"Hallo! Dennis," exclaimed the captain, "what brings you here? Go down to your gun, man!"
"Oh, by the powers! your honour," replied Dennis, "sure I thought it likely you might be hurt, so I wished to be near you to give you some help."
There was no resisting this; the captain laughed; and poor Dennis was allowed to take his own way.
Another remarkable instance of his courage and disinterestedness was afforded at the battle of the Nile. Previous to entering into that great action, Nelson hailed Captain Hood's ship, and consulted him as to the best method of attack.
"What think you," said the Admiral, "of engaging the enemy to-night?"
"I don't know the soundings," was the answer, "but, with your permission, I will lead in and try."
The result is well known; but I believe it is not so generally known that, in the first draft of the despatch which Nelson wrote, he gave to Captain Hood the merit of confirming him in his determination of attacking the French fleet that night. On showing this letter, however, to Hood himself, he entreated that it might be altered, saying "that they were all brothers, engaged in the cause, and that the admiral would have received exactly the same advice from any other captain in the fleet whom he might have consulted." The paragraph was therefore omitted in the despatch.
I have this anecdote of the change in the despatch from one of his nearest connections, and one of the dearest friends to his memory. He himself particularly wished the alteration in the despatch not to be told at the time; but, as the story crept out somehow, it seems very material that the facts should be well authenticated. When the circumstance was mentioned to Sir Samuel Hood many years afterwards, by the friend from whom I have received authority to state it, he confessed that it was so; but exclaimed,—
"How the devil could all this have got wind?—I never mentioned it before to a living soul."
As there is hardly any professional anecdote which retains its freshness of interest more entire than the memorable parley above described between Nelson and Hood, on the eve of the battle of the Nile, I venture to give another version of it, which is substantially the same, and is calculated to confirm, in a pleasing manner, all that is essential. The following particulars I have been favoured with by Captain Webley Parry, then first lieutenant of the Zealous.
When steering for the enemy's fleet, Sir Horatio Nelson hailed the Zealous, and asked Captain Hood if he thought he might venture to bear up round the shoals. The answer was,—
"I cannot say, sir; but if you will allow me the honour of leading into action, I will keep the lead going."
"You have my permission, and I wish you good luck," was the reply; and, as Nelson said this, he took off his hat. Captain Hood, in his hurry to return the courtesy of his admiral, dropped his hat overboard. He looked after it, laughed, and exclaimed,—
"Never mind, Webley, there it goes for luck! Put the helm up, and make all sail."
Captain Foley of the Goliath, being close to the Zealous, perceiving this manoeuvre, guessed what the orders were, and bore up likewise, so that when the two ships had shaped their course, they were nearly abreast of each other. The Goliath being a little in advance, which of course was rather annoying, Captain Hood stood on for some time, in hopes of being able to take the lead in the Zealous, but finding this could not be without jostling and confusion, he turned round and said—
"This will never do! Well, never mind; Foley is a fine, gallant, worthy fellow. Shorten sail, and give him time to take up his berth. We must risk nothing that will tend to the enemy's advantage."
This was instantly done! The Goliath shot ahead, and Captain Foley had the glory of leading the British fleet into action. By some accident, however, he failed to place the Goliath in opposition to the headmost ship of the enemy's line. The experienced eye of Hood instantly saw the consequences, and while the Goliath passed on to the second in the line, Sir Samuel placed his own ship, the Zealous, alongside the first, exclaiming in the joy of his heart, "Thank God! my friend Foley has left me the van ship!"
The indifference to danger and fatigue which was habitual to this great captain cost him, I believe, his life when travelling in the interior of India, near Seringapatam. He reached a station at which a fresh set of palanquin bearers were to have met him, but had been prevented by some accident. "It matters not," he cried, "let us walk." And sure enough he set off to perform on foot a stage which might have been dangerous on horseback; for the sun had nearly risen to the meridian, and there was hardly a breath of wind. Possibly no mischief might have followed this march, but he had been spending some days in the island of Seringapatam, the most unhealthy spot in Mysore; and it is a curious circumstance connected with the malaria of the noxious districts, that its effects frequently lie dormant long after it has been breathed. Sir Samuel Hood did not escape; but he felt no inconvenience till after he descended from, and entered the Carnatic at Madras. The jungle fever, of which the fatal seeds had been sown at Seringapatam, attacked him after a few days. When, unfortunately for the profession and for his country, he fell sick at Madras, and knew that his last moments were fast approaching, he called his faithful friend and old follower in many ships and many actions, Lieutenant, afterwards Captain Walcott to his bedside, and said to him,—
"It will be very hard, Walcott, to die in this cursed place; but should I go off, let nothing deter you from going home and accounting to the Admiralty for my command of the East India station."
These were nearly the last intelligible words he uttered; and they serve to show how strong, even in the hour of death, was his sense of professional duty. As Lieutenant Walcott had served during the whole of Sir Samuel's India command in the double capacity of flag-lieutenant and secretary, and had enjoyed the Admiral's entire confidence, he, and he alone, possessed the means of "accounting to the Admiralty" for the measures completed, or in progress, for the good of the service, and therefore the Admiral suggested to him the propriety of his going home to report matters in person.
The senior officer, who succeeded to the command in the Indian seas, felt so desirous of following up the friendly intentions of his lamented predecessor, that knowing the late Admiral's attachment to Lieutenant Walcott, he offered to promote him into a death vacancy, which had either actually taken place, or was certain to fall within a week or two. Moreover, he assured him, that after the necessary time had been served, he should have the first vacancy for post promotion. These were indeed tempting offers to a young officer, devotedly attached to his profession; but they had no influence over a man bred in the "Sam Hood School." The Admiral's dying injunction appeared to this right-minded officer fully as binding, or, if possible, more so, than a written command must have been in his lifetime.
To England Walcott went accordingly; and the difference in professional standing which it made to him was this:—had he remained in India, as Sir Samuel Hood's successor proposed, he would undoubtedly have become a post-captain of 1816, instead of which, his name stood in 1822, six years later on the list! Had it been sixty times six, however, it would have made no difference in his conduct.
When the army returned from Spain, after the battle of Corunna, in 1809, there were between twenty and thirty officers accommodated in Sir Samuel's cabin. Among them was a young officer, a connection of Lady Hood's, whose father and mother called to thank him, conceiving that he had been indebted by this connection for the attention he had received, but Sir Samuel did not even know of the connection or the name. "Indeed," said he, "I hardly knew the names of half my guests. But who," he continued, "would make any distinctions amongst such war-worn and brave fellows."
The fact is, such was his general kindness, that each of these military officers, his passengers, fancied the Admiral was more civil to him than to any one else. He suspended on this occasion all the usual strait-laced etiquettes of the quarter-deck discipline, and permitted the harassed soldiers to lie down and read between the guns, or wherever they pleased. His great delight was to coddle them up, and recompense them, as far as he could, for the severe privations they had undergone during the retreat, and nothing entertained him so much as seeing the relish with which these hungry campaigners partook of his hospitality. On the day after the battle of Corunna, when these gentlemen came on board, he ordered a cock to be driven into a hogshead of prime old sherry; and his satisfaction was perfect, when his steward, with a rueful countenance, communicated to him, on arriving at Spithead, that "his very best cask of wine had been drunk dry on the passage by the soldier officers!"
