Soon after the chest arrived the tailor brought my uniform.
It certainly was a contrast to the comical suit I had hitherto been wearing. I put it on with infinite satisfaction, and girded to my side a new dirk, which my uncle had given me, instead of my grandfather's old sword. The latter, however, my uncle recommended me to take on board.
"You may want it, Terence, maybe on some cutting-out expedition," he said; "and you'll remember that it belonged to your ancestors, and make it do its duty."
As the chest was already full, I had a difficulty in stowing away the things the tailor had brought. I therefore began to unpack it while he was waiting, and I observed that he cast a look of supreme contempt on most of the articles it contained. He even ventured to suggest that he should be allowed to replace them with others which he could supply.
"The boy has enough and to spare, and I should like to know how many of them will find their way back to Cork," said my uncle.
Some of them I found, on consideration, that I should be as well without. Among other things were a pair of thick brogues, which Molly the cook had put in to keep my feet from the wet deck, and a huge cake; this, though, I guessed would not be sneered at in the mess, and would travel just as well outside. At length I found room for everything I required, and the chest was once more locked and corded.
I don't believe I slept a wink that night with thinking of what I should do when I got on board the frigate. It was a satisfaction to remember that the ice had been broken, and that I should not appear as a perfect stranger amongst my messmates. I already knew Tom Pim, and he had told me the names of several others, among whom were those of Jack Nettleship the old mate and caterer of the mess, Dick Sinnet the senior midshipman, Sims the purser's clerk, and Donald McPherson the assistant-surgeon. The others I could not remember. The lieutenants, he said, were very nice fellows, though they had their peculiarities. None of the officers were Irishmen, consequently I had been dubbed Paddy.
I COMMENCE MY NAVAL CAREER.
The morning came. My chest and my other strat things had been carried down in a cart to the river, where they were shipped on board a shore-boat. As we walked along following it, my uncle, after being silent for a minute, as if considering how he should address me, said: "You have got a new life before you, away from friends, among all sorts of characters,—some good, it may be, many bad or indifferent, but no one probably on whom you may rely. You will be placed in difficult, often in dangerous situations, when you'll have only yourself, or Him who orders all things, to trust to. Be self-reliant; ever strive to do your duty; and don't be after troubling yourself about the consequences. You will be engaged in scenes of warfare and bloodshed. I have taken part in many such, and I know their horrors. War is a stern necessity. May you never love it for itself; but when fighting, comport yourself like a man fearless of danger, while you avoid running your head needlessly into it. Be courteous and polite, slow to take offence,— especially when no offence is intended, as is the case in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred where quarrels occur. Remember that it always takes two to make a quarrel, and that the man who never gives offence will seldom get into one. Never grumble; be cheerful and obliging. Never insist on your own rights when those rights are not worth insisting on. Sacrifice your own feelings to those of others, and be ever ready to help a companion out of a difficulty. You may be surprised to hear me—an old soldier and an Irishman—talking in this way; but I give you the advice, because I have seen so many act differently, and, wrapped up in intense selfishness, become utterly regardless of others,—reaping the consequences by being disliked and neglected, and finally deserted by all who were their friends. There's another point I must speak to you about, and it's a matter which weighs greatly on my mind. Example, they say, is better than precept. Now your father has set you a mighty bad example, and so have many others who have come to the castle. Don't follow it. You see the effect which his potations of rum shrub and whisky-toddy have produced on him. When I was on duty, or going on it, I never touched liquor; and no man ever lost his life from my carelessness, as I have seen the lives of many poor soldiers thrown away when their officers, being drunk, have led them into useless danger. So I say, Terence, keep clear of liquor. The habit of drinking grows on a man, and in my time I have seen it the ruin of many as fine young fellows as ever smelt powder."
I thanked my uncle, and promised as far as I could to follow his excellent advice.
As we reached the water-side, my uncle stopped, and putting one hand on my shoulder and taking mine with the other, looked me kindly in the face.
"Fare thee well, Terence, my boy," he said; "we may not again meet on earth, but wherever you go, an old man's warmest affection follows you. Be afraid of nothing but doing wrong. If your life is spared, you'll rise in the profession you have chosen, second only in my opinion to that of the army."
I stepped into the boat, and the men shoved off. My uncle stood watching me as we descended the stream. Again and again he waved his hand, and I returned his salute. He was still standing there when a bend of the river shut him out from my sight. I was too much engaged with my thoughts to listen to what the boatmen said, and I suspect they thought me either too dull or too proud to talk to them. As we pulled up on the larboard side, thinking that I was now somebody, I shouted to some men I saw looking through the ports to come down and lift my chest on board, though how that was to be done was more than I could tell. A chorus of laughs was the reply.
Presently I heard a gruff voice say, "Send a whip down there, and have that big lumber chest, or whatever it is, up on deck." My chest was quickly hauled up, and as quickly transferred by the orders of the lieutenant in charge of the watch below, before Mr Saunders' eyes had fallen on it. I mounted the side in as dignified a way as I could, saluting the flag on reaching the deck, as my uncle had told me to do.
I had recognised Tom Pim, who was ready to receive me. "You must go to the first lieutenant,—he's in the gun-room,—and say, 'Come aboard, sir,' and then when you're dismissed make your way into the berth," he said.
"But how am I to be after finding the gun-room; is it where the guns are kept?" I asked.
Tom laughed at my simplicity. "No; it's where the gun-room officers, the lieutenants and master, the doctor, and purser, and lieutenant of marines, mess. They all mess together, as do the mates, and we the midshipmen, the second master and master's assistant, the clerks and the assistant-surgeon."
"And have you no ensign?" I asked.
"No; there are none in the marines, and so we have no soldiers in our berth," he answered; "but let's come along, I'll show you the way, and then you'll be in time for dinner." We descended to the gun-room door, where Tom left me, bidding me go in and ask for the first lieutenant. I didn't see him, but one of the other officers, of whom I made inquiries, pointed me to the first lieutenant's cabin.
I knocked at the door. "Come in," answered a gruff voice. I found the lieutenant with his shirt-sleeves tucked up, he having just completed his morning ablutions, an old stocking on one fist and a needle and thread in the other, engaged in darning it.
"Come on board, sir," I said.
"Very well, youngster," he answered; "I should scarcely have known you in your present proper uniform. There's nothing like being particular as to dress. I'll see about placing you in a watch. You'll understand that you're to try and do your duty to the best of your abilities."
"Shure it's what I hope to do, sir," I answered briskly; "and I'm mighty glad you like my uniform."
"I didn't say I liked it, youngster,—I said it was proper according to the regulations. Turn round, let me see. There is room for growing, which a midshipman's uniform should have. You'll remember always to be neat and clean, and follow the example I try to set you youngsters."
"Yes, sir," I answered, my eyes falling on a huge patch which the lieutenant had on one of the knees of his trousers.
"Now you may go!" he said. "Understand that you're not to quit the ship without my leave, and that you must master the rules and regulations of the service as soon as possible, for I can receive no excuse if you infringe them."
Altogether I was pretty well satisfied with my interview with old Rough-and-Ready, and hurrying out of the gun-room I directed my course for the young gentlemen's berth, as it was called, which was some way further forward on the starboard side. I intended, after making my appearance there, to go in search of Larry, but the mulatto steward and a boy came hurrying aft along the deck with steaming dishes, which they placed on the table, and I found that the dinner was about to commence.
"Glad to see you, Paddy," said Jack Nettleship, who had already taken his place at the head of the table. "You look less like a play-actor's apprentice and more like an embryo naval officer than you did when you first came on board. Now sit down and enjoy the good things of life while you can get them. Time will come when we shall have to luxuriate on salt junk as hard as a millstone and weevilly biscuits."
Plenty of joking took place, and everybody seemed in good humour, so that I soon found myself fairly at my ease, and all I wanted to be perfectly so was to know the ways of the ship. I succeeded in producing several roars of laughter by the stories I told, not attempting to overcome my brogue, but rather the contrary, as I found it amused my auditors. When the rum was passed round, of which each person had a certain quantum, the doctor sang out to the youngsters, including Tom Pim and me, "Hold fast! it's a vara bad thing for you laddies, and I shall be having you all on the sick list before long if I allow you to take it. Pass the pernicious liquor along here."
Tom obeyed, and so did I, willingly enough, for I had tasted the stuff and thought it abominably nasty, but two or three of the other midshipmen hesitated, and some seemed inclined to revolt.
"I call on you, Nettleship, as president of the mess, to interfere," exclaimed the doctor. "What do these youngsters suppose I'm sent here for, but to watch over their morals and their health; and as I find it difficult in the one case to do my duty with the exactitude I desire, I shall take care not to neglect it in the other. There's young Chaffey there, who has stowed away enough duff to kill a bull, and now he's going to increase the evil by pouring this burning fiery liquid down his throat. Do you want to be in your grave, Jack? if not, be wise, and let the grog alone."
Chaffey, the fattest midshipman among us, looked somewhat alarmed, and quickly passed up the rum. I observed that the doctor kept it by his side, and having finished his own quantum, began to sip the portions he had forbidden the youngsters to drink. It was difficult to suppose that he was perfectly disinterested in his advice.
Being in harbour, we sat much longer than usual. At last I asked Tom if he thought I could venture to go and look out for Larry.
"Oh, yes; this is Liberty Hall," he answered.
I was going forward, when I heard my name called, and going to the spot from whence the voice came, I saw the first lieutenant standing before my chest, at which he cast a look of mingled indignation and contempt. By his side was a warrant officer, whom I heard addressed as Mr Bradawl, with a saw and chisel and hammer in hand.
"Does this huge chest belong to you?" asked old Rough-and-Ready, as I came up.
