr Finch walked
away hastily down one of the poop-ladders, no doubt glad to get rid of
me in a decent manner, though I saw him next minute glancing in at the
compass-boxes.

"'Keep her up to her course, sirrah; luff, d'ye hear,' said he to
Jacobs, who was, perhaps, the best helmsman aboard. 'She falls off
tremendous bad, sir,' answered Jacobs, with another whirl of the spokes;
her want of actual headway making the Indiaman _sag_ dead away to
leeward, as she shoved into the force of the sea-stream, running more
and more direct upon her starboard bow. One minute the courses would
sink in with a long sighing fall to the lower-masts, the next her
topsails would flutter almost aback, and the heat even in the shadow of
her awnings was extreme, yet she still seemed to have a breeze through
the white glare aloft. I was determined to bring things to a point
somehow or other, so I followed the mate down the steps. 'Oh, by-the-by,
Mr Finch!' said I eagerly, 'suppose one of those dreadful--what do you
call 'em?--ah, tornadoes--were to come on! I understand this is just the
way, near Africa--baffling breeze--heat suffocating--hazy
atmosphere--long swell--and current rising to the surface!'

"At this Finch stood up in a perfect fury. 'What the devil d'ye mean,
sir,' said he, 'by dodging me about the decks in this fashion, with
these infernally foolish questions of yours?' 'Oh, my fine fellow,'
thought I, 'you shall settle with me for that.' 'Tornadoes never blow
hereabouts, except off-shore, if you _must_ know, sir!' he rapped out,
sticking his hands in his jacket-pockets as he said so, and taking a
turn on the quarter-deck. 'That's quite a mistake, I assure you, sir!'
said I, carried away with the spirit of the thing; 'I've seen the
contrary fifty times over, and, from the look of the sky aloft just now,
I'd bet----' Here I stopped, recollected myself, put the top of my cane
in my mouth, and peered under the awning at the sea with my eyes
half-shut, as sleepily as usual with my messmates the cadets. The chief
officer, however, stepped back in surprise, eyed me sharply, and seemed
struck with a sudden thought. 'Why, sir,' said he, rather anxiously,
'who may--what can _you_ know of the matter?' 'Pooh!' replied I, seeing
some of the passengers were coming on deck, 'I'm only of an inquiring
turn of mind! You seafaring persons, Mr Finch, think we can't get any of
that kind of knowledge on land; but if you look into Johnson's
Dictionary, why, you'll find the whole thing under the word Tornado:
'twas one of the pieces I'd to get by heart before they'd admit me into
our yacht-club--along with Falconer's _Shipwreck_, you know!' 'Indeed!'
said the mate, slowly, with a curl of his lip, and overhauling me from
head to foot and up again; 'ah, indeed! That was the way, was it, sir?'
I saw 'twas no use. I daresay he caught the twinkle in my eye; while
Jacobs' face, behind him, was like the knocker on a door with trying to
screw it tight over his quid, and stuffing the knot of his neckerchief
in his mouth.

"'Of course, sir,' answered I, letting my voice fall; 'and the long and
the short of it is, Mr Finch, the sooner you get your ship out of this
current the better! And what's more, sir, I daresay I could tell you
_how_!'

"Whether he was waiting for what I'd to say, or thinking of something
just occurred to him, was doubtful: he still gazed steadily at me,
without saying a word; so I went on. 'You must know I had an old uncle
who was long in His Majesty's Royal Navy, and if there was one point he
was crazy upon, 'twas just this very matter of currents--though, for my
part, Mr Finch, I really never understood what he meant till I made a
voyage. He used to tell my mother, poor woman--who always fancied they
had somewhat to do with puddings--that he'd seen no less than
half-a-dozen ships go on shore, owing to currents. Now, Jane, he'd say,
when you're fairly in a current, never you try to cross out of it, as
folks often do, _against_ the run of it, for in that case, unless the
wind's strong enough, why, instead of striking the eddy to take your
craft right off-shore, it'll just set you over and over to the _inside_.
You'll cross, in the end, no doubt--but ten to one it's exactly where
the water begins to shoal; whereas, the right plan's as simple as
daylight, and that's why so few know it! Look ye, he'd say, always you
cross _with_ the stream--no matter though your head seems to make
landward; why, the fact is, it'll just set you outside of itself, clear
into its own bight, when you can run off to seaward with the eddy, if ye
choose. _That's_ the way to cross a current, my uncle used to say,
provided you've but a light wind for handling her with! Now, Mr Finch,'
added I, coolly, and still mouthing my stick as before--for I couldn't
help wishing to give the conceited fellow a rub, while I lent him a
hint--'for my own part, I can't know much of these things, but it _does_
seem to me as if my uncle's notions pretty well suited the case in
hand!'

"Finch was too much of a fair seaman not to catch my drift at once, but
in too great a passion to own it at the time. 'D'ye think, sir,' said
he, with a face like fire, 'so much sense as there is in this long
rigmarole of yours, that I'm such a--that's to say, that I didn't know
it before, sir? But what I've got to do with _you_, Mr Collinson, or
whatever your name may be--you may have been at sea twenty years, for
aught I care--but I'd like to know _why_ you come aboard here, and give
yourself out for as raw a greenhorn as ever touched ropes with a kid
glove?' 'Well, Mr Finch,' said I, 'and what's that to you, if I choose
to be as green as the North Sea whaling-ground?' 'Why, sir,' said Finch,
working himself up, 'you're devilish cunning, no doubt, but perhaps
you're not aware that a passenger under a false rig, in an Indiaman,
may be clapped in limbo, if the captain thinks fit? Who and what are
you, I ask?--some runaway master's mate, I suppose, unless you've got
something deeper in hand! Perhaps,' ended he, with a sneer, 'a
pickpocket in disguise?' 'Sir,' said I, getting up off the bulwark I'd
been leaning upon, 'at _present_ I choose to be a cadet, but at any
rate, you shall make an apology for what you said just now, sir!'
'Apology!' said the mate turning on his heel, 'I shan't do anything of
the sort! You may be thankful, in the meantime, if I don't have you
locked up below, that's all! Perhaps, by-the-by, sir, all you wanted was
to show off your seamanship before the young lady in the round-house
there?' Here the glance the fellow gave me was enough to show he knew
pretty well, all the while, what we were matched against each other for.

"I could stand this no longer, of course; but, seeing that one or two of
the passengers were noticing us from the poop, I looked as polite as is
possible to do when you've lost your temper; and, in fact, the whole
disappointment of this hair-brained cruise of mine--not to speak of a
few things one had to stand--carried me away at the moment. There was no
scheme I wouldn't rather have been suspected of, by this time, than the
real one--namely, having gone in chase of Violet Hyde. I took a card out
of my pocket and handed it quietly to Mr Finch. 'You don't seem able to
name me, sir,' said I. 'However, I give you my word, you may trust that
bit of pasteboard for it; and as I take you to be a gentleman by your
place in this ship, why, I shall expect the satisfaction one gentleman
should give another, the first time we get ashore, although it _should_
be to-morrow morning! And, by Jove!' thought I, 'I hope I'm done with
the most foolish trick ever a fellow played himself! The man that
ventures to call me _green_ again, or look at me as if he wanted to cool
his eyes, hang me if he shan't answer for it! As for a woman,' thought
I, but, oh, those two blue eyes yonder--confound it! as I caught sight
of a white muslin skirt in the shade of the poop-awning above.

"I must say, for Finch, he took my last move coolly enough, turning
round to give me another look, after glancing at the card. 'Indeed!'
said he, as if rather surprised; 'well, sir, I'm your man for _that_,
though it can't be just as soon as to-morrow morning! A Company's
officer may meet a lieutenant in the Navy any time--ay, and take his
ship off the land too, I hope, sir!' and with that he walked off
forward. 'Lieutenant!' said I to myself; 'how did he give me my
commission so pat, I wonder?' and I pulled out another card, when I
found, to my great annoyance, that in my hurry that morning I had
happened to put on a coat of Westwood's by mistake, and instead of plain
'Mr Collins,' they were all 'Lieutenant Westwood, R.N.' 'Here's another
confounded mess!' thought I, 'and all will be blown in the end!'
However, on second thoughts, the notion struck me, that, by sticking to
the name, as I must do _now_ at any rate, why, I should keep Westwood
clear of all scrapes, which, in _his_ case, might be disagreeable
enough; whereas, at present, he was known only as the Reverend Mr
Thomas--and, as for _his_ either shamming the griffin, or giving hints
how to work the ship, he was one of those men you'd scarce know for a
sailor, by aught in his manner, at least: and, indeed, Tom Westwood
always seemed to need a whole frigate's ways about him, with perhaps
somewhat of a stir, to show what he really was.

"Five minutes or so after this, it didn't certainly surprise me much to
see the Indiaman laid on the opposite tack, with her head actually
north-by-east, or within a few points of where the light haze faded into
the sky: the mate seeming by this time to see the matter clearly, and
quietly making his own of it. The ship began to stand over towards the
outer set of the current, which could now be seen rippling along here
and there to the surface, as the breeze fell slowly: you heard nothing
save the faint plash of it astern under one counter, the wafting and
rustling of her large main-course above the awnings, for she was covered
over like a caravan--the slight flap of her jibs far ahead on the
bowsprit startled you now and then as distinctly as if you got a fillip
on your own nose; the stunsail, high up beside the weather-leech of her
fore-topsail, hung slack over the boom, and one felt each useless jolt
of the wheel like a foot-slip in loose sand when you want to run--all
betwixt the lazy, listless voices of the passengers, dropping and
dropping as separate as the last sands in an hour-glass. Still, every
minute of air aloft helped her nearer to where you saw the water winding
about the horizon in long swathes, as it were, bluer than the rest, and
swelling brimful, so to speak, out of a line of light; with the long
dents and bits of ripple here and there creeping towards it, till the
whole round of the surface, as far as you could see, came out into the
smooth, like the wrinkles on a nutmeg.

"Four bells of the afternoon watch had struck--two o'clock, that
is--when Rickett, the third mate, and one or two men, went out to the
arm of the spritsail-yard across the bowsprit, where they lowered away a
heavy pitch-pot with a long strip of yellow bunting made fast to it, and
weighted a little at the loose end, to mark the _set_ of the current;
and as the pot sank away out on her larboard bow, one could see the
bright-coloured rag deep down through the clear blue water, streaming
almost fairly _north_. She appeared to be nearing the turn of the eddy,
and the chief officer's spirits began to rise. Rickett screwed one eye
close, and looked out under his horny palm with the other, doubtful, as
he said, that we should 'sight the land off-deck before that. As for
this trifle of an air aloft, sir,' said he, 'I'm afraid we won't----'
'Hoot, Mr Reckett,' put in Macleod, stepping one of his long trouserlegs
down from over the quarter-deck awning, like an ostrich that had been
aloft, 'ye're aye afraid; but it's not easy to see aloft, Mr Fench,
sir.' 'How does the land lie _now_, Mr Macleod?' asked the first
officer. 'Well, I wouldn't wonder but we soon dropped it, sir--that's to
_east'ard_, I mean,' replied he; 'though it's what we call a bit
mountainous, in Scotland--not that unlike the Grampians, Mr Fench, ye
know!' 'Hang your Grampians, man!--what's _ahead_ of us, eh?' said the
mate hastily. 'Why, sir,' said the Scotchman, 'there _is_ some more of
it on the nor'-east, lower a good deal--its just flush with the water
from here, at present, Mr Fench--with a peak or two, trending away
too'ard north; but the light yonder on our starboard bow makes them hard
for to see, I may say.'

"In fact, some of the men forward were making it out already on the
starboard bow, where you could see the faint ragged shape of a headland
coming out, as it were, of the dazzle beyond the water, which lay
nickering and heaving between, from deep-blue far away into pale; while
almost at the same time, on her starboard quarter, where there was less
of the light, another outline was to be seen looming like pretty high
land, though still fainter than the first. As for the space betwixt
them, for aught one could distinguish as yet, there might be nothing
_there_ except air and water over against the ship's side.

"'Well,' said the mate briskly, after a little, 'we're pretty sure,
_now_, to have the land-breeze to give us sea-room, before two or three
hours are over--by which time, I hope we'll be in the eddy of this
infernal current, at any rate!' However, I was scarce sure he didn't
begin to doubt the plan I'd given him; whereas had he known the whole
case in time, and done the thing _then_, it was certain enough--and the
best thing he could do, even as it was: but what troubled me now, why,
suppose anything happened to the ship, mightn't he turn the tables on me
after all, and say I had some bad design in it? I loitered about with my
arms folded, saying never a word, but watching the whole affair keener
than I ever did one of Shakspeare's plays in the theatre after a dull
cruise; not a thing in sea, sky, or Indiaman, from the ripples far off
on the water to ugly Harry hauling taut the jib-sheet with his chums,
but somehow or other they seemed all to sink _into_ me at the time, as
if they'd all got to come _out_ again strong. You hardly knew _when_ the
ship lost the last breath of air aloft, till, from stealing through the
smooth water, she came apparently to a standstill, everything spread
broad out, not even a flap in the canvas almost, it had fallen a dead
calm so gradually.

"However, _my_ troubles weren't seemingly over yet, for just then up
came the judge's dark kitmagar to the gangway where I was, and, from the
sly impudence of the fellow's manner, I at once fancied there was
something particular in the wind, as if he'd been seeking me
about-decks. 'S'laam, mistree!' said he, with but a slight duck of his
flat brown turban, 'Judge sahib i-send Culley Mistree his
chupprass'--_message_, forsooth!--'sah'b inquire the flavour of
gentlyman's Ees-Inchee Coompanee, two-three moment!' 'The flavour of my
East-India Company, you rascal!' said I, laughing, yet inclined to kick
him aft again for his impertinent look; 'speak for yourself, if you
please!'

"In fact, the whiff of cocoa-nut oil, and other dark perfumes about him,
came out in a hot calm at sea, when everything sickens one, as to need
no inquiry about the matter; however, I walked straight aft to the
round-house, and in at the open door, through which Sir Charles was to
be seen pacing from one side of his cabin to the other, like a Bengal
tiger in a cage. 'Harkye, young man,' said he sternly, turning as soon
as I came in, with my hat in my hand, 'since I had the honour of your
company here this morning, I have recollected--indeed, I find that one
of my servants had done the same--that you are the person who molested
my family by various annoyances beside my garden at Croydon, sir!'
'Indeed, Sir Charles!' said I coolly, for the bitter feeling I had made
me cool: 'they must have been unintentional then, sir! But I was
certainly at Croydon, seeing my mother's house happens to be there.'
'You must have had some design in entering this vessel, sir!' continued
the judge, in a passion: ''gad, sir, the coincidence is too curious!
Tell me what it is at once, or by----' 'My design was to go to India,
sir,' answered I, as quietly as before. 'In what capacity?--who are
you?--what--who--what do you want _there_, eh?' rapped out the judge.
'I'm not aware, sir,' said I, 'what right you've got to question me; but
I--in fact, I'll tell _so_ much to any man--why, I'm an officer in the
Navy.'

"Sir Charles brought short up in his pacing and stamping, and stared at
me. 'An officer in the Navy!' repeated he; 'but yes--why, now I think, I
do remember something in your dress, sir--though it was the _face_ that
struck me! In short then, sir, this makes the case worse: you are here
on false pretences--affecting the very reverse, sir--setting yourself up
for a model of simplicity,--a laughing-stock indeed!' 'I had reasons for
not wishing my profession to be known, Sir Charles,' said I; 'most
special reasons. They're now over, however, and I don't care _who_ knows
it!' 'May I ask what these were?' said the judge. '_That_ I'll never
tell to any man breathing!' I said determinedly.

"The judge walked two or three times fore and aft; then a thought seemed
to strike him--he looked out as if at the decks and through below the
awnings, then shut the door and came back to me again. 'By-the-way,'
said he seriously, and changing his tone, 'since this extraordinary
acknowledgment of yours, sir, something occurs to me which makes me
almost think your presence in the vessel in one sense opportune. I have
reason to entertain a high opinion of naval officers as technical men,
professionally educated in His Majesty's regular service, and--you look
rather a _young_ man--but have you had much experience, may I ask?' 'I
have been nine or ten years at sea, sir,' replied I, a little taken
aback, 'in various parts of the world!' 'I have some suspicion lately,'
he went on, 'that this vessel is not navigated in a--in short, that at
present, probably, we may be in some danger--do _you_ think so, sir?'
'No, Sir Charles,' said I, 'I don't think she _is_, as matters
stand--only in a troublesome sort of quarter, which the sooner she's out
of the better.' 'The commander is, I find, dangerously unwell,'
continued he, 'and of the young man who seems to have the chief care of
the vessel, I have no very high--well--_that_, of course I----Now, sir,'
said he, looking intently at me, 'are _you_ capable of--in short, of
managing this Company's vessel, should any emergency arise? I have seen
such, myself--and in the circumstances I feel considerable
alarm--uneasiness, at least--Eh, sir?' 'Depend upon it, Sir Charles,' I
said, stepping toward the door, 'in any matter of the kind I'll do my
best for this ship! But none knows so well as a seaman, there are cases
enough where your very best can't do much!'

"The judge seemed rather startled by my manner--for I _did_ feel a
little misgiving, from something in the weather on the whole; at any
rate I fancied there was a cold-bloodedness in every sharp corner of his
face, bilious though his temper was, that would have let him see _me_ go
to the bottom a thousand times over, had I even had a chance with his
daughter herself, ere he'd have yielded me the tip of her little finger:
accordingly 'twas a satisfaction to me, at the moment, just to make him
see he wasn't altogether in his nabob's chair in Bengal yet, on an
elephant's back.

"'Ah, though!' said he, raising his voice to call me back, 'to return
for an instant--there is one thing I must positively require, sir--which
you will see, in the circumstances, to be unavoidable. As a mere simple
cadet, observe, sir, there was nothing to be objected to in a slight
passing acquaintance--but, especially in the--in short, equivocal--sir,
I must request of you that you will on no account attempt to hold any
communication with my daughter, Miss Hyde--beyond a mere bow, of course!
'Twill be disagreeable, I assure you. Indeed, I shall----' 'Sir,' said
I, all the blood in my body going to my face, 'of all things in the
world, _that_ is the very thing where your views and mine happen to
square!' and I bowed.

"The man's coolness disgusted me, sticking such a thing in my teeth,
after just reckoning on my services with the very same breath--and all
when it wasn't required, too! And by Heaven! thought I, had _she_ shown
me favour, all the old nabobs in Christendom, and the whole world to
boot, shouldn't hinder me from speaking to her! What I said apparently
puzzled him, but he gave me a grand bow in his turn, and I had my hand
on the door, when he said, 'I suppose, sir, as a naval officer, you have
no objection to give me your name and rank. I forget what----' Here I
remembered my mistake with the mate, and on the whole I saw I must stick
by it till I was clear of the whole concern; as for _saying_ my name was
Westwood, that I couldn't have done at the time for worlds; but I
quietly handed him another card, meaning, of course, to give Westwood
the cue as shortly as possible, for his own safety. The judge started on
seeing the card, gave me one of his sharp glances, and made a sudden
step towards me. 'Have you any relation in India, Mr Westwood?' said he,
slowly, to which I gave only a nod. 'What is he, if I may inquire?'
asked he again. 'A councillor or something, I believe,' said I,
carelessly. '_Thomas_ Westwood?' said Sir Charles. 'Ah,' said I, wearied
of the thing, and anxious to go. 'An uncle, probably, from the age?' he
still put in. 'Exactly, that's it!' I said. 'Why--what!--why did you not
mention this at first?' he broke out suddenly, coming close up; 'why,
Councillor Westwood is my very oldest friend in India, my dear sir! This
alters the matter. I should have welcomed a nephew of his in my house,
to the utmost! Why, how strange, Mr Westwood, that the fact should
emerge in this curious manner!' and with that he held out his hand. 'Of
course,' said he, 'no such restriction as I mentioned could for a moment
apply to a nephew of Councillor Westwood!'

"I stared at him for a moment, and then--'Sir,' said I, coolly, 'it
seems the whole matter goes by names; but if my name were the devil or
the Apostle Paul, I don't see how it can make a bit of difference in
_me_: what's more, sir,' said I, setting my teeth, 'what_ever_ my name
may be, depend upon it, I shall never claim acquaintance either with you
or--or--Miss Hyde!' With that I flung straight out of the cabin,
leaving the old gentleman bolt upright on the floor, and as dumb as a
stock-fish, whether with rage or amazement I never stopped to think.

"I went right forward on the Indiaman's forecastle, clear of all the
awnings, dropped over her head out of sight of the men, and sat with my
legs amongst the open woodwork beneath the bowsprit, looking at the
calm--nobody in sight but the Hindoo figure, who seemed to be doing the
same. _Westwood!_ thought I, bitterly; then in a short time, when the
mistake's found out, and he got safe past the Cape, perhaps--it'll be
nothing but Westwood! He'll have a clear stage, and all favour; but at
any rate, how_ever_ it may be, _I_'ll not be here, by Heaven, to see it.
That cursed councillor of his, I suppose, is another nabob--and no doubt
he'll marry her, all smooth! Uncles--I little thought, by Jove! when I
knocked off that yarn to the mate about _my_ uncle--but, after all, it's
strange how often a fellow's paid back in his own coin!

"The heat at the time was unbearable--_heat_, indeed! 'twasn't only
heat--but a heavy, close, stifling sort of feeling, like in a hot-house,
as if you'd got a weight on your head and every other bit of you: the
water one time so dead-blue and glassy between the windings of it, that
the sky seemed to vanish, and the ship looked floating up into where
_it_ was--then again you scarce knew sea from air, except by the
wrinkles and eddies running across each other between, toward a sullen
blue ring at the horizon--like seeing through a big twisted sieve, or
into a round looking-glass all over cracks. I heard them clue up
everything aloft, except the topsails--and _they_ fell slapping back and
forward to the masts, every now and then with a _thud_ like a thousand
spades clapped down at once over a hollow bit of ground--till all seemed
as still between as if they'd buried something. I wished to Heaven it
were what I _felt_ at the time, and the thought of Violet Hyde, that I
might be as if I never had seen her--when on glancing up betwixt the
figure-head and the ship's stern, it struck me to notice how much the
land on her starboard bow and beam seemed to have risen, even during the
last hour, and that without wind; partly on account of its clearing in
that quarter, perhaps; but the nearest points looked here and there
almost as if you could see into them, roughening barer out through the
hue of the distance, like purple blotches spreading in it. Whereas, far
away astern of us, when I crossed over her headworks, there were two or
three thin white streaks of haze to be seen just on the horizon, one
upon another, above which you made out somewhat like a dim range of
peaked land, trending one couldn't say how far back--all showing how
fairly the coast was shutting her in upon the south-east, as she set
farther in-shore, even while the run of the current bade fair to take
her well clear of it ahead; which was, of course, all we need care for
at present. Her want of steerage-way, however, let the Indiaman sheer
hither and thither, till at times one was apt to get confused, and
suppose her more in with the landloom than she really was. Accordingly
the mate proved his good judgment by having a couple of boats lowered
with a tow-line, to keep her at least stem-on to the current, although
the trouble of getting out the launch would have more served his
purpose, and the deeper loaded the better, since in fact there were
_two_ favourable drifts instead of one, between every stroke of the
oars. The men pulled away rather sulkily, their straw hats over their
noses, the dip of the hawser scarce tautening at each strain, as they
squinted up at the _Seringapatam's_ idle figure-head. For my part I had
thought it better to leave him by himself, and go below.



CHAPTER XIV


"When I went into the cuddy, more for relief's sake than to dine, the
passengers were chattering and talking away round the tables, hot and
choking though it was, in high glee because the land was in sight from
the starboard port-window, and they fancied the officers had changed
their minds as to 'touching' there. Every now and then a cadet or two
would start up, with their silver forks in their hands, and put their
heads out; some asked whether the anchor had been seen getting ready or
not; others disputed about the colour of tropical trees, if they were
actually green like English ones, or perhaps all over blossoms and fruit
together--the whole of them evidently expecting bands of negroes to line
the shore as we came in.

"One young fellow had taken a particular fancy to have an earthworm,
with earth enough to feed it all the rest of the voyage, otherwise he
couldn't stand it; and little Tommy's mother almost went into hysterics
again when she said, if she could just eat a lettuce salad once more,
she'd die contented; the missionary looking up through his spectacles,
in surprise that she wasn't _more_ interested about the slave-trade,
whereof he'd been talking to her. As for Westwood, he joined quietly in
the fun, with a glance now and then across to me; however, I pretended
to be too busy with the salt beef, and was merely looking up again for a
moment, when my eye chanced to catch on the swinging barometer that hung
in the raised skylight, right over the midst of our noise. By George!
ma'am, what was my horror when I saw the quicksilver had sunk so far
below the mark, probably fixed there that morning, as to be almost
shrunk in the ball! Whatever the merchant service might know about the
instrument in those days, the African coast was the place to teach its
right use to us in the old _Iris_. I laid down my knife and fork as
carelessly as I could, and went straight on deck.

"Here I sought out the mate, who was forward, watching the land--and at
once took him aside to tell him the fact. 'Well, sir,' said he coolly,
'and what of that? A sign of wind, certainly, before very long; but in
the meantime we're _sure_ to have it off the land.' 'That's one of the
very reasons,' said I, 'for thinking _this_ will be from seaward--since
towards evening the land'll have plenty of air without it! But more than
that, sir,' said I, 'I tell you, Mr Finch, I know the west coast of
Africa pretty well--and so far south as this, the glass falling so low
as _twenty-seven_, is always the sign of a nor'-westerly blow! If you're
a wise man, sir, you'll not only get your upper spars down on deck, but
you'll see your anchors clear!' Finch had plainly got furious at my
meddling again, and said he, 'Instead of that, sir, I shall hold on
_everything_ aloft, to stand out when I get the breeze!' 'D' ye really
think, then,' said I, pointing to the farthest-off streak of land,
trending away by this time astern of us, faint as it was, '_do_ you
think you could ever weather that point, with anything like a strong
nor'-wester, besides a current heading you in, as you got fair hold of
it again?' 'Perhaps not,' said he, wincing a little as he glanced at it;
'but you happen always to suppose what there's a thousand to one
against, sir. Why, sir, you might as well take the command at once. But,
sir, if it _did_ come to that, I'd rather--I'd rather see the ship
_lost_--I'd rather go to the bottom with all in her, after handling her
as I know well how, than I'd see the chance given to _you_!' The young
fellow fairly shouted this last word into my very ear--he was in a
regular furious passion. 'You'd _better_ let me alone, that's all I've
got to say to you, sir!' growled he as he turned away; so I thought it
no use to say more, and leant over the bulwarks, resolved to see it out.

"The fact was, the farther we got off the land _now_, the worse, seeing
that if what I dreaded should prove true, why, we were probably in
thirty or forty fathoms of water, where no anchor could hold for ten
minutes' time--if it ever caught ground. My way would have been to get
every boat out at once, and tow in till you could see the colour of some
shoal or other from aloft, then take my chance there to ride out
whatever might come, to the last cable aboard of us. Accordingly I
wasn't sorry to see that by this time the whole bight of the coast was
slowly rising off our beam betwixt the high land far astern and the
broad bluffs upon her starboard bow; which last came out already of a
sandy reddish tint, and the lower part of a clear blue, as the sun got
westward on our other side. What struck me was, that the face of the
water, which was all over wrinkles and winding lines, with here and
there a quick ripple, when I went below, had got on a sudden quite
smooth as far as you could see, as if they'd sunk down like so many
eels; a long uneasy ground-swell was beginning to heave in from seaward,
on which the ship rose; once or twice I fancied I could observe the
colour different away towards the land, like the muddy chocolate
spreading out near a river-mouth at ebb-tide--then again it was green,
rather; and as for the look of the coast, I had no knowledge of it. I
thought again, certainly, of the old quartermaster's account in the
_Iris_, but there was neither anything like it to be seen, nor any sign
of a break in the coast at all, though high headlands enough.

"The ship might have been about twelve or fourteen miles from the
north-east point upon her starboard bow, a high rocky range of
bluffs--and rather less from the nearest of what lay away off her beam;
but after this you could mark nothing more, except it were that she
edged farther from the point, by the way its bearings shifted or got
blurred together: either she stood still, or she'd caught some eddy or
under-rift, and the mate walked about quite lively once more. The matter
was how to breathe, or bear your clothes--when all of a sudden I heard
the second mate sing out from the forecastle 'Stand by the braces,
there! Look out for the topes'l hawl-yairds!'

"He came shuffling aft next moment as fast as his foundered old shanks
could carry him, and told Mr Finch there was a squall coming off the
land. The mate sprang up on the bulwarks, and so did I--catching a
glance from him as much as to say--There's your gale from seaward, you
pretentious lubber! The lowest streak of coast bore at present before
our starboard quarter, betwixt east and south-east'ard, with some pretty
high land running away up from it, and a sort of dim blue haze hanging
beyond, as 'twere. Just as Macleod spoke, I could see a dusky dark
vapour thickening and spreading in the haze, till it rose black along
the flat, out of the sky behind it; whitened and then darkened again,
like a heavy smoke floating up into the air. All was confusion on deck
for a minute or two--off went all the awnings--and every hand was ready
at his station, fisting the ropes; when I looked again at the cloud,
then at the mates. '_By_ George!' said I, noticing a pale wreath of it
go curling on the pale clear sky over it, as if to a puff of air, 'it
_is_ smoke! Some niggers, as they often do, burning the bush!'

"So it was; and as soon as Finch gave in, all hands quietly coiled up
the ropes. It was scarce five minutes after, that Jacobs, who was
coiling up a rope beside me, gave me a quiet touch with one finger. 'Mr
Collins, sir,' said he in a low voice, looking almost right up, high
over toward the ship's larboard bow, which he couldn't have done before,
for the awnings so lately above us, 'look, sir--there's an _ox-eye_!' I
followed his gaze, but it wasn't for a few seconds that I found what it
pointed to, in the hot far-off-like blue dimness of the sky overhead,
compared with the white glare of which to westward our canvas aloft was
but dirty grey and yellow.

"'Twas what none but a seaman would have observed, and many a seaman
wouldn't have done so--but a man-o'-war's-man is used to look out at all
hours, in all latitudes--and to a man that knew its meaning, _this_
would have been no joke, even out of sight of land; as it was, the
thing gave me a perfect thrill of dread. High aloft in the heavens
northward, where they were freest from the sun--now standing over the
open horizon amidst a wide bright pool of light--you managed to discern
a small silvery speck, growing slowly, as it were, out of the faint blue
hollow, like a star in the daytime, till you felt as if it _looked_ at
you, from God knows what distance away. One eye after another amongst
the mates and crew joined Jacobs' and mine, with the same sort of dumb
fellowship to be seen when a man in London streets watches the top of a
steeple; and however hard to make out at first, ere long none of them
could miss seeing it, as it got slowly larger, sinking by degrees till
the sky close about it seemed to thicken like a dusky ring round the
white, and the sunlight upon our seaward quarter blazed out doubly
strong--as if it came dazzling off a brass bell, with the bright tongue
swinging in it far off to one side, where the hush made you think of a
stroke back upon us, with some terrific sound to boot.

"The glassy water by this time was beginning to rise under the ship with
a struggling kind of unequal heave, as if a giant you couldn't see kept
shoving it down here and there with both hands, and it came swelling up
elsewhere.

"To north-westward or thereabouts, betwixt the sun and this ill-boding
token aloft, the far line of open sea still lay shining motionless and
smooth; next time you looked, it had got even brighter than before,
seeming to leave the horizon visibly; then the streak of air just above
it had grown grey, and a long hedge of hazy vapour was creeping as it
were over from beyond--the white speck all the while travelling down
towards it slantwise from nor'ard, and spreading its dark ring slowly
out into a circle of cloud, till the keen eye of it at last sank in, and
below, as well as aloft, the whole north-western quarter got blurred
together in one gloomy mass. If there was a question at first whether
the wind mightn't come from so far nor'ard as to give her a chance of
running out to sea before it, there was none now--our sole recourse lay
either in getting nearer the land meanwhile, to let go our anchors ere
it came on, with her head _to_ it--or we might make a desperate trial to
weather the lee-point now far astern. The fact was, we were going to
have a regular tornado, and that of the worst kind, which wouldn't soon
blow itself out; though near an hour's notice would probably pass ere it
was on.

"The three mates laid their heads gravely together over the capstan for
a minute or two, after which Finch seemed to perceive that the first of
the two ways was the safer; though, of course, the nearer we should get
to the land, the less chance there was of clearing it afterwards, should
her cables part, or the anchors drag. The two boats still alongside, and
two others dropped from the davits, were manned at once and set to
towing the Indiaman ahead, in-shore; while the bower and sheet anchors
were got out to the cat-heads ready for letting go, cables overhauled,
ranged, and clinched as quickly as possible, and the deep-sea lead
passed along to take soundings every few minutes.

"On we crept, slow as death, and almost as still, except the jerk of the
oars from the heaving water at her bows, and the loud flap of the big
topsails now and then, everything aloft save them and the brailed
foresail being already close furled; the clouds all the while rising
away along our larboard beam nor'-west and north, over the grey bank on
the horizon, till once more you could scarce say which point the wind
would come from, unless by the huge purple heap of vapour in the midst.
The sun had got low, and he shivered his dazzling spokes of light behind
one edge of it, as if 'twere a mountain you saw over some coast or
other; indeed, you'd have thought the ship almost shut in by land on
both sides of her, which was what seemed to terrify the passengers most,
as they gathered about the poop-stairs and watched it--_which_ was the
true land and which the clouds, 'twas hard to say--and the sea gloomed
writhing between them like a huge lake in the mountains.

"I saw Sir Charles Hyde walk out of the round-house and in again,
glancing uneasily about; his daughter was standing with another young
lady, gazing at the land; and at sight of her sweet, curious face, I'd
have given worlds to be able to do something that might save it from the
chance, possibly, of being that very night dashed amongst the breakers
on a lee-shore in the dark--or at best, suppose the Almighty favoured
any of us so far, perhaps landed in the wilds of Africa. Had there been
aught man could do more, why, though I never should get a smile for it,
I'd have compassed it, mate or no mate; but all was done that could be
done, and I had nothing to say. Westwood came near her, too, apparently
seeing our bad case at last to some extent, and both trying to break it
to her and to assure her mind; so I folded my arms again, and kept my
eyes hard fixed upon the bank of cloud, as some new weather-mark stole
out in it, and the sea stretched breathless away below, like new melted
lead.

"The air was like to choke you--or rather there was none--as if water,
sky, and everything else wanted _life_, and one would fain have caught
the first rush of the tornado into his mouth--the men emptying the
dipper on deck from the cask, from sheer loathing. As for the land, it
seemed to draw nearer of itself, till every point and wrinkle in the
headland off our bow came out in a red coppery gleam--one saw the white
line of surf round it, and some blue country beyond like indigo; then
back it darkened again, and all aloft was getting livid-like over the
bare royal mast-heads.

"Suddenly, a faint air was felt to flutter from landward; it half lifted
the topsails, and a heavy earthy smell came into your nostrils--the
first of the land-breeze, at last; but by this time it was no more than
a sort of mockery, while a minute after you might catch a low, sullen,
moaning sound far off through the emptiness, from the strong surf the
Atlantic sends in upon the west coast before a squall. If ever landsmen
found out what land on the wrong side is, the passengers of the
_Seringapatam_ did, that moment; the shudder of the topsails aloft
seemed to pass into everyone's shoulders, and a few quietly walked
below, as if they were safe in their cabins. I saw Violet Hyde look
round and round with a startled expression, and from one face to
another, till her eye lighted on me, and I fancied for a moment it was
like putting some question to me. I couldn't bear it!--'twas the first
time I'd felt powerless to offer anything; though the thought ran
through me again till I almost felt myself buffeting among the breakers
with her in my arms. I looked to the land, where the smoke we had seen
three-quarters of an hour ago, rose again with the puff of air, a slight
flicker of flame in it, as it wreathed off the low ground toward the
higher point--when all at once I gave a start, for something in the
shape of the whole struck me as if I'd seen it before.

"Next moment I was thinking of old Bob Martin's particular landmarks at
the river-mouth he spoke of, and the notion of its possibly being
hereabouts glanced on me like a godsend. In the unsure dusky sight I had
of it, certainly, it wore somewhat of that look, and it lay fair to
leeward of the weather; while, as for the dead shut-in appearance of it,
old Bob had specially said you'd never think it was a river; but then
again it was more like a desperate fancy owing to our hard case, and to
run the ship straight for it would be the trick of a Bedlamite. At any
rate, a quick cry from aft turned me round, and I saw a blue flare of
lightning streak out betwixt the bank of grey haze and the cloud that
hung over it--then another, and the clouds were beginning to rise slowly
in the midst, leaving a white glare between, as if you could see through
it towards what was coming. The men could pull no longer, but ahead of
the ship there was now only about eight or ten fathoms water, with a
soft bottom. The boats were hoisted in, and the men had begun to clue up
and hand the topsails, which were lowered on the caps, when, just in the
midst of the hubbub and confusion, as I stood listening to every order
the mate gave, the steward came up hastily from below to tell him that
the captain had woke up, and, being much better, wanted to see him
immediately. Mr Finch looked surprised, but he turned at once, and
hurried down the hatchway.

"The sight which all of us who weren't busy gazed upon, over the
larboard bulwarks, was terrible to see: 'twas half dark, though the sun
dropping behind the haze-bank, made it glimmer and redden. The dark heap
of clouds had first lengthened out blacker and blacker, and was rising
slowly in the sky like a mighty arch, till you saw their white edges
below, and a ghastly white space behind, out of which the mist and scud
began to fly. Next minute a long sigh came into her jib and foresail,
then the black bow of cloud partly sank again, and a blaze of lightning
came out all round her, showing you every face on deck, the inside of
the round-house aft, with the Indian judge standing in it, his hand to
his eyes--and the land far away, to the very swell rolling into it. Then
the thunder broke overhead in the gloom, in one fearful sudden crack,
that you seemed to hear through every corner of cabins and forecastle
below--and the wet back-fins of twenty sharks or so, that had risen out
of the inky surface, vanished as suddenly.

"The Indiaman had sheered almost broadside on to the clouds, her jib was
still up, and I knew the next time the clouds _rose_ we should fairly
have it. Flash after flash came, and clap after clap of thunder, _such_
as you hear before a tornado--yet the chief officer wasn't to be seen,
and the others seemed uncertain what to do first; while everyone began
to wonder and pass along questions where he could be. In fact, he had
disappeared. For my part, I thought it very strange he stayed so long;
but there wasn't a moment to lose. I jumped down off the poop-stairs,
walked forward on the quarter-deck, and said coolly to the men nearest
me,'Run and haul down that jib yonder--set the spanker here, aft. You'll
have her taken slap on her beam: quick, my lads!' The men did so at
once. Macleod was calling out anxiously for Mr Finch. 'Stand by the
anchors there!' I sang out, 'to let go the starboard one, the _moment_
she swings head to wind!' The Scotch mate turned his head; but Rickett's
face, by the next flash, showed he saw the good of it, and there was no
leisure for arguing, especially as I spoke in a way to be heard. I
walked to the wheel, and got hold of Jacobs to take the weather helm.

"We were all standing ready, at the pitch of expecting it. Westwood,
too, having appeared again by this time beside me, I whispered to him to
run forward and look after the anchors--when someone came hastily up the
after-hatchway, with a glazed hat and pilot-coat on, stepped straight to
the binnacle, looked in behind me, then at the black bank of cloud, then
aloft. Of course I supposed it was the mate again, but didn't trouble
myself to glance at him further--when 'Hold on with the anchors!' he
sang out in a loud voice--'hold on there for your lives!' Heavens! it
was the captain himself!

"At this, of course, I stood aside at once; and he shouted again,'Hoist
the jib and fore-topmast-staysail--stand by to set fore-course!' By
Jove! this was the way to pay the ship _head_ off, instead of stern off,
from the blast when it came--and to let her drive before it at no trifle
of a rate, wherever _that_ might take her! '_Down_ with that spanker, Mr
Macleod, d' ye hear?' roared Captain Williamson again; and, certainly, I
did wonder what he meant to do with the ship. But his manner was so
decided, and 'twas so natural for the captain to strain a point to come
on deck in the circumstances, that I saw he must have some trick of
seamanship above _me_, or some special knowledge of the coast--and I
waited in a state of the greatest excitement for the first stroke of the
tornado. He waved the second and third mates forward to their posts--the
Indiaman sheering and backing, like a frightened horse, to the long
slight swell and the faint flaw of the land-air. The black arch to
windward began to rise again, showing a terrible white stare reaching
deep in, and a blue dart of lightning actually ran zigzag down before
our glaring fore-to'gallant-mast. Suddenly, the captain had looked at
me, and we faced each other by the gleam; and, quiet, easy-going man as
he was commonly, it just flashed across me there was something
extraordinarily wild and _raised_ in his pale visage, strange as the air
about us made everyone appear. He gave a stride towards me, shouting,
'Who are----' when the thunder-clap took the words out of his tongue,
and next moment the tornado burst upon us, fierce as the wind from a
cannon's mouth.

"For one minute the _Seringapatam_ heeled over to her starboard streak,
almost broadside on, and her spars towards the land--all on her beam was
a long ragged white gush of light and mist pouring out under the black
brow of the clouds, with a trampling eddying roar up into the sky. The
swell plunged over her weather-side like the first break of a dam, and
as we scrambled up to the bulwarks, to hold on for bare life, you saw a
roller fit to swamp us, coming on out of the sheet of foam--when crash
went mizzen-topmast and main-to'gallant-mast; the ship payed swiftly off
by help of her headsails, and, with a leap like a harpooned whale, off
she drove fair before the tremendous sweep of the blast.

"The least yaw in her course, and she'd have never risen, unless every
stick went out of her. I laid my shoulder to the wheel with Jacobs, and
Captain Williamson screamed through his trumpet into the men's ears, and
waved his hands to ride down the fore-sheets as far as they'd go; which
kept her right before it, though the sail could be but half set, and she
rather flew than ran--the sea one breadth of white foam back to the
gushes of mist, not having power to rise higher yet. Had the foresail
been stretched, 'twould have blown off like a cloud. I looked at the
captain: he was standing in the lee of the round-house, straight
upright, though now and then peering eagerly forward, his lips firm, one
hand on a belaying-pin, the other in his breast--nothing but
determination in his manner: yet once or twice he started, and glanced
fiercely to the after-hatchway near, as if something from below might
chance to thwart him. I can't express my contrary feelings, betwixt a
sort of hope and sheer horror. We were driving right towards the land,
at thirteen or fourteen knots to the hour--yet _could_ there actually be
some harbourage hereaway, or that said river the quartermaster of the
_Iris_ mentioned, and Captain Williamson know of it?

"Something struck me as wonderfully strange in the whole matter, and
puzzling to desperation--still, I trusted to the captain's experience.
The coast was scarce to be seen ahead of us, lying black against an
uneven streak of glimmer, as she rushed like fury before the deafening
howl of wind; and right away before our lee-beam I could see the light
blowing, as it were, across beyond the headland I had noticed, where the
smoke in the bush seemed to be still curling, half-smothered, along the
flat in the lee of the hills, as if in green wood, or sheltered as yet
from seaward, though once or twice a quick flicker burst up in it.

"All at once the gust of the tornado was seen to pour on it like a long
blast from some huge bellows, and up it flashed--the yellow flame blazed
into the smoke, spread away behind the point, and the ruddy brown smoke
blew whitening over it:--when, Almighty power! what did I see as it
lengthened in, but part after part of old Bob's landmarks creep out
ink-black before the flare and the streak of sky together--first the low
line of ground, then the notch in the block, the two rocks like steps,
and the sugar-loaf shape of the headland, to the very mop-headed knot of
trees on its rise! No doubt Captain Williamson was steering for it; but
it was far too much on our starboard bow--and in half-an-hour at this
rate we should drive right into the surf you saw running along to the
coast ahead--so I signed to Jacobs for God's sake to edge her off as
nicely as was possible.

"Captain Williamson caught my motion. 'Port! port, sirrah!' he sang out
sternly; '_back_ with the helm, d' ye hear!' and pulling out a pistol,
he levelled it at me with one hand, while he held a second in the
other. 'Land!--land!' shouted he, and from the lee of the round-house it
came more like a shriek than a shout--'I'll be there though a thousand
mutineers----' His eye was like a wild beast's. That moment the truth
glanced across me--this was the _green leaf_, no doubt, the Scotch mate
talked so mysteriously of. The man was mad! The land-fever was upon him,
as I'd seen it before in men long off the African coast; and he stood
eyeing me with one foot hard stamped before him. 'Twas no use trying to
be heard, and the desperation of the moment gave me a thought of the
sole thing to do. I took off my hat in the light of the binnacle, bowed,
and looked him straight in the face with a smile--when his eye wavered,
he slowly lowered his pistol, then _laughed_, waving his hand towards
the land to leeward, as if, but for the gale, you'd have heard him
cheer. At the instant I sprang behind him with the slack of a rope, and
grappled his arms fast, though he'd got the furious power of a madman,
and, during half-a-minute, 'twas wrestle for life with me. But the line
was round him, arm and leg, and I made it fast, throwing him heavily on
the deck, just as one of the mates, with some of the crew, were
struggling aft, by help of the belaying-pins, against the hurricane,
having caught a glimpse of the thing by the binnacle-light. They looked
from me to the captain. The ugly topman made a sign, as much as to say,
Knock the fellow down; but the whole lot hung back before the couple of
pistol-barrels I handled. The Scotch mate seemed awfully puzzled; and
others of the men, who knew from Jacobs what I was, came shoving along,
evidently aware what a case we were in.

"A word to Jacobs served to keep him steering her anxiously, so as to
head two or three points more south-east in the _end_, furiously as the
wheel jolted. So there we stood, the tornado sweeping sharp as a knife
from astern over the poop-deck, with a force that threw anyone back if
he left go his hold to get near me, and going up like thunder aloft in
the sky. Now and then a weaker flare of lightning glittered across the
scud; and, black as it was overhead, the horizon to windward was but one
jagged white glare, gushing full of broad shifting streaks through the
drift of foam and the spray that strove to rise. Our fore-course still
held: and I took the helm from Jacobs, that he might go and manage to
get a pull taken on the starboard brace, which would not only _slant_
the sail more to the blasts, but give her the better chance to make the
sole point of salvation, by helping her steerage when most needed.
Jacobs and Westwood together got this done; and all the time I was
keeping my eyes fixed anxiously, as man can fancy, on the last gleams of
the fire ashore, as her head made a fairer line with it; but, by little
and little, it went quite out, and all was black--though I had taken its
bearings by the compass--and I kept her to that for bare life, trembling
at every shiver in the foresail's edge, lest either it or the mast
should go.

"Suddenly, we began to get into a fearful swell--the Indiaman plunged
and shook in every spar left her. I could see nothing ahead, from the
wheel, and in the dark; we were getting close in with the land, and the
time was coming; but still I held south-east-by-east to the mark of her
head in the compass-box, as nearly as might and main could do it, for
the heaves that made me think once or twice she was to strike next
moment.

"If she went ashore in my hands! why, it was like to drive one mad with
fear; and I waited for Jacobs to come back, with a brain ready to turn,
almost as if I'd have left the wheel to the other helmsman, and run
forward into the bows to look out. The captain lay raving and shouting
behind me, though no one else could either have heard or seen him; and
where the chief officer was all this time surprised me, unless the
madman had made away with him, or locked him in his own cabin, in return
for being shut up himself--which, in fact, proved to be the case,
cunning as it was to send for him so quietly. At length Jacobs struggled
aft to me again, and charging him, for Heaven's sake, to steer exactly
the course I gave, I drove before the full strength of the squall along
decks to the bowsprit, where I held on and peered out. Dead ahead of us
was the high line of coast in the dark--not a mile of swell between the
ship and it. By this time the low boom of the surf came under the wind,
and you saw the breakers lifting all along--not a single opening in
them! I had lost sight of my landmarks, and my heart gulped into my
mouth--what I felt 'twould be vain to say--till I thought I _did_ make
out one short patch of sheer black in the range of foam, scarce so far
on our bow as I'd reckoned the fire to have been; indeed, instead of
that, it was rather on her weather than her lee bow; and the more I
watched it, and the nearer we drove in that five minutes, the broader it
was. 'By all that's good!' thought I, 'if a river there is, that must be
the mouth of it!' But, by Heavens! on our present course the ship would
run just right upon the point--and, to strike the clear water, her
foreyard would require to be braced up, able or not, though the force of
the tornado would come fearfully on her quarter, then. There was the
chance of taking all the masts out of her; but let them stand ten
minutes, and the thing was done, when we opened into the lee of the
points--otherwise all was over.

I sprang to the fore-braces and besought the men near me, for God's
sake, to drag upon the lee one--and that as if their life hung upon
it--when Westwood caught me by the arm. I merely shouted through my
hands into his ear to go aft to Jacobs and tell him to keep her head a
_single point_ up, whatever might happen, to the last--then I pulled
with the men at the brace till it was fast, and scrambled up again to
the bowsprit heel. Jove! how she surged to it: the little canvas we had
strained like to burst; the masts trembled, and the spars aloft bent
like whip-shafts, everything below groaning again; while the swell and
the blast together made you dizzy, as you watched the white eddies
rising and boiling out of the dark--her cutwater shearing through it and
the foam, as if you were going under it. The sound of the hurricane and
the surf seemed to be growing together into one awful roar--my very
brain began to turn with the pitch I was wrought up to--and it appeared
next moment we should heave far up into the savage hubbub of breakers. I
was wearying for the crash and the wild confusion that would
follow--when all of a sudden, still catching the fierce rush of the gale
athwart her quarter into the fore-course, which steadied her though she
shuddered to it--all of a sudden, the dark mass of the land seemed as it
were parting ahead of her, and a gleam of pale sky opened below the dusk
into my very face. I no more knew what I was doing, by this time, nor
where we were, than the spar before me--till again, the light broadened,
glimmering low betwixt the high land and a lump of rising level on the
other bow.

"I hurried aft past the confused knots of men holding on to the lee of
the bulwarks, and seized a spoke of the wheel. 'Tom,' shouted I to
Westwood, 'run and let free the spanker on the poop! Down with the
helm--down with it, Jacobs, my lad!' I sang out; 'never mind spars or
canvas!' Down went the helm--the spanker helped to luff her to the
strength of the gust--and away she went up to port, the heavy swells
rolling her in, while the rush into her staysail and fore-course came in
one terrible flash of roaring wind--tearing first one and then the other
clear out of the bolt-ropes, though the loose spanker abaft was in less
danger, and the way she had from both was enough to take her careening
round the point into its lee. By Heavens! there were the streaks of soft
haze low over the rising moon, under the broken clouds, beyond a far
line of dim fringy woods, she herself just tipping the hollow behind,
big and red--when right down from over the cloud above us came a spout
of rain, then a sheet of it lifting to the blast as it howled across the
point. 'Stand by to let go the larboard anchor!' I sang out through the
trumpet; and Jacobs put the helm fully down at the moment, till she was
coming head to wind, when I made forward to the mates and men.
'Let--go!' I shouted; not a look turned against me, and away thundered
the cable through the hawse-hole; she shook to it, sheered astern, and
brought up with her anchor fast. By that time the rain was plashing down
in a perfect deluge--you couldn't see a yard from you--all was one white
pour of it; although it soon began to drive again over the headland, as
the tornado gathered new food out of it. Another anchor was let go,
cable paid out, and the ship soon began to swing the other way to the
tide, pitching all the while on the short swell.

"The gale still whistled her spars for two or three hours, during which
it began by degrees to lull. About eleven o'clock it was clear moonlight
to leeward, the air fresh and cool: a delicious watch it was, too. I was
walking the poop by myself, two or three men lounging sleepily about the
forecastle, and Rickett below on the quarter-deck, when I saw the chief
officer himself rush up from below, staring wildly round him, as if he
thought we were in some dream or other. I fancied at first the mate
would have struck Rickett, from the way he went on, but I kept aft where
I was. The eddies ran past the Indiaman's side, and you heard the fast
ebb of the tide rushing and rippling sweetly on her taut cables ahead,
plashing about the bows and bends. We were in old Bob Martin's river,
whatever that might be.



CHAPTER XV


"Well," continued the commander, his voice making use of the breeze as
he stood aft of the group, "I could not have slept more than three or
four hours on a stretch, when I was woke by a fellow shoving his lantern
in my face, and saying it wasn't me he wanted; for which I gave him a
hearty objurgation, and turned over a swing of the cot to go asleep
again. The sailor grumbled something about the parson being wanted for
the captain; and all at once it flashed on my mind where we were, with
the whole of last night's ticklish work--seeing that, hard rub as it
was, it had clean left me for a time. 'Try the aftermost berth, then,'
said I, slipping out in the dark to put on my trousers.

"The fact was, on going below to our state-room, I had found my own cot
taken up by someone in the confusion; and as every door stood open at
night in that latitude, I e'en made free with the nearest, which I knew
was the missionary's. In a minute or two I heard Westwood meet the mate,
who said he thought the captain would like to see him, and hoped they
hadn't 'disturbed the other gentleman.' 'Oh no, I daresay not,' said
Westwood, rather nervously, guessing, I daresay, what he was wanted for;
while Finch slipped quietly past to listen at the state-room door, where
both he and I might hear the 'other gentleman,' whoever he was, snoring
pretty plain.

"When the first officer shut the door to, however, turned the key, and
put it in his pocket, I nearly gave vent to a whistle. 'I see!' thought
I; 'but, my fine fellow, it seemed you never were meant for a good
jailer, anyhow!' He was no sooner gone than I walked forward toward the
captain's cabin, near the after-hatchway, anxious enough to see how the
poor man was, since I had had such a share in bringing him to a point,
one way or another. Westwood was standing against the light out of the
open door, and I looked in along with him, at the cot slung high to the
beams like a lump of shadow, the lamp striking across below it on all
the captain's little affairs--his glazed hat and his wet coat, the names
of two or three old books even hanging in shelves against the
bulkhead--and into the little state-room off the cabin, where the
surgeon was stooping to mix a draught.

"The hard-featured Scotch mate stood holding the captain's wrist with
one clumsy flipper, as if trying to feel his pulse, fumbling about his
own face with the other, and looking more concerned than I'd thought
possible for him. 'Well, I've slept--a good deal,' said the captain, in
a weak voice, putting up his hand slowly to rub his eyes, but seemingly
quite composed, and knowing nothing of what had happened--which rid me
of the horrid notion I could scarce help before, that he had known what
he was about. His head was close shaved, and the look of a sailor clean
gone off his face with the bluff, honest oak-colour it commonly had,
till you'd have wished him decently in his bed thousands of miles off,
with women slipping out and in; only the blood from his arm hanging down
on the sheet, with the sharp point of his nose and the shape of his
knees coming up off the shadow, kept it all in one with the wild affair
on deck a few hours gone.

"'She's on her course, you say?' added he, listlessly. 'Must be a _very_
light breeze though, Mr Macleod.' 'So it is, sir; so it is, no doubt!'
replied the second mate, soothing him; 'did ye say we'll _pent_ the
ship, sir?' 'Ay, before we go into port, Mr Macleod, to be sure,' said
Captain Williamson, trying to put a cheerful tone into his voice; 'she's
had a good deal of buffeting, but we mustn't let 'em see it, you know!
Didn't you lose a mizzen-topmast somehow, though, Mr Macleod?' ''Deed
ay, sir,' said Macleod, hastily, afraid he was getting upon the scent of
what had happened; 'the first officer's watch it was, sir--will _I_ tell
Mr Finch ye're wanting to speak to him about it, Captain Williamson?'
and he began to shuffle towards the door.

"'Finch? Finch?' said the sick man, passing his finger over his eyes
again; 'what voyage _is_ this, Mr Macleod?' 'Why--why,' said the
Scotchman, starting, and rather puzzled himself. 'Oo, it's just _this_
voyage, ye know, sir! Mr Finch, ye mind, sir?' 'No, no; don't let him
leave the deck for a moment, Macleod!' said the captain, anxiously:
'harkye, James, I'm afraid I've trusted overmuch to the young man all
along! I'll tell ye, Mr Macleod, I don't know whether I was asleep or
not, but I _heard_ him somewhere wishing he had the command of this
ship! I shouldn't like him to take her off my hands! Have you seen the
Scilly lights yet, Mr Macleod?'

The mate shook his head; he had contrived to persuade the poor man we
were far homeward bound. 'If you'd only get the pilot aboard, Mr
Macleod,' the captain went on, 'I'd die contented; but mind the
charts--mind the charts--I've got the charts to mind for another sort of
voyage myself, James!' 'Hoot, hoot, captain!' said the Scotchman, 'what
sets ye for to talk after that fashion--you'll be up an' about decks
directly, sir! What were ye saying about top-m'sts now, sir?' Captain
Williamson gave the second mate a glance that looked into him, and he
held down his head, for the man evidently believed fully, as none of us
could help doing, that there was death on the captain's face.

"'James, James!' said the captain, slowly, 'you've no notion how some
things weigh on the mind at a pass of this kind! Other things one don't
remember--but there's one in particular, almost as it were
yesterday--why, surely you were with me that voyage, Mr Macleod! when I
let some o' the passengers take a boat in a calm, and all----' Here he
stopped, seemingly overcome. 'There was one young creature amongst 'em,'
he went on, 'the age of my own girl, Macleod--my own little Nan, you
know--and now--now I miss _her_--and, and----' The poor man gave a great
gulp, clutching the mate's arm, and gazing him in the face. 'Wasn't it a
long time ago?' said he, very anxiously; 'if it wasn't, I would go mad!
They were all drowned--drowned--I _see_ that black squall coming down on
the swell _now_, man, and the brig, and all of us looking out to the
wind'ard!' 'I mind something about it,' replied Macleod, stoutly, though
he looked away: ''twas none o' your fault, though, Captain
Williamson--they were just _fey_, sir; and more than that, if ye mind,
sir, they took the boat again' all orders--on the sly, I may say.'

"Westwood was on the point of starting forward to make known how the
case stood, on the strength of our finding the paper in the bottle, when
I pressed his arm, and whispered that it could only make things worse,
and cheat the sick man of a notion more likely to do him good than
otherwise. 'It's a heavy charge, Mr Macleod, a heavy charge!' said he,
falling back again; 'and one Mr Brown needn't envy.' 'Mr _Finch_, sir,
ye mind,' put in the second mate, setting him right; 'but keep up your
heart, sir, for any sake!' 'I feel I'll last over the time o' next full
tide,' said the captain, solemnly. 'I don't want to know how far we're
off, only if there's any chance at all, Macleod, you won't spare canvas
to carry her in.'

"The Scotchman rubbed one of his hard cheek-bones after the other, and
grumbled something or other in his throat by way of agreement. The whole
thing was melancholy to see, after last night's stir, with the dim lamp
or two twinkling along the gloom of the steerage, the dead quietness of
the ship, and the smothered sort of glare under the captain's cot
bringing out the mere litter on the floor, to the very cockroaches
putting their ugly feelers out of one of his shoes in a corner; he shut
his eyes, and lay for a minute or two seemingly asleep, only murmuring
something about a breeze, and then asking them to shove out the port,
'twas so close. The second mate looked to the surgeon, who signed to him
to do it, as if it didn't much matter by this time; while he gave him
the draught of physic he was mixing, however.

"The Indiaman was beginning to swing slowly before the first of the
flood, stern off at her anchors; and whenever the port was opened, 'twas
so still otherwise that you heard the tide clearly in the cabin,
rippling along the timbers to the copper upon her bows--plash, plash,
and lap, lip, lap, like no other earthly sound that a man can hear--and
you even began to note it on something else a good bit off, though it
seemed to be all quite dark out-board. The captain's eyes opened by
degrees, till we saw them looking at us out of the shadow of the cot,
and the second mate started as if to mend his mistake; only 'twas plain
enough, by that time, the captain _knew_ the sound, half raising himself
up and listening. A few early mosquitoes came in, and, after dancing
about to refresh themselves in the light and warmth under the cot, began
to bite savagely; everyone of us had a distant horn sounding in his ear,
and each was rubbing it or his nose, except the sick man; but not one of
them settled on him. As the starboard port slued gradually opposite to
the nearest shore, a low, deep hum was carried in over the water, ebbing
and flowing, and full of dim, creeping noises, like things stirring in
their sleep, as if the little cabin had been an ear to the ship. At
times the tree-frogs broke out in a loud clicking chirrup; then, between
the fits of it, when all seemed still again for a moment or two, you
heard a low, half-smothered, small sound, deeper down, as it were, fill
up the break with its throbbing and trill-trilling, as if just _one_
land-cricket or a grasshopper did it, till it came out as clear as
though it were a child's rattle close by, and all of a sudden stopped;
when back floated the huge whispering hum again, with a damp smell of
leaves on a cold breath of the land-air, that died away as quickly as it
reached us. The bewilderment on Captain Williamson's white face for that
minute's time was cruel to witness, and Macleod would certainly have
closed the port, but for the captain's seizing his arm again, with a
wild, questioning sort of a look into the second mate's eyes. 'Oh, good
God!' faltered out the captain, 'it's--it's _land_!----where--where----?'
'For goodsake, sir,' said Macleod, 'don't ask me the now--take a bit of
sleep, sir.'

"We could hear one another breathing, when ting-tang went four bells on
deck. You heard it going across to the shore, as it were; and a few
moments after, out of the humming far and wide along the land, back came
the sound of another bell, toll upon toll, like some clock striking the
hour a long way off. Then a third one followed on it, from a different
direction, ringing clearer in the air; while the murmur and the rush
seemed to swell up the more all round, and the plashing of the tide made
the ship heave at her anchors. The mate shivered, Westwood and I
started, but some extraordinary notion or other gleamed over the
captain's face as he sat up. He was quite in his senses, too,
apparently, though it seemed to be neither more nor less than sheer joy
that overcame him, for he let out a long breath, and his eyes were
glistening as if the tears stood in them. 'James--James Macleod!' said
he quickly, with a husky voice,' you oughn't to've deceived one you've
sailed so long with; but you meant me a good surprise, and 'twas kindly
done of you! _I_ know the very run o' the clocks off Greenwich Reach,
man; d'ye think one could mistake the sound of Lon'on town, fidgeting
when it wakes, either?--we 're--we're _home_ already!'

"And he fell back in the cot, with the drops running down his cheek,
smiling happily all the time at Macleod in a way that went to one's
heart; while the Scotchman stared helplessly to the surgeon, who slipped
to the port and closed it. 'I know by your way, James,' continued the
poor man, 'you wanted to send up to Virginia Row for 'em _all_; but
don't send for an hour yet; better go up yourself and break it to
'em--_break_ it to 'em, be sure of that, James; I shouldn't wonder but I
pulled up, after all. Ah--that first one we heard was Greenwich
Hospital--t'other is Dicksons' brewery or Redriff----' Here his eyelids
began to drop, owing to the sleeping-draught he had got, when suddenly
they opened wide again.