COMMISSIONING A SHIP.
Most people are curious to know how, from a state of total inaction, or what is called "laid up in ordinary," a ship is brought forward into real service. I have therefore thought it right to "begin with the beginning," and tell how a man-of-war is first commissioned. This leads to the fitting-out; that is, getting in the masts, putting the rigging overhead, stowing the holds, and so on. The next obvious point to be considered in the equipment of a ship is, the force she is to carry, which brings us to the very curious question of naval gunnery. Finally, if we suppose a ship equipped, armed, manned, and disciplined.
As soon as an officer receives official intimation that he is appointed to the command of a ship, he proceeds either to the Admiralty or to the dockyard at the port where the ship may happen to be laid up in ordinary, and takes up his commission. In the first place, however, he must wait upon the admiral commanding at the out-port where the ship is lying, and having reported himself, he proceeds to the admiral-superintendent of the dockyard, to whom he communicates his commission; he has the exclusive charge and responsibility, having the care of the ships in ordinary, of all the moorings, and generally of all the vessels, and every description of stores in the naval arsenal.
The first thing to do is to get hold of one of the warrant-officers to "hoist the pendant," which is a long slender streamer, having a St. George's cross on a white field in the upper part next the mast, with a fly or tail, either Red, White, and Blue, or entirely of the colour of the particular ensign worn by the ship; which, again, is determined by the colour of the admiral's flag under whose orders she is placed. The pendant being hoisted shows that the ship is in commission, and this part of the colours is never hauled down day or night. At sunset, when the ensign is hauled down, a smaller pendant, three or four yards in length, is substituted for the long one, which, in dandified ships, waves far over the stern. Ships in ordinary hoist merely an ensign. The boatswain, gunner, and carpenter, who are called the warrant-officers, always remain on board, even when the rest of the officers and crew are paid off, and the ship laid up in ordinary. These valuable personages, under the general superintendence of the captain of the ordinary, an old officer of rank, and assisted by a few lads to row them to and from the shore, keep the ships clean, and guard against fire and pillage, to which they might otherwise be exposed at their moorings in the different creeks.
The next step, after the ship is commissioned, is to open a muster-book. The requisite blank books and other papers are supplied to the captain by the superintendent of the dockyard, in order that the names of the officers and men may be entered as they assemble. The admiral being then informed that the ship is in commission, he orders the commandant of marines to embark the proper complement of men from the barracks.
The master-attendant, in the mean time, is applied to for a receiving-ship or hulk, alongside of which the ship may be placed, and in which the crew may live while she is fitting out. The same officer will likewise give the boatswain a "note" for one or more of what are called harbour boats—strong affairs, but good enough to perform the rough sort of work required in fitting out. The boatswain's demand for scrapers, buckets, and junk for swabs, is made out and approved, that, from the first moment to the last, the hulk may be kept clean.
The officers of the newly-commissioned ship take possession of the hulk assigned them, the purser gets from the victualling-office provisions enough for present use, and draws from the same quarter a quantity of slop clothing, as well as bedding and haversacks, for the marines, who are generally the first men on board. They are supplied by the boatswain with hammocks, and thus the Jollies soon feel themselves at home. The captain's clerk having prepared what is called an "open list," he enters the names of the officers and men as fast as they arrive. Hammocks and bedding, as well as blankets and shoes, are issued to those sailors who may come on board without any kit, which is too often the case. The senior lieutenant ought, if possible, to be one of the very first persons who joins, and the sooner he establishes himself on board the hulk the better. The marines, being a standing portion of the service, are always ready, and, if necessary, they may be sent on board at a few hours' warning. On this account, as well as many others, they are a most invaluable body of men. When there is no particular hurry, however, they will be embarked in two or three days at the furthest from the time they receive orders. Application should also be made for boys, who are supplied as soon as possible; a certain number being sent from the flag-ship, while the remainder are enlisted from the shore. A boat's crew of sailors will very soon be picked up from the stray hands lounging about the Common Hard and Jack's other well-known haunts.
Thus, in a very few days, the foundation of a ship's company is laid; and under good management, with a little patience and cheerfulness, the superstructure will advance rapidly. A rendezvous should be opened at a public-house in some street frequented by the seamen; and a flag, with the ship's name on it, exposed before the door; while bills, containing the ship and captain's name, should be stuck up and distributed in the proper quarters. If her destination be India, South America, the Mediterranean, or any other favourite station, that circumstance will of course be sufficiently noticed in these cards of invitation. The master-at-arms, the captain's coxswain, or some old and steady hand who has an interest in getting the ship manned, will be usefully employed at the rendezvous, to talk to the sailors as they drop in to consider the pros and cons of the new enterprise in which they are invited to engage. The captain himself, and the first lieutenant also, will generally find it worth their while to look in occasionally, perhaps periodically, at the rendezvous, ostensibly to speak on some business, but chiefly to show themselves, and by a word or two of encouragement, to decide the waverers. It is of great consequence, on these occasions, to keep clear of anything which, by possibility, can be construed into false pretences; for the moral impropriety of such enticements, their impolicy very soon betrays itself, and when the men detect the fallacy, the result shows itself in the paucity of volunteers. The truth is, Jack, with all his vagaries, possesses a quick discernment in such matters, and is very seldom deceived by chaff. It will seldom, if ever, retard the proper manning of a ship to be very fastidious in choosing amongst the volunteers who offer. The best men will not enter for a ship where sailors are received indiscriminately; and the lower order of mere working hands are easily picked up to complete the crew.
The men are always carefully examined by the surgeon before being received; but it would not be a bad rule that no volunteer should be finally entered until he has been seen and approved of by both captain and first lieutenant. It is, indeed, of great consequence to the eventual comfort of the ship, which always turns upon her good and consistent discipline, that the first lieutenant and captain should be cordially agreed on so material a point as the choice of the individual seamen forming the crew.
During the short visits which the captain pays to his ship at this time, he will seldom find it useful to supplant his first lieutenant, by taking upon himself the conduct of the ship's detailed operations. The peculiar duties of the captain, when his ship is fitting out, necessarily require him to be absent from her every day during a considerable portion of the working hours. He has to wait on the admiral to receive fresh instructions; he has to carry on a correspondence with the Admiralty on the various equipments of the ship; he has representations and applications to make to the port-admiral, respecting officers and men, and to the admiral-superintendent of the dockyard, respecting stores. In short, whether at the rendezvous, at the dockyard, at the admiral's office, or at his own lodgings, the captain will generally find ample employment on shore for most of the best hours of his day, in really co-operating with his first lieutenant afloat, by seeing those duties properly executed which lie beyond that officer's reach. If these multifarious and important obligations, out of the ship, be fully complied with by the captain, he will seldom have more time left than is barely necessary to go on board—- just to see what is doing—to learn what has been done—and to give his orders, in a general way, to the first lieutenant, for his further guidance.