"Yes, sir," I answered; "I'm rather proud of it."
"We shall see if you continue so," he exclaimed. "Do you think we have room to stow away such a lumbering thing as this? Where's the key?"
I produced it.
"Now tumble your things out."
"But please, sir, I haven't room to pack them away. I have got this bundle, and that case, and those other things are all mine."
"Tumble them out!" cried the lieutenant, without attending to my expostulations.
I obeyed. And the carpenter began sawing away at a line which old Rough-and-Ready had chalked out not far from the keyhole. Mr Bradawl had a pretty tough job of it, for the oak was hard. The lieutenant stood by, watching the proceeding with evident satisfaction. He was showing me that a first lieutenant was all-powerful on board ship. I watched this cruel curtailment of my chest with feelings of dismay.
Having sawn it thus nearly in two, the carpenter knocked off the end of the part he had severed from the rest, and then hammered it on with several huge nails.
"Now, youngster, pick out the most requisite articles, and send the others ashore, or overboard, or anywhere, so that they're out of the ship," exclaimed the first lieutenant; saying which he turned away to attend to some other duty, leaving me wondering how I should stow the things away. Tom Pim, who had seen what was going forward, came up to my assistance; and by putting the things in carefully, and stamping them down, layer after layer, we managed to stow away more than I had conceived possible.
"I think I could find room for some of them in my chest, as we have been to sea for some time, and a good many of my own have been expended; and, I daresay, the other fellows will be equally ready to oblige you," said Tom.
I was delighted at the proposal, and hastened to accept it,—but I didn't find it quite so easy to get them back again! Tom, however, soon smelt out the cake. At first he suggested that it would be safe in his chest, but Chaffey coming by, also discovered it; and though he was most anxious to take charge of it for me, Tom, knowing very well what would be its fate, insisted on its being carried into the berth. I need hardly say that by the end of tea-time it had disappeared.
I had no difficulty in finding Larry, when I at length set forth in quest of him. The sound of his fiddle drew me to the spot, where, surrounded by a party of admiring shipmates, he was scraping away as happy as a prince. On catching sight of me, he sprang out of the circle.
"Och, Misther Terence, I'm mighty glad to see you; but shure I didn't know you at first in your new clothes. I hope you like coming to sea as much as myself. Shure it's rare fun we're having in this big ship; and is his honour the major gone home again?"
I told him that I concluded such was the case, and how pleased I was to find that he liked his life on board,—though it didn't occur to me at the time that not having as yet been put to perform any special duty, he fancied he was always to lead the idle life he had hitherto been enjoying. We were both of us doomed ere long to discover that things don't always run smoothly at sea.
The frigate was not yet ready for sea, and I had therefore time to pick up some scraps of nautical knowledge, to learn the ways of the ship, and to get a tolerable notion of my duties. I quickly mastered the rules and regulations of the service, a copy of which Jack Nettleship gave me.
"Stick by them, my lad, and you can't go wrong; if you do, it's their fault, not yours," he observed.
"But suppose I don't understand them?" I asked.
"Then you can plead in justification that they are not sufficiently clear for an ordinary comprehension," he answered. "I do when I make a mistake, and old Rough-and-Ready is always willing to receive my excuses, as he can't spell them out very easily himself, though they are his constant study day and night. Indeed, I doubt if he reads anything else, except Norie's Navigation and the Nautical Almanack?"
Nettleship showed me a copy of the former work, and kindly undertook to instruct me in the science of navigation. All day long, however, he was employed in the duties of the ship, and in the evening I was generally sleepy when it was our watch below, so that I didn't make much progress. Though I got on very well, I was guilty, I must own, of not a few blunders. I was continually going aft when I intended to be going forward, and vice versa.
The day after I came aboard I was skylarking with Tom Pim, Chaffey, and other midshipmites (as the oldsters called us), when I told them that I would hide, and that they might find me if they could. I ran up the after-ladder, when seeing a door open, I was going to bolt through it. Just then a marine, who was standing there, placed his musket to bar my way. Not wishing to be stopped, I dodged under it, turning round and saying—
"Arrah, boy! don't be after telling where I'm gone to."
The sentry, for such he was, not understanding me, seized hold of my collar.
"You mustn't be going in there, whoever you are," he said in a gruff tone.
"I'm a midshipman of this ship, and have a right to go wherever I like, I'm after thinking," I said, trying to shake myself clear of his grasp. "Hush, now; be pleasant, will ye, and do as I order you!"
"I shouldn't be finding it very pleasant if I was to break through the rules and regulations of the service," he answered. "Now go forward, young gentleman, and don't be attempting to playing any of your tricks on me."
"I'm your officer, and I order you not to interfere with me, or say where I'm gone," I exclaimed.
"I obey no orders except from my own lieutenant or the captain and the lieutenants of the ship," answered the sturdy marine. "You can't go into the captain's cabin while I'm standing here as sentry;" and he proceeded to use more force than was agreeable to my dignity.
"Shure you're an impudent fellow to behave so to an officer," I exclaimed; at which the sentry laughed, and said—
"Off with you, Master Jackanapes, and consider yourself fortunate that worse hasn't come of your larking."
Trying to look dignified I answered—
"You're an impudent fellow, and I shall make known your conduct to your superiors. I know your name, my fine fellow, so you'll not get off." I had observed his name, as I thought, on his musket.
Just then Tom Pim popped his head above the hatchway, and I, finding that I was discovered, made chase after him. He quickly distanced me; and as I was rushing blindly along, I ran my head right into the stomach of old Rough-and-Ready, who, as ill-luck would have it, was on his way round the lower deck. I nearly upset him, and completely upset myself.
"Shure, sir, I never intended to behave so rudely," I said, as, picking myself up, I discovered whom I had encountered.
"Go to the masthead, and stay there till I call you down," thundered the lieutenant, rubbing the part of his body I had assaulted.
"Please, sir, I had no intention in the world of running against you," I said, trying to look humble, but feeling much inclined to laugh at the comical expression of his countenance.
"Look to the rules and regulations of the service, where all inferiors are ordered to pay implicit obedience to their superiors," cried Mr Saunders. "To the masthead with you."
"If you please, sir, I should be happy to do that same if I knew the way; but I haven't been up there yet, as the men have been painting the rigging with some black stuff, and I should be after spoiling my new uniform," I answered.
"Go to the masthead," again shouted the first lieutenant; "and you, Pim, go and show him the way," he exclaimed, catching sight of Tom Pim, who was grinning at me from the other side of the deck.
Tom well knew that it was against the rules and regulations of the service to expostulate; therefore, saying, "Come along, Paddy," he led the way on deck.
"Do as I do," he said, as he began to mount the rigging. "Just hold on with your hands and feet, and don't let the rest of your body touch the rattlings or shrouds, and don't be letting go with one hand till you have got fast hold with the other."
Up he went, and I followed. He was nimble as a monkey, so I had difficulty in keeping pace with him. Looking up, I saw him with his back almost horizontal above me, going along the futtock shrouds to get into the top. These are the shrouds which run from the side of the mast to the outer side of the top, and consequently a person going along them has his face to the sky and his back to the deck. Tom was over them in a moment, and out of sight. I didn't like the look of things, but did my best; and though he stood ready to give me a helping hand into the top, I got round without assistance. We now had to ascend the topmost rigging to the cross-trees, where we were to stay till called down. This was a comparatively easy matter, and as I didn't once cast my eyes below I felt no giddiness. Tom seated himself as if perfectly at home, and bade me cross my legs on the other side of the mast.
"It's lucky for you, Paddy, that you are able to gain your experience while the ship is in harbour and as steady as a church steeple. It would be a different matter if she were rolling away across the Bay of Biscay with a strong breeze right aft; so you ought to be duly thankful to old Saunders for mastheading you without waiting till we get there. And now I'd advise you to have a look at the rules and regulations of the service. It will please old Rough-and-Ready if you can tell him you have employed your time up here studying them, but don't forget you are up here, and go tumbling down on deck."
I was very well disposed to follow Tom's advice, and I held tight on with one hand while I pulled the paper out of my pocket and read a page or two relating to obedience to superiors. Having thus relieved my conscience, I took a look round at the beautiful panorama in the midst of which the ship floated: the wooded banks, the magnificent harbour dotted over with numerous vessels; ships of war and merchantmen,—the latter waiting for convoy,—while among the former was the admiral's flag-ship riding proudly, surrounded by the smaller fry. The pretty town of Cove, with neat houses and villas on the one side, and the mouth of the river Lee, running down from Cork, to the westward.
Sooner than we expected we heard old Rough-and-Ready's voice summoning us down. He was not an ill-natured man. He knew well that my fault had been unintentional, and that Tom had certainly not deserved any punishment at all, for grinning at a brother midshipman in his presence could scarcely be considered disrespectful.
"You may go through the lubber's hole," said Tom, when we reached the top.
"No, no. If you go round, I'll go to," I answered. For being thus put on my mettle, I determined to do whatever he did. By holding fast with my feet and following him, I managed to put them on the rattlings underneath, and thus, though I didn't like it at all, got down on to the main rigging.
"Next time you run along the deck, youngster, you'll look where you're going," said the first lieutenant, when I reached the deck.
"Ay, ay, sir," I said, touching my hat.
"Did you read the rules and regulations?" he asked.
"Yes, sir," I answered; "though I hadn't time to get through them all."
He was pleased with the respect I paid him.
"Well, you'll know them by heart soon; and to ensure that, remember to take them with you whenever you're mastheaded."
"Of course, sir, if you wish it," I answered.
He gave a comical look at me under his bushy eyebrows, and turned on his heel.
After this I accompanied Tom into the berth. Old Nettleship was there. I told him of the way the marine had behaved, and said that for the sake of keeping up the dignity of the midshipmen, I considered it necessary to make his conduct known, though I had no ill-feeling towards the man himself.