"'Ha!' said he, listening, and putting up a finger, 'but I haven't heard
St Paul's strike six yet; it's seldom so long after; ought to be heard
from here of a morning; let's----' By little and little, however, the
sick man's eyes closed, and you heard him murmuring, as his finger sank
down, 'Macleod, say--to her--say--luff, luff, my lad, keep her her
course--' till his shrunk face was as quiet on the pillow as if he'd
been really at home the first night after a voyage.

"'Oh man, doctor!' said the second mate, heaving a breath, 'isn't it
terrible! Good forgive me for a lee to a dying man! Take an old seaman's
word for it, Dr Small, yon clock ashore was no mortal soond, sir; ye may
keep your drogues for them they'll do good to. 'Twas neither more or
less than the captain's _dregy_!' 'Phoo!' answered the Scotch surgeon,
who was one of your sceptical chaps, as I heard say, 'some other vessels
here, of course, that's all.' The sailor gave him only a smile of pity
for not being able to distinguish the sound of a ship's bell. 'There
can't be a town hereabouts, Collins?' whispered Westwood. 'A town--no!'
said I; 'it's the best wilderness sign you can have--the African
bell-bird!'[22] 'Ah, ah!' said the surgeon, laughing, 'there now,
Macleod--of course it can be explained naturally, like other things.'
The second mate gave me a doubtful scowl; but seeing Westwood, whom he
had always seemed to think rather in the way before, his eye softened.

  [22] _Sc._--The South African and South American _campanero_, or
       bell-bird, whose peculiar note may be heard two or three miles
       off, chiefly in the loneliest parts of the Brazilian or Benguela
       forest.

"'You'll be wanting to see the captain as soon as he wakes up, sir,'
said he. 'I'm terrified to face him--but if ye'd just slip in when he
comes to himself, sir, I'm thinking, reverend sir, ye might wile him off
yon terrible notion o' his.' Westwood shook his head, seriously, not
knowing what to say. 'Ay, ay, sir,' continued Macleod, as he half closed
the door, 'no doubt a man ought to be upon better things; but it's hard
for him, when he's got a wife and weans six thousand miles away, and
wants them alongside in a couple of hours--uncommon hard, sir! She's a
douce, careful body, too, Mistress Williamson, like the captain's self;
and I heard her fleech sore with the captain before we sailed, for to
bide quietly ashore this time, for good. Poor woman! if she didn't e'en
go the length o' pairtin' in anger the last morning, wae's me! till the
very moment when (he telt me himself, sir), she out with her arms round
his neck, crying like to choke! An' all to--but if the captain had a
fault, 'twas the love o'--good forgive me, though, when it was but
studying his faim'ly, Mr Thomas! If it was only an auld tarry deevil
like me, now, with neither kith or kin!' 'Except cousins, Mr Macleod,'
said the surgeon, as he wiped his lancet on his coat-tail--'plenty of
them in the High----' But he caught Westwood's eye, and was ashamed to
finish his heartless joke, though the rough second mate was too full of
his feeling to hear it; when Westwood said something about our all
thinking too little of these things beforehand, but how the captain was
plainly a man that had done his duty carefully, which no doubt would
ease his mind. The mate looked up, and eyed him sideways for a moment:
'Eh? what?' said he bluntly; 'it's not so little I mind o' what I used
to hear at the kirk langsyne, as not to know that's not the right
doctrine. D'ye think, sir, _that's_ what'll put him over, when he finds
out this is not Greenwich Reach? There's the Methody minister with the
glasses, though!' he broke out, when again a look of despair came over
his broad hard-favoured countenance. 'They're always upon works, too,
I've heard!' said he, turning and murmuring to himself; 'oh, if I could
but hoist out a bit screed o' the truth myself to comfort the poor
fellow with! Lord, how didn't I think of the Shorter Carritch--let's see
how't went--"What is the chief end of"--no, it's "What is faith
in--faith in the only rule to direct us"--no, no--"Baptism is a
sacrament--where--whereby"'--and he was still overhauling some old
catechism in this fashion, twisting himself all the time as if he were
twisting a stiff rope the wrong way, with a look of misery none of us
could have had the heart to laugh at, when a middy's voice came
squeaking down the dark after-hatchway: 'Mr Macleod, sir, the chief
officer wants you on deck.'

"Westwood slipped quietly off, and the young surgeon was beginning to
talk easily, to rid his mind of something, perhaps, till I asked if
there wasn't any chance. 'Oh, the captain, you mean?' said he; 'don't
think there is--he's a bad subject! If we were out at sea now, Mr
Collins, the _calenture_ would make him think the waves all grass, or
something as green as--as the cawdets used to call----' I looked at the
fellow sternly, and he changed his key, though with a surprised air.

"'You're blessed early up, though, you two!' said he. 'I suppose that
cursed squall kept you idlers awake; but how they managed without the
first mate I can't think. Clever fellow, Finch! but wasn't it a curious
trick of the poor skipper to box him up below here? I fancy he'd a guess
we would all soon be under the mate's command! It's a queer thing the
brain, isn't it, Mr Collins? For exaumple, now, there's the captain, it
makes him think something or other a clock near London, with everything
accordingly! Macleod fancies it a soopernatural knell, and twaddles
about some Calvinist stuff he learned at school. Then you and me, you
know, imaugines it's a bird--now, which is it after all?
_Nothing_--maybe, eh?' The fellow capped all with a sneer, as much as to
say I was a fool, which I had stood from him several times before;
though now I could have kicked him, more for his heartless way than
aught else. 'I tell you, Mr Small,' said I, 'what I think _you_--you're
neither more nor less than a----' but I turned on my heel. 'I'm off,
however,' said he, 'to turn in again.'

"Through the half-closed door one could see the sick man's face sleeping
so quiet in the shadow from the lamp, you heard not a breath. I looked
up the after-hatchway. It seemed still quite dark; and a patch of the
deep dark-blue sky showed high over the square opening, with two or
three keen sparks of stars, green ones and blue ones--you'd have thought
the ladder, short as it was, went up to somewhere clean above the world.
But the moment I got on deck, I saw it was really lighter--the heavy fog
creeping slowly astern of the ship on both hands; the white mist rolling
faster over it before the sea-breeze against her bows, which had swung
seaward by this time from the tide, that rushed like a mill-stream upon
both her tight cables; while the muddy river-water, bubbling, eddying,
and fronting away past, spread far up in the middle, into the dusk
astern. _Such_ a jabbering, croaking, hissing, shrieking, and yelling,
too, as burst into one's ears out of the dark, as if whole legions of
monkeys, bull-frogs, parrots, paroquets, and what not, were coming
together full upon us from both sides, one band nearer than the other;
till the heavy boom of the surf round the point, and the roar of the
tide coming in over the shallows about the river-mouth, pretty well
drowned it.

"The sudden change was a good relief, Babel though it seemed after the
closeness below, with what had been going on; and I looked ahead towards
the sea, which lay away out off our larboard bow, round the headland,
and over the opposite point; a cold watery streak of light showing it
from where the breakers rose plunging and scattering along the sandy
bar, to the steady grey line of horizon, clipped by one of the two brown
chops we had got into. It looked dreary enough as yet, the mouth of it
being wider than I'd fancied it from seaward at night; though even with
full water over the long spit of sand in the middle, there was no
draught at all for the Indiaman except by the channel betwixt it and the
bold point to our right; and pretty narrow it appeared from our present
berth, heaving, as it did, with the green swell that set in, while
meantime the mist scudding across the face of the headland let us see
but the hard lump of bare black rock underneath.

"In less time than I've taken to speak, however, the full space of sky
aloft was turning clear, the sea far away suddenly shone out blue, with
the surges tipped white; you saw a sparkling star high over it sink
slowly in, and the fog spread off the water near us, till here and there
you caught the muffled-up shape of a big tree or two looming through,
not half-a-mile off our starboard quarter; the mist creeping over the
headland till the sharp peak of it stood out against its shadow on the
shoulder of a hill beyond, and old Bob Martin's single clump of cocoas
on the rise waving in landward from the brisk sea-breeze.

"One passenger after another came peeping sleepily out of the
companion-hatch at the men clearing away the wreck of the spars, and
swabbing the quarter-deck down; but scarce had Smith, one of the young
writers, reached the poop, when he gave a shout that covered both
poop-ladders in no time, with people scrambling over each other to get
up. Next minute you'd have fancied them a knot of flamingoes with their
wings out, as the bright red daybreak brought out the edge of the woods
far astern, through a hazy lane in the purple mist, topped so with stray
cocoa-nut trees and cabbage-palms, dabbled like brushes in the colour,
that they scarce knew them to be woods at all, and not a whole lot of
wild savages fresh from other business of the kind, coming down with all
sorts of queer tools upon us; more especially when one heard such a
chorus of unaccountable cries, whistling and screaming, as seemed to
struggle with the sound of the sea ahead of us, and the plash alongside.

"The huge round sun struck hot crimson along the far turn of the reach,
with all manner of twisted blots upon _him_, as it were, and the very
grass and long reeds seemingly rustling into his face, so one didn't for
the moment know him either; while the muddy chocolate-coloured eddies,
sweeping and closing beyond the ship's rudder, glittered and frothed up
like blood; and every here and there, along the streak of light, the
head of a log or a long branch came dipping up terribly plain--no wonder
the old _Seringapatam_ had apparently turned tail to it all, ready to
bolt if she could.

"Almost as soon as you took your hands off your eyes, though, and could
see without a red ball or two before them--_there_ was the nearest shore
growing out toward our starboard bulwark all along, crowded with wet
green woods, up into steaming high ground--all to eastward a dazzle of
light, with two or three faint mountain-peaks shooting up far off in it,
and a woody blue hill or so between; while here and there a broad bright
hazy spoke of the sun's great wheel came cutting down into the forest,
that brought out a patch full of long big leaves, ten times greener than
the rest, and let you look off the deck into the heart of it amongst the
stems over the bank. The jabber in the woods had passed off all at once
with the dusk, the water deepening over the bar, and the tide running
slower, so that everyone's confused face turned breathless with delight
as it grew stiller and stiller.

"The whole breadth of the river shone out by this time, full and smooth,
to the opposite shore three times as far away, where the wood and
bulrushes seemed to grow out of the water; a long thick range of low
muddy-looking mangroves, with a cover of dark green, rounding from the
farthest point one saw, down to some sandy hummocks near the mouth, and
a ridge of the same drifted up by the wind off the beach. Beyond that
side there was nothing, apparently, but a rolling sweep of long coarse
grass, with a few straggling cocoa-nut trees and baobabs, like big
swollen logs on end, and taken to sprouting at top: a dun-coloured heave
of land in the distance, too, that came out, as it got hotter, in a long
desert-like, redbrick-dust sort of a glare. The sole living things to be
seen as yet were some small birds rising up out of the long grass, and
the turkey-buzzards sailing high over all across, as if on the look-out.

"The air was so cool and clear, however, from the tornado overnight--not
a cloud in the sky, and the strange scent of the land reaching us as the
dew rose off it--you could see far and wide, with a delicious feeling of
it all, that kept everyone standing fixed on the spot where he first
gained the deck, even the men looking over their shoulders with the
ropes in their fists, and the fresh morning breeze lifting one's hair.
Surprised as the passengers were, nobody spoke a word, except the three
or four children shouting, dancing, and pointing together, without being
noticed, till, all at once, the whole poopful burst into one confusion
of questions and exclamations, running hither and thither, shaking hands
and jostling each other like distracted people.

"I had a spy-glass at my eye, making out the other shore, when, turning
round in the middle of it, the first thing I saw was Violet Hyde's face,
as she stood with one little foot on the stair-head behind me, holding
the rail with one hand, her eyes sparkling, and her parted lips
murmuring like one in a dream: 'Oh, Mr Collins!' exclaimed she,
breathless; 'what is this? Where are we--is it Fairyland? A _river_!'
'Yes, in Africa,' I said; 'but whether it's the Bembarooghe or the----'
'That fearful, fearful evening!' continued she, shuddering: 'I saw the
frightful sky, and heard the storm--and now!--_Were_ we not in some very
great danger, sir?' 'Yes, ma'am, we were,' replied I, as stiffly as I
could; 'but, happily, it's over now!' And I gave my cap a lift to move
off, uneasy as I was, every moment, lest Sir Charles should catch me
speaking again to his daughter. However, Miss Hyde was gazing eagerly
at the land, and I had to wait. 'What lovely, lovely green!' she half
whispered: 'oh, if one could only tread upon it!--so un-English those
strange tall trees look! are they not cocoa-nut trees and--and----'
Suddenly, her voice faltered, and she turned round with her bright blue
eyes swimming in tears--'How--how thankful we should be that we are
not--like our poor, poor friends, who were lost!' exclaimed she. I
thought of the poor captain below in his cot, but next moment I was
explaining, to her sheer amazement, how the real truth of the matter
stood, though, if possible, it seemed to horrify her still more. 'I
can't think what they may be,' I rapped out; 'but if I had the command
of this ship, I'd up anchor this very hour, and go out--at least as soon
as the tide ebbed; but, at any rate, at the Cape I mean to get hold of
some schooner or other, and if it were to China, why, I'll cruise after
'em till I----' 'Then you think,' began she, and an arch inquisitive
sort of look danced in both her eyes as she turned away to watch the
shore again, saying slowly, 'You _are_ a--a naval gentleman then, Mr
West--Mr Collins?' I tried to stammer out something by way of an
explanation, but it wouldn't do, and I said, 'At any rate, I'm no
better, by this time, than an idler aboard _here_, ma'am!'

"All at once, I caught a side-look from her eyes, that wasn't meant for
me, as she glanced over the poop-netting. Half provoking and half sweet
it was, though, and it made my brain somehow or other seem to spin
round, till a little after, before I well knew what I was about, I was
holding the long spy-glass for her to see the bank of the river--her
warm breath coming on my ear as I stooped before her, near enough to
have kissed the muslin on her shoulder, while her rosy mouth changed
with every new spot that the glass brought near; and she had to hold one
taper forefinger on the other eyelid to keep it shut, so that I could
dwell on her face as if she'd been asleep. 'There, there!' exclaimed
she, 'are actually flowers--with such immense leaves! And now--an
enormous tree, with roots hanging from the branches, and other stems
growing up into them. Why, yes!--is not that a banyan-tree, Mr----?' and
she looked away at _me_, when of course the tree was vanished, and
instead of that, the rather undeniable expression of a fellow in love,
two or three inches off, bent fair upon her. Violet Hyde coloured a
little, and looked in again. 'And, I think,' continued she, 'I see--oh,
two such beautiful creatures--deer, I think, coming out to drink from
the river!' All this time, the ecstasies of the rest kept up the noise
and confusion; the young lady's-maid was gaping open-mouthed at the
shore, not even noticing her young mistress's straw bonnet fall off, and
I had just picked it up with one hand, to put it quietly over that
matchless nut-brown hair of hers, shining suddenly in the sun, like
silk, when the judge's voice rang out sharp from the other stair,
'Violet, child, you'll have a sunstroke. Kitmagar, you scoundrel,
_beebee sahib punkah lao_, sirrah!' I held on to the telescope like grim
death, while that eternal punkah was hoisted over us both, the judge
eyeing me somewhat coolly for the first moment. 'Well, well, Mr
Westwood,' said he, however, 'you've got rid of that proud freak of
yours; such behaviour as yours yesterday, I assure you, I shouldn't have
endured from anyone else, young man! But, my dear boy,' added he,
suddenly, 'from what I can gather, indeed, saw myself last night, I am
convinced we owe you a very great deal--even, I suspect, the safety of
the entire vessel!' Miss Hyde had left off using the glass, and, as I
stood up, she gave me a quick glance of amazement. 'Mere chance, sir,' I
stammered. 'Why,' said Sir Charles, 'I saw you at the steerage in the
middle of the hurricane, when I believe the actual officers of the ship
had left it in dismay. I tell you what, Mr Westwood, you're a bold
fellow; and your uncle and I must see in India if we can't reward you in
some way, my dear boy!' All this fondling style of thing, and for little
more than a piece of luck, would have disgusted me if I hadn't been more
taken up with watching the side of Violet Hyde's face, as she listened
for sounds in the woods ashore. 'Strange, wasn't it, Violet, my dear,'
continued he to his daughter, 'that my friend the Councillor's nephew
should have gone out in the same Indiaman, so fortunately--though, of
course, after all, it _was_ the first this season.' 'Ah!' said she,
starting, 'I beg pardon, papa--what did you--weren't you talking of the
river?' 'Don't you hear, child,' said the judge, 'I said it was a
curious coincidence, Mr Westwood's going in this vessel.' 'Oh yes,
indeed!' answered she, and couldn't help looking down a little
confounded. But the lady's-maid was putting on her tiny slipper, which
had come off, while her father mentioned that of course I'd had
practical reasons for not owning my profession hitherto; meaning, I
suppose, that I didn't speak for fear of having to work, like the
monkeys--though the sharp old lawyer must have had a better guess by
this time, and queer enough it must have been to see her face, listening
to him as he explained it all. I stood biting my lips, meanwhile--two or
three times on the point of telling him it was all nonsense about my
being a nephew of any hanged old nabob whatever; when Sir Charles said
carelessly he should leave the _Seringapatam_, if possible, at the Cape
of Good Hope, as he couldn't trust safely to the present officers.

"Just then up got the merry chant of the men running round with the
capstan-bars, to get up anchor; the chief officer wishing, as it was
found, to carry her farther into the river with the breeze--for the sake
of filling our water-casks the easier, according to him, but more likely
out of sheer spite at what had been done without him. What with
eagerness in the cuddy to get on shore and see the woods, the breakfast
below was a rare scene, no one minding what he did, even to rushing slap
into a couple of ladies' berths for his boots, or laying a couple of
loaded Joe Mantons into somebody's bed, swallowing biscuit and butter on
the way.

"Suddenly, we heard the splash of paddles in the water, with a hail in
some foreign tongue or other, and hurried on deck in a body; where we
found the ship tiding it slowly up, under jibs and fore-topsail, and
beginning to open a longer reach where the river seemed to narrow in. A
black-eyed, black-bearded fellow, with a tallow, yellow, sweaty sort of
complexion, in a dirty jacket, drawers, and short boots, and an immense
grass hat, shouting Portuguese louder and louder into the first mate's
ear, till he actually put both hands together, and roared through them,
pointing to himself now and then, as if surprised he wasn't known.

"All at once, evidently quite disgusted, he turned and looked over the
side, saying something to one of the ugliest and most ill-looking
mulattoes I ever saw, who sat in the stern of a long rough canoe,
hollowed out of some tree, with two naked black rowers, less of the real
nigger than himself, as they leant grinning up at the bulwarks with
their sharp teeth, that appeared as if they'd been filed to a point.
The mulatto gloomed, but he gave no answer, and as one of the cadets and
I knew a little Portuguese, we managed together to get something out of
the fellow on deck, though, at noticing him for the first time that
morning, I saw Finch turn red with surprise.

"We understood the man to ask if we wanted nothing particular in the
river, the meaning of which I saw better on bethinking me of the fire
along the bush inside the headland, that had let me see the marks of
it--no doubt a signal to some craft they had taken us for. However, so
soon as he heard we needed no more than water and spars, after musing a
minute, and speaking again to Rodriguez, as he called the mulatto, he
said he would pilot us to a convenient berth himself, for two or three
dollars; notwithstanding his title was, as he said, Don José Jeronimo
Santa somebody, commandant of the Portuguese fort something else. The
river, we found, was the Nouries or the Cuanené, where they had a
settlement called Caconda, a good way up; a remarkably bad country he
gave us to know, and not worth staying in, from the number of flies, and
the elephants having got into a cursed way of burying their
tusks--except, he hinted, for the plenty of blacks, all anxious to be
sold and to see foreign countries; but the trade was nothing
yet--absolutely nothing, said he, blowing his nose without a
pocket-handkerchief, and suiting the act to the word, as he mentioned
his notion of throwing it up and going farther north-west.

"By this time we had stood over to the lowest shore, till you could see
the thick coffee-coloured mud in among the roots and suckers of the
dark-green mangroves, with their red pods bursting under their
rank-looking leaves--and over them, through the tall coarse
guinea-grass, to the knots of feathery cocoas behind, swarming with
insects; when he gave the sign to go about, one of his blacks heaving a
lead, and grunting out the depth of water, as the ship made a long
stretch across towards the woody side again, and Don José all the time
taking it as easy as if the quarter-deck were his own, while he asked
for a cigar and lighted it. Joke though he did, yet I couldn't like the
fellow at all; however, as soon as she got pretty near the shore, about
a quarter of a mile from what seemed a wide creek, glittering up between
a high fringe of cane and bamboo clumps, he had the sails clued up, a
single anchor let go in four or five fathoms, and our Portuguese friend
got his money and bundled over the side, pulling quietly ashore.



CHAPTER XVI


"The tide by this time was quite still, and the breeze sank almost at
once, as we were shut in from the sea, when we were surprised to see the
striped Portuguese flag, rise off a tall bamboo stick, among the bushes
on the open shore, nearly abreast of us, where a low muddy-like wall was
to be made out, with something of a thatched roof or two, and a sort of
rude wooden jetty running before it into the water. Shortly after, Don
José came paddling out again, and got on board, this time with an old
cocked hat on, excusing himself for not having fired a gun--which was to
save us expense, he remarked, being particular friends--seeing that he'd
got to demand twelve dollars of harbour dues and duties, whereas, if he
saluted, he must have charged fourteen. The cool impudence of this
brought the chief officer from the capstan; but the steady face of the
fellow, and the glance he took round the deck when the cadet told him
he'd better be off at once, made me think he had something or other to
back him. Mr Finch, as usual, fumed up into a passion, and told the men
to fling him over into his canoe, which they accordingly did, without
the least nicety about it; the Portuguese next minute picking himself
up, and standing straight, with the look of a perfect devil, as he shook
his fist at the whole ship, while the canoe slid off to the shore.

"Budge even so much as a single fathom, at present, we could not; and
most of us were too much in the spirit of fun and venture to care a fig
for having made an enemy of Don José So-on, as the cadet called him;
indeed, it seemed rather to set a finer point on people's admiration of
the green jungly-looking shore next to us, with its big aloes and agaves
growing before the bush, and all sorts of cocoas, palms, monkey-bread,
and tall white-flaked cotton trees, rising in every way out from over
the rest. For my part, I thought more of the Portuguese _interest_,
after all, than his hatred--which proved correct, by his soon sending
out a sulky message by the mulatto, offering to sell us fowls and a
bullock, at no ordinary price. However, all hands from the cabin were
mad already to get ashore somewhere, and the cadets, bristling with
fowling-pieces and rifles, each singing out that he was ready to supply
the whole ship with fresh meat; so the mulatto had to sheer off, with a
boat nearly lowered over his head.

"From where we lay at the time, what with the large creek off one bow,
and the broad river ahead of us, spreading brimful along to the light,
the water had the look of a huge lake, fringed in by a confused hazy
bluish outline steeping in the heat, where the distance clipped behind
the lumps of keen verdure, showering over a dark mangrove-covered point.
Before the two large quarter-boats could be got ready for the ladies and
the rest of us, in fact, we heard the gigful of writers and cadets
beginning to pop away at everything they saw alive, out of sight of the
ship, till at last we were afloat, too, pulling slowly into the middle
of the stream, and the men eyeing us lazily as they turned-to about the
rigging, to send up new spars in place of those lost. The old Indiaman's
big bows stood looming up broad astern of us on the sluggish eddies
round her cable, with her tall, steady forespars and furled yards rising
white against the low line of marshy shore in the distance, and wavering
in her shadow below, till the thick green branches of the next point
shut her out, and the glare off the face of the creek shot level over
all of us in the two cutters, wild with every kind of feeling that India
passengers could have after two months' voyage.

"For my own part, I should have had rather a suspicion how absurd it was
to go a-pleasuring in an African river we knew nothing about, especially
when I saw that a day or two so long after the rains might suck it up,
during ebb, into a pretty narrow mid-channel; all I thought of was,
however, that I was steering the boat with Violet Hyde in it, the
kitmagar holding his gaudy punkah over her before me, while the judge,
with his gun in his hands, was looking out as eagerly, for the time, as
the four griffins were pulling furiously, in spite of the heat that made
the sweat run into their eyes.

"The other party were soon off ahead of us up the main river, under care
of the Scotch surgeon, laughing, talking, and halloing in chase of the
cadets who had first left. However, Sir Charles thought there was more
likelihood of game along the creek, and the ladies fancied it something
new, so I steered right into it; the fat midshipman, Simm, watching me
critically as I handled the yoke-lines, which he had given up to me in a
patronising way, and the sailor in the bow regarding the exertions of
the griffins with a knowingly serious expression, while he dabbled his
flipper at ease in the water.

"As the tide steadied, this said creek proved to be a smaller river,
apparently from the hilly country I had noticed beyond the woods, by the
clearness of its current, that showed the pale yellow reflection of the
close bamboo-brake on one side, deep down into the light--the huge,
sharp, green notched aloe-leaves and fern showing here and there out of
it--the close, rank, stifling smell of rotten weeds and fungi giving
place to the strange wild scent of the flowers, trailing and twisting in
thick snaky coils up the stems on our opposite hand, and across from
branch to branch, with showers of crimson and pink blossoms and white
stars; still, eager as the ladies were to put foot on land, 'twas no use
looking as yet for a spot of room, let alone going farther in.

"The cadets were not long in being blown, either; when the midshipman,
the bowman, and I, had to relieve them. However, _then_ I could look
straight toward Violet Hyde's face, the shade of the scarlet punkah
hanging over it, and her soft little straight nose and forehead catching
a flickering burst from the leaves as we sheered at times under cover of
the bank; while her eyelids, drooping from the glare, gave her bright
eyes a half-sleepy sort of violet look, and it was only her lips that
let you see how excited she felt. The griffin who had the tiller
steering with the judgment of a tailor's 'prentice on a picnic to
Twickenham, we came two or three times crash into the twigs of some
half-sunk tree; then a blue bird like a heron would rise direct ahead of
us, with its tall wet spindle legs and spurs glistening like steel
behind it into the light, and a young snake in its sharp bill; or a grey
crane rustled out of the cane from overhead, its long wings creaking in
the air out of sight. Suddenly, you heard a long chirruping croak from a
tree-frog, and the ground ones gave full chorus from farther in, whining
and cackling and peep-peep-peeping in one complete rush that died as
suddenly away again, like thousands of young turkeys. Then out in the
midst of the quiet would come a loud clear wheetle-wheetling note from
some curious fowl in an opening, with another of the same to match,
dimmer amongst the thick of the bush. However, everything of the kind
seemed to sink down with the heat at noon, the very buzz of flies round
every dark feather of the cocoas, and the mosquito-hum along the bank,
getting fainter; till one _heard_ the heat, as it were, creeping and
thrilling down through the woods, with the green light that steeped into
both edges of the long creek; every reed, cane, leaf, and twig,
seemingly, at last giving it back again with a whispering, hushing
crackle, and the broad fans of the palms tingling in it with rays from
them, as they trembled before you in the glare, back into the high
bundles of knotted and jointed bamboo, with their spiky-tufted crowns.

"'Can you not almost _feel_ the forest grow!' exclaimed Miss Hyde; while
the boat floated quietly to one side, and her charming young face
shining out from the punkah, before Master Gopaul's deucedly ugly one,
coolly staring past his snub nose, made one think of a white English
rose and a black puff-ball growing together under a toadstool; plenty of
which, as red as soldiers' coats, and as big as targets, looked here and
there out of the bank. It put new spirit into me to see her, but still
we could do little more than shove across from one side to the
other--till something all at once roused us up in the shape of a long
scaly-like log, seemingly lying along in the sun, which tumbled off the
edge with a loud splash, and two of the young fellows let drive from
their fowling-pieces, just after the alligator had sunk to the bottom.
Rather uncomfortable it was to come sheering right over him next moment,
and catch a glimpse of his round red eyes and his yellow throat, as the
mud and weeds rose over him.

"The other ladies shrieked, but Violet Hyde only caught hold of her
father's arm and started back; though her blue eye and the clear cut of
her pretty nostril opened out, too, for the moment her lips closed. Five
minutes after, when a couple of large guinea-fowl sprang up, Sir Charles
proved himself a better shot than the cadets, by dropping one of them
over the water ahead of us, which was laid hold of by the reefer of the
Indiaman, and stowed away fluttering into the stern-locker--Simm
observing coolly that it was a scavengering carrion sort of bird, but
perhaps one of his messmates might like to take it home stuffed to his
sister. The judge merely smiled and patted the mid on the shoulder,
remarking in great good-humour that he, Simm, would make a good
attorney; and on we held, soaking to our shirts and panting, until the
bowman hooked down the stem of a young plantain, with a huge bunch of
full ripe yellow bananas under the long flapping leaves at its head,
right into the midst of us, out of a whole clump of them, where the
smooth face of the cove showed you their scarlet clusters of flowers and
green round pods hanging over it, hidden as they were from above. Every
man of us made a clutch, and the stem almost lifted Simm out of the boat
with it, as it sprang back into the brake, rousing out a shower of
gaudy-coloured butterflies, and a cloud of mosquitoes, and making the
parroquets scream inside; while the cadets' mouths were so full they
couldn't speak, the reefer making a gulp with the juice seeming to come
out at his eyes, the sailor spitting out his quid and stuffing in a
banana, and the ladies hoping they were safe to eat, as I peeled the
soft yellow rind off, and handed one to Violet Hyde, which she tasted at
once. But if ever one enters into the heart of things in the tropics,
I'd say 'tis when that same delicious taste melts through and through
and all over you, after chewing salt-junk for a space. I remember one
foremast man, who was always so drunk ashore he used to remember nothing
in India but '_scoffing_[23] one juicy benanny,' as he called it; 'but
hows'ever, Jack,' he'd say, ''twas blessed good, ye know, and I'm on the
look-out for a berth again, jist for to go and have another.' One of us
looked to the other, and Miss Hyde laughed and coloured a bit when I
offered her a second, while her father said, full five minutes after,
''Gad, Violet, it almost made me think I saw Garden Reach in the
Hooghly, and the Baboo's Ghaut!'

  [23] _Anglicé_, eating.

"This whole time we couldn't have got more than three-quarters of a mile
from where the ship lay, when, all at once, the close growth on our left
hand began to break into low bush, and at length a spot offered where we
might get ashore tolerably, with two or three big red ant-hills heaped
up out of the close prickly-pear plant, and the black ants streaming
over the bank, as well as up the trunk of a large tree. The monkeys
were keeping up a chattering stir everywhere about; and two or three
bright green little lizards, changing into purple and back again, as
they lay gleaming in the sun on the sides of the ant-heaps, darted their
long tongues out like silver bodkins at the ants coming past. In we
shoved with a cheer, and had scarce moored to the tree ere the ladies
were being handed out and tripping over the ground-leaves to the ankles,
starting on again at every rustle and prick, for fear of snakes; till
the bowman in charge was left in the boat by himself, and, there being
seven of us with guns over our arms, the next notion of the griffins was
to get a sight of some 'natives.'

"In fact, there was a sort of a half-track leading off near the bank,
through among the long coarse grass and the ferny sprouts of young
cocoas, and a wide stretch of open country seen beyond it, dotted all
over with low clumps of trees and bush rounded off in the gush of light,
that gave it all a straw-coloured tint up to where a bare
reddish-looking ridge of hill looked over a long swell of wild forest,
off a hot, pale, cloudless sky. Here and there you saw the shadow of one
bluff lying purple on the side of another, and a faint blue peak
between, letting north'ard into some pass through the hills, but no
signs of life save a few dun big-headed buffaloes feeding about a swampy
spot not very far off, and rather too shaggy, by all appearance, to make
pleasant company. Accordingly, we held for a few yards under the shade,
where the fat mid, thinking to show off his knowingness by getting
cocoa-nuts for the ladies, began to shy balls of mud from the
creek-sides at the monkeys in the trees.

"However, he brought us rather more than he bargained for, till the
whole blessed jungle seemed to be gathering between us and the boat to
pelt us to death with nuts as big as eighteen-pound shot, husks and all;
so off we had to hurry into the glare again, Sir Charles half-carrying
his daughter through guinea-grass up to the waist--when somebody felt
the smell of smoke, and next minute we broke out near it, wreathing up
white from inside a high bamboo fence, propped up and tied all along
with cocoa-nut husk. 'What the devil!' shouted the foremost cadet, as
soon as he found the opening, 'they're cannibals!--roasting a black
child, by heaven!' and in he dashed, being no chicken of a fellow
_ashore_ at any rate, the others after him, while the judge, Simm, and I
kept outside with the ladies, who were all of a shudder of course, what
with the thought, and what with the queer scent of roast meat that came
to us. 'Ha, ha!' laughed the cadet next moment, 'it's only a monkey,
after all!--come in, though, Sir Charles, if you please, sir--nobody
here, ladies.'

"There, accordingly, was the little skinned object twirling slowly
between two bamboo sticks, over a fire beneath two or three immense
green leaves on a frame, with its knees up not to let its legs burn;
about a dozen half-open sheds and huts, like little corn-stacks,
thatched close with reeds, and hung with wattled mats of split bamboo,
giving the place more the look of a farmyard than a village; as there
was a big tree spreading in the middle, a few plantains, yams, and long
maize-stalks flowering out of the coarse guinea-grass which the niggers
hadn't taken the trouble to tread down all round inside of the fence.

"However, we weren't long of perceiving an old grey-headed black sitting
on his hams against the post of a hut, watching us all the time; and a
villainously ugly old thief he looked, with a string of Aggry beads
about his head, and a greegree charm-bag hung round his shrivelled neck,
which was stuck through a hole in some striped piece of stuff that fell
over to his knees, as he sat mumbling and croaking to himself, and
leering out of the yellows of his eyes, though too helpless to stir.
Something out of the way attracted my notice, glittering in front of the
hut over his head; but, on stepping up to it, I wasn't a little
surprised to find it the stern-board of some small vessel or other, with
the tarnished gilt ornament all round, and the name in large white
letters--'_Martha Cobb_'--the port, Boston, still to be made out,
smaller, below. This I didn't think so much of in itself, as the craft
might have been lost; till, on noticing that the old fellow's robe was
neither more nor less than a torn American ensign, in spite of his
growls and croaks I walked past him into the hut, where there was a
whole lot of marling-spikes, keys, and such like odds and ends,
carefully stored up in a bag, marked with the same name, besides a
stewpan with some ostrich feathers stuck where the handle had been, as
if this rascally black sinner wore it on his head on state occasions,
being probably the head man and a justice of the peace.

"What struck me most, though, was a pocket-book with a letter inside it,
in a woman's hand, addressed to the master of the brig _Martha Cobb_;
dated a dozen years before, yellow and fusty, and with tarry
finger-marks on it, as if the poor skipper, God knows, had read it over
and over in his cabin many a fresh breeze betwixt there and Boston. I
put it in my pocket, with a curse to the old black devil, as he croaked
out and fell on his face trying to bite me with his filed teeth when I
passed out, to follow the rest out of the bamboo-pen; wondering, of
course, where all the other negroes could be, unless they were dodging
about the river shore to watch the Indiaman--little chance as there was
of their trying the same joke with the _Seringapatam_ as with the
_Martha Cobb_.

"As for the women, however, I had scarce joined our party going out,
when we met a half-naked black hag with a bunch of cocoa-nuts and husk.
The moment she saw us she gave a squeal like an old hen, and fell flat,
while several younger ones, jogging along with their naked black
piccaninnies on their backs, turned tail and were off with a scream.
Next minute we were almost as startled as they could be when three plump
young jetty damsels dropped down right into the bushes alongside of us,
off as many tall cocoas which they'd been climbing by a band round them,
for the nuts. 'Mercy on us!' said the eldest of our lady passengers; and
it _was_ rather queer, since they had nothing earthly upon them save
very very short pet----I beg your pardon, ma'am, but I didn't know any
other word. However, off they scampered for the woods, Simm and one of
the cadets hard after them, and we turning away to smother our laughter,
especially as the griffin had forgot his mother being with us. The middy
being first started, he was a good way ahead, when all at once the
sternmost of the black girls tripped in the band she had over her
shoulder, Simm giving a cheer as he made prize of his chase; but scarce
before the whole three of the dark beauties had him smothered up amongst
them, laughing yelling, and squalling as they hauled him about; till I
saw the dirk Simm sported glitter in one of their hands, and I made
towards the spot in the notion of their finishing him in right earnest.

"The black damsels ran off together as the unlucky reefer picked himself
up, coming to us with his hair rubbed up like a brush, his cap out of
shape in his hand, and the gold band off it, his red face shining, and
all the gilt anchor-buttons off his jacket, besides being minus his
dirk. 'Simm, Simm, my fine fellow!' said his friend the cadet, like to
die with laughing, 'what--what did they do to you?--why, your head looks
like a chimney-sweep's mop!' Simm knocked his cap against a tree to set
it right, without a word, and we followed the others to the boat, where
he swore, however, that he'd kissed 'em all three, at which Mrs Atkins
fairly took him a slap on the side of the head, saying he was a nasty,
improper boy, and she was glad _his_ poor mother couldn't see him run
after creatures of that kind in African woods. 'Natives, indeed!' said
she, 'I have heard so often of native modesty, too, in books; but, after
all, there's nothing like experience, I think, Sir Charles?' 'Certainly
not, ma'am,' replied the judge, humouring her, as she hadn't often had
the chance of speaking to him before; ''tis almost as bad in India,
though, you know.' 'Oh, _there_, Sir Charles,' said the lady, 'I never
happened to go out, of course, except in the carriage!' 'Ah,' said the
judge, coolly, 'you should try an elephant, sometimes, ma'am.'

"After this, as Sir Charles was bent on getting a shot at something
better, with a glass or two of Madeira to refresh us, we pulled farther
still up the small river, passing the mouth of a deep marshy inlet,
where I noticed a few long canoes belonging to the Congo village we had
seen; the close, heavy heat of the woods getting, if possible, worse;
and the rank green growth topping up round us as flat as before; when
the sound of a loud rush of water up-stream broke upon us through the
bush to northward, the surface rippling, and a slight cool breath
seeming to flutter across it now and then, the very noise putting fresh
soul into you. Suddenly we opened out on a broad bend, where it was hard
work to force her round, and next moment a low fall was gleaming before
us, where a hill-stream came washing and plashing over one wide rocky
step above another in the turn, then sweeping out of a deep pool to both
hands, and running away ahead, in between the spread of trees, seemingly
to a sort of a lagoon, where you saw the light in the middle glancing
bright down upon its face. A broad blue burst of air and light struck
down along the hollow the stream rushed out of, off the roots of a
regular mountain, leaning back to the sky, with its big tufted knolls
and its shady rifts thrown out blue beyond one or two thick
scaly-stemmed date-trees, waving their long, feathery, fringe-like
leaves to the least bit of a breeze, on as many rough points near at
hand; the _whole_ shape of the mountain you couldn't see for the huge
mahogany-trees, teak, and African oak, rising up over one shoulder into
a lump of green forest. In five minutes more we were through into the
lagoon, which very possibly took round into the main river again, only
the opposite end, to our surprise, was all afloat with logs of big
timber choking it up, so that there we must stick or go back upon our
wake.

"However, the lagoon itself being broad enough and round enough in all
conscience, with a deep hollow opening up out of it on the high ground,
the judge and the cadets thought a better place couldn't have been
chosen for landing after a little sport, while we left the fair ladies
to rest in the cool, and look at the lotus-lilies spread all over one
cove of it, floating white on their large leaves. The green edge of scum
ran about the black shadow on the rest of it, gathering round where a
big branch or two had fallen in, with the hot white sky looking bluer
out through the broad leaves coming together aloft, and the showers of
little sharp ones in the tamarind twigs, mangoes, ironwood, sumach, and
all sorts, while here and there a knot of crimson blossoms looked out
from under the boughs in the dark, humming with small flies. Beautiful
spot as it was every way, especially after the heat, yet I didn't much
like the idea of letting the ladies stay by themselves, except the
sailor and the kitmagar. Nothing particular had turned up to trouble us,
certainly, but I daresay 'twas because there was _one_ of them I never
looked at without her soft fairy-like air making me think of something
that might happen to her, life-like though she seemed. When I saw a big
branch over her head, I kept fancying what it would do if it fell--and
now, the thumping slabs and stones we scrambled over up into the gully
toward the mountain, seemed to have come tumbling down off it to the
very water's edge, covered with nets of thick creeping plants and trails
of flat, fingery-leaved flowers, such as you see in hot-houses at home.
A few yards higher, too, where the ground broke away into a slanting
hollow out of the bush, 'twas all trampled and crushed, half-withering
together in the heat of the sun, the young trees twisted and broken, and
two or three good-sized ones lying out from the roots, which I set to
the score of the timbers rolling down their logs, for some craft that
evidently got their cargoes hereaway.

"After all, the thought of a slap at some wild game was tempting enough,
the judge appearing to consider anyone but a sportsman nobody at all; so
up we went behind him out of the gully till we were all blowing like so
many porpoises on the head of it, Sir Charles raising his finger as we
peeped across a grassy slope right under us, where a whole drove of
small slender-legged antelopes were feeding. We had just time to rest,
getting a breath of air off the heights, when one of the foremost lifted
its head, listening the opposite way from us; next moment the entire
scatter of them came sweeping direct over to leeward in a string--we
could almost catch their bright black eyes through the grass, when the
crack of our seven barrels turned them bolt off at a corner, and they
were gone like wind on water. All of us had missed save Sir Charles
Hyde, but his rifle-bullet had sent one of the antelopes springing up in
the air ten feet or so, rolling over and over into the grass again,
where we found it lying with its tongue out, and its large eye glazing
amidst the blades and dust--a pair of huge turkey buzzards falling, as
it were, out of two specks in the sun above us, already, and rising with
an ugly flap while we got round the dead creature.

"Hallo!' said the mid suddenly, looking back over toward the hollow we'd
come out of, 'what's that?'

"From where we stood we could just see through the wild cane to the
mouth of the gully, half-a-mile down or more, leading upon the trees by
the lagoon. I thought I could hear a dull heavy sound now and then going
thump thump down the hollow and along it, the stones rumbling from one
spot to another at the root of the hill; but noticing a light smoke
rising farther into the course of the creek, with a faint echo of axes
at work somewhere in the woods below, I wasn't sorry to find the
timberers were still in the river, showing we weren't the only civilised
folks that thought it fit to visit. Perhaps it might have been a
quarter of an hour or more, however, and we were all looking out sharp
for birds of any kind to pop at, happening to turn my head, I saw the
long reeds were moving about the banks below and the trees twisting
about furiously, and no sooner had I made a few paces than good
heavens!--right in the break of the trees at the landing-place--_there_
was a huge brute of some sort coming slowly up out of the water; then
another, and another, glistening wet in the bright light as the shadow
of the branches slipped behind them. A blindness came over my eyes, and
I had scarce time to make out the big block-like heads and moving trunks
of five or six black African elephants, ere the whole case flashed upon
me, and away I dashed full-speed down the slope. The big beasts were
turning quietly off into the hollow, and two or three of their calves
trotted after them out of the bushes, munching the young cane-stalks as
they lifted their pillars of legs and their tufty little tails, when I
passed a fire of sticks blazing under a slab of rock, with the judge's
guinea-fowl plucked and roasting before it from a string, the bowman's
tarpaulin and his pipe lying near by--a sight that doubled the horror in
me, to know he had left the boat at all; and no doubt, as I thought,
taken fright and run off, man-o'war's-man though he was. I made three
springs over the stones down to the water, terrified to look in, hearing
it, as I did, splash and wash about the sides, up among the leaves of
the trees, while a couple of monstrous brutes were to be seen by the
light in the midst of it, still wallowing about, and seeming to enjoy
sending the whole pool in wide rings and waves as far as it would go,
with the noise besides; the one-half swimming and the biggest standing
aground as he poured the water out of his long trunk all over his back,
then broke off a branch and waved it to and fro like a fan round his
flapping leathery ears.

"Such a moment I hope never to know again--not the least sign of the
boat could I see in the green black blink of the place, after the glare
above, and I stood like a madman at the thought of what the herd of
monsters had _done_ when they came suddenly down upon it; then I gave a
wild cry, and levelled my ship's musket at the big elephant's head as he
brought his small cunning eye slowly to bear upon me, dropped the
branch, and began to swing his forehead, all the time looking at me,
and wading out to the shallow--by Jove! my flesh creeps at it _just
now_--though I couldn't have stirred for worlds till he was close enough
for me to fire into that devilish eye of his. 'Twas no more than the
matter of half-a-minute--till you may fancy what I felt to catch sight,
all at once, of the cutter splashing up and down in the gloom below the
branches, the ladies and the Hindoo crouching down terrified together,
except Violet Hyde, who stood straight, holding the boat firm in by a
bough, her white face fixed through the shadow, and her hair floating
out of her straw bonnet each time her head went up among the leaves,
with her glittering eyes on the two elephants.

"Suddenly some heavy black figure dropped almost right over her into the
boat, and she let go with a low cry, and sank down with her hands over
her eyes; when they went sheering out towards the creek, the foretopman
handling his boat-hook in her bow, without his tarpaulin. As for the
wild elephants, I had just time to come to myself before the foremost
had his feet on the stones below me, getting cautiously out of the pool;
these awkward antics of theirs being possibly signs of too much
satisfaction in a bathe for them to show aught like fury, if you didn't
rouse them; so I was slipping quietly round the nearest tree when I
heard the cadets halloing up the hill. The old bull elephant seemed a
dangerous customer to meet, and I was hurrying over the dead grass and
branches to give warning, just as Sir Charles Hyde could be seen coming
down before the rest, his rifle over his shoulder.

"However, he brought up the moment I sang out to stop: both the
elephants were stalking off lower down into the hollow, and I dropped
behind the slab where Tom Wilkes had been roasting his bird, when some
fool of a cadet let drive at the bull elephant from above, hitting him
fair on the front. You heard the rifle-bullet hit slap against it as if
on an anvil: the she elephant made off at a fast trot, but the big brute
himself turned round on the moment, lifting up his trunk straight aloft
with a sharp trumpeting scream through it, and looked round till his
small red eye lighted on the judge, who seemed quite out of breath from
his sport.

'The fire! that fire, for God's sake, Mr Westwood, else I am lost!'
called out Sir Charles, in a calm distinct key from where he stood with
his eye fixed on the elephant, and could see me, too--a moment or two
before the huge round-backed lump of a brute came running round into the
track, stumbling heavily up the dead branches of the fallen trees and
the dry guinea-grass, with a savage roar between his two white
tusks--and I saw what the judge meant just in time to throw over the
whole heap of flaming cocoa-tree husk among the withered grass and stuff
a few yards before the monster, as dry as tinder, while the light air
coming down the gully of the mountain, drove it spreading across his
course up through the twigs, and sweeping in one sudden gust of fire up
to the very end of his trunk. I saw it lift over the smoke like a black
serpent, then another scream from the brute, and away he was charging
into the hollow again, the flame licking up among the grass astern of
him, and darting from one bough to another towards the cane-brake below.
I had scarce drawn a long breath and remembered the devil's own thought
that had come into my head, when the judge called to me, ere he slapped
me on the shoulder.

"'You did nobly there, my dear boy,' said Sir Charles; 'managed it well!
'Gad, it was a crisis, though, Mr Westwood!' 'I'm afraid, however, sir,'
said I, eyeing the crackling bushes, smoking and whitening to a dead
smoulder in the sunlight, then flashing farther down as the hill-breeze
rustled off, 'I'm afraid we shall have the woods burning about our
ears!'

"Down we hurried accordingly, and hailed the cutter, where, scarce had
we leisure to pass a few quick words and tumble in, before I heard a
shout beyond the other turn of the creek, through the end of the lagoon;
then something like the cheep of ropes through blocks, with the bustle
of men's feet on a deck, and next minute a perfect hubbub of cries,
whether Dutch, Portuguese, English, or all together, I couldn't
say--only it wasn't likely the _last_ would kick up such a bother for
nothing. Four or five Kroomen came leaping round and along the float of
logs at the far end, their large straw hats shining in the light over
their jet faces, as they peered across into the lagoon. The minute after
they vanished we saw the white upper spars of a schooner slide above the
farthest of the wood, and her bowsprit shoved past the turn just enough
to show her sharp lead-coloured bow, with the mouth of a gun out of a
port, and a fellow blowing the red end of his match behind it. All at
once the chorus of shouts and cries ceased, and a single voice sang out
along the water, clear, stern, and startling, in bad Portuguese,
'_Queren sieté?_ who are you?' Still we gave no answer, quietly shoving
off as fast as we could, the flicker of the fire in the brake behind the
trees beginning to show itself through the black shade of the lagoon.
'_Queren sieté?_' sang out the voice, louder than before, in a
threatening way, and the logs were knocking and plashing before the
schooner as the Kroomen hauled at them to make an opening. 'Amigos!
Amigos!' hailed we in turn; 'Ingleses, gentlemen!' shouted the cadet who
knew Portuguese, calling to them not to fire, for heaven's sake, else
they would do us some harm. With this, the hubbub was worse than before;
they plainly had some design on us, from the confusion that got up; but
by that time we were pulling hard into the narrow of the river, and took
the fair current of it as soon as the boat was past the falling stream
we had seen before, till we were round into the next reach.

"In fact, the rate we all bent our backs at this time was pretty
different from coming up: the cadets seemed hardly to feel the heat,
fierce and close though it was, at thought of those that might be in our
wake, and nobody spoke a word at ease till at last, after an hour's hard
work, taking it in turns, we came full in sight of the Indiaman at her
anchor on the broad current. The ladies blessed the very ropes hanging
from her bowsprit, and we got safe aboard, where we found the two other
boats had come back long before; and every one of us turned in directly
after sundown, as tired as dogs.

"Well, I didn't suppose I had slept an hour, dreaming terribly wild sort
of dreams about Violet Hyde and elephants, then that I'd saved her
myself, and was stooping to kiss her rosy lips, when a sudden noise on
deck startled me. I shoved myself into my clothes, and rushed on the
quarter-deck. She had gone aground at her stern in swinging in the water
the Portuguese rascal gave her, canted a little over to starboard, away
from the shore; and till morning flood nothing could be done to haul her
off. The fog was rolling down with the land-breeze, and the jabber in
the woods again thickened the confusion, when all at once a dim flash
off the shore glimmered in the white fog, and a round-shot whistled just
astern, pretty well aimed for her bilge, which would have cost us some
work if it had hit. After that, however, there was no more of it, the
fellow probably having spent either all his powder or his balls. As for
his fort, I heard the chief officer swearing he would knock it about his
ears next day--a thing that couldn't have done him much harm, certainly,
unless mud were dear.

"No sooner had the men gone below, leaving the ordinary anchor-watch,
than Mr Finch, to my great surprise, walked up to me, and gave me a
strange suspicious look, hinting that he began to have a good guess of
what I really was, but if anything new of the kind turned up, said he,
he should know better what to say to me. 'Mr Finch,' said I, starting,
'this won't do, sir--you'll either speak your mind before cabin and
cuddy, or to-morrow morning, by Jove! you'll go quietly ashore with me,
sir--as I think, now you remind me of it, we settled to do, already!'
The mate's face whitened, and he eyed me with a glare of malice, as I
turned on my heel and began to walk the quarter-deck till he went below.

"However, the thought of the thing stuck to me, and I kept walking in
the dark to get rid of it: the four or five men of the anchor-watch
shuffling lazily about, and all thick save ahead up the river, where the
land-breeze blew pretty strong, bringing now and then a faint gleam out
of the mist. I was leaning against the fore-chains, listening to the
ebb-time, and thinking, when I saw one of the men creeping in from the
bowsprit, which you just saw, where it ran up thick into the dusk, with
scarce a glimpse of the jib-boom and flying-jib-boom beyond.

"The sailor came up, touching his hat to me, and said he thought he saw
something queer off the boom-end. 'Well,' said I gruffly, 'go and tell
your mate, then.' I didn't know the fellow's voice, though it had a
particular twang in it, and he wasn't in Jacobs' watch, I knew. 'Why,
your honour,' he persisted, 'I knows pretty well what you air--asking
your pardon, sir--but I think you'd make more out of it nor any of the
mates! It's some'at rather skeary, sir,' added he. Accordingly I took
hold of the man-ropes and swung myself up the bowsprit, and had my feet
on the foot-rope below the jib-boom, when I heard his breath, following
behind me. 'Never you trouble yourself, my man,' said I; 'one at a
time!' and back he went in board again--for something curious in his way
struck me; but I wanted to see what he meant. I had just got near the
flying-jib, half-stowed in as it was on the boom, and I fancied, with a
creep of my blood in me, I made out a man's head over the sail; but next
moment a hand like a vice caught me by the throat, and some one growled
out, 'Now ye infernal man-o'-war hound, I have ye--and down you goes for
it!'

"The instant I _felt_ it, my coolness came back; as for grappling, I
couldn't, and the ebb current ran below to her bows at a rate fit to
carry one out to sea in half-an-hour. I saw the whole plot in a
twinkling, and never moved; instead of that I gave a sort of laugh, and
followed the husky twang of the other man to a tee. 'He won't come,
Harry, my lad!' said I, and my ugly friend let go before he had time to
think twice. 'He be blowed!' said Harry, scornfully; 'an' why won't he,
mate?' He had scarce the words out of his mouth, though, ere I took him
a twist that doubled him over the spar, and down he slipped, hanging by
a clutch of the sail. 'I suppose, my fine fellow,' said I, 'you forgot
Fernando Po, and those nigger adventures of yours--eh?' and I went in
without more ado.

"I hadn't been ten minutes on deck, however, when I heard both of them
swearing something or other to the first mate. A little after Finch came
forward to me, with a ship's lantern, and three or four of the men
behind. 'Mr Collins, or whatever's your name, sir,' said he aloud, 'I
believe you've been seen just now at the bowsprit-end, making signals or
something to the shore! You're in arrest at once, sir, and no more about
it!' 'What the deuce!' said I, my blood up, and pulling out a pair of
pocket-pistols I had had in the boat, 'let me see the man to----' At the
moment a blow of a handspike from near the mast laid me senseless on the
deck, and I knew nothing more.--But I see 'tis too far gone in the night
to carry out the yarn, ladies!"



CHAPTER XVII


"Well, ma'am," resumed the commander, "I came to myself again at last,
but when, how, or where, I really did not know, nor even what had been
the matter with me; except that I lay on my back upon something or
other softer than the planks, my head aching like to split, and so
stupid, I couldn't take the trouble to choose amongst the strange
notions that came creeping over me. 'Twas pitch-dark, too, and choking
hot. The sole wish I had was for a drop of water; but there I stuck in
the same helpless plight, more like a nightmare than aught else; and as
for _time_, if it went by what I felt, why, I might have lain, then and
before, long enough for one of the Seven Sleepers. First one fancy, and
then another, came looming up from over my brain, like a sail on the
horizon, till my head was full of it. That ugly rascal's story got hold
of me, and I thought I was stowed away below in some abominable slaver;
then I was the sick captain lying in my cot dreaming, with all as still
and dark as death. As my wits cleared, however, I began to hear plenty
of sounds, as it were, buzzing and rustling and booming in my very ears,
then far away again. Confused though I was, a horrid idea struck me as I
tried to listen--that Finch and his understrappers had put me ashore in
the woods or handed me over to some of those villainous blacks with the
filed teeth; and the _Seringapatam_ must be gone, Heaven knew how long!

"Suddenly, as if to clinch my notion, I started for a moment at the loud
cry of a bell-bird, as I thought at first; but, the next instant, a sort
of a thick crust seemed to clear off my hearing, and I knew it was 'two
bells' going on deck, so that I was still on board; after which a
regular bustle got up of a sudden overhead. I heard people running up
the nearest ladder from below; cadets shouting and clattering,
apparently with muskets and cutlasses; the creak of the davit-blocks
letting down the boats, and the chief officer's voice alongside. What
with my broken head, though, and the want of air and water, I felt too
sick to give them a thought. It wasn't long, either, before the whole
Indiaman seemed to be as quiet as a church, except one heavy pair of
feet on the quarter-deck above; then that stopped as well, and I heard
nothing but the dull sound of the tide through her thick outer-timbers,
gurgling up and poppling along, like to make me mad for thirst. I put up
my hand to my head, and found my hair on one side all sticky, and
covered with cockroaches; but though the very touch of their bristly
feelers made my blood creep, and the wretches began to dig with their
pincers into the wound, I was too weak to keep brushing them away as
fast as they swarmed about it.

"It must have been rather some sort of swoon than a doze that I woke out
of again, when I heard a man's voice not far off, through the stillness
of the 'tween-decks, reading aloud, which I soon made out to be Mr
Knowles's, the missionary's; and, from the key of it, it was evidently
the Bible he was reading. In a little while he gave up, and another
voice came in, that I knew still better. It was Violet Hyde's--low
enough, but so clear at times, that it seemed to come into the dark
where I lay half-senseless, and afterwards I could even call back some
of the very words; then it came to a stand, and I heard her two or three
times apparently answering someone I couldn't hear. All at once, the
missionary struck up the first note of a psalm-tune, and her lovely
voice slid into it, till there was nothing in the whole ship, as it
were, but _that_--singing the old Evening Hymn--alone--such music, I
thought, never was on sea or land--when down from some opening above,
out of heaven, you might have fancied, fell a chorus like the sound of
angels and cherubs joining in at the end, once and again; catching up
the air out of her sweet tongue, and drowning it in a way to ravish
one's soul, till it sank into a hush in which you could hear the
missionary's voice rise, as he prayed aloud, over the whispers of the
ladies and children stealing away from round the skylight--with the
slight creak of the rudder, now and then, in its case abaft, and the
tide bumping and tapping outside, from the deadwood at her counter to
the hollow planking amidships.

"As for me, at first blush I thought it all part of my queer visions,
till somehow or other I began to revive a bit, and felt for the door of
the place they had boxed me up into. However, it was fast enough, and as
soon as I tried to stand upright, something over my head gave me a shove
down again--it being evidently one of the steward's store-rooms abaft of
the cuddy, full of bags and such like lumber, where the best I could do
was to stretch myself on the heap of old canvas again, groaning from
sheer weakness and desperation. Just then I heard a light step coming
close past the door, out of the large cabin, and I gave another groan. A
dress rustled, and the foot started to the other side of the passage.

"'For God's sake open the door!' said I, in a faint voice.
'What--who--is there?' exclaimed Miss Hyde, anxiously; but my mouth was
so dry I couldn't answer her. Next moment she was trying the handle,
though to no purpose; for a little after I caught the sound of her
footsteps hastening off, and once more my senses left me. It couldn't
have been more than a minute or two, however, for I heard the
missionary's voice still praying beside Captain Williamson's cot, when a
gush of air suddenly revived me, and I sat up winking at a glare of
light, in which Violet Hyde's face seemed to be hovering brighter than
the lamp she had in her two hands, as she stood and gazed at me between
wonder and dismay; while the steward held the door only half open behind
her, peeping in at me with one eye like a fellow watching a hyena in a
cage. 'Miss!--miss!' said he, trying to shove the door to again, 'take
care--he's a pirate, ma'am, he is! The chief officer'll blow me up for
it, your ladyship!' 'Mr Westwood!' exclaimed she, pushing it wide in
spite of him, 'what--what is this!--you are all over blood, Mr Westwood!
Oh, are you wounded?--what can be--run, run for something,' said she to
the steward--'where is the surgeon?' 'The doctor's gone with the rest of
'em, miss,' said he. With this I took hold of something to scramble up,
bringing down a bag of cabin-biscuit over me, and got on my legs in the
midst of the dust; but grim enough I must have looked, with my face like
a North American Indian's, and the cockroaches sticking in my hair, as I
stumbled out of the corner. The little Cockney of a steward seemed to
think me dangerous, for all I saw of him next moment was his striped
gingham jacket vanishing round a bulkhead aft. 'Oh,' stammered I,
leaning against the doorpost, 'it's--it's nothing, after all--only--a
little water!' The truth was, my brain felt so confused still, that I
really was not quite sure how the case stood--whether I hadn't in fact
bowsed up my jib too taut that night, and tumbled on my head, or kicked
up some row or other; so I suppose I must have looked rather ashamed,
which the young lady appeared to notice, by the expression of her face
as she moved towards the cuddy, and slipped quietly through one of the
folding-doors. 'Hush!' said she, gravely, holding up her finger, as she
came out again and closed it, carrying a couple of decanters and a
glass; 'poor Captain Williamson seems asleep--he was removed there this
evening for air.' As I drank one tumbler of water after another, I
fancied the young lady watched me curiously; however, I had scarce
quenched my thirst when my own ideas got clear enough, as well as my
tongue, to give an offhand account of what had happened. Violet Hyde
started, and her voice faltered, as she said, 'Then--then you must have
been shut up here all day--oh, how cruel of them! so hot, too! Oh, what
a wonder you were not actually----' 'All day!' said I--'what day is it,
then, Miss Hyde?' 'It is Sunday evening!' answered she, the tears
rushing somehow or other into her eyes. 'Oh, how glad I am that I
happened to pass! But your head--what a dreadful wound you must have
got, Mr Westwood!' continued she; 'something must be done to it,
_indeed_!'

"What the sweet young creature hesitated and blushed about for the first
time, I never guessed; but I can't help thinking that anything short of
an angel would have laughed at the ridiculous figure I must have cut,
with powdered biscuit added to the blood, the hair, and the
cockroaches--although my worthy friend's handspike from behind the
foremast had laid the bone bare, so that the bleeding saved it from a
lump. I hardly know how it came about, but, five minutes after, there I
was sitting on the planks of the 'tween-decks, while the charming girl
herself stooped over me with a basin in one hand and a sponge in the
other--the muslin sleeves tucked half up off her two round white arms,
as she began to wash the blood carefully off the place. I couldn't stand
it a minute, however. To feel her fairy fingers soiling themselves in
such dirty work, for such a fellow as me, Ned Collins, made me shiver
all over; so bolt upright I started, carrying away the sponge in the
neck of my coat, and squeezing a teacupful of water down my back at
every wriggle--while my lovely sick-nurse stood with one pretty little
wrist out, betwixt alarm lest she had hurt me, and surprise at my
life-like condition. After giving my face a wipe, however, and
swallowing a glass or two of wine, with some of the biscuit I had
knocked down, I felt wonderfully well, except for an ache at the top of
my head. The next thing that occurred to me, of course, was to have my
friend the mate made aware of his mistake; but as for the curious
quietness of the Indiaman at that hour, even of a Sunday evening, I
couldn't understand it, and I looked for a cap to go on deck with
immediately. The young lady seemed to be looking up the after-hatchway,
and listening, I thought, and the lady passengers could be heard talking
about the poop; but when Violet Hyde turned round, and our eyes met
again, I caught an anxious expression in them that puzzled me. 'Do you
think it will be long before we shall hear them?' said she, next moment.
'Who?--whom?' asked I, hastily. 'Oh!' said she, starting,'you could not
have known they had gone, Mr Westwood. Tell me, Mr Westwood,' said she,
coming nearer to me, putting her hand lightly on my arm, and glancing
into my face, 'tell me, did you not know that that vessel was in the
river?' 'Vessel, Miss Hyde?' I said, looking at her steadily in turn.
'It's all one riddle to me--what vessel do you mean, madam?' 'The--the
pirate!' exclaimed she, breathlessly; and turning towards the hatchway
again, while I stood eyeing her stupidly, all abroad, so to speak. 'For
heaven's sake, tell me what you mean, Miss Hyde!' said I, putting my
hand to my head. 'Ah, but you look so white--you are not well yet, sir,'
said she, softly. 'To think how all the passengers were amused, and even
papa too, when they heard this morning of your being arrested as
a--a----But nobody could know you were so hurt, Mr Westwood. Then when
some of the sailors came back, and said they had seen the French ship in
disguise----' 'By Jupiter! the _brig_ they meant?' I broke out. 'Then,
good heavens! they must have painted her lead-colour, and turned her
back into a schooner! _That_ was she, for a thousand!' 'And, you know,
yesterday morning, sir,' continued the young lady, '_you_ told me you
knew our friends were there, instead of being lost, as we thought!'