As a captain has not always the choice of his first lieutenant, it may sometimes happen that a person unfit to fulfil the duties of that office will be appointed. Filling this station well implies not only knowledge and talents, but a disposition to enter cordially into the views of the captain, as well with regard to the general system of discipline, as to all the details of managing the ship. When an unfit person is appointed, it is much better for the lieutenant, as well as the captain, that they should part; and certainly this is more conducive to the discipline of the ship, and therefore to the good of the service, than if they went on for ever like cat and dog. This, indeed, is so well understood, that the Admiralty throw no obstacles in the way of officers exchanging.
In case the unfitness of the first lieutenant arises from absolute incompetence or negligence of his duties, it will soon appear in some palpable instance, for which he must be accountable before a court-martial, unless his captain permit him to quit the ship to avoid that alternative. On the other hand, it will sometimes happen, that an officer who is both competent and zealous, is rather too fond of having his own way, and interpreting the rules and customs of the service in his own particular fashion, in opposition to the views of the captain. This pertinacity detracts from his efficiency as an officer, and more particularly from his fitness for the arduous and delicate situation of first lieutenant, by preventing the establishment of a hearty co-operation with his superior. But if the considerate line of conduct before suggested be acted upon by the captain, unless the lieutenant be a very pig-headed person, who mistakes opposition for zeal, he will readily see that the true way of forwarding the service is to enter heartily, cheerfully, and attentively, into the peculiar plans of his chief. If he does not do this, he will only find his duties become more and more irksome to himself, and all his zeal will often be thrown away in ineffectual efforts.
When a ship is fairly commissioned, the first proceedings of the captain, in respect to her equipment, must be determined by the particular state in which she happens to be. The ship may be in dock, or in the basin, or riding at the moorings—masted or unmasted; she may have only just been launched, or may have been "paid off all standing." In any case, one of the first points to be attended to is the stowage of the ballast. If the ship has been in commission before, a record of her sailing qualities, and the plan of stowage which was found to answer best, will be supplied by the superintendent of the dockyard, together with her draught of water, forward and aft, light as launched and in ballast; and, lastly, when completely equipped for sea, with guns, powder, provisions, and men on board. If the ship be new, the captain will be furnished by the Surveyor of the Navy with every particular respecting her trim, and the manner in which he conceives her hold should be stowed. If this very important part of the ship's economy be one that has occupied its due share of the commanding-officer's attention, he will carefully examine the conformation of the ship's bottom, and be enabled to tell whether or not the former plan of stowing the ballast agrees with his own theoretical views, and his experience in such matters, and then putting the ship's recorded sailing qualities by the side of these actual observations, he will be enabled to decide how the ballast shall be distributed.
The Signal Books, Printed Naval Instructions, the Admiralty Statutes, and other works of reference and guidance, are supplied by the port-admiral, while a copy of all the Port Regulations and Orders should be made, and so carefully perused by the captain and officers as to be almost got by heart. A minute attention, indeed, to the injunctions contained in these written orders, is absolutely necessary to keep the officers of a ship out of eternal hot water with admiral, flag-captain, secretary, and first lieutenant of the flag-ship, all of whom are put out of their way by any neglect on the part of an officer fitting or refitting a ship.
I remember once a grand row which I, in common with three or four other commanding officers, got into. A signal was made from the flag-ship at Spithead, the Royal William, or the Royal Billy as she was universally called. The order was, "The ships at Spithead are to send boats to assist the vessel in distress." On looking round, we could see nothing but a collier aground on the end of the spit. One boat, or perhaps two, were sent from some of the ships—but not enough to save her; so poor Jock lay on the shoal till he capsized, and there was an end of him; for it came on to blow, and the shore, from South Sea Castle to Blackhouse Point, was a complete beach of coal shingle. Next morning out came a swinging reprimand to all of us, ordering a "report in writing to be made forthwith of the reasons why the signal made at four P.M. to send boats to the collier had not been obeyed." I recommend folks fitting out, therefore, as they value their peace, to trifle with anything rather than the port orders. For it is well to consider, that a scold resembles a snow-ball—it always gathers weight as it rolls along. Thus the Admiralty send down, by post or by telegraph, a rap on the knuckles to the old admiral—very moderate as naval things go, but such as, in civil life, would make a sober citizen frantic, though it merely squeezes out a growl from the venerable commander-in-chief. Straightway he rings for the secretary, and issues a smartish general order, in which the wretched captain of the offending ship catches the reprimand, with a most usurious allowance of interest. Off goes the said skipper to his ship, in a great fume and hurry, carrying a whole sail in the gig, though on ordinary occasions he chooses to have a reef in. Souse comes the wigging on the hapless first lieutenant; and he, in turn, only waits till the captain goes below, that he may open a volcano of reproaches on the long-suffering middies, who, though they probably now hear of the offence for the first time, know much better than to make any reply.
Such is naval discipline! a strange mixture of justice and injustice, severity and indulgence—frankness and wrong-headedness, encouragement and unfair dealing; but still we may be sure, that talents, industry, perseverance, and, above all, resolute cheerfulness, with an absence of the litigious habit of self-justification, must ensure success and happiness, or, at least, give the best chance for them.
The first lieutenant of the ship fitting out will do well to have by him a sheet of paper, ruled according to some tabular form, in which he may insert the names of the men who enter, that he may form some idea, when he comes to station them, what part of the ship each is fit for.
A watch bill should be commenced at once; and the men, as fast as they come on board, appointed, as near as may be, to the stations which the officers think they will ultimately occupy. This lets a man know at once what duty he will be required to perform, and makes him feel at home. Some crack sailors will not volunteer unless they can be made reasonably sure of being placed in a station they like; and although it would be highly injudicious to make such absolute stipulations without some previous trial of the candidate's abilities, it may be of great advantage to the service to enter men more or less on this principle. For instance, it is of the utmost importance to obtain steady petty officers, that is to say, quarter-master's, gunner's, boatswain's, and carpenter's mates; captains of the forecastle, of the hold, and the tops; sail-makers, armourers, caulkers, and coopers; with others of less consequence, but all valuable in their respective departments, and contributing to make up the singular population of a man-of-war. The following list contains the peace establishment of the Conway, a ship of twenty-eight guns, which I fitted out in the beginning of 1820. The document may perhaps interest persons who like to inquire into the details of a community and menage so differently constructed from any they are likely to meet with elsewhere.
A Scheme of the Establishment of His Majesty's Ship Conway, with a Complement of 125 men.