At this remark the old mate burst into a hearty fit of laughter.
"Midshipmen generally find it necessary to carry their dignity in their pockets; and I'd advise you, Paddy, to put yours there, though I approve of your spirit. The man will have been relieved some time ago, and you'll find it difficult to recognise him among others."
"Oh! I know his name—it was Tower," I said in a tone of confidence.
At this there was a general roar of laughter.
"According to your notion all the jollies are Towers," cried Nettleship, when he regained his voice. "Why, Paddy, the muskets are all marked with the name of the Tower of London, where the arms are stored before they are served out."
"Shure how should I know anything about the Tower of London?" I asked. "I'm after thinking it's a poor place compared with Castle Ballinahone."
This remark produced another roar of laughter from my messmates.
"What are you after laughing at? I exclaimed. If any of you will honour us with a visit at Castle Ballinahone, you'll be able to compare the two places, and my father and mother, and brothers and sisters, will be mighty plaised to see you."
The invitation was at once accepted by all hands, though for the present my family were pretty safe from the chances of an inundation of nautical heroes.
"And what sort of girls are your sisters?" asked Sims, who, I had discovered, was always ready for some impudence.
"Shure they're Irish young ladies, and that's all I intend to say about them," I answered, giving him a look which made him hold his tongue.
Still, in spite of the bantering I received, I got on wonderfully well with my new messmates; and though I had a fight now and then, I generally, being older than many of them, and stronger than others who had been some time at sea, came off victorious; and as I was always ready to befriend, and never bullied, my weaker messmates, I was on very good terms with all of them.
Tom Pim took a liking to me from the first, and though he didn't require my protection, I felt ready to afford it him on all occasions. He was sometimes quizzed by Sims and others for his small size. "I don't mind it," he answered. "Though I'm little, I'm good. If I've a chance, I'll do something to show what's in me." The chance came sooner than he expected. There were a good many raw hands lately entered, Larry among others. From the first he showed no fear of going aloft, looking upon the business much as he would have done climbing a high tree; but how the ropes were rove, and what were their uses, he naturally had no conception. "Is it to the end of them long boughs there I've got to go, Misther Terence?" he asked the first time he was ordered aloft, looking up at the yards as he encountered me, I having been sent forward with an order to the third lieutenant.
"There's no doubt about it, Larry," I said; "but take care you catch hold of one rope before you let go of the other," said I, giving him the same advice which I had myself received.
"Shure I'll be after doing that same, Misther Terence," he answered, as, following the example of the other men, he sprang into the rigging. I watched him going up as long as I could, and he seemed to be getting on capitally, exactly imitating the movements of the other men.
A day or two afterwards we were all on deck, the men exercising in reefing and furling sails. The new hands were ordered to lay out on the yards, and a few of the older ones to show them what to do. Larry obeyed with alacrity; no one would have supposed that he had been only a few times before aloft. I had to return to the quarter-deck, where I was standing with Tom Pim, and we were remarking the activity displayed by the men. I saw Larry on the starboard fore-topsail yard-arm, and had just left Tom, being sent with a message to the gun-room, when, as my head was flush with the hatchway, I saw an object drop from the yard-arm into the water. It looked more like a large ball falling than a human being, and it didn't occur to me that it was the latter until I heard the cry of "Man overboard!" Hastening up again, I sprang into the mizzen rigging, from which, just before I got there, Tom Pim had plunged off into the water. It was ebb tide, and a strong current was running out of the river Lee past the ship. The man who had fallen had not sunk, but was fast drifting astern, and seemed unconscious, for he was not struggling, lying like a log on the water. Tom Pim, with rapid strokes, was swimming after him. I heard the order given to lower a boat. Though not a great swimmer, I was about to follow Tom to try and help him, when a strong arm held me back.
"Are you a good swimmer, youngster?" asked the first lieutenant, the person who had seized hold of me.
"Not very," I answered.
"Then stay aboard, or we shall be having to pick you up instead of saving the man who fell overboard. I know Pim well; he'll take care of himself."
Saying this, the lieutenant stepped in on deck again, taking me with him. While he superintended the lowering of the boat, I ran aft, and watched Tom and the drowning man. Just then I caught sight of the countenance of the latter, and to my dismay, I saw that he was no other than Larry Harrigan. The boats usually employed were away, and the one now lowered was not in general use, and consequently had in her all sorts of things which should not have been there. It appeared a long time before she was in the water. I watched my poor foster-brother with intense anxiety, expecting to see him go down before Tom could reach him. He was on the point of sinking when my gallant little messmate got up to him, and throwing himself on his back, placed Larry's head on his own breast, so as completely to keep it out of the water. My fear was that Larry might come to himself and begin to struggle or get hold of Tom, which might be fatal to both. They were drifting farther and farther away from the ship. Tom had not uttered one cry for help, evidently being confident that the boat would be sent to pick them up. Every movement of his showed that he was calm, and knew perfectly what he was about. At length the boat was got into the water, the first lieutenant and four hands jumped into her, and away the men pulled as fast as they could lay their backs to the oars. It was blowing fresh, and there was a good deal of ripple in the harbour, so that the wavelets every now and then washed over Tom. Suddenly Larry, coming to himself, did what I feared; he seized hold of Tom, and in another instant would have dragged him down had not Tom dexterously got clear and held him up by the collar of his shirt. The boat was quickly up to them, and they were, to my intense satisfaction, safely hauled on board. She then rapidly pulled back to the ship, and both greatly exhausted, Larry being scarcely conscious, were lifted up on deck. McPherson, the assistant-surgeon, who had been summoned at once, ordered Tom to be taken below.
"Never mind me," said Tom. "I shall be all to rights presently, when I've changed and had a cup of grog. You'll let me have that, won't you, McPherson? And now you go and attend to the poor fellow who wants you more than I do."
"Vara true; he ought, from the way he fell, to have broken every bone in his body; and it's wonderful he did not do it. He seems, indeed, not to be much the worse for his fall, except a slight paralysis," he remarked when he had finished his examination. "Take him down to the sick bay, and I'll treat him as he requires."
I first went below to thank Tom Pim for saving my follower, and to express my admiration of his courage and resolution.
"Oh, it's nothing," he answered; "I can swim better than you, or you'd have done the same."
I then went forward, where I found Larry—his wet clothes stripped off— between the blankets, in a hammock.
The doctor administered a stimulant, and directed that he should be rubbed on the side on which he had fallen.
"Shure that's a brave young gentleman to save me from going to the bottom, Misther Terence dear; and I'll be mighty grateful to him as long as I live," he said to me.
Having spent some time with Larry, who was ordered to remain in his hammock, I returned to the midshipmen's berth.
All were loud in their praises of Tom. Tom received them very modestly, and said that though he felt very glad at being able to save the poor fellow, he didn't see anything to be especially proud of in what he had done.
By the next morning Larry was almost well, only complaining of a little stiffness in one side of the body.
"He may thank his stars for being an Irishman," said McPherson; "no ordinary mortal could have fallen from aloft as he did, into the water, without breaking his bones, or being stunned."
Larry could scarcely believe that it was little Tom Pim who had saved him from drowning.
"Shure, young gintleman, I'll be after lovin' ye, and fightin' for ye, and seein' that no harm comes to ye, all the days of my life!" he exclaimed, the first time he met Tom afterwards on deck. "I'm mighty grateful to ye, sir, that I am."
I was very sure that Larry meant what he said, and, should opportunity offer, would carry out his intentions.
We were seated talking in the berth after tea, when old Nettleship was sent for into the cabin. There were many surmises as to what the captain wanted him for. After some time, to my surprise, I was summoned. I found it was only Nettleship that wanted to see me on deck.
"Paddy," he said, "we are to have an expedition on shore, and you are wanted to take part in it, and so is your countryman, Larry Harrigan. The captain, Mr Saunders, and I have planned it. We want some more hands, and we hear that there are a goodish lot hiding away in the town. They are waiting till the men-of-war put to sea, when they think that they will be safe. They are in the hands of some cunning fellows, and it'll be no easy matter to trap them unless we can manage to play them a trick. I can't say that I like particularly doing what we propose, but we're bound to sacrifice our own feelings for the good of the service."
"What is it?" I asked. "Of course I should be proud to be employed in anything for the good of the service."
"All right, Paddy; that's the spirit which should animate you. Now listen. Mr Saunders and I are going on shore with a strong party of well-armed men, and we want you and the boy Harrigan—or rather, the captain wants you, for remember he gives the order—to go first and pretend that you have run away from a man-of-war, and want to be kept in hiding till she has sailed. You, of course, are to dress up as seamen in old clothes—the more disreputable and dirty you look the better. We know the houses where the men are stowed away, in the lowest slums of Cork, and we can direct you to them. You're to get into the confidence of the men, and learn what they intend doing; when you've gained that, you're to tell them that one of the lieutenants of your ship is going on shore with a small party of men, to try and press anybody he can find, and that you don't think he knows much about the business, as he is a stupid Englishman, and advise them to lie snug where they are. Then either you or Harrigan can offer to creep out and try and ascertain in what direction the press-gang is going. There are several houses together, with passages leading from one to the other, so that if we get into one, the men are sure to bolt off into another; and it must be your business to see where they go, and Harrigan must shut the door to prevent their escape, or open it to let us in. I now only describe the outlines of our plan. I'll give you more particulars as we pull up the river. We shall remain at Passage till after dark, and you and your companion in the meanwhile must make your way into the town."
"But shure won't I be after telling a lie if I say that Larry and I are runaway ship-boys?" I asked.
"Hush, that's a strong expression. Remember that it's all for the good of the service," said Nettleship.