"'Yes, yes!' said I, 'there must be some bad scheme at the bottom; but
by morning we'll have a slap at them, for certain. For my part I
feel----' 'Why,' said Miss Hyde, turning anxiously to me, 'almost
everybody in the ship has gone _already_. Whenever the truth was
discovered, there was such a confusion amongst the gentlemen and the
officers that they could not think of anything else; and, as soon as the
sun had set, they all crowded into the boats and went away together, to
surprise the pirates in the dark.' 'Good God!' exclaimed I, in sheer
amazement, and making toward the hatchway. 'Miss Hyde! _do_ you say
so!--How many were there then, ma'am?' I asked. 'Oh,' said she, quickly,
'I am so glad there was such a number--five boats quite full, I believe.
Not a single gentleman would stay, except little Tommy's father, who is
upstairs--and papa was one of the first to get down into a boat with his
rifle. But do you not think,' added she, with somewhat of a tremble in
her voice, 'do you not think the people in the French ship will yield,
or at least give our friends up?'

"'I hope to goodness they may!' said I, turning away from the eagerness
those soft eyes of hers glittered with, as she leant out before the
faint glimmer through the cuddy-door, the light of the lamp in her hand
shining bright over her hair and her shoulders; while the gloomy
stillness of the whole ship, below, made me think of the voice that had
hailed us through the lagoon, and the same man's face--as I had no doubt
now it was--when I saw it aboard the brig at sea, before the
thunder-squall came on. I almost fancied I saw Finch and _him_ meeting
at the present moment, with the mate's awkward look as the Frenchman's
sword flashed across him--my fingers gripped together for the handle of
a cutlass, to go tumbling up amongst the men over the schooner's
bulwarks in the creek--when all at once another notion darted into my
head, to remind me where we were in the meantime; I ran to the companion
and sprang up the stair on to the quarter-deck.

"It was a hot, still night; but the change from the closeness below to
the deck seemed to make quite a new man of one in an instant. I jumped
on the nearest carronade-slide, and looked round to see how the land
lay, which at first was difficult enough to do. They had got the
Indiaman fair afloat again, I found, a little more off the shore, and
farther down--the starboard gun I stood upon being, as I guessed by the
shape of the trees, about opposite the mud fort, which Finch had
probably been peppering at as he threatened, since the port was open,
and two or three shot lying in the scuppers beside it. 'Twas somewhere
nigh-hand eight o'clock of the evening, I think, and quite black on the
nearest bank--you couldn't even make out the top of the woods against
the sky; but another cable-length would have served to open the lower
reach of the river, where it came brimming up full round the point with
the night flow, sending a floating sort of a glimmer along in the dusk
over against us. One could even pitch upon a line where it ran side by
side with the heavy shadow that took in the ship, going across to the
swampy-looking shore off our larboard side, and blackening away
up-stream, while the dim bubbles and eddies swept out of the one into
the other. I could just catch the low, deep roar of the sea more than a
mile off, muffled by the trees and mangroves on both sides between it
and us; and, the tide having come almost to a standstill, you heard the
ripple against her bows get gentler and gentler, with a weak plash here
and there in the dark among the grass and sedge alongshore, which seemed
to wake up a chirping mutter in the bushes--and at times you'd have
thought something came wading out from the edge; till in a few minutes
both river and forest had sunk, as it were, into a sleep. The quieter
they got, however, the more uneasy I began to feel at the state I saw
things in upon deck; absolutely not a soul to be seen from wheel to
bowsprit, except one man walking back and forward by himself on the
forecastle, and giving a look now and then carefully enough over at the
cable; Mr Brown being on the poop with his family and the knot of
ladies, talking under their breath; while the old Scotch mate could be
seen through the cabin skylight, leaning his bald crown over his two
hands, under the lamp near the captain's cot, to listen to the
missionary, as he sat gravely whispering and looking at him through his
spectacles.

"For my part, I hadn't a doubt but the ship had been watched from shore
all along; and there was no saying at present _who_ might be keeping an
eye upon her, even if this affair of the French brig weren't to catch us
in some deep trick or other. If it were really she, and lying where we
caught a glimpse of her the day before, 'twould take three or four
hours, at night, even to pull there and back again; but as for her being
an ordinary pirate, I had a strong notion she was no such thing, and the
stranger I thought the whole matter throughout.

"As I peered over the bulwarks into the thick of the tall jungle, the
showers of fireflies came here and there flickering out from under the
big leaves, lighting up the green of them for a moment, and dancing
across a black mouth in the bank nearest us, like emerald sparks. By
this time, too, the starlight was growing large out over the dusk, till
the whole height of the sky had heaved itself above our upper spars,
clear as crystal, and sprinkled full of soft silver points, that
gathered and got brighter as you looked. One could see the whole breadth
of the river floating slowly between, with lazy brown swirls of current
twisting and curling round the point, and the eddies rising in the
middle, to where the water glistened among the dark wet mangrove stems,
or some oily swell near the edge went lipping in with the gleam of a
star lengthened upon it. Hot and close though the night still was, while
the rank smell of the mud came at times into our nostrils from one side,
and of growing leaves from the other, yet it was pleasant enough after
being shut up for ever so many hours in a dark hole below.

"Neither did I think there was any fear of trouble from the natives
while this lasted; but the haze that seemed to be oozing out over the
mass of woods, with now and then a cool breath of air from up-river,
showed what a fog we might expect as soon as the land-wind began to blow
strong from inland. Sometimes I fancied I heard cries in the distance
among the woods, over the croaking of the frogs which seemed to get up
as one listened; then again I could make out the hollow booming of the
African tree-drum, with a chorus of horns and savage-like shouts,
apparently filling up every break in the hum that rose off the
ground--far enough away, however, to satisfy me the blacks were only
making merry before turning in.

"As for Tom Westwood, he had plainly gone with the boats, clerical
though he was, which didn't go to set my mind greatly at rest, knowing
him to be one of your slap-dash fellows when roused; and, either way, it
couldn't do much good to a man hailing for a parson to be particularly
active on boat-service. But you may easily conceive what a pitch one's
anxiety for the upshot rose to, at every whisper and hush of the woods,
and every glimmer of the water far astern, where the upper reach could
just be seen brimming pale out of the shadow, against a thick fringe of
misty cane-clumps, topped with tall palms and cocoas--their stems
wavering in the thin haze, and their dark crowns seemingly floating off
above it like heads coming away from the bodies, as the heavy blue
land-fog began to gather like smoke away behind.

"The flow of tide having of course set the Indiaman's stern up-stream,
the ladies on the poop could be seen clustered across the taffrail, with
the careful married gentleman in the middle of them, more dignified than
ordinary, as they one and all strained their eyes into the dusk before
them; when one of the men came down the poop-stairs behind me, and, on
turning, I saw to my surprise that it was Jacobs, he being still more
astonished to see me on deck. I soon found, to my great relief too,
that, what with the anchor-watch and some lads, there were still seven
or eight of the crew aboard, whom I advised him to get on deck and make
them keep a bright look-out--more especially as he was one of the
boatswain's mates, and had charge of the watch at the moment; for, to
tell the truth, seriously speaking, I had more real fear, all along, of
some attack from the negroes and Don José, than of the French craft they
_would_ fancy a pirate, whatever might be her reason for stowing away
Rollock and his companions--although I told Jacobs I had no doubt now
but it _was_ actually she. 'Ay, ay, sir,' said Jacobs in a low voice,
giving his trousers an uneasy hitch up, 'not a doubt on it, Mr Collins.
Black Harry and his mates clapped eyes on her this forenoon, when they
went up for water--so they said, anyway!' 'What, Bob?' said I,
starting--'was it _that_ scoundrel? Did they not see her then?' 'Well,
sir,' replied Jacobs, 'as I gather, 'twas rather one of her boats they
fell ath'art of. You'll mind Harry was in the cutter that time you
boarded the brig at sea, Mr Collins, a week or two 'gone--so, you see,
he knowed one or two o' the crew at once; and in course, sir, comin'
across one another hereaway, they'd make shift to have a talk, but none
on 'em ever guessed about our passengers bein' aboard of her, till----'
'Did the fellow himself think they were pirates, then?' asked I, more
anxiously than before--a shivering dread of I didn't know what beginning
to creep on me, as I turned suddenly round to eye the river glooming
away up from the starlight, through into the blue heaps of hazy forest.

'Why, sir,' answered Jacobs hastily, 'he's a desperate sort, is that
'ere Foster, if it was only what I've heard him _say_, swinging sound
asleep in 's hammock. I wouldn't tell as much otherways; but I tell ye
what it is, sir, my mind misgived me o' this here overnight
boat-business! It's my sober notion, Leftenant Collins,' gravely added
he, seeing I still looked anxiously to him--'it's my notion, if that
craft's aught of a pirate, Harry Foster and more nor half of his watch
'ud think no more o' joining her, on a chance, than _one_ on 'em did o'
taking you that clip with a handspike this morning, sir! As for this
here brig, Master Ned, your honour,' continued he, 'what did she do,
but, to my fancy, she's keeped a eye on us ever since we first fell foul
of her?'

"'Jacobs! Jacobs!' I broke out directly, 'get every hand up on the
foc'sle at once, with everything like arms you can find--for God's sake
look sharp, and then bear a hand here to have the carronades fore and
aft run in, and stuffed full of some old iron or other, as we can't have
grape!' Hurried as it was, I saw the whole thing--a regular deep-laid
plot it seemed, too--and the first time I had seen light as to what the
strange brig could be after. Here had she dodged us, no doubt, for
weeks; got hold of our friends by accident, which would give her a clue
how to find us anywhere during the rest of our voyage, as we were too
strong-handed for her _then_. 'Twas very likely they thought we should
suspect something, and follow wherever they could manage to lure the
Indiaman--or else possibly they had run into the river the very same day
we did, and perhaps seen us out of the haze which hid the land from us
that morning; and _now_, if they had studied it for years, they couldn't
have contrived a cleverer trap than this that Finch and the passengers
had run their heads into, with more than a dozen mutinous dogs, at
least, in their company. A prize like an East-Indiaman was worth taking
some trouble about, of course; while such villains as Foster and his
messmates, I knew, would fancy a Bengal nabob carried untold treasures
with him, and it was plain to me they had something like an
understanding with the stranger's crew. 'Ay, ay, sir,' said Jacobs, in
answer to me; 'hows'ever, the first mate left word with Mr Macleod he'd
send up a rocket and a blue-light in case o' a good success, or else
come back with the boats.' 'Heaven help them, Jacobs!' said I, taking a
hasty turn or two, 'for _we_ can't. But there _is_ something more horrid
in the matter than I fancied--only all we can do is to look to ourselves
and the ship! Harkye, though, Bob,' added I, following him; 'bring up
the beef-kid, will ye? I feel terribly sharp-set, notwithstanding.'

"I came back and looked from the quarter-deck down the skylight, where
the second mate still sat with his elbows on the table, apparently
listening to the missionary; when the good man suddenly took off his
spectacles and peered under Macleod's broad fists, as an undeniable
snore broke out between them; then he glanced toward the captain, who
seemed dozing in his cot, raised his mild eyes for a moment through the
opening up to the blue starry sky swimming out above, put on his
spectacles again, and taking up the Bible, he leant back in his chair to
read, as if there were neither pirates, savages, nor aught a man need
dread, in the world.

"'Strange!' I thought. 'Yet, after all isn't there a soul below there,
ere a few hours, will go higher aloft than the smallest star that
twinkles over the main-truck yonder? And who knows how many of us
may----' However, I saw Jacobs hurrying aft again, and the rest coming
up out of the fore-peak; so hard to work we set for the best part of an
hour, which it took us to get the guns on deck made serviceable, and to
find powder enough. Not a cutlass or pistol was left on board, so we had
only two or three axes and pikes, with a rusty musket or two, and
handspikes, certainly, to spare.

"As soon as we had taken breath, 'Now, Jacobs, my man,' said I, 'send
out the boys to loose the jibs and fore-topsail--let's hoist the yard,
too, with the sail clued up--all ready for slipping her cable at five
minutes' warning! It can't do any harm--and I've no more doubt,' said I,
'than if I saw it, we shall have that schooner coming down with the ebb
upon us!' 'Tide'll turn in little better nor an hour, sir,' said Jacobs,
when we had got this quietly done. 'And by that time the breeze will be
blowing with it,' said I, 'bringing down the fog too, however--but keep
a bright look-out aloft for the signal, Jacobs! If you see _it_, or the
boats, good and well. But I tell you what it is, Jacobs,' added I,
firmly, 'should it be the schooner instead, that instant we must cut and
run for it! I shall carry the ship out to sea, if I can, as I brought
her in--where we may have a better chance with her in the morning, or
get clear off, perhaps!'

"There being no more we could do, and having instructed Jacobs to go
down and rouse Mr Macleod himself if he saw the signal, I kept stealing
back and forward on one side of the quarter-deck alone. The river was
still as a mill-pond, except where it trembled in long streaky gleams
from the sky, else I should at once have slipped cable and begun to go
down, leaving the boats to come after us, if they did come, as they best
could. There wasn't a breath of air yet, either, save what seemed now
and then to waft out of the thick woods, and to bring the whole
whispering buzz of them stifled together along the face of the water,
with the heavy scent of the aloes and trailers on the bank, meeting the
warm steam that crept across from the mangroves on the opposite shore. A
hundred notions ran through my head, as I walked, of what might happen:
whether the boats would miss the schooner altogether, and she drop down
upon us in the meantime, either by the creek or the river--or whether
Foster and his crew of Wapping blackguards would carry out what I'd no
doubt they had at heart.

"But at any rate, as for a set of passengers and merchant sailors
catching an armed schooner asleep, with one like that Frenchman in her,
I had his fierce dark face too much before me whenever I thought of him
to fancy the thing for a moment. That _that_ man was in command of the
stranger craft, and had some scheme in hand he would stir heaven and
earth to carry out, unless you ground his head to powder, was an idea
that came shivering sharp into me as I kept watching the dark mouth of
the creek astern, and the glimmering reach beyond--looking almost to see
the schooner's bowsprit shoot out of one of them, tide or wind though
there was none. Frigate to frigate in a breeze, in fact, I should have
minded my weather-gage pretty cautiously with _him_, if a seaman he was;
but if he were bent on having the old _Seringapatam_ at present, by
heaven! what I feared was worse than either plunder or walking the
plank--seeing there was a prize the judge had left on board, for which I
felt a free-cruising captain would give all the treasures that fellows
like Foster might think an Indian nabob had in his portmanteau.

"In fact, I saw Violet Hyde moving restlessly, two or three times, near
the break of the poop, as she watched the dim opening astern, while her
lady's maid kept close behind her, afraid to stay below; and waiting,
idle as I was, I almost began for the time to forget everything else
that might be going on, at thought of _her_ being only a few feet off,
with no one by but the servant-maid. The touch of her soft hand about
my head an hour ago came back on me, and the drowsy creeping kind of
hush of the tropical night seemed to bewilder my senses at every rustle
of her dress--I shan't even deny that the notion seized me for
half-a-minute, were the schooner to make prisoners of the boats' crews,
how I might carry the Indiaman out to sea, and go Lord knows where with
her. Then the idea of defending her, and saving her, made one wild with
excitement--I felt as if I had the strength of twenty in me, almost
longing to see the pirates' faces, especially the dark Frenchman's, and
to wait till they came close on, when we could let drive into them,
expecting to find us helpless. I made up my mind that Mr Brown there,
and the missionary too, should work at a gun as soon as they were
wanted--when, trip, trip, I heard her footstep coming down the
poop-stair behind me, and stood trembling and tingling to my very
finger-ends.

"'Mr Westwood,' said her low sweet voice, and I turned round. 'Yes,
madam,' I answered, gulping down my breath. 'Have you heard--do you see
anything?' 'They've scarce had time yet,' said I; 'of course the more
cautious they are the better!' 'Oh!' continued she, her hands clasping
together, and the shawl falling half off her head to one shoulder--'oh,
if there should really be bloodshed at this moment--the river looks so
fearfully gloomy and silent! How is it possible to bear this suspense
any longer, sir? If we could _only_ think they were not pirates after
all!' 'Miss Hyde,' replied I seriously, as she seemed to wish me to
speak, 'I can't have any doubt in my own mind what they are!' 'How!
_what?_ for mercy's sake!' exclaimed she, gazing earnestly at me. 'You
musn't suppose all pirates to be bloody murdering ruffians, Miss Hyde,'
said I hastily. 'There's one man belonging to that craft yonder, _I'm_
sure, if he saw--if he stood where I stand just now, so near an
angel----' The young lady shrank back with a startled look; but I wasn't
master of myself longer, and out I broke: 'For God's sake forgive me,
but I--I'd serve you like a slave--_dearest_ Miss Hyde. I'll stand up to
the last drop of my blood before----' 'Mr West--wood!' was the answer,
hanging betwixt surprise and terror. But I burst out with, 'Confound
that name!--my name is _not_ Westwood, madam, and I'm no relation at all
to the gentleman in India. I never said so, but your father
mistook----' 'Who then--what are you--what design have you?' was her
broken question; and she put one hand on the bulwarks as if for support,
looking round from me to the woods, the river, and back to the ship and
me again, so pale and terrified-like, that I could have cursed myself
for my stupidity.

"'Good heaven, Miss Hyde!' said I, lowering my voice, 'I do believe you
take _me_ for one of the stranger's crew?' 'No--no!' faltered Violet;
'I--I--but the suspicions I heard to-day--you--you frightened me, sir!'
'Surely,' said I, ready to kneel at her feet, '_you_ must have known the
truth of the matter, Miss Hyde. Why, here have I come afloat at a day's
warning, bound for the East Indies--and all because I saw _you_ that
evening at the garden-door! Oh, for kindness' sake, Miss Hyde, pardon my
boldness--but I couldn't let slip the only chance of telling you--it
took me unawares, in fact! I'm not such a fool as to fancy that such a
fellow as I can have the least hope in the world; but--but----' She
stood quite still, not uttering a word, with her face turned from me,
but I could notice the colour was all come back to her cheek, and
more--and saw the shining falls of her loose hair heaving on the bosom
of her white muslin dress, as it rose and fell gently. I leant over the
bulwarks and ventured to look half-round; when, oh heavens! how did my
heart quicken in me to see the least bit of a smile come over her lips,
though her eyes were dropped toward the gun close by. I can't say what I
might have been bold enough to do, in the whirl of the moment--when
suddenly she started, drew the shawl up from her shoulders again, and
seemed to recollect the whole case of the boats with a shudder, as she
glanced wildly again up the reach astern of us, bringing me to myself,
too, at the same time; and I stood looking with her, intent to mark the
first turn of the tide.



CHAPTER XVIII


"The night was warm enough, however, in all conscience; and, if one had
been fit to eye it calmly, a glorious scene to see was the sky that rose
above our heads, glowing dark as indigo-blue through the rigging aloft,
as the ship's tall spars stood up into it, from one rope-ladder to
another; her main-truck like a white button against the midmost depth,
with every line running distinct to its place across knots of stars, and
single bright ones piercing sharp through the black squares of the
shrouds; while all round from her it widened away, glittering and
seething with lights, that brought the woods looming out bigger and
blacker along the nearest shore, making the dirty brown river look
dirtier and drearier than before, as the steam spread over the close
mangrove bank on the other side, and began to creep low out upon the
water like fleeces of wool, with the stars here and there sparkling from
the far horizon through the straggling fringe of cocoas beyond, and the
huge bloated baobabs that twisted up out of the tall guinea-grass, as if
their roots were in the air. The next glance I caught from Violet Hyde
showed nothing but the distress she was in; and I walked forward to hail
Jacobs on the fore-to'-gallant-yard, asking if he saw the signal yet.
'No, no, sir,' answered he, 'not a sign on it up to this time.'

"So back again I went, gloomy enough myself, but trying to keep up my
countenance, and saying I was sure we should see the boats come down
with the tide when it turned.

"'Have you noticed the stars aloft, Miss Hyde?' said I, in a cheerful
way, to take off her thoughts till the upshot came; 'they never saw
these in Europe, nor a night like this!' She looked up, and for a moment
or two the soft blue dark of the hollow seemed to sweep round both of
us, catching you up into it; the Milky Way falling over to westward,
like a track astern of the great star-ship down in the south; and
Orion's figure to be made out overhead, with the belt about him,
stretching off west out of the Milky Way--the Serpent streaming far up
to his foot; then Magellan's two shining bits of cloud, and the dim one,
seaward. There were patches to be seen blacker than ink, too, where you
seemed to look _through_ the sky, while every now and then a meteor shot
far across it and fell, leaving a trail like a silver thread. 'Twas
terrible, though, to see up into it, far away as they stood, and as
steady as if we weren't there, when heaven only knew _what_ might come
down river next half-hour. I felt her shoulder touch me as she leant
back--the starlight glistening in her blue eyes, and nothing but it
between her lovely young face and the stars; and I don't know how, but
it appears to me I thought during that half-minute as I never thought
before, and as if I looked off the other side of the world for the first
time--yet you couldn't expect a fellow's brain to breed such notions in
a merchantman's forecastle, or a frigate's steerage or gun-room, as it
did beside an Indiaman's bulwarks, entering for a moment or two into the
very feelings of a creature like the judge's daughter, when her warm
breath almost lighted on his cheek!

"Next minute I noticed over my shoulder, low down in the deep blue swell
of the south, where the five bright stars of the Southern Cross were
gleaming nearly upright over the top of a cocoa-clump on the opposite
bank, for all the world like some diamond ornament; and I pointed it out
to her, though I knew by the bearings of it how far the night was gone
toward the middle. Its top and bottom stars flashed out of the pure face
of heaven like jewels, each fit to buy the Great Mogul ten times over.
The dark fringes of her two eyes showed brown over the light in them,
while it looked like the hearts in violet flowers, as she turned. 'At
sea,' said I, 'we mids used to know by it when eight-bells would come,
to let us go below and turn in. Soon after you lose sight of the
Pole-star you rise the Southern Cross--and the men had a notion it was a
brooch the Virgin Mary lost from her breast, in the daylight, when she
went up to heaven! 'Twas her son gave it her, they fancied, but 'twas
always to be _found_ in the dark--though, meanwhile, 'tis a sign to the
Flying Dutchman, as he tries to weather the Cape, that he'll be forgiven
at the day of judgment--so that's the reason it has the power of showing
what's o'clock until _then_, and why the Cape is the Cape of Good Hope!'
'Yes, yes!' said she; 'in Paul and Virginia, I remember, when they were
so unwilling to part, _it_----' But she stopped with a blush, as her eye
met mine; and we were both so confused that, before I knew, I found
myself beginning to stammer out all manner of tender words, I daresay,
and to whisper her first name near her ear, she scarce seeming to mark
the difference--in fact _one_ bewildered sort of look was all she gave
me at the moment, as if she were listening more to the hum rising out of
the woods than to me.

"Once or twice the still shine of the lamp up through the open
skylight-frame drew my eye to it in spite of me--it was the only light
burning in the ship, and you saw the gleam of it from the starboard
port-window of the cuddy, drawn in as it was for air, thrown on the
dusky water, not many fathoms, apparently, off the jungly bank nearest
the ship. I can't tell you how, but somehow or other the appearance of
it there, like a yellow break in the misty shadow, letting one see the
very froth floating over it, and the muddy tint of the river on its
edges--with the hush below us in the cabin--awed me more than aught
besides; and whether it was from mixing the thing with what happened
afterwards, or how--perhaps the missionary moved inside--but when I
noticed the gleam on the water quiver and darken for a moment, then
shine out again, I felt I _knew_ it was then the captain's spirit passed
away. I slipped with a thrill of my blood to the skylight, and saw
Macleod still asleep, the missionary settling his spectacles on his nose
to read again, as if _he_ had looked up too when I did; while the cot
and bedclothes were hanging white in the shade as before, except that
the knees were drawn up, and the head turned away. He might be dozing,
though it came into my head I had heard the captain say he should last
till the _turn of the tide_; and in fact all the sick men I ever knew
die, unless there was something uncommon, died as the ebb came on. As I
stepped back to the young lady's side, I could mark the Southern Cross
by the after-edge of the mainmast, sparkling fairly upright above the
cocoa-nut trees, and Orion high up nor'-westward seemed farther away--it
was midnight. The thought flashed through me how something in the sky
could draw up a man's soul, as the shot at his hammock-foot would sink
his body down deep through blue water at sea--but the first light plash
of the ebb alongside brought me back to the case in hand, and I gave
Jacobs a quiet sign to look out sharp aloft.

"'Hark!' whispered Violet Hyde, suddenly, glancing sideways to me with
her ear eagerly toward the shore, and putting back her hair with one
hand to listen--'what is _that_?' I thought at first I could see a stir
along the thick aloe-bushes, and make out the rustle of leaves; but the
land-breeze was sighing in puffs through them already, and the fog
beginning to creep out from over the bank, as if to meet the muddy
stream from the other side; till next minute I heard what she meant,
like wild cries from human creatures half choked, or out of breath,
sounding along deep in the woods; then free out it rose in a clear
chorus of savage screams and yells, and then seemed smothered up again.
'Twas only a pack of jackals hunting from thick bush to opening, but
Violet pressed closer to me as the devilish noise drew nearer the river;
and suddenly my hand met hers--to say what I felt, passes me--but the
very next moment I had it fast clasped in my own, though I hadn't time
enough to say what the thing was, before the entire pack of throats
seemed to break out right upon the bank a little higher up than the
ship, barking and yelping like the very hounds of Satan. ''Tis only the
chase has taken to the water!' continued I, in a low voice, as the
infernal uproar stopped at once.

"However, _then_, the sweet girl was trembling like a leaf; and, by
Jove! madam, take it as you will, the man who wouldn't have had one arm
round her before that, could have been no sailor--that's all. 'For God's
sake, dear, dear Miss Hyde,' whispered I--'dearest Violet, let me take
you under shelter--we may have dangerous work before long!'

"I started up from the bulwarks, in fact, for the river by this time was
all aplash alongshore in the haze, and under the ship's bends, beginning
to run past her side seaward, as the branches and loose stuff came
floating out with the current off a point; the sedge and bulrushes
opposite us moaning and clattering, as the breeze rushed through them,
bringing the fog rolling down stream. The mist was closing overhead from
both sides already, though the stars sparkled through the middle yet;
and I knew the moon must be rising, fit to show us anything that came
out of the upper reach. 'No--no!' faltered out Violet, in tears, as she
slid herself quickly out of my hold, drawing the shawl over her with a
shudder; 'I cannot go inside till we see them come back--my dear, dear
father, I must see that he is safe!' 'By heaven! though,' exclaimed I,
jumping upon the carronade to look out, 'those brutes are swimming after
the deer, and the stream is bringing them down on our stern!' The
Indiaman was swinging her stern down to the ebb, and through the dusk I
fancied I just saw their black heads tipping here and there out of the
water, amongst the driftwood and froth, where the light from the cabin
port swung slowly into the mist, with the ship. However, they went past;
and she hadn't got her bow fair to the current, when a man from the bow
sung out, 'Hurrah! here's the boats now!'

"'Where, where?' said I, springing forward to the fore-chains, while the
young lady stood as if her life hung on the next word. 'There, sir,
right ahead almost as she swings,' said the sailor; and thick as the
blue fog was close to us, the cream-coloured haze filling up the reach
of the river beyond, was lighting up like white gauze with the moon, in
which I saw two or three black objects come dropping out as if from the
creek, their oar-blades flashing in it. But I thought they crowded
together awkwardly, like maimed craft, and the weight seemed to keep
them down, unless, as I hoped, they were waiting for the others. 'No,
no, Mr Collins!' whispered Jacobs, suddenly sliding down a topmast
backstay to my side, 'they're canoes, sir!' 'By the Lord! so they are,'
said I, seeing a flourish of the paddles that betrayed them. 'They're
hanging on yet, though, to catch us napping--keep cool, Bob, my man,'
continued I, for my spirits rose, to find my fears mistaken as yet about
our boats. 'But the cable--the cable!' added I hastily--'by George,
they'll try to cut it, as sure as fate! Ready there--don't fire a shot
till they're close--nothing but stupid nigger heathens after all, my
lads! Quick, a couple of you,' said I, 'bowse up the jib at once, and
down fore-topsail sheets--brace the yard sharp up, to cast her head down
if they do cut! If we go aground, Jacobs, we're gone!'

"'Twas vain to think of hindering them, few as we were, and scarce able
to see what they did for the fog; but the land-breeze already blew
pretty fresh, and the ebb rushing on her bows made the Indiaman heave to
it as her jib rose from the boom. I had no time to stand upon
ceremony--to think of the pilotage again--with the savages, the narrow
channel in the dusk, and the breakers together, was quite enough.

"In the very nick of such a breathless moment, I had just fancied I
caught the stroke of their paddles coming on--when all at once, out of
the open cabin-skylight aft, rose a sound, the like of which I never
heard in my life--between a yell and a cry; but the mouth of the
skylight seemed to send it up higher than the mast-heads, loud and
long, into the slit of starlight between the fog. For a single second
the marrow curdled in my bones, and I lost all thought even of the
canoes ahead, 'twas so unearthly; till, catching a glimpse of Violet's
white figure crouching in terror to the round-house door, I rushed aft,
and looked down at the cuddy. It was all black as midnight below, the
stink of the swinging lamp coming out; but by the horrible tumbling,
staggering, struggling sound inside, you'd have thought it full of some
awful thing, doing God knows what in the place--then a thump and a
groan. I scarce believe I could have mustered heart to go down the
companion and see--till next moment the Scotch mate's bare head and his
shoulders came thrusting up out of the stair, wrestling wildly with
three or four pitch-black naked figures--the narrow booby-hatch
hindering them from sticking together to him, except one that leapt out
almost on his back, aiming a fierce stroke with a club at his skull.
Quick as thought, however, my coolness had come back to me, and I just
sent the bullet from the ship's musket I had snatched up fair flash
through his lungs, the blood spouting out of his mouth almost over us,
as he spun round with his club in the air, and fell back--while smash
after smash I brought the stock of my piece down on the crowns of the
others, trying to get on deck too thick together; and Macleod was doing
the same like a man, at the skylight, where they were catching at the
edge of the frame. The shrieks of the ladies came off the poop above;
and as for the men, they were dodging under the forecastle bulwarks as
they fired at the canoes ahead, from the spears and arrows that came
whistling over, and quivering into the planks near me. What else the
fiendish wretches might be doing I didn't know, but I had no sooner
managed to shove the scuttle over the booby-hatch, the second mate
loading as fast as he could, and blazing away down into the skylight
like a perfect devil, lighting up the black faces and sharp teeth of the
savages below at every shot, rushing back, than I felt the Indiaman was
broadside on to the tide and current, sweeping down to open the next
reach with her jib and topsail full to the land-breeze. I sprang back to
seize the wheel, near which Violet Hyde stood cowering with her two
hands over her eyes, when, in the midst of it all, you may fancy my
horror to catch a glimpse of one hideous black stealing round towards
her in the shadow of the round-house, with a hatchet gleaming in one
hand, and the other stretched out to clutch her. 'Twas the work of a
second. I made one leap, and barely caught the blow on my gun-stock, as
he took hold of her dress; then over he and I rolled on the deck, first
one uppermost, then the other, till I found his strength was too much
for me, breathless as I was.

"The fellow had his huge hand round my throat, choking me, and ready to
spring up with the hatchet in his other fist--'twas the mulatto that had
been with the Portuguese--when I saw Violet Hyde dart forward between me
and the stars, throwing her large shawl round his head and arm from
behind him, and holding it tight, her face turned away white as death.
The mulatto loosened his grasp and jumped up, throwing her reeling back
to the door; but I was on my feet as soon as he, twisting his hatchet
from his grip, and sent the edge of it with all my force clean down into
his brain, through cashmere and everything. Ere he had time to pull it
off, he was stretched, breast and knees up, over the carronade-slide at
my feet.

"The dear girl had fainted. I lifted her, and hurried with her to the
sofa in the round-house, my heart swelling toward her in a way no man
can tell, though there was not a moment to stay, for when I reached the
wheel again, a sight broke upon me that showed the fearful danger we
were in. The savages in the cuddy could be heard plunging out of the
port to swim ashore; and though the ebb-tide was taking the ship
apparently clear round the woody turn, she had no sooner opened the wide
reach, where the fog was scattering before the breeze, than we began to
see a stretch of the nearest bank, off our starboard bow, glimmering out
to a huge fire on the edge, that lighted up the thick white haze like
sulphur--throwing a bloody red glow on the eddies in-shore, with two or
three black canoes dipping up and down in them; a crowd of dark naked
negroes rushing round the fire, bringing logs and branches to throw in,
till up it blazed again; the sparks flying into the smoke, the feathery
black jungle sinking back behind, and the banyan branches shooting out
into it, as if they were alive, licking the crimson gleams with their
sharp leaves; while a horrible noise of tree-drums beating and
buffalo-horns blowing floated off to us.

"The wretches seemed to expect we were coming straight in to them, and
they waited for us. And no wonder; for it wasn't till Jacobs came
running aft, to tell the mate and me, that, to our horror, we found the
canoes had got the rest of the cable fastened somehow or other low down
to her cutwater, and were coolly towing us in by it. We could neither
cut it nor dispose of them, as at every shot there were plenty more to
fill places; while the helm was only enough to steer her, had she been
free.

"'Jacobs,' said I, 'for heaven's sake bear a hand with two or three of
these heavy shot in a hammock--let's sling it out to the flying-jibboom
end, and I'll stand by to drop it fair over them--quick!' Three of us
ran out from the bowsprit, with the end of the line, swinging out the
weight and hauling it up, till we were nearly over their heads in the
foggy gleam from the blaze ashore. The cable tautened fair under us as
the blacks gave a stroke ahead together with their paddles, and 'Watch!'
I sung out above them, in a voice that made them huddle all three canoes
in a lump, peering up at us. 'Let go, my lads,' whispered I, and down
went the weight of shot full slap upon them, crash through their
gunwales, leaving no more than the bits, with the woolly heads bobbing
about in the stream. The second mate whirled round the spokes of the
wheel, on deck, and her jib and topsail drawing the breeze right again,
she began to stand out toward the middle once more. I watched the glare
of the fire sinking back into the blue fog, while the hubbub of wild
cries showed that they had taken the alarm, and were pushing off as fast
as possible in their canoes from the bank in chase.

"The next thing I saw, two or three minutes after, was the flash of a
large gun away on our starboard quarter, flaring out in the mist round
the strange schooner herself, as she came swiftly down astern of us,
under her two boom-sails and flying-jib, the froth whitening up from her
forefoot, and she crushing through amongst the canoes, letting drive at
them right and left, flash after flash, and roar after roar--her deck
crowded with men, too, amongst whom I thought I could make out the dark
Frenchman's broad-leafed Manilla hat. However, the wreaths of thick
smoke blew curling from her towards us; and directly after nothing was
to be heard but the ripple under our bows, as we went surging toward
the river's mouth, with the clear plash upon her copper coming nearer.

"Jacobs and I, as well as the other hand, hung over the boom together
for a little to loose the flying-jib, then out of pure weariness, till I
sent Jacobs to take the wheel and steer by my signals; for the Indiaman
had the full force of current and breeze astern of her, carrying her
fast toward the bar, as I guessed; while the second mate let her yaw
dreadfully, from fear of going wrong. As for the schooner, we could make
out her lights through the fog, the wind bringing us the sound of her
cutwater--though probably they couldn't know whereabouts we were; so I
hoped she might perhaps go past us in the dark, if she were actually in
chase of the Indiaman, as I feared.

"However, the moment the cheep of our flying-jib hanks on the stay was
heard as the sail was hoisted, a sharp hail came along the water.
'_Hola!_' sang out the creaking voice of the little French skipper, who
had bamboozled me so at sea. None of us answered, and I ran down the
spar to be ready for what might happen, when '_Hola! où êtes-vous?_'
shouted he again. 'Hullo! the _Seringapatam_, ahoy!' roared our chief
officer himself; to which no sooner had Macleod replied, than we caught
three hearty English cheers, and next minute the schooner's canvas was
looming up from the yellow glimmer of her lanterns a few fathoms on our
starboard quarter--the foam hissing off her sharp bright bows, while she
raced up with us. Everyone of us started at the jovial sound of old
Rollock the planter's voice, shouting, 'All's right, my boys!' as if he
had risen from the dead out of the sea--the schooner slipping easily by,
abreast of our high bulwarks; and the crowd of heads from stem to stern,
English, French, and Kroomen, gliding past below, for all the world like
a dream to most of us, with the light from the lanterns flaring up red
under hats, caps, and tarpaulins, and the black shadow of their figures
and small-arms thrown high in two clusters on the broad glare over her
fore and main boom-sails. 'Have ye actually taken the blackguards, sir?'
hailed the Scotch mate; at which a shout of laughter ran from one end of
her to the other; while one of the cadets seemingly half-drunk, could be
seen staggering aft to the stern as she forged swiftly ahead, just in
order to call out, 'Macleod, my old cock, _comment vous portez-vous_?'
The little French master jumped up on the schooner's taffrail, waving
his hand politely: '_J'aurai l'honneur pour vous conduire en débouchant,
Messieurs!_' shouted he; 'follow de light een my starn!'

"In fact, by this time we were already in the suck of the channel, so
that longer speaking was out of the question, as the boom of the surf
could be heard wide ahead of the ship. Suddenly a broad gleam of light
off the sea struck over our starboard bow, beyond the tumbling water
upon the bar, and to starboard the rocky headland broke through the fog
rolling out with the breeze: the schooner's stern lifted glimmering
before our figure-head, and we lost sight of her again, till we had
swept safe round the point. Five minutes more, and both Indiaman and
schooner were heaving on the waves from the shadow of the high land, the
dark-blue swells cresting up all round against a bank of cloud on the
horizon, and the long _send_ of the sea to be felt once more under
you--the moon rising out of the river, while a fresh breeze blew in the
offing, and promised to get a good deal stronger.

"The schooner soon hove to, and before we could have beaten up to her,
being to leeward, we saw one boat after another dropped astern or off
the side, till the whole five could be made out pulling for the ship;
but the minute after they were alongside, she filled away again,
standing almost right before the breeze up to north-westward.

"Well, you can fancy the confusion on board of us for a short time, what
with questions and explainings, and what with seeing worthy old Rollock
again, Ford, Winterton, the Brigadier, and Mrs Brady, after being parted
for a number of days in such a way. The young lady Miss Fortescue's
meeting with her mother was touching enough to witness, though of course
the gentleman had got it all over before; and in fact they seemed to
have made pretty merry aboard the French craft, while we were fighting
for fair life with those infernal Congo savages. The dead blacks on deck
and below had been thrown overboard already, and the Indiaman crowding
sail on her course; but I saw the judge for a minute before the
round-house door was shut, with his daughter sobbing on his neck; and as
soon as the rest met below in the cuddy, a scene was to be found there
which one doesn't easily forget--the steward lying in one doorway,
dead, with his head smashed by a club; the missionary under the table,
still bleeding, though he was alive, and not very much hurt after all.
Neither he nor Macleod could tell very well how the thing happened,
plain as it was now to me; but the strangest part of it to see, horrid
as it seemed at first, was the body of Captain Williamson. His cot had
been knocked to the deck, some of the devilish wretches had given his
forehead one gash, and his breast another, each fit to kill a man. There
was little or no blood, however; his face had a peaceful look on it,
almost smiling, you'd have said, by comparison with the poor steward's;
and as soon as his eyelids were down, the old seaman appeared to be
sleeping yet. For my part, I felt as sure as if I'd seen it, that when
the savages struck _that_ body, they might as well have struck at the
stars we had seen over the deck.

"Still, when all was cleared away, and the passengers gone tired out to
their berths, I couldn't turn in without a walk on the poop beside the
planter, to hear something from him--the ship all the time rising on the
brisk seas, every stitch of canvas spread, the African coast beginning
to drop in the moonshine, and the schooner a dim speck to north-west
through the long gleam on the horizon. I found to my great surprise,
there was no reason he could think of for the French craft's detaining
them, except that the Brigadier had sworn at Bonaparte in the brig's
cabin, or else Mrs Brady's having said she would give the world to see
him just now at St Helena; in fact she would go through fire and water
only to kiss the hand of such a great hero--such an enemy to all Saxons
and tyrants, she vowed. But in fact they had been sitting below at the
time our boat came aboard, and knew nothing about it; the French master
swore to Rollock, and to the chief officer afterwards, he had mistaken
_my_ meaning--because I spoke bad French, no doubt; after which the gale
came on, and they never saw the Indiaman again till to-night. As for
their going into the river, and changing her rig, the little Frenchman
said he found a brig's rig didn't suit a schooner's hull. For my part,
however, I didn't see how their course for the Isle of France could be
_north-west_. 'By-the-by, though,' added Rollock, 'Mrs Brady made some
mystery about the whole affair. She seemed to have a few private
discourses with that strange dark-faced passenger of theirs, who, I
suspect, had more to do with the vessel than he pretended. But I
daresay, Collins, my boy,' said he, laughing, 'she wanted to make us
think the foreigner had taken a fancy to her.'

"As we were both going below, I said, 'By-the-way, where is Mr Daniel
Snout?--I haven't seen _him_ yet.' 'Ah!' said the planter, turning
round, 'where is Daniel, after all! _I_ haven't seen him either, since
we left the schooner's deck--no, by Jove! sir, he really hasn't come on
board, now I think of it! I recollect we were the last boat, and he
wasn't in it, although he was behind me just before I got down.' 'What
can the man mean?' said I; and we both stood at the top of the hatchway
ladder, looking toward the horizon, at the speck of a schooner. 'By
jingo, Collins!' exclaimed the planter, chuckling, 'the Yankee is gone
to be a pirate!'"



CHAPTER XIX


"More than once that night," resumed Captain Collins, "I woke up with a
start, at thought of our late adventures in the river Nouries--fancying
I was still waiting for the turn of tide to bring down the boats or the
schooner, and had gone to sleep, when that horrible sound through the
cabin skylight seemed full in my ears again. However, the weltering wash
of the water under the ship's timbers below one's head was proof enough
we were well to sea; and, being dog-tired, I turned over each time with
a new gusto--not to speak of the happy sort of feeling that ran all
through me, I scarce knew why; though no doubt one might have dreamt
plenty of delightful dreams without remembering them, more especially
after such a perfect seventh heaven as I had found myself in for a
moment or two, when Violet Hyde's hand first touched mine, and when I
carried her in after she had actually saved my life.

"The broad daylight through our quarter-gallery window roused me at last
altogether; and on starting up I saw Tom Westwood, half-dressed, shaving
himself by an inch or two of broken looking-glass in regular nautical
style--that's to say, watching for the rise of the ship--as she had the
wind evidently on her opposite beam, and there appeared to be pretty
much of a long swell afloat, with a breeze brisk enough to make her heel
to it; while the clear horizon, seen shining through the port to
north-westward, over the dark-blue heave of water, showed it was far on
in the morning. 'Well, Ned,' said Westwood, turning round, 'you seemed
to be enjoying it, in spite of the warm work you must have had last
night on board here. Why, I thought you had been with us in the boats,
after all, till I found, by the good joke the cadets made of it, that
that puppy of a mate had left you still locked up, on account of some
fancy he had got into his head of your being in partnership with the
schooner! For heaven's sake, though, my dear fellow, wash your face and
shave--you look fearfully suspicious just now!'

"'No wonder!' said I: and I gave him an account of the matter, leaving
out most of what regarded the young lady; Westwood telling me, in his
turn, so much about their boat expedition as I didn't know before from
the planter. Everything went to certify what I believed all along, till
this sudden affair in the river. The schooner's people had plainly some
cue in keeping hold of our passengers, but hadn't expected to see us so
soon again, or perhaps at all--as was shown by their hailing the boats
at once in a pretended friendly way, whenever they came in sight up the
creek; while Ford and the rest shouted with delight, off her bulwarks,
at sound of the mate's voice.

"'I tell you what, Collins,' continued Westwood, 'this may be all very
well for _you_, who are continually getting into scrapes and out of
them, and don't seem to care much whether you ship on board an Indiaman
or a corn-brig--you can always find something to do--but to me the
service is _everything_!' 'Well, well,' said I, hastily, 'I'm much
mistaken if we don't find something to do in India, Tom--only wait, and
that uncle of yours will make all right; for all we know, there may be
news from Europe to meet us, and I must say I don't like the notion of
being born too late for turning out an admiral. I'm sure, for my part, I
wish old Nap well out of that stone cage of his!' 'No, no, Ned,' said
Westwood, 'I ought to clear myself at home first; and sorry I am that I
gave in to you by leaving England, when I should have faced the
consequences, whatever they were. Running only made matters worse,
Collins!' 'No doubt,' I said; 'and as it was my fault, why, deuce take
me, Tom, if I don't manage to carry you out scot-free! Depend on it,
Captain Duncombe's friends would have you strung up like a dog, with the
interest he had and sharp as discipline is just now.' Westwood shuddered
at the thought. 'I fear it would go hard with me, Ned,' said he, 'and I
shan't deny that these few weeks have brought me back a taste for life.
But, in spite of all, I'd deliver myself up to the first king's ship we
speak, or go home in some Indiaman from the Cape--but for one thing,
Collins!' 'Ah!' said I, 'what's that?' Westwood gave me a curious
half-look, and said, 'One _person_ I mean, Ned--and I shouldn't like
_her_ to hear of me being----' 'Yes, yes,' said I, stiffly, 'I know.'
'It must have been by guess, then!' answered he. 'Often as we've talked
of her during the voyage, I thought you didn't know we had met
frequently in London before you came home, and--and--the fact is, I
wasn't sure you would like _me_ to----' 'Westwood,' said I, quickly,
'Tom Westwood--what I have to ask is--do you love her?' 'If ever a man
loved a woman, Ned,' was his answer, 'I do _her_; but if _you_----'
'Have you any chance, then?' I broke out. 'Ay, true--true enough, you
have the best of chances--your way is as clear as could be, Westwood, if
you knew it! Only I _must_ know if she is willing--does she----' 'I got
leave to write to her in London,' answered Westwood, 'and I did so
pretty often, you may be sure; but I only had one short little note in
answer to the last, I think it was--which I had in my breast that
morning on Southsea beach, when I expected the bullet would come through
it!'

"Here Westwood stooped down to his trunk, and took out a rose-coloured
note wrapped in a bit of paper; I standing the while fixed to the deck,
not able to speak, till he was handing it to me. 'No, no!' said I,
turning from him angrily, and like to choke; 'that's too much, Mr
Westwood--pray keep your own love-letters for your own reading!'
'There's nothing particular in it, Ned,' answered he, flushing a little,
'only there's a few words in it I'd like you to see--don't look at it
just now, but tell me afterwards what you think. You ought to see it, as
the matter seems to depend on you, Ned; and if _you_ object, you may be
sure, so far as I'm concerned, 'tis all over!'

"Somehow or other, the look of the little folded piece of paper, with
the touch and the scent of it, as Westwood slipped it into my hand, made
it stick to me. I caught one glance of the address on the back, written
as if fairy fingers had done it, and I suppose I slipped it into my coat
as I went out of the berth, meaning to go aloft in the foretop and
sicken over the thought at my leisure, of Violet Hyde's having ever
favoured another man so far, and that man Tom Westwood. The strangeness
of the whole affair, as I took it, never once struck me; all that I
minded was the wretched feeling I had in me, as I wished I could put the
Atlantic betwixt me and them all; in fact, a hundred things before we
sailed, and during the passage, seemed all at once to agree with what
I'd just heard; and I'd have given thousands that moment it had been
someone else than Westwood, just that I might wait the voyage out
coolly, for the satisfaction of meeting him at twelve paces the first
morning ashore.

"On the larboard side of the berth-gangway, opposite our door, I saw the
old planter's standing half open, and Mr Rollock himself with his shirt
and trousers on, taking in his boots. 'Hallo, Collins, my boy,' he sang
out, eagerly, 'come here a moment, I've got something to show
you!--Look,' said he, standing on tiptoe to see better through the
half-port, 'there's something new been put in my picture-frame here
overnight, I think--ha! ha!'

"The first thing that caught my eye, accordingly, was the gleam of a
sail rising from over the swell to windward, far away off our larboard
quarter, seemingly rolling before the south-easter; while the Indiaman
hove her big side steadily out of water, with her head across the
other's course, and gave us a sight of the strange sail swinging to the
fair wind, every time we rose on the surge. 'What is it, eh?' said the
planter, turning to me, 'back or face, Collins? for, bless me, if I can
distinguish tub from bucket, with all this bobbing about--great deal of
capital indigo wasted hereabouts, my dear fellow!' 'Why, you may make
out the two breasts of her royals,' said I--'a brig, I think, sir.' 'Not
that abominable schooner in her first shape again, I hope!' exclaimed
he; 'perhaps bringing back the Yankee.' 'Too square-shouldered for that,
Mr Rollock,' I said; 'in fact, she seems to be signalling us; yes, by
Jove! there's the long pennant at her fore-royal mast-head--she's a brig
of war. They're surely asleep on deck, and we shall have a shot
directly, if they don't look sharp!' 'You'd better say nothing about the
Yankee's absence, Collins,' put in the planter, 'till we're fairly away.
For my part, I really have no notion of waiting for anyone--particularly
a fellow who _must_ have some go-ahead scheme in his noddle, which we
Indians don't want. Quietly speaking, my dear fellow, I shall be glad if
we're rid of him!'

"On my mentioning what sort of 'notions' were found in Mr Snout's berth,
and the drowning of his heathen images, the worthy planter went into
perfect convulsions, till I thought I should have to slap him on the
back to give him breath. 'What the deuce!' said he at last; 'Daniel must
really have something worth his while to expect before he'd fail to look
after such a treasure!' 'Ah,' said I, not attending to him, as I heard a
stir on deck, 'there we go at last, cluing up the topsails, I suppose.'
'Seriously, now,' continued Mr Rollock, 'I can _not_ fathom that vessel
and her designs; but I bless my stars at getting clear off from the
company of that tall Frenchman with his moustache--can't bear a
moustache, Collins--always reminds me of those cursed Mahrattas that
burnt my factory once. Couldn't the man shave like a Christian, I
wonder? I defy you to enjoy mulligatawny soup and not make a beast of
yourself, with ever so much hair over your mouth. By-the-way, Collins,'
added he, eyeing me, 'since I saw you last, you've let your whiskers
grow, and look more like one of your nauticals than Ford
himself!--should scarce have known you! Any of it owing to the fair one
up yonder, eh?' And the jolly old chap, whose own huge white whiskers
gave him the cut of a royal Bengal tiger, pointed with his thumb over
his shoulder towards the round-house above, with a wink of his funny
round eye, that looked at you like a bird's. 'What do you suppose the
Frenchman to be then, sir?' asked I, gloomily. 'Oh, either a madman, a
spy, or something worse! Just guess what he asked me suddenly one
morning--why, if I weren't a distinguished _savant_, and wouldn't like
to study the botany of some island! "No, monsieur, not at all," replied
I, in fearfully bad French. "The geology, then?" persisted he, with a
curious gleam in his fierce black eyes--"does the research of monsieur
lie in that direction?" "Why, no," I answered, carelessly, "I don't
care a _sacré_ about stones, or anything of the kind, indeed; indigo is
_my_ particular line, which may be called botany, in a way--I'm perhaps
prejudiced in favour of it, monsieur!" The Frenchman leant his tufted
chin on his hand,' continued Mr Rollock, 'meditated a bit, then glanced
at me again, as if he didn't care though I were studying seaweed in the
depths of the ocean rolling round us, and stalked downstairs. Then he
took to Mrs Brady again, and lastly to the Yankee, whose conversations
with him, I fancy, had a twang of both commerce and politics.' 'What do
you think of it all, Mr Rollock?' inquired I, rather listlessly. 'It
didn't strike me at the time,' said the planter, 'but now I just ask
you, Collins, if there ain't a certain great personage studying geology
at present in a certain island, not very far away, I suppose, where
there's plenty of it, and deuced little botany, too, I imagine?' To this
question of the old gentleman's I gave nothing but a half-stupid sort of
stare, thinking as I was at the same time of something else I cared more
about.

"By Jupiter! though,' cried I, on a sudden, 'instead of heaving the ship
to, I do believe we've set topmast-stu'nsails, judging from the way she
pitches into the water; there's the brig nearing the wind a point or two
in chase, too; why, the fellow that has charge of the deck must be mad,
sir!' Next minute the fire out of one of her bowchasers flashed out
behind the blue back of a swell, and the sudden _thud_ of it came
rolling down to leeward over the space betwixt us, angrily, so to speak;
as the brig's fore-course mounted with a wave, the sun shining clear on
the seams and reef-points, till you caught sight of the anchor hanging
from one bow, and the men running in her lee stun'sail-booms upon the
yard-arms. The planter and I went on deck at once, where we found a fine
breeze blowing, far out of sight of land, the Indiaman rushing ahead
stately enough; while our young fourth officer appeared to have just
woke up, and the watch were still rubbing their eyes, as if every man
had been 'caulking it,' after last night's work. Even Mr Finch, when he
came hastily up, seemed rather doubtful what to do, till the salt old
third-mate assured him the brig was a British sloop-of-war, as anyone
accustomed to reckoning sticks and canvas at sea could tell by this
time; upon which our topsails were clued up, stu'nsails boom-ended, and
the ship hove into the wind to wait for the brig.

"When the brig's main-yard swung aback within fifty fathoms of our
weather-quarter, hailing us as she brought to, I had plenty to think of,
for my part. There she was, as square-countered and flat-breasted a
ten-gun model as ever ran her nose under salt water, or turned the
turtle in a Bahama squall; though pleasant enough she looked, dipping as
we rose, and prancing up opposite us again with a curtsey, the brine
dripping from her bright copper sheathing, the epaulets and gold bands
glancing above her black bulwarks, topped by the white hammock-cloth;
marines in her waist, the men clustering forward to see us, and
squinting sharp up at our top-hamper. It made one ashamed, to take in
the taut, lightsome set her spars had, tall and white, with a rake in
them, and every rope running clean to its place; not a spot about her,
hull or rig, but all English and ship-shape, to the very gather of her
courses and topgallant-sails in the lines, and the snowy hollow her two
broad topsails made for the wind, as they brought it in betwixt them to
keep her steady on the spot.

"'His Britannic Majesty's sloop _Podargus_!' came back in exchange for
our mate's answer; and though 'twas curious to me to think of meeting
the uniform again in five minutes, I saw plainly this was one of the
nice points that Westwood and I might have to weather. Your
brig-cruisers are the very sharpest fellows alive, so far as regards
boarding a merchant craft; if they find the least smell of a rat,
they'll overhaul your hold to the very dunnage about the keelson; and I
knew that, if they made out Westwood, they'd be sure to have me too; so
you may fancy that, during the short time her boat took to drop and pull
under our quarter, I was making up my mind as to the course. In fact, I
was almost resolved to leave the ship at any rate, feeling as I did
after what I'd heard; but while most of the passengers were running
about and calling below for their shoes and what not, the judge and his
daughter came out of the round-house, and I caught a single glance from
her for a moment, as she turned to look at the brig, that held me at the
instant like an anchor in a strong tideway.

"I kept my breath as the lieutenant's hand laid hold of the man-rope at
the head of the side-ladder, expecting his first question; while he
swung himself actively on deck, looking round for a second, and followed
by another; the wide-awake looking young middy in the boat folding his
arms, and squinting up sideways at the ladies with an air as knowing as
if he'd lived fifty years in the world, instead of perhaps thirteen.

"The younger of the lieutenants took off his cap most politely, eyeing
the fair passengers with as much respect as he gave cool indifference to
the cadets; the other, who was a careful-like working first-luff, said
directly to Mr Finch, 'Well, sir, you seem inclined to lead us a bit of
a chase; but I don't think,' added he, smiling from the Indiaman to the
brig, 'you'd have cost us much trouble after all!' Here Finch hurried
out his explanation, in a half-sulky way, when the naval man cut him
short by saying that 'Captain Wallis desired to know' if we had touched
at St Helena. 'May I ask, sir,' went on the officer, finding we had
preferred the Cape, 'if _you_ command this vessel--or is the master not
on deck--Captain--Captain Wilson, I think you said?' The mate said
something in a lower voice, and the lieutenant bared his head more
respectfully than before, seeing the Company's ensign, which had been
lowered half-apeak while the boat was under our side; after which Finch
drew him to the capstan, telling him, as I guessed, the whole affair of
the schooner, by way of a great exploit, with hints of her being a
pirate or such-like.

"The brig's officer, however, was evidently too busy a man, and
seemingly in too great a hurry to get back, for listening much to such a
rigmarole, as he no doubt thought it; they had been at the Cape, and
were bound for St Helena again where she was one of the cruisers on
guard; so that what with Finch's story, and what with the crowd round
the second lieutenant, all anxious to get the news, I saw it wouldn't
cost Westwood and me great pains to keep clear of notice.

"There were some riots in London, and three men hanged for a horrid
murder, the Duke of Northumberland's death, not to speak of a child born
with two heads, or something--all since we left England. Then there was
Lord Exmouth come home from Algiers; and Fort Hattrass, I think it was,
taken in India, which made every cadet prick up his ears; Admiral
Plampin was arrived at the Cape of Good Hope, too, in the _Conqueror_,
seventy-four, and on his way steering for St Helena, to take Sir
Pulteney Malcolm's place. All of a sudden, I heard the young luff begin
to mention a captain of a frigate's having been shot two months ago, by
his own first lieutenant, on Southsea beach, and the lieutenant being
supposed to have gone off in some outward-bound ship. 'By-the-by,' said
the officer to Mr Rollock, 'you must have left about that time--did you
touch at Portsmouth?' 'Why, yes,' answered the planter, 'we did. What
were the parties' names?' I edged over to Westwood near the head of the
companion, and whispered to him to go below to our berth, in case of
their happening to attend to us more particularly; and the farther apart
we two kept the better, I thought. The officer at once gave Captain
Duncombe's name, but didn't remember the other; on which he turned to
his first lieutenant with, 'I say, Mr Aldridge, d'you recollect the
man's name that shot the captain of the _N'Oreste_, as they called her?'
'What, that bad business?' said the other; 'no, Mr Moore, I really
don't--I hope he's far enough off by this time!' My breath came again at
this, for it had just come into my mind that Finch, who was close by,
had got hold of the name, although he fancied it mine.

"I was sauntering down the stair, thinking how much may hang at times on
a man's good memory, when I heard the first lieutenant say, 'By-the-by,
though, now I recollect, wasn't it Westwood?' 'Yes, yes, Westwood it
was!' said the other. Then came an exclamation from Finch, and shortly
after he and the first lieutenant stepped down together, talking
privately of the matter, I suppose, to the cuddy, where I had gone
myself. The lieutenant looked up at me seriously once or twice, then
went on deck, and a few minutes afterwards the brig's boat was pulling
towards her again, while the passengers flocked below to breakfast. I
saw the thing was settled; the mate could scarcely keep in his triumph,
as he eyed me betwixt surprise and dislike, though rather more
respectfully than before. As for Westwood, he sat down with the rest,
quite ignorant of what had turned up; notwithstanding he threw an uneasy
look or two through the cuddy port at the brig, still curveting to
windward of us, with her main-yard aback; for my part, I made up my
mind, in the meanwhile, to bear the brunt of it.

"'Twas no matter to me _now_ where I went; whereas, with Westwood, it
was but a toss-up betwixt a rope and a prison, if they sent him back to
England. No fear of _my_ being tried in his place, of course; but if
there had been, why, to get away both from him and _her_, I'd have to
run the chance! There was a bitter sort of a pleasure, even, in the
thought of taking oneself out of the way--to some purpose, too, if I
saved a fellow like my old schoolmate from a court-martial sentence, and
a man far worthier to win the heart of such a creature than myself:
while the worst of it was, I was afraid I'd have come to hate Tom
Westwood if we had stayed near each other much longer.

"Accordingly, I no sooner heard the dip of the gig's oars coming
alongside again, than one of the stewards brought me a quiet message
from Mr Finch, that he wanted to see me on deck; upon which I rose off
my chair just as quietly, and walked up the companion. The fact was--as
the fellow could scarce have ventured to look his passengers in the face
again after a low piece of work like this--'twas his cue to keep all
underhand, and probably lay it to the score of my actions aboard, or
something; however, he couldn't throw any dust of the kind in the second
lieutenant's eyes, who gave him a cold glance as he stepped on deck,
and, picking me out at once where I stood, inquired if I were the
person. The first mate nodded, whereupon the brig's officer walked
towards me, with a gentlemanly enough bow, and, 'I regret to have to
state, sir,' said he, 'that Captain Wallis desires to see you,
_particularly_, aboard the brig.' 'Indeed, sir,' answered I, showing
very little surprise, I daresay, gloomy as I felt; 'then the sooner the
better, I suppose.' 'Why, yes,' said the lieutenant, seemingly confused
lest he should meet my eye, 'we're anxious to make use of this breeze,
you--you know, sir.' 'Hadn't Mr Collins--this gentleman--better take his
traps with him, Lieutenant Moore?' said Finch, free and easy wise. 'No,
sir,' said the young officer sternly, 'we can spare time to send for
them, if necessary; of course you will keep the Indiaman in the wind,
sir, till the brig squares her main-yard.' I gave Finch a single look of
sheer contempt, and swung myself down by the man-ropes from the gangway
into the boat; the lieutenant followed me, and next minute we were
pulling for the brig's quarter. The moment I found myself out of the
_Seringapatam_, however, my heart nigh-hand failed me, more especially
at sight of the quarter-gallery window I had seen the light from, on the
smooth of the swell, that first night we got to sea. I even began to
think if there weren't some way of passing myself clear off, without
hauling in Westwood; but it wouldn't do. Before I well knew, we were on
board, and the lieutenant showing me down the after-hatchway to the
captain's cabin.