Brought forward 18 Captain 1 Schoolmaster 1 Lieutenants 3 Master at Arms 1 Master 1 Caulker 1 Second Master 1 Armourer 1 Purser 1 Sailmaker 1 Surgeon 1 Carpenter's Mate 1 Boatswain 1 Gunner's Mate 1 Gunner 1 Boatswain's Mates 2 Carpenter 1 Quarter-masters 3 Master's Mate 1 Captain's Coxswain 1 Midshipmen 4 Capts. of the Forecastle 2 Assistant Surgeon 1 Cooper 1 Clerk 1 Capts. of the Foretop 2 —- —- Carry forward 18 Carry forward 36
Brought forward 36 Brought forward 58 Capts. of the Maintop 2 Barber 1 ——————- Afterguard 1 Purser's Steward 1 ——————- Mast 1 Captain's Steward 1 Ship's Cook 1 Captain's Cook 1 Volunteers, First Class 3 Gun-room Steward 1 Gunner's Crew 5 Gun-room Cook 1 Carpenter's Crew 4 Steward's Mate 1 Sailmaker's crew 1 Able Seamen } Gunner's Yeoman 1 Ordinary Seamen } 29 Boatswain's ditto 1 Landmen } Carpenter's ditto 1 Boys, Second Class 5 Cook's mate 1 ——- Third Class 5 —- Widows' Men 3 Carry forward 58 —- 107 Marines:— 1 Lieutenant; 1 Serjeant; 1 Corporal; 1 Drummer; 14 Privates. 18 —- Total 125
The last odd entry of three widows' men was an official fiction (now abolished) by which the pay of so many imaginary persons was transferred to a fund for the relief of the widows of commissioned and warrant officers. Real men are now allowed in their places.
If any other ship be paying off at the same time, it is well worth trying to get some of her best men to enter for the ship fitting out. People who have been for several years together in a comfortable ship feel unwilling to part, and the prospect of continuing still companions, often influences them to volunteer in considerable numbers, if other circumstances appear suitable. When this takes place, the men generally transfer their whole kit at once, see their names placed on the new ship's books, and obtain what is called "long-leave" of absence to visit their friends, after depositing a portion of their ready money in the hands of the commanding-officer until their return. These men almost always form a valuable part of a ship's crew, and, I am convinced, the practice will become more general of removing direct from one man-of-war to another, whenever the system of frequent payments shall be established in the Navy. The sailors will then learn the proper use of money, and will acquire, in consequence, more orderly, decent, and rational habits.
By these and other means, if the captain and officers be at all popular in their manners, or be known favourably in the service, or if even without these advantages, the intended station to which the ship is going be a favourite one, and ordinary pains be taken at the rendezvous, the ship's company soon begins to assume a respectable and business-like appearance. It then becomes of infinite importance, that the first lieutenant should introduce a uniform and well-explained system of discipline on board, especially as regards cleanliness and neatness of appearance, which are best effected by frequent and regular musterings, without too much fastidiousness in the first instance, as this might only teaze the men, and prevent the effectual establishment of those observances which it is the chief purpose of good discipline to render habitual. Great efforts should always be made to give to Sunday its true character of a day of repose; and in the weekly mustering, in particular, a good deal may generally be accomplished towards imparting to the ship and crew the appearance of order, which in times more advanced ought to characterize them during the whole week. The stock of clothes amongst the men will, it is true, generally be scanty at first, but a portion of it may, with proper management, be always kept clean, and a well-bleached shirt and trousers, with a good scrape of the chin, and a thorough scrubbing from top to toe, render poor Jack's toilet, if not the most refined in the world, certainly very effectual towards its purpose. I have often been amused to see the merry style in which they employed great lumps of coarse soap and hard brushes, in vain endeavours to remove the umber tints of tar from their hands, and the tanning of the sunshine from their brawny arms. These indelible distinctions of their hard service are rendered more striking at such moments by their contrast with the firm and healthy whiteness of the skin round their shoulders and chest.
An officer must be cautious how he issues slop clothing to newly entered men, who have no pay due; and have a sharp, but reserved look-out kept on doubtful characters as they go over the side on leave, for there will ever be found at the great naval stations a certain number of regular-built swindlers, who wander from port to port expressly to pilfer. These vagabonds enter on board newly-commissioned ships, make a great show of activity, and remain a certain time to lull suspicion. They then take up slops, that is, obtain from the purser as many shirts, trousers, shoes, and other articles, as they can persuade the commanding-officer they are in want of; after which they desert upon the first opportunity, only to run the same rig in some other ship. When a character of this kind is caught in the act of making off with his own or his messmate's blanket, it is best to let him go on shore (minus the blanket, of course), and the chances are he will not return again. You lose the man, but you are rid of a knave.
It is a fatal error in an officer to court popularity by unworthy means, or indeed by any means, except those of fair-dealing and strict propriety, equal justice to all, and as much indulgence as the nature of the service will admit of. But, at the same time, advantage may be taken of accidental opportunities of putting the people into good-humour during an outfit; and by indulging them in a jollification, we may occasionally give them something to think of at the moment, and to talk of for weeks afterwards.
When I was fitting out his Majesty's sloop Lyra at Deptford, in 1815, to accompany the embassy to China, under Lord Amherst, it occurred to me one cold morning, the 24th of December, that it might not have a bad effect on the good name of my pretty little craft, if I gave the ship's company a regular blow-out the next day. I communicated this idea to the first lieutenant, who, seeing no objection, sent for some of the leading men, and said each mess was to have a goose and a turkey for their Christmas dinner. My steward was then told to arrange the details; and presently he came to report that the men had taken it into their heads, that, as the best poultry was to be procured in London, they should like exceedingly to be allowed to despatch an embassy to Leadenhall Market for that purpose; the first lieutenant agreed also to this, and two seamen and one marine were forthwith landed at Deptford to execute the mission. A cart being hired, off they set, returning before sunset, with as noisy a cargo as ever I saw packed together. It so happened, that while we lay on one side of the hulk, I forget her name, another ship was lashed on the opposite side for some temporary purpose. The crew of our neighbour dined on Christmas-day on soup and beef as usual, and remained contented enough till some of our fellows, waddling under the effects of double allowance of solids, and perhaps with a trifle too much of fluids, came singing and capering along the deck of their hulk. In the most good-humoured way possible, they asked their neighbours how many geese and turkeys they had discussed that day. The meagre answer called forth shouts of merriment, and the poor fellows belonging to the other ship were rather unhandsomely taunted with the scantiness of their Christmas fare. "Look at that and weep, you hungry-faced rascals!" exclaimed one of our jolly blades, holding up the drumstick of a goose in one hand and that of a turkey in the other. He was answered by the practical joke of having the two bones twisted from his hands and shyed in his face, according to the most approved tarpaulin manners. This was the signal for a general melee, and the officers had enough to do to separate the contending hosts.
A few days before the next Christmas-day came round, when we were lying in the River Canton, my steward came to me and said,—
"The people, sir, have been talking for the last two or three weeks of hardly anything else but the 'row' at Deptford this time twelvemonth, when you gave them a feast on Christmas-day."
"Well, what of that?"
"Oh, nothing, sir; I only thought you might like to know it. There are plenty of ducks and geese at the Chinese village close to us."