Still I was not altogether satisfied that the part I was about to play was altogether an honourable one.
He, however, argued the point with me, acknowledging that he himself didn't think so, but that we were bound to put our private feelings into our pockets when the good of the service required it. He now told me to go and speak to Larry, but on no account to let any one hear me, lest the expedition might get wind among the bumboat women, who would be sure to convey it on shore.
To my surprise, Larry was perfectly prepared to undertake the duty imposed on him, feeling flattered at being employed, and taking rather a pleasure at the thoughts of having to entrap some of our countrymen.
"They may grumble a little at first, but they'll be a mighty deal better off on board ship than digging praties, or sailing in one of those little craft out there," he said, with a look of contempt at the merchant vessels.
Mr Saunders took me into his cabin, and made me rig out in a suit of clothes supplied by the purser. I had to rub my hair about till it was like a mop; then, with some charcoal and a mixture of some sort, he daubed my face over in such a way that I didn't know myself when I looked in his shaving-glass.
"You'll do, Paddy," said Nettleship when he saw me. "We must be giving a touch or two to Harrigan. He seems a sharp fellow, and will play his part well, I have no doubt."
In a short time the boats were ready. We went with Mr Saunders and Nettleship in the pinnace. She was accompanied by the jolly-boat, which it was intended should convey Larry and me into the neighbourhood of the town. We were, however, not to go on board her until we reached Passage. The crew gave way, and as the tide was in our favour we got along rapidly. I found that the expedition we were engaged in was a hazardous one, especially for Larry and me; for should the men we were in search of discover who we were, they might treat us as spies, and either knock our brains out, or stow us away in some place from which we should not be likely to make our escape. This, however, rather enhanced the interest I began to feel in it, and recompensed me for its doubtful character.
Neither Mr Saunders nor Nettleship looked in the slightest degree like officers of the Royal Navy. They were dressed in Flushing coats; the lieutenant in a battered old sou'-wester, with a red woollen comforter round his throat; Nettleship had on an equally ancient-looking tarpaulin, and both wore high-boots, long unacquainted with blacking. They carried stout cudgels in their hands, their hangers and pistols being concealed under their coats. In about an hour and a half we reached Passage, when Nettleship and Larry and I got into the jolly-boat.
"I'm going with you," said Nettleship, "that I may direct you to the scene of operations, and am to wait for Mr Saunders at the 'Fox and Goose,'—a small public-house, the master of which knows our object and can be trusted."
Nettleship, as we pulled away, minutely described over and over again what Larry and I were to do, so that I thought there was no chance of our making any mistake, provided matters went as he expected. It was dark by the time we reached Cork. The boat pulled into the landing-place, and Larry and I, with two of the men, went ashore, and strolled lazily along a short distance, looking about us. This we did in case we should be observed; but on reaching the corner, Larry and I, as we had been directed, set off running, when the two men returned to the boat, which was to go to another landing-place a little way higher up, whence Nettleship and his party were to proceed to our rendezvous. When we had got a little distance we pulled up, and to be certain that we had made no mistake, we inquired the name of the street of a passer-by. We found that we were all right. We now proceeded stealthily along to the lane where Mother McCleary's whisky-shop was situated. I had no difficulty in recognising the old woman, as she had been well described to me. Her stout slatternly figure, her bleared eyes, her grog-blossomed nose,—anything but a beauty to look at. Her proceedings were not beautiful either. Going to the end of the counter where she was standing, I tipped her a wink.
"Hist, mither! Can yer be after taking care of two poor boys for a night or so?" I asked.
"Where do yer come from?" she inquired, eyeing us.
"Shure it's from the say," answered Larry, who had undertaken to be chief spokesman. "We've just run away from a thundering big king's ship, and don't want to go back again."
"Why for?" asked the old woman.
"For fear of a big baste of a cat which may chance to score our backs, if she doesn't treat us worse than that."
"That's a big thundering lie," I heard Larry whisper.
"Come in," said the old woman, lifting up the flap of the counter. "I'll house yer if yer can pay for yer board and lodging."
"No fear of that, ma'am," I replied, showing some silver which I had ready in my pocket for the purpose.
"Come along, my boys," she answered, her eyes twinkling at the thought of being able to fleece us, as she led us into a small room at the back of the shop.
There was no one else in the place at the time, except a boy attending to the counter, so that there was little chance of our being observed. Having lit a small lantern, the old woman drew aside a curtain at the further end of the room, which had served to conceal a strong-looking door; then taking a big key out of her pocket, she opened it, and told us to go through. Carefully closing the door behind her, she led the way along a narrow dark passage. It seemed of considerable length. At last we reached another door, and emerged into a court or alley, crossing which she opened a third door, and told us to pass through. We obeyed, and followed her past a couple of rooms, in one of which several men were sitting, drinking and smoking. Unlocking another door, she showed us into a much larger apartment than any we had as yet seen. Though low, it was spacious enough to be called a hall I took in the appearance of the place at a glance. On one side was a recess with a counter before it, at which a couple of damsels were serving out liquors and various sorts of provisions. At the further end, four large casks supported some planks which served as a platform, and on this a chair was placed,—the seat being evidently for a musician. Three doors besides the one by which we had entered opened from the room, which was occupied by a dozen or more rough-looking men, mostly sailors. Some were standing at the counter, others lounging on benches round the walls, most of them having dhudeens in their mouths. The place was redolent with the fumes of whisky and tobacco. No one took notice of us as we entered, but, seeing Mother McCleary, seemed satisfied that all was right.
"You'll find a stair through that doorway," she said, pointing to one near the orchestra, if so it could be called; "it will lead you to the sleeping-room, where you'll be after finding some beds. You'll remember that first come first served, and if you don't be tumbling into one it will be your own fault, and you'll have to prick for the softest plank in the corner of the room. Now, boys, you'll be after handing me out a couple of shillings each. I don't give credit, except to those I happen to know better than I do you."
I paid the money at once for Larry and myself. The old woman, bidding us make ourselves at home, returned by the way she had come, locking the door behind her. I soon found that we were among as ruffianly and disreputable a set of fellows as I had ever fallen in with, but none of them interfered with us, and I began to doubt whether we should obtain the information we were in search of. To try to get into conversation with some one, we walked up to the counter, took a pork pie apiece, and called for a glass of whisky, which we prudently mixed with plenty of water. "Don't be drinking much of it," I said to Larry, "it's as hot as fire."
Two seamen then came up, and I asked one of them when the fun was to begin. Arrah, then it'll be before long, when Tim Curtin, the fiddler, has come to himself; but he's been drunk all the blessed morning, since last night, and they're dousing him outside with cold water to bring him to. My new acquaintance being evidently inclined to be communicative, I plied him with further questions, and I gained his confidence by calling for another glass of whisky, with which I insisted on treating him. I, however, let Larry carry on the chief part of the conversation.
"If you've run from a man-of-war, you'll have to lie snug as mice in their holes till she sails, or there's three dozen at least for each of you, if they don't run you up at the yard-arm, as they did at Portsmouth the other day to a poor boy, just because he wanted to go home to his wife and family," said the man.
This, though a fact as far as the hanging was concerned, I hadn't heard of before. Larry didn't show that he doubted the truth of the story, but pretended to be very frightened.
"Thin what should we be after doing?" he asked.
"Why, as I tell yer," he said, keep close; "you'll be wise not to show your noses out of doors for a week or two to come, if you've got money enough to pay old Mother McCleary, for she doesn't keep us boys for nothing, you may stake yer davey."
"What should we be after doing, then, supposing the press-gang were to come down upon us and find us out?" asked Larry.
"It will be at the end of a long day before the press-gang get in here; but see now, there's a room overhead where you can sleep secure, either in bed or out of it. Then there's that door in the middle of the room, that leads to a long passage, just like the one you passed through when you came in here. At the end of it there's a court, and on the opposite side you'll find a door. Go through that when it opens, which it will do when you have given three raps quick together, and you'll be in a house with well-nigh as many rooms and cellars as there's days in the month. It will be a hard matter if you don't stow yourselves away out of sight in one of them. I'll be after showing you the way by and by, when the dancing is over, and we've had a few more glasses of Mother McCleary's whisky."
While our friend, whose name we had not as yet learned, was speaking, I observed several more persons entering the room; and presently others came in, carrying among them a humpbacked little fellow, with a fiddle under his arm, who seemed scarcely able to walk by himself. They made their way to the platform I have described, and speedily lifted him into the chair.
"Strike up, Tim," cried several voices. "Give us a tune to set our feet agoing. Be alive, man, if you know now where you are."
Tim, though apparently half-asleep, put his fiddle to his chin, and began scraping away, nodding his head and stamping with his foot in time to the tune he was eliciting from his instrument. The effect was magical. The whole party, men and women,—there were not a few of the latter, not among the most refined of their sex,—began dancing jigs. Tim next played slower, but his speed increased again as he saw the dancers warming to their work, till his bow moved so rapidly over the strings of his fiddle, and his arm and his head gave such eccentric jerks, that I half expected at any moment to see the one fly off at a tangent and the other come bounding into the middle of the room. Larry and I kept on one side, trying to look greatly interested with the performance, while we managed to have a few words now and then with some of the men, who were either seated on the benches or standing against the wall. Among them were several who had not the appearance of seamen, and who, I surmised, were highwaymen or housebreakers. Two of them were especially ruffianly looking. As I examined the countenance of one of these, I felt convinced that I had seen it before, and not long ago either. I was careful, however, that he should not discover that I was observing him. I took an opportunity of asking Larry if he knew who the man was.
"Shure it's no other than Dan Hoolan himself," he answered. I fancied that at length his keen eyes were directed on Larry, whom he was more likely to recognise than me, seeing that I was the most completely disguised of the two.