CHAPTER XX


"The captain was sitting with one foot upon the carronade in his
outer-cabin, looking through the port at the heavy Indiaman, as she
slued about and plunged in the blue surge, with all sorts of ugly ropes
hanging from her bows, dirty pairs of trousers towing clear of the water
when she lifted, and rusty stains at her hawse-holes. A stout-built,
hard-featured man he was, with bushy black eyebrows, and grizzled black
hair and whiskers, not to speak of a queer, anxious, uneasy look in the
keen of his eyes when he turned to me. However, he got half up on my
coming in, and I saw he was lame a little of one foot, while he
overhauled me all over with his eye. 'I'm sorry to have to send for you
in this way, sir,' said he, rather surprised at my rig,
apparently--'very sorry, sir, and no more about it; but I can't help it,
confound me--_must_ do my duty.' 'Certainly, sir,' I said. 'In fact,'
said Captain Wallis, 'the Admiral ordered us to see after you--_him_,
that's to say--at the Cape, you know.' 'Ay, ay, sir,' said I, watching
the Indiaman's poop-nettings through the port over his head, as he sat
down. 'Pooh, pooh,' continued he, 'you can't be the man--just say you
don't belong to the service--confound it, I'll pass you!' 'Why, sir,'
said I, 'I can't exactly say _that_.' 'I hear you're Westwood of the
_Orestes_, though,' said he; 'now I don't ask you to say _no_, sir; but
everybody knew the _Orestes_, and I don't like the thing, I must say: so
perhaps you're able to swear _he_ is not aboard the Indiaman--just now,
you know, sir--_just now_, eh?'

"This tack of his rather dumfoundered me, seeing the captain of the brig
meant it well; but deuced unlucky kindness it was, since I couldn't
swear to the very thing he fancied so safe, and his glance was as quick
as lightning, so he caught the sense of my blank look in a moment--as I
fancied, at least. 'The fact is, sir,' added he,'the surgeon told me
just now he knows Lieutenant Westwood well enough by sight so they
locked him up! You see we could have made you out at any rate,
sir--however, we'll let the doctor stay till we're clear of the
Indiaman, I think.' 'Then you take me for the gentleman you speak of,
Captain Wallis?' asked I, faintly; for at the same moment I could see a
light-coloured dress and a white ribbon fluttering on the
_Seringapatam's_ poop, the look of which sent the blood about my heart.
'Twas hard to settle betwixt a feeling of the kind, and fear for
Westwood; it struck me Captain Wallis wasn't very eager in the affair,
and 'twas on my lips to assure him I wasn't the man. 'Hark'ee,' broke in
he, with almost a wink, and a smile ready to break out on his mouth,
'the short and the long of it is, I'll take _you_! We must have somebody
to show in the case; though now I remember, there was someone else said
to've gone off with you--but we won't trouble _him_! If we've brought
away the wrong man, why, hang it, so much the better! If you're
Westwood, I can tell you, they'll run ye up to a yardarm, sir! Much more
comfortable than ten years or so in a jail, too, as--as no one knows
better than _I_ do myself.'

"Here the captain's face darkened, his eye gleamed, and he rose with a
limp to ring a hand-bell on the table. 'White,' said he to the marine
that put his head in at the door, with his hand up to it, 'desire the
first lieutenant, from me, to send a boat aboard for this gentleman's
things.' 'I'm afraid, sir,' continued he gravely to me, 'you'll have to
reckon yourself under arrest--but you'll find the gentlemen in the
gun-room good company, I hope, for a day or two, till we make St
Helena.' I saw the captain's mind was made up, and for the life of me I
didn't know what to say against it; but speak I could not, so with a
stiff bow and a sick sort of a smile I turned out of the door, and
walked along to the gun-room, which was empty. I could see the boat soon
after under the ship's side, dipping and rising as they handed down my
couple of portmanteaus to the man-o'-war's men; the young reefer came
down again as nimble as a monkey, with some letters in his hand, took
off his cap to some ladies above, and sang out to give way; five or six
flashing feathers of the oars in the sunlight, and they were coming
round the brig's stern.

"The brig was just squaring away her main-yard at the whistle from the
boatswain's mates, when the whole run of the Indiaman's bulwarks was
crowded with the passengers' and men's faces, watching the brig gather
way to pass ahead; I could hear the officers on deck hail the India
mates, wishing them a good voyage, the ladies bowing and waving their
handkerchiefs to the British Union-Jack. Some sort of confusion seemed
to get up, however, about the ship's taffrail, where Rollock, Ford, and
some others were standing together; the planter jumped up all at once on
the quarter-mouldings nearest the brig, then jumped down again, and his
straw hat could be seen hurrying towards the quarter-deck.

"Next I caught a bright glimpse of Violet Hyde's face, as the sun shot
on it free of the awnings--her eyes wandering with the brig's motion, I
fancied, along the deck above me, till suddenly she seemed to start, and
Westwood appeared behind her. The next thing I saw was the black-faced
figure-head of the _Seringapatam_ rising below her bowsprit, about sixty
yards from the gun-room port where I was, and down she went again with a
heavy plash, as Tom Westwood himself leapt up between the knight-heads
at the bow, hailing the brig's deck with a voice like a trumpet. 'Ahoy!
the _Podargus_ ahoy! For mercy's sake, heave to again, sir!' he sung
out. 'I'm the man you want!' 'The Indiaman ahoy!' I heard Captain Wallis
himself hail back. 'What d'ye say?' The creak of our yards, with the
flap of the jib, and the men's feet, drowned Westwood's second hail, as
it came sharp up to windward; the sailors in the Indiaman's bows were
grinning at him behind, while the first lieutenant of the brig shouted
gruffly that she had no time to wait for more letters; and I heard the
gun-room steward say to the marine, on going out with the dirty
breakfast-cloth, he wondered if 'that parson cove thought the _Pedarkis_
wanted a chapling,' or was only 'vun of these fellers that's so
troublesome to see the French Hemperor.'

"'Well,' said the marine, ''twas pretty queer if he took the _Pedarkis_
for the ship to carry him there. I don't think the captain would let a
rat into the island if he could help it' 'Not he,' said the steward;
'plenty on 'em in already, Vite, my man--I do think they used to swim
off on board here, by the way our cheese vent.' All this time I never
stirred from the port, watching with my chin on the muzzle of the gun
till the Indiaman was half-a-mile to windward of us, her big hull still
rising and falling on the same swells, topped with clusters of heads;
her topsails lowered in honour of the flag, the ensign blowing out
half-mast high for the death of Captain Williamson; a long wash of the
water ran outside the brig's timbers, surge after surge, and the plunge
at her bows showed how fast she began to run nor'-westward before the
wind. You may well fancy my state, after all I'd done for weeks; in
fact, one scarce knew the extent of what he'd felt, what he'd looked
forward to, till he found himself fairly adrift from it; 'twould even
have been nothing, after all, could I just have thought of Violet Hyde
as I'd done two hours ago, on waking with last night in the river on my
mind.

"As it was, 'twould have taken little to make me jump out of the port
into the sweep of blue water swelling toward the brig's counter; the
_Seringapatam_ being by this time astern. I couldn't even see her, or
aught save the horizon, to windward; but at this moment the young second
lieutenant came below, and, seeing me, he began in a polite enough way,
with a kindly manner about it, trying to raise my spirits. 'I suppose,
sir,' said I, rather sulkily I daresay, 'I can have a berth just now?'
'Oh, certainly,' said he, 'the steward has orders to see to it at once.
Will you come on deck a minute or two in the meantime, sir?'

"I looked back from the ship astern to the brig-of-war's clean white
decks, flush fore and aft, with the men all forward at their stations,
neatly dressed in regular man-o'-war style, everyone alike--a sight that
would have done me good at another time, small as she was by comparison;
but the very thought of the Indiaman's lumbering poop and galleries was
too much for me--'twas as if you'd knocked out those two round-house
doors of hers, and let in a gush of bare sky instead. The ship-shape
man-o'-war cut of things was nothing, I fancied, to the snug spot under
those top-gallant bulwarks of hers, and the breezy poop all a-flutter
with muslin of an evening, where you found books and little basket
affairs stuck into the coils of rope. I thought the old _Seringapatam_
never looked so well, as she commenced trimming sail on a wind,
beginning to go drive ahead, with a white foam at her bows, and her
whole length broadside-on to us. All at once we saw her clue up courses
and to'-gallant sails, till she was standing slowly off under the three
topsails and jib; the two lieutenants couldn't understand what she was
about, and the captain put the glass to his eye, after which he said
something to the second lieutenant, who went forward directly.

"The next thing I saw was the Indiaman coming up in the wind again for
about a minute; she had her stern nearly to us, when the moment after,
as she rose upon a long sea, you saw something flash white off her lee
gangway in the sunlight, that dropped against it into the hollow of a
wave. The next minute she fell off again with her topsails full, and the
first shower of spray was rising across her forefoot, when the flash of
a gun broke out of her side, and the sound came down to us; then a
second and a third. The brig gave her the same number in answer, and as
soon as the smoke betwixt us had cleared away, the ship could be seen
under full sail to the south-westward by west. '_That_'s her poor
skippers hammock dropped alongside, gentlemen,' said Captain Wallis to
his officers; 'God be with him.' 'Amen,' said the first lieutenant, and
we put our caps on again. 'Set stu'nsails, Mr Aldridge,' said the
captain, limping down the hatchway; as for me, I leant I don't know how
long over the brig's taffrail, watching the ship's canvas grow in one,
through the width of air betwixt us; my heart full, as may be supposed,
not to say what notions came into my head of what might happen to her
under Finch's charge, ere she reached Bombay. No one belonging to the
brig spoke to me, out of kindness, no doubt; and the ship was hull-down
on the horizon, to my fancy with somewhat of a figure like _hers_, when
she stood with the cashmere shawl over her head in the dusk. Then I went
gloomily down to my berth, where I kept close by myself till I fell
asleep, though the gun-room steward was sent to me more than once to
join the officers.

"It wasn't till the next day, in fact, when I went on the quarter-deck
at noon, wearied for a fresher gulp of air, that I saw any of them; and
the breeze having fallen lighter that morning, they were too busy
trimming sail and humouring her to give me much notice. I must say I had
seldom seen a commander seem more impatient about the sailing of his
craft, in time of peace, than the captain of the _Podargus_ appeared to
be; walking the starboard side as fast as the halt in his gait would let
him, and the anxious turn of his eyes plainer than before, while he
looked from the brig's spread of stu'nsails to the horizon, through the
glass, which, I may say, he never once laid down. From where the brig
spoke the Indiaman, to St Helena, would be about two or three days' sail
with a fair wind, at the ordinary strength of the south-east trade;
though, at this rate, it might cost us twice the time. I noticed the men
on the forecastle look to each other now and then knowingly, at some
fresh sign of the captain's impatience; and the second lieutenant told
me in a low voice, with his head over the side near mine, Captain Wallis
had been out of sorts ever since they lost sight of the island. 'You'd
suppose, sir,' said he, laughing, 'that old _Nap_ was his sweetheart, by
the way he watches over him; and now, I fancy, he's afraid St Helena may
be sunk in blue water while we were away! In fact, Mr Westwood,' added
he, 'it looks devilish like as if it had come up from Davy Jones, all
standing; so I don't see why it shouldn't go down to him again some day;
I can tell you it's tiresome work cruising to windward there, though,
and we aren't idle at all!'

"'Did you ever see the French Emperor yourself, sir?' asked I--for I
must say the thought of nearing the prison such a man was in made me a
little curious. 'Never, sir, except at a mile's distance,' said the
second lieutenant; 'indeed, it's hard to get a pass, unless you know the
governor. But I've a notion,' continued he, 'the governor's carefulness
is nothing to our skipper's! Indeed, they tell a queer story of how Sir
Hudson Lowe was gulled for months together, when he was governor of
Capri island, in the Mediterranean. As for the captain, again, you'd
seek a long time ere you found a better seaman--he's as wide awake, too,
as Nelson himself; while the curious thing is, I believe, he never once
clapped eyes on Bonaparte in his life! But good cause he has to hate
him, you know, Mr Westwood!' 'Indeed,' said I, taking a moment's
interest in the thing; and I was just going to ask the reason, when the
first lieutenant came over to say Captain Wallis would be glad if I
would dine with him in the cabin.

"At dinner-time, accordingly, I put on a coat, for the first time, less
like those the cadets in the _Seringapatam_ wore, and went aft, where I
found the first lieutenant and a midshipman with the captain. He did his
best to soften my case, as I saw by his whole manner during dinner;
after which, no sooner had the reefer had his one glass of wine, than he
was sent on deck to look out to windward. 'Well, sir,' said Captain
Wallis thereupon, turning from his first luff to me, 'I'm sorry for this
disagreeable business! I believe you deny being the person at all,
though?' 'Why, sir,' said I, 'I am certainly no more the first
lieutenant of the _Orestes_ than yourself, Captain Wallis! 'Twas all
owing to a mistake of that India mate, who owed me a grudge.' 'Oh, oh, I
see!' replied he, beginning to smile, 'the whole matter's as plain as a
handspike, Mr Aldridge! But I couldn't do less, on the information.'
'However, sir,' put in the first lieutenant, 'there's no doubt the real
man must have been in the ship, or the mistake could not have happened,
sir!' 'Well--you look at things too square, Aldridge,' said the captain.
'All _you_'ve got to do, I hope, sir, is just to prove you're not
Westwood; and if you want still to go out to the East Indies, why, I
daresay you won't be long of finding some outward-bound ship or other
off Jamestown. Only, I'd advise you, sir, to have your case over with
Sir Pulteney, before Admiral Plampin comes in--as I fear he would send
you to England.' 'It matters little to me, sir,' I answered; 'seeing the
reason I had for going out happens to be done with.' Here I couldn't
help the blood rising in my face; while Captain Wallis's steady eye
turned off me, and I heard him say in a lower key to the lieutenant, he
didn't think it was a matter for a court-martial at all. 'Pooh,
Aldridge!' said he, 'some pretty girl amongst the passengers in the
case, I wager!' 'Why,' returned Aldridge, carelessly, 'I heard Mr Moore
say some of the ladies were pretty enough, especially one--some India
judge or other's young daughter--I believe he was in raptures about,
sir.' This sort of thing, as you may suppose, was like touching one on
the raw with a marling-spike; when the captain asked me--partly to
smooth it over, maybe--'By-the-by, sir, Mr Aldridge tells me there was
something about a pirate schooner, or slaver, or some craft of the
kind, that frightened your mates--that's all stuff, I daresay--but what
I want to know is, in what quarter you lost sight of her, if you
recollect?' 'About nor'-west by north from where we were at the time,
sir,' said I. 'A fast-looking craft was she?' asked he. 'A
thorough-built smooth-going clipper, if ever there was one,' I said. At
this the captain mused for a little, till at last he said to his
lieutenant: 'They daren't risk it; I don't think there's the Frenchman
born, man enough to try such a thing by water, Aldridge?' 'Help _him_
out, you mean, sir?' said the luff; 'why, if he ever got as far as the
water's edge, I'd believe in witchcraft, sir!' 'Give a man time, Mr
Aldridge,' answered the captain, 'and he'll get out of anything where
soldiers are concerned--every year he's boxed up sharpens him till his
very mind turns like a knife, man! It makes one mad on every point
besides, I tell you, sir--whereas after he's free, perhaps, it's just on
_that only_ his brain has a twist in it!' 'No doubt, Captain Wallis,'
said Aldridge, glancing over to me, as his commander got up and began
walking about the cabin, spite of his halt. 'D'ye know,' continued he,
'I've thought at times what I should like best would be to have _him_
ahead of the brig, in some craft or other, and we hard in chase--I'd go
after that man to the North Pole, sir, and bring him back! Without once
going aboard to know he was there, I'd send word it was Jack Wallis had
him in tow!' 'What is Bonaparte like, then, after all, sir?' I asked,
just to fill up the break. 'I never saw him, nor he me,' replied Captain
Wallis, stopping in his walk; 'but every day he may have a sight of the
brig cruising to windward; and as for the island, we see plenty of _it_,
I think, Aldridge?' 'Ay, ay, sir,' said Aldridge, 'that we do! For my
part, I can't get the ugly stone steeples of it out of my head!' 'Well,'
continued the captain, 'at times, when we're beating round St Helena of
a night, I'll be hanged if I haven't thought it began to loom as if the
French Emperor stood on the top of it, like a shadow looking out to sea
the other way--and I've gone below lest he'd turn round till I saw his
face. I've a notion Mr Aldridge, if I once saw his face, I'd lose what I
feel against him, just as I used always to fancy, the first five years
in the _Temple_, if he were only to see _me_, he would let me out! But
they say he's got a wonderful way of coming over everyone, if he
likes!' After this, Captain Wallis sat down and passed the decanters,
the first lieutenant observing, he supposed Bonaparte was a great man in
his way, but nothing to Nelson. 'Don't tack them together, Aldridge!'
said his commander quickly; 'Nelson was a man all over, he'd got the
feelings of a man and his faults; but I call _him_, yonder, a perfect
demon let loose upon the world! To my mind all the blood those
republicans shed, with their murdered king's at bottom of it, got
somehow into him, till he thought no more of human beings, or aught
concerning 'em, than I do of so many cockroaches! But the terrible thing
was, sir, his infernal schemes, and his cunning: why, he'd twist you one
country against another, and get hold of both, like a man bending
stu'nsail halliards; there were men grew up round him quick as
mushrooms, fit to carry out everything he wanted; so one couldn't wonder
at him enough, Mr Aldridge, if it was only natural! I can't tell you
anything like what I felt,' he went on, 'when I was in Sir Sydney
Smith's ship, cruising down Channel, and we used to see the gun-boats
and flat-bottoms he got together for crossing the straits; or one night
with poor Captain Wright, that we stood in near enough to get a shot
sent at us off the heights--the whole shore about Boulogne was one
twinkle of lights and camp-fires, and you heard the sound of the hammers
on planks and iron, with the carts and gun-carriages creaking--not to
speak of a hum from soldiers enough, you'd have thought, to eat Old
England up! And where are they now?' 'I don't know, sir, indeed,' said
the first lieutenant gravely, supposing by the captain's look, no doubt,
that it was a question. 'What, Captain Wallis!' exclaimed I, 'were you
with Captain Wright, then, sir?' Of course, like everyone in the
service, I had heard Captain Wright's story often, with ever so many
versions; there was a mystery about his sad fate that made me curious to
hear more of what gave the whole navy, I may say, a hatred to Bonaparte
not at all the same you regard a fair enemy with.

"'_With_ him, say you, sir?' repeated the captain of the _Podargus_, 'ay
was I! I was his first lieutenant, and good cause I had to feel for the
end he came to, as I'll let you hear. One night Captain Wright went
ashore, as he'd often done, into the town of Beville, dressed like a
smuggler; for the fact was the French winked at smuggling, only I must
say _we_ used to land men instead of goods. I didn't like the thing that
night, and advised him not to go, as they'd begun to suspect something
of late! However, the captain by that time was foolhardy, owing to
having run so many risks, and he was bent on going in before we left the
coast; though, after all, I believe it was only to get a letter that any
fisherman could have brought off. The boat was lying off and on behind a
rocky point, and we waited and waited, hearing nothing but the sound of
the tide making about the big weedy stones, in the shadow from the
lights of the town; when at last the French landlord of the little
tavern he put up at came down upon the shingle and whistled to us. He
gave me a message from Captain Wright, with the private word we had
between us, saying he wanted me to come up to the town on a particular
business. Accordingly I told the men to shove out again, and away I went
with the fellow.

"'No sooner did I open the door of the room, however, than three or four
gendarmes had hold of me, and I was a prisoner: as for Captain Wright, I
never saw him more. The morning broke as they brought me up on horseback
in the middle of them, along the road to Paris, from whence I could make
out the cutter heeling to the breeze a mile or two off the land, with
two or three gun-boats hard in chase.

"'Well, sir, at Paris they clapped me into a long gloomy-like piece of
masonwork called the _Temple_, close alongside of the river, where
plenty of our countrymen were; Captain Wright and Sir Sydney Smith
himself among the rest, as I found out afterwards. The treatment wasn't
so bad at first; but when you climbed up to the windows, there was
nothing to be seen but the top of a wall and roofs of houses all round,
save where you'd a glimpse of the dirty river and some pig-trough of a
boat. One day I got a letter from Captain Wright--how they let me have
it I don't well know--saying he was allowed a good deal of comfort in
the meantime, but he suspected some devilish scheme in it, to make him
betray the British Government, or something of the kind; that he'd heard
one of the French royalist generals had choked himself in his prison,
but never to believe he'd do the same thing, though every night he woke
up thinking he heard the key turn in the door. The next thing I heard
of was that Captain Wright had made away with himself, sir!'

"Here Captain Wallis got up again, walking across the cabin, seemingly
much moved. 'Well, after that I slept with the dinner-knife in my
breast, till the jailer took it away; for I thought at the time that
poor Wright had been murdered, though I found cause to change my mind
when I knew what loneliness does with a man, not to speak of the notion
being put before him to take his own life. For a while, too, Captain
Shaw was in the same cell; by which time we had such bad food, and so
little of it, that one day when a pigeon lighted on the window, which
used to come there for a crumb or two every afternoon, right along with
the gold gleam of the sun as it shot over the dark houses to that
window, I jumped up and caught it. Shaw and I actually tore it in bits,
and ate it raw on the spot; though 'twas long ere I could get rid of the
notion of the poor bird fluttering and cooing against the bars, and
looking at me with its round little soft eye as it pecked off the slab.
But what was that to the thought of my old father that had hurt himself
to keep me in the navy, and me able now to make his last days
comfortable? or the innocent young girl I had married the moment I got
my commission of first lieutenant, expecting to be flush of prize-money?
It even came into my head often, when I sat by myself in the cell they
afterwards put me into, alone, how that little blue pigeon might have
carried a letter to England for me; at any rate it was the only thing
like a chance, or a friend, I ever saw the whole time I was there; and
foolish as the notion may look, why the window was too high in a smooth
wall for me once to reach it.

"'I heard all Paris humming round the thick of the stone every day, and
sometimes the sound of thousands of soldiers tramping past below, over
the next bridge, with music and such like--no doubt when the First
Consul, as they called him, went off to some campaign or other: then I'd
dream I felt the deck under me in a fresh breeze at night, till the soul
sickened in me to wake up and find the stones as still as before, and
now and then hear the sentries challenging on their rounds.

"'Well, one day, a fellow in a cloak, with a slouch hat over his
forehead, was let in to try, as I thought, if there was anything to be
got out of me, as they tried two or three times at first; some spy he
was, belonging to that police devil Fouché. What did he offer me, d'ye
think, after beating about the bush for half-an-hour, but the command of
a French seventy-four under the Emperor, as he was by that time, and, if
I would take it, I was free! On this I pretended to be thinking of it,
when the police fellow sidled near me, to show a commission signed with
the Emperor's name at the foot.

"'In place of taking hold of it, however, I jumped up and seized the
villain's nose and chin before he saw my purpose, stuffed the parchment
into his mouth by way of a gag, and made him dance round the cell, with
his cloak over his head and his sword dangling alongside of him, to keep
his stern clear of my foot; till the turnkey heard the noise, and he
made bolt out as soon as the door was opened. You'd wonder how long that
small matter served me to laugh over, for my spirit wasn't broken yet,
you see; but even then, in the very midst of it, I would all of a sudden
turn sick at heart, and sit wondering when the exchange of prisoners
would be made that I looked for. The worst of it was, at times a horrid
notion would come into my head of the French seventy-four being at sea
at the moment, and me almost wishing they'd give me the offer over
again--I fancied I felt the very creak of her straining in the trough of
a sea, and saw the canvas of her topsails over me, standing on her poop
with a glass in my hand, till she rose on a crest, and there were the
_Agamemnon's_ lighted ports bearing down to leeward upon us, till I
heard Nelson's terrible voice sing out, "Give it to 'em, my lads!" when
the flash of her broadside showed me his white face under the cocked
hat, and it came whizzing over like a thirty-two-pound shot right into
my breast, as I sunk to the bottom, and found myself awake in the
prison.

"'I don't know how long it was after, but they moved me to another
berth, where a man had shot himself through the head, for we actually
met his body being carried along the passage; and more than that, sir,
they hadn't taken the trouble to wash his brains off the wall they were
scattered on. There I sat one day after another, watching the spot
marked by them turn dry, guessing at everything that had gone through
them as long as he was alive in the place, till my own got perfectly
stupid; I was as helpless as a child, and used to cry at other times
when the jailer didn't bring me my food in time. I fancied they'd forget
all about me in England; and as for time, I never counted it, except by
the notion I had been two or three years in.

"'At last the turnkey got so used to me, thinking me no doubt such a
harmless sort of a poor man, that he would sit by and talk to me, giving
accounts of the Emperor's battles and victories, and such matters. I
must say I began to feel as if he was some sort of a god upon earth
there was no use to strive against, just as the turnkey seemed to do,
more especially when I heard of Nelson's death; so when he told me one
time it wouldn't do for Fouché or the Emperor to let me out yet, I said
nothing more. "Will the Emperor not let me out _now_?" asked I, a long
time after. "_Diable!_" said the man, "do you think His Majesty has time
to think of such a poor fellow as you, among such great matters? No, no,
_pauvr' homme_!" continued he; "you're comfortable here, and wouldn't
know what to do if you were out! No fear of your doing as your Capitaine
_Ourite_ did, since you've lived here so long, monsieur." "How long is
it now, good Pierre?" asked I, with a sigh, as he was going out at the
door; and the turnkey counted on his fingers. "Ulm--Austerlitz--Jena,"
said he slowly; "_oui, oui_--I scarcely thought it so much--it wants
only six or seven months of ten years!" and he shut-to the door. I
sprang up off the bed I was sitting on, wild at the thought--I may say,
for a day or two I was mad--ten years! ten years!--and all this time
where was my poor innocent Mary, and the child she expected to bear when
I left Exeter--where was my old father? But I couldn't bear to dwell on
it. Yes, Aldridge, by the God above, they had kept me actually _ten
years_ there, in that cursed Temple while _he_ was going on all the time
with his victories, and his shows, and his high-flown bulletins! Yet he
wasn't too high, it seems, to stoop to give out, through his tools, how
Wright and I had both killed ourselves for fear of bringing in the
British Government--not to offer me a seventy-four in a dungeon--_me_, a
man used to wind and water, that loved a breeze at sea like life. 'Twas
the very devil's temptation, sir; but I'll tell you what, both Captain
Wright and myself had been with Sir Sidney Smith at Acre, when _he_ was
baffled for the first time in his days--_that_ was the thing, I believe
from my soul, that he hated us for. _I_ had a right to be exchanged ten
times over, though he might have called Wright a spy; but what was my
poor wife and her new-born baby, or my old father's gray hairs to _him_,
and his great ambition to make everything his own--and when the very
thought of me in my hole at the Temple would strike him in the midst of
his victories, where he hadn't time, forsooth, to trouble himself about
a poor man like me. The fact was, I could tell how he offered a British
seaman, that had had a finger in nettling him, the command of one of his
seventy-fours, which he had nobody fit to manage--and that in a prison
where I'd be glad even of fresh air.

"''Twas then, in fact, the purpose rose firmer and firmer in me, out of
the fury that was like to drive me mad, how I'd get out of his clutches,
and spend my life against the very pitch of his power I knew so well
about. Till that time I used to look through the bars of the window at
the Seine, without ever fancying escape, low down as it was, compared
with my last cell. There was a mark in the stone floor with my walking
back and forward since they put me in; and by this time I had the
cunning of a beast, let alone its strength, in regard of anything I took
into my head; often I used to think I saw the end of my finger, or the
corner of a stone, more like the way a fly sees them, than a man. The
turnkey, Pierre, would never let me have a knife to eat my food with,
lest I should do as he said all we English were apt to do--kill
myself--which, by-the-way, is a lie; and I think that fiend of an
Emperor yonder must have taught them to blame us with their own crime.
However, latterly he let me have a fork for half-an-hour at dinner; and
for a quarter of an hour every day, except those when he stayed to talk
to me as I ate it, did I climb up and work with that fork at the top and
bottom of one of the window-bars, taking care not to break the fork, and
jumping down always in time to finish the meal. It took me four whole
months, sir, to loosen them! Such deadly fear as I was in, too, lest
he'd find it out, or lest they moved me to another cell--you'd have
thought I was fond of the walls round the place, where hundreds of men
before me had scrawled their last words; and the one that shot himself
had written, "_Liberté--anéantissement!_ "Liberty--annihilation!" just
over where the spatter of his brains had stuck when he laid his head to
the spot! If Pierre had noticed what I'd been about, my mind was made up
to kill him, and then make the trial before they missed him; but _that_
I had a horror of, after all, seeing the man had taken a sort of liking
to me, and I knew he had a wife.

"'Well, at last, one day I had the thing finished; when midnight came I
trembled like a leaf, till I began to fear I couldn't carry it through.
I tore my shirt and the blanket in strips, to twist into a line, got out
the bar by main force, squeezed through, and let myself down. The line
was just long enough to let me swing against the cold wall, over a
sentry's head going round the parapet below; as soon as he was past, I
dropped on the edge of the wall, and fell along it, my fingers scraping
the smooth stone to no purpose, till I was sliding off into the dark,
with the river I didn't know how far below me, though I heard it lapping
against some boats at the other side.

"'For a few moments I was quite senseless from the fall into the water.
The splash roused the sentinels, and three or four bullets whizzed into
it about me, as I struck out for the shore. Still the night was thick
enough to help me clear off among the dark lanes in the city; and the
upshot of it was that I found out some royalists, who supplied me with a
pedlar's dress; till, in the end, after I can't tell you how many
ticklish chances, where my luck hung upon a hair, I reached the coast,
and was taken off to a British frigate. At home, sir--at home, I found
I'd been given up long ago for a dead man in Bonaparte's prisons,
and--and--the old man had been buried seven years, Aldridge--but not so
long as my--wife. The news of my taking my own life in the Temple saved
her the rest--'twas too much for her at the time, Aldridge--both she and
her little one had lain in the mould nine years, when I stood looking at
the grass under Exeter Cathedral. I was a young man almost, still; but
my hair was as grizzled when I got out of the Temple in 1813, as you see
it now, and I'll never walk the deck fairly again. Aldridge,' added the
captain of the _Podargus_, turning round and standing still, with a low
sort of a deep whisper, ''tis a strange thing, the Almighty's way of
working--but I never thought--in the Temple yonder, longing for a heave
of the water under me--I I little thought John Wallis would ever come
to keep guard over his Majesty, the Emperor Napoleon!'

"When Captain Wallis stopped, the long send of the sea lifting the brig
below us, with a wild, yearning kind of ripple from her bows back to her
counter, and weltering away astern--one felt it, I may say, somewhat
like an answer to him, for the breeze had begun to freshen: it had got
all of a sudden nearly quite dark, too, as is the case inside the
tropics, without the moon. 'Let's go on deck, gentlemen,' said the
captain, coming to himself; 'now clap on those other topmost stu'nsails,
Mr Aldridge, and make her walk, sir'--'No saying,' I heard him mutter,
as he let us go up before him--'no saying what the want of the
_Podargus_ might do, off the island, these dark nights--with water
alongside, one can't be sure. I warrant me if _that man's_ dreams came
true, as mine did, he would be at the head of his thousands again,
ruining the whole world, with men rotting out of sight in dungeons while
the wind blows! Ay, dreams, young gentleman!' said he to me as we stood
on deck; 'I'll never get rid of that prison, in my head, nor the way
that dead man's brain seemed to come into mine, off the wall! But for my
part, off St Helena, 'tis Napoleon Bonaparte's dreams that enter into my
head. If you'll believe it, sir, I've _heard_ them as it were creeping
and tingling round the black heights of the island at dead of night,
like men in millions ready to break out in war-music, as I used to hear
them go over the bridge near the Temple--or in shrieks and groans; we
all the time forging slowly ahead, and the surf breaking in at the foot
of the rocks. I know then _who's_ asleep at the time up in Longwood!'

"The brig-of-war was taking long sweeps and plunges before the wind; the
Southern Cross right away on her larboard quarter, and the very same
stars spread all out aloft, that I watched a couple of nights before,
close by Violet Hyde. The whole of what I'd just heard was nothing to me
in a single minute, matched with the notion of never seeing her more.
Everything I'd thought of since we left England was gone, even one's
heart for the service; and what to do now, I didn't know. I scarce
noticed it commence to rain, till a bit of a squall had come on, and
they were hauling down stu'nsails: the dark swells only to be seen
rising with the foam on them, and a heavier cover of dull cloud risen
off the brig's beam, as well as ahead; so that you merely saw her
canvas lift before you against the thick of the sky, and dive into it
again. 'Twas just cleared pretty bright off the stars astern of us,
however, wind rather lighter than before the squall, when the captain
thought he made out a sail near about the starboard beam, where the
clouds came on the water-line; a minute or two after she was plain
enough in the clear, though looming nearly end-on, so that one couldn't
well know her rig. Thinking at first sight it might be the schooner,
Captain Wallis was for bracing up, to stand in chase and overhaul her;
but shortly after she seemed either to yaw a little, or fall off again
before the wind like ourselves, at any rate showing three sticks on the
horizon, with square canvas spread, and evidently a small _ship_.

"'Some homeward-bound craft meaning to touch at the island,' said
Captain Wallis, telling the first lieutenant to keep all fast; by which
time she was lost in the dusk again, and I wasn't long of going below. A
fancy had got hold of me for the moment, I can't deny, of its being the
_Seringapatam_ after us on Westwood's owning himself; whereupon I
persuaded myself Captain Wallis might perhaps take the risk on him of
letting us both go. For my part, I felt by this time as if I'd rather be
in the same ship with _her_, hopeless though it was, than steer this way
for the other side of the line; and I went down with a chill at my heart
like the air about an iceberg.

"Not being asleep, however, a sudden stir on deck, an hour or two after
that, brought me out of my cot, to look through the scuttle in the side.
The brig had hauled her wind from aft on to her starboard quarter,
making less way than _before_ it, of course; I heard the captain's voice
near the after-hatchway, too; so accordingly I slipped on my clothes,
and went quietly up. The _Podargus_ was running through the long broad
swells usual thereabouts, with her head somewhere toward north-east; the
officers all up, the whole of the crew in both watches clustered beyond
the brig's fore-course, and the captain evidently roused, as well as
impatient; though I couldn't at first make out the reason of her being
off her course. As soon as she fell off a little, however, to my great
horror I could see a light far ahead of us, right in the gloom of the
clouds, which for a moment you'd have supposed was the moon rising red
and bloody, till the heave of the sea betwixt us and it showed how both
of us were dipping: and now and then it gave a flaring glimmer fair out
from the breast of the fog-bank, while the breeze was sending a brown
puff of smoke from it now and then to leeward against the clouds;
through which you made a spar or two licking up the flame, and a rag of
canvas fluttering across on the yard.

"Twas neither more nor less than a ship on fire--no doubt the vessel
seen abeam of us that evening--a sight at which Captain Wallis seemingly
forgot his hurry to make St Helena, in the eagerness shown by all aboard
to save the poor fellows. Suddenly there was another wild gleam from the
burning craft, and we thought it was over altogether, when up shot a
wreath of fire and smoke again, then a fierce flash with a blue burst of
flame, full of sparks, and all sorts of black spots and broken things,
as if she had blown up while she heaved the last time on the swell.
Everything was pitch dark next minute in her place, as if a big blot of
ink had come instead; the brig-of-war herself rolling with a flap of her
headsails up against the long heavy bank of cloud that blocked the
horizon. 'Keep her away, sirrah!' shouted Captain Wallis, and the
_Podargus_ surged ahead as before, all of us standing too breathless to
speak, but counting the heads of the waves as they flickered past her
weather-beam. 'God's sake!' exclaimed the captain at last, 'this is
terrible, Aldridge. If I had only overhauled her, as I meant at first,
we might have helped them in time; for no doubt the fire must have been
commenced when we noticed her yawing yonder a couple of hours ago, sir.'
'I think not, sir,' said his lieutenant; '_we_ were against the clear;
and if they'd been in danger _then_, she'd have fired a distress-gun.
There couldn't have been much powder aboard, sir--more likely rum, I
think!'

'For Heaven's sake!' continued the captain, 'let's look about--she must
surely have had boats out, or something, Mr Aldridge! The best thing we
can do is to fire a few times as we bear down--see that bow-gun cleared
away, Mr Moore, and do it!'

"We might have been about a mile, as was guessed, from where she was
last seen, when the brig fired a gun to windward, still standing on
under everything. At the second flash that lighted up the belly of the
clouds, with the black glitter of the swells below them, I fancied I
caught a moment's glimpse of something two or three miles away. It was
too short to say, however; and soon after the twinkle of a light,
seemingly hoisted on a spar, was seen little more than half-a-mile upon
the brig's lee-bow, dipping and going out of sight at times, but plain
enough when it rose. Down went the _Podargus_ for the spot, sending the
foam off her cutwater; and it was no long time before a wild hail from
several voices could be made out almost close aboard. Ten minutes after
she was brought to the wind, heaving a rope to the men on a loose raft
of casks and spars, as it pitched alongside of her, with the sail hauled
down on a spar they had stuck up, and a lantern at the head of it; after
which the raft was cast off, and the poor fellows were safe on board.

"Two of them seemed to be half-drowned, the one wrapped up in a wet
pilot-coat, his face looking white and frightened enough by the glimmer
of the lanterns: the other darker a good deal, so far as I could make
him out for the crowd about him, and he didn't seem able to speak;
accordingly both of them were taken at once below to the surgeon. The
rest were four half-naked blacks, and a little chap with earrings and a
seaman's dress who was the spokesman on the quarter-deck to the
captain's questions--plainly American by his snuffling sort of drawl.

"'Are there no more of you afloat?' was the first thing asked, to which
the Yankee sailor shook his head. She was an American bark, he said,
from a voyage of discovery round the two Capes; and he was mate himself,
and the skipper, being addicted to his cups, had set a cask of rum on
fire; so finding they couldn't get it under besides being wearied at the
pumps, on account of an old leak, the men broke into the spirit-room,
and got dead drunk. He and the blacks had patched up a raft in a hurry
for bare life, barely saving the passenger and his servant who had
jumped overboard; the passenger was a learned sort of a man, and his
servant was a Mexican. Most of this I found next day, from the gun-room
officers; however, I heard the mate of the burnt barque inquire of the
captain whereabouts they were, as the skipper was the only man who could
use a chronometer or quadrant, and the last gale had driven them out of
their reckonings a long way. 'Somewhere south of the Line, I guess?'
said he; but, on being told, the fellow gave a bewildered glance round
him, seemingly, and a cunning kind of squint after it, as I fancied.
'Well,' said he, 'I guess we're considerable unlucky; but I consider to
turn in, if agreeable!' The man had a way, in fact, half free-and-easy,
half awkward that struck me; especially when he said, as he went below,
he supposed 'this was a war-brig,' and hoped there 'wasn't war between
the States and the old country?' 'No, my man,' said the captain, 'you
may set your mind at ease on that point; but I'm afraid, nevertheless,
we'll have to land you at St Helena!'

"'What, mister?' said the American, starting, 'that's where you've got
Boneyparty locked up? Well now, if you give me a good berth for a few,
mister, I guess I'll rayther ship aboard you, till I get a better!
What's your wage just now, if I may ask, captain?' 'Well, well,' said
the captain, laughing, 'we'll see to-morrow, my man!'--and the American
went below. 'Set stu'nsails again, Mr Aldridge,' continued Captain
Wallis, 'and square yards. Why, rather than have such a fellow in the
ship's company, Aldridge, I'd land him without Sir Hudson's leave!'

"For my own part, next day, I should have given more notice to our new
shipmates while the brig steered fair before the wind--the blacks and
the mate leaning about her forecastle, and the other two being expected
by the surgeon to come pretty well round before night, though the
captain had gone to see them below; but a thing turned up all at once
that threw me once more full into the thought of Violet Hyde, till I was
perfectly beside myself with the helpless case I was in. The note Tom
Westwood had shown me was still in the pocket of my griffin's coat,
though I hadn't observed it till now; and what did I feel at finding
out, that, instead of one from her to Westwood, it was a few words from
my own sister, little Jane, saying in a pretty, bashful sort of way,
that her brother Ned must come home before she could engage to anything!
You may fancy how I cursed myself for being so blind; but a fellow never
thinks his own sister charming at all--and what else could I have done
at any rate? All I hoped for, was to get aboard of some Indiaman at St
Helena, and there was nothing else I wearied to see the island again
for. I may say I walked the brig's lee quarter-deck till daybreak; but
anyhow the look-out from the foreyard had scarce sung out 'St Helena on
the weather-bow!' when I was up, making out the round blue cloud in the
midst of the horizon, with a white streak across it, like a bird afloat
in the hazy blue, with the clear gleam from eastward off our starboard
quarter running round to it.



CHAPTER XXI


"As soon as you near St Helena by a few miles, the trade-wind falls
light, and making the rock, as you do from the South Atlantic, a good
deal to leeward of the harbour, 'twould be pretty slow work beating
round to north-east, but for the breeze always coming off the height,
with the help of which one can coast easy enough along. Captain Wallis
said no more than to bid the first lieutenant make the brig's number at
her mast-head, while she still bore in direct upon the breast of the
land, as much out of soundings as the day before; the smooth heavy swell
seeming to float the island up in one huge lump ahead of us, till you
saw it rolling into the very foot, with a line of surf, as if it all
rose sheer out of the bottom of the sea; as grim and hard as a block of
iron, too, and a good deal the same colour. By noon it hung fairly, as
it were, over our mast-heads, the brig looking by comparison as tiny and
as ticklish as a craft made of glass, she coasting away round, with
yards braced first one way then another, and opening point after point
from three hundred to two thousand feet high; while at times she would
go stealing in with a faint ripple at her bows, near enough to hear the
deep sound of the sea plunging slowly to the face of the rock, where the
surf rose white against it without a break.

"There wasn't so much as a weed to be seen, the rocks getting redder and
more coppery, sending out the light like metal, till you'd have thought
they tingled all over with the heat. Then as you opened another bulge in
the line, the sharp sugar-loaf hills, far away up, with the ragged
cliffs and crags, shot over against the bare white sky in all sort of
shapes; and after a good long spell of the sea, there was little fancy
needed to give one the notion that they were changing into these, as we
passed ahead, to mock you. There was one peak for all the world like
the top of St Paul's, and no end of church spires and steeples, all
lengths and ways; then big bells and trumpets, mixed with wild beasts'
heads, grinning at each other across some split in the blue beyond, and
soldiers' helmets--not to speak of one huge block, like a nigger's face
with a cowl behind it, hanging far out over the water. Save for the
colour of it all, in fact, St Helena reminds one more of a tremendous
iceberg than an island, and not the less that it looks ready in some
parts to topple over and show a new face; while the sea working round
it, surging into the hollows below water-mark, and making the air groan
inside of them, keeps up a noise the like of which you wouldn't wish to
cruise alongside of every day. The strangest thing about it, however,
was that now and then, as you came abreast of some deep gully running up
inland, a sudden blast of wind would rush out of it, sufficient to make
the _Podargus_ reel--with a savage thundering roar, too, like the howl
out of a lion's mouth; while you looked far up a narrow, bare, black
glen, closing into a hubbub of red rocks, or losing itself up a grey
hillside in a white thread of a water-course; then the rough shell of
the island shut in again, as still as before, save the light breeze and
the deep hum of the surf along its foot. Curiously enough in a latitude
like St Helena's, the island seems, as it were, a perfect bag of air.
What with the heat of the rock, its hollow inside, the high peaks of it
catching the clouds, and the narrow outlets it has, 'tis always brewing
wind, you may say, to ventilate that part of the tropics--just as one
may keep up cold draughts through and through a wet heap of loose
stones, no matter how hot the weather is, as long as he pleases. As for
a landing-place, though, there wasn't one of the gullies that didn't
yawn over without falling to the sea; and, not to mention the surf
underneath, where the dark swell came in unbroken from deep water
without a shoal to soften it, why, watching it from the brig's side, I
shouldn't have said a cat could scramble up or down the steep slopes and
the wreck of stones, from the water's edge to the jaws of the easiest
gully you saw.

"Once or twice, standing farther off, we caught sight of Diana's Peak
over the shoulder of a hill, with the light haze melting about it; at
last you noticed a large gun mounted against the sky on a lofty peak,
where it looked like a huge telescope; and on clearing another
headland, a beautiful frigate came in between us and the burst of light
to seaward, cruising to windward under easy sail. She bore up and stood
towards the brig-of-war, just as the line of wall was to be seen winding
round the middle of Sugarloaf Point, where the sentry's bayonet
glittered near his watch-box, and the soldiers' red coats could be seen
moving through the covered passage to the batteries. Five minutes after,
the _Podargus_ swept round the breast of Rupert's Hill into the bay, in
sight of Jamestown and the ships lying off the harbour; clewing up her
sails and ready to drop anchor, as the frigate hove to not far astern.

"You can fancy land heaving in sight after thrice as many weeks as
you've been at sea, ladies; or the view of a ship to a man that's been
long laid up in bed ashore; or a gulp of fresh water in a sandy
desert--but I question if any of them matches your first glimpse of
Jamestown from the roadstead, like a bright piece of fairy-work in the
mouth of the narrow brown valley, after seeing desolation enough to make
you wish for a clear horizon again. More especially this time, when all
the while one couldn't help bringing to mind one's notion of the French
Emperor, how, not long ago, the sight of the French coast, or a strange
frigate over the Channel swell, used to make us think of him far ashore,
with half the earth for his own, and millions of soldiers. We reefers
down in the cockpit would save our grog to drink confusion to Napoleon,
and in a rough night near a lee-shore, it was look alive aloft, or
choose betwixt cold brine and the clutch of a gendarme hauling you to
land. I do believe we looked upon him as a sort of god, as Captain
Wallis did in the Temple; every ship or gunboat we saw taken, or had a
hand in the mauling of, why, 'twas for the sheer sake of the thing, and
scarce by way of harm to Boney; while nothing like danger, from breakers
on the lee-bow to a November gale, but had seemingly a taste of him.
None of us any more thought of bringing him to this, than we did of his
marching into London, or of a French frigate being able to rake our old
_Pandora_ in a set-to on green water or blue, with us to handle her.

"But _there_ was the neat little cluster of houses, white, yellow, and
green, spreading down close together in the bottom of the valley, and
out along the sea's edge; the rough brown cliffs sloping up on each
side, with the ladder-like way to the fort on the right, mounting, as it
were, out of the very street, to the flagstaff on the top, and dotted
with red-coats going up and down; a bright line of a pier and a wall
before the whole, the Government House dazzling through a row of
spreading trees, and a little square church-tower to be seen beyond.
'Twas more like a scene in a play, than aught else; what with the
suddenness of it all, the tiny look of it betwixt the huge rocks, the
greenness of the trees and bushes, and patches of garden struggling up
as far as they could go into the stone, and the gay little toys of
cottages, with scarce flat enough to stand upon; save for the blue swell
of the sea plunging lazily in through the bit of a bay, and the streak
of air behind, that let you in high over the head of the hollow, up
above one height and another, to a flat-headed blue rise in the
distance, where Longwood could be seen from the maincross-trees I had
gone to as the sails were furled.

"The sunlight, striking from both the red sides of the ravine, made the
little village of a place, trees and all, glitter in a lump together,
out of it, like no spot in the rest of the world; while elsewhere there
wasn't so much as a weed to be seen hanging from the rock, nor the sign
of another human habitation, saving the bare batteries on each hand,
with a few sheds and warehouses over the beach along the landing-place.
Once or twice the same sudden gust as before would come slap down
through the valley into the brig's bare rigging, hot as the air was,
with a howling kind of a sigh you took some time to get accustomed to,
lest there was a hurricane to follow: in fact, one didn't well know
whether it was the wild look of it outside, or the lovely spot in its
grim mouth of a landing-place, but the whole island gave you the notion
of a thing you couldn't be long sure of, without fancying it would give
a shake some day or other again; or else spout fire, as no doubt it had
done before, if there wasn't more fear of Napoleon getting back somehow
to France, and wreaking bloody vengeance on the kings that shut him up
in St Helena.

"There was apparently a busy scene ashore, however, both in the little
town, which has scarce more than a single street, and along the quay,
full of residents, as well as passengers from two Indiamen lying
in-shore of us, while the Government esplanade seemed to be crowded
with ladies, listening to the regimental band under the trees. The
_Newcastle_ frigate, with Sir Dudley Aldcombe's flag hoisted at her
mizzen, was at anchor out abreast at Ladder Hill; and our first
lieutenant had scarce pulled aboard of the _Hebe_, which was hove-to off
the brig's quarter, before I noticed the Admiral's barge lying alongside
the _Hebe_.

"Seeing Mr Aldridge on his way back shortly after, I came down the
rigging, more anxious than ever to have my own matter settled; indeed,
Captain Wallis no sooner caught sight of my face, uncomfortable as I
daresay it looked, than he told me he was going to wait on the Admiral
aboard the _Hebe_, and would take me with him at once, if I chose. For
my part, I needed nothing but the leave, and in ten minutes' time I
found myself, no small mark of curiosity, betwixt the waist and the
quarter-deck of the _Hebe_, where the officers eyed me with as little
appearance of rudeness as they could help, and I overhauled the spars
and rigging aloft as coolly as I could, waiting to be sent for below.
The _Hebe_, in fact, was the very beauty of a twenty-eight; taking the
shine, and the wind, too, clean out of everything even at Plymouth,
where I had seen her once a year or two before; our poor dear old _Iris_
herself had scarce such a pattern of a hull, falling in, as it did, from
the round swell of her bilge, to just under the plank-sheer, and
spreading out again with her bright black top-sides, till where the
figure-head shot over the cutwater, and out of her full pair of bows,
like a swan's neck out of its breast. As for the _Iris_, our boatswain
himself one day privately confessed to me, almost with tears in his
eyes, that she tumbled home a thought too much just in front of the
fore-chains, and he'd tried to get it softened off with dead planking
and paint, but it wouldn't do; everybody saw through them. The truth
was, to feel this fine ship under one, with her loose topsails hanging
high against the gloom of the red gully towards Longwood, and the gay
little town peeping just over her larboard bow, a mile away, it somehow
or other cleared one's mind of a load.

"I was thinking already how, if one had the command of such a craft, to
do something with her at sea--hang it! but surely that old judge
couldn't be too proud to give him a fair hearing. By Jove! thought
I--had one only wild enough weather, off the Cape, say--if I wouldn't
undertake to bother even a seventy-four a whole voyage through, till she
struck her flag; in which case a fellow might really venture to hold his
head up and speak his mind, lovely as Violet Hyde would be in Calcutta.
But then, again, _there_ was St Helena towering red and rough over the
ships, with the grand French Emperor hidden in it hard and fast, and all
the work he used to give us at an end!

"Just at the moment, happening to catch sight of the American mate's
sallow black visage over the brig-of-war's hammock-cloths, peering as he
did from the cliffs to the lofty spars of the frigate, while his negro
shipmates were to be made out nearer the bows--somehow or other the
whole affair of their being burnt out and picked up started into my mind
again, along with our late queer adventures in the Indiaman. Not to
mention Captain Wallis's story, it flashed upon me all at once, for the
first time, that the strange schooner was after some scheme as regarded
the island; and a man more likely to try something uncommon than the
Frenchman I never had seen yet. The truth was, but for my thoughts being
otherwise taken up, I'd have wondered at my own confounded stupidity in
not fathoming the thing sooner; whereas now I'm not going to deny it, I
half began actually to wish him good success, or else a close miss of
it, where either way one couldn't well fail having a share in the
squall.

"At any rate, I saw it was cunningly enough gone about; this same burnt
barque of the Yankee's, I perceived in a moment, was part of the plot;
though as for meddling in it till I saw more, 'twas likely to spoil the
whole; let alone making an ass of oneself in case of mistake. I was
eyeing the shipwrecked mate, indeed, when one of the lieutenants told me
politely the Admiral wanted to see me in the cabin below.

"Not being much accustomed to admirals' society, as a little
white-haired fellow-reefer of mine once said at a tea-party ashore, I
came in at the door with rather an awkward bow, no doubt; for Sir
Dudley, who was sitting on the sofa with his cocked hat and sword beside
him, talking to Captain Wallis, turned his head at the captain's word,
as if he were trying to keep in a smile. A tall, fine-looking man he
was, and few seamen equal to him for handling a large fleet, as I knew,
though his manners were finished enough to have made him easy in a
king's court. As for the captain of the _Hebe_, he was leaning out of an
open stern-window, seemingly a young man; but who he might be I didn't
know at the moment. The Admiral had only a question or two to put,
before he looked back to Captain Wallis again, remarking it was clear he
had brought away the wrong man. 'I didn't think you were so dull in the
_Podargus_,' said he, smiling, 'as to let an Indiaman play off such a
trick on you--eh, Captain Wallis!'

"Captain Wallis glanced round the cabin, and then sideways down at Sir
Dudley's cocked hat, in a funny enough way, as much as to say he took
all the blame on himself; and it struck me more than ever what a kind
heart the man had in him--if you only set aside his hatred to Bonaparte,
which in fact was nothing else but a twisted sort of proof of the same
thing. 'Pooh, pooh, Wallis,' continued Sir Dudley, 'we can't do anything
in the matter; though, if the service were better than it really is at
present, I should certainly incline to question a smart young fellow
like this, that has held His Majesty's commission, for idling in an
Indiaman after the lady passengers! I am afraid, sir,' said he to me,
'you've lost your passage, though--unless the captain of the _Hebe_ will
give you his second berth here, to make amends. You need not be afraid,
Lord Frederick!' added he, looking toward the captain of the frigate,
and raising his voice; 'you do not know him, after all, I suppose!' The
captain drew in his head, saying he had been doubtful about one of the
pivots of the rudder, then turned full round and looked uneasily at me,
on which his face brightened immediately, and he said, 'No, Sir Dudley,
I do not!' I was still in ignorance for a moment or so, myself, who this
titled young post-captain might be, though I had certainly seen him
before; till all at once I recollected him, with a start as pleasant to
me as his seemed to him at _not_ knowing me. Both Westwood and I had
been midshipmen together for a while in the _Orion_, fifty-gun ship,
where _he_ was second lieutenant, several years before. As for me, I was
too fond of a frigate to stay longer in her than I could help; but I
remembered my being a pest to the second lieutenant, and Tom's being a
favourite of his, so that he stayed behind me, and got master's-mate as
soon as he was 'passed.'

"The Honourable Frederick Bury he was then, and the handsomest young
fellow in the squadron, as well as the best-natured aboard; I don't
believe he knew how to splice in a dead-eye, and any of the
masters'-mates could take charge of the ship better in a rough night, I
daresay; but for a gallant affair in the way of hard knocks, with
management to boot, there wasn't his match. He never was known to fail
when he took a thing in hand; lost fewer men, too, than anyone else did;
and whenever there turned up anything ticklish for the boats, it was
always 'Mr Bury will lead.' 'The Honourable Bury,' we used to call him,
and 'Fighting Free-the-deck.' Westwood was one of his school, whereas
_I_ had learnt from Jacobs in a merchantman's forecastle; and many a
time did we play off such tricks on the second lieutenant as coming
gravely aft to him during the watch, three or four of us together, me
carrying a bit of rope where a 'Turk's-head' or a 'mouse' was to be
worked, while I asked him innocently to show us the way. Or else it was
some dispute we contrived beforehand, as to the best plan of sending up
new topmasts at sea, or running out of a 'round' gale in the Indian
Ocean, on which the men forward would be all ready to break out
laughing; and the second lieutenant, after thinking a moment, would
quietly pitch upon me to go aloft, and study the point for two hours at
the mast-head.

"'What is _your_ name then, young man?' inquired Sir Dudley Aldcombe of
me. The instant I told him, Lord Frederick Bury gave me another look,
then a smile. 'What?' said he, 'Collins that was in the _Orion_?' 'Yes,
Lord Frederick,' said I, 'the same; I was third in the _Iris_ off the
West African coast since then.' 'Why,' said he, 'I recollect you quite
well, Mr Collins, although you have grown a foot, I think, sir--but your
eye reminds me of sundry pranks you used to play on board! What nickname
was it your messmates called you, by-the-by?' 'Something foolish enough,
I suppose, my lord,' replied I, biting my lip; 'but I remember clearly
having the honour to steer the second cutter in-shore one dark night
near Dunkirk, when your lordship carried the Dutch brig and the two
French chasse-marées----'

"'Faith,' broke in the captain of the _Hebe_, 'you've a better memory
than I have--I do not recollect any chasse-marées at all that time, Mr
Collins!' 'Why,' said I, 'I got a knock on the head from a fellow in a
red shirt--that always kept me in mind.' 'Oh,' remarked the Admiral to
Captain Wallis, laughing, 'Lord Frederick Bury must have had so many
little parties of the kind that his memory can't be expected to be very
nice! However, I shall go ashore at present, gentlemen, leaving the
_Hebe_ and you to dispose of this runaway lieutenant in some way or
other. Only you'd better settle it before Admiral Plampin arrives!'
'Have you seen the--the--Longwood lately, Sir Dudley?' asked the captain
of the _Podargus_ carelessly. 'Yes, not many days ago I had an
interview,' said the Admiral gravely; 'proud as ever, and evidently
resolved not to flinch from his condition. 'Tis wonderful the command
that man has over himself, Wallis--he speaks of the whole world and its
affairs like one that sees into them, and had them still nearly under
his foot! All saving those miserable squabbles with Plantation House,
which--but, next time I shall take my leave, and wash my hands of the
whole concern, I am glad to think!'

"Lord Frederick was talking to me meanwhile at the other end of the
cabin, but I was listening in spite of myself to Sir Dudley Aldcombe,
and noticed that Captain Wallis made no answer. 'By-the-way, Wallis,'
continued the Admiral, ''tis curious that he seemed anxious more than
once to know what you think of him--I believe he would like to see you!'
'To see _me_!' said the commander of the _Podargus_, suddenly. 'At last,
does he! No, Sir Dudley, he and I never _will_ meet; he ought to have
thought of it twelve years sooner! God knows,' he went on, 'the
commander of a ten-gun brig is too small a man to see the Emperor
Napoleon a prisoner; but in ten years of war, Sir Dudley, what mightn't
one have been, instead of being remembered after as only plain John
Wallis, whom Bonaparte kept all that time in prison, and who was sent in
course of time, to cruise off St Helena?' Here the Admiral said
something about a British sailor not keeping malice, and Captain Wallis
looked up at him gravely. 'No,' replied he; 'no, Sir Dudley, I shouldn't
have _chosen_ the thing; but in the meantime I'm only doing my duty.
There's a gloomy turn in my mind by this time, no doubt; but you've no
idea, Sir Dudley, how the thought of other people comes into one's head
when he's years shut up--so _I_ may stand for many a one Bonaparte will
never see more than myself, that'll ring him round surer than those
rocks there, though they're dead and in their graves, Sir Dudley!' The
Admiral shook his head, observing that Napoleon was no common man, and
oughtn't to be judged as such. 'Too many victories in that eye of his, I
suspect, Captain Wallis,' said he, 'for either Plantation House or his
own conscience to break his spirit!'

"Ay, ay, sir,' answered the captain respectfully, 'excuse me, Sir
Dudley, but there it is--so long as he's got his victories to fall back
upon, he can't see how, if he'd regarded common men more, with all
belonging to them, he wouldn't have been here! Why did Providence shut
him up in a dead volcano, with blue water round it, Sir Dudley, if it
wasn't to learn somehow or other he was a man after all?' Sir Dudley
Aldcombe shrugged his shoulders and looked to Lord Frederick, upon which
he rose, and the two captains followed him out of the cabin; in five
minutes I heard the side piped for the Admiral's leaving, and soon after
the captain of the _Hebe_ came below again.

"'This is a disagreeable affair of your old messmate's, Mr Collins,'
said he seriously. 'You are, perhaps, not aware that Captain Duncombe
was a relative of my own, and the fact of his property having fallen by
will to myself, rendered my position the more peculiarly disagreeable,
had I been obliged not only to recognise Lieutenant Westwood here, but
afterwards to urge proceedings against him, even if he were let off by
court-martial. I cannot tell you how the sight of a stranger, as I
thought, relieved me, sir!' 'Indeed, Lord Frederick!' replied I, too
much confused in the circumstances to say more. However, his lordship's
manner soon set me at my ease, the old good-humoured smile coming over
his fine features again, while he went on to offer me the place of his
second lieutenant, who was going home very ill by one of the
homeward-bound Indiamen; adding, that Sir Dudley would confirm the
appointment; indeed, he could scarce help himself, he said, as there was
nobody else he could get at present.

"'You must be a thorough good sailor by this time, Collins,' continued
he, 'if you have gone on at the rate you used to do. I remember how fond
you were of having charge for a minute or two of the old _Orion_, or
when I let you put her about in my watch. Why they called you "Young
Green" I never could understand, unless it was _ut lucus a non lucendo_,
as we used to say at Eton, you know. Well, what do you say?' Now, as you
may suppose, the idea of boxing about St Helena, for Heaven knew how
long, didn't at all suit my liking--with the thought of the
_Seringapatam_ steering away from Bombay the whole time, and a hundred
notions of Violet Hyde in India--'twould have driven me madder than the
Temple did Captain Wallis: but it was only the _first_ part of my mind I
gave Lord Frederick. 'What!' exclaimed he, with a flush over his face,
and drawing up his tall figure, 'you didn't suppose, _I_ should remain
here? Why, the _Hebe_ is on her way for Calcutta and Canton, and will
sail as soon as the _Conqueror_ arrives at Jamestown with Admiral
Plampin.' 'Your lordship is very kind,' said I, looking down to cover my
delight; 'and if I am not worthy of the post it shan't be my fault, Lord
Frederick.' 'Ah, very good!' said he smiling; ''tis an opportunity you
oughtn't to let slip, Collins, let me tell you! For my own part, I
should just as soon cut out a pirate in the Straits of Malacca as a
French brig in the Channel; and there are plenty of them, I hear, there.
As for a chase, sir, I flatter myself you won't easily see a finer thing
than the _Hebe_ spreading her cloth after one of those fast proas will
be--I think you are just the fellow to make her walk, too, Mr
Collins--pah! to compare a day on the Derby turf with _that_, would be a
sin! You have no idea, sir, how one longs for a fair horizon again, and
brisk breezes, when so ineffably tired out of all those ball-rooms, and
such things as you see about town just now--only I fear I shall wish to
be second lieutenant again, eh?'