I seized the idea in a moment; and having, as before, consulted with the first lieutenant, I bade my steward prepare a good stock accordingly. I took no further charge of the matter; nor did I expect to hear anything more of the dinner or its preparations. In this, however, I was deceived; for when daylight appeared on Christmas morning of 1816, such a racket was heard from our little vessel as brought up all hands on board every one of the ten or a dozen huge East India Company's ships amongst which we were anchored, at a place called Second Bar. Our fellows had carried the whole of their Christmas poultry aloft, and having perched themselves at the yard-arms and on the cross-trees, gaff, and flying jib-boom ends, they made each of the wretched birds fast with a string six or eight feet long, in such a manner that they could flap their wings, but could not escape. The great difficulty, as I afterwards learned, was how to keep the ducks and geese from making a noise till the proper moment arrived, and this was not effected without sundry bites and scratches. As soon as broad daylight came, the word was given, and the whole flock being dropped to the full length of their lines, they set up such a screaming, cackling, and flapping, as could not fail, when aided by the mingled laughter and shouts of their future demolishers, to call the envious attention of the whole surrounding fleet!
It is very useful to keep the people in a good humour at all times; though, as I have already suggested, the captain must avoid even the appearance of courting popularity at the expense of his officers. Such an unworthy course of proceeding strikes at the root of discipline. A truly right-minded officer, therefore, at the head of any department, whether it be that of a ship, a fleet, an army, or a cabinet, will seldom, if ever, take into his calculations the effect which any measure is to produce on himself or his own interests—but will steadily seek to discover what is best for the public service. And if such research be made in the proper spirit of generous self-devotion to his duty, he may essentially advance the cause of good discipline, by transferring the credit of success, which might be his own due, to those with whom he happens to be co-operating, and without whose companionship and attention to details, though unseen and unknown to the world, he might never have gained his point. It is more difficult indeed, but also more generous, and more useful in practice, for the chief to bear manfully the brunt of failure; and in seasons when measures of an unpopular character become necessary, to charge himself with a large share of that loss of favour which he is best able to afford.
 By the recent regulations each ship also receives her complement of seamen gunners from one of the gunnery ships, in the proportion of a lieutenant and thirteen gunners to a line-of-battle ship, a mate and ten men to a frigate, and eight men to smaller vessels. These are passed gunners, and their duties are to instruct the crew in gunnery.
 The introduction of the system of registration of seamen has, of course, been an admirable check upon desertion after receiving advances, both in the naval and commercial marine.
In the course of a week or ten days after a ship is commissioned, the officers are collected on board their hulk, and they bestir themselves to gather their comforts about them. In the first instance they look after their "noble selves" by selecting, at some small salary extra, a boy or a marine a-piece for a valet. They next find out a good steward, and having installed him in possession of the nascent stock of gun-room crockery, make him hunt for a cook, generally a black man, who takes into his sable keeping the pots and pans of the growing mess. The mates and mids, a portion of whom are appointed by the Admiralty, and a portion by the captain, gradually make their appearance, and settle into their dungeon of a berth under the caterage of some old boy of a captain's clerk or a hard-a-weather mate of the decks. A pretty large proportion of youngsters also, or squeakers, who cannot be appointed without the previous consent of the Admiralty, spring up like mushrooms, with rosy cheeks and tender hands, totally unconscious, poor little fellows! of the rugged lives they are soon to lead.
If these boys had only sense enough to look on quietly, and pay attention to all that is passing, with a sincere desire to understand it, and were they to be assisted a little in their inquiries, they might on such occasions as that of a ship fitting out, manage to learn and store up much that would prove valuable on a future day. But these youths are generally let loose from the Naval College, or from school, or from mamma's apron-string; and unless they are looked after and encouraged, they are too volatile to pay a proper degree of attention to the duty which is going on. After all, it does not require much ingenuity to arrange some employment for them, even at first, provided their numbers be not so great that they stand in one another's way. Three or four youngsters, even though absolute novices, might always be kept well employed in a sloop-of-war, and perhaps twice that number in a frigate or line-of-battle ship fitting. In peace time, however, it will happen that the crowd of young gentlemen is so great, and the disposition to learn so little diffused amongst them, that the first lieutenant is often glad to get rid of them altogether by letting them waste their time and money on shore.
The state in which the ship happens to be at the time she is commissioned, must decide, as I said before, the course to be followed in her equipment. If she be already masted and alongside the hulk, and the ballast in, the officer will most likely wish to make some show in the way of rigging—for as yet the masts are naked to the girt-lines, or single ropes rove through blocks at the mast-head, by which first the men and then the shrouds are drawn up, and the eyes of the rigging placed over the mast-heads. If there be only a few sailors on board, these can be employed to get off the furniture, that is, all the blocks, ready stropped in the rigging loft; and to draw the present use stores from the dockyard. These can all be kept under lock and key in the store-rooms of the hulk; and if the rigging, and everything required in placing it aloft, be previously fitted and arranged by the boatswain, so that he can put his hand at once on the gear as soon as a sufficient number of the crew join, much time will be saved. Even the lower rigging may be got off all ready fitted from the loft; while the runners and tackles, the luffs, and other purchases, may be put in preparation for use the moment there are hands enough to employ on them.
By application to the boatswain of the yard, assistance will be given to gammon the bowsprit, preparatory to its being clothed, which is the technical term for rigging that important spar. One of its principal offices is to support the foremast and fore-topmast, by means of their stays, as the slanting ropes are called which stretch forwards and downwards from the head of every mast, great and small, in the ship. Some of these, as the main-stay, lie at so inconsiderable an angle with the horizon, that they possess great power of sustaining the mast; while others, such as the fore-stay, being necessarily more perpendicular, do not act to such good mechanical purpose. There is a peculiar disadvantage attending the method of securing the fore-stay, arising from the position of the mast. It is placed so near the extremity of the ship, that the stay, which forms its only support in the forward direction, cannot be attached to the body of the vessel, without making so very small an angle with the mast as would divest it of nearly all its character as a supporter. To remedy this, the bowsprit has been devised, chiefly as an out-rigger for the fore-stay. But in order to render the spar effective for that purpose, it requires to be very strongly bound down. There has, therefore, been contrived what is called the stem, or cut-water, which is a strong but narrow projection from the bows, securely fastened by long and thick bolts of iron and copper to the body of the ship. The chief purpose of this stem is to furnish a point of support for the ropes securing the bowsprit. Of these, the most important is called the gammoning, which consists of a strong and well-stretched hawser, passed up and down successively, in perpendicular turns, over the bowsprit and through a hole horizontally cut in the stem. At each turn the gammoning hawser is hove taut, while every effort is used to bring the bowsprit down into its place. A heavy boat is sometimes suspended from the end, the weight of which greatly assists the gammoning process. Another set of ropes, called bob-stays, extending from about one-third from the outer end of the bowsprit to the cut-water, nearly at the water-line, contribute essentially to its stability. It is further secured in a lateral direction by shrouds reaching from its extremity to the bows of the ship.