At length, having gained all the information we could, I determined to try and get out of the place, so that I might make my way to Nettleship, and show him the best situation for posting his men to capture any who might attempt to escape. It had been arranged that Nettleship's party was to enter the grog-shop one by one; then, at a signal, force their way along the passage through which Mother McCleary had led us.
"I'm mighty afraid the press-gang will be coming this way, and if this hullaballoo reaches their ears, they'll be after putting their noses in to see what the fun is about. If they're from our own ship, bedad, we shall be worse off than we would have been outside," I said to our new acquaintance, who, by this time, was not quite steady on his pins. "I'd just like to slip away, and try and find out if they're near this at all. My mate here is plaised to stay behind, as he's mighty eager to dance himself."
After further pressing the point with all necessary caution, our new friend, Barney Reillagan, as he called himself, offered to show me the way out, and to let me in again when I wished to return.
"You're free of the place, I'm supposing; and shure I am that I may be after trusting you," he observed as he accompanied me into the passage I spoke of.
I hoped that we were unobserved by Hoolan or any of the other men, who might have suspicions of my true character. Larry followed so noiselessly, that I do not think Barney was aware he was with us. Larry's object was to see that no harm came to me; and besides which, he wanted to learn how to let me in again on my return. Barney himself was apparently an open-hearted seaman, who preferred serving on board a peaceable trader to a man-of-war, and I had no fear of his playing me false.
We had to grope our way to the end of the passage, which was as long as he had described. Unbolting a door, Barney led me out into a narrow court. I could hear even there the strains of the riddle, and the shouts and screams of the dancers. Barney told me that if I turned to the left I should come to a narrow archway, which led into the lane, and that by turning again to the left, I should come to the front of Mother McCleary's whisky-shop.
This information was sufficient to enable me to find my way without difficulty. I was somewhat surprised at the ease with which I had made my escape. I had little doubt of being able to bring Nettleship and his men up to the right place. My only anxiety was about Larry, who, if recognised by Dan Hoolan, might be severely handled, if not killed,—for so determined a ruffian was not likely to hesitate in committing any act, however atrocious, should he suspect Larry of treachery.
I slipped out into the court, and Barney closed the door after me. The night was very dark; but I could see two or three shadowy forms flitting by, though no one stopped me. Now and then a ruffian voice, a wild shriek, or a child's cry, came from the narrow windows looking into the court. I walked on as fast as I could venture to move, till I found the narrow archway which Barney had described, and emerged into a lane, which, however, was not much broader than the court. Here the sounds of wrangling voices, and shouts, and the drunkards' wild songs, broke the stillness of night. A few men rolled by, who had come out of Mother McCleary's whisky-shop, or other similar establishments; but I carefully kept out of their way till I arrived at the "Fox and Goose," where I expected to find Nettleship. It hadn't occurred to me, however, that I might have been followed, and our plan for trapping the seamen discovered. I at once entered, and found my messmate with his men ready to set out.
"You've been longer than I expected, Paddy; but I hope it's all right," he said.
"If we are quick about it, I expect we shall catch a good number," I answered. "Where is Mr Saunders? We shall require a strong party to overpower the fellows, especially as there are some desperate ruffians among them;" and I told him how I had discovered the outlaw, Dan Hoolan.
"Mr Saunders is waiting just outside, round the corner," he said. "I'll go out and tell him that you have come back, and meanwhile you remain here."
In a short time Nettleship returned.
"You are to accompany Mr Saunders," he said, "and lead his party round to the court, while I and my men take charge of Mother McCleary, so that no one may escape on this side."
Mr Saunders welcomed me in a good-natured voice.
"You have done well thus far, my lad. I've no doubt that we shall trap some of them," he said, when I had given a description of the place and the characters it contained. "I have got hold of a man who knows the town, and will lead us round by a different way to the court to that by which you escaped, while Nettleship goes directly up the lane," he added. "Come along!"
We set out at a rapid rate; the men being charged to make as little noise with their feet as possible. We must have gone a considerable way round, for it seemed a long while before we reached the archway, which I at once recognised. The lieutenant led, with a pistol in one hand and his hanger in the other, knowing that he was likely to be treated with scant ceremony should he encounter any of the residents of that neighbourhood.
"Now," he said to me, stopping, "do you creep forward and learn if Harrigan is at the door ready to open it. If not, wait to get in yourself, and then take the first opportunity of admitting us. If you can't get in we must try and force the door open, but it would be a great matter to get along the passage, so as to rush in upon the fellows while they are at their revels, and before they expect our approach."
As he spoke we could hear the sound of Tim Curtin's fiddle, and the hum of voices coming from the interior of the building. Our fear was that any of the inmates of the neighbouring dens might be awake, and, catching sight of us, might give the alarm, and allow the men time to escape. As far as I had learned, however, the door we were now watching and Mother McCleary's whisky-shop were the only outlets, though there might be underground passages and cellars and holes, where, should they stow themselves away, we might find it difficult to discover them.
As I crept forward, I felt my heart beating more than it was wont to do,—not from fear, certainly, but from anxiety to succeed. I didn't like the business; I considered it a dirty one; but I was acting according to my orders, and for the good of the service. I had been told to give three rapid knocks, followed by others at short intervals, at the opposite door, and I concluded that this would be opened should I make the same signal. Without loss of a moment I knocked, and presently I heard a bolt withdrawn, then another and another.
"Is that yourself?" asked a voice that I knew to be Larry's.
"Yes, to be shure, and no other," I answered in the same tone.
The door opened slightly.
"They're suspecting me," said Larry. Be quick.
Mr Saunders, who was on the watch, hearing this, dashed forward, followed by his men. They sprang, led by the lieutenant, one after the other, into the passage, nearly knocking Larry and me over. There was not a moment to be lost, we knew, for the door at the further end was closed with a loud slam before we reached it, but not being as strong as the one on the outside, it was quickly battered in, when we caught sight of a dozen or more fellows, some trying to escape up-stairs, others through the two passages I have mentioned. Three or four of the men, however, stood their ground in front of the passage leading to the whisky-shop, with hangers or pistols in their hands, which they apparently had just taken up from the corner of the room where they had deposited them. Among these I recognised Dan Hoolan. Bestowing a not very complimentary epithet on Larry and me, he flourished his hanger and dared any one to come on and touch him.
"I and my friends here are not seamen," he exclaimed. "You're after trying to press some of the poor fellows, I suppose; but if any man tries to lay hands on me, he'll be wise to say his prayers before he begins."
"I intend to lay hands on you, and every fellow I find here," said Mr Saunders. "Drop your hanger, or you'll have to repent the day you drew it."
Hoolan answered with a scornful laugh, and made a blow at the lieutenant, who, however, parried it.
At that moment the door behind him was burst open, and in rushed Nettleship and his party, who threw themselves at once upon Hoolan. The outlaw fired his pistol at my head, but fortunately his arm was thrown up, and the ball struck the ceiling. His men, seeing their leader overpowered, made but little resistance. But we had not yet got the men whose capture was desired. Mr Saunders, leaving Nettleship to secure those below, followed Larry and me up the stairs.
In the meantime the female part of the assemblage, some of whom had retired to different parts of the room, were saluting us with the most fearful cries and execrations. The lieutenant, however, took no more notice of them than if they had been so many lambs bleating, and at once hurried up the stairs to the room above, where we found well-nigh a score of men, some trying to make their way out of the window, but which, having been closed, they had only just then succeeded in opening; others hiding inside the beds or under them. Three or four got away, but the remainder were knocked over by our men, or captured without resistance, scarcely any attempting to defend themselves. Our success had been as complete as could have been hoped for. Our captives were quickly dragged down the stairs, when Mr Saunders ordered the women to clear out of the house forthwith, and proceeded to lash the hands of the men behind their backs. It was very easy to give the order to the women, but not so easy to get it obeyed. They shrieked and abused us in a way in which few of the female sex can beat the lower orders of my countrywomen. At length, however, finding that their eloquence had no effect, they retreated through the door that we had left open. It turned out that the means of escape were not so elaborate as had been supposed, and, as far as we could learn, all the men in the neighbourhood had on this occasion collected at Mother McCleary's. Most of those we had captured behaved quietly enough, but Hoolan and two or three others made violent efforts to escape, till a prog or two from a cutlass compelled them to be quiet.
"And what are you going to do with me, a landsman who never was to sea in his life?" exclaimed Hoolan.
"We shall turn you into a sailor before long, my fine fellow," answered Mr Saunders. "You'll be wiser to walk along, and quietly too, as we've no time for nonsense."
Our prisoners were now marshalled, in most cases with a seaman to attend to each. Hoolan had two to look after him, though one guard sufficed for some of the more peaceably disposed. Nettleship led the way, and Mr Saunders and I brought up the rear, Larry being employed in guarding a fellow twice his size, with orders to cut him down if he made any resistance.
"We must be out of this as fast as we can," said Mr Saunders to me, "for very likely those fellows who made their escape will rouse their friends, and we may have a mob of all the ruffians in the town upon us before we can reach the boats."
What had become of Mother McCleary and her assistants we could not tell. She probably thought it wise to keep out of the way, lest any of her late guests might suspect her of betraying them, as she probably had done. We had not got more than half-way towards the boats, when our ears were saluted by a chorus of yells and shrieks, and we could distinguish through the gloom on either side of us a mass of human beings, apparently intending to attempt the rescue of our prisoners.
"I warn you, good people, that if you come nearer, I'll give my men orders to fire on you," shouted my lieutenant.
A volley of wild yells burst from the mob, sufficient to unnerve many who had not before heard such cries. Directly afterwards a brickbat flew past my head, aimed, no doubt, at the more prominent figure of the lieutenant. Fortunately, it missed us both.