"The noble captain of the _Hebe_ turned to look out through the stern
window to seaward, his face losing the weary sort of half-melancholy
cast it had shown for the last minute, while his eye glistened; and it
struck me how well matched the _Hebe_ and her commander were; you'd have
said both had good blood in them, both being models to look at of their
kind, and the frigate lifting under you at the moment, from the keel
upward, with a check aloft in her main-topsail, that lifted her stem to
the surge. A small telescope rolled off the sofa on to the cabin deck,
and as I picked it up, another gust could be heard coming down St James
Valley from inside the island; through the gun-port one saw the trees
wave over the hot white houses in the bright-coloured little town, while
the ship's canvas gave another flutter above-decks. Lord Frederick
laughed, and said, 'Then I suppose we need say no more about it, Mr
Collins, except referring once for all to Sir Dudley?' I bowed, and the
upshot was, that, an hour or two after, I had my acting commission sent
me from the Admiral, the same boat having called at the _Podargus_ for
my things; upon which Lord Frederick introduced me to the first
lieutenant, and I found myself once more doing duty in the service--the
_Hebe_ standing out to leeward with the last light, just as the
_Podargus_ was tripping anchor to beat round again the other way. As for
our friends from the burnt vessel, I must say I had forgot them already,
for the time at least.

"Every block, crag, and knot in the huge crust of the rock shone
terribly bright for a minute or two, aloft from over the yard-ends, as
she stood suddenly out into the fiery gleam of the sun going down many a
mile in the Atlantic. Then up leapt the light keener and keener to the
very topmost peak, till you'd have thought it went in like a living
thing behind a telegraph, that stood out against a black cleft betwixt
two cliffs. We saw the evening gun off Ladder Hill flash upon the deep
blue of the sky, seemingly throwing up the peak and flagstaff a dozen
feet higher; and the boom of the gun sounding in among the wild hills
and hollows within the island, as if one heard it going up to Longwood
door. Scarce was it lost, ere a star or two were to be seen in the
shadow on the other side, and you listened almost, in the hush following
upon the gunfire, for an echo to it, or something stranger; in place of
which the _Hebe_ was already forging ahead in the dark to get well clear
of the land, every wave bringing its own blackness with it up toward her
fore-chains, then sparkling back to her waist in the seeth of foam as
she felt the breeze; while St Helena lay towering along to larboard,
with its ragged top blotting against the deep dark blue of the sky, all
filling as it was with the stars.

"I had the middle watch that night, the ship being under short canvas,
and slowly edging down to make the most leewardly point of the island,
from which she was to beat up again at her leisure by the morning. All
we had to do was to keep a good look-out, on the one hand, into the
streak of starlight to seaward, and on the other along the foot of the
rocks, as well as holding her well in hand, in case of some sudden
squall through the valleys from inside.

"However, I shan't easily forget the thoughts that ran in my mind,
walking the quarter-deck with the frigate under charge, the first time I
noticed Orion and the Serpent begin to wheel glittering away from over
Diana's Peak--the others stealing quietly into sight after them, past
the leech of our main-topsail; scarce an English star to be seen for the
height of the island off our quarter; some of the men on one side of the
booms humming a song about Napoleon's dream, which you'll hear to this
day in ships' forecastles; another yarning solemnly, on the other side,
about some old sweetheart of his--but all of them ready to jump at my
own least word. In the morning, however, there we were, stretching back
by degrees to go round the lee side of the island again, the haze
melting off Diana's Peak as before, and the sea rolling in swells as
blue as indigo, to the huge red lumps of bare crag; while the bright
surges leapt out of them all along the frigate's side, and the spray
rose at times to her figure-head.

"During the day we cruised farther out, and the _Hebe_ had enough to do
in seeing off one Indiaman for home, and speaking another outward-bound
craft, that passed forty miles off or so, without touching; the
Governor's telegraphs were eternally at work on the heights, bothering
her for the least trifle, and making out a sail sixty miles off, it was
said. For my part, I was pretty well tired of it already, sincerely
wishing for the _Conqueror_, with Admiral Plampin, to heave in sight;
but glad enough all aboard the _Hebe_ were, when, after an entire week
of the thing, it came to her turn, with the _Newcastle_ and _Podargus_,
to lie at anchor off Jamestown, where half the ship's company at a time
had their liberty ashore.

"For my part, I had to see after the frigate's water-tanks, and a gang
at the rigging, till the afternoon, when Lord Frederick took the first
lieutenant and myself ashore with him in his gig; and no joke it was
landing even there, where the swell of the surf nigh-hand hove her
right up on the quay, while you had to look sharp, in case the next wave
washed you back again off your feet. The whole place was hot as could be
from the sun's rays off the rocks, slanting bare red to the cloudless
sky, on both sides of the neat little gaudy houses crowded in the mouth
of the valley, which narrowed away beyond the rise of the street, till
you didn't see how you'd get farther. But for the air of the sea,
indeed, with now and then a breath down out of the hills, 'twas for all
the world like a half-kindled oven; except under the broad trees along
the Government esplanade, where one couldn't have stood for people. What
with blacks, lascars, Chinamen, and native 'Yamstocks,' together with
liberty-men from the men-of-war and Indiamen, as well as reefers
trotting about on ponies and donkeys, the very soldiers could scarce get
down the foot of the road up Ladder Hill; as for the little town holding
one half of them, it was out of the question, but the noise and kick-up
were beyond aught else of the kind, save in a Calcutta bazaar.
Accordingly, it was pleasant enough at last to come within a shady walk
of thick green fig-trees, growing almost out of the rock near the main
battery, above the small sound of the water far below; the very sea
looking bluer through the leaves, while some birds no bigger than wrens
hopped, chirruping, about the branches.

"Here we met Sir Dudley Aldcombe coming down from the batteries along
with some Company's officers from India, and he stopped to speak to Lord
Frederick, giving the first lieutenant and me a bow in return, as we
lifted our hats and waited behind. The Admiral proposed to get Lord
Frederick a pass to visit Napoleon along with himself next day, as the
_Conqueror_ would probably arrive very soon. 'You will oblige me
greatly, Sir Dudley,' said the captain of the _Hebe_. 'He seems as fond
of seeing a true sailor,' said the Admiral, 'as if we'd never done him
harm. Things will be worse after I go. By-the-way,' added he suddenly,
''tis curious enough, but there's one person in the island at present
has made wonderful progress in Sir Hudson's good graces, for the short
time--that American botanist, or whatever he calls himself, that Captain
Wallis took off the burnt vessel on his way here. Your new lieutenant
was aboard at the time, you know, Lord Frederick.' 'You saw him, sir, of
course?' said the Admiral looking to me. 'Only for a minute that night,
Sir Dudley,' said I; 'and afterwards both he and his servant were under
the surgeon's charge below.' 'Well,' continued Sir Dudley to the
captain, 'they seem quite recovered now; for I saw them to-day up at
Plantation House, where the philosopher was in close discourse with the
Governor about plants and such things; while her ladyship was as much
engaged with the assistant, who can only speak Spanish. A remarkable
looking man the latter is, too; a Mexican, I understand, with Indian
blood in him, apparently--whereas his principal has a strong Yankee
twang; and queer enough it was to hear him snuffling away as solemnly as
possible about _buttany_ and such things--besides his hinting at some
great discovery likely to be made in the island, which Sir Hudson seemed
rather anxious to keep quiet from _me_.'

"What Sir Dudley said made me prick up my ears, as you may fancy. I
could scarce believe the thing; 'twas so thoroughly rich and so
confoundedly cool at once, to risk striking at the very heart of things
this way with the Governor himself; but the whole scheme, so far,
flashed upon me in a moment, evidently carried on, as it had been all
along, by some one bold enough for anything earthly, and with no small
cunning besides. All that he needed, no doubt, was _somebody else_ with
the devil's own impudence and plenty of talk; nor, if I'd thought for a
day together, could one have pitched easily upon a customer as plausible
as our friend Daniel, who hadn't a spark of fear in him, I knew, just
owing to his want of respect for aught in the entire creation. Still, I
couldn't, for the life of me, see what the end of their plan was to be,
unless the strange Frenchman might have been some general or other under
Bonaparte, and just wanted to see his old commander once more; which,
thought I, I'll be hanged if I don't think fair enough, much pains as he
had put himself to for the thing.

"'How!' asked Lord Frederick, 'a discovery did you say, Sir Dudley?'
'Oh, nothing of the kind _we_ should care about, after all,' said the
Admiral; 'from what I could gather, 'twas only scientific, though the
American called it "_a_ pretty importaint fact." This Mr Mathewson
Brown, I believe, was sent by the States Government as botanist in an
expedition to southward, and has leave from Sir Hudson to use his
opportunity before the next Indiaman sails, for examining part of the
island, and to-day he thought he found the same plants in St Helena as
he did in Gough's Island and Tristan d'Acunha, twelve hundred miles off,
near the Cape, showing, as he said, how once on a time there must have
been land between them, perhaps as far as Ascension!' 'Why,' put in Lord
Frederick,' that would have made a pretty good empire, even for
Napoleon!' 'So it would, my lord,' said Sir Dudley, 'much better than
Elba; but the strangest part of it is, this Mr Brown was just telling
his Excellency, as I entered the room, that some of the ancient
philosophers wrote about this said country existing in the Atlantic
before the Flood--how rich it was, with the kings it had, and the wars
carried on there; till, on account of their doings, no doubt, what with
an earthquake, a volcano, and the ocean together, they all sunk to the
bottom except the tops of the mountains! Now, I must say,' continued the
Admiral, 'all this learning seemed to one to come rather too much by
rote out of this gentleman's mouth, and the American style of his talk
made it somewhat ludicrous, though he evidently believed in what may be
all very true--particularly in mentioning the treasures that must lie
under water for leagues round, or even in nooks about the St Helena
rocks; I thought his very teeth watered. As for Sir Hudson, he had
caught at the idea altogether, but rather in view of an historical work
on the island, from the earliest times till now--and I believe he means
to accompany the two botanists himself over toward Longwood to-morrow,
where we may very likely get sight of them.'

"'O--h!' thought I, and Lord Frederick Bury smiled. 'Rather a novelty,
indeed!' said he; and the first lieutenant looked significantly enough
to me, as we leant over the battery-wall, watching the hot horizon
through the spars of the ships before Jamestown. 'What amused me,' Sir
Dudley said again, 'was the American botanist's utter indifference, when
I asked if he had seen anything of "The General" in the distance. The
Governor started, glancing sharp at Mr Brown, and I noticed his dark
companion give a sudden side-look from the midst of his talk with her
ladyship; whereupon the botanist merely pointed with his thumb to the
floor, asking coolly 'what it was to science?' 'At this,' added Sir
Dudley to the captain, 'His Excellency seemed much relieved; and after
having got leave for myself and your lordship to-morrow, I left them
still in the spirit of it. It certainly struck me that, in the United
States themselves, educated men in general couldn't have such a vulgar
manner about them--in fact, I thought the Mexican attendant more the
gentleman of the two--his face was turned half from me most of the time,
but still it struck me as remarkably intelligent.' 'Ah,' said Lord
Frederick carelessly, 'all the Spaniards have naturally a noble sort of
air, you know, Sir Dudley--they'll never make republicans!' 'And I must
say,' added the Admiral, as they strolled out of the shade up the
battery-steps, 'little as I know of Latin, what this Mr Brown used _did_
seem to me fearfully bad!'

"'And no wonder!' thought I, from a Yankee schoolmaster as I had found
my late shipmate was, before he thought of travelling; but the valuable
Daniel turning his hand to help out some communication or other, no
doubt, with Napoleon Bonaparte in St Helena, took me at first as so
queer an affair, that I didn't know whether to laugh at him or admire
his Yankee coolness, when he ran such risks. As for the feasibleness of
actually getting the prisoner clear out of the island, our cruising on
guard was enough to show me it would be little short of a miracle; yet I
couldn't help thinking they meant to try it; and in case of a dark
night, which the south-easter was very likely to bring, if it shifted or
freshened a little, why, I knew you needn't call anything impossible
that a cool head and a bold heart had to do with, provided only they
could get their plans laid inside and out so as to tally. The more eager
I got for next day, when it would be easy enough for any of us to go up
inland after Lord Frederick, as far as Hut's Gate at least. Meantime,
the first lieutenant and I walked up together to where the little town
broke into a sort of suburb of fancy cottages, with verandahs and green
venetians in bungalow style, scattered to both sides of the rock amongst
little grass-plots and garden patches--every foot of ground made use of.
And a perfect gush of flowers and leaves it was, clustering over the
tiles of the low roofs, while you saw through a thicket of poplars and
plantains right into the back of the gully, with a ridge of black rock
closing it fair up, and Side Path, as they call the road to windward,
winding overhead along the crag behind the houses, out of sight round a
mass of cliffs. Every here and there, a runlet of water came trickling
down from above the trees to water their roots; you saw the mice in
hundreds scampering in and out of holes in the dry stone, with now and
then a big ugly rat that turned round to face you, being no doubt fine
game to the St Helena people, ill off as they all seemed for something
to do--except the Chinese with their huge hats, hoeing away under almost
every tree one saw, and the Yamstock fishermen to be seen bobbing for
mullet outside the ships, in a blaze of light sufficient to bake any
heads but their own. Every cottage had seven or eight parrots in it,
apparently; a cockatoo on a stand by the door, or a monkey up in a
box--not to speak of canaries in the window, and white goats feeding
about with bells round their necks: so you may suppose what a jabbering,
screaming, whistling, and tinkling there was up the whole hollow, added
to no end of children and young ladies making the most of the shade as
it got near nightfall--and all that were out of doors came flocking down
Side Path.

"Both of us having leave ashore that night, for a ball in one of these
same little bungalows near the head of the valley, 'twas no use to think
of a bed, and as little to expect getting off to the ship, which none
could do after gunfire. For that matter, I daresay there might be twenty
such parties, full of young reefers and homeward-bound old East Indians,
keeping it up as long as might be, because they had nowhere to sleep.
The young lady of the house we were in was one of the St Helena
beauties, called 'The Rosebud,' from her colour. A lovely creature she
was, certainly, as it was plain our _Hebe's_ first lieutenant thought,
with several more to boot: every sight of her figure gliding about
through the rest, the white muslin floating round her like haze,
different as her face was, made one think of the _Seringapatam's_ deck
at sea, with the men walking the forecastle in the middle watch, and the
poop quiet over the judge's cabins.

"Two or three times I had fancied for a moment that, if one had somewhat
stirring to busy himself with, why, he might so far forget what was no
doubt likely to interfere pretty much with a profession like my own; and
so it might have been, perhaps, had I only seen her ashore; whereas now,
whether it was ashore or afloat, by Jove! everything called her somehow
to mind. The truth is, I defy you to get rid very easily of the thought
about one you've sailed in the same ship with, be it girl or woman: the
same bottom betwixt you and the water, the same breeze blowing your
pilot-coat in the watch on deck that ripples past her ear below, and the
self-same dangers to strive against! At a break in the dance I went out
of the dancing-room into the verandah, where the cool of the air among
the honeysuckle-flowers and creepers was delightful to feel; though it
was quite dark in the valley, and you couldn't make out anything but the
solemn black-blue of the sky full of stars above you, between the two
cliffs; or right out, where the stretch of sea, widening to the horizon,
looked almost white through the mouth of the valley over the house-roofs
below; one heard the small surf plashing low and slow into the little
bay, with the boats dipping at their moorings, but I never saw sea look
so lonely. Then up at the head of the gully one could mark the steep
black crag that shut it up, glooming quiet and large against a gleam
from one of the clusters of stars; the sight of it was awful, I didn't
know well why, unless by comparison with the lively scene inside, not to
say with one's own whole life afloat, as well as the wishes one had at
heart. 'Twas pretty late, but I heard the music strike up again in the
room, and was going back again, when all of a sudden I thought the
strangest sound that ever came to one's ears went sweeping round and
round far above the island, more like the flutter of a sail miles wide
than aught else I can fancy; then a rush of something like those same
blasts of wind I was pretty well used to by this time--but wind it was
not--growing in half-a-minute to a rumbling clatter, and then to a
smothered roar, as if something more than mortal shot from inland down
through the valley, and passed out by its mouth into the open sea at
once. I scarce felt the ground heave under me, though I thought I saw
the black head of the ravine lift against the stars--one terrible plunge
of the sea down at the quays and batteries, then everything was still
again; but the whole dancing-party came rushing out in confusion at my
back, the ladies shrieking, the men looking up into the sky, or at the
cliffs on both sides; the British flag, over the fort on Ladder Hill,
blowing out steadily to a stiff breeze aloft. It wasn't for some time,
in fact, that they picked up courage again to say it had been an
earthquake. However, the ball was over, and, as soon as matters could be
set to rights, it was nothing but questions whether it had aught to do
with _him_ up at Longwood, or hadn't been an attempt to blow up the
island--some of the officers being so much taken aback at first, that
they fancied the French had come.

"At last, however, we, who had nothing else for it, got stowed away on
sofas or otherwise about the dancing-room; for my part, I woke up just
early enough to see the high head of the valley coming out as clearly as
before against the morning light, and the water glancing blue out miles
away beyond the knot of ships in the opening. The news was only that
Napoleon was safe, having been in his bed at the time, where he lay
thinking one of the frigates had blown up, they said. Not a word of his
that got wind but the people in Jamestown made it their day's text--in
the want of which they'd even gossip about the coat he wore that
morning; till you'd have said the whole nest of them, soldiers and all,
lay under his shadow as the town did at the foot of the cliffs, just
ready to vanish as soon as he went down. The Longwood doctor had told
someone in the Jew Solomon's toy-shop, by the forenoon, that Bonaparte
couldn't sleep that night for making some calculations about a great
battle he had fought, when he counted three separate shocks of the
thing, and noticed it was luckily right up and down, or else Jamestown
would have been buried under tons of rock. The doctor had mentioned
besides that there was twice an earthquake before in the island, in
former times; but it didn't need some of the townspeople's looks to tell
you they'd be afraid many a night after, lest the French Emperor should
wake up thinking of his battles; while, as for myself, I must say the
notion stuck to me some time, along with my own ideas at that exact
moment; at any rate, not for worlds would I have lived long ashore in St
Helena.



CHAPTER XXII


"Mr Newland (the first lieutenant) and I set out early in the day,
accordingly, with a couple of the _Hebe's_ midshipmen, mounted on as
many of the little island ponies, to go up inland for a cruise about the
hills. You take Side Path along the crags, with a wall betwixt the hard
track and the gulf below, till you lose sight of Jamestown like a
cluster of children's toy-houses under you, and turn up above a sloping
hollow full of green trees and tropical-like flowering shrubs, round a
pretty cottage called The Briars--where one begins to have a notion,
however, of the bare blocks, the red bluffs, and the sharp peaks
standing up higher and higher round the shell of the island. Then you
had another rise of it to climb, on which you caught sight of Jamestown
and the harbour again, even smaller than before, and saw nothing before
your beast's head but a desert of stony ground, running hither and
thither into wild staring clefts, grim ravines, and rocks of every size
tumbled over each other like figures of ogres and giants in hard fight.
After two or three miles of all this, we came in view of Longwood Hill,
lying green on a level to north and east, and clipping to windward
against the sea beyond; all round it elsewhere was the thick red crust
of the island, rising in ragged points and sharp spires--the greenish
sugar-loaf of Diana's Peak shooting in the middle over the high ridge
that hid the Plantation House side of St Helena to leeward.

"Between the spot where we were and Longwood is a huge fearful-looking
black hollow, called the Devil's Punch-bowl, as round and deep as a
pitch-pot for caulking all the ships in the world--except on a slope
into one corner of it, where you saw a couple of yellow cottages with
gardens about them; while every here and there a patch of grass began to
appear, a clump of wild weeds and flowers hanging off the fronts of the
rocks, or the head of some valley widening away out of sight, with the
glimpse of a house amongst trees, where some stream of water came
leaping down off the heights and vanished in the boggy piece of green
below. From here over the brow of the track it was all like seeing into
an immense stone basin half-hewn out, with all the lumps and wrinkles
left rising in it and twisting every way about--the black Devil's
Punch-bowl for a hole in the middle, where some infernal liquor or other
had run through; the soft bottoms of the valleys just bringing the whole
of it up distincter to the green over Longwood Hill; while the ragged
heights ran round on every side like a rim with notches in it, and
Diana's Peak for a sort of a handle that the clouds could take hold of.
All this time we had strained ourselves to get as fast up as possible,
except once near the Alarm House, where there was a telegraph
signal-post, with a little guard-hut for the soldiers; but _there_ each
turned round in his saddle, letting out a long breath the next thing to
a cry, and heaving-to directly, at sight of the prospect behind. The
Atlantic lay wide away round to the horizon from the roads, glittering
faint over the ragged edge of the crags we had mounted near at hand;
only the high back of the island shut out the other side--save here and
there through a deep-notched gully or two--and accordingly you saw the
sea blotched out in that quarter to the two sharp bright ends, clasping
the dark-coloured lump between them, like a mighty pair of arms lifting
it high to carry it off. Soon after, however, the two mids took it into
their wise heads the best thing was to go and climb Diana's Peak, where
they meant to cut their names at the very top; on which the first
lieutenant, who was a careful middle-aged man, thought needful to go
with them, lest they got into mischief; for my part, I preferred the
chance of coming across the mysterious Yankee and his comrade, as I
fancied not unlikely, or, what was less to be looked for, a sight of
Bonaparte himself.

"Accordingly, we had parted company, and I was holding single-handed
round one side of the Devil's Punch-bowl, when I heard a clatter of
horse-hoofs on the road, and saw the Admiral and Lord Frederick riding
quickly past on the opposite side, on their way to Longwood--which,
curiously enough, was half-covered with mist at the time, driving down
from the higher hills, apparently before a regular gale, or rather some
kind of a whirlwind. In fact, I learned after, that such was often the
case, the climate up there being quite different from below, where they
never feel a gale from one year's end to the other. In the next hollow I
got into, it was hot and still as it would have been in India, the
blackberry trailers and wild aloes growing quite thick, mixed with
prickly-pear bushes, willows, gumwood, and an African palm or two;
though from the look of the sea, I could notice the southeast trade had
freshened below, promising to blow a good deal stronger that night than
ordinary, and to shift a little round.

"Suddenly the fog began to clear by degrees from over Longwood, till it
was fairly before me, nearer than I thought; and just as I rode up a
rising ground, out came the roof of a house on the slope amongst some
trees, glittering wet as if the sun laid a finger on it; with a low
bluish-coloured stretch of wood farther off, bringing out the white
tents of the soldiers' camp pitched about the edge of it. Nearly to
windward there was one sail in sight on the horizon, over an opening in
the rocks beyond Longwood House, that seemingly let down toward the
coast; however, I just glanced back to notice the telegraph on the
signal-post at work, signalling to the _Podargus_ in the offing, and
next minute Hut's Gate was right ahead of me, not a quarter of a mile
off--a long-shaped bungalow of a cottage, inside of a wall with a gate
in it, where I knew I needn't try farther, unless I wanted the sentries
to take me under arrest. Betwixt me and it, however, in the low ground,
was a party of man-o'war's-men under charge of a midshipman, carrying
some timber and house-furniture for Longwood, as I remembered, from
seeing them come ashore from the _Podargus_ that morning; so I stood
over to give my late shipmates a hail. But the moment I got up with
them, it struck me not a little, as things stood, to find three of the
four blacks we had taken aboard from that said burnt barque of the
American mate's trudging patiently enough under the heaviest loads of
the gang. Jetty-black, savage-looking fellows they were, as strong as
horses, and reminded me more of our wild friends in the Nouries River,
than of States niggers; still, what caught my notice most wasn't so much
their being there at all, as the want of the fourth one, and where _he_
might be. I don't know yet how this trifling bit of a puzzle got hold on
me, but it was the sole thing that kept me from what might have turned a
scrape to myself--namely, passing myself in as officer of the party;
which was easy enough at the time, and the tars would have entered into
the frolic as soon as I started it. On second thoughts, nevertheless, I
bade them good-day, steering my animal away round the slant of the
ground, to see after a good perch as near as possible; and I daresay I
was getting within the bounds before I knew it when another sentry sung
out to me off the heights to keep lower down, first bringing his musket
to salute for my uniform's sake, then letting it fall level with a
ringing slap of his palm, as much as to say it was all the distinction
I'd get over plain clothes.

"At this, of course, I gave it up, with a blessing to all lobster-backs,
and made sail down to leeward again as far as the next rise, from which
there was a full view of the sea, at any rate, though the face of a
rough crag over behind me shut out Longwood House altogether. Here I had
to get fairly off the saddle--rather sore, I must say, with riding up St
Helena roads after so many weeks at sea--and flung myself down on the
grass, with little enough fear of the hungry little beast getting far
adrift. This said crag, by-the-way, drew my eye to it by the queer
colours it showed, white, blue, grey, and bright red in the hot
sunlight; and being too far off to make out clearly, I slung off the
ship's glass I had across my back, just to overhaul it better. The hue
of it was to be seen running all down the deep rift between, that
seemingly wound away into some glen toward the coast; while the lot of
plants and trailers half covering the steep front of it, would no doubt,
I thought, have delighted my old friend the Yankee, if he _was_ the
botanising gentleman in question.

"By this time it was a lovely afternoon far and wide to Diana's Peak,
the sky glowing clearer deep-blue at that height than you'd have thought
sky could do, even in the tropics--the very peaks of bare red rock being
softened into a purple tint, far off round you. One saw into the rough
bottom of the huge Devil's Punch-bowl, and far through without a shadow
down the green patches in the little valleys, and over Deadwood
Camp--there was _nothing_, as it were, between the grass, the ground,
the stones, and leaves, and the empty hollow of the air; while the sea
spread far round underneath, of a softer blue than the sky over you.
You'd have thought all the world was shrunk into St Helena, with the
Atlantic lying three-quarters round it in one's sight, like the horns of
the bright new moon round the dim old one; which St Helena pretty much
resembled, if what the star-gazers say of its surface be true, all
peaks and dry hollows--if, indeed, you weren't lifting up out of the
world, so to speak, when one looked through his fingers right into the
keen blue overhead!

"If I lived a thousand years, I couldn't tell half what I felt lying
there; but, as you may imagine, it had somewhat in it of the late
European war by land and sea. Not that I could have said so at the time,
but rather a sort of half-doze, such as I've known one have when a
schoolboy, lying on the green grass the same way, with one's face turned
up into the hot summer heavens; half of it flying glimpses, as it were,
of the French Revolution, the battles we used to hear of when we were
children--then the fears about the invasion, with the Channel full of
British fleets, and Dover Cliffs--Trafalgar and Nelson's death, and the
battle of Waterloo, just after we heard _he_ had got out of Elba. In the
terrible flash of the thing altogether, one almost fancied them all gone
like smoke; and for a moment I thought I was falling away off, _down_
into the wide sky, so up I started to sit. From that, suddenly I took to
guessing and puzzling closely again how I should go to work myself, if I
were the strange Frenchman I saw in the brig at sea, and wanted to
manage Napoleon's escape out of St Helena. And first, there was how to
get into the island and put _him_ up to the scheme--why, sure enough, I
couldn't have laid it down better than they seemed to have done all
along: what could one do but just dodge about that latitude under all
sorts of false rig, then catch hold of somebody fit to cover one's
landing? No Englishman _would_ do it, and no foreigner but would set Sir
Hudson Lowe on his guard in a moment. Next we should have to get put on
the island--and really a neat enough plan it was to dog one of the very
cruisers themselves, knock up a mess of planks and spars in the
night-time, set them all ablaze with tar, and pretend we were fresh from
a craft on fire; when even Captain Wallis of the _Podargus_, as it
happened, was too much of a British seaman not to carry us straight to
St Helena! Again, I must say it was a touch beyond me; but to hit the
Governor's notions of a hobby, and go picking up plants round Longwood,
was a likely enough way to get speech of the prisoner, or at least let
him see one was there!

"How should I set about carrying him off to the coast, though? That was
the prime matter. Seeing that even if the schooner--which was no doubt
hovering out of sight--were to make a bold dash for the land with the
trade-wind, in a night eleven hours long--there were sentries close
round Longwood from sunset, the starlight shining mostly always in the
want of a moon; and at any rate there was rock and gully enough, betwixt
here and the coast, to try the surest foot aboard the _Hebe_, let alone
an emperor. With plenty of woods for a cover, one might steal up close
to Longwood, but the bare rocks showed you off to be made a mark of.
Whew! but why were those same blacks on the island? I thought; just
strip them stark-naked, and let them lie in the Devil's Punch-bowl, or
somewhere, beyond military hours, when I warrant me they might slip up,
gully by gully, to the very sentries' backs! Their colour wouldn't show
them, and savages as they seemed, couldn't they settle as many sentries
as they needed, creep into the very bed-chamber where Bonaparte slept,
and man-handle him bodily away down through some of the nearest hollows,
before anyone was the wiser? The point that still bothered me was, why
the fourth of the blacks was wanting at present, unless he had his part
to play elsewhere. If it was chance, then the _whole_ might be a notion
of mine, which I knew I was apt to have sometimes. If I could only make
out the fourth black, so as to tally with the scheme, on the other hand,
then I thought it was all sure; but of course this quite checked me, and
I gave it up, to work out my fancy case by providing signals betwixt us
plotters inside and the schooner out of sight from the telegraphs.

"There was no use for her to run in and take the risk, without good luck
having turned up on the island; yet any sign she could profit by must be
both sufficient to reach sixty miles or so, and hidden enough not to
alarm the telegraphs or the cruisers. Here was a worse puzzle than all,
and I only guessed at it for my own satisfaction--as a fellow can't help
doing when he hears a question he can't answer--till my eye lighted on
Diana's Peak, near three thousand feet above the sea. There it was, by
Jove! 'Twas quite clear at the time; but by nightfall there was always
more or less cloud near the top; and if you set a fire on the very peak,
'twould only be seen leagues off: a notion that brought to mind a
similar thing which I told you saved the Indiaman from a lee-shore one
night on the African coast--and again, by George! I saw _that_ must have
been meant at first by the negroes as a smoke to help the French brig
easier in! Putting that and that together, why it struck me at once what
the fourth black's errand might be--namely, to watch for the schooner,
and kindle his signal as soon as he couldn't see the island for mist, I
was sure of it; and as for a dark night coming on at sea, the freshening
of the breeze there promised nothing more likely; a bright white haze
was softening out the horizon already, and here and there the egg of a
cloud could be seen to break off the sky to windward, all of which would
be better known afloat than here.

"The truth was, I was on the point of tripping my anchor to hurry down
and get aboard again, but, on standing up, the head of a peak fell below
the sail I had noticed in the distance, and, seeing she loomed large on
the stretch of water, I pretty soon found she must be a ship of the
line. The telegraph over the Alarm House was hard at work again, so I
e'en took down my glass and cleaned it to have a better view, during
which I caught sight, for a minute, of some soldier-officer or other on
horseback, with a mounted red-coat behind him, riding hastily up the
gully a good bit from my back, till they were round the red piece of
crag, turning at times as if to watch the vessel. Though I couldn't have
a better spy at him for want of my glass, I had no doubt he was the
Governor himself, for the sentries in the distance took no note of him.

"There was nobody else visible at the time, and the said cliff stood
fair up like a look-out place, so as to shut them out as they went
higher. Once or twice after, I fancied I made out a man's head or two
lower down the gully than the cliff was, which, it occurred to me, might
possibly be the botanists, as they called themselves, busy finding out
how long St Helena had been an island; however, I soon turned the glass
before me upon the ship, by this time right opposite the ragged opening
of Prosperous Bay, and heading well up about fourteen miles or so off
the coast, as I reckoned, to make Jamestown harbour. The moment I had
the sight of the glass right for her--though you'd have thought she
stood still on the smooth soft blue water--I could see her whole beam
rise off the swells before me, from the dark side and white band,
checkered with a double row of ports, to the hamper of her lofty
spars, and the sails braced slant to the breeze, the foam gleaming
under her high bows, and her wake running aft in the heave of the
sea. She was evidently a seventy-four; I fancied I could make out
her men's faces peering over the yards toward the island, as they
thought of 'Boneypart'; a white rear-admiral's flag was at the
mizzen-royal-mast-head, leaving no doubt she was the _Conqueror_ at
last, with Admiral Plampin, and, in a day or two at farthest, the _Hebe_
would be bound for India.

"I had just looked over my shoulder toward Longwood, letting the
_Conqueror_ sink back again into a thing no bigger than a model on a
mantelpiece, when, all at once, I saw someone standing near the brow of
the cliff I mentioned, apparently watching the vessel, with a long glass
at his eye, like myself. 'Twas farther than I could see to make out
anything, save so much; and, ere I had screwed the glass for such a near
sight, there were seven or eight figures more appearing half over the
slope behind; while my hand shook so much with holding the glass so
long, that at first I brought it to bear full on the cracks and blocks
in the front of the crag, with the large green leaves and trailers on it
flickering idly with the sunlight against my eyes, till I could have
seen the spiders inside, I daresay. Next I held it too high, where the
Admiral and Lord Frederick were standing by their horses, a good way
back; the Governor, as I supposed, sitting on his, and two or three
others along the rise. At length, what with kneeling down to rest it on
one knee, I had the glass steadily fixed on the brow of the rocks, where
I plainly saw a tall dark-whiskered man, in a rich French uniform,
gazing to seaward--I knew him I sought too well by pictures, however,
not to be sadly galled.

"Suddenly a figure came slowly down from before the rest, with his hands
behind his back, and his head a little drooped. The officer at once
lowered the telescope and held it to him, stepping upward, as if to
leave him alone--what dress he had on I scarce noticed; but there he was
standing, single, in the round bright field of the glass I had hold of
like a vice--his head raised, his hands hiding his face, as he kept the
telescope fixed fair in front of me--only I saw the smooth, broad round
of his chin. I knew, as if I'd seen him in the Tuileries at Paris, or
known him by sight since I was a boy--I _knew_ it was Napoleon!

"During that minute the rest of them were out of sight, so far as the
glass went--you'd have supposed there was no one there but himself, as
still as a figure in iron, watching the same thing, no doubt, as I'd
done myself five minutes before, where the noble seventy-four was
beating slowly to windward. When I _did_ glance to the knot of officers
twenty yards back, 'twas as if one saw a ring of his generals waiting
respectfully while he eyed some field of battle or other, with his army
at the back of the hill; but next moment the telescope fell in his
hands, and his face, as pale as death, with his lip firm under it,
seemed near enough for me to touch it--his eyes shot stern into me from
below his wide white forehead, and I started, dropping my glass in turn.
That instant the whole wild lump of St Helena, with its ragged brim, the
clear blue sky and the sea, swung round about the dwindled figures above
the crag, till they were nothing but so many people together against the
slope beyond.

"'Twas a strange scene to witness, let me tell you; never can I forget
the sightless, thinking sort of gaze from that head of his, after the
telescope sank from his eye, when the _Conqueror_ must have shot back
with all her stately hamper into the floor of the Atlantic again!

"Once more I brought my spy-glass to bear on the place where he had
been, and was almost on the point of calling out to warn him off the
edge of the cliff, forgetting the distance I was away. Napoleon had
stepped, with one foot before him, on the very brink, his two hands
hanging loose by his side, with the glass in one of them, till the
shadow of his small black cocked hat covered the hollows of his eyes,
and he stood, as it were, looking down past the face of the precipice.
What he thought of, no mortal tongue can say, whether he was master at
the time over a wilder battle than any he'd ever fought--but just then,
what was the surprise it gave me to see the head of a man, with a red
tasselled cap on it, raised through amongst the ivy from below, while he
seemed to have his feet on the cracks and juts of the rock, hoisting
himself by one hand round the tangled roots, till no doubt he must have
looked right aloft into the French Emperor's face; and perhaps he
whispered something--though, for my part, it was all dumb show to me,
where I knelt peering into the glass. I saw even _him_ start at the
suddenness of the thing--he raised his head upright, still glancing down
over the front of the crag, with the spread hand lifted, and the side of
his face half-turned toward the party within earshot behind, where the
Governor and the rest apparently kept together out of respect, no doubt
watching both Napoleon's back and the ship of war far beyond. The keen
sunlight on the spot brought out every motion of the two in front--the
_one_ so full in my view, that I could mark his look settle again on the
other below, his firm lips parting and his hand out before him, like a
man seeing a spirit he knew; while a bunch of leaves on the end of a
wand came stealing up from the stranger's post to Napoleon's very
fingers.

"The head of the man on the cliff turned round seaward for one moment,
ticklish as his footing must have been; then he looked back, pointing
with his loose hand to the horizon--there was one minute between them
without a motion, seemingly--the captive Emperor's chin was sunk on his
breast, though you'd have said his eyes glanced up out of the shadow of
his forehead; and the stranger's red cap hung like a bit of the
bright-coloured cliff, under his two hands, holding amongst the leaves.
Then I saw Napoleon lift his hand calmly, he gave a sign with it--it
might have been refusing, it might have been agreeing, or it might be
farewell, I never expect to know; but he folded his arms across his
breast, with the bunch of leaves in his fingers, and stepped slowly back
from the brink towards the officers. I was watching the stranger below
it, as he swung there for a second or two, in a way like to let him go
dash to the bottom; his face sluing wildly seaward again. Short though
the glance I had of him was--his features set hard in some bitter
feeling or other, his dress different, too, besides the moustache being
off, and his complexion no doubt purposely darkened--it served to prove
what I'd suspected: he was no other than the Frenchman I had seen in the
brig, and, mad or sensible, the very look I caught was more like that he
faced the thunder squall with than aught besides. Directly after, he was
letting himself carefully down with his back to my glass; the party
above were moving off over the brow of the crags, and the Governor
riding round apparently to come once more down the hollow between us.

"In fact, the seventy-four had stood by this time so far in, that the
peaks in the distance shut her out; but I ran the glass carefully along
the whole horizon in my view, for signs of the schooner. The haze was
too bright, however, to make sure either way; though, dead to windward,
there were some streaks of cloud risen with the breeze, where I once or
twice fancied I could catch the gleam of a speck in it. The _Podargus_
was to be seen through a notch in the rocks, too, beating out in a
different direction, as if the telegraph had signalled her elsewhere;
after which you heard the dull rumble of the forts saluting the
_Conqueror_ down at Jamestown as she came in; and being late in the
afternoon, it was high time for me to crowd sail downward, to fall in
with my shipmates.

"I was just getting near the turn into Side Path, accordingly, after a
couple of mortal hours' hard riding, and once more in sight of the
harbour beneath, when the three of them overtook me, having managed to
reach the top of Diana's Peak, as they meant. The first lieutenant was
full of the grand views on the way, with the prospect of the peak, where
one saw the sea all round St Helena like a ring, and the sky over you as
blue as blue water. 'But what do you think we saw on the top, Mr
Collins?' asked one of the urchins of me--a mischievous imp he was
himself, too, pock-marked, with hair like a brush, and squinted like a
ship's two hawse-holes. 'Why, Mister Snelling,' said I, gruffly--for I
knew him pretty well already, and he was rather a favourite with me for
his sharpness, though you may suppose I was thinking of no trifles at
the moment--'why, the devil, perhaps.' 'I must say I thought at first it
was him, sir,' said the reefer, grinning; ''twas a black nigger, though,
sir, sitting right on the very truck of it, with his hands on his two
knees, and we'd got to shove him off before we could dig our knives into
it!' '_By_ the Lord Harry!' I rapped out, 'the very thing that----'
''Twas really the case, though, Mr Collins,' said the first lieutenant;
'and I thought it curious; but there are so many negroes in the island.'
'If you please, sir,' put in the least of the mids, 'perhaps they
haven't all of 'em room to meditate, sir!' 'Or sent to the mast-head,
eh, Roscoe?' said Snelling. 'Which you'll be, sirrah,' broke in the
first lieutenant, 'the moment I get aboard, if you don't keep a small
helm.' We were clattering down over Jamestown by this time, the sun
blazing red off the horizon, into it and the doors of the houses, and
the huge hull and spars of the _Conqueror_ almost blocking up the
harbour, as she lay anchored outside the Indiaman. The evening gun fired
as we pulled aboard the _Hebe_, which immediately got under weigh by
order, although Lord Frederick was not come down yet; but it fell to her
turn that night to supply a guard-boat to windward, and she stood up
under full sail round Sugarloaf Point, just as the dusk fell like a
shadow over the island.

"The _Newcastle's_ boat was on the leeward coast that night, and one of
our cutters was getting ready to lower, nearly off Prosperous Bay, to
windward, while the frigate herself would hold farther out to sea. One
of the master's mates should have taken the cutter; but after giving the
first lieutenant a few hints as far as I liked to go, I proposed to go
in charge of her that time, myself--which was laid to the score of my
freshness on the station; and the mate being happy to get rid of a
tiresome duty, I got leave at once.

"The sharp midshipman, Snelling, took it into his ugly head to keep me
company, and away we pulled into hearing of the surf. The moment things
took the shape of fair work, in fact, I lost all thoughts of a late
kind. In place of seeing the ragged heights against the sky, and musing
all sorts of notions about the French Emperor, there was nothing but the
broad bulk of the island high over us, the swell below, and the sea
glimmering wide from our gunwale to the stars; so no sooner did we lose
sight of the _Hebe_ slowly melting into the gloom, than I lit a cheroot,
gave the tiller to the mid, and sat stirring to the heart at the thought
of something to come, I scarce knew what. As for Bonaparte, with all
that belonged to him, 'twas little to me in that mood, in spite of what
I'd seen during the day, compared with a snatch of old Channel times;
the truth was, next morning I'd feel for him again.

"The night for a good while was pretty tolerably starlit, and in a sort
of way you could make out a good distance. One time we pulled right
round betwixt the two points, though slowly enough; then again the men
lay on their oars, letting her float in with the long swells, till the
surf could be heard too loud for a safe berth. Farther on in the night,
however, it got to be dark--below at least--the breeze holding steady,
and bringing it thicker and thicker; at last it was so black all round
that on one side you just _knew_ the rocks over you, with the help of a
faint twinkle of stars right aloft. On the other side there was only, at
times, the two lights swinging at the mast-head of the _Podargus_ and
_Hebe_, far apart, and one farther to sea than the other; or now and
then their stern-window and a port, when the heave of the water lifted
them, or the ships yawed a little. One hour after another, it was
wearisome enough waiting for nothing at all, especially in the key one
was in at the time, and with a long tropical night before you.

"All of a sudden, fairly between the brig and the frigate, I fancied I
caught a glimpse for one moment of another twinkle; then it was out
again, and I had given it up, when I was certain I saw it plainly once
more, as well as a third time, for as short a space as before. We were
off a cove in the coast, inside Prosperous Bay, where a bight in the
rocks softened the force of the surf, not far from the steep break where
one of these same narrow gullies came out--a good deal short of the
shore, indeed; but I knew by this time it led up somewhere toward the
Longwood side. Accordingly the idea struck me of a plan to set agoing,
whether I hit upon the right place or not; if it _was_ the schooner, she
would be coming down right from windward, on the look-out for a signal,
as well as for the spot to aim at; the thing was to lure her boat ashore
there before their time, seize her crew, and take the schooner herself
by surprise, as if we were coming back all right; since signal the ships
we couldn't, and the schooner would be wary as a dolphin.

"No sooner said than done. I steered cautiously for the cove, fearfully
though the swell bore in, breaking over the rocks outside of it; and the
reefer and I had to spring one after the other for our lives, just as
the bowman prized her off into the back-wash.

"As for the cutter, it would spoil all to keep her off thereabouts; and
I knew, if a boat did come in of the kind I guessed, why she wouldn't
lay herself out for strength of crew. Snelling and I were well armed
enough to manage half-a-dozen, if they fancied us friends; so I ordered
the men to pull clear off for an hour, at least leaving fair water. In
fact there were sentries about the heights, I was aware, if they could
have heard or seen us; but the din of the surf, the dark, and the
expectation of the thing, set us both upon our mettle; while I showed
the boat's lantern every now and then, like the light I had noticed,
such as the Channel smugglers use every thick night on our own coast. I
suppose we might have waited five or ten minutes when the same twinkle
was to be caught, dipping dark down into the swell again, about opposite
the cove; next we had half-an-hour more, every now and then giving them
a flash of the lantern, when suddenly the reefer said he saw oars
glisten over a swell, which he knew weren't man-o'-war's strokes, or
else the fellows ought to have their grog stopped. I had the lantern in
my hand, slipping the shade once more, and the other to feel for my
cutlass-hilt, when the mid gave a cry behind me, and I turned just in
time to see the dark figure of a black spring off the stones at our
backs. One after another three or four more came leaping past me out of
the gloom--the Frenchman's red cap and his dark fierce face glared on me
by the light of the lantern; and next moment it was down, with him and
me in a deadly struggle over it in the thick black of the night.
Suddenly I felt myself lose hold of him in the heave of the swell,
washing away back off the rock; then something else trying to clutch me,
when down I swept with the sea bubbling into my mouth and ears.

"I came up above water again by the sheer force of the swell, as it
seemed to me, plunging into the shore; with the choice, I thought, of
either being drowned in the dark, or knocked to a jelly on the rocks;
but out I struck, naturally enough, rising on the huge scud of the sea,
and trying to breast it, though I felt it sweep me backwards at every
stroke, and just saw the wide glimmer of it heave far and wide for a
moment against the gloom of the cliffs behind. All at once, in the
trough, I heard the panting of someone's breath near alongside of me,
and directly after I was caught hold of by the hair of the head,
somebody else grabbing at the same time for my shoulder. We weren't
half-a-dozen fathoms from the stranger's boat, the blacks who had fallen
foul of me swimming manfully together, and the boat lifting bow-on to
the run of the sea, as her crew looked about for us by the light of
their lantern. I had just got my senses enough about me to notice so
much, when they were hauling me aboard; all four of the negroes holding
on with one hand by the boat's gunnel, and helping their way with the
other; while the oars began to make for the light, which was still to be
caught by fits, right betwixt those of the two cruisers, as the space
widened slowly in the midst of them, standing out to sea. Scarce had I
time to feel some one beside me as wet as myself, whether the reefer or
the Frenchman I didn't know, when crash came another boat with her bows
fairly down upon our gunwale, out of the dark.

"The spray splashed up betwixt us, I saw the glitter of the oar-blades,
and heard Snelling's shrill voice singing out to 'sink the villains, my
lads--down with 'em--remember the second lieutenant!' The lantern in the
French boat flared, floating out for a single instant amongst a wreck of
staves and heads, bobbing wildly together on the side of a wave. One of
my own men from the cutter pulled me by the cuff of the neck off the
crest of it with his boat-hook, as it rose swelling away past, till I
had fast grip of her quarter; the blacks could be seen struggling in the
hollow, to keep up their master's body, with his hands spread helplessly
hither and thither above water. The poor devils' wet black faces turned
so wistfully, in their desperation, towards the cutter, that I gasped
out to save him. They kept making towards us, in fact, and the bowman
managed to hook him at last, though not a moment too soon, for the next
heave broke the unlucky wretches apart, and we lost sight of them; the
cutter hanging on her oars till they had both him and me stowed into the
stern-sheets, where the Frenchman lay seemingly dead or senseless, and I
spitting out the salt water like a cockney after a bathe.

"'Why, Mr Snelling,' said I, as soon as I came fully to myself, 'I can't
at all understand how I got into the water.' 'Nor I either, sir,' said
he; 'I'll be hanged, sir, if I didn't think it was a whirlwind of
niggers off the top of Diana's Peak, seeing I made out the very one we
found there this afternoon--the four of them took you and this other
gentleman up in their arms in a lump, as you were floundering about
together, and took to the water like so many seals, sir!' I looked down
into the Frenchman's face, where he lay stretched with his head back
and his hair dripping. 'Is he gone?' said I. 'Well, sir,' said the mid,
who had contrived to light the lantern again, 'I'm afraid he's pretty
near it. Is he a friend of yours, sir?--I thought as much, by-the-way,
you caught him the moment you clapped eyes on each other, sir.'
'Silence, sirrah!' said I. 'D'ye see anything of the light to seaward?'

"For a minute or two we peered over the swells into the dark, to catch
the twinkle of the signal again, but to no purpose; and I began to think
the bird was flown. All of a sudden, however, there it was once more,
dipping as before beyond the heave of the sea, and between the backs of
it, sliding across the open space, with the blind side to the cruisers.
'Hallo, my lads!' said I, quickly, and giving myself another shake as I
seized the tiller, 'give way seaward--stretch your backs for ten
minutes, and we have her!' We were pulling right for the spot, when the
light vanished, but a show of our lantern brought it gleaming fairly out
again, till I could even catch a glimpse by it of some craft or other's
hull, and the iron of one boom-end, rising over the swells. 'Bow-oar,
there!' whispered I. 'Stand by, my lad, and look sharp!' 'Hola!' came a
short, sharp hail over the swells, '_d'où venez-vous?_' '_Oui, oui!_' I
sang out boldly, through my hand, to cover the difference as much as
possible; then a thought occurred to me, recollecting the French
surgeon's words on board this very craft the first time we saw her--'De
la cage de l'_Aigle_,' I hailed; 'bonne fortune, mes amis!' 'C'est
possible! c'est possible, mon capitaine!' shouted several of the
schooner's crew, jumping upon her bulwarks, 'que vous apportez
_lui-même_?'

"We are pulling for her side as lubberly as possible, all the time--a
man ran up on her quarter with a coil of line ready to heave--but still
the main boom of the schooner was already jibbing, her helm up, and she
under way; they seemed half doubtful of us, and another moment might
turn the scales. 'Vite, vite!' roared I, choosing my French at hap
hazard. 'Oui, oui, jettez votre corde--venez au lof, mes amis!'--luff,
that was to say. I heard somebody aboard say it was the American--the
schooner came up in the wind, the line whizzing off her quarter into our
bows, and we came sheering down close by her lee-quarter, grinding
against her bends in the surge, twenty eager faces peering over at us in
the confusion; when I sung out hoarsely to run for brandy and hot
blankets, as he was half-drowned. 'Promptement--promptement, mes amis!'
shouted I, and as quickly there was a rush from her bulwarks to bring
what was wanted, while Snelling and I made dash up her side, followed by
the men, cutlass in hand. Three minutes of hubbub, and as many strokes
betwixt us, when we had driven the few that stood in our way pell-mell
down the nearest hatchway. The schooner was completely our own.

"We hoisted up the cutter, with the French captain still stretched in
the stern-sheet--hauled aft the schooner's headsheets, let her large
mainsail swing full again, and were soon standing swiftly out toward the
light at the frigate's mast-head.

"When the _Hebe_ first caught sight of us, or rather heard the sound of
the schooner's sharp bows rushing through the water, she naturally
enough didn't know what to make of us. I noticed our first luff's sudden
order to clear away the foremost weather-gun, with the rush of the men
for it; but my hail set all to rights. We hove-to off her weather
quarter, and I was directly after on board, explaining, as simply as
possible, how we had come to get a hold of a French craft thereabouts in
such a strange fashion.

"Accordingly, you may fancy the surprise at Jamestown in the morning, to
see the _Hebe_ standing in with her prize, let alone the Governor's
perfect astonishment at suspecting some scheme to carry off Napoleon,
apparently, so far brought to a head. The upshot of it was, to cut this
bit of my story short, he and the military folks would have it, at last,
that there was nothing of the kind, but only some slaver from the
African coast wanting to land a cargo, especially as there were so many
blacks aboard of her; and the Frenchman at once took the cue, the little
Monsieur of a mate swearing he had been employed by several of the
islanders some months before to bring them slaves. For my own part, all
things considered, I had nothing to say, and after some likelihood of a
shine being kicked up about it at first, the matter was hushed up.
However, the schooner was of course condemned in the meantime, as the
_Hebe's_ fair prize, till such time as the Admiralty Court at the Cape
should settle it on our outward-bound voyage.

"As the _Hebe_ was to sail at once for India, the Governor took the
opportunity to send two or three supernumeraries out in the vessel along
with us to the Cape of Good Hope, amongst whom was the Yankee botanist;
and though being in the frigate I didn't see him, I made as sure as if I
had, it was my old shipmate Daniel.

"Well, the morning came, when we weighed anchor from St James's Bay for
sea, in company with the prize. It wasn't more than ten or eleven days
since we had arrived in the _Podargus_, but I was as weary with the
sight of St Helena as if I'd lived there a year. The frigate's lovely
hull, and her taut spars, spreading the square stretch of her white
canvas sideways to the Trade, put new life into me. Slowly as we dropped
the peaks of the island on our lee-quarter, 'twas something to feel
yourself travelling the same road as the Indiaman once more, with the
odds of a mail coach, too, to a French diligence. What chance might turn
up to bring us together, I certainly didn't see; but that night, when we
and the schooner were the only things in the horizon, both fast
plunging, close-hauled, on a fresh breeze, at the distance of a mile, I
set my mind, for the first time, more at ease. 'Luck and the anchors
stowed!' thought I, 'and hang all forethoughts!' I walked the weather
quarter-deck in my watch as pleasantly as might be, with now and then a
glance forward at Snelling, as he yarned at the fife-rail beside a
groggy old mate, and at times a glimmer of the schooner's hull on our
lee-beam, rising wet out of the dusk, under charge of our third
lieutenant.

"It was about a week afterwards, and we began to have rough touches of
Cape weather, pitching away on cross seas, and handing our gallant-sails
oftener of a night, that Lord Frederick said to me one evening, before
going down to his cabin, 'Mr Collins, I really hope we shall not find
your Indiaman at Cape Town, after all!' 'Indeed, Lord Frederick!' said I
respectfully enough; but it was the very thing I hoped myself. 'Yes,
sir,' continued he; 'as I received strict injunctions by Admiral Plampin
to arrest Lieutenant Westwood if we fell in with her there, and
otherwise, to send the schooner in her track, even if it were to
Bombay.' 'The deuce!' I thought, 'are we never to be done with this
infernal affair?' ''Tis excessively disagreeable,' continued the
captain, swinging his gold eyeglass round his finger by the chain, as
was his custom when bothered, and looking with one eye all the while at
the schooner. 'A beautiful craft, by-the-way, Mr Collins,' said he,
'even within sight of the _Hebe_.' 'She is so, my lord,' said I; 'if she
had only had a sensible boatswain, even, to put the sticks aloft in
her.' 'I say, Mr Collins,' went on his lordship, musingly, 'I think I
have it, though--the way to get rid of this scrape!'

"I waited and waited, however, for Lord Frederick to mention this; and
to no purpose, apparently, as he went below without saying a word more
about it."



CHAPTER XXIII


"Well, ma'am," continued our narrator, addressing himself, as usual, to
his matronly relative in the chair, and with the accustomed catch-word,
which was like the knotting together of his interrupted yarn: "well--it
was between a fortnight and three weeks after losing sight of St Helena,
that, being at last fairly in the latitude of the Cape, the frigate and
schooner tacked in company, and stood close-hauled on a wind to the
eastward. By the middle watch that night, when the moon set, we could
make out the long flat top of Table Mountain heaving in sight off the
horizon over against her. Next day, in fact, we were both of us quietly
at anchor outside of the shipping in Table Bay; Cape Town glittering
along on the green flat amongst the trees to southward, with the hills
on each side of it like some big African lion lying on guard close by;
while Table Mountain hove up, square-shouldered, blue to the left, four
thousand feet high, as bare and steep as a wall, with the rocks and
trees creeping up from the foot, and the wreaths of light cloud resting
halfway, like nothing else but the very breakwater of the world's end.
The sea stretched broad off to north and west, and a whole fleet of
craft lay betwixt us and the land--half of them Indiamen--amongst which,
you may be sure, I kept a pretty sharp look-out with the glass, to see
if the _Seringapatam_ were there still.

"I was soon saved further pains on this head, however, when shortly
afterwards the frigate was beset by a whole squadron of bumboats,
shoving against each other, and squabbling in all sorts of nigger
tongues, who should be first: the chief of them being in evident command
of a fat old Dutch Vrouw, with an immense blue umbrella over her, two
greasy-looking Hottentot rowers in blankets, and a round-faced Dutch
boy, the picture of herself, steering the boat; as the old lady made a
clear berth for herself, by laying about her with her blue umbrella,
till she was close under our quarter, sitting all the while with the
broad round stern of her bright-coloured gown spread over a couple of
beer-barrels, like a peacock's train. In two minutes more the little
fellow was up the side, flourishing a bundle of papers under the first
lieutenant's very nose, and asking the ship's custom, even whilst the
sentries were ordering them all off. A midshipman took this youth by the
cuff of the neck, and was handing him rather roughly along to the care
of the purser's steward, when I stepped betwixt them; and a bumboat
being the best directory on the point, of course, I soon found the old
lady had had dealings with the _Seringapatam_, which her bluff-built
little progeny described as a very good ship indeed, all having paid
their bills, except one young officer, who had left a balance standing,
for which he had given a letter to his brother in a ship that was to
come after. As for the Indiaman herself, the Dutch boy said she had
sailed about a week before our arrival, along with two others; and he
was anxious to know if we were the vessel in question. I accordingly
unfolded the open letter, which was addressed: 'Thomas Spoonbill Simm,
Esquire, of His Britannic Majesty's ship _Nincompoop_ (or otherwise)';
and it ran somehow thus:--'_Hon. East India Company's ship_
Seringapatam, _Table Bay, September 1, 1816_.--My dear Brother,--This is
to certify that I have eaten four dozen and a half of eggs, supplied by
the worthy Vrouw Dulcken, the bearer of this, whom I can recommend as an
old screw, and am due her for the same the sum of nine shillings and
sixpence sterling, which you will kindly pay her, taking her receipt or
mark, unless you are willing to forfeit our family watch, herewith
deposited by me in the hands of said Mother Dulcken. I may add that, in
justice to the worthy Vrouw, three of the above-mentioned eggs ought to
be charged as _fowls_, which, by-the-way, I did not consume; and, with
love to all at home, remain your affectionate brother, JOHN SIMM,
H.E.I.C.S.--_P.S._ The watch I have discovered to be pinchbeck, and it
does not go; so that a sad trick must have been originally played upon
our venerated uncle, from whom it descended.--J. S.'

"This precious epistle was, without doubt, a joke of the fat mid Simm,
who used to come such rigs over Ford the cadet, and that jumped
overboard one night by mistake out of the Indiaman's quarter-boat,
during the voyage. As for the existence of his brother Thomas, or the
chance of his touching at that port, I set them down with the coming
home of Vanderdecken; though the thought of this young scamp of a
sea-lawyer breakfasting for a fortnight so comfortably, only a few feet
distant from my charmer's state-room, sent me all abroad again, and
right into the Indiaman's decks, by this time far out of sight of land.
Piece of impudent roguery though it was, I was actually loath to part
with the scrawl, which the reefer had fisted, no doubt, on the lid of
his chest--probably with a pipe in his mouth at the time, it smelt so of
tobacco--only seven days before: I could even see the grin on his fat
face as he wrote it below in the steerage, with his chin up, and his
eyes looking down past his pipe; while the little Dutch boy's round flat
frontispiece glistened as he peered up at me, in the evident notion of
my being the brother expected.

"In fact, ma'am, I was so soft as to intend paying the nine-and-sixpence
myself, and keeping the letter, when I was startled to see the old lady
herself had contrived to be hoisted on board amongst her cabbages; and
having got wind of the thing, seemingly, she came waddling towards me to
hand over Simm's watch to boot. In another half-minute the letter was
being read aloud in the midst of the whole gun-room officers, amongst
roars of laughter; the honest old Dutchwoman holding aloft the precious
article, and floundering through to find out the rightful owner, as
everyone claimed it and offered the nine-and-sixpence; while for my part
I tried first to get down one hatchway, then another; and Lord Frederick
himself came up on the starboard side of the quarter-deck in the height
of the scene. Indeed, I believe it was a joke for months after in the
_Hebe_, of a night, to say it was 'the second lieutenant's watch'; the
sole revenge I had being to leave Mother Dulcken and her boy to expect
the 'ship that was coming after.'

"A Government boat came aboard in the afternoon; and as soon as it left
us Lord Frederick took his gig and steered for a frigate lying some
distance off, which had the harbour-flag hoisted at her main, being the
only man-o'-war besides ourselves, and commanded by a senior captain.

"Till it got dark I could see the crews of the nearest merchantmen
looking over their bulwarks at us and our prize, apparently comparing
the schooner with the frigate, and speculating on her character, as she
lay a few fathoms off the _Hebe's_ quarter, both of us rising and
falling in turn on the long heave of the Cape swell from seaward. 'Twas
hard to say, in fact, so far as their hulls went, which was the most
beautiful sample of its kind; though the schooner's French-fashioned
sticks and offhand sort of rigging, showed rather like jury-gear beside
the tall regular sticks aloft of the _Hebe's_ decks, with all her hamper
perfect to a tee. The _Hebe's_ men very naturally considered their own
ship a model for everything that floated--a sort of a Solomon's temple,
in short; and to hear the merciless way they ran down the Indiamen all
round would have raised the whole homeward-bound fleet against us;
whereas the schooner was our own, at any rate, and she was spoken of
much in the manner one mentions an unfortunate orphan, as good as
already christened by the name of the _Young Hebe_.

"This our learned chaplain said was quite improper, and he gave another
name in place of it--the _Aniceta_--which meant, as he observed, the
_Hebe's_ youngest daughter; so the _Aniceta_ she was called, happening
to be a title that went, according to the boatswain, full as sweetly
through the sheave-hole.

"Next day the schooner had landed not only her passengers from St
Helena, but the prisoners also, as we still understood the French and
their Kroomen to be. Not long after that Lord Frederick came back from
Cape Town, looking grave, and went straight down to his cabin, or
'cabins,' as his lordship preferred to have it said. The first
lieutenant dined that day with the captain; but they could scarcely have
finished when the 'young gentlemen,' who had been as usual from the
reefer's mess, came up with a message from the captain, that his
lordship would be glad if I would join the first lieutenant and himself
in a glass of wine. I found them sitting at the side of the table
nearest the open port, with the decanters between them, and the broad
bright bay in full sight to the shore and the foot of Table Mountain,
which rose up blocking the port with the top of it beyond view; the
sounds of the merchantmen clicking at their heavy windlasses, and
hoisting in water-casks, floated slowly in from every side, while the
schooner had hauled on her cable more abreast of the frigate, leaving
the sight clear over the eddy round her low counter.