I need not mention, that, in order to give a finish, as it were, to the end of the ship, and to convert that into a source of ornament which might otherwise be deemed a deformity, the top of the stem has been appropriated as the position of the figure-head, the characteristic emblem of the vessel. In some ships the sailors pride themselves especially on the beauty of their figure-head; and many a time have I seen the captain of the forecastle employed for hours in painting the eyes, hair, and drapery of his favourite idol. I suppose few commanding-officers will allow of this liberty; for it must be owned that as Jack's taste in female beauty, and in the disposition and colours of dress, are borrowed from a very questionable model, his labours in adorning the figure-head are apt to produce strange monsters. I once heard of a captain who indulged his boatswain in this whim of representing his absent love as far as the king's allowance of paint could carry the art; and it must be owned, that, as the original Dulcinea owed her roses to the same source, the representation "came very close aboard of the original," as the delighted boatswain expressed it. This very proximity in colouring, scantiness of drapery, and so forth, which formed the boatswain's pride, perplexed the worthy captain, who had given his sanction to the work, for he could never cross the bows of his own ship with a party of friends, without raising a laugh at the expense of his taste in figures. The whole crew, however, soon fell as much in love with the damsel as the boatswain had done before them; and it would have been cruel to have sent the painter to daub her ladyship all over with one uniform colour, according to the general fashion. The considerate commander took a different line.
"You seem proud of your head, Mr. Clearpipe, I shall gild her for you!"
In a few days, the sparkling eyes and blushing cheeks of Mrs. Boatswain, like Danae, had yielded up their charms to the golden shower. The glittering figure-head soon became the delight of the ship's company, and on one occasion furnished the captain with rather an odd means of calling out their energies. The ship was sailing in company with several others of the same class, and when they all came to reef topsails together, she was beat on the first occasion. As they were setting about a second trial of activity, the captain called out to the people aloft,—
"Now, I tell you what it is, my lads, unless you are off the yards, and the sails are hoisted again before any other ship in the squadron, by the Lord Harry I'll paint your figure-head black!" From that time forward, she beat every ship in the fleet.
As soon as a sufficient number of hands are collected on board the ship which is fitting out, all the spars, except the spare ones, may be got off to the hulk. These consist of topsail yards, topmasts, and top-gallant masts and yards, jib and spanker boom, studding-sail booms, and one or two others. The lower and topsail yards can be fitted on the hulk's decks, ready to be swayed into their places when the masts are in a state to receive them. If a dockyard lump, or lighter, can be got to put all the spars in, together with the tops and other things which are usually made into a raft and floated off, it may save a great deal of trouble; as it frequently happens that they cannot all be got in before night, and if bad weather comes on, they may break adrift and be lost.
There seems no fixed rule for rigging a ship progressively. Different officers adopt different ways of setting about the operation, and slight variations occur in the arrangement of the ropes; but, generally speaking, everything is disposed according to the long-established rules of seamanship. The grand object is to support each mast laterally by a number of shrouds on each side, inclining slightly abaft the perpendicular, to prevent its falling either sideways or forwards, and also, by means of two stays, the principal stay and the spring stay, both stretching in the line of the keel, to hold it forwards. The width of the ship affords what is called a spread for the rigging, which spread is augmented by the application of broad shelves, called channels, carrying the rigging three or four feet further out on each side, and making its angle with the masts greater, and consequently increasing the support of the shrouds. These channels act merely as out-riggers, for the ultimate point of fixture, or that against which the shrouds pull, is lower down, where long links of iron called chain-plates, are securely bolted through and through the solid ribs of the ship, and rivetted within. The upper ends of these chain-plates are furnished with what are called dead-eyes, great round blocks of wood pierced with holes, through which the lanyards are rove by which the rigging is set up, or drawn almost as tight as bars of iron. The topmasts, rising immediately above the lower masts, are supported chiefly by rigging spread out by the tops, or what people on shore miscall round-tops. These, like the channels for the lower rigging, are mere projections or out-riggers; the true point of support for the topmast rigging is the lower shrouds, the connection being made by what are called futtock shrouds and catharpins. The top-gallant masts, at the next stage aloft, are supported by shrouds passing through the ends of small spars called cross-trees, at the head of the topmast; and so on in succession, up to the sky-scrapers and moon-rakers in some very fly-away ships.
As early as possible, the boats, which are duly warranted for the ship, should be selected, and their equipment superintended by the officers of the ship, who are the persons most interested in their completion. The master boat-builder attends to any little extra fittings that the first lieutenant may have a fancy for—such as the arrangement of the kedge and steam-anchor davits, the slide for the carronnade in the launch, and so on. The boats will be painted of any required colour, provided that colour be consistent with the dockyard regulations; if any other be required, the captain must purchase it himself, but the dockyard painters will lay it on. In the same way, if the gun carriages are to be painted of any particular or fancy colour, the people at the gun-wharf will prime them in a manner suited to that colour, but no more.
I may here take occasion to remark, that in the numberless dockyards I have drawn stores from, I never met with any real difficulty in getting all that was reasonable from the officers in any department. I have heard, indeed, one and all of these persons abused over and over again, for being crusty and disobliging; for pertinacity in sticking to the mere letter of their instructions, and forgetting its spirit; and for throwing obstacles in the way of the service, instead of promoting its advancement. But I can only say for myself, that I never met with anything but a hearty zeal to furnish all that was right, and that, too, in the pleasantest manner, provided the proper degree of civility were used in making the application.
People too often forget, that politeness, punctuality, and general attention to business, are all reciprocal qualities; and that, unless they themselves employ such means in their intercourse with official authorities, it is hopeless to expect these authorities will put themselves one inch out of their way to oblige persons who manifestly hold them in contempt. At least, until we can procure angels to take the office of master-attendant, master-shipwright, storekeeper, and so forth, the laws and customs of human nature will continue to regulate such influences. Your gruff and sulky letter-of-the-law man will, no doubt, get his ship fitted, in process of time, but not half so well, nor nearly so quickly, as he who takes matters cheerfully.
When a sufficient number of hands have been volunteered at the rendezvous, and stationed to the different parts of the ship's duty, the first lieutenant should form them into separate working parties, as carefully selected as possible for the different kinds of work required. The gunner will take one of these gangs to the ordnance-wharf, to fit the tackles and breechings; another party will be sent to the sail-loft to fit the sails; a third party may be occupied with stowing the water-tanks, and preparing the holds for the provisions; while some hands should be sent to weave mats for covering the different parts of the rigging. The carpenters form a most important department of the crew, as there are many little jobs to be attended to in every part of the ship which the dockyard pass over; and it is useful to have one or two carpenters always ready at a call to drive in a nail here, or fix a cleat there, or to ease or fill up what does not fit nicely.
When a ship is first commissioned, the captain should apply to the builder to have the caulking of the sides, and especially of the decks, carefully examined, and if this important operation is to be repeated, it should be got over as soon as may be. If the caulking be delayed, as too frequently occurs, till after the ship is equipped and painted, and the guns mounted; off comes a noisy gang of caulkers, who daub her all over with pitch, the removal of which is a troublesome, and always a dirty operation.