"Remember, if any of you are killed, you'll have brought the punishment on yourselves," again shouted the lieutenant.
Though the people yelled as before, the warning had its effect, and we could see the dark moving mass retreating to a more respectful distance. They, apparently, only wanted a leader to make an onslaught. That leader, however, was not to be found. Had Hoolan been at liberty, I have no doubt but that we should have fared but ill. As it was, missiles from a distance came flying by us, though the prisoners suffered more than we did. Mr Saunders was naturally anxious to avoid bloodshed. At length the boats were reached. Again Hoolan made a desperate effort to get free, but he was hauled on board, and thrust down to the bottom of the pinnace, the rest of the men being disposed of, some in her, and others in the jolly-boat, of which Nettleship took charge. As we shoved off the people collected on the quay, saluting us with renewed yells and execrations, and brickbats, stones, mud, and filth were hurled at us. We speedily, however, got beyond their reach, no one receiving any serious damage.
"We've made a fine haul," observed Mr Saunders as we pulled down the river. "We shall soon turn these fellows into good seamen, as obedient and quiet as lambs."
"I'm thinking, sir, that you'll not find Dan Hoolan as quiet as a lamb," I observed; and I told him of the encounter my uncle and I had had with the outlaw and his followers.
"That'll make no difference," answered Mr Saunders. "When he finds that he can't escape, if he's got any sense in his brains he'll bend to circumstances."
I still, however, doubted whether my lieutenant's opinion would prove right.
When the boats arrived alongside the frigate, our captives, being unable to help themselves, were hoisted up like bales of goods, and made to stand on the deck in a line. They all looked sulky enough as the lantern was held up to their faces; but Hoolan's countenance wore a ferocious aspect, which made me think that it would have been as well to have left him on shore to be hanged, which in all probability would ultimately have been his fate. Mr Saunders had changed his rough dress for his proper uniform, and as he went round to inspect the prisoners Hoolan recognised him, and so savage did he look that I thought he would have sprung at his throat.
"Are you the captain of the ship?" he asked in a fierce tone.
"No, I'm not the captain, but an officer, who you'll be compelled to obey," answered Mr Saunders, interrupting him. "Keep down what was rising to your tongue, or it'll be the worse for you."
"I'm no seaman, and I don't want to be after going to sea; and I beg you to tell me for what reason you knocked me down against the law?"
"You were found among seamen, and if you're not one we'll make you one before long, my fine fellow," said the lieutenant.
"Arrah, it'll be a hard matter to do that same," cried Hoolan, but he spoke in a less savage tone than at first.
"We shall see to that," said Mr Saunders as he passed on to the other men, most of whom appeared quiet enough. Even Hoolan's followers didn't venture to say anything, having a just conception of the stern discipline on board a man-of-war. The execution of one or more seamen for frequent desertion, of which I have before spoken, showed them that they could not venture to play tricks with impunity.
Having had their names,—or such as they chose to give,—ages, and other particulars entered, they were sent down to the main-deck under a strong guard, with a hint that should they exhibit the slightest degree of insubordination it would be the worse for them.
The light of a lantern happened to fall on my face while I was passing Hoolan, who, with the rest, were seated on the deck, where they were to pass the remainder of the night. He started up, and glaring savagely at me, with a fierce oath exclaimed, as he stretched out his arm—
"There's one of the young traitors who brought us into this trouble. I wish we had strung you up to Saint Bridget's oak when we had you and your uncle in our power."
"Then, as I thought, you are Dan Hoolan," I said. "You have now a chance of leading an honest life, and I'd advise you to take advantage of it."
Hoolan, without replying, sank back on the deck.
I was glad enough to turn in, and slept soundly till the hammocks were piped up next morning.
On coming on deck I saw Blue Peter flying at the masthead of our own ship, and at those of the two other men-of-war, a frigate and a corvette, and of all the merchantmen. The admiral fired a signal-gun. We repeated it, and before the smoke had cleared away the merchantmen let fall their topsails, we setting them the example; the anchor was hove up to the merry sound of the fife, and, taking the lead, we stood out of the Cove of Cork with a fair breeze, the other frigate and corvette acting as whippers-in.
The sky was clear and the sea smooth. We hove-to outside to wait for the vessels we were to convoy. In half an hour or so they were all out of the harbour. Besides the men-of-war there were fully sixty merchantmen; and a beautiful sight they presented, dotting the blue ocean with their white sails.
We were bound out to Jamaica, where we were to leave the larger number of vessels, and proceed with the others to their several destinations, having then to return to Port Royal. Two line-of-battle ships came out afterwards to convoy the fleet till we were well away from the coast, that, should we be seen by an enemy, it might be supposed that we were too strong a force to be attacked.
I should have said that when we were getting under weigh I saw Hoolan, and the other pressed men, dressed as man-of-war's men, working away at the capstan. He evidently didn't like his task, but could not help himself, as he had to go round with the others pressing against the capstan bars. He and the other landsmen were set to perform such work as they were capable of, of course being compelled to pull and haul when sail was made or shortened.
"I'm after thinking, Mr Terence, that Dan Hoolan, though he's mighty quiet just now, will be playing us some prank or other before long, if he can find a chance," observed Larry to me.
"Well, then, Larry, just keep an eye on him, and let me know what he's about. I don't want to make you an eavesdropper, but for the man's own sake he must not be allowed to attempt any mischief. He'd be sure to have the worst of it."
"Arrah now, of course he would, Mr Terence. They're honest boys aboard here, and they'd soon clap him in limbo," observed Larry as I passed on along the deck.
He had already become thoroughly imbued with the right spirit of a British seaman.
I gave myself, however, little concern about Hoolan after this.
For some time we had a favourable breeze; the sea was calm, and everything went smoothly. We had plenty of work keeping the squadron together, compelling the fast vessels to shorten sail, and the laggards to make it. Some ran on with only their topsails set. Others had studding-sails set on either side. We were all day long sending the bunting up and down, and firing guns as signals.
"Why are all those bits of coloured stuff hoisted to the masthead?" asked Larry. "They tell me that the captain makes the young gentlemen run them up and down to keep their fingers warm."
I explained to him that each flag represented a figure or number, and sometimes a word or a sentence, according to the distinguishing pennant hoisted over it. For which purpose every vessel was provided with a book of signals, and we could thus communicate with each other just as if we were speaking.
A FIGHT AT SEA.
The ocean continued so calm, that Larry was quite cock-a-hoop, thinking that he had become a perfect seaman. "I have heard tell, Maisther Terence, that the say runs mountains high, for all the world like the hills of Connemara, but I'm after thinking that these are all landsmen's notions. We have been getting along for all the world like ducks in a pond."
The very next day, Larry had a different tale to tell. In the morning the line-of-battle ships parted from us, and we, the Amethyst frigate, and the Piper corvette, had to continue our course alone, to protect our somewhat erratic convoy. Dark clouds were seen coming up from the north-west. The scud sped across the sky, the spin-drift flying over the fast-rising seas. In a short time the ship began to pitch into them as if determined to hammer them down, but they, not inclined to receive such treatment patiently, sent masses of spray flying over our bows, as if to show what they were capable of doing, should she persevere in her attempt. The merchantmen on all sides were bobbing away, and kicking up their sterns in the same comical fashion; and even the other frigate and corvette were playing similar pranks. The tacks were got aboard, however, and on we all went together, now heeling over when a stronger blast than usual struck us, till the water came hissing in at our main-deck ports. Sail after sail was taken off the ship. Now she rose almost on an even keel, and then again heeled over as before. The convoy followed our example, though not with the same rapidity. The sheets had been let go, and the sails of some were flying wildly in the breeze. Three or four lost their loftier masts and lighter spars, but they were still compelled to keep up by the signals which we or the Amethyst threw out. At length I had to go aloft. I could not say that I liked it. It seemed to me that with the eccentric rolls the ship was making, I might at any moment be jerked off into the seething ocean; but I recollected Tom Pim's advice, and held on with teeth and eyelids. I got on, however, very well while I was aloft, and I managed somehow or other to reach the deck. Then—oh! how truly miserable I began to feel. Every moment I became worse and worse. As it happened, my watch was just over, and I descended to the berth. When I got there my head dropped on the table. I felt as I had never felt before; as utterly unlike as could be the brave Tipperary boy I fancied myself.
"Why, Paddy, what's come over you?" exclaimed Nettleship, who had just then come below. "Why, you look as if you had heard the banshee howl, or dipped your face into a pot of white paint."
"Oh! oh!" I exclaimed, my lip curling, and feeling the most miserable of human beings, so I fancied. I could utter no other articulate sound.
"Get up, youngster, and dance a hornpipe," cried Nettleship; "or I'll just send to the galley for a lump of fat pork, and if you'll swallow an ounce or so, it will do you all the good in the world."
The very mention of the fat pork finished me off. I bolted out of the berth, which was to windward, and went staggering away to the opposite side of the ship, having made a vain attempt to get to the main-deck, upsetting Tom Pim in my course, and not stopping till I pitched right against Doctor McCall, our surgeon, much after the manner that I had treated old Rough-and-Ready. Our good medico, not being so secure as the lieutenant on his pins, was unfortunately upset, and together we rolled into his dispensary, out of which he was at that moment coming. There we lay, amidst a quantity of phials, jars, and gallipots, which, having been improperly secured, came crashing down upon us. The doctor kicked and struggled, and endeavoured to rise, but I was too far gone to make any effort of the sort. Had he been inclined, he might have pounded me to death before I should have cried out for mercy. I was unable even to say that I could not help it, though he must have known that well enough. I need not describe what happened. Fortunately he had got to his feet before the occurrence to which I wish only delicately to allude took place. I felt wonderfully better.