"'A lovely piece of workmanship, certainly!' observed Lord Frederick
thoughtfully, as he leant back swinging his eyeglass round his finger,
with the other hand in the breast of his waistcoat, and looking out at
what was seen of the schooner. 'And how one might have improved her
spars, too!' said Mr Hall, wistfully. 'I should have recommended longer
lower-masts altogether, Lord Frederick, and a thorough overhaul, I may
say, from the combings upwards!' 'I would not have her hull touched for
the world, Mr Hall!' said the captain; ''tis too----excessively
provoking, at least! But pass the bottles to Mr Collins, if you please.'
I had taken a chair, and quietly filled my glass, wondering what could
be the matter, when his lordship turned to me and said, 'Do you know, Mr
Collins, this schooner of ours is likely to be laid up in Chancery,
heaven knows how long. The Admiralty Court ashore are doubtful of
condemning her, apparently, and she must either be sent home or to Monte
Video, or somewhere, where the master of her claims to belong!' 'Indeed,
my lord,' said I, setting down my glass, 'that is curious.' 'Curious,
indeed, sir!' replied he, biting his lips, 'though, after all, we really
can scarce say what she is to be condemned for--only in the meantime I
sail to-morrow for India.' 'She's French to the backbone, that I'll
swear, Lord Frederick!' I said; 'and what's more, she was----' 'Ah,'
broke in the captain, 'I know, I know; but the less we say of that, in
present circumstances, the better! Once get her entangled with politics,
and we may give her up altogether.' Lord Frederick twisted his eyeglass
round his forefinger faster than before, still watching the schooner;
the first lieutenant held up his claret betwixt himself and the light,
and I sipped mine. 'I tell you what, gentlemen,' exclaimed his lordship,
suddenly, 'I _must_ have that schooner at any cost!--What is to be done,
Mr Hall?' 'She'd be of great service in the China seas, my lord,
certainly,' said the first lieutenant, looking thoughtfully into his
empty glass; 'a perfect treasure for light service, especially if new
sparred and----' I noticed Lord Frederick glancing sideways at me, as I
thought, with a slight gleam in his eye; and accordingly I suggested
that he might buy her from the Frenchman himself; a very poor idea, no
doubt, as both the captain and first luff seemed to think, and we all
three kept eyeing her doubtfully through the port, without a word.

"At this time the schooner's counter had been slowly sheering towards
the frigate's beam, owing to the ebb-tide, and her holding only by a
single cable, till her stern began to show right opposite the cabin, I
should say not twenty feet off. Lord Frederick put his glass to his eye,
and was peering through it, when he remarked that they had brought up
rather too near, leaving scarce room for the schooner to swing as she
did, earlier than we, so that she would be in danger in getting foul of
the frigate's cables. 'The worst of it is, Lord Frederick,' said I,
'that in case of a gale from seaward here, she might have to slip and
run upon very short warning, whereas the _Hebe_ has plenty of
ground-tackle to let her ride it out. Considering it was Table Bay, at
this season, he ought to have kept her a clearer berth for herself, or
else have gone well outside!' 'Ah!' said Lord Frederick quickly, meeting
my eye for half-a-minute, till the gleam came into his again; and
somehow or other mine must have caught it, though I must say the notion
that struck me then all at once wasn't in my head before. 'Do you know,
that's well thought of, Collins!' said his lordship. 'You've weathered
the Cape before, by-the-by?' 'A dozen times, Lord Frederick,' said I;
when a regularly jovial roar of laughter broke fair through the port
into the cabin from the schooner's taffrail, as she sheered end-on to
the frigate's quarter, and Lord Frederick leant forward with the glass
screwed into his right eye to see along their decks, which were covered
aft with an awning like the open gable of a tent at a fair. 'Singular!'
said he; 'by the Lord Harry, who or what can that be Mr Hammond has got
there?' Dangling over the French schooner's taffrail were to be seen the
soles of two immense boots, with calves and knees to match, and a pair
of tightish striped trousers worked up more than halfway, till you saw
the tops of the stockings; just beyond the knees was the face leaning
back in the shade of the awning and a straw hat together, out of which a
huge green cabbage-leaf hung like a flap over one eye, while the other
kept gazing in a half-closed sleepy sort of way at the sky, and the red
end of a cigar winked and glowed in the midst of the puffs of smoke
lower down. The first lieutenant started up shocked at the sight, the
noble captain of the _Hebe_ sat with his eyeglass fixed, between
amusement and wonder; for my own part, when the voice of this same
prodigy broke all of a sudden on us out of the awning, in a mixture of
stuttering, hiccuping, Yankee drawling, and puffs at the cigar, 'twas
all I could do to hold on, with the knowledge of where I was. 'Wall now,
general,' said the American, as if he were talking to someone aloft or
in the sky, 'ye-you're qui-quite wrong--I ki-kick-calc'late I've fit a
deal more be-be-battles than you have--I re-respect you, Ge-Ge-General
Washington; but I ho-ho-hope you know who--hic--who I am!' Here Mr
Daniel Snout, who was in a state of beastly intoxication, swayed himself
up bodily into the schooner's taffrail, and sat with his arms folded,
his long legs swinging over the stern, and his head trying to keep
steady, as he scowled solemnly aloft over the frigate's
mizzenroyal-mast-head; while the third lieutenant, Mr Hammond, and the
master's mate he had aboard with him, could be heard laughing at his
back, as if they had gone mad--Hammond being a wild sprig of an
Irishman, who would go any length for a piece of fun.

"Just then the American's one eye lighted on the side of the frigate,
till it settled lazily on the port of the captain's cabin: first he
seemed to notice Lord Frederick Bury, and then myself, the first
lieutenant having just recovered himself enough to rush toward the door
to get on deck. Daniel himself surveyed me scornfully for a moment, then
with a sort of doubtful frown, and a gravity that passes me to describe,
unless by the look of an old cock a-drinking--evidently trying to
recollect me. 'Hallo, mister!' shouted he suddenly, 'you haven't touched
those _notions_ of mine, I hope.' With that he made a spring off where
he sat, as if to come towards us--no doubt thinking of the
_Seringapatam_, and the valuables he had left aboard, without seeing the
water between; and a pretty deep dive Mr Snout would have made of it,
into an ebb-tide that would have swept him under the frigate's bottom,
if Mr Hammond and the midshipman hadn't both sprung forward in time to
catch him by the neck of the coat. There, accordingly, was the Yankee
hanging like a spread eagle over the schooner's taffrail, yelling and
turning round at the same time like a fowl on a spit--the third
lieutenant's and the mate's faces two pictures of dismay, as they held
on, at finding for the first time where the schooner had shied them
round to, with their two pairs of eyes fair in front of the captain's
eyeglass--while Mr Hall was singing out like thunder from the deck above
us, 'The schooner ahoy!--d'ye see where you've got to, sir? Haul ahead
on that cable, d'ye hear, you lubbers, and keep clear of the ship!'

"'Mr Collins,' said his lordship quietly to me, as soon as he could keep
his countenance, and looking the sterner for the trouble he was put to
in doing it, 'you will get your things and go aboard the schooner
directly--take her in charge, sir, and send Mr Hammond back here.' 'Very
well, my lord,' said I, waiting in the doorway for something more,
which, from something in Lord Frederick's look, I had reason to expect,
knowing it of old. 'I can only spare you a dozen of the men she has,'
added he; 'but if you choose, you can send ashore at once to pick up a
few makeshifts, or anything you find!' 'Ay, ay, my lord,' said I; 'the
best hand for that would be Mr Snelling, if I may take him, Lord
Frederick?' 'Oh, certainly,' was the answer; 'and harkye, Collins, you
had better shift your berth a few cable-lengths farther off, or more, if
you please.' 'One thing, my lord,' said I, stooping down to see through
the port, 'I don't much like the heavy ground-swell that begins to meet
the ebb, and I fancy it won't be long ere Table Mountain spreads its
supper-cloth--in which case I'd consider it necessary to slip cable and
run out at once, though I mightn't get in again so easily. Am I to find
the frigate here again, Lord Frederick?'

'Deuce take it, man--no!' said his lordship. He turned his back to hide
the evident twinkle of his eye. 'Should we part company, of course you
make for the Bay of Bengal! You can't be sure of the _Hebe_, short of
the Sandheads--and if not there, then opposite Fort William, at
Calcutta.' 'Very good, my lord,' said I, and had made my bow to go on
deck, when Lord Frederick called me back. 'By-the-by,' said he hastily,
'about that Indiaman of yours, Collins--she is here no doubt?' 'No, Lord
Frederick,' answered I, 'I believe she sailed a week ago.' 'Dear me, the
deuce!' exclaimed he; 'why, I meant to have sent to-morrow to have your
friend Westwood arrested and brought aboard!' I started at this, on
which his lordship explained that if Westwood got to Bombay, whither the
_Seringapatam_ was bound, the authorities there would have news of the
thing by this time, and could send him overland at once to England,
which would be far worse for him than being carried to Calcutta, where
his uncle the Councillor's interest might do something for him. 'The
best thing you can do, Collins,' added Lord Frederick, 'if you are
obliged to run out to sea, is to look after that Indiaman! With such a
neat thing of a sea-boat under you, you might do anything you please; so
cruise to windward or leeward in chase, find her out and take out
Westwood bodily--lose him afterwards in the Hoogley, if you like--carry
away those old spars of hers, and send up new ones--only don't lose the
schooner, I beg; so good-bye to you, my dear fellow, lest we should not
meet on this side the line again!' 'Good-bye, my lord!' said I
cheerfully, and hurried on deck, understanding all he wanted as well as
if I'd been ordered to set her jib that moment and heave up anchor. In
ten minutes I was over the frigate's side, and in ten more Hammond was
back in her, with the men who were to leave; while I sent my baggage
below, set the hands to work shifting the schooner's berth, and by
sundown we were lying beyond hail of the ship, opposite the
custom-house, and a long line of a main street in Cape Town, where we
could see the people, the carriages, and the Dutch bullock-carts passing
up and down; while Table Mountain hove away up off the steep Devil's
Hill and the Lion's Rump, to the long level line a-top as blue and bare
as an iron monument, and throwing a shadow to the right over the peaks
near at hand.

"Our friend from the United States being by this time in quite an
oblivious condition, the first thing I did was to have him put quietly
into the boat with which Mr Snelling was to go ashore for fresh hands,
and I instructed the reefer to get clear of him anyhow he liked, if it
was only above tide-mark. When they were gone I walked the schooner's
little quarter-deck in the dusk by myself, till the half-moon rose with
a ghostly copper-like glare over the hollow in the Lion's Rump,
streaking across the high face of Table Mountain, and bringing out all
its rifts and wrinkles again. The land-breeze began to blow steadily
with a long sighing sweep from the north-east, meeting the heavy swell
that set into the broad bay; and the schooner, being a light crank
little craft, got rather uneasy; whereas you could see the lights of the
frigate heaving and settling leisurely, less than half-a-mile off. I had
only six or seven good hands aboard altogether at the time, which, with
those the midshipman had, were barely sufficient to work her in such
seas; so with all I had to do, with the difficulty of getting men in the
circumstances, a long voyage before us, and things that might turn up,
as I hoped, to require a touch of the regular service, why the very
pleasure of having a command made me a good deal anxious. Even of that I
didn't feel sure; and I kept watching Table Mountain, eager for the
least bit of haze to come across the top of it, as well as sorry I had
sent Snelling ashore. 'I'd give a hundred pounds at this moment,'
thought I, 'to have had Bob Jacobs here!'

"As the moon got higher, I could see the swell washing up between the
different merchantmen in sight, into their shadows, and heavy enough
some of them seemed to roll round their cables, betwixt a breeze and a
swell running the contrary ways; first one let go a second anchor, and
then another, to help their heads shoreward; but still there was no
danger, as things went. It wasn't long before I made out two boats
coming from toward the town, round the stern of one of the ships, the
frigate lying betwixt her and us, so that they took her by the way, and
a good deal of hailing seemed to pass between them. I could even see
epaulets glisten over the _Hebe's_ quarter, as if there was a stir made
aboard; after which the boats were plainly pulling for the schooner.
What all this might mean I couldn't very well conceive, unless it were
either Snelling come back already, or else some hands Lord Frederick
himself had provided before this, as I saw both boats were full of
people. 'Forward there!' I sung out, 'hail those boats.' 'Ay, ay, the
schooner ahoy!' was the answer in a sharp voice from the headmost of
them, 'from the shore--all right! Stand by to heave us a line, will ye?'
Next came a hail from Snelling, in our own gig; so I at once gave
orders to heave them a rope and have both boats brought under the
gangway, naturally supposing the sharp little fellow had come some
marvellous good speed in shipping hands. As soon as he jumped on deck, I
accordingly inquired how many men he had brought, when to my great
surprise he informed me there was only one, 'a scuffy sort of a swab,'
as he expressed it, 'who would do for cook!' 'The devil he will! you
young rascal,' I broke out.

"'Hush, sir, for heaven's sake,' said he, making some extraordinary
sign, which I didn't understand; 'it'll all be right in the end, Mr
Collins. Now then, sir,' to someone in the boat alongside, as he
carefully handed him the accommodation-ropes, 'here you are--hold on,
sir--so-o!' This was a rather youngish fellow in a huge pilot-coat and a
glazed cap, with some kind of uniform inside, and a large breastpin in
his shirt, who handed me a paper the moment he stood firm on deck,
without speaking a word; though, by the light of the deck-lantern, I
didn't much like the look of his foxy sort of face, with the whiskers on
it coming forward from both cheeks to his mouth, nor the glance he gave
round the schooner with his pair of quick sharp little eyes. 'Much more
like a custom-house officer than a cook!' thought I, 'unless we mean to
have a French one'; but what was my astonishment, on opening the paper,
to find him called 'Gilbert Webb, harbour master's assistant, hereby
authorised by the Admiralty Court, sitting in Cape Town, to take charge
of the doubtful vessel described in her papers as the _Ludovico_,
belonging to Monte Video--from the officer commanding the prize crew of
his Brittanic Majesty's ship _Hebe_.' My first thought was to have Mr
Gilbert Webb pitched over into his boat again, when Lord Frederick's own
signature met my eye at the bottom of the paper, addressed below to
'Lieutenant Collins of His Majesty's schooner _Aniceta at sea_.'

"A wonderfully mysterious squint from Snelling, behind the officer, was
sufficient to clinch the matter in my own mind, showing that the reefer
was as sharp as a needle; and I handed back the document to the harbour
gentleman, with a 'Very well, sir, that will do.' 'I suppose I'd better
have my men up, Lieutenant Collins?' said he, with a quick pert kind of
accent, which made me set him down at once for a Londoner, while at the
same time he seemed impatient, as I thought, to get the management.
'Why, sir,' said I, 'I suppose you had.'

"Hereupon up mounted four or five decent enough looking
_stevedores_[24]--one or two of whom had rather the air of sailors, the
rest being broad-beamed, short-legged Dutchmen, with trousers like
pillow-slips--followed by a whole string of fourteen or fifteen Indian
Lascars, their bundles in their hands, and an ugly old _serdug_ at their
head; while a lame, broken-down, debauched-like fellow of a
man-o'-war's-man, that Snelling had found sitting on a timberhead
ashore, got aboard with our own boat's crew. Our gangway was choke-full,
to my fresh dismay, for, to get rid of such a tagrag-and-bobtail, in
case of running to sea, was impossible; even if they weren't odds
against us, here was it likely to get a thick night, the swell growing
under the schooner till she began to jerk at her anchor, head to wind,
like a young filly at a manger; so that dropping them back into their
boat when needful, as I intended at first, was out of the question for
the present. I found from the harbour officer that the number of hands
would all be required with the morning tide, when his orders were to
have the schooner towed in opposite the Battery Dock, especially as
there was much chance of the wind blowing strong from seaward next day.
The swell on the water, he said, was such that, after putting off, he
thought of going back again till the tide began to turn; if he had not
been encouraged to stick to it and keep on by the midshipman, whom he
fell in with near the quay. This piece of news was the finish to the
rage I felt brewing in me, vexed as I naturally was to give up the
notion of a free cruise, in command of a craft like the schooner; and as
soon as Mr Webb was comfortable in the cabin, over a tumbler of stiff
grog and some cold beef, I sent for Snelling to my own cupboard of a
state-room.

  [24] Men employed in the stowing of ship's cargoes.

"'You cursed unlucky little imp, you!' I burst out, the moment he made
his appearance, 'what's the meaning of this, sirrah, eh?' 'What is it,
if you please, sir?' said Snelling, pretending to hold down his
shock-head like a frightened schoolboy, and looking up all the time both
at me and the lamp at once, while he swayed with the uneasy heave of the
deck in such a way as made me grip him by the arm in a perfect fury,
fancying he had got drunk ashore. 'You young blackguard, you!' said I,
shaking him, 'didn't I tell you to get hands--didn't you know I meant
to--to----' 'Oh yes, Mr Collins,' gasped the reefer, 'I did indeed--you
meant to cut and run--I saw it by your eye, sir, and--don't shake me any
more, sir, or you'll spoil my hair--and I don't deserve it--it's--all
right!' And on my letting him go, the ugly little scamp sunk down on a
chair with his eyes starting from his head, and a leer like a perfect
demon incarnate: but so perfectly laughable it was, not to mention the
air of complete confidence between us that he threw into it, that I sat
down myself, ready to grin at my bad luck. 'Well, Mister Snelling,' said
I quietly, 'you _are_ a touch beyond me! Let's have the joke, at
least--out with it, man, else another shake may be----'

"The reefer pointed with his thumb over his shoulder to the cabin,
shoved his chin forward, and whispered, 'Why, sir, I'm only doubtful
whether you could make him third officer--but at any rate, he'll always
be useful at a rope, Mr Collins--won't he, sir?' I gave Snelling one
look, meant to be as grave as an Old Bailey chaplain's, but it wouldn't
do--my conscience wouldn't stand it--in fact the very self-same notion
seemed to me to have been creeping into my mind. 'You--young--rascal!'
was all I could manage to say, before making bolt to go on deck.
'By-the-by, Mister Snelling,' said I, turning and looking down from the
hatchway, 'you must want a glass of grog--tell the boy to let you have
some--and go and keep the officer company, sir.'

"By this time it was raining hard, the half-moon coming out at moments
and shining through it with a sudden sharp gleam, in some gust of the
wind off the land--showing the swell in as far as the wet white
custom-house and the bare quays, the ships with their hazy lights all
hither and thither, while Table Mountain was to be seen now and then
peering half over the mist, first one corner and then another, of a
colour like dead ashes. One time I looked down toward the dusky little
cabin, where the midshipman, quite in his element, was sitting with the
harbour officer, the lamp jerking and making wild swings betwixt them,
while Snelling evidently egged on his companion to drink; then I gave a
glance seaward, where there was nothing but a glimmer of rain and spray
along the dark hollows of the water.

"I couldn't make up my mind, all I could do--it was too barefaced a
thing to slip from the roadstead with a breeze blowing off-shore; but
the worst of it was, that I didn't feel easy at the idea of parting with
an anchor in the circumstances, not to say carrying off the Government
people, unless forced to it. I accordingly went below to mix myself a
stiffener, and found the officer a cool head, for, in spite of all
Snelling could do, the reefer himself had got provoked, whereas the
sharp Mr Webb was only a little brisker than before. 'A rough sort of
night,' said I, nodding to him, as I knocked the water out of my cap.
'Well, it seems,' said he, free and easy. 'S'pose I go on deck then,
gentlemen--I've refreshed, I assure you, so you needn't trouble about
this 'ere schooner no farther--glad to get quit of it and turn in, I
desay lieutenant?' 'No trouble in the world, Mr Webb,' said I, going on
with my mixture, 'far from it; but sit down a minute, pray, sir--Mr
Snelling here will take charge of the deck for us in the meantime'; and
Snelling vanished at once, Mr Webb apparently flattered at my wishing
his company. 'Will that cable of yours hold, think ye, Lieutenant
Collins?' asked he, filling up another glass. 'Why,' said I, almost
laughing, 'to tell you the truth, I begin to feel rather doubtful of
it.' 'What!' broke out the harbour officer, starting up, 'then I must
'ave another put down immediately: why, what's the effect, sir--we'll be
carried out to sea!' 'You said it exactly, Mr Webb,' I said: ''twould
have been much worse, I suppose, if we were driven ashore, though! Now
look you, if I were to let go a second anchor at present, I couldn't
light upon a better plan either to break her back or lose both anchors
in the end, from the difference of strain on the two cables with this
ground-swell. The fact is, my good fellow, you're evidently not fit to
take charge at present.'

"'What, lieutenant!' said he, looking fierce and foolish at the same
time, 'here's strange lang'age to a Gov'ment officer, sir; I hask the
meanin' of it _at once_, mister!' 'But I depend a good deal on your
knowledge of Table Bay weather,' I continued, leaning back with my
weather eye screwed to bear upon him. 'D'ye think this wind likely to
moderate soon, sir? come now.' 'No,' replied he sulkily, 'I'm sure it
won't; and to-morrow it's certain to blow back ten times worse.' 'Then,
Mr Webb,' said I, rising, 'you oughtn't to have come aboard to-night; as
the short and the long of it is, I shall get the schooner an offing the
first possible moment!' The officer stared at me in a bewildered manner;
and as for the schooner, she seemed to be bolting and pitching in a way
worse than before, with now and then a plunge of the swell on her
broadside, as if she had been under weigh. Suddenly Snelling lifted the
skylight-frame and screamed down into the cabin: 'Mr Collins, Mr
Collins! she's been dragging her anchor for the last ten minutes, sir!'

"I sprang on deck at two bounds; the schooner had somehow or other got
her anchor out of hold at the time, with the cable as taut as a
fiddle-string. It was quite dark aloft, and not a vestige of Table
Mountain to be seen, though the moonshine, low down to westward, brought
out two or three tracks of light along the stretch of water, and you saw
the lights in the ships slowly sweeping past. Where we happened to be,
it blew two ways at once, as is often the case in Table Bay, round the
bluffs of the mountain, and as soon as she brought up again with a surge
at the windlass, the heave of a long swell took her right on the
quarter, lifting her in to her anchor again with a slack of the hawser,
at which every second man sung out to 'hold on!' Over she went to port,
a sea washing up the starboard side, and throwing a few dozen bucketfuls
at once fair into the companion, where our friend the harbour officer
was sticking at the time; so down plumped Mr Webb along with it, and the
booby hatch was shoved close after him, while the poor devils of Lascars
were huddled together as wet as swabs in the lee of the caboose forward.
'A hand to the wheel!' shouted I, as soon as I recovered myself; when to
my great surprise I saw Snelling's new hand, poor creature as I'd
thought him, standing with a spoke in each fist, as cool and steady as
possible, and his eye fixed on me in the true knowing way which I felt
could be trusted to. 'Jib there!' I sung out, 'see all clear to run up a
few hanks of the jib--stand by to cut the cable at the bitts!' 'Ay, ay,
sir,' answered Snelling, who was working away with the harbour men, his
bare head soaked, and altogether more like an imp than a young gentleman
of the navy--'all's clear, sir.'

"Five minutes I daresay we stood, everyone in the same position, while
I waited for a good moment in the run of the swell looking into the
binnacle; till she hung slack, as it were, in a wide seething trough of
the sea, when I signed to the man behind me to put the helm gradually to
starboard. I glanced at the fellow again, caught his sharp weatherly eye
once more--then putting both hands to my mouth I sung out to bowse on
the jib-halliards. 'Now--cut--the cable!' shouted I, springing forward
in my anxiety.

"The schooner rose away from her anchor on the heavy roll of the sea; I
saw two quick strokes of the axe on the instant, and she was spinning
head off from the wind, heeling over betwixt the force of it and the
ground-swell together, while the mass of black water was washing bodily
away with us; the new helmsman showing down below me he as leant to the
wheel, like somebody at the foot of a slide. If he had'nt helped her at
the moment with a back turn of the spokes to port, 'twould have been all
up with us. As it was, the schooner fell off gallantly in his hands,
with a sliding surge into the lee of the next swell, that buried her
sharp bows in the green sea till it foamed about our very shoulders as
we hung on like grim death to the weather bulwark. She was just shaking
herself free, and rising like a buoy over the broad tops of the waves,
when Snelling, myself, and two or three of the men staggered down to her
mainmast to swing up the throat-halliards, letting her feel a little of
the boom mainsail; and we had scarce belayed, as the last glimpse of the
frigate's lights was caught astern of us, heaving and setting, as she
rode with her two bower anchors down; we had driven past close enough to
have heard the creak of her hamper aloft. After that I had the
fore-staysail set on her, then the reefed mainsail, and the lively
schooner yielded to the long rolling seas so well, as very soon to make
her own weather of it, especially since--clear of the high land about
Table Bay--it was blowing only a strong breeze; and the more I began to
feel master of her, the more inclined I was to let her show her good
qualities.

"Such a craft I never had had the full management of before in my life;
and you may easily fancy how I felt at dividing the hands into the two
watches, giving little Snelling command of one, as first mate, and
picking out our men in turn. I looked round amongst mine, rather at a
loss for one to make a second mate for the cruise, though there were
three prime enough man-o'-war's-men, and I had chosen one of the
Government officer's gang for his activity. As for the Lascars, we
slumped in half of the number to each of us, for make-weights--when
Snelling's fresh hand, who had fallen to my share, caught my eye again
as he stood at the wheel. Every half-spoke he gave the schooner told;
she was topping the heavy seas as they rose, and taking them just where
they melted one to the other, with a long floating cleave that carried
her counter fairly free of the after-run, though nearly right before the
wind: the main-boom had been guyed over to the lee-quarter, till a third
of the sail hung clear of her hull, and the breeze swept into the hollow
of it, thick with spray. The light from the little binnacle shone up
distinctly on the man's face, and with all the desperate, used-up,
marbled sort of look of it, like one getting the better of a long spree
ashore, I thought there was something uncommonly promising about him,
not to say greatly above the run of foremast men. The wet, the wind, and
the work he was at took off the seediness of his clothes; even the old
rag of a handkerchief round his hairy neck had got a gloss to it, and he
stood handling the wheel with a strange mixture of recklessness and
care, as he glanced from the compass to the gaff of the mainsail against
the scud, and down again.

"The very contrast between the man's manner and his outward rig was
sufficient to strike one, though plenty of seamen are to be found in the
like state ashore; but what fixed me to him above all was the expression
in those two keen, searching, _living_ eyes of his, when they once or
twice met mine on their way from aloft to the compass-boxes. 'Twas as if
they'd woke up since he came aboard out of a sleepy, maudlin condition,
with the 'blue-devils,' or scarce fully out of 'em; like a sick man's in
the lull of a fever, suddenly seen watching you out of the dusk of the
bed, when one happens to glance up from the nurse's seat.

"'What's your name, my man?' asked I, stepping aft to the binnacle. 'My
name is Jones, sir,' said he readily. 'And your first name?' I said.
'Jack,' was the answer in an offhand way, with a hitch of one shoulder,
and a weather-spoke to the wheel; spoken in an accent you'd have
expected more in a West-End drawing-room than from a common sailor.
'Ah,' said I sharply. 'Jack Jones? I wonder how many Jack Joneses there
are afloat! An able seaman, I think, Jones?' 'Why, sir,' replied the
man, 'I never rate myself, sir--'tis all one to me, able, ordinary,
landsman, or boy--I carry no papers, and leave my betters to rate me.'
'Where were you last, my man?' I asked; whereupon I met such a cool,
steady, deep look out of the fellow's strange light-coloured eyes,
bloodshot as they were with drinking, that I felt almost our very two
souls jostle in it; as much as to say: To all eternity fathom me if you
can! 'Well, I forget where, sir,' said he, lowering his look to the
compass-box again; 'always the way with me after a trip, a cruise, a
voyage, or whatever it may be. I've got--ha!' and he yielded his body
coolly to a jerk of the schooner's wheel. 'A sweet craft this, sir, but
a little ticklish!' 'You've got what?' said I, not unwilling to wear out
the time. 'I've got--no memory!'

"Still there was somewhat so gloomy and mournful in the next glance
aloft, I don't know how it was, but I felt inclined to offer him a
mate's place on trial, and so I hinted, if he knew half as well how to
handle a craft as he did of steering her. To my own surprise, Jones's
wonder didn't seem to be roused at the notion, except that he gave me
another quick glance, from head to foot, with a queer smile that struck
me as if I were being questioned, instead of _him_; then he looked down
over his own outfit, judging by which you'd have said he'd been
shipwrecked. 'Well,' said I, 'I daresay you've been hard put to it,
somehow, Jones--so as soon as you leave the wheel, you can go below to
the steward, and get a seagoing suit of my own, till we see Calcutta,
when your mate's wages will set you all right again.' The man touched
his battered old straw hat; but I noticed his eyes gleam for a moment by
the binnacle light, and a strange twitch run round his mouth at the
mention of the mate's wages, the only way I could account for it at the
time being his late hard-up condition; and nothing to my mind was more
deucedly pitiable than to see the thought of a few paltry additional
rupees light up a head like that, with the glistening sort of expression
of a miser as I fancied.

"The man had a head on him, in fact, when you eyed him, fit for a
gentleman's shoulders, or more--his hair and his whiskers curly and
dark, draggled though they were with the rain, not to say Cape Town
mud--while the wearing away of the hair about the temples, and the red
grog-streaks in the veins of his face, made him, no doubt, a dozen years
older to appearance than he was. For my part I was quite convinced
already, this same Jack Jones hadn't been sent out a cabin boy; there
was not only a touch of high blood in him at bottom, but I'd have sworn
he had been some time or other in the place of a gentleman, afloat or
ashore, though plainly now 'going to the devil.'

"Meanwhile the breaking look of the clouds away on our larboard bow
showed it wasn't far off dawn; so, sending another hand to the wheel,
and finding a snug spot under a stern-grating for a snooze on deck, I
told Jones to begin with taking charge of the deck for me. 'One thing,
sir,' said he, touching his hat again, as I lay down, 'I've only shipped
for the outward voyage, and leave at the first port.' 'Why, what!' said
I, lifting my head; 'what do you mean to do there, eh?' 'I--I want to go
ashore,' answered he, eagerly; 'ay, if we're years on the cruise, so
much the better, sir, but so soon as she drops anchor off Calcutta, I'm
my own master?' 'Have your own way, then,' said I; 'at any rate I'll try
you in the meantime--so Mister Jones, let's see how you mind the
schooner till eight bells!' Whereupon I turned myself over to sleep, and
it was as broad daylight as we had any likelihood of about the Cape,
when I woke.



CHAPTER XXIV


"It still blew a stiff breeze, but the waves rose with a length and a
breadth in them you find in no other sea; deep-blue sparkling hills of
water, with green gleams about the crests, of which every single wave
had a hundred or so; and a long seething, simmering, glassy hollow of a
still valley between, where the flecks of foam slid away glittering out
of the shadow. But, oh! it was glorious to feel the schooner rising
quietly in the trough, with the mount of a wave, to the very ridge of
it; then with a creak of all her timbers and bulkheads below, a slight
shake to windward, and a jerk at her bows, lean over to leeward again,
and go hissing through the breast of a huge sea, till you thought she'd
go down into it; while there she was, however, lifting head up, with a
swift flash of her cutwater, on the cross half-wave that joined every
first and third one--'billow' and 'sea,' as you may say. The breeze
having drawn more easterly toward morning, Jones had braced her more
upon a wind, with reefed main and foresails, and fore-staysail set,
which brought out the _Aniceta's_ weatherly qualities to a marvel, as,
notwithstanding almost a head-wind and a swelling sea, she went nearly
as fast as the frigate would have done before the breeze, and not a sign
of the land was to be seen from her cross-trees.

"It was not till the afternoon, when the midshipman and I had both been
busy together seeing various things done about the rigging, as well as
having preventer-braces and guys clapped on the booms and gaffs, that we
had time to look about us; the schooner still driving along with the
breeze strong abeam, and a floating plunge from one wide dark-blue sea
to another, as if they handed her onward.

"Jones had got himself made decent below, as I told him, till what with
different clothes, and a shave together, besides refreshment from sea
weather, he was quite a different man to look at. Even Snelling owned to
his sailor-like appearance, though rather surprised at my notion of
making him a mate; while as for the men, they didn't know but he had
come aboard as such, and to tell the truth, he was having the
main-staysail got up and ready to bend at the time, like one accustomed
to give orders. By this time I remembered the harbour officer, Webb,
whom we'd carried off so unceremoniously, and found he was still in his
'bunk' below, half-sulky and half-sick, consoling himself with brandy
and water till we should get into Table Bay again, as he said. 'Only put
him into my watch, Mr Collins,' said Snelling gravely, 'and I'll work
him up, sir.' The reefer himself, in fact, had all of a sudden turned
out in a laughingly dignified style, to meet his new post--in full
midshipman's rig, dirk and all, with his cocked hat which I sent him
down immediately to change; but he had brushed up his mop of hair, and
begun to cultivate the down on his upper lip; while being a
deep-shouldered, square-built, short-armed little fellow, as muscular as
a monkey, you'd have thought from the back of his coat he was a man cut
shorter, and for his face, he had contrived to put such a sour effect
into it--meant for great experience, no doubt--that it was only by his
eyes one saw he was a boy of sixteen or so; and _they_ were brimful of
wild glee, as he jumped about wherever he was needed, doing the work of
a couple of ordinary men, and actually delighted when a spray came over
the weather bulwarks on top of him, seeing that, instead of the frigate,
she was 'our schooner' that did it.

"'I think she walks, Mr Collins!' observed Snelling, holding up his head
stiffly, and looking aloft as we went aft, after shaking ourselves from
one of these same sprays. 'No denying that, Mr Snelling,' said I as
gravely; 'I only wish your fond parents could see you just now, first
mate of such a smart craft, Mr Snelling!' His father was a country
baronet, who had sent him off to sea with an allowance--I daresay
because his looks were no ornament, and there were plenty more coming,
though Snelling always pretended his worthy progenitor was an old man.
'Fond, be blowed!' said he, starting; 'I just see him at this moment at
the foot of that blessed old mahogany, proposing my health before the
ladies go, and----' Here the schooner rose on a sharp, short wave,
making a plunge through it that sent the helmsman swinging to the
lee-side of the wheel, while a sea washed up over her forecastle, and
away aft with the tubs, buckets, and spars, knocking everybody right and
left. Snelling and I held on by the weather main-rigging with our feet
in a bath, till she lifted bodily through it, careering to her
lee-gun'ale.

"'By George, though!' broke out the reefer, smacking his lips as we drew
breath, 'I wish he _did_ see me--wouldn't it cheer his declining years,
when I got to hand the governor carefully below! And such a rough night
as we're going to have of it, too, sir!' 'You unfilial young dog,' said
I; 'but so I'm afraid we shall--and no joke either!' Jones was standing
near us, watching the looks of the weather, with evident uneasiness, and
I asked him what he thought of it. 'In my opinion, sir,' said he,
'you'll have some pretty sudden shift of wind ere long, of a kind I have
seen more than once off the Cape before--and that as furious as a
south-easter ordinarily is hereabouts. Look away yonder, sir!'

"It had got to a clear, dry north-easterly gale that shook our canvas
every time she lifted, singing through the ropes, and bitter cold. Long
and heavy as the roll of the sea was, the sky was as keen and clear as
glass all round about and aloft, save the mist kicked up by the spray
off a wave here and there. If a rag of white cloud appeared, it was
blown away, and you saw the black wrinkled side of one wave at a time, a
mile wide, you'd have said, freckled all over with spots of foam, and
its ridge heaving against the eye of the blast. The waves had begun to
break shorter. The schooner, buoyant as she was, and sharp as a dolphin,
pitched and rolled at times like mad, and the men forward were standing
by to let go the fore-halliards, throat and peak, to ease her a little;
when Jones pointed out the bank of gray cloud ahead of us, scarce to be
seen through the troughs of the water, except when she lifted well upon
a swell of sea. The sun going down in a wild red glare to leeward of us,
threw a terrible glitter across the huge slant of one single wave, that
rose stretching away far and wide from her very bow, then brought out
the sulky wrinkled blue in it; the hissing green crests curled over to
the very sunset, as it were, while we sank slowly into the long dark
lulling trough, and saw the broken shaft of a rainbow stand glimmering
for a moment or two into a black hollow right ahead, when the gale drove
it back upon us like an arrow, as the schooner surged through the breast
of the next wave. I looked from Snelling to the new mate, who still held
on by a belaying-pin and watched the clouds, giving me back a glance
that showed he thought the matter more serious than ordinary. 'The
sooner we strip her to the storm-staysails,' said I quickly, as we fell
into the trough again, 'the better, I think. If it blows harder, we must
lie-to with her at once.' My eye was anxiously fixed on Jones, for large
as the schooner was, between two and three hundred tons, yet no craft in
the world is so nice to bring to the wind in a gale with a heavy sea
running. Scudding before it might have done for the frigate, with her
full bows, and spars high enough to keep her main-topsail full in spite
of the troughs; but even that would have taken us out of our course
after the Indiaman. Besides that, to tell the truth, I didn't
sufficiently understand fore-and-aft rigged craft in all weathers yet,
to be quite sure of what I did at a pinch like the present. 'Yes, yes,
sir,' answered he; 'but if you'll take an older man's advice, before
that you'll wear her round on the other tack to it. We've the worst to
come, or else I'm mistaken, sir.' 'You're accustomed to schooners?'
asked I firmly, and gazing him in the face.

I saw his lips open in the sweep of the wind through our after-rigging,
and he made a sign with his hand, while a gnawing sort of spasm, as it
were, shot through the muscles of his jaw, and for a moment he gave me a
fierce, keen glance, almost a glare, from under his strong straight
eyebrows--then turned away. 'Take the trumpet then, Mr Jones,' said I,
singing out into his ear; 'I'll leave her to you, sir. Mr Snelling,
let's see the hatches all fast!' And we scrambled along by the
belaying-pins.

"'Are you all ready fore and aft?' came Jones's voice like thunder in
the next dip she made, and he leapt up bareheaded on the breech of one
of the small carronades aft, holding on with one hand by the weather
mainshrouds, and watching the run of the waves as they glimmered off our
lee-beam into the dusk, for full five minutes. I had hold of a rope near
him, and his eye was as steady as if he were picking out hills in a
view. I had full confidence in the man; but I must say it was a nervous
moment to me, when I saw him lift the trumpet to his mouth--and
furiously as the wind shook the schooner, you heard his hoarse cry, 'Put
your helm up--slack off the mainsheet--brail up the mainsail--ease down
the weather boom-guy--main-staysail sheet.' And the rest was lost in the
wild shriek of the north-east gale. We were hard at it, however,
staggering as we hauled and held on, even to the poor half-drowned,
terrified Lascars, whom the midshipman had roused out of the caboose and
long-boat, shoving the ropes into their leathery hands. But I knew
little else till I saw the schooner had payed off before the wind,
shearing with a hiss like red-hot iron right through the ridge, betwixt
two tremendous combing waves. It swelled green over her larboard bulwark
as she heeled over, and she gave a heavy dead lurch with it, as if she
would let the next sea break aboard.

"'Now! now!' shouted Jones, at a pitch of voice like no earthly sound;
'aft the mainsheet, for your lives!' He jumped to the wheel himself, at
a single bound. We were in two floundering heaps, as we dragged at the
main-boom aft, and the headsheets on the forecastle, while she came
trembling up in the long bight of the sea, and took the gale steadily
before her other beam. It was blowing harder than ever; and the awful
'scud' of the sea rolled her bodily away, as she met it with her
weather-bow, washing white over the head-rail, with spray from cathead
to bowsprit; the gale heaving her down on the lee-beam till she plunged
to the brim on that side, at every forward pitch, so that all hands on
deck had to keep crowded together aft. Still it was keen starlight
overhead, the gale dry, though it was bitter cold, and the seas long and
pretty regular. The schooner behaved wonderfully, being as tight as a
bottle; and at the same time we were not only lying our course either
for the Mozambique or Indian Ocean, but instead of running farther into
the gale, as before, and getting more into the wild Cape latitudes, why
at present she tended to clear out of them. I accordingly agreed with
Jones to hold on with everything as long as possible, in spite of the
way she was sometimes flung off with the crest of a wave, as it were,
making a clear dive with her nose under water through a white seething
sea that seemed to swell round the whole horizon; the black bank of
cloud off our weather-beam towered like icebergs against the cold green
sky to south-east, the stars glittering and twinkling over it, with
little hazy rings round them, after a fashion that one of us liked no
more than the other.

"About midnight, we had got everything off her to the two small
storm-staysails, main and fore, the wind blowing great guns, and the
half-moon shining right over the long bank, as if the back of it were
dead white; while betwixt it and the washing glimmer of moonlight
halfway you'd have thought the black heave of the ridges vanished into a
bulk of shadow ten times blacker, save for the heads of spray tossing
dimly over in it here and there. All at once, in the very height of the
gale, as the black floating clouds from the bank began to cross over the
gray scud flying fast aloft, a blue flash of lightning shot zigzag into
the very comb of a wave ahead of us, then came the clap of thunder, loud
enough to be heard above the wind, and in half-a-minute there was a
sudden lull. You saw the fleecy rags of scud actually settling together
under the dark vapour moving above them, and heard nothing but the vast
washing welter of the billows rising and seething for miles round, as if
the world were water, while the schooner rolled helplessly away, with
her storm-staysails flapping, into the trough. The midshipman almost
gasped as he looked to me--not from fear, but as much as to say, 'What
next?' Our strange mate stood against the fife-rail of the mainmast,
apparently too intent on the sky and sea for speaking. For my own part,
I let go my belaying-pin, and half-tumbled to the wheel, almost knocking
the sailor down in my haste to put the helm hard up--for I saw how the
blast was to come, fairly before the beam, upon us. 'Hard a-starboard
with it!' shouted I; 'haul down the main-staysail there--let her fall as
she rises.'

"The last words were never heard, for next moment there was another
flash of lightning, this time a blaze all round into the troughs of the
sea; I saw a body of mist coming down upon us from south-east, through
which the gale struck her on the starboard beam, having suddenly shifted
eight points or so. The heavy rolling swell from north-east was close
aboard, and as soon as I knew what I was about, here she was leaning
over to the full tremendous force of the storm, without power to surge
ahead, though struggling to rise like a carthorse down on his knees with
a load uphill of him. 'Twas by instinct, as they say, I found myself
scrambling along to her weather main-channels, where I managed to get
out on the side, slippery as it was, and drenched with the blinding
showers of spray. I had got my knife at work, cutting the lanyards of
the shrouds to let the mainmast go, when I saw Snelling creep after me,
like a fearless little fellow as he was, dirk in hand; although what was
come of Jones I couldn't see, unless he had lost heart and skulked. All
at once, to my great joy, the main-staysail blew inway to leeward out of
the bolt-ropes, like a scrap of paper, the main-topmast crashed at the
cap and went alongside, when the schooner righted to her keel, with a
wild bolt forward through the whole width of an immense wave--one of the
'third waves' it was, commonly the last and the hugest in a single roll
of the sea off the Cape, before you sink into a long gliding valley,
with a sort of a lull in it. The scene was so terrible at the moment,
though we bore up for full half-a-minute to the fair steady stroke of
the awful gale, nothing but a yeast of mist, scud, and darkness ahead,
the spray torn off the ridge of the wave and flying with us, while the
triple run of the heavy seas astern was in danger of sweeping her decks
from over the poop--that I felt we must try lying-to with her at once.

"Indeed, Snelling and I hardly knew whether we were holding on or not,
as we were half washed in-board and half crawled round the rigging; but
Jones had already seized the exact point--when she sank in the
hollow--to have the helm eased down to leeward. Meanwhile he had
got the reefed foresail balanced and set, with the sheet hauled
aft beforehand--a tackle hooked on to the clue, and bowsed
amidships--everything else was off her; and with this sail she came
slowly up close to the wind on the slant of the next wave, lying-to
nearly head toward the force of the sea, as her helm was kept fast two
or three points to leeward. I never had seen a craft, of the kind
hove-to in a gale before, and a very nice matter it is, too. We drew
breath, scarce able to credit our eyes, while the schooner rode
apparently safe on a sea rolling mountain-high; rising and falling off
from the breasts to the sides of the waves, so far as leeway went, and
forging ahead a little at the same time through the fierce spray that
showered out of the dark over her weather-bow.

"Cape weather as bad I had seen before, but always in good-sized ships;
and I owned to Snelling I would rather have handled any one of them,
even with a lee-shore near, ten times over, than this schooner of ours
in the present case. However, none of us were in any mood for speaking
at the time, let alone the waste of breath it was. The best thing we had
to do, after getting somewhat satisfied of her weathering it this way,
was to have the grog served out to the men, swig off a stiff pannikin
oneself, and make oneself as comfortable as possible with his pea-coat
in the lee of something.

"The sight of the sea ridging up with a dim glimmer against the dark,
kept your eye fixed to it; first you thought it would burst right
aboard, crash down upon the decks; then she lifted with it, swelling
broad under her, while the long steady sweep of the gale drove just over
the bulwarks with a deep moan; for half-a-minute, perhaps, a shivering
lull, when you heard the bulkheads and timbers creak and strain below
from stem to stern, and the bilge-water yearning, as it were, to the
water outside. Then, again, it was a howl and a shriek, a wide plunge of
sea bore up her weather-bow, and the moment ere she came fairly to, one
felt as if the schooner were going to pitch God knows where. Her whole
bulwarks shook and shivered, the wind found out every chink in them,
whistling round every different rope it split upon, while all the time
the loose, wet, dreary spars behind the long-boat kept slatting and
clattering against each other in the lashings, like planks in a woodyard
of a November night. This was the way we stuck till the morning watch
showed it all in a drizzling, struggling sort of half-light, blowing as
hard as ever, the Cape seas rolling and heaving mountain-high, of a pale
yeasty hue, far and wide to the scud; the spray drifting from the
crests, and washing over her bare forecastle, with now and then the
white wings of a huge albatross to be seen aslant to windward, riding on
the breast of a long wave down into the trough.

"Well, the whole blessed day did this sort of thing continue, only
varied by now and then a huger sea than ordinary lifting close aboard of
us, and we being hove up to get a glimpse of the long glaring streak of
horizon through the troughs of the waves; sometimes an unluckier splash
than usual over the bow and through the fore-chains, that made us look
sharp lest the canvas of the foresail should go, or the schooner broach
end-on to the sea. Otherwise, all we had to do was to watch the
binnacle, hold on with one hand to a rope, and with the other to our
caps; or turn out and in with each other down the booby-hatch for a
snatch of sleep, and a bit of biscuit and cold beef, with a glass of
grog. Mr Webb, the harbour officer, was to be seen below in his berth
all this time, lying as peaceable as a child; whether he was dead sick
or only confoundedly afraid I didn't know; but I must say I felt for the
poor fellow when I heard him ask Snelling in a weak voice, if he would
get somebody to stand off the bull's-eye in the deck over his berth, as
it always made him think there was a new hurricane coming on. 'You low,
skulking hound!' said the reefer, who had wonderfully little pity in his
make, 'it can't be worse--what d'ye want light for, eh?' 'Only to see
the opposite wall,' said Webb meekly; 'do, sir--oh now!' 'Oh, you
lubber, ye!' said Snelling, 'don't you know a bulkhead from a wall yet?
If you'd come on deck to bear a hand like others, you wouldn't need
light; and _I_ thought you might do for a mate aboard, too--pah, you
scum!'

"'Mr Snelling,' said I sharply, as he came through the cabin, 'a worm
will turn when it's trod upon, and so you may find yet, sir!' 'Well, Mr
Collins,' said he, as confidently as if I hadn't meant to give him a
set-down, 'I don't like the fellow's eye. I'll look after him, sir!'

"Not to mention the young rogue's power of face, which was beyond brass,
he had a way of seeing you in two places at once with that upward squint
of his, as if his eyes were the points of a pair of compasses, that made
the officers of the _Hebe_ always send him to the mast-head directly,
for fear it should take the frown out of them. In fact, when Snelling's
twinkling weather-eye lighted on one's neck, without the other, you
almost felt it tickle you, and as usual I turned away with a 'Pshaw!'

"On the second morning, the gale at last began to break, shifting
southward; on which, as soon as the sea ran a little easier, I had the
helm cautiously put up at a favourable moment, the reefed mainsail,
fore-topmast-staysail, and square fore-topsail set as she got before the
wind, and away the schooner went; rising on the wide deep-blue swells
with a long roll in them, then shearing ahead through their breasts,
wrinkled and seething pale-green, till she sank with the fall of the
wave--the stump of her aftermast standing, and the fore one shortened by
the to'gallant-mast. You may easily believe there was no one aboard more
eager to get clear of this weather than myself; as in ordinary
circumstances, with a craft like this, in two or three days more we
might have been in a high enough latitude to begin looking out for the
Indiaman. For my part, I can't deny that the wish for having Tom
Westwood safe out of harm's way, and with me in the schooner, strong as
it was, played second to the notion of seeing sweet Violet Hyde in any
way again, if it was only the last time before she went out of reach
altogether; for her getting amongst East India ways of doing,
high-flying civilians and soldiers, shows, and sights, either in
Calcutta or up-country, was equal to anything else, in my mind. Still,
we had six or seven days longer of the heavy seas and hard gales, before
north-easting enough could be made to take us beyond the Cape winter,
just then coming on, and which the _Seringapatam_ had very likely
escaped by two or three days, so that she would have a considerable
start of us.

"By this time we were standing well up for the Mozambique Channel,
which I had heard the Indiaman intended to take in company; a piece of
information that made me the more anxious to overtake the
_Seringapatam_, at latest, by the time they reached open water again,
where, being the only ship for Bombay, she would no doubt part from her
consorts. We had a cruiser that year, as I knew, in the Mozambique,
where there were some rumours of pirates after the war, so that in case
of her happening to speak the _Seringapatam_ close, and having got any
word of Westwood's affair, he ran a chance of being picked off. However,
that wasn't by any means the thing that troubled me most; somehow or
other, whenever the picture of Violet's face brought the Indiaman's
decks clear into my mind, with all about her, I couldn't get rid of the
notion that some ill-luck would come across that ship before she got
into port. If any pirate craft were to dodge the whole bevy of Indiamen
up the head of the channel, as was pretty sure to be the case, he would
probably wait for some signs of separating, and be down upon a single
one not long after she cleared the Leychelles Islands, where a lonely
enough stretch of the Indian Ocean spreads in. The more I entered upon
the thought of it, the more unsufferable it got; especially one day in
the mouth of the Mozambique, when it fell a dead calm with a heavy
up-and-down swell, fit to roll the sticks out of her; the high blue land
of Madagascar being in sight, sometimes to starboard, sometimes to port,
then astern, and the clear horizon lying away north-west, dark with a
breeze from round the coast. As the hot sun blazed out above us, and the
blue water came plunge up over the rail, blazing and flashing, first one
side dipped, then the other, I could fancy the passengers on the
Indiaman's poop in a light breeze with a suspicious lateen-rigged sail
creeping up on her quarter. I thought I saw Violet Hyde's eyes sparkle
against the glare of light, and her lips parting to speak--till I
actually stamped on the deck, my fists clenched, and I made three
strides to the very taffrail of the schooner. All at once I met my
second mate's eye coolly fixed on me, which brought me to my senses in a
moment, the more so as there was something about this man Jones I
couldn't make out, and I had made up my mind to keep a sharp eye on him;
though the fact was, it annoyed me most to feel him seeing into _me_, as
it were, without troubling himself. 'We shall have the breeze before
long, sir, round Cape Mary yonder,' said he, stepping forward. 'So I
expect myself, Mr Jones,' said I, 'though you evidently know the coast
better than I do.' With that I gave him a careless side-look, but to all
appearance there was nothing particular in his, as he told me he had
seen it two or three times before.



CHAPTER XXV


"With the evening we were once more running sharp on a wind up channel;
and when she did get her own way in a good breeze, the schooner's
qualities came out. 'Twas a perfect luxury to look over the side and see
the bubbles pass, her sharp bows sliding through it like a knife, she
eating into the wind all the time, in a way none but a fore-and-aft
clipper could hope to do, with a glassy blue ripple sent back from her
weather-bow as far as the fore-chains; then to wake of a morning and
feel her bounding under you with a roll up to windward, while the water
gushed through and through below the keel, and ran yearning and toppling
away back along the outer timbers into her boiling wake, working with
the moving rudder. And our man-o'-war's-men were quite delighted with
the Young _Hebe_, as they still called her. Snelling was in his element
while we were having the new spars sent up aloft--a set of longer sticks
than before--till she had twice the air, as well as a knowing rake aft.
Next thing was to get the long brass nine-pounder amidships from under
the boat, where the Frenchmen had kept it, besides which we found
another in her hold; so that, added to six small carronades already on
deck, we made a pretty show. Meanwhile, for my own part, I kept cracking
on with every stitch of canvas that could be clapped upon the spars,
including studding-sails. Jones himself didn't know better than I did by
this time how to handle the craft, schooner though she was, in the way
of making her use what weather we had to the best purpose. Variable as
it proved, too, I was aware the Indiamen would have pretty much the same
now as we had; so that, on going aloft with the glass, as I did every
watch in the day, I soon began each time expecting one or other of them
to heave in sight.

"As for the five hands from Cape Town, they seemed to have fallen in
cheerfully enough with our own, and as soon as the fine weather came,
the gang of Lascars were set to duty like the rest. Snelling would have
them even trained to work the guns, although, if it blew at all hard,
not one could be got to go aloft, except their old _serang_ and the
_tindal_, his mate. What surprised me most was the harbour officer
himself at last asking, as Mr Snelling told me, to be put in a watch;
but as the midshipman said there was no doubt Webb had made a voyage or
two before, somewhere or other, I agreed to it at once. 'I'm not sure,
sir,' added the midshipman, with one of his doubtful double looks, 'but
the gentleman may have seen blue water the first time at Government
expense, and not in the service either--he don't look fore and aft
enough, Mr Collins, harbour officer though he be; but, never mind, sir,
I'll see after him!' 'Pooh,' said I, laughing; 'if he does turn to, Mr
Snelling, it shan't be in the watch _you_ have to do with! Hand him over
to Mr Jones.' By this time I had changed the mid into my own watch, and
given Jones charge of the other--so to him the harbour officer went.

"The main character aboard of us, to me at anyrate, was this Jones
himself. The fact was, at first I had my doubts of him altogether,
partly owing to the queer way we got hold of him, partly on account of
his getting the upper hand so much through chance, in the tremendous
weather we had at the outset, till I wasn't sure but it might come into
the fellow's head of itself, to be upon some drift or other that might
cost me trouble, as things stood. However, I no sooner felt where I was,
and got the craft under my own spoke, than I came to set him down for
nothing but one of those strange hands you fall in with at sea
sometimes, always sailing with a 'purser's name,' a regular wonder of a
shipmate, and serving to quote every voyage after, by way of a clincher
on all hard points, not to say an oracle one can't get beyond, and can't
flow sky-high enough. To tell the truth, though, Jones was as thorough a
seaman as ever I met with--never at a loss, never wanting on any hand;
whether it was the little niceties we stood in need of for setting the
schooner's rigging all right again, which none but a blue-water
long-voyage sailor can touch, or, what comes to be still better in
tropical latitudes, a cool head and a quick hold, with full experience
for all sorts of weather, 'twas much the same to him. He was all over
like iron, too, never seeming to stand in need of sleep, and seeing like
a hawk. At any hour I came on deck in his watch, there was Jones, all
awake and ready, till hearing him walk the planks over my head of a fine
night made me at times keep my eyes open, listening to it and the wash
of the water together. I fancied there was something restless in it,
like the sea, with now and then an uneven sort of a start; and at last
it would come to full stop, that gave me the notion of how he was
standing quiet in the same spot; whether he was looking aloft, or
thinking, or leaning over the side, or what he was going to do, troubled
me wonderfully. The only want in his seamanship I noticed, he evidently
wasn't used to handle a large ship; but craft of some kind I was pretty
sure he had commanded in the course of his life. As for taking
observations, he could do it better than I could then, while the
knowledge he had on different heads, that came out by chance, made you
think more of a Cambridge graduate than a common sailor, such as he had
shipped for with us. The strangest part of all about him, though, was
what I couldn't well name, not to this day; 'twas more grained in with
his manner, and the ring of his voice at particular moments, as well as
his walk, though these were the smart seaman's no less; but one couldn't
help thinking of a man that had known the world ashore some time or
other, in a different enough station from now--ay, and in a way to bring
out softer lines in his face than reefing topsails or seeing the
main-tack ridden down would do. The nearest I could come to calling it,
far apart as the two men stood, was to fancy he reminded me of Lord
Frederick Bury himself; especially when he looked all of a sudden to the
horizon in that wide, vacant kind of fashion, as if he expected it
farther off than it was; only Jones's face was twice the age, like a
man's that had had double the passions in it at the outset, and given
them full swing since then; with a sleeping devil in his eye yet,
besides, as I thought, which only wanted somewhat to rouse it. Only for
that, I had a sort of leaning to Jones myself; but, as it was, I caught
myself wishing, over and over, for something to make us fall regularly
foul of each other, and get rid of this confounded doubtful state. One
hitch of a word to take hold of, and, by Jove! I felt all the blood in
my body would boil out in me to find how we stood, and show it; but
nothing of the kind did Jones let pass--and as close as the sea itself
he was in regard to his past life. As for the men from the frigate, at
least, they seemingly looked on him with no great fondness, and a good
deal of respect, in spite of themselves, for his seamanship; whereas, if
he had been left in the fore-peak in place of the cabin, I've no doubt
in a short time it would have been no man but Jones. You light now and
then upon a man afloat, indeed, that his shipmates hold off from, as
healthy dogs do from a mad one; and you saw they had some sort of an
inkling of the gloomy close nature Jones had in him by the way they
obeyed his orders. Webb's three Cape Dutchmen seemed to have a notion he
was some being with mysterious powers, while the Lascars ran crouching
at his very word--some of them being, as I found, Malays, and the rest
Mussulmans from Chittagong; but Jones could send them about in their own
language, Dutchmen and all--a part of the matter which did not tend to
keep me less careful over him. Still I observed, since his coming
aboard, that Jones never once touched liquor, which had plainly enough
been his ruin ashore; whether on account of meaning to pull up once for
all and mend, or only to have a wider bout at next port, or else to keep
himself steady for aught that might turn up, I couldn't settle in my own
mind. Though deucedly doubtful of its being the first, the very idea of
it made one feel for the man; and, in case of his doing well, I had no
small hopes of something in the upshot to save a real sailor like him
from going to the devil altogether, as he seemed doing.

"Now, after our getting clear of the rough Cape weather, and the
dead-lights being taken out of the stern-windows, I had given a look,
for the first time, into the schooner's after-cabins, which were pretty
much as the people she belonged to before had left them, except for the
rough work the gale had played. There were two of them, one opening into
the other; and I must say it was a melancholy sight to meet the bright
sunlight streaming into them from off the water astern, with all the
little matters either just as if the owners were still inside, or else
tumbled about at sixes and sevens. One drawer, in particular, had come
out of a table, scattering what was in it on the deck: there was a
half-open letter, in a woman's hand, all French, and showing a lock of
hair, with a broken diamond cross of the French Legion of Honour,
besides a sort of paper-book full of writing and two printed ones bound
in morocco. I picked up the letter and the cross, put them in again, and
shoved the drawer back to its place, though I brought the books away
with me to have a glance over. What struck me most, though, was a
plaster figure of the French Emperor himself, standing fastened on a
shelf, with one hand in the breast of his greatcoat, and looking calmly
out of the white sightless eyes; while right opposite hung a sort of
curtain which you'd have thought they were fixed upon. When I hauled it
aside, I stared--there on a shelf to match the other, was a beautiful
smiling child's head to the shoulders, of pure white marble, as if it
leant off the bulkhead like a cherub out of the clouds.

"Spite of all, however, the touch of likeness it had to the head I got
such a glimpse of at Longwood, even when the hot sunlight showed it in
my spy-glass so pale and terrible, was sufficient to tell me what _this_
was--Napoleon's own little son, in fact, who was made King of Rome, as I
remembered hearing at the time. The thought of the schooner's strange
French captain and his desperate scheme came back on me so strong,
joined to what I saw he had an eye to in fitting out his cabins, that,
for my own part, I hadn't the heart to use them myself, and at first
sight ordered the dead-lights to be shipped again, and the door locked.

"'Twas a good many days after this, of course, and we had made a pretty
fast run up the Mozambique, in spite of the sharp navigation required,
sighting nothing larger than the native and Arab craft to be seen
thereabouts; we were beginning to clear out from amongst the clusters of
islands and shoals at the channel-head, when two large sail were made in
open water to nor'-eastward. Next morning by daybreak we were to
windward of the weathermost--a fine large Indiaman she was, crowding a
perfect tower of canvas. Shortly after, however, the schooner was within
hail, slipping easily down upon her quarter, which seemed to give them a
little uneasiness, plenty of troops as she seemed to have on board, and
looming like a frigate. After some show of keeping on, and apparently
putting faith in the man-of-war pennant I hoisted, she hove into the
wind, when we found she was the Company's ship _Warringford_, and the
other the something _Castle_, I forget which, both for Calcutta. The
next thing, as soon as they found we were tender to His Majesty's
frigate _Hebe_, was to ask after the _Seringapatam_; on which I was told
she was three or four days' sail ahead with the _Mandarin_, bound to
China, neither of them having put in at Johanna Island to refresh.

"I was just ready to put our helm up again and bid good-bye, when the
tiffin-gong could be heard sounding on the Indiaman's quarter-deck, and
the old white-haired captain politely asked me if I wouldn't come aboard
with one or two of my officers to lunch. Mr Snelling gave me a wistful
glance--there were a dozen pretty faces admiring our schooner out of the
long white awnings; but even if the notion of bringing up Snelling
himself as my first officer hadn't been too much for me, not to speak of
either Jones or Webb, why the very thoughts that everything I saw
recalled to me, made me the more eager to get in sight of the
_Seringapatam_. 'Thank you, sir,' answered I. 'No--I must be off after
the Bombay ship.' 'Ah,' hailed the old captain, 'some of your Admiral's
post-bags, I suppose. Well, keep as much northing as you can, sir, and I
daresay you'll find her parted company. She's got a jury fore-topmast
up, for one she lost a week ago; so you can't mistake her for the
_Mandarin_, with a good glass.' 'Have you noticed any suspicious craft
lately, sir?' asked I. 'Why, to tell you the truth, lieutenant,' sang
out he, looking down off the high bulwarks at our long nine-pounders and
the knot of Lascars, 'none more so than we thought _you_, at first,
sir!' The cadets on the poop roared with laughter, and an old lady with
two daughters seemed to eye Snelling doubtfully, through an opera-glass
as the reefer ogled both of them at once.

"'By-the-by,' sang out the captain of the Indiaman to me again, 'I fancy
the passengers in that ship must have got somehow uncomfortable--one of
our Bengal grandees aboard of her wanted a berth to Calcutta with us,
t'other day in the Mozambique; but we're too full already!' 'Indeed,
sir?' said I; but the schooner's main-boom was jibbing over, and with
two or three more hails, wishing them a good voyage, and so on, away we
slipped past their weather-bow. The _Warringford_ got under weigh at
her leisure, and in an hour or two her topsails were down to leeward of
us. On I cracked with square and studding-sails to the quartering
breeze, till the schooner's light hull jumped to it, and aloft she was
all hung out of a side, like a dairyman's daughter carrying milk; with
the pace she went at, I could almost say to an hour when we should
overhaul the chase.