Old hammocks are generally supplied for the men to sleep in while the ship is fitting, and returned when she goes out of harbour. But two sets of new hammocks ought to be got on board the hulk, ready to be numbered as soon as a neat-handed man of letters can be enlisted for that purpose; and as every hammock requires to have a legible number marked on it, this occupies some time, and should be set about as early as possible, that all may be dry and ready against going to sea.
If the ship be new, it will be of great advantage that the captain or first lieutenant should point out to the dockyard officers what he considers the best place for the bulk-heads, or partitions separating the different holds from one another. The main hold, for example, if fitted strictly according to rule, or if it be left to the general guess of the superintending shipwright, may chance to be long enough to stow a certain number of water-tanks, together with a foot or two over and above; now this lost space, if thrown into the after-hold, might prove sufficient to gain another entire "longer," or range of provision-casks. In the same way, the bulkhead which is common to the spirit-room and after-hold may, by timely adjustment, be so placed as to gain much useful space. These things are now much better attended to than formerly in the original fitting of the ship; but I mention them to prevent, as far as may be, the dangerous practice of taking that for granted which admits of further examination. Moreover, as no two vessels are exactly alike in all their dimensions, and correct seamanship is guided by principles, which an officer ought to understand, it will not do to rely upon things being done properly when they are done by rule-of-thumb. Thus the position of the main-tack block, and those of the fore and main sheets, the main-brace blocks, topsail sheet and brace bitts, with the number of sheeves in each, and twenty other things relating to kevils, cleats, and belaying pins, will be dependent for much of their eventual efficiency on the length of the yards, the size of the sails, and other circumstances which it is quite in vain, and quite unreasonable to expect the dockyard workmen to take into account.
By the time the ship, to which every one has ere this become attached, is so far advanced as to have all her spars on end, the artificers will have completed their hammerings, sawings, and nailings, and the main-hold will have been stowed with water-tanks. It is then time to draw the heavy stores from the dockyard, such as anchors, cables, spare anchor-stocks, fishes for the lower masts, and other spars, forming, when packed together in two lines, one on each side of the upper deck, what are called "the booms." Great care must be taken in stowing these clusters of spars so as to leave room enough between them, and just room enough, for stowing the launch or largest boat. This is managed by the carpenter taking what is called her midship section, and making a slight framework model to guide the stowage of the booms.
It may be useful to remark, that, although the operations in fitting out a ship are multifarious, and often apparently much confused, it is of great consequence to carry into them as much routine method as possible. For example, in spite of the frequent interruptions to which the seamen are exposed by the arrival of dockyard and victualling-office vessels, which must be cleared, it will be found very advantageous to adopt a uniform plan by which one set of men shall begin, carry on, and complete the same jobs. In this way the several working parties will come to take an interest and pride in executing their tasks well and quickly, which they never could feel if the responsibility and credit were divided or dissipated by their being sent backwards and forwards from one operation to another. For the purpose of such arrangements, as well as to assist his memory, the first lieutenant may find it useful to write out in the evening a programme of the next day's intended operations, and commencing every morning by this, adhere to it throughout the day as strictly as circumstances will permit. A character of consistency will thus be given to a vast crowd of operations which otherwise become confused and desultory. The people employed to execute these tasks will soon insensibly discover that their labours are guided by substantial method, and they will work all the more cheerfully and effectively, from a conviction that no time is lost, and that their services are duly appreciated.
The main hold being now stowed, the cables, anchors, and spare spars, all on board, the quantity of provisions required to complete for the service appointed may be applied for, and will be sent off in the victualling-office lighters. The purser then gets on board coals, candles, lanterns, and other stores in his department. The rigging has been repeatedly set up, and is now so well stretched that it is ready for the last pull before going out of harbour. This done, and the dead-eyes and ratlines squared, the shroud and backstay mats are put on, and the masts and studding-sail booms carefully scraped. The lower masts, and the heads of the topmasts and top-gallant masts, are next painted, the yards blacked, and the rigging and backstays fore and aft tarred down. The whole ship ought now to be scraped within and without, and thoroughly cleaned and dried; after which the painters may be sent for from the dockyard, and when they have primed the ship it will be well to give her decks another good scouring. Next black the bends, while the painters finish the upper works with one or two more coats; and, finally, retouch the bends with the black-brush.
When the paint is thoroughly dry, the guns and ordnance stores are to be got on board, and all the remaining stores drawn from the dockyard, leaving nothing, if possible, excepting the gunpowder, to be got off. At this stage of the equipment, the ropes forming the running rigging may be rove and cut. At the same time, both suits of sails ought to be got on board in a decked lighter, one for stowing away in the sail-room, but completely fitted and ready for use; the others to be bent to the yards. The hammock-cloths also being now fitted, are brought off; and if the ship be "going foreign," double sets are allowed, both of which in former times used to be painted; but the spare cloths are now very properly supplied unpainted.
The ship being all ready for going out of harbour, the captain makes a report to that effect to the admiral, the working boats are returned, and the new ones drawn, and hoisted in. At the same time all unserviceable stores, worn out in fitting the ship, are returned to the dockyard, including the hulk hammocks, which must be well scrubbed, dried, and made neatly up. The new hammocks are issued and slung, and the bedding being lashed up in them, they are stowed in the nettings, with their numbers ranged in a straight line, in regular order fore and aft. This arrangement not only gives symmetry, but is useful in affording the means of getting at any particular hammock which may be required; for instance, if a man is taken sick, or persons are required to be sent to other ships.
Generally speaking, indeed, it will be found that the attention bestowed on regularity, neatness, and even dandyism, in all these minor details, brings with it more than a correspondent degree of practical advantage. The men soon feel a pride in what their officer approves of and shows himself pleased with; and, when once they fall into habits of mutual obligation in the accomplishment of a common purpose, everything goes on smoothly and cheerfully. I need scarcely recall to the recollection of any one who has witnessed the practice of such things, the marvellous difference in the efficiency of a ship where the system of discipline is to bully and reproach, and of another where the principle is encouraging and gentleman-like. In one case the crew work as little as may be, and even take a morbid pleasure in crossing the views of the officers as much as they possibly can without incurring the risk of punishment; and they never stir a finger in works not strictly within their assigned duty. In the other case, where good will, a temperate exercise of authority, indulgence, when it can by possibility be granted, and, above all, when no coarse language unworthy the lips of an officer and a gentleman is used, the result is very different. All the subordinate authorities, and indeed the crew at large, then become insensibly possessed of an elasticity of obedience which exerts a two-fold influence, by reacting on themselves even more than it operates upon the commanding-officer whose judicious deportment has called out the exertion. I may safely add, that in the strict discipline which is absolutely indispensable in every efficient man-of-war, and under all the circumstances of confinement, privation, and other inevitable hardships to which both officers and men are exposed, such a course of moderation and good-breeding, independently of its salutary effect on the minds of the people, works most admirably for the public service, and more than doubles the results, by rendering men, who otherwise might have been disposed to retard the duty, sincerely zealous in its advancement.