"Why, Paddy, is it you, my boy?" he exclaimed, not a bit angry; for being a good-natured man, he was ready to make every allowance for the occurrence.
"I believe it's myself, sir; though I'm not altogether clear about it," I answered as I got up and tried to crawl out of the place.
"Stay, youngster, you shall have something before you go which will set you to rights," he said in a kind tone.
As well as he could, with the ship pitching and rolling, he poured out a mixture, which he handed to me, and bade me drink off. It revived me considerably, though I still felt very shaky.
"If I should ever want to have a leg or an arm cut off, I hope, sir, that you'll do it for me," I said, for I could think of nothing else at the moment to express my gratitude.
The doctor laughed. "I wish you better luck than that, my boy," he observed. "What makes you say that?"
"Because, sir, you didn't find fault with me for tumbling you over; now, when I ran against Mr Saunders, he sent me to the masthead for a couple of hours."
"You were skylarking then, my lad, and the ship was not pitching and tumbling about as she now is," he said. "However, go and lie down in the berth, if you can find room there, and you'll soon be all to rights."
I willingly obeyed his injunctions, while he sent to have his dispensary cleaned, and the phials and gallipots which had escaped fracture picked up. I believe a good many were saved by tumbling upon us instead of upon the deck.
As Nettleship and the other midshipmen were merciful, I managed to have a good caulk on the locker. When I awoke I felt almost like myself again. I dreaded, however, having to go on deck to keep watch, and was much inclined to ask the doctor to put me on the sick list.
In my sufferings I had not forgotten my follower, Larry. As soon as I could, I hastened forward to see how he was getting on, as I had ascertained that it was his watch below.
As I got forward, a scene of human misery and wretchedness presented itself, such as I had never before witnessed. Half the marines were lying about the deck, unable to lift up their heads, while most of the boys were in the same condition. Among them I found Larry. He gazed at me with lack-lustre eyes as I approached.
"Shure, the say's not at all at all the place I thought it was, Mr Terence," he groaned forth. "I've been turned inside out entirely. I don't even know whether the inside of me isn't the outside."
There was a general groan, as the ship at that moment pitched into a sea, and I had to hold on fast, or I should have been sent in among the mass of human misery. When she rose again and was steady for an instant, I was able to speak to Larry.
"I can't say I feel very comfortable myself," I said; "but rouse up and try to prevent your feelings from overcoming you."
"Och, Master Terence, but my faylings are mighty powerful, and for the life of me I can't master them," he groaned out.
This was very evident; and what with the smells and the closeness of the air,—not to speak of the pitching and rolling of the ship,—I was again almost overpowered, when there came a cry of "All hands save ship!" and down sprang the boatswain's mates, and began kicking away at the hapless marines and green hands. Larry in a moment leaped to his feet I heard a savage growl close to me, and just then caught sight of Dan Hoolan's countenance. Though he was kicked and cuffed, nothing would make him get up, and I saw him still lying prostrate when I hurried off to gain the deck.
The ship, struck by a heavy squall, was lying over almost on her beam-ends; the officers were shouting out their orders through their speaking-trumpets; the men were hurrying here and there as directed, some going aloft, others letting fly tacks, and sheets clewing up and hauling down. Suddenly the buoyant frigate righted herself. It seemed a wonder that none of the men were jerked overboard. The canvas was further reduced, and on we went, pounding away into the seas.
Larry was as active as any one. He seemed to have forgotten all about his sickness. It was the last time, too, that I ever suffered from the malady, and from that day forward—blow high or blow low—I felt as easy in my inside as I should on shore. A few spars had been carried away on board the merchantmen, but, as far as we could see, no other damage had occurred.
In a couple of days more the gale had completely worn itself out, and everything went as smoothly as heretofore. We were then within about a week's sail of the West Indies. The weather was now warm and pleasant,—sometimes, during a calm, a little too hot.
One morning, just at daybreak, the look-out from the masthead announced that he saw three sail to windward. The second lieutenant went aloft, and looked at them with his glass. When he came down he pronounced two of them to be frigates, and the other a smaller vessel. We threw out signals to the convoy to keep together, while we and the other two men-of-war, hauling our wind, stood closer to the strangers. At first it was supposed that they were English, but their manoeuvres made us doubt this, and at length they were pronounced decidedly French. That they intended to pick off some of the merchantmen there could be no doubt; and this it was our object to prevent.
"Paddy, my boy," said Tom Pim, coming up to me as I stood looking at the enemy from the quarter-deck, "we shall have some righting before long, no doubt about that. How do you feel?"
"Mighty pleased, and very ready for it," I answered.
"We're fairly matched, I should think," remarked Tom. "If we could count the guns of the enemy, I suspect there would not be found the difference of half a dozen between us. All depends on the way our ships are manoeuvred, and how we fight our guns,—though I've no fear on that score."
It was soon evident that Captain Macnamara intended to fight, and the order was given to clear the ship for action. The drum beat to quarters. All hands went about their duties with alacrity. I was sent down into the cockpit with a message. There I found the surgeons making their preparations; with their tourniquets, saws, knives, and other instruments, arranged ready for the expected operations; and there were buckets, and bowls of water, and sponges, and various other things likely to be required. In the centre was the amputating table, on which, before long, some poor fellow would probably be stretched, to be deprived of a leg or an arm; while an odour of vinegar pervaded the place.
The powder magazine had been opened. The gunner and his mates were engaged in serving out the ammunition, which the powder-monkeys were carrying up on deck in their tubs. Cutlasses were girded on, and pistols stuck in belts. Boarding pikes were arranged so as to be easily seized if wanted. The men, hurrying to their respective guns, loaded and ran them out; and as I passed along the decks I remarked their countenances all exhibiting their eagerness for the fight.
Among them I observed Hoolan, who had been stationed at a gun. He was apparently as ready to fight as any one on board. His features were as stern and morose as ever, but there was a fire in his eye, which showed that he contemplated the approaching battle with more pleasure than fear. Judging from the look of the men captured with him, I couldn't say the same of them. The crew generally were full of life and spirits, laughing and joking, as if they had forgotten altogether that in a short time they would be engaged in a fierce fight. I found Larry at his gun, looking as pleased as if he were at a wake or a wedding.
"Shure we'll be after making this fellow bark, Maisther Terence," he said, slapping the breach. "If the old chap doesn't drill a hole in the side of one of those ships out there, or knock away one of their masts, say I'm not a Tipperary boy."
His remark produced a laugh among the seamen within hearing,—indeed they evidently thought that whatever Larry said ought to be considered as a good joke. Larry seemed to have a notion that his especial gun was to win the battle. As a similar feeling seemed to animate the rest of the crew, it was likely to contribute to our success.
We were still some distance from the enemy, when Tom Pim, Chaffey, and I were summoned to the quarter-deck, to act as the captain's aides-de-camp, so that I was enabled to see all that was going forward. The rest of the midshipmen were stationed mostly on the main-deck, each in command of a certain number of guns.
The Liffy leading, we were now standing close hauled towards the enemy, who approached us almost before the wind.
The Amethyst came next to us, and the corvette followed. We hoped that within another ten minutes we should get within range of the others guns, when suddenly the enemy's leading frigate hauled her wind. Her consorts immediately afterwards followed her example. On seeing this, our captain ordered every stitch of canvas the Liffy could carry to be set, when, the breeze freshening, we rapidly came up with the enemy. I heard some of the officers say that they intended to make off. The men at the gun near which I was standing swore at their cowardice, and I began to think that there would be no fight after all.
Presently the French ships were seen to shorten sail, when our captain sent the hands again aloft to do the same. They had barely time to come down and return to their quarters, when a shot, fired by the leading French frigate, came flying across our deck. No one was hit, but a hammock and part of the hammock-nettings were knocked away. It showed what we had to expect.
I expected that the captain would return the compliment, but he waited calmly till we got nearer. We were to leeward, it must be understood; but although that would have been a disadvantage had there been any sea running, as the ocean was calm it didn't make much difference, while we were thus better able to protect our convoy, and prevent the enemy from running among them and committing mischief.
Again the breeze freshened, and standing on, we passed the corvette, which fired a few shots at us without doing any damage. We then received a similar compliment from the second French frigate, several of her shots striking the Liffy. In a few minutes we were up to our largest antagonist. As our bow gun came abreast of her quarter, our captain shouted, "Fire!" and gun after gun was discharged in rapid succession, the enemy blazing away at us in return.
The Amethyst was meantime engaged with the second frigate, and the corvette with the French ship of the same size as herself.
Shot after shot came on board. First one man was struck down, then another and another, and several were carried below to be placed under the hands of the surgeons. Some were drawn aside, their fighting days over. What damage we were producing among the enemy could not at first be ascertained, for all the ships, from our rapid firing, were enveloped in clouds of smoke. Looking up, I could see that our sails were pierced in several places. Crash succeeded crash, as the enemy's shot struck our sides or bulwarks, and sent the splinters flying about in all directions.
It was somewhat trying work for us, who had nothing to do except to keep our eyes upon the captain, in case he should have any orders to give us.
We had made sure of capturing one of the French ships, if not all.
Presently, looking astern, I saw the fore-yard of the Amethyst come down on deck, and shortly afterwards our fore-top mast was carried away. Our captain, hitherto so calm, stamped his foot on the deck with vexation. Our men, to make amends, tossed their guns in and out as if they had been playthings, firing away with wonderful rapidity; and I believe the gun at which Larry was stationed fully carried out his promise of drilling more than one hole in the side of our opponent. Her masts and spars were entire, as were those of the other frigate, but their bulwarks were shattered in several places, which was evident by the white streaks their sides exhibited.