"Still, after two or three days of the trade-wind, well out in the
Indian Ocean, and not a spot to be seen, we had got so far up the Line
as to make me sure we had overrun her. Accordingly, the schooner was
hauled sharp on a wind to cruise slowly down across what must be the
Indiaman's track, judging as we could to a nicety, with a knowledge of
the weather we had had. For my part, I was so certain of sighting her
soon, that I ordered the after-cabins to be set to rights, seeing a
notion had taken hold of me of actually offering them to Sir Charles
Hyde for the voyage to Calcutta--fancy the thought! 'Twas too good to be
likely; but Violet herself actually being in that little after-cabin and
sleeping in it--the lively schooner heading away alone for India, and
they and Westwood the sole passengers aboard--why, the very idea of it
was fit to drive me crazy with impatience.

"Well, one fine night, after being on deck all day, and the whole night
before, almost, I had turned into my cot to sleep. From where I lay I
could see the moonshine off the water through the stern-light in that
after-cabin, by the half-open door. I felt the schooner going easily
through the water, with a rise and fall from the heave of the long
Line-swell; so close my eyes I couldn't, especially as the midshipman
could be heard snoring on the other side like the very deuce.
Accordingly I turned out into the after-cabin, and got hold of one of
the Frenchman's volumes to read, when, lo, and behold! I found it was
neither more nor less than Greek, all I knew being the sight of it. Next
I commenced overhauling the bundle of handwriting, which I took at first
for a French log of the schooner's voyage, and sat down on the locker to
have a spell at it. So much as I could make out, in spite of the queer
outlandish turn the letters had, and the quirks of the unnatural sort of
language, it was curious enough--a regular story, in fact, about his own
life, the war, and Bonaparte himself.

"At another time I'd have given a good deal to go through with it at odd
hours--and a strange affair I found it was some time afterwards; but
meanwhile I had only seen at the beginning that his name was _Le Comte
Victor l'Allemand, Capitaine, de la Marine Français_, and made out at
the end how there was some scheme of his beyond what I knew before, to
be carried out in India--when it struck me there was no one on the
quarter-deck above. I listened for a minute through the stern-window,
and thought I heard someone speaking, over the schooners lee-quarter, as
she surged along; so slipping on jacket and cap, I went on deck at once.

"It was middle-watch at the time; but as soon as I came up I saw all was
quiet--Webb near the gangway talking to the old Lascar serang, and
breaking the English wonderfully betwixt them; while the Lascars of the
watch were sitting like tailors in a ring on the forecastle planks, each
waiting for his turn of one cocoa-nut hookah, that kept hubble-bubbling
away gravely under the smoker's nose, as he took a long suck at it,
while the red cinder in the bowl lighted up his leathery Hindoo face and
moustache like a firefly in the root of a banyan, till he handed it,
without even a wipe, to his neighbour. These fellows had begun to get
much livelier as we made the tropics; and this same serang of theirs had
put out his horns once or twice to Snelling lately, though he drew them
in again the moment he saw me--a sulky old knotty-faced, yellow-eyed
devil I thought him at any rate, while his dish-cloth of a turban, his
long blue gown and red trousers, reminded you at sea in a gale of a
dancing dervish. The day we spoke the Indiaman, in fact, I noticed there
was something in the wind for a minute or two with him and his gang,
which put in my head at first to offer them to the captain for a couple
of good English hands; and as I passed him and Webb this time the serang
stopped his talk and sidled off.

"However, a beautiful night it was, as ever eye looked upon even in the
blue Indian Ocean: the heavens cloudless, the full round moon shining
high off our weather-beam again, the stars drawn up into her bright
light, as it were, trembling through the films of it like dewdrops in
gossamer of a summer morning: you saw the sea meet the sky on every
hand, without a speck on the clear line of horizon, through the squares
of our ratlins and betwixt the schooner's too long fore-and-aft booms.
A pretty strongish breeze we had too, blowing from east to west with a
sweep through the emptiness aloft, and a wrinkling ripple over the long
gentle swells as deep in the hue as if fresh dye came from the bottom,
and crisping into a small sparkle of foam wherever they caught it full.
Something pleasant, one could not say what, was in the air; and every
sheet being hauled taut to hold wind, the slant gush of it before her
beam drove her slipping ahead toward the quarter it came from, with a
dip down and a saucy lift of her jibs again, as if she were half
balanced amidships, but little noise about it. I took a squint aloft and
an overhaul all round, and nothing was to be seen. The size of the sky
through the moonlight looked awful, as it were, and the strength of the
breeze seemed to send a heavenly blue deep into the western quarter till
you saw a star in it The night was so lovely, in fact, it somehow made
one think of one's mother, and old times, when you used to say your
prayers. Still I couldn't see the mate of the watch on the weather
quarter-deck, which surprised me the more in Jones's case, since he was
always ready for me when I came up; and, to tell the truth, I shouldn't
have been sorry to catch him napping for once, only to show he was like
men in common. I walked aft by the weather-side of the large mainsail,
accordingly, till I saw him leaning with his head over the lee-bulwark,
and heard him again, as I thought, apparently speaking to someone down
the schooner's side; upon which I stepped across.

"Jones's back was to me as I looked over too; but owing to what he was
busy with, I suppose, and the wash of the water which was louder there
than in-board, while you heard the plash from her bows every time she
forged he evidently didn't hear me. You may fancy my wonder to find he
was reading aloud out to himself from the other of the Frenchman's
volumes, which I had no doubt left in the dining-cabin--the book open in
both hands, he giving it forth in long staves, with a break between--and
regular Greek it was too. You'd have thought he timed them to the plash
alongside; and I must say, as every string of long-tailed words flowed
together like one, in Jones's deep voice, and the swell rose once or
twice with its foam-bells near his very hands, I almost fancied I made a
meaning of them--each like a wave, as it were, sweeping to a crest, and
breaking. The gusto the man showed in it you can't conceive, and, what
was more, I had no doubt he understood the sense of it, for all of a
sudden, after twenty staves or so of the kind he stopped. 'There!' said
he, 'there, old Homer--women, wine, and adventure--what could the devil
ask more, blind old prater, with a sound in you like the sea? Ay, wash,
wash, wash away, lying old blue-water, you can't wash _it_ out--and
wine--no, not the strongest rum in Cape Town--can wash _you_ out!' With
that Jones laid his head on his arms, with the book still in one hand,
muttering to himself, and I listened in spite of me. 'Still, it rouses
the old times in me!' said he. 'Here comes this book across me, too. Ay,
ay, and the rector fancied, sitting teaching me Greek out of old wild
Homer all weekday--and--and his girl slipping out and in--'twould do to
don the cassock of a Sunday and preach out of the pulpit against the
world, the devil, and the flesh--then warn me against the sea--ha!'

"The laugh that came from him at that moment was more like a dog than a
human being; but on he went muttering 'Women, wine, and adventures, said
ye, old Greek, and a goddess too; still he _was_ a good old man, the
rector--no guile nor evil in him, with his books in the cases yonder,
and the church-spire seen through the window over the garden, and his
wife with--ah, the less of that the better.--Twas in me, though, and all
our blood--and in _her_ dark eyes, too, Mary though she was!' He broke
out again, after a bit, as if he'd been arguing it with something under
the side: 'I didn't take her the first time I came home--nor the
second--but-but--ay, I came _back_! Oh that parting-stile in sight of
the sea--and that packet-ship--but O God! that night--that night with
the schooner forging ahead through the blue--blue----' And he stopped
with a groan that shook him as he leant over. 'Hellish!' he said,
suddenly standing upright and looking straight aloft with his bare head
and face to the wide empty sky, and the moonlight tipping the hair on
his forehead, from over the high shadow on the lee-side of the mainsail,
where it glistened along the gaff. 'She was pure to the last!' I heard
him say, though I had walked to the other side of the boom; 'ay, though
I rot to perdition for it!--Down, old fiend!' as he lifted his one hand
with the book, and drove it alongside, seemingly watching it settle away
astern.

"Now I had heard nothing from Jones that I couldn't have fancied before,
and there was even a humour to my mind in the notion of clapping it all
on old Homer, if Homer it was, and heaving him overboard with such a
confoundedly complimentary burial-service. But some of the words that
dropped from him shot through one's veins like icicles; and now there
was something fearful in the sight of him standing straight again, with
a look right into the heavens, as if he'd have searched them up and
up--in that lovely night too, spread far and wide--the very rays of the
moonlight sparkled down the weather-side of the sail I was on, trembling
on the leech-ropes and brails as they swayed, and into the hollows they
made in the belly of the taut canvas; the long shining spot of it
wavered and settled on the same two planks of the quarter-deck, beyond
the shadow of the bulwark from the moon's eye, fast as the schooner
moved through the water, and it was like a hand laid upon her, with the
air and wind stretching between. Of a sudden I saw Jones wheel slowly
round where he stood, like a man turned about by main strength, with his
eyes fixed aloft, and his one arm raising from the shoulder till his
forefinger pointed to something, as I thought, about the
fore-to'gallantsail. His face was like ashes, his eye glaring, and I
sprang across to him under the main-boom. 'See!' said he, never turning
his head, and the words hissed betwixt his teeth, 'look at that!'

"'For Heaven's sake, _what_, Mr Jones?' said I. '_Her--her_,' was his
answer, 'coming against the wind--dead fore-and-aft in the shade of the
sails!' On the lee-sides of them the high boom-sails made a sort of a
thin shadow against the moonshine off the other beam, which came
glimpsing through between them out of a world of air to the south-east,
with a double of it flickering alongside on the water as it heaved past
to leeward; and whether it was fancy, or whether it was but the
reflection aloft from below, I thought as I followed Jones's finger, I
saw something like the shape of a woman's dress floating close in with
the bonnet of the fore-topmaststaysail, from the dusk it made to the
breast of the fore-topsail, and even across the gush of white light
under the yard--long and straight, as it were, like a thing lifted
dripping out of water, and going, as he said, right against the
schooner's course. 'Now in the foresail!' whispered Jones, his eye
moving as on a pivot, and a thrill ran through me at the notion; for I
made out one single moment what I thought a face against the sky at the
gaff-end, white as death, shooting aft towards the mainsail--though next
instant I saw it was but a block silvered by the moon as the schooner
lifted. 'Now the mainsail!' said he, huskily, 'and now--now by the
heavens--rising--rising to the gaff-topsail--away! O Lord! _Mary!_'

"He was leaning aft toward the width of the sky, with both hands
clutched together before him, shuddering all over. For the first minute
my own blood crept, I must say; but directly after I touched him on the
shoulder. 'This is strange, Mr Jones,' said I; 'what's the matter?'
'Once in the Bermudas!' said he, still wildly, 'once in the Pacific--and
now! Does the sea give up its dead, though, think ye?' 'You've a strong
fancy, Mr Jones, that's all,' I said sternly. 'Fancy!' said he, though
beginning to get the better of himself; 'did ye ever fancy a face
looking down--down at you in the utterest scorn--down sideways off the
shoulder of the garment, as it sticks wet into every outline like life?
All the time gliding on the other way, too, and the eyes like two stars
a thousand miles away beyond, as kind as angels'--neither wind nor sea
can stop it, till suddenly it rises to the very cope of heaven--still
looking scornfully down at you!--No, sir, fancy it _you_ couldn't!'

"The glance he gave me was somehow or other such as I couldn't
altogether stomach from the fellow, and he was turning to the side when
I said quietly, 'No, nor Homer either, I daresay!' Jones started and
made a step towards me. 'You heard me a little ago!' rapped out he,
eyeing me. 'Yes,' I said; 'by Jove! who could help being curious to hear
a sailor spout Greek as you were doing, Mr Jones?'

'The fact is, Mr Collins,' answered he, changing his tone, 'I was well
brought up--the more shame to me for bringing myself to what you saw me.
I had a sister drowned, too, on her passage to America one voyage, when
I was mate of the ship myself. No wonder it keeps my nerves shaking
sometimes, when I've had too long about shore.' 'Well, well, Jones,'
said I, rather softening, 'you've proved yourself a first-rate seaman,
and I've got nothing to complain of; but I tell you fairly I had my
doubts of you! So you'll remember you're under the Articles of War
aboard here, sir,' added I, 'which, as long as I have this schooner
under hand, I'll be hanged if I don't carry out!' All at once the
thought struck me, a little inconveniently, of my carrying off Webb, and
his people, and I fancied Jones's quick eye wandered to the Lascars
forward. 'I know it, sir,' said he, looking me steadily in the face;
'and what's more, Mr Collins, at any rate I couldn't forget you picked
me out, confounded low as I looked, to come aft here. 'Tis not every
captain afloat that has such a good eye for a seaman, as _I_ know!' 'Oh,
well, no more about it,' I said, walking forward on the weather-side,
and leaving him on the lee one as distinctly as Lord Frederick Bury
could have done to myself in the frigate. Jones no doubt thought I
didn't notice the slight wrinkle that gathered round his lee eye when he
gave me this touch of butter at the end; but I put it down for nothing
more, gammon though it was.

"It was near the end of the watch, the moon beginning to set, while it
still wanted three hours of daybreak in those latitudes, when the
look-out on the topgallant-yard, who was stationed there in man-o'-war
cruising fashion, reported a sail to windward. Just then the midshipman
came on deck to his watch, wonderfully early for him indeed, and on my
remarking it was probably the Indiaman at last, Jones himself went aloft
with the night-glass to make her out. 'Mr Snelling,' said I, 'see the
hands on deck ready for going about.' Next minute I saw him rousing up
the rest of the Lascars, who slept watch and watch on the forecastle.
Only five or six of the _Hebe's_ men were up, and all of them, save the
man at the wheel, ran aloft to rig out stunsail-booms to windward, as
soon as the schooner was fairly on the starboard tack, standing to
nor'-eastward. Suddenly I saw a scuffle between the midshipman and the
tindal,[25] a stout, dark-faced young Bengalee, with a jaunty skull-cap
and frock, whom Snelling had probably helped along with a touch of a
rope's end, and in a moment two or three more of them were upon him,
while the reefer drew his dirk, and sung out to me, scarce before I was
with him, the Lascars rolling into the lee-scuppers at two kicks of my
foot.

  [25] Lascar boatswain's mate.

"Webb and three of the men from Cape Town were hoisting a stunsail at
the time, the smart man-o'-war's-men aloft singing out to them to bear a
hand. What with the noise of the sail flapping, and its being betwixt my
own men and the deck, they could know nothing of the matter; and the
Lascars let go the halliards in a body, making a rush at Snelling and
myself with everything they could pick up in the shape of a spar.

"This would have been nothing, as in two or three minutes more the men
would have been down, and the cocoa-faced rascals dodged every way from
the handspike I got hold of; but I just caught a glimpse on one side of
the sly old serang shoving on the fire-scuttle to keep down the watch
below; and on the other, of Webb looking round him, evidently to see how
matters stood. Two Dutchmen seized the first sailor that came down the
rigging, by the legs, and I saw the affair must be finished at once, it
had so much the look of a regular plot on Webb's part, if Jones wasn't
concerned in it too. I made one spring upon my Cape Town gentleman, and
took him by the throat with one hand, while I hit the biggest Dutchman
full behind the ear, felling him to the deck, on which the
man-o'-war's-man grappled his watch-mate, and Webb was struggling with
me sufficiently to keep both my hands full, when I had a pleasant
inkling of a Malay Lascar slipping toward my back with a bare kreese in
his fist.

"I just looked over my shoulder at his black eyes twinkling devilishly
before he sprang, when someone came sliding fair down from the
fore-topmast-head by a back-stay, and pitched in a twinkling on top of
his head--a thing enough to break the neck of a monument. Directly
after, I saw Jones himself hitting right and left with his night-glass,
from the moonlight to the shadow of the foresail, while Snelling tumbled
over a Lascar at every slap, standing up in boxer-style. By the time the
rest of the men came down all was settled--the Dutchmen sulking against
the bulwarks, and Webb gasping after I let him go. 'Boatswain,' said I
to one of the sailors,' clap that man in irons below. Mr Snelling, see
the watch called, sir.' 'I 'ad the law with me,' said Webb, gloomily.
'You plotted it, then, Mr Webb?' I said. 'Didn't you carry us off
illegally?' said he. 'I only meant to recover the vessel--upon my
honour, nothing more, sir; and if you're 'ard with me, you'll have to
answer for it, I assure you!' Here he looked round to Jones in a
strange way, as I fancied, for a moment; but Jones turned on his heel
with a sneer. 'Why, Mr Webb,' answered I, 'you lost that tack by
offering yourself in a watch, which makes the thing neither more nor
less than mutiny--so take him below, do ye hear, bo'sun!' And down he
went.

"'Now, Mr Jones,' said I, as soon as all hands were on deck, 'you'll be
so good as have half of these Lascars seized to the rigging here, one
after the other, and see a good dozen given to each of their backs; then
these two Dutchmen, each three dozen--then pipe down the watch, sir.'

"Jones glanced at me, then at the fellows, then at me again. I thought
he hung aback for an instant; but do it I was determined he should, for
a reason I had; and I gave him back the look steady as stone. 'Ay, ay,
sir,' said he, at last, touching his hat. I walked aft to the capstan,
and stood there till every mother's son of them had got his share, the
Lascars wriggling and howling on the deck after it, and the Dutchmen
twisting their backs as they walked off. 'Twas the first time I did that
part of duty in command, and I felt, in the circumstances, I was in for
carrying it out with a taut hand.

"By this time the moon was setting, and in the dusk we lost sight of the
sail to windward; but as we were heading well up to weather upon her,
and going at least ten knots, I turned in below for a little, leaving
the midshipman. Accordingly, it wasn't very long before Snelling called
me in broad daylight 'She's a large ship, Mr Collins,' said he,
'standing under all sail on a wind. I hope to goodness, sir, it's that
confounded Indiaman at last!' I hurried on deck, took the glass aloft,
and soon made out the jury fore-topmast shorter than the main, as the
old captain mentioned. Accordingly, it was with somewhat of a flutter in
me I came down again, watching the schooner's trim below and aloft, to
see if I couldn't take an hour or so off the time betwixt that and once
more setting eyes on the judge's daughter.



CHAPTER XXVI


"After breakfast-time the breeze freshened again, and the ship had
evidently perceived us, as well as the fact of our having hauled on a
wind to make up with her course; for we could see her hoisting out one
stunsail after another to the lee-side, and keeping off in order to give
them full play. This was what I was afraid of, in fact, that our looking
her way in the circumstances would make her show her heels; and being
hull down, almost dead to windward of us, with her spread of sail to
such a breeze as the present, it was like to be a troublesome matter ere
we got within signalling distance; especially if she had kept hold of
her wind a little more, instead of falling off before it as she did,
which tended the schooner always steadily to weather upon her, the
sharper we kept her nose to the sun in the spray. Indeed, the wind
during the forenoon came gradually round more in our favour, till it
stood south-east by east or so; by which time, however, we had dropped
her topsails from the deck, then her to'gallant-sails, to a white speck
far down on the lee-bow. We weathered fast upon her, and I fancied I
made out the yellow India patches in her canvas; when, on turning about,
I caught Jones's glance at me, as if he couldn't understand my
eagerness, or else had got curious what the schooner wanted with the
ship at all. 'She loses, I think, sir,' said he looking off to her
again. 'Little doubt of that, Mr Jones,' said I. 'I know that Indiaman's
sailing to a tee--but we shan't overhaul her at this rate an hour too
soon, before she might have a chance of dropping us in the dark, or our
running to leeward of her again.' 'Why, yes,' said Jones, carelessly,
'if they knew how to do it, sir.' 'By George! Mr Collins,' exclaimed
Snelling, 'I see her stern-gallery sparkling in the run of the surges.'

"In a little while we could notice her canvas darken slowly from the
courses to the to'gallant-sails, leaving the royals and studding-sails
whiter than before: they were wetting her sails. 'She must take us for
something bad, Lieutenant Collins!' remarked Jones, as if the thing were
at all doubtful. 'A pirate, in fact,' added the reefer, with a grin.
'Why, sir,' said he, 'these Company's men seem to think the sea swarms
with pirates, though I'm blessed if we've been so lucky as to sight even
the tail-feather of one--my eye! though, how the griffins must be
skipping about just now!'

"The truth was, the nearer we got, the more it struck me that, altered
as the schooner was aloft, our red streak and lead-coloured sides were
just as the first time I saw them; which wouldn't do much toward
settling the Indiaman's doubts of us, for they couldn't fail to remember
her the moment our hull came in sight; and as for my own character all
along aboard the _Seringapatam_, why, neither first nor last did it seem
to stand in good odour. 'Mr Jones,' said I, as we slipped quietly
through the water, 'have you got any old canvas at hand, sir?--be so
good as have it ripped up in lengths, and fast clapped outside from stem
to stern along that red streak of ours, up as far as the plank sheer,
missing the ports--give her a good broad white stripe, sir, instead!'
'Ay, ay, sir!' answered he, with a gleam in his eye as he turned off,
half knowing, half in surprise. 'And, Mr Snelling,' continued I, 'hark
ye, see all the hammocks stowed over the bulwarks in her waist--and run
both those long-guns forward, chock in to the eyes of her, to bring her
down by the head a little--keep the men on the foc'sle too--she looks
rather rakish at present, I must confess!'

"All this the young gentleman seemed to do with as rueful a look as if
he were putting knee-breeches and gaiters in place of white ducks, on
his own lower timbers; and presently he came aft to ask if he mightn't
stick a shot into each of the guns. 'What for?' said I. 'Oh,' said the
midshipman, 'won't she show fight at all, sir, then?' Just then the
white range of the Indiaman's heavy quarter-gallery came into view, then
the bulge of her big hulking body half on to us, with a port-lid or two
raised in the white band: we were to windward of her already, stealing
up on her quarter. 'My eye!' said Snelling, 'she could blow us out of
water, if she choose, Mr Collins, and only had pluck enough.' 'Why,
that's all you know about it, Mr Snelling,' said I, with a laugh, 'since
she don't carry long muzzles in her side, and in a light breeze like
this we could--however, as we happen to be friends, that's of no moment,
Mr Snelling.' 'After all, though,' I added, 'you _may_ load once, and
stand by to fire across her course, if required; but, for the life of
you, Snelling,' said I, seriously, 'in any case, if I give the word to
fire, don't let anything in the shape of iron go near that ship's hull!
By Jove! sir, I'd let her blow us out of the water first, or else show
her our heels, myself!'

"Well, about four in the afternoon, there we were coming down actually
on the ship's quarter, from windward; when we took in our flying-kites,
clued up gaff and fore-topsails, and to'gallant-sail, leaving St
George's flag fluttering bright at the main-peak, and our long
coach-whip streaming from the mast-head, while she kept gliding easily
ahead under nothing but the two boom-sails and large jib. Still the
Indiaman gave no other sign except showing the British ensign, then her
striped Company's flag under it, at the mizzen-peak: she went jogging
steadily on, as I was afraid she would, like a fellow giving you the
go-by in the street. 'Nothing else for it, after all, Mr Snelling,' said
I, walking forward, as we got within long range. 'The confounded fools!'
I couldn't help saying, 'do they think a piratical craft would give
herself the trouble of hoisting all the flags in Christendom one after
the other, and she, of course, with a long-Tom on a pivot amidships? Mr
Jones, oblige me by pitching a shot right across her forefoot?' Jones
stepped forward, had the gun slued, and blew the match. 'Are you ready?'
said I--'now mind your eye--fire!' and the ball went spinning from the
top of one swell to another beyond the Indiaman's bows, rather wide of
the mark, as I thought: when, all at once, the smoke had scarce cleared
away betwixt us ere I saw her jib-sheets fly, and the Indiaman luffing
up in the wind. Jones started, as almost next moment we could see the
spritsail-yard hanging in two across the spars--I must say, rather to my
own surprise, in spite of a good deal of old cruising practice.

"'A good aim, sir!' remarked he, turning round. 'There goes her
main-yard, now!' said Snelling; and she seemed to be heaving-to, when
the mainsail filled again, and on she stood as before; then actually
broached-to, all aback, and gathering stern-way with her bows fairly
facing us; while the black figure-head under the bowsprit showed me his
turban again once more, like a fellow leaning over a horse he couldn't
manage. 'What the mischief _are_ the lubbers about!' I said, 'can't they
heave-to at once and be done with it, now that I fancy they see their
mistake?'

"Here Jones, who had got aft and stood up on the taffrail, jumped down
again all at once, and met me at the capstan. 'Lieutenant Collins,' said
he in a low voice, and looking me straight in the face with a very queer
expression, 'the ship has _struck_!' 'Struck!' repeated I, starting; and
he, Snelling, and I sprang to the taffrail together. There was the
Indiaman, in fact, at length heaving into the wind, about three-quarters
of a mile off our lee-beam, with her two ensigns hauled down, and
something flying instead of them at the gaff-end, which I couldn't make
out. Our helm was put up, and the schooner edged swiftly down to her,
slipping along in sight of her stretch of bulwarks till we had hove-to
abreast of her starboard bow.

'What ship is that?' hailed I from abaft, as we ran past in the shadow
of her sails; and I saw my gentleman 'first officer,' Finch, standing up
in her mizzen-chains with the trumpet, more dashing than ever, as he had
poor Captain Williamson's uniform coat and hat on, apparently, and a
sword by his side: her whole quarter-bulwark bristling with spy-glasses
and gun-barrels turned upon the schooner, though not another head could
be seen. 'The Honourable East In----' began Finch; but that moment there
was a perfect hubbub of cries and cheers, as a dozen faces I knew well
showed themselves popping up from the quarter-deck: Old Rollock in a
huge straw hat and his shirt-sleeves, with a ship's musket in his fists;
Ford, Winterton, and the cadets--the long-faced Scotch surgeon, and
Macleod's screwed nose and red whiskers--every eye fixed on me, as I
fancied, not to say three or four rusty barrels. Their confusion and
bewilderment was rare to witness; and being forty hands of us--the
Lascars' outlandish physiognomies and all--why, the schooner must have
looked rather respectable as she still slid ahead.

"In the meantime, the look of our smart _Hebe's_ men, with the frigate's
name shining in front of their regular-built hats, and everything about
us, not to say the reefer's naval uniform and mine, seemed to have set
the Indiaman's people more at their ease; till, when our gig's crew was
ready to lower away, there was even a glimpse of ladies to be seen along
toward her poop. Every moment I expected the sight of a certain face to
flash on me from over the black rail, as the ship rolled and plunged in
the heave of water opposite us, showing her broad white band, with the
drips of rust across it from her chain-plates. 'We made somewhat of an
awkward mistake, sir!' hailed Finch, eyeing me queerly enough, and
trying to appear at his ease. 'So I supposed, sir,' said I; 'I shall
send a boat aboard of you directly'; and I turned to the midshipman, who
stood surveying the ship from stem to stern with his nose turned away
from her, and his hands in the tails of his coat, speaking all the time
to Mr Jones, though the latter was apparently the least interested of
the two, for he had his eye seaward.

"'Mr Snelling,' said I, 'd'ye see that gentleman yonder near the
main-rigging, with the black hat on? You'll go aboard in the gig, sir,
give your commanding-officer's compliments to the captain of the
Indiaman, and mention to him that that gentleman is wanted
here--Westwood his name is.'

"To tell you the truth, my head was in a perfect whirl at knowing that,
if I chose, five minutes could set me within speaking distance of
Violet--yet you'd scarce believe I actually almost made up my mind not
to go on deck again till our sheets were hauled aft, and we leaving the
ship astern. Bless your heart! I wasn't aware till that minute _what_ I
felt for her; everything about the voyage from Portsmouth came back so
fresh on me, at sight of the different parts about the old
_Seringapatam's_ bulwarks, to the very odds-and-ends of ropes hanging
alongside that blessed lumbering coach-house of hers amidships, and the
live-stock cackling and bleating in it between times! And there was I
glancing aft into our little stern-cabins, which I fancied two or three
days ago might serve for _their_ passage. But now, though I had a pretty
sharp guess these same cabins were meant originally for neither more nor
less than an emperor himself, why, I saw the very notion was too
ridiculous to mention! 'Mr Jones,' said I, speaking up the skylight, 'as
soon as you see that passenger is in the boat, have the head sheets
hauled aft, sir, and the helm put up to make sail.' 'Ay, ay, sir,' said
he; but directly after, he added in a low voice, 'I believe though, sir,
we are not likely to part company from this ship so soon!' 'How, sir!'
exclaimed I sharply, and starting up off the chair to see him, for
something in the cool, collected tone of his voice jarred on me the more
on account of the state I was in myself--'what do you mean by that?' I
had merely to catch sight of my mate's broad throat and hairy chin,
however, as he stood with his full chest thrown back, and one hand in
his waistcoat, looking aloft by the skylight, when, following his eye to
our main-gaff, it was easy to know the last fanning of the wind; which,
taken together with the schooner's yerking motion abaft, was sufficient
to give you word of a calm. 'We have lost the breeze for to-night, at
any rate, sir,' said Jones, letting his eyes suddenly fall upon me, and
meeting the flicker of pleasure I couldn't help showing on my face.
'Confound the thing! you don't say so, Mr Jones!' rejoined I quickly.
'Then as long as she has a foot's steerage-way, sir, let her slip off
the Indiaman's bow at once--else the two of us will be grinding together
ere daylight like a couple of mill-stones without corn!'

"On deck there were twenty things worth noticing, that struck one at the
same time. The schooner's light spars and white canvas seen sharp
against the white glare of light in the west, as she settled round on
the ship's other bow; while the light air high aloft in the Indiaman's
royals still kept steadying her with her lee-side to the sunset, where
it made a red trough along the horizon down through a golden cloud or
two, that looked like bright-winged things whirling off and about the
sun.

"Our gig was holding off by the boat-hook from her lee-quarter, the oars
up-ended, and two or three sailors, with their heads shoved out under a
port-lid on the main deck, talking to the boat's crew, while a few of
the men hung over the high black top-sides, peering aft at the gig; the
rest being gathered in the ship's bows, with their eyes fixed on the
schooner. The huge round of the sun went down astern like the mouth of a
furnace, sending a broad stream of red light across the face of the
water with every wet streak and wrinkle shown heaving in it, right up to
the Indiaman's white band and her pitch-black bulwarks. Her
quarter-galleries lashed out, and you saw the passengers' heads aft
through the red arch under the wide mainsail-foot, till every face shone
crimson-bright out of the awning below; and I could see the midshipman's
gold band glisten as he took his cap off to some ladies coming down the
poop-stair, amidst a hubbub of cadets turning round to eye the schooner.
For half-a-minute the smooth sea all astern of the ship seemed to wash
to her water-line in a flood of light and blood almost, as if the
horizon vanished; then the tip of the sun went down like a burning ruby,
the blue heave of water sank away from the copper at the Indiaman's
bows, giving us an easy lift at the other side of the swell, and the
whole compass of the sea appeared to slide round cool and clear against
the soft flush of all possible tints in the west; till the deep indigo
hue of the calm spread melting off from both of us.

"What I gave most heed to was the knots of men's faces on the
_Seringapatam's_ forecastle, as the golden gleam of light and the red
glare struck across them with all sorts of queer touches, that brought
back every one of them clearly to mind at once; and, stepping forward
where Mr Jones's figure was to be seen dark against the pale glow in the
west, I could easily make out ugly Harry's big buffalo head, as he leant
his chin on his two hands, and surveyed us up and down, with his dirty
tarpaulin on the back of his head as usual, and his shaggy black hair
like thatch over his forehead, almost down to the meeting of his thick
eyebrows. The moment I appeared, Mister Harry Foster shifted himself
with a start, looked aloft to his own ship, and began to whistle as if
for wind; the same moment Jones turned and noticed me, too, and the
difference of the two men's faces struck me the more, that I couldn't
help thinking extremes met. 'That fellow there seems to like us so well,
Mr Jones,' said I, laughing, 'that I've half a mind to bring him aboard,
as I _could_!' 'Who--which, sir?' said the mate, looking to every part
of the Indiaman but the right one. 'Why, that misbegotten-like rascal
you were looking at,' said I; 'I know a little of him, and a more
thorough blackguard doesn't walk planks!' 'There's the boat, though,
Lieutenant Collins!' said Jones suddenly: the boat-hook struck our
mizzen-chains on the other side in the dusk, and next minute Tom
Westwood swung himself on board, with the midshipman and Old Rollock the
planter following in his wake; the last, to my surprise, carrying two
hat-boxes and an umbrella.

"'Why, Ned Collins!' broke out Westwood, 'what is the meaning of all
this--what wind has blown you here?' 'My _dear_ fellow!' shouted the
planter, almost jumping on top of me, 'I never in my life saw the like
of you--the very same infernal schooner, too! Come, let's hear--have you
taken 'em all then, head and tail--have you----' "'For Heaven's sake,
Mr Rollock,' said I, sheering out of his way as well as I could, 'come
below, sir, if I must answer all these questions!' 'So you are actually
in command?' said Westwood; and hereupon I gave him the bearings of his
own affair, with the fact of my falling in with Lord Frederick Bury, of
course; and of all men in the world, I believe, the 'Honourable Bury'
was the one Westwood could feel comfortable under, as his face showed at
the time. 'Whether I _lose_ you or not in the Hooghly, Tom,' said I, 'I
daresay you'll find yourself in the end aboard the _Hebe_, in some shape
or other! and meantime I shall be glad of you here for a first mate.'
'Well, well,' put in the planter again, impatiently, after having kept
questioning me every now and then for the last ten minutes, which I
answered without well knowing what he said--'then you hung him, of
course?' 'Hung whom?' asked I, obliged to attend by Mr Rollock's
perseverance. 'Why, El Americano, to be sure--the Yankee--Snout!' said
he, trying to lengthen his face for the news. 'Hung him--no!' said I,
laughing; 'when I saw him on deck there, last, he was lively enough, and
anxious to get those images of his out of the _Seringapatam_.' The
planter's rosy gills turned a shade or two paler, and he started off his
seat. 'God bless me!' said he, in a low voice, and looking over his
shoulder, 'you don't mean to say you've brought the man back on me. I
declare to you I lost a few pounds of my weight here before, by his
actually conceiving a friendship for me!' Old Rollock's dismay was so
comical that I could scarce find in my heart to ease his mind, as I did.

"'Why, my dear fellow,' said Westwood, with a smile, 'I assure you that
disappearance of yours took me by surprise. Indeed, I only guessed, from
something Captain Finch let drop afterwards, how it came about; and till
the very moment the brig-of-war got under way, I fancied you had some
other plan in view, or else you never would have carried it out. The
fact was, Ned, if your heart was bound for India, mine was ashore in old
England, and I'd rather have run the risk to go back!' Here Tom caught
my glance, and looked shyly into one waistcoat pocket, then into
another, fidgeting on his chair, poor fellow! in a way that brought my
sister Jane's grey eyes, and her demure little arch face, distinctly
before me, thousands of miles as there were between us and Croydon. The
thought of the _Seringapatam_ being so near, on the other hand, somehow
rushed on me at the same time, and I felt wonderfully mild toward Tom.
'Hang it, Tom!' said I, 'never mind thinking of it--mix your grog, man,
and confound all care to the bottom of the sea. You're well off! For my
part,' said I, 'I had no notion at all how _that_ case stood, so I made
a cursed mistake in the matter--but here's luck!'

"'However,' said he, 'I saw _your_ drift by that time; and the young
lady herself was in the fore-cabin when I told her father the whole
story, not long after you went off. 'Twas no use with Sir Charles,
though, to say you were only carrying out the joke to screen me, and
amuse yourself at the same time--he was sure you were after some scheme;
and all the while Miss Hyde sat sewing on the sofa behind us, as quiet
and careless as if she didn't hear a word, or trouble herself about the
matter. When I came upon your vanishing so suddenly in the brig,
however, and said I was sure, by that time, you did so in order to let
me clear off, I had my eye on the looking-glass opposite the young lady;
and whatever you may make of it, Ned, I can tell you she started and
glanced up at that point.' 'Well, and what of that?' I asked. But
Westwood went on--'It was all one to Sir Charles, nevertheless, whatever
way I turned it. According to him, this was just of a piece with the
rest of your doings, which showed the bad effects of the naval service.
'Twas no use my standing up for you, saying how fast you had risen, and
would rise, if you had the right thing to do--for the old gentleman
allowed everything, adding it was so much the worse for such fellows to
be set loose. "I tell you what, Mr Westwood," said he, looking round
sharply, as if he were speaking _at_ somebody else, "there is a soul of
mischief in that young man that nothing will root out, unfitting him for
everything else, however admirably it may be suited to maritime pursuits
or to savage warfare. In short," added the judge, drawing himself up,
"it is my conviction he will either be drowned or knocked on the
head----"' 'The precious old curmudgeon!' I rapped out, betwixt laughter
and rage at the thought of _her_ hearing all this pretty character of
me. '"And I must say, my young friend," said the judge, "I felt much
relieved at finding Councillor Westwood's nephew so different an
individual--exceedingly relieved! Besides that, you cannot, of course,
continue in the navy!" Just at this moment,' continued Westwood, 'I saw
the young lady gather up her work behind us with a sparkle in her eye,
rise off the sofa, and walk straight aft through the cabin-door.'

"'Was _that_ all?' said I, biting my lip. '_All_, you heathen!' answered
Tom, laughing. 'Why, what would you have? I'll be bound the judge didn't
mean all that for my use, my dear fellow. But the worst of it was, that
next day, when I met her with the Brigadier's lady on the poop, the
young beauty passed me with as scornful an air as possible; and for a
week or so, whenever the judge happened to ask me into the round-house
cabins, either she wasn't there, or took an opportunity of walking
out--the most I got was a bow or a "good-morning"; so you see the real
Simon Pure didn't prosper half so well as the false one!' 'Pooh!' said
I, gloomily, thinking of the little ground I had made myself, 'all
contradiction--the fact is, you're too simple for women's ways,
Westwood.' Westwood looked down and gave a queer smile--as much as to
say, I suppose, the case stood just the contrary; and I must own, it
struck me _he_ must be rather a knowing fellow that could fathom my
sister, seeing that, for my part, I understood her no more than my
mother's housemaid did, with her high-flown music and poetry, and all
that sort of thing.

"'However,' said Westwood, 'I contrived by degrees to get over all this,
and for the last week or two we were as good acquaintances as before--in
fact, the judge was evidently bent on it. And I tell you what it is,
Ned, as charming a girl, in her way, as Violet Hyde I can't well
fancy--but one more hopeless to deal with, for a fellow that hasn't got
hold of her heart, I believe doesn't breathe! Why, young as she is,
you'd feel her playing you round her pretty forefinger as a woman would,
looking at you all the time under her soft eyelids with those bright
eyes of hers, as if you could fancy her falling in love in a moment with
someone else, but never with yourself!' 'By Jove, yes!' said I, feeling
as dismal as I daresay I looked. 'Do you know,' Westwood went on, 'her
figure and walk always remind me of a Hindoo girl's, all over English as
her face and hair are, with a touch of the tropical, you can't say
where, about it--owing to her being born in India, as I believe she
was; and altogether, Ned, I'm glad to----' Here Westwood shrugged his
shoulders, and I poured myself out another glass of grog in pure
despair.

"'The truth is,' said I, 'I wish I had never _seen_ that confounded
_Seringapatam_! Didn't she say any--didn't you--in fact, Tom, what do
you think of the matter, plump and plain, stem and stern?' said I
manfully. 'Why,' said Tom, in a thoughtful way, 'not to set you at all
wrong on either side, the thing that strikes me is, I don't think she
ever once mentioned you, Ned, except in passing. But to my mind, in the
circumstances, that's not so much against you. The young lady can say
little when she pleases, I assure you; for only last night, in that fine
moonlight, we happened to touch on that affair in the river--you know?'
'Yes,' I said, for it wasn't easy to forget. 'Now I always thought that
night a turning-point with you,' Westwood said; 'and it was the last
night you were aboard; so I spoke of you a good deal, and never a word
did Miss Violet utter, save "Yes" and "No," while her face being in the
shadow, I couldn't see it. Oh, by-the-by, though,' continued he, 'she
_did_ say one thing!'

"'For Heaven's sake, what was it?' I broke out eagerly. 'Well, then,
Ned,' answered he, leaning back on the two back legs of his chair, and
eyeing me with a comical air, which surprised me a little; 'do you
consider yourself good-looking?' I started up. 'What do you mean by
that, Tom?' said I; but next moment I sat down again with a sulky 'No,
I'll be hanged if I do! so----' 'No more does your lady-love, then,'
said Westwood, 'for she made the remark very coolly, and even without my
asking her--but don't be down-hearted at that, my dear Ned, for I think
more of that little sentence, in the way it was said, than of all she
did _not_ say!' 'The greater the difference between us, I suppose,' said
I savagely. 'Why,' replied Tom, ''tis my conviction you never hear a
woman say the man she likes is handsome--and from a perverse young gipsy
like----' 'Well, by Jove! Westwood,' said I, losing my temper
altogether, and giving the table a slap with my fist that sent my glass
crash to the deck, 'you beat everything! I suppose if she'd called me a
fool and a blessed lubber, you'd turn it to my favour. But the truth is,
I don't understand your niceties--I want something broad and
above-board, that a fellow can lay hold of--and the short and the long
of it is----' With that I laid my face on my arms down in the spilt grog
on the table, and fairly groaned. My head reeled till I scarce knew it
was myself that was sitting there, as all of a sudden one thought after
another crowded on me. Somehow I seemed for a single moment to be out
and out in the open sea, the different faces I'd seen along the ship's
bulwarks rushing past me, with Jones's face, and the look of the
Indiaman in the sunset; through all sorts of weather, too, in that
confounded moment.

"Then, I can't say why, but my hair crept as I came back to the thought
of the Indiaman and the schooner in the calm at the time, and I almost
fancied I heard a whisper at my ear. I looked up, and saw Tom Westwood
sitting opposite me, with a musing air, and rather melancholy. The sight
of my wild stare, with the grog I suppose trickling down my forehead,
and dripping off my nose, appeared to startle him, and our eyes met
queerly enough for half-a-minute--till all at once the notion seemed to
strike both of us, of the absurdity of two fellows hobnobbing and
lackadaisying away this fashion in a hole of a schooner's cabin,
thousands of miles from land; and I'm blessed if we didn't both burst at
the same moment into regular roars of laughter--first one broadside,
then 'bout ship, as it were, to deliver the other, gun after gun. By
George! though, I felt it do me good, as if something deadly went off
with it. 'Hallo!' sung out the planter, blocking up the moonlight that
shone misty-white down the steps of the companion, to a blue glimmer at
the foot of them; 'both surviving _yet_, I declare'; and we felt the
scent of his cheroot in the hot calm as he walked aft again.

"'Well, Ned,' said Westwood, still laughing, 'there's one thing more I
_did_ contrive to get out, and it is certainly broad enough to lay hold
of, as you say. Do you know, from some hints the judge let drop in
course of the passage, after he got to know me, I have a rather sharp
suspicion he has someone in view for his daughter already!' At this I
gasped once more. 'Whether she knows it herself or not, I'm not sure,'
added Tom; 'but, very naturally, the gentleman I mean was often enough
mentioned in Sir Charles's cabins--for who do you imagine, of all
persons in the world, it is?'

"I made no trial at a guess, but sat eyeing Westwood in perfect silence,
and he went on--'Who but--don't look so fierce, my dear fellow--just
this--this said nabob of an uncle of mine, the Bengal Councillor! Why,
you've no conception,' said Westwood, 'what presents of pearl necklaces,
fans, cashmere shawls, and China ivory work-boxes, and so on, the
Councillor must have sent home to her at different times, for the
_Seringapatam_ to bring back again. I didn't see her wear any of them;
but every now and then Sir Charles would point to something that lay
about, telling me it came from my uncle! He is a bachelor, you know, not
so old as Sir Charles himself, who isn't so old as he looks, and they
seem to be sworn friends!' 'Tuts, man!' said I, brightening a bit,
'can't you see he wants to adopt her?' 'So I should have imagined,'
answered Westwood; 'but the fact is, two or three times, as I told you,
Sir Charles Hyde hinted as much as that it was an idea of long standing
between himself and his friend the Councillor, so----' 'The old
villain!' I roared. 'Begging your pardon, Westwood--but I must say you
are the pattern of a Job's comforter, and no mistake!' 'Well,' answered
he, 'if you had heard the way in which the young lady mentioned my uncle
to me, you wouldn't be much afraid of your rival, Ned. Why, she said she
thought she remembered him when she was a little girl, bringing her
Indian sweetmeats from the bazaar in his carriage--she actually supposed
he must be older than her father, when the judge set her right eagerly
enough--but, you must know, he no more seems able to say a sharp word to
_her_, than Jacobs yonder would. So what did she say next, after
apparently thinking a little, but that, now she recollected, my uncle
used to have gray hair and white whiskers, like Mr Rollock, which for my
part I knew no more about than the table, when her father broke out
describing him as warmly as possible; and suddenly Miss Hyde looked at
him with a little turn of her pretty lip, and a twinkle in her eye, that
sent the old gentleman fiddling about his coffee-cup, and stopped him in
a moment as if she had been a little witch!'

"'What's to be done, Tom?' I faltered out, after a long stop. 'I'm sure
I don't know, Ned,' said he gravely; 'let's go on deck at any rate, for
it's too hot here to sleep.' The moment the sight of the calm burst upon
us, however, with the two vessels together in the midst of it, in the
hazy sort of moonlight, the same notion seemed to strike both of us in
a different way. 'I'll tell you what, Collins,' said Westwood,
half-jokingly, half in earnest, 'uncle though he be, if you can contrive
to cut out the Councillor anyhow, I'll forgive you, for one!' 'How,
though--_how_, by Jove!' replied I--'if they go to Bombay in the
Indiaman, by the time they reach Calcutta, I shall be in the Pacific!'
''Tis a difficult case,' said Westwood, 'no doubt. And even suppose you
had the opportunity, 'twould be hard to manage an elopement ashore in
India, travelling "dauk" in two palanquins. Seriously speaking, Ned, I
see nothing for it but to wait till you come _back_ from the Pacific.'

"I looked hopelessly round: the calm and heat together gave one a
helpless feeling, and every notion of an active sort appeared desperate.
A perfect calm it was, too: there was some filmy scum of a haze aloft,
that served to spread the moonlight all over, shutting out the shape of
the sky, and softening off the horizon; with the moon standing slant up
in it, like a brighter spot, and a few stars low down in the east. But
for the long wide tremble of the water, in fact, as it glanced up with a
blue flicker, you'd have fancied we mightn't be far from land; while the
big Indiaman lay off the schooner's bow, without the least motion one
could see; the moonshine edging round her spars and ropes from the other
side, and her sails hanging shadowy against it, except below, under her
brailed-up courses, where the masts, the thick of the rigging, and the
tops of her deck-lumber, glistened as if they were newly wet. Half of
her watch were on the bowsprit, sending out a 'fished' spritsail-yard,
the same we had set dangling about their ears that afternoon, and we
could hear them speaking plain enough; every time they sang out at a
haul, it went far away on all sides--ho-ho-ho-he-ho-ho-o--till you lost
it in the dead calm, as if somebody had gone there. Now and then the
_Seringapatam_ made a slight plunge by the head, as the wide soft swell
floated up with her; and the glossy black shadow, that seemingly gave
her hull the height of a tower, came wavering in quicksilver circles to
our very cutwater, while the lights from her after-windows went twisting
away round her heavy counter to the moonshine, like yellow snakes; the
schooner all the time lying as quiet as if she were on a pond, except
that by little and little she kept shifting her bearings to the
Indiaman, and things were confoundedly like our both sticking together
in course of the morning, if the calm held. I went forward to the
forecastle and desired Jones to get all hands down into the boats, and
have her towed off to safe distance, seeing that the worst of it would
be sure to fall to our share.

"This was doing, and we drew slowly off the ship's bow, where her men
coolly knocked off working to watch ours, and pass jokes on our gang of
Lascars, as they handled the oars in awkward style; in fact, by the way
the Indiaman's watch carried on, most of them seemed to have passed the
grog-can pretty freely, being Saturday night, which we could hear they
were still keeping up below in the forecastle, when our quarter came
abreast of her larboard bow. 'Hurrah!' said one, waving his tarpaulin;
and 'Pull, you beggars!' roared another; when my old customer, ugly
Harry, all at once leant out of her fore-chains, and sung out to Jones,
who was next him in the stern-sheets of our gig: 'I say, mate, so ye're
clearing off, are ye? The better for that 'ere nutshell of a schooner o'
yours, I reckon!' Jones made no answer, and the fellow added; 'Come
aboard when you've got a safe berth, anyhow, and drink "sweethearts and
wives," will ye?' I saw Jones start, and turn his face fiercely into the
shadow of the ship's main-course on the water, rising half-up with one
fist clenched, but he said nothing. 'Oh, you're blasted proud!' Foster
called out: 'you forgets a man, blow me! D'ye think I doesn't know a
fellow I got glorious with myself, in old Van Stinkoff's, at Cape Town?
Sink me, mates,' said he, as loud as before, turning round on the rail
of the bulwarks to the rest, 'I picked him out o' the street scuppers,
under the sign of the Flying Dutchman, an' I'm blowed if I didn't think
it beneath me at the time!' Here the end of our main-boom opened us in
sight of the ugly ruffian, and he was sinking down in-board, when I
hailed the Indiaman's quarter-deck, where the Scotch mate was to be
seen. 'Ay, ay, the schooner ahoay!' sung out he, coming to the gangway.
'Did you hear that man's impertinence, sir,' said I sternly, 'to my
officer on duty there? I expect you to see him punished, sir.' The
Scotchman said he'd inquire into it; but shortly after he came back,
saying he 'doubted' he couldn't be sure of the man; and, at any rate, he
could have 'meant no ill.' The boats had towed us by this time almost
out of fair hearing, but Harry Foster was to be seen coolly eyeing us
from the midst of his watchmates, as he slung a couple of blocks over
his shoulder; when he turned away with as much indifference as if we had
been a Thames collier, growling some two or three words or other that
brought a loud laugh from the Indiaman's forecastle to her bowsprit,
where the men were turning lazily to their business again.

"Being now clear off the ship, with the rake of her hull in our command
if I chose, and free of her broadside at the same time, I hailed the
boats to leave off towing and come aboard. As Jones came on deck, I saw
that in his face to make me think he took the thing to heart, seeing he
met my first look with his lips set together and a steady gleam of his
eyes. The truth was, I never in my life came across a man that struck me
so much with the notion of his having a devil in him, seeking to get the
better of what was good.

"'I think we shall do, Mr Jones?' I said. 'Quite safe, sir,' said he,
quietly; at that moment, standing as we did out of earshot, with the
setting moon in sight past the Indiaman, shining in a rusty yellow glare
to her hanging sails, 'twas strange how the odds of our different
stations passed off. We were foot to foot, in fact; I was fully aware,
if never before, what an enemy Jones would make--he had great daring and
knowingness in him, and all on the wrong side of the hedge for me at the
time, seeing I had such a ticklish part to play with the Indiaman. I
caught myself, on the instant, measuring youth and activity, not to say
regular breeding to the service, and a clear conscience besides, against
him and his thews and sinews; but as for turning and twisting with the
man before me, I saw it was the tack likely to throw him to windward of
me. My voice changed, and I lowered it as I said: 'Mr Jones, I happened
to sail half the voyage as a passenger in that ship, and I've no common
reason to be anxious about her getting safe into port. There's one
single being in her at this moment I'd willingly lose my life to save
from anything like what one could fancy--ay, so help me God, suppose I'd
no chance of ever setting eyes on her again!' Jones never stirred a
feature, but looked past me into the gleam of the moon over my shoulder.

"'Well, Mr Jones,' I said, 'I'll acknowledge to you frankly, as from one
seaman to another, the question is, Are you for me--or _not_?' 'We
speak as man with man, it seems, Mr Collins!' said Jones quietly; 'then
I am--_for_ you!' and he struck his hand all at once into mine; 'here's
a hand that never lied, whatever the tongue may have done--bad or good;
I am for you, sir, and no more of it! I knew as well as if you'd told
me, Mr Collins, by the looks of the passengers, that you had sailed
aboard that ship in some way or other--and what's more, sir, I
_saw_----' here he stopped, looking at me with his back to the sinking
gleam of light beyond the ship's hull, from the moon as she touched the
water, and I saw nothing but the shape of his head under the straw hat,
with a shadow blurring his face together, though I felt him eyeing me
out of it all the time--'what some would think more worth while than if
you were a Spanish plate-ship,' he went on; and he lowered his voice
nearly to a whisper as he added, 'I tell you what, Mr Collins, 'tis my
conviction that, _if you chose_, you might do what you liked in the end
with that Indiaman and _all_ aboard her!' I stepped back with a shiver
through me, as the sudden setting of the moon blended everything black
in with Jones's shoulders, leaving his head instead of her against a
glimmer of light, till for a moment it seemed peering at me off the
horizon with the whole lump of shadow betwixt the two craft for a body;
and I must say I thought of old stories about the Tempter in human form.
'Devil!' said I hoarsely, while the last gleam to westward went out, and
it got so dark I could have fancied Jones had vanished from the bulwarks
without stirring a foot; in fact, on my moving to the place I touched
the cool planks with my hand--he was actually gone! Nothing was visible
beyond our own decks, save a slight glimmer such as one would make in
sculling with a single oar; and I saw at once he had taken the small
boat alongside to go aboard the Indiaman! All the rest was that thick
heavy darkness only to be found in a calm in the Indian Ocean, towards
morning: you may not only say you see it, but could stir it, as it were,
with a stick.

"A horrid notion of Jones's purpose crept through my mind at first; but
on second thoughts I easily saw this wasn't the occasion for him to
choose, if he had really meant ill, and accordingly there was more the
reason to trust him. Indeed, as I stood listening and watching, after
Westwood and the planter went below, the Indiaman's binnacle lamp seemed
to go slowly out, while at the same time the sound of her watch
speaking on the forecastle apparently got distincter, till I could hear
them clear of the ship's hull and rigging, like low voices muttering in
the air betwixt her and us. 'Twas only her having sheered gradually
bow-on to the schooner again, however, as a calm near the equator has
always something like a _pulse_ in it--but it struck me there were men
out on her jib-boom, which being of course the very privatest part of
any in a ship for talk--why, to find more than one going out there, of a
dark night, and with no work to do, never looks otherwise than
suspicious. Nothing of this kind surprised me at present in the
_Seringapatam_, with the opinion I had of her; but the curious thing
was, that the fellows must have supposed it the farthest point they
could get out of sight of us, as well as from their own decks, she
having had her beam to the schooner when the moon set.

"The desperate feelings that steal upon a man in such a case, and the
fearful notions that breed in his head, with the quickness of his senses
and the way he holds on by a single rope, you can scarcely conceive,
though if a cry had come from the Indiaman at that moment I daresay I
should have sprung in head foremost to get to her, when all at once,
from up in the air again, I thought I heard the smart click of a flint
and steel; at any rate, I saw the sparks showering from it in the midst
of the black space before me--even the pair of fists as they knocked
together, then a mouth blowing the match, till there was a light in a
lantern between four heads leaning towards each other over the spar.
Queer enough it would have been to see, in ordinary circumstances, but
you'll readily fancy what a thing it looked all of a sudden, right out
in the midst of the pitch-black night, one didn't know how or where--in
fact, two of them faced each other in the stream of light from one side
of the lantern, like the two edges of a rent in the dark, and another
was like a sprawling blot in the centre--you just saw they were faces
and heads, with a foot or two of the thick round boom slanting up
betwixt them; but as for their bodies, they were all of a piece with the
perfect blackness beyond. I could see one of them hold up the lantern
and pass it round the three others' faces, bringing out their chins and
noses, as if to be sure who they were--a piece of caution which served
almost equally well for me, for I remembered each of them by headmark
amongst the crew, only I didn't see the said fellow himself, even when
he drew out some paper or other in one hand, seemingly unfolded it with
the help of his teeth, and spread it over the jib-boom under the
lantern, whereupon the whole four of the heads drew close together in a
black lump round the light, peering down upon the paper, and muttering
away as much at their ease, no doubt, as if they'd been in a tap-room.
All I wished for was a good rifle-barrel in my hand at the time, to have
knocked the light out from the midst of them, and sent the bullet by
accident through the tarpaulin hat behind it--especially when a glaring
red flipper was shoved out on the white paper, and the thumb planted
steadily on a particular spot. All at once, however, the light was put
out in the lantern, and I heard them going in-board, as the noise of the
morning watch being called, at four o'clock, got up round the
forehatchway.



CHAPTER XXVII


"In about half-an-hour the faint glimmer of Jones's oar in the water
showed how hard it was to find the schooner again; however, he managed
to get aboard at last, by which time I was walking carelessly past the
binnacle in the dark, and as soon as he sought me out and began to
speak, I saw it was all right. Mr Snelling came on deck to his watch,
blowing up the men for letting out the only light aboard, as he didn't
know fore-and-aft from 'thwart-ships, nor north from south. The cabin
lamp under the skylight had gone out too for want of oil, without being
noticed as long as the moon shone, and not even the planter's cheroot
was to be seen. From the snatches of their conversation he had time to
gather, I agreed with Jones that, whatever the four fellows on the
jib-boom might have intended beforehand, their present cue wasn't at all
to try seizing the ship; in fact, the schooner's sudden appearance in
this latitude, with what they knew of her before, had naturally enough
brought out a number of the crew in different colours to what they'd
stick to after getting a fright and finding their mistake--though by
this time I had no doubt in my own mind that the villain who bent on his
silk neckerchief to the signal halliards in that hurry the afternoon
before actually meant it for the _black flag_, while the absurdity of an
Indiaman _striking_ at all to a cruiser that wanted her just to
heave-to, was a sign how most of the crew's minds went, as long as they
fancied us pirates. However, Jones had seen sufficient of the lantern
affair on the boom to explain it to my great relief; the ringleader of
them, no other I was sure than ugly Harry himself, seemed to scrub
trousers ordinarily for one of the quarter-deck officers, and had got
hold of an old chart in his berth that same evening, which the four had
come out there to get a private overhaul of. All Jones could get room to
see was that it was a chart of some islands, with a particular mark at
one of them, on which the fellow with the lantern put his thumb, when
another asked if there weren't any trees on it. 'Trees, ay, trees enough
to hang all the blasted lubbers afloat!' said the first, as Jones
listened. 'I'd as soon think of sailing in a craft without spars as
aboard a dazart ileyand without trees!' One was tired of the Indiaman,
another sick of the world, and a third, with Jack down on the bowsprit,
wanted to chase buffaloes and shoot birds. As for the rest, the head of
the gang assured his mates there were plenty of other islands not far
off, and natives in them; whereupon the light was put out, and, in
short, they made it up amongst them to take one of the ship's boats
quietly some night as soon as she got in the latitude of the Maldives,
and steer for this said island; although, in case of their being dogged
about by the schooner, of which the chief scoundrel seemed, by Jones's
account, to have a wholesome fear, it wouldn't be so easy a matter.
Indeed the last words he was heard to say, as they crept inward down the
boom, were to the effect that he thought there were _some aboard_ as
anxious to drop the cruiser as they were. ''Faith, Mr Jones,' said I,
glad to find this was what they wanted, 'if that's all, I shan't stand
in their way--so as soon as the breeze springs up, we'd better clear off
altogether. The smoothest way is to let them take themselves quietly off
and I've no fear of the ship--only, before fairly shaping our own course
for Bengal, we must manage to have another sight of her under full sail
for Bombay!'

"Neither of us thought of turning in, for by the next half-hour, in
fact, the Indiaman's hull and canvas began to blacken out of the gloom
on one side--the blue of the water spread round till it glittered
against the ring of light kindling and kindling on the horizon, till it
rose seemingly in a perfect fire at one spot in the rim of it, blazing
up toward the cool blue aloft; then the sun was out. As long as we had
to stick to your niceties and fine manners, in fact, I felt as much
afraid of meeting Violet herself as a country booby would--I'll be
hanged if I wasn't in doubt of her cutting me dead, suppose I met her,
and I shouldn't have had a word to say; whereas with a spice of the
rough work I thought of all night, or even a chance of something
desperate behind, why, a fellow needn't to mind much how he went about
it--seeing that in the midst of a hubbub the words come into your mouth
of themselves, and you're not expected to stand upon ceremony.

"The Scotch mate, being now first officer, had the side-ropes handed us
civilly enough, having just seen the decks washed down in his own
thorough manner, carronades, ropes, and all; but as the captain wasn't
turned out yet, I went up the poop, where a couple of boys were still
swabbing up the wet. The moment I reached it, the sight of the only two
passengers that were out so early, rather took me aback, one of them
being the last I cared to meet--namely, the Irish Brigadier's lady, who
was walking the deck in pattens, the boys evidently keeping clear of her
with their swabs; and the stout red-faced Brigadier himself, buttoned up
to the throat, while he stalked dismally fore-and-aft with her on his
arm. At the first glimpse of me, General Brady stopped short and
stared--I daresay he was doubtful whether to call me out or not. 'Glad
to _say_ you again, sir!' said he. 'Well, now,' said his lady, 'you're
the very man I wanted to see!' I still looked at her, unable to say the
like of herself, but terrified to speak a wrong word, with the knowledge
of her confounded temper: the Brigadier had planted himself betwixt me
and the poop-stairs, and never having fairly come across her since the
affair about her dog and the shark, why, absurd as it was, I didn't know
what the woman might make of my connection with the same craft that
carried her off so soon after.

"'Yes, indeed, and 'twas foolish of me not to see it in ye at first!'
she went on, shaking her parasol at me in a knowing way, and eyeing the
schooner again. 'Howiver, _I heard_ of you!' said she, with another
look that set me all alive, 'and a mighty bold sort of admirer you are!'
'Faith, sir,' said the Brigadier, 'if I'd commanded the batthery down
there last night, I'd have waited till ye got nearer, and blown you out
of the wather.' ''Tis only a lieutenant you are?' said his lady,
speaking without scruple in the midst of his words, and frowning him
quiet. 'Nothing more, ma'am,' I said. 'Well, now, Mister Lieutenant,'
said the lady suddenly, 'what d'ye mean to do? You didn't find us out
here, I suppose, and actually take these cowardly ship-people of ours by
_say_ge-like a bold fellow, for nothing?' After a few words more, Mrs
Brady all of a sudden vanished down the little quarter-gallery stair
near the ship's taffrail; though I had scarce missed her ere she
appeared again, making me a signal. 'Hush, now!' said she in a whisper
out of the stairway, 'and step after me like a cat amongst broken
b_h_ottles, for he's shaving yonder just now on the opposite side--I saw
his kitmagar taking in the hot water.' Next moment I had followed her
into the small state-room in the larboard quarter, where she opened an
inner door and left me. By Jove! I could have hugged that Irishwoman on
the spot, vixen as she was--no matter though the very ship might be out
of sight in a few hours, and I never set eyes on her again; I thought no
more of it at the moment than I did of her skipper waiting for
me--everything was lost in the notion of seeing Violet Hyde's face come
out of that door. All the time there was a whispering, a rustling, and a
confusion in the berth, as if she were taken by surprise, naturally
enough--then I caught a word or two of the young lady's own, that made
me think it was all up.