Lord Nelson, that great master of war and discipline, and all that was noble and good in the cause of his country, understood, better perhaps than any other officer, the art of applying these wholesome maxims to the practice of duty at the exact moment of need. During the long and weary period when Lord Nelson was blockading Toulon, he was joined from England by a line-of-battle ship, commanded by an officer who, as the story goes, had long applied for and expected an appointment to a cruising frigate, and who, in consequence of this disappointment, came growling out to join the fleet, in high dudgeon with the Admiralty at being condemned, as he called it, to the galley-slave duty of a blockade, in a wretched old tub of a 74, instead of ranging at large in a gay frigate over the Atlantic or the Adriatic, and nabbing up prizes by the dozen. It appears farther, that he rather unreasonably extended a portion of his indignation to the Admiral, who, of course, had nothing to do with his appointment; and this sulky frame of mind might have proved the captain's ruin, had his Admiral been any other than Nelson. But the genius of that great officer appeared to delight in such occasions of recalling people to a sense of their duty, and directing their passions and motives into the channels most useful to themselves and their country. Knowing the officer to be a clever man, and capable of performing good service if he chose, it was Nelson's cue to make it his choice. When, therefore, the captain came on board, full of irritability and provocation, the Admiral took no notice, but chatted with him during breakfast on the news from England, and other indifferent matters, as if his guest had been in the best humour possible. The other, who was nursing his displeasure, waited only for an opportunity of exploding, when he could do so without a breach of decorum. Lord Nelson soon gave him the occasion he appeared to seek for, by begging him to step into the after-cabin, and then asking him what he thought of the station, and how he should like cruising in the Levant and other interesting parts of the Mediterranean.
"Why, as to that, my lord, I am not very likely to have any choice. I am sent here to join the blockading fleet, and here, no doubt, I am doomed to stick. I care nothing about the Mediterranean, and it would matter little if I did."
"I am sorry to hear you speak in that way," said Nelson, "for I had reckoned a good deal on your activity, personal knowledge, and abilities, to execute a service of some consequence in the upper parts of the station. In this view I have been cutting out a cruise for you, which I had hoped might enable you to see everything that is interesting, and at the same time to execute a delicate and difficult piece of service. But if you really do not fancy it, only say so—it is not a business that can be done well on compulsion, but must be done cheerfully. If you have a mind to go, well and good—if not, I must look out for some one else—but you are the man I should prefer, if it be agreeable to you. Here is a sketch of your orders, and there is the chart—look them over at leisure, and make your decision."
As Lord Nelson spoke these words he went on deck, leaving the poor man bewildered at the prospect of the very employment he most desired, and not a little ashamed of himself for having anticipated so different a reception. The captain gratefully accepted the Admiral's offer, sailed on the appointed service, which he executed with such diligence and zeal, that he actually returned to the blockading fleet long within the period he was authorized to bestow on the cruise; and there he remained ever afterwards, performing all the drudgery of the blockading service, not only with zeal, but with the heartiest good humour, springing out of an anxious desire to manifest at once his respect and his affectionate devotion to the matchless officer who had so judiciously taught him the true path to honour.
The last thing to be done in fitting out, and before quitting the harbour, is to turn all hands over to their proper ship, and then to scrape, and scrub, and wash the hulk as effectually as possible, preparatory to her being inspected by the dockyard. This duty is too frequently executed in a negligent manner; and really it is not much to be wondered at, for the hulks are such abominable ugly-looking monsters, that one can take no pride or pleasure in treating them with common decency. The commanding-officer, therefore, should be particularly cautious in seeing this operation effectually performed; for, if he does not, he will be sure to be called upon next day to send a party of hands, probably at a great inconvenience, to repeat the process.
There are, as will readily be conceived, a hundred minor points to be thought of in the equipment of a ship, to which I have not adverted, relating to the watching, stationing, and quartering of men and officers; the berthing and arrangement of the people into messes; the rules respecting their having leave to go on shore, and so on. It may be well, however, to remind officers that they should never forget that the mere appearance of their ship is a matter of considerable consequence; and therefore, even in the very busiest times of the outfit, the yards should be carefully squared every evening after the work is over, all the ropes hauled taut, and the decks swept as soon as the artificers leave off work. Not a single person beyond the sentries should ever be allowed to go from the hulk to the ship, except during working hours. This rule prevents any interference with the tools or unfinished work of the dockyard men. In a word, the crew should never be allowed to suppose that the discipline of forms and appearances, so to call it, is relaxed, because the usual regularity of working is in some degree interrupted. That a ship is essentially in good order can at once be discovered by a professional eye, in the midst of her most bustling occupations and at any stage of the outfit.
Last of all the pilot comes on board; the sails are loosed and hoisted; and the lashings being cast off from the hulk, the gay ship sails joyously out of harbour, and takes up her anchorage at the anchoring ground. The officers and crew set to work in getting things into their places; and being all thoroughly tired of harbour, and anxious to get to sea, a fresh feeling of zeal and activity pervades the whole establishment.
The powder is now got on board; the warrant-officers "indent" or sign the proper acknowledgments for their stores at the dockyard; and the purser, having completed the stock of provisions, closes his accounts at the victualling-office. The captain's wife begins to pack up her band-boxes in order to return home, while the Jews and bum-boat folks are pushing all the interest they can scrape together to induce the first lieutenant to give them the priority of entrance with their goods and chattels on the approaching pay-day. The sailors' wives about this period besiege the captain and his lady alternately, with petitions to be allowed to go to sea in the ship; to all, or most of which, a deaf ear must be turned. When all things are put to rights, the port-admiral comes on board to muster and inspect the ship's company, and to see how the different equipments have been attended to.
At length, just before sailing, pay-day comes, and with it many a disgusting scene will ever be associated until the present system be modified. The ship is surrounded by a fleet of boats filled with gangs of queer-looking Jew-pedlars sitting in the midst of piles of slop-clothing, gaudy handkerchiefs, tawdry trinkets, eggs and butter, red herrings and cheeses, tin-pots, fruit, joints of meat, and bags of potatoes, well concealed beneath which are bottles and bladders filled with the most horribly adulterated spirituous liquors. As many of these dealers as can be conveniently ranged on the quarter-deck and gangways may be admitted, that the market may be as open and fair as possible; but it is very indiscreet to allow any of them to go on the main-deck.
Right happy is that hour when the ship is fairly clear of all these annoyances—sweethearts and wives inclusive—and when, with the water filled up to the last gallon, the bread-room chock full, and as many quarters of beef got on board as will keep fresh, the joyful sound of "Up Anchor!" rings throughout the ship. The capstan is manned; the messenger brought to; round fly the bars; and as the anchor spins buoyantly up to the bows, the jib is hoisted, the topsails sheeted home, and off she goes, merrily before the breeze!
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