"Blaze away, my lads," cried the captain. "We'll still have one of them, at least, for they'll not long stand the pounding you're giving them."
Our crew cheered in reply; but just as we had delivered another broadside, signals having been made on board the leading French frigate, her crew were seen going aloft, and presently the courses, topgallant sails, and royals were set, and she stood away close hauled, the other frigate and corvette doing the same.
Neither the Amethyst nor we were in a condition to follow, and to our vexation, we saw the enemy escaping from us. That we had given them a good pounding was very evident; but whether or not after repairing damages they would renew the contest was doubtful.
The little Piper, being uninjured aloft, gallantly followed, and kept blazing away at the enemy, till the captain made a signal to her to return, fearing that she might be overpowered and cut off before we could sufficiently repair damages to go to her assistance. She obeyed the order, and the Frenchmen didn't follow her. She had received less damage aloft than we had, though, as we afterwards found, she had lost several men killed and wounded. As she came within hail, she reported that the largest of the French frigates was pumping hard, and had evidently received much damage, while the second was not in a much better condition.
This accounted for their not wishing to continue the combat, and standing away, while it seemed doubtful whether they would venture to renew it.
We had plenty of work in repairing damages, clearing away the wreck of the fore-top mast, and getting a new one ready to send aloft. We could distinguish the convoy hull down to leeward, waiting the result of the fight.
I asked Nettleship whether he thought, as soon as we had got to rights, that we should follow the enemy.
"If our captain were to act as his feelings prompt him, I should have no doubt about it," he answered. "Fighting Macnamara, as he is known in the service, would not let an enemy escape if he could help it; but duty before all other things, and our duty is to protect the convoy under our charge. If we were to go in chase of the enemy, we might lose sight of the merchantmen, and any rascally privateers might pounce down and carry off the whole lot of them. My belief therefore is, that we shall bear up and let the Frenchmen go their way. It is not likely, after the taste they have had of our quality, that they'll again molest us."
Nettleship was right. The captain ordered the corvette to run down to the convoy to direct them to stand on under easy sail till we should join them. The captain and Mr Saunders, and the other officers, were exerting themselves to the utmost to get the ships to rights. The former sent me down into the cockpit, to learn from the doctor how the wounded men were getting on, and how many had been killed. I turned almost sick as I entered the place. There was anything but a fresh smell there now. I can't properly describe it,—perhaps it was more like the odour of a butcher's shop in the dog days, when the blue-bottles are revelling in the abundance hung up for their inspection. One poor fellow lay stretched on the table. The doctor was just then too busy to speak to me. I saw a foot sticking out of a bucket. It belonged to a leg which had just been taken off the man, who was in a dead faint. The assistant-surgeon was endeavouring to restore him to consciousness, while the surgeon was engaged in taking up the arteries. Another, who had lost an arm, was lying on a locker, waiting to be carried to the sick bay; and several others sat round with their heads and shoulders bandaged up. At last the doctor looked up, and I then delivered my message. "Five killed and nine wounded, and I'm afraid one or two of the latter may slip through my fingers," he said. I was thankful when I was able to hurry back on deck with my report. The captain was not addicted to the sentimental, but I heard him sigh, or rather groan, after I had delivered it. As soon as any of the men could be spared, the bodies of the killed were sewn up in canvas, with shot at their feet. As we had no chaplain on board, the captain read a portion of the burial service, and the sound of quick successive plunges told that they had sunk into their ocean grave. We and the Amethyst then stood away after the convoy.
"Our first action has not been a very glorious one," I observed, when most of the mess was once more assembled in the berth. "I made sure we should have captured one of those frigates."
"It has been a successful one, Paddy, and we should be content with that," said Nettleship. "If we had taken one of the enemy, we should be probably more knocked about than we are, and should have delayed the merchantmen, or allowed them to run the risk of being captured. Depend upon it, our captain will get credit for what he has done, and the credit he gets will be reflected on us."
The wind fortunately continued fair, the sea smooth, and by the time we sighted Jamaica we were again all ataunto. Having seen the greater part of our charge into Port Royal, and sent the wounded ashore to the hospital, we stood on with the remainder of the merchantmen to Barbadoes and other islands, where we left them in safety, and then made our way back to Port Royal. We saluted the forts, and the forts saluted us; flags were flying, the sea glittering, and everything looked gay and bright as we entered that magnificent harbour.
"Shure it's a beautiful place this, Misther Terence," said Larry to me, as, the anchor being dropped, and the sails furled, we lay floating calmly on the placid waters. "There's only one place to my mind that beats this, and that's Cork harbour, though, to be sure, the mountains there are not so high, or the sky so blue as out here."
"Or the sun so hot, Larry," I remarked, "or the people so black. Did you ever see Irishmen like that?" and I pointed to a boat manned by negroes just coming alongside. Larry had never before seen a blackamoor, for, as may be supposed, Africans seldom found their way into Tipperary.
"Shure, your honour, is them Irishmen?" he asked.
"Speak to them, and you'll soon find out, and they'll tell you how long it has taken the sun to blacken their faces."
"Then, Misther Terence, shall we be after getting our faces painted of that colour if we stay out here?" he inquired with some trouble in the tone of his voice.
"Depend upon it, Larry, we shall if we stay long enough," I answered. I left Larry to reflect on the matter. I remembered a story I had heard of an Irishman who had gone out intending to settle in Demerara, where a large proportion of the white population have come from the Emerald Isle. As soon as the ship had dropped her anchor a number of blacks came off to her. The first he spoke to answered in a rich Irish brogue. The new-comer looked at the negro with astonishment.
"What's your name, my man?" he asked. "Pat Casey," was the answer.
"And, Pat, say as you love me, how long have you been out here?"
"Little better than six years, your honour," was the reply, such being the time that had elapsed since the negro had been imported, having in the meantime had an Irish name given him, and learned to speak Irish.
"Six years, and you have turned from a white-skinned Irishman into a blackamoor!" exclaimed the new-comer; and not waiting for an answer, he rushed down into the cabin, which he could not be induced to quit until the ship sailed again, and he returned home, satisfied that the West Indies was not a country in which he could wish to take up his abode.
Not long after the conversation I have mentioned, Larry came up to me.
"I've been after talking, Misther Terence, with some of those black gentlemen, and shure if they're from the old country they've forgotten all about it, which no raal Irishman would ever do, I'll stake my davey!" he exclaimed. "They've never heard of Limerick, or Cork, or Waterford, or the Shannon, or Ballinahone, and that proves to me that they couldn't have been in the old country since they were born. And now, Misther Terence dear, you were joking shure," he added, giving me one of his comical looks.
"Well, Larry," I said, "it's a satisfaction to know that it will take us a long time to turn into niggers, or to forget old Ireland."
As no one was near, I asked him how Dan Hoolan and the other pressed men were behaving.
"That's just what I wanted to be speaking to you about, Misther Terence," he answered. "I'm after thinking that they'll not be on board many days if they get a chance of slipping on shore. I heard them one day talking about it in Irish, forgetting that I understood what they were saying; and as we had a hand in the taking of them, says I to myself, we'll not let you go so aisy, my boys, and I'll be after telling Misther Terence about it."
"You have acted rightly, Larry," I answered. "It's the duty of every seaman to prevent mutiny or desertion, and if you hadn't told me the fellows might have got off, though, to be sure, the best of them are king's hard bargains."
I took an early opportunity of telling Mr Saunders.
"Thank you, my lad," he answered; "I'll take care that an eye is kept upon them."
Soon afterwards, while looking over the side, I saw a dark, triangular object gliding by at no great distance from the ship. It went about when it got under the stern, and appeared again on the other side. Mr Saunders saw it also.
"Lads," he said, "do you know what that is? You may have heard of Port Royal Jack. That's him. He's especially fond of seamen's legs, and if any of you were to go overboard, he'd snap you up in a minute."
The word was passed along the deck. Half the crew were now in the rigging, taking a look at their enemy, and among them were Dan Hoolan and his companions. I observed a flesh-coloured mass floating a short distance off. Presently the black fin sank; a white object appeared for a moment close to the surface, and a huge mouth gulped down the mass, and disappeared with it beneath the water. It was a lesson to any one who might have attempted taking a swim to the shore.
A FIGHT ASHORE.
I have not attempted to describe Port Royal Harbour. It is large enough to hold 1000 sail. The entrance is on the left side. A strip of sand, known as the Palisades, runs east and west with the town of Port Royal, surrounded with heavy batteries at the further end. Here are the dockyard and naval arsenal, and forts with heavy guns completely commanding the entrance.
At the eastern end stands Kingston, the commercial town, before which the merchantmen bring up, while the men-of-war ride at anchor nearer the mouth. A lofty range of hills, with valleys between them, rise beyond the northern shore. Altogether, it is a grand place, and especially grand it looked just now, filled with a fleet of ships and smaller men-of-war.
Our captain, with the second lieutenant, the captain of the Amethyst, and the commander of the corvette, went on shore, and were warmly welcomed by the merchants, who said that they had rendered them signal service in so gallantly protecting the convoy. They presented each of the commanders with a piece of plate and a sum of money, to show their gratitude.
"I told you so," said Nettleship when we heard of it; "we did our duty on that occasion, though it was a hard trial to have to let the enemy escape," As we were likely to be detained a week to replace our fore-top mast, to repair other damages, and to get stores and fresh provisions on board, most of our mess by turns got leave to go on shore, where, down to Tom Pim, we were all made a great deal of by the planters and merchants. We were invited to breakfasts, luncheons, dinners, and dances every night. Most of our fellows lost their hearts to the dark-eyed Creoles, and Tom Pim confided to me that a lovely little damsel of fifteen had captured his.