"The door-handle turned, and the door half opened, then it shut to
again, and I heard Mrs Brady's voice in a coaxing sort of strain, till
at last she opened the door wide and said: 'Then you won't, my dear? So
Mister Lieutenant what's-his-name,' added she, 'you may be off to your
vessel, and----' Suddenly I saw Violet's figure shrinking back, as it
were, behind the Brigadier's lady, into the berth; but all at once she
walked straight out to the state-room, half frowning and half laughing,
with an angry kind of blush all over her face. Her hair was only looped
up on the side, and braided on the other, as if it weren't rightly
ship-shape yet for the day; while as for her dress, I remember nothing
except its being some brown cloak or other wrapped so close about her
that one couldn't even see her hands, like the picture of a nun. 'Mrs
Brady seems so astonished to see you here again, Mr Collins,' said she,
rather sharply, as I thought, 'that she cannot rest without all the
passengers meeting you, I suppose, before you go?' With that she looked
back, but Mrs Brady had walked out, though I heard the young lady's
waiting-girl moving about inside the berth yet. ''Twas all an accident,
my happening to come on board just now, Miss Hyde,' said I, anxiously,
'or, indeed, my having orders to speak the Indiaman at all!' 'Ah!' she
answered--'and it was so strange of Mrs Brady to--to persist!' The
lovely girl had scarce condescended to look at me yet, but here she
glanced past me through the quarter-gallery window at the schooner,
where there was nothing betwixt her and the gay little state-room save
the blue heaving water and the light--then her eye seemed to pass from
the epaulet on my shoulder to the other that had none, till it lighted
for the first time on my face, with a smile.

"'How beautiful your schooner looks just now, Mr Collins!' said she,
turning hastily again; 'it is the--the same that--that we saw before?'
Now there was something in those blue eyes of hers, with the dark lashes
over them and under them, that made me lose sight at the moment of
everything in the way of my success, fear and all--a sort of a flying
glance it was, that I couldn't help turning to my favour. 'For God's
sake, Miss Hyde,' said I, 'let me have something one way or other to
know my fate by--it's no use telling my mind after all that's come and
gone; but as I mayn't see you again--and the breeze will be up
directly--why----' Violet stood all the while gazing down on the
state-room carpet, making no answer: there was a dead stop, and I heard
the first ripple of the breeze work against the ship's rudder below--by
Jove! I could have hanged myself at that moment--when I saw her shoulder
tremble as she looked down, her soft eyelids just lifted till I caught
the blue of her eye, and the smile came over her lip. How I got hold of
her hand--for that confounded cloak, or whatever it was, I really don't
know; but so it was, and out I came with the words, 'Violet--I love you
to the last drop of my blood, that's all!' I said; 'and I only wish I
had the chance of showing it!' Violet Hyde drew her hand gently out of
mine, and looked me straight in the face for a moment with a merry sort
of a quizzical air, as if I meant some other adventure--and 'Oh no! I
hope not!' added she, with a shudder, and then a blush, no doubt
thinking of the African river.

'But Violet, Violet!' said I, eagerly, as she made a move toward the
nearest door, 'won't you say, then--_something_, for Heaven's sake, to
keep one in hope?' 'Why, what would you have, sir?' said she, quickly,
still turning away--but bless me! I don't exactly remember what
followed, in the desperation I felt--nor how near she was to me when I
heard her begging me to 'go, go, if I really loved her!' 'Dearest girl!'
I said, 'I shall be far enough off in a short time!' 'Do you actually
sail so soon, then?' said Violet, in a low voice. 'Why, they're bracing
round the ship's yards already, I hear,' answered I; 'but indeed I think
the schooner might keep near for a few days, too----' 'No--no!' said she
anxiously, 'go altogether, else my father will be still more set
against--against----Perhaps,' she added, 'we may see you in Calcutta,
when--you are'--and her eye glanced from one shoulder of my uniform to
the other. 'When I've got my epaulet shifted to the right shoulder?'[26]
asked I, eagerly; '_then_ may I see you?' '_See_--yes,' was the whisper
I caught--and 'Dearest, _dearest_ Violet,' said I, almost going down on
the deck before her, 'suppose I manage to ship them on _both_, in this
confounded peace, will you----' Hush!' said Violet, listening, and all
in a flutter, 'indeed you must go, else _I_ must!' 'For God's sake,
Violet,' I went on, keeping hold of her hand as she tried to get away,
'will you wait a year or two and give me the chance of a war in
China--or up the Mediterranean--or----' But here the wild notions I had
for a moment left me.

  [26] At that period the distinguishing mark of a commander, as the
       epaulet on the _left_ shoulder, of a lieutenant, and the epaulet
       on _both_, of a post-captain.

"Somehow or other at that instant a terrible glimpse, as it were, of
Bonaparte standing up on the crag in St Helena flashed across me; and as
the folly of the thing, let alone the impudence of it, struck me, I
nigh-hand groaned, while Violet Hyde's fingers slipped out of mine. Just
then she turned full round with a soft look of her eyes, and was going
to say something, as I thought; but the handle of the aftermost door
turned, and the Brigadier's lady hastened in. As I glanced round,
something or other dropped lightly into the palm of my hand, and next
moment Violet was gone. 'Twas only a little knot of white ribbon I'd
got, though the scent and the warm touch of it together were enough to
startle one--I almost thought she'd changed into it; and to this day,
ma'am, I'll be hanged if I know what _that_ was the scent of--unless it
was sandal wood!

"'Quick!' said Mrs Brady, in a hurry, 'what d'ye stand staring there
for, man alive? Sir Charles is upstairs, and you can't go this way; so
through the cabins with ye, lieutenant, and out on the quarther-dheck!'
Before I well knew what I was doing, accordingly, we were in the judge's
main-cabin, where the ship's masts and the men gathering about the ropes
could be seen through the round-house doors as they stood open. 'Mrs
Brady,' said I, suddenly stepping back to her, 'you're an angel, ma'am,
and----' 'You unprincipled young villain ye!' said she, springing aft
with her fingers spread, and begining to raise her voice, 'what would ye
do! Brigadier.--D'ye think 'tis deaf I was in the stair yonder, you
promiscuous young----' However, I gave her one bewildered look, and
heard no more of it, bolting as I did through the nearest door right
against the man coming to the wheel; while the midshipman was on the
look-out for me everywhere to say that the captain of the Indiaman was
waiting for me below in his cabin.

"Indeed she was moving slowly through the water already, as the light
cat's-paws ruffled it here and there, and drew aloft into her royals;
our own little craft beginning to slip gently along to leeward of the
ship, with the dark Lascars' faces under the foot of her white
fore-topmast-staysail, giving her a doubtful enough air, I must own. I
had nothing particular to say to Finch, in fact; but, captain as he was
of the Indiaman for the time, 'twas the least I could do to see him;
besides that somehow or other, I had a sort of feeling as I came on
board half-an-hour before, I couldn't exactly say why, that made one
anxious for a near sight of him. If he suspected anything wrong amongst
his crew, why at any rate he would have an opportunity of mentioning it
ere we parted company; but, awkward as our meeting each other again
was, of course, and both being on such different footing from before,
while my own mind was naturally full of what had just happened, it
turned out much as might be expected. Finch was evidently not the same
man he had been a few weeks before, except in his puppy fine gentleman
manners and way of dress, which were twice as high-flown; with his hair
curled, a white handkerchief hanging half out of his breast-pocket, a
regular East India uniform, and everything showing the tiptop skipper.
The thing that set me less at my ease with him was, that I was sure, by
one glance of his eye, he had a pretty fair guess of where I had been
last, and saw it in my manner--which made me the more careful, as
matters stood, to give no signs of more meddling with the Indiaman.
However, I threw in a hint or two, when Finch out and told me quite
frankly, there _had_ been a little disorderly conduct on board after
they left the Cape, but he had thoroughly put it down, without letting
the passengers know anything about it, as he said: only, the very day
before, at the time when the schooner fired, there were a few of the
men, he told me, that seemed inclined to disobey orders--fellows he
wished he could get rid of.

"'Now, Captain Finch,' said I, as I looked over my shoulder at them from
the capstan, 'will you point out the men you spoke of, sir, that showed
themselves mutinous?' Finch drew back at this, however, and hummed and
hawed at the word. 'Yes, _mutinous_,' repeated I; 'there's no use
mincing the matter, I suppose. Just be so good as let me see the
fellows, and I'll rid you of them at once!' Finch's glance followed mine
as it lighted on Harry Foster's shaggy head watching us with the eye of
a buffalo, past a knot of slouching, hulking, foremast-men of his own
kidney. The moment I caught sight of Jacobs' broad, hearty, brown face,
standing apart a bit with his friends, Tom, Bill, the red-haired Irish
topman, and three other honest-like man-o'-war's-men, I took my cue for
the meantime. 'My lads,' said I, walking quietly forward, 'I want a few
hands for the _Hebe_ frigate--you know her, I daresay--and that's
enough; for a model like the _Hebe_ doesn't float the water--now, I
can't press any of you!' Here a general laugh ran along both rows, and I
heard a growling chuckle from ugly Foster. 'But,' added I, laughing too,
'you can _volunteer_!'

"There was a dead silence, in the midst of which Tom, the fore-topman,
the most dashing fellow in the ship, stepped aft with his hat in his
hand, then Jacobs, then Bill, and my acquaintance the 'Savage,' then the
three others. In place of grumbling, in fact, there began to be a hurrah
amongst the rest, except some of Foster's chums; a few more seemed
inclined to follow, and as for my gentleman captain, he appeared not to
know what to do. 'Now, my man,' said I, stepping straight up to ugly
Harry, and eyeing him right in the face as he stood, 'you're a fine
seaman-like fellow--true-blue, I'm sure--I've taken a particular fancy
to ye--won't you ship for the _Hebe_--eh?' Foster didn't know where to
look, twisting himself round, hitching up his trousers, and altogether
taken fairly aback; every eye was on him, and I'll be hanged if I don't
think he turned it in his mind to agree. 'Come, Foster,' said I, in a
low voice, 'I know you, my man, but if you ship I'll look over the
whole!' All at once Captain Finch walked up to me, saying, 'If you
persist in taking these men, sir, you'll have to answer for it, I can
tell you!' 'I know my own meaning, sir,' said I firmly; 'I am in the
regular course, and answer for it I will! Say the word, my man, and
ship?' said I again. 'Blowed if I do!' said Harry, turning on his heel
with a grim scowl; 'none o' yer frigates for me!' and he walked off.
Jacobs and the others came on the gangway with their bags, however, and
pitched them to the men in the boat, without anyone offering to
interfere; indeed, Finch had seemingly given it up sooner than I
expected.

"'Now, Captain Finch,' said I, before stepping over the side after Mr
Snelling and the men, 'I'd much rather we could have hit upon the right
men; however, the more need for my keeping in sight of you to windward,
as I shall do at least till we steer for the Bay of Bengal. I couldn't
do less, you see,' added I, on getting no answer, 'than make myself
strong enough to help you if needful!' 'I shall report to the Admiral at
Bombay, sir!' said he fiercely. 'You may do that, Captain Finch,' I
said, 'as soon as possible; but, in the meantime, you can't be sure of
what may turn up of a dark night, and a couple of lights at your
main-yardarm, or anywhere, will bring the schooner down in half-an-hour
or so if there's a breeze. As for a calm,' said I, turning round--but
such a strange white look had come over Finch's face as he glanced after
me, that, thinking he was beside himself with rage, I went down the side
without another word. 'Take your own way!' I fancied I heard him mutter
betwixt his teeth; but next moment we were pulling off.

"Well, the breeze ere this time was steady, though light, and we drew
gradually to windward of the Indiaman, till by the afternoon the white
band on her hull was just awash with the water, and there I kept her,
with a little variety, pretty near the whole night, and most of the
following day.

"The next night came almost as dark as it had been that night of the
calm; but the breeze freshened again pretty strong, and accordingly I
kept the schooner down to get nearer the ship, which we had seen in the
first dog-watch dead to leeward. I was rather uneasy for a while at not
being able to make out her lights, and we slipped fast through the
water, when all at once both Jones and Westwood called out from forward
that they saw them, and I walked to the bows.

"'All right,' said I, 'but, no, by heaven! That's the signal I named to
the captain! Set stunsails, Mr Jones, and make her walk, for God's
sake!' _Two_ lights it was aloft in the gloom, right to leeward as
before: there was something wrong, or else she wanted to speak us; so
away we flew before the wind, under everything that could be set. I
looked and looked, when a thought struck me; not another light was to be
seen below, and they weren't high enough from the heave of the sea for
even a ship's lower mast.

"Yes, by George!' said I hurriedly to Westwood and Jones, 'that's a
_trick_! The fellow means to give us the slip. Clap the helm down, Mr
Snelling, and haul aft the sheets there--luff, luff!' We were losing our
weather-gage; in fact, the Indiaman must actually be to windward of us
ere then, and if the breeze freshened we might lose them altogether. The
thing that troubled me most was, that I couldn't believe the man had
thought of such a plan himself; and if he once took a hint from any of
the scoundrels I knew were aboard, why, there was no saying what might
be the upshot in the end. Finch was a common enough character at bottom;
but with such notions as I was sure were working in his head about Miss
Hyde, one step might lead him on to another, till any chance occasion
might make a desperate villain of him, especially if he suspected
myself of aught like good fortune with the young lady. It wasn't much
past midnight, the air was wonderfully heavy and sweltering, and the
swell going down, when we heard a murmur amongst the men on the
forecastle, and saw a red fire-ball pass high over to nor'ard for
half-a-minute, leaving a trail in the dark sky beyond the headsails.

"A queer ghastly sort of ruddy gray streak opened out in the black of
the horizon, where some of them thought they made out the ship; but soon
after we could hear a low hollow kind of a hum, rushing as it were from
east to west, till it grew almost like the sound of waves on a beach;
which made us begin to look to ourselves. There was a bright line of
light directly in the opposite quarter, and the sea far away seemed
getting on fire, with a noise and hubbub coming along below, that nobody
appeared to know the meaning of; while aloft it was as still as a
church. For a moment I saw the _Seringapatam_ quite plainly several
miles off; but from the confusion, I never could say whether it was
north or east; in fact, we kept watching the canvas, expecting to have a
hurricane into it next minute. Suddenly the sea came gleam-gleaming and
flickering on, as it were, with a washing bubble and a hissing smother
of foam, till it splashed right against our larboard bulwarks, heaping
up like perfect fire upon the schooner's side, and running past both
stern and bows, away with a long rolling flash to the other horizon. All
was pitch-dark again after that, and a whisper went about our decks and
round the binnacle lamp of 'The _ripples_!--It's the ripples!'[27]
'Nothing more, sir!' said Jones, even he seemingly taken by surprise at
first. Twice again we had it, though each time fainter, right out of the
midst of the gloom; after which it was as calm as before. 'Thank God!'
said I, breathing hard, 'we'll have that Indiaman in the morning, at any
rate!' 'Why, sir,' answered Jones, thoughtfully, 'after this we are
likely to have the south-west monsoon upon us ere long--'tis just the
place and the season for it.'

  [27] The "Ripples"--a marine phenomenon peculiar, apparently, to the
       Indian Ocean.

"And so it was. Instead of sighting the _Seringapatam_ at daybreak, I
had a strong suspicion she had gone to eastward; but of course the
faster the schooner was, why if it were the wrong way we should only
get from her the farther, and miss her altogether, without ever knowing
how matters went, even if she got quietly into port; so, being the best
plan I could think of for the meantime, away we drove north-westward,
sweeping the horizon with the glass every morning. We had run so far,
indeed, without success, that I was sure she couldn't be ahead; when one
day I asked Mr Jones to bring me up the chart for those parts, as we
took the latitude. We were a long way to westward of our own course at
the time, and Jones's finger went along eastward till it stopped right
upon the Maldive islands, while he looked up with a sudden sharp glance.
'By heaven,' said I, 'yes!--I forgot that story altogether--be so good
as to send that man there, Jacobs, to me. Jacobs,' said I, 'which of the
officers' clothes did that fellow Foster use to scrub lately, in the
Indiaman?' Jacobs gave his hair a rub, recollected a moment, and
answered, 'Why, sir, the captain's own.' 'Oh!' I said, 'well, that'll
do, Jacobs'--and Jacobs walked forward again. 'Mr Jones,' said I,
quickly, '_that_ chart belonged to the captain!--I'll have a look at
that said desert island, sir!' We found something answering to it on the
chart; and in a few minutes the schooner was bowling before the dregs of
the monsoon to eastward.

"'At all events,' added I, 'we'll see if these vagabonds mean to keep
their word and turn hermits--either we catch them there, Mr Jones, or
else we must find that Indiaman, though she were in sight of Colibah[28]
lighthouse!' Jones's eye lighted, and he turned his nostrils to the
monsoon as if he snuffed it in; in fact, he was that sort of man that
needed somewhat out of the common way to keep him right."

  [28] Outside the harbour of Bombay.



CHAPTER XXVIII


"'No, Westwood,' said I, 'it can't be the right one--nor any of these,
indeed!' And on looking at the chart, which was one not meant for
anything but navigation in open water, with the channels laid down
clearly enough, but evidently rather offhand as to the islands, Jones
himself seemed to get uncertain about the matter; partly owing to the
short glimpse he'd had of the other chart, and partly to its being, as
he thought, an old one made for a purpose, by a hand that knew the
islands well. After two or three days' sail, we were getting into the
thick of the Maldives, where the reefs and sandbanks stretching out on
every side, and beginning to lap in upon each other, made it more and
more dangerous work; but at any rate the islands we saw were either very
small, or else low and muddy-like, with a few scrubby-looking cocoas
upon them, like bulrushes growing out of a marsh. No runaway sailors
would ever think of taking up their quarters hereabouts, even if we
hadn't caught sight of a smoke now and then, and once of some native
craft with a couple of brown mat-sails, and an out-rigger, that showed
the clusters hereaway to have people about them. Besides, there was no
pretext any Indiaman could have for steering near enough to such a
jungle of mud and water, to give a boat the chance of making towards it
with any certainty.

"I saw at once that the spot in question must lie tolerably for the
course of a ship to Western India, otherwise they wouldn't have appeared
so sure of their mark as Jones said they did. All this, at the same
time, kept me the more bent on searching the matter out ere I did aught
else, seeing that in fact the Indiaman's attempt to get rid of the
schooner was the very thing likely to bring her on this track; fancying,
as she would, that we were either in chase of her toward Bombay, or off
on our own course again. Now, on the one hand, nothing could fit better
for the said runaway scheme of Harry Foster's; and on the other hand,
nothing would have pleased me more, and greatly eased my mind too, than
to catch him and his chums on their spree ashore. The worst of it was,
that I began to have my doubts of Jones again. He was the only man that
could put us on the right scent; yet he seemed either to have lost it,
or to have something creeping on his mind that made him unwilling to
carry it out.

"'Mr Jones,' said I, as the schooner was hove-to, and he stood musing
gloomily by the binnacle, with a glance now and then in at the compass,
and out at the chart again, 'if you're at a loss now, sir, just say--and
I shall try my own hand for want of a better!'

"'No, Lieutenant Collins!' answered he suddenly, in a husky voice--'no,
sir, that's not it, but--God help me! no, there's no use standing
against fate, I see. Whatever it costs me, Mr Collins,' he went on
firmly, 'I'm with you to the end of it; but--there _is_ something
horrible about all this!' 'How! what do you mean?' said I, startled by
the difference in his manner, and the quiver of his lip. 'Oh,' said he,
'as for the present matter, there may be nothing more in it than what I
heard on the ship's boom yonder. The truth is, I didn't know at first
but this cluster here might have been the one--though I see now there is
only _one_ island in the whole chain that can answer the description,
and that is not here.' With that he pointed to another piece of the
chart, showing no more than a few spots upon the paper, not to speak of
shades in it standing for reefs and shoals, towards the 'Head' of the
Maldives; one spot lying away from the rest, with the single name of
Minicoy for them all. I asked him hastily enough what it was called, and
all about it, for the whole affair made me more and more uneasy; but on
this point Jones seemed inclined to keep close, plainly not liking the
topic, except that I found it went by several names, one of which I had
heard before myself--White-water Island.

"About the time I was a boy in a merchantman's forecastle, 'twas a sort
of floating yarn amongst some seamen, this White-water Island, I
remembered; but I never met with a man that had seen it, every one
having had it from a shipmate last voyage, though a terrible place it
had been, by all accounts, without one's knowing exactly where it was.
One craft of some kind had gone to find out a treasure that was buried
in it, and she never was heard of more; a man took a fancy to live
ashore in it, like Robinson Crusoe, and he went mad, while the reason
there were no 'natives' was owing to the dreadful nature of it, though
at the same time it was as beautiful as a garden. The right name,
however, according to Jones, was Incoo. 'There's no good in blinding
one's self to it, Mr Collins,' he went on; 'that's the island the men
meant, only their chart set me wrong owing to the greater size of
it--you had better beat out of this at once, and keep up for the
eight-degrees channel there.'

"We were in open sea again, out of sight of land from the mast-head,
steering for somewhere about north-north-east, with a very light breeze
from nearly the monsoon quarter, and sometimes a flying squall,
sometimes no more than a black pour of rain, that left it hotter than
before. The clear, deep blue of the Indian Ocean got to a sickly heavy
sort of dead colour towards noon, like the bottoms of old bottles, and
still we were standing on without signs of land, when, almost all at
once, I noticed the water in the shadow of the schooner had a brown,
coffee-like tint I had never exactly seen hitherto; indeed, by the
afternoon, it was the same hue to the very horizon, with a clean
seaboard on all sides. I had the deep-sea lead-line hove at length, and
found no soundings with a hundred and fifty fathoms; there was neither
land nor river, I knew, for hundreds and hundreds of miles to the coast
of Arabia; as for current, no trial I could think of showed any; and
there were now and then patches of small glittering sea-jellies and
sea-lice to be seen amongst a stalk or two of weed on the soft heave of
the water, going the way of the breeze. A dozen or so of Portuguese
men-of-war, as they call them, held across our bows one time; little
pink blubbers, with their long, shining roots seen hanging down in the
clear of the surface, and their little blue gauze sails with the light
through them, ribbed like leaves of trees, as they kept before the wind.
Westwood and I both fancied we could feel a queer sulphury smell as we
leant over the side, when a surge came along the bends. Not a single
fish was to be seen about us, either, except the long big black-fish
that rose one after the other at a distance, as the wind got lighter.
One while you heard them groaning and gasping in the half-calm, as if it
were the breathing of the sea far and wide every time it swelled;
another, one saw them in a cluster of black points against the bright
sky-line, like so many different shaped rocks with the foam round them,
or a lot of long-boats floating bottom up, with their back-horns for
humps on the keel. As for Jones, he looked graver and graver, till all
of a sudden we saw him go below; but after a little he came up with an
almanack in his hand, and his finger fixed where the time of the next
new moon was given, as I found when I took it from him, for he seemed
not inclined to speak. 'Why, what has that to do with the thing?' I
said. 'We are heading fair for the Minicoy cluster, I think.' 'Yes,
sir,' said he; 'if one needed anything to prove that, he has only to
look at the sea; at this season, I _knew_ how it would turn out.' 'Well,
that's what I can't understand, Mr Jones,' said I; 'the water seems as
deep as St Paul's Cathedral thrice over!'

"'Do you not know then, sir, why that island is called--what it is?' was
the answer. 'But, wait--wait--till _night_!' And with that Jones turned
round to the bulwarks, leaning his arms on the rail. In the meantime
Jacobs and some of the men had drawn a bucket of water, which we noticed
them tasting. A pannikin full of it was handed along to the
quarter-deck, and the taste struck you at once, owing to the want of the
well-known briny twang of real blue water, and instead of that a smack
as it were of iron, though it was as clear as crystal. Everyone had a
trial of it but Jones himself; indeed, he never once looked round, till
it had occurred to me to pour the tin of water into a glass, and hold it
with my hand over it inside the shade of the binnacle, when I thought I
made out little specks and sparks shooting and twisting about in it, as
if the water had a motion of itself; then it seemed to sink to the
bottom, and all was quiet. Just then I looked up and caught Jones's
scared, restless sort of glance, as if he were uneasy. There was a
strange life in that man's brain, I felt, that none could see into; but
owing as it plainly was to something far away from the present matter, I
knew it was best to let him alone. In fact, his doing as he did showed
well enough he meant fair by ourselves. Nothing on earth ever gave me
more the notion of a wreck in a man than the kind of gaze out of Jones's
two eyes when he'd turn to the light and look at you, half-keen,
half-shrinking, like a man that both felt himself above you, and yet,
somehow or other, you'd got him under you.

"I'm blessed if I didn't trust him more because he had been too
desperate a character in his deeds beforehand to turn his mind to little
ones now, than for anything good in him; being one of those fellows that
work their way from one port to another in ships' forecastles, and get
drunk ashore, though, all the time, you'd say there wasn't one aboard
with them, from the skipper to the chaplain, knew as much or had flown
as high some time. Some day at sea the hands are piped round the
grating, hats off, and the prayer-book rigged--down goes 'Jack Jones'
with a plash and a bubble to his namesake, old 'Davy,' and you hear no
more of him!

"Well, just after sundown, as the dusk came on, Westwood and I left the
deck to go down to supper with the planter, the midshipman being in
charge. There was nothing in sight, sail or land; indeed, the queer
dark-brown tint of the horizon showed strongly against the sky, as if it
had been the mahogany of the capstan-head inside its brass rim; the
night was cloudy, with a light breeze, and though the stars came out, I
expected it to get pretty dark. As I went down the companion, I heard
nothing but the light wash of the water from her bows, and the look-out
stepping slowly about betwixt her knight-heads on the forecastle; while
it struck me the smooth face of the sea seemed to show wonderfully
distinct into the dusk, the completer it got, as if a sort of light rose
up from off it. Down below we felt her stealing pleasantly through all,
and Tom and I sat for I didn't know how long, trying to settle our
differences on the main point--about the _Seringapatam_, of course, and
which way she was likely to be gone. Tom plumed himself mightily on his
common-sense view of a thing, and having by this time got back a good
deal of his cheerfulness, he and Mr Rollock almost laughed me over to
his line of thinking.

"We then agreed that the ship must be at present edging up on one side
or other of the Maldives, but both of them thought the less we had to
say to her the better. 'I say, though,' exclaimed the planter, whose
face was turned the opposite way to ours, 'I'd no idea it was
moonlight!' 'Moonlight! there's no moon till morning,' I said. 'Look
into the stern-cabin there, then!' said Rollock; and I turned round,
seeing into the door of the after-cabin, where, to my no small surprise,
there was a bright white glare through the little square stern-light,
gleaming on the rim of the sill, and seemingly off both the air and the
water beyond. Quite confounded, as well as wondering what Snelling could
be about, I hurried up the companion, the planter and Westwood hard at
my heels.

"For so long as I had kept at sea, and a good many different latitudes I
had been into, yet I must say I never in my life before saw such a
strange sight as broke on us the instant we put our heads out of the
booby-hatch, fresh from the lamp-light in the cabin. Indeed, I can't but
own to my first feeling being fright; for what it was I couldn't
understand, unless we were got into a quarter of the world where things
weren't natural. There were a few stray clouds in the sky, scattered
away ahead, and clearing eastward to settle along before the breeze; all
aloft of us, high over the sharp dark edge of the sails and gaffs, the
air seemed to open away out, pale and glimmering like a reflection in
the ice; all round you caught a glimpse of the stars weakening and
weakening toward the horizon.

"But the water itself--that was the sight that bewildered one! On every
side the whole sea lay spread out smooth, and as white as snow--you
couldn't fancy how wide it might stretch away astern on our lee-beam,
for not a mark of horizon was to be seen, save on the north-west, where
you made it out, owing to the sky there being actually darker than the
sea--but all the time the wide face of it was of a dead ghastly
paleness, washing with a swell like milk to our black counter as we
forged ahead. It wasn't that it shone in the least like blue water at
night in the ordinary tropics--by Jove! that would have been a
comfort--but you'd have thought there was a winding-sheet laid over all,
or we were standing across a level country covered with snow--only when
I stood up, and watched the bows, there was a faint hissing sparkle to
be seen in the ripple's edge that first brought me to myself. The
Lascars had woke up where they lay about the caboose, and were cowering
together for sheer terror; the men standing, each one in his place, and
looking; while Jones, who had relieved the midshipman, leant by himself
with his head on the capstan, as if to keep out the sight of it all; the
schooner's whole dusky length, in fact, with every black figure on her
decks, and her shape up to the lightest stick or rope of her aloft,
appearing strange enough, in the midst of the broad white glare, to
daunt anyone that wasn't acquainted with the thing. 'Mr Jones,' said I
quickly, on going up to him, 'what the devil is this?' I'll be hanged if
I didn't begin to believe in witchcraft or something. 'Where are we
getting to?' 'Nothing, nothing, sir,' said he, lifting his head; ''tis
natural enough; only the milk-sea, as they call it--the white-water,
sir, that comes down twice a year hereabouts from God knows where--you
only see it so at--at _night_!'

"'Oh, then, according to that,' I said, 'we shan't be long of sighting
your island, I suppose?' 'No,' said he; 'if the breeze freshens at all,
keeping our present course, the mast-head ought to hail it in two or
three hours; but, God knows, Lieutenant Collins, natural though the
sight is, there's something a man can't get rid of, especially if----'
He stood up, walked to the side, and kept facing the whole breadth of
the awful-looking sea, as it were, till it seemed to blind him. 'I tell
you what, sir,' said he, slowly, 'if that water had any use, a priest
would say 'twas sent to wash that same island clean of what's been done
on it; but it couldn't, Mr Collins, it couldn't till the day of
judgment!' He leant over till his dark face and his shoulders, to my
notion, made the milk-white surge that stole up to the schooner's bends
take a whiter look. 'If that water could wash _me_ now,' muttered he,
'ay, if it could only take the soul out of me, but I'd go down, down
this moment to the bottom!' With that he gave a sudden move that made me
catch him by the arm. 'No, no, Mr Collins,' said he, turning round; 'the
truth is, I mean to go through with it; I'll let it carry me where I am
bound for! Wasn't I born without asking my leave, and I'll kick the
bucket the same way, if it was on a blasted dunghill!' 'Come, come, Mr
Jones,' said I, in a soothing sort of a way, 'go below for a little, and
sleep; when we hail the land I'll have you called.' 'I'd rather not,
sir,' said Jones, quietly; 'the truth is, it strikes me there's
something strange in my happening to be aboard here, at this particular
season, too; and see that same island, _now_, I must! It's fate,
Lieutenant Collins,' added he; 'and I must say, I think it's the more
likely something may turn out there. Either you'll see that ship, or the
men, or else _I'll_ be there myself, in some way or other!'

"Now there was something in all this that began at moments quite to
bewilder one, the more excited the state was it put you in. There was
nothing for it but to push on, and see what might come of it. Indeed,
the weather favoured us better on our present course than on any other;
and I felt, if I didn't keep active, I should go distracted. 'Twas
almost as if what Jones said had a truth in it, and a sort of a power
beyond one were drawing the schooner the way she steered; while at the
same time there was every little while somewhat new in the extraordinary
looks of things to hold you anxious. Even a flying touch of a squall we
had about midnight didn't the least do away with the whiteness of the
water all around; on the contrary, as the dark cloud crept down upon us,
widening on both sides like smoke, the face of the sea seemed to whiten
and whiten, casting up a ghastly gleam across the cloud, with its
ripples frothing and creaming; till, not knowing _how_ things might go
hereabouts, you almost expected the first rush of the wind to send it
all in a flame to our mast-heads.

"Then up she rose on a surge like a snowdrift, and off we drove heeling
over to it, gaffs lowered and canvas down, everything lost sight of,
save the white sea heaving up against the mist; while the clear-coloured
plash of it through our weather bulwarks showed it was water sure
enough. The squall went off to leeward, however, the rain hissing like
ink into the swell it left, and spotting it all over till the last drops
seemed to sink in millions of separate sparkles as far as you could see.
The schooner rose from one heave to another to an even keel on the
smooth length of it, hoisting her spanking gaffs, hauling aft the
sheets, and slipping ahead once more to a breeze fed by the rain. As the
sky cleared, the dead white glare the water sent up into it was such you
didn't know the one from the other toward the horizon; and in the midst
there was only the smooth faint service, brushing whiter with the
breeze, as if it was nothing else kept it from going out of sight; with
a few streaky clouds turning themselves out like wool in a confused rift
of the air aloft; the schooner walking in it without ever a glimpse of a
shadow on one side or another; while, as for seeing a sail on the
horizon, you might as well have looked for a shred of paper. It wasn't
light, neither nor was it haze; nothing but a dead colour off the very
sea's face--for the schooner rose and plunged without letting you see a
hair's-breath of her draught below the water-line. Every man rubbed his
eyes, as if it were all some kind of a dream, and none the less when
suddenly we were right upon a long patch of black stripes winding away
through the white, like so many sea-serpents come up to breathe, with
both ends of them lost in the faintness. Nobody stirred, or said,
'Look-out'; stripe after stripe she went slipping through them as if
they'd been ghosts, without a word or an extra turn of the wheel. I
daresay, if we had commenced to rise in the air, every man would have
held on like grim death, but he wouldn't have wondered much; 'twas
just, 'whatever might happen to please them as had the managing of it,'
which was Jacobs' observation when we talked of it after.

"Mr Snelling was the only one that ventured to pass a joke; when Jones,
who I thought was out of hearing, looked at the reefer with such a
fierce glance, and so scornful at the same time, that I couldn't help
connecting what happened the very next moment with it--for without the
slightest warning, both of us were flung to leeward, and Snelling
pitched into the scuppers, as a huge rolling ridge of the white water
came down upon our beam; while the schooner broached-to in the wind,
floundering on the swell with her sails aback. Had the breeze been
stronger, I think it would have fairly swamped us with the stern-way she
had; and heave after heave swelled, glaring and weltering out of the
pale blind sky, till our decks swam with light in the dusk under the
bulwarks, and about the dark mouths of the hatchways. Just as suddenly
the rollers seemed to sink in the smooth of the sea, and at last we
payed off with the breeze as before, at the cost of a good fright and a
famous ducking. Two or three times in the course of the middle watch did
this happen, except that we were taken less by surprise, and had the
hatches closed, with every rope ready to let go; the breeze
strengthening all the time, and the same sort of look continuing all
round and aloft.[29]

  [29] The description of this peculiar phenomenon of the Indian
       Ocean, as given by Captain Collins, surprised us as much as
       the reality seems to have done him. However, on consulting a
       seafaring old gentleman of much experience in all parts of the
       world, we are informed that such an appearance is periodically
       to be met with for some distance between the Laccadive and
       Maldive Islands, as he had reason to know. The old Dutch Captain
       Stavorinus also furnishes an account substantially similar,
       having particularly attended to the cause of it in his voyage to
       the East Indies. It reaches also to some of the south-eastern
       islands at a great distance from India, near Java--or at all
       events appears there. In the Atlantic, Humboldt says there is a
       part of the sea always milky, although very deep, in about 57
       degrees W. longitude, and the parallel of the island of Dominica.
       Of the same nature, probably, are the immense olive-green spaces
       and stripes seen in blue water by Captain Scoresby and others,
       toward the ice of the north polar regions. The pale sea alluded
       to is supposed either to move from the shores of Arabia Felix,
       and the gulfs in that coast, or, by some to arise, from
       sulphureous marine exhalations--appearing to rot the bottoms of
       vessels, and to frighten the fish. Both at the Laccadives and
       near Java it is seen twice a year, often with a heavy rolling of
       the sea and bad weather. The first time, at the new moon in June,
       it is called by the Dutch the "little white-water"; again, at the
       new moon in August, the great "white-water"; by English seamen,
       generally, the milk-sea, or the "blink."

"About four o'clock or so, the appearance of the sky near where the
horizon ought to be, right ahead, struck Westwood and me as stranger
than ever; owing to a long lump of shadow, as it were, lying northward
like the shape of a bow or the round back of a fish miles long, though
it softened off at one end into the hollow of the air, and the gleam of
the white water broke past the other like the streaks of the northern
lights on a frosty night toward the Pole, save for the thin, shadowy
tint of it, and the stars shining plainly through. I'd have fancied it
was high land; when suddenly the half-moon was seen to ooze like a
yellow spot out of the shapeless sort of steam to eastward, like a thing
nobody knew, shedding a faint brown glimmer far below where you hadn't
seen there was water at all.

"The bank of shadow softened away towards her, till in little more than
five minutes the dark rippling line of the sea was made out, drawn
across the dusk as if it had been the wide mouth of a frith in the polar
ice, opening far on our weather-bow. A soft blue shimmering tint stole
out on it by contrast, leaving the milk-white glare still spread
everywhere else, astern, ahead, and on our lee-beam, into the sightless
sky: 'twas the old blue water we caught sight of once more, with the
natural night and the stars hanging over it; and the look-out aloft
reported blue water stretching wide off to the nor'ard. There was one
full hurrah from the seamen in the bows, and they ran of themselves
naturally enough to the ropes, standing by to haul the schooner on a
wind--to head up for the old salt sea, no doubt.

"'Lieutenant Collins,' said Jones in a low voice, 'do you mean to steer
for that island, sir?' 'Yes,' I said, 'certainly, Mr Jones--I shall see
this matter out, whatever the upshot may be!' 'Then keep on, sir,' said
he firmly, 'keep in the white water--'tis your only plan to near it
safely, sir!' This I didn't well understand; but, by Jove! there was so
much out of the common way hereabouts, that I had made up my mind to
follow his advice. Another hail from aloft, at length--'Something black
on our lee-bows, sir--right in the eye of the white it is, sir!' We
were now running fast down in the direction where there was least
possibility of seeing ahead at all, although, in fact, the little
moonshine we had, evidently began to make this puzzling hue of the
surface less distinct--turning it of a queer ashy drab, more and more
like the brown we noticed by daytime; while the light seemed as it were
to scoop out the hollow of the sky aloft, when a dark spot or two could
be observed from the deck, dotting the milky space over one bow--you
couldn't say whether in the air or the water, as they hung blackening
and growing together before us through below the foot of the jib.

"Larger and larger it loomed as we stood before the breeze, till there
was no doubt we had the bulk of a small low island not far to windward
of us, a couple of points or thereabouts on our larboard bow when she
fell off a little--lying with the ragged outline of it rising to a top
near one end, its shape stretched black and distinct in the midst of the
pale sea; while the white water was to be seen taking close along the
edge of the island, showing every rock and point of it in the shadow
from the moon, till it seemed to turn away all of a sudden like a
current into the broad, dreamy glimmer that still lay south-eastward. On
the other side of the island you saw the dark sea-ripples flickering to
the faint moonlight, and some two or three more patches of flat land
just tipping the horizon, with the thin cocoa-nut trees on them like
reeds against the stars and the dusk; while the one nearest us was
sufficiently marked out to have saved me the trouble even of the look I
gave Jones, which he answered by another. 'You have seven or eight
fathoms water here, sir,' added he; 'and as soon as she rounds the point
yonder, we can shoal it by degrees to any anchorage you like, as long as
we keep in the white water--but we must hold to _it_!' It was
accordingly found so with the lead, and ere long, having kept past the
point, the same milky hue could be noticed as it were jagging off
through the darker water, and winding away hither and thither all round
the other side, till you lost it.

"However, here we brailed up and hauled down everything, letting go an
anchor little more than half-a-mile from a small sloping beach, where
the strange water actually surged up through the shadow of the land in
one glittering sheet, like new-fallen snow, while the back-wash seethed
down into it all along the edge in perfect fire. Nothing stirred on it,
apparently; not a sound came from it, save the low wash of the surf on
that lonely bare beach; and you only made out that part of the island
was covered with trees, with the ground rising to a flat-topped hummock
toward one end. So being pretty wearied by this time, impatient though I
was for a clearer view of matters, most of us turned in, leaving the
deck to a strong anchor-watch, in charge of Jones--especially as it was
towards morning, and the breeze blowing fresh over the island through
our ropes. But if ever a man walked the deck overhead in a fashion to
keep you awake, it was Jones that morning: faster and faster he went,
till you'd have thought he ran; then there was a stop, when you felt him
_thinking_, and off he posted again. No wonder, by George! I had ugly
dreams!



CHAPTER XXIX


"I could scarce believe it wasn't a dream still, when, having been
called half-an-hour after daybreak, I first saw the change in the
appearance of things all about us. The horizon lay round as clear as
heart could wish--not a speck in sight save the little dingy islets at a
distance; the broad blue ocean sparkling far away on one side, and the
water to windward, in the direction we had come, showing the same
brownish tint we had seen the day before, while it took the island
before us in its bight, and turned off eastward with the breeze till it
spread against the open sky. The top of the land was high enough to shut
out the sea-line, and being low water at the time, it was plain enough
now why Jones wished to keep the white streaks overnight; for, where the
dingy-coloured ripples melted on the other side towards the blue, you
could see by the spots of foam, and the greenish breaks here and there
in the surface, that all that coast of the island was one network of
shoals and reefs, stretching out you didn't know how wide. White-water
Island, in fact, was merely the head of them--the milky stream that had
so startled us just washing round the deep end of it, and edging fair
along the side of the reefs, with a few creeks sent in amongst them, as
it were, like feelers, ere it flowed the other way: we couldn't
otherwise have got so near as we were. But the island itself was the
sight to fasten you, as the lovely green of it shone out in the morning
sun, covering the most part of it close over, and tipping up beyond the
bare break where it was steepest, with a clump of tall cocoas shooting
every here and there out of the thick bush; indeed, there was apparently
a sort of split lengthways through the midst, where, upon only walking
to the schooner's bow, one could see the bright greenwood sinking down
to a hollow out of sight, under the clear gush of the breeze off a dark
blue patch of the sea that hung beyond it like a wedge.

"As the tide made over the long reefs, till the last line of surf on
them vanished, it went up the little sandy cove opposite us with a plash
on the beach that you could hear; the place was just what a sailor may
have had a notion of all his life, without exactly seeing it till then;
and though as yet one had but a rough guess of its size, why, it
couldn't be less than a couple of miles from end to end, with more than
that breadth, perhaps, at the low side toward the reefs. Not a soul
amongst the man-o'-war's men, I daresay, as they pressed together in the
schooner's bows to see into it, but would have taken his traps that
moment, if I'd told him, and gone ashore on the chance of passing his
days there; so it wasn't hard to conceive, from the state it seemed to
put their rough sunburnt faces in, honest as they looked, how a similar
fancy would work with Master Harry Foster, even if it tried his virtue a
little.

"I had no more doubt in my mind, by this time, of its being the fellow's
intended 'hermitage,' than I had of its being the same White-water
Island I had heard of myself, or the spot which Jones seemed to know so
well; 'twas likely the foremast-man had got an inkling of it somewhat in
the way I did; and, lying, as it happened to do, between no less than
three channels which the Indiaman might take, after dodging us in this
fashion round the long cluster of the Maldives, she couldn't make
north-westward again for the open sea without setting Foster and his
mates pretty well upon their trip.

"Indeed, if she were to eastward of the chain at present, as I was
greatly inclined to believe, the course of the breeze made it impossible
for her to do otherwise; but there was one thing always kept lurking
about my mind, like a cover to something far worse that I didn't
venture to dwell upon--namely, that Captain Finch might get wind of
their purpose, and drive them on another tack by knocking it on the
head, either at the time or beforehand, without the courage to settle
_them_. Nothing in the world would have pleased me better than to pounce
upon ugly Harry at his first breakfast ashore here; but the bare
horizon, and the quiet look of the island since ever we hove in sight of
it, showed this wasn't to be. At any rate, however, I was bent on seeing
how the land lay, and what sort of a place it was; so, accordingly, as
soon as the hands had got breakfast, Westwood and I at once pulled
ashore, with a boat's-crew well armed, to overhaul it. We found the
sandy beach covered, for a good way up, with a frothy slime that no
doubt came from the water on that side, with ever so many different
kinds of blubber, sea-jelly, starfish, and shell, while the rocky edge
round to windward was hung with weed that made the blocks below it seem
to rise out of every surge, like green-headed, white-bearded mermen
bathing. Glad enough we were to get out of the queer sulphury smell all
this stuff gave out in the heat, letting the men take every one his own
way into the bushes, which they enjoyed like so many schoolboys, and
making ourselves right for the highest point. Here we saw over, through
the cocoa-nut trees and wild trailing-plants below, down upon a broad
bushy level towards the reefs.

"It was far the widest way of the island; indeed making it apparently
several miles to go round to the different points; and as the men were
to hold right to windward, and meet again after beating the entire
ground, Westwood and I struck fair through amongst the tangle of wood,
to see the flat below.

"We roused out a good many small birds and paraquets, and several goats
could be noticed looking at us off the grassy bits of crag above the
trees, though they didn't seem to know what we were. As for most of the
wood, it was mainly such bushes and brush as thrive without water, with
a bright green flush of grass and plants after the rain at the monsoon,
the prickly pear creeping over the sandy parts, till we came on a track
where some spring or other apparently oozed down from the height,
soaking in little rank spots amongst the ground leaves, with here and
there a small rusty plash about the grass-blades, as if there were tar
or iron in it. Here there were taller trees of different kinds on both
sides, dwindling off into the lower bush, while, to my surprise, some of
them were such as you'd never have expected to meet with on an island of
the size, so far off the land--bananas, mangoes, a shaddock or two, and
a few more, common enough in India; though here they must evidently have
been planted, the cocoas being the only sort natural to the place, and
of them there were plenty below. Suddenly it led down into a shady
hollow, out of sight of the sea altogether, where we came on what seemed
to have been a perfect garden some time or other; there were two or
three large broad-leaved shaddock-trees, and one or two others, with a
heap of rubbish in the midst of the wild Indian corn and long grass,
some broken bamboo-stakes standing, besides a piece of plank scattered
here and there about the bushes.

"Right under the shade of the trees was a hole like the mouth of a
draw-well, more than brimful at the time with the water from the spring,
for, owing to the late rains, it made a pool close by the side, and went
trickling away down amongst the brushwood. Every twig and leaf grew
straight up or out, save in a narrow track toward the rising ground--no
doubt made by the goats, as we noticed the prints of their hoofs on the
wet mud. 'Twas evident no human being had been there for heaven knew how
long, since, by the care that had been taken with the place, it was
probably the only spring in the island--perhaps for leagues and leagues
round indeed. Trees, branches, green grass, and all--they had such a
still, moveless air under the heat and light, in the lee of the high
ground, with just a blue spot or two of the sea seen high up through the
sharp shaddock-leaves, and the cool-looking plash of water below them,
that Westwood and I sat down to wait till we heard the men. Still, there
was a terribly distinct, particular cast about the whole spot, which,
taken together with the ruin and confusion, as well as the notion of
Foster and his shipmates actually plotting to come there, gave one
almost an idea of the whole story beforehand, dim as that was--the
longer you looked the more horrid it seemed. Neither natives nor a
single man could have brought the different trees to the island, or
contrived a tank-well of the kind, seeing it was apparently deep enough
to supply a ship's casks, while at the same time I couldn't help
thinking someone had lived there since it was made, or perhaps much
used.

"By the space taken up with the hut that had been there, and the little
change in the wild state of things, most likely it was by himself he had
been, and for no short time. It looked, however, as if he had been
carried off in the end, otherwise his bones would have been hereabouts;
probably savages, as Westwood and I concluded from the scatter they had
made of his premises. For my own part, I wondered whether Jones mightn't
have been the man, in which case most of that disturbed mind he showed
lately might come of remembering the dreary desolate feeling one must
have, living long on a desert island. No doubt they had 'marooned' him
for something or other, such as not being a bloody enough captain; and I
could as easily fancy one having a spice of madness in him, after years
ashore here, as in Captain Wallis after a French prison. Still it
startled one to see one's face in the black of the well; and we couldn't
make up our minds to drink out of it. Even the pool at its side had a
queer taste, I thought--but that may have been all a notion. All at
once, by the edge of this same pool, Westwood pointed out two or three
marks that surprised us both, being quite different from what the goats
could have made; and on observing closer, they were made out to be more
like the paws of a wild beast stamped in the mud. 'By Jove!' I said, 'no
wolves on the island, surely!' 'All of them seem to stick to the pool in
preference to the well, at any rate,' said Tom; 'they appear to have the
same crotchet with ourselves, Ned!' 'Strange!' said I, 'what the devil
can it be?'

"Westwood eyed the prints over and over. 'What do you think of--a
_dog_?' he asked. 'Good heavens!' exclaimed I, looking down--'yes!' and
there we sat gazing at the thing, and musing over it, with somehow or
other a curious creeping of the blood, for my part, that I can't
describe the reason of. At last we heard the men hallooing to each other
on the level beneath, when we hurried down, and coasted round till we
came upon the boat again, where the coxswain was amusing himself
gathering shells for home--and we pulled back to the schooner.

"My first resolve after this was to keep before the breeze again, try to
get sight of the ship, and tell Finch out and out, as I ought to have
done at once, what was afoot amongst his crew; or else to let Sir
Charles Hyde know of it, and make him a bold offer of a passage to
Calcutta. However, I soon saw this wouldn't do; and a regular puzzle I
found myself in, betwixt inclining to stick to the island and catch
Foster if he came, and wishing to know how the Indiaman stood on her
course if he didn't. Jones must have read my thoughts as I leant upon
the capstan, looking from White-water Island to the horizon and back
again; for he stepped aft, and said in a low voice, 'Lieutenant Collins,
there's one thing I didn't tell you about that island before, because,
as I said, I wasn't at first sure it was the one the men meant; it may
help to decide you, sir,' said he gravely. 'Ah?' I said. 'In that
island,' he went on, his ordinarily dark face as pale as death, 'there
is enough gold, at this moment, to buy half an English county--ay, and
better than gold, seeing that only one man knows the spot where it is,
and _he_ would rather sail round the world without a shirt to his back
than touch one filing of the--hell's dross!'

"I looked at Jones in perfect amaze as he added, 'You may fancy now, Mr
Collins, whether if a man of the kind happened to get wind of this, he
would not stir heaven and earth to reach the place? But, rather than
that gold should come into living hands,' said he fiercely, 'I would
_wait for them_ by myself--ay, alone--alone'; and a shudder seemed to
run through him again as he gave another glance to the island. For my
part, I drew a long breath. What he mentioned had all at once relieved
my mind wonderfully; for if this was Master Foster's cue, as I now saw
it must have been the whole voyage over, why, he would be just as sure
not to spread the thing widely, as he would be to get here some time, if
he could. On second thoughts, it wasn't so plain how the rest of the
crew might work with it, on the least inkling; but inclined as I
naturally was to look upon the best side of the matter, you needn't
wonder at my making up my mind as I did. The short and the long of it
was that, in an hour more, Jones and myself, with Jacobs and four other
good hands--and, somewhat to my annoyance, Mr Rollock, who persisted in
coming--were pulling back for the island; while the schooner, under care
of Westwood and Snelling, was hauled on a wind to stand up across the
Nine Degrees Channel, which the Indiaman would no doubt take as the
safest course for Western India, if all went well, and supposing I had
reckoned correctly why we missed her so long. In that case, three or
four days at most couldn't fail to bring her up; and on first sighting
her at the horizon, they could easily enough strip the schooner to her
sticks, keeping her stern on so as to let the ship pass without noticing
the loom of so small a craft; whereas if they didn't see her at all, in
that time, they were to bear up before the wind again for the island. Of
all things, and every circumstance being considered, I agreed with
Westwood it was best not to come across her again, if we could help it.

"For our own part, in the boat, we were fully provisioned and armed for
all the time we could need, not to speak of what the island itself
afforded; and after watching the schooner stand heeling off to sea,
round the deep end of it, we cruised close along, not for the beach this
time, but seeking for a cove in the rocks where the boat could be hauled
up out of sight, and safe from the surf at high water. This we weren't
very long of finding behind some blocks that broke the force of the
surge, where the wild green trailers from above crept almost down to the
seaweed; and after helping them a little to hide her perfectly, the
whole of us scrambled ashore. The first thing was to post a look-out on
the highest point, the sharp little peak next to the reef-side,
overlooking the spring and the level ground between; on the other side
of the long green valley, full of bush in the midst, was the flat-topped
rise towards the brown water, from which I and the planter watched the
schooner softening for an hour or two, till she reached the blue
sea-gleam, and lessened to a speck. By that time, the men had pitched a
little canvas tent on the slope opposite to us, over the hollow--Jones
evidently being anxious to keep clear of the spot, which somebody else
had picked out beforehand; in fact the highest ground was betwixt us and
it; and on coming down through the thicket to our quarters, after a
stroll in which Rollock shot a couple of rose-coloured paroquets,
declaring them to be splendid eating, we found Jones had had to send
over the other way for water.



CHAPTER XXX


"I woke up in the tent perhaps an hour before midnight, as I judged on
looking through the opening at the stars that shone in the dark sky
through the north-east end of the valley above the sea. At the other
end, being higher, you just saw the scattered heads of the bushes
against a pale floating glimmer of air, with a pale streak of horizon.
Behind us was the height where we had the look-out, and in front the
flat top of the crag drawn somehow or other as distinct as possible upon
the faint starlight in that quarter, roughening away down on both sides
into the brushwood and dwarf cocoa-nut trees. With the stillness of the
place all round, the bare sight of that particular point gave me a
dreamy, desolate, ghastly sort of feeling, beyond aught I ever saw in my
life before: it was choking hot and heavy inside, and seemingly
throughout the hollow, though a good deal of dew began to fall,
glistening on the dark-green bushes nearest us, and standing in drops on
the fern-like cocoa-leaves which Jacobs and the other men had roofed
themselves with. They were sound asleep; and the glimpse of the soles of
their shoes and their knees, sticking out of the shadow you saw their
rough faces in, with the sight of their cutlass-hilts, served to give
one a still wilder notion of the place. One felt scarce sure of being
able to wake them, in case of anything turning up; and, at any rate, a
dread came over you of its being possibly somewhat unnatural enough to
make the thing useless.

"On the other hand, the planter kept up such a confounded snoring inside
the canvas close by me, that although there was no doubt of his being
alive, the sound of it put stranger thoughts into your head. Sometimes
his breath would be jogging on like that of a tolerably ordinary mortal,
then get by degrees perfectly quiet; and then all of a sudden go rising
and rising, faster and faster, as if some terrible dream had hold of
him, or there was some devilish monster hard in chase of his soul, till
out it broke into a fearful snort that made your very heart
jump--whereupon he'd lie as if he were finished, then go through the
whole story again. I can't tell you how that cursed noise troubled me;
'twas no use shoving and speaking to him, and all the time the old boy
was evidently quite comfortable, by something he said at last about
'indigo being up.' The best I could do was to get out and leave him to
himself; in fact, where Jones had gone at the time I didn't know, till
suddenly I caught sight of his dark figure standing on the rise at the
back of our post, and went up to him. Jones was certainly a strange
mixture, for here had he been all round the low side of the island by
himself, yet I found him leaning bareheaded on the barrel of his musket,
listening like a deer. He assured me solemnly he thought he had heard
voices for the last hour on the other side, where he hadn't been, and
asked me if I would go with him to see. Then down came our look-out from
the peak, rolling through the bushes like a sea-crow, to report his not
having seen anything, and to say they'd forgot to relieve him aloft; so
rousing up Jacobs, I sent them both back together, while Jones and I
held the opposite way for the other height.

"The moment we had got to it, _there_ was the same faint blotted-out
horizon as we had had all astern of us the night before, the same
strange unnatural paleness cast off the face of the sea, making it look
black by contrast to north-eastward and east, against the blue shadow
with the bright stars in it, where the sea rippled as usual; while the
keenest glare in the middle seemed to stream right to the breast of the
island, like the reflection of daylight down a long break in the
ice--only it was dead and ghastly to behold. The white water washed
round under the black edge of the rocks before us, to the bare sloping
beach, where it came up fairly like a wide plash of milk, glimmering and
sparkling back amongst the little sea-creatures you fancied you saw
moving and crawling out or in: till it ran along by where the reefs
were, and turned off to the dim sky again. Everything else was still,
and Jones drew a breath like one relieved: 'Nothing after all, I think,
sir!' said he. But to my mind there was something a long sight more
awful in the look of that unaccountable white water bearing down like
snow upon the island, as it were, with the wrinkles and eddies to be
seen faintly in it here and there back toward the glaring breadth of it,
and the floating streaks in the sky above; especially when he told me he
thought it was owing to millions upon millions of living things in it,
that made the same show there at two different seasons in the year, for
a week or so at a time--the appearance of it getting less distinct every
night.

"However, I had begun to grow uneasy again about the Indiaman, and the
schooner too, as well as doubtful of the fellows coming to the island at
all; on the contrary, as I said to Jones, if they saw the schooner, and
Westwood didn't manage as I told him, why both she, the ship, and
ourselves might possibly get the finishing-stroke altogether. 'The more
I think of it,' said I, 'the more foolish it seems to be here instead of
aboard!' 'Why it is, Mr Collins, I don't know,' replied Jones, 'yet I
feel as sure these men will land here as if I heard them in the woods;
and if I wasn't aware how one crime breeds another, for my part I
shouldn't be here at present, sir. Many a night afloat has the thought
of this place weighed on me, lest there was something new doing in it;
but what's buried here I'm resolved no man shall stir up, if I can help
it, sir!' A little after, as we got up and went down to the beach, all
of a sudden--like a thing he couldn't avoid--Jones began to give me some
snatches of what had happened here some years before, which, according
to him, he had got from a shipmate of his that died; and I must say it
made the blood creep in me to listen to it.

"'At the beginning of the war,' he said, 'the island had been a nest of
regular pirates, who had taken pains to make it, from a mere muddy head
of a reef with some cocoas upon it, probably into a resort on
occasions--especially as even the wild Maldive natives to southward had
somehow a dislike to it. The whole gang being taken by some cruiser or
other at sea, however, too far off to leave any clue to their harbourage
hereabouts, they were all hanged, and the place lost sight of, till, a
good many years after, a country Arab craft, bound for Dacca up the
Ganges, was driven in a gale upon the reefs some way off, without seeing
the island at all till the sea went down, and she was going to pieces.

"'There were only two Europeans aboard, both having turned Mussulmans,
and the youngest of them was mate. There was a passenger, a native
Indian merchant, and his servants, with, as was believed, his harem
below in the after-cabins, for nobody ever had seen them; but the Arab
_rais_ of the vessel and several more being washed off when she struck,
the other Mussulmans took to the only boat they had, and got ashore,
leaving the two Englishmen with the passenger. Next day the two men had
contrived a raft of the spars, whereupon the Hindoo at last brought up
his three women, veiled from head to foot, and the whole got safe to the
island. Here all the Mahometans herded together amongst themselves,
forcing the two Englishmen to keep on the other side of the island, as
they had no firearms, while the old Hindoo merchant and his native
servant got a tent pitched on the highest point for the women, where
they were no more seen than before, and a flag hoisted on a stick all
the time for a signal to ships--poor simple devil!' as Jones said with a
laugh. 'Every day he offered the Arab crew more of the gold and jewels
he had with him, to make for India and get him brought of, till at last
some of the Arabs came round to the mate and his companion, wanting them
to take the boat and go instead, otherwise they would kill both of them
at once. The two men accordingly had provisions given them, and hoisted
sail on the boat before the breeze to eastward; they had almost dropped
the island, when all at once the one in the boat's bows stepped aft to
him that had the tiller, and said it struck him the Arabs couldn't mean
well to the Hindoo and his wives, in trying to get clear of others.

"'All his companion did,' Jones said, 'was to ask if he was man enough
to go back, face them boldly, and offer to take the passenger and his
harem too, when some craft or other might come back for the Arabs, since
they weren't seamen enough to venture first in the boat. "I tell you
what," said the first, '"try the two largest breakers of water there!"
The water for use next after the open one was tasted, and it was _salt_.
'"Will you stand by me?" the second man said, after awhile. The other
had a dog with him of his own, that had swam ashore from the vessel
after the raft he landed upon, and it was sleeping in the boat's bow at
the moment, near him; the dog lifted its head as they spoke, eyed the
two, and lay down again with a low sort of growl. "Ay," answered the
other, "to the last I will--as long as you stick by _me_!" They hauled
over the sheet, laid the boat sharp on a wind, and as soon as it was
dusk began to pull back toward the island, where they got ashore in the
dark before morning.'

"Here Jones stopped, turned suddenly round to the glare of the white
water plashing upon the beach, and said no more. 'Why, Jones,' said I,
'is that all you've to tell? What came of them? For God's sake,
yes--what was the upshot?' ''Tis enough to show how one bad thing breeds
another, as I said, sir,' answered he. 'Probably in the end, though--at
any rate I only fancy the rest--'tis a horrible dream to me, for
a--a--squall came on when that shipmate of mine got so far, and we had
to reef topsails. He went overboard off the yard that very night,' said
Jones wildly.

"'The man must have been _there_,' said I, in a pointed way, 'to give
all the particulars--_he_ was the mate himself, Mr Jones!' He made no
answer, but kept gazing out to sea. 'And how long was this ago?' I
asked. 'Oh,' answered he, 'years enough ago, no doubt, sir, for both of
us to be children, if _you_ were born, Mr Collins'--and he turned his
face to me as ghastly as the water toward the horizon he was looking at
before--'at least I hope to God it was so--the man was a poor creature,
sir, bless you, and old, as it seems to me--twice my own age at the
time, Lieutenant Collins! At all events, though,' he went on, rambling
in a strange way that made me think he was going out of his mind, 'he
remembered well enough the first time he saw the white water coming down
upon the island. He was hunting--_hunting_--through the bushes and up
and down, and came up upon the crag.' 'Hunting?' I said. 'Yes, you
didn't know how it lived, or where it kept, but every night it was on
the look-out there. There was no one else, save the girl sleeping over
beyond in the hut, and the man almost fancied the water of the sea was
coming down to the rocks and the beach, like the Almighty himself, to
show He was clear of all that had happened--if he could but have
finished that brute, testifying like the very devil, he'd have been
happy, he felt! Harkye,' said he, sinking his voice to a whisper, 'when
he went back at daylight the woman was dying--she had borne a--what was
as innocent as she was, poor, sweet, young heathen!'

"And if I hadn't guessed pretty well before that Jones was the man he'd
been speaking of, his glittering eye and his stride from the beach would
have shown it; apparently he forgot everything besides at that moment,
till you'd have thought his mind gloated on this piece of his history.
'The woman!' I couldn't help saying, 'what woman? Had the rest le