« ForrigeFortsæt »
(for I being then sentinel in the steerage, heard all), and swab, and lubber, whereby the lieutenant returned the salute, and they jawed together, fore and aft, a good spell, till at last the captain turned out, and laying hold of a rattan, came athwart Mr. Bowling's quarter; whereby he told the captain, that, if he was not his commander, he would heave him over board, and demanded satisfaction ashore; whereby, in the morning watch, the captain went ashore in the pinnace, and afterwards the lieutenant carried the cutter ashore; and so they, leaving their boats' crews on their oars, went away together; and so, d'ye see, in less than a quarter of an hour we heard firing, whereby we made for the place, and found the captain lying wounded on the beach, and so brought him on board to the doctor, who cured him in less than six weeks. But the lieutenant clapp'd on all the sail he could bear, and had got far enow ahead before we knew anything of the matter; so that we could never after get sight of him, for which we were not sorry, because the captain was mainly wroth, and would certainly have done him a mischief;—for he afterwards caused him to be run on the ship's books, whereby he lost all his pay, and if he should be taken, would be tried as a deserter."
This account of the captain's behaviour gave me no advantageous idea of his character; and I could not help lamenting my own fate, that had subjected me to such a commander. However, making a virtue of necessity, I put a good face on the matter, and next day was, with the other pressed men, put on board of the Thunder, lying at the Nore. When we came alongside, the mate who guarded us thither ordered my handcuffs to be taken off, that I might get on board the easier. This circumstance being perceived by some of the company, who stood upon the gang-boards to see us enter, one of them called to Jack Rattlin, who was busied in doing this friendly office for me, “Hey, Jack, what Newgate galley have you boarded in the river as you came along? Have we not thieves enow among us already?” Another, observing my wounds, which remained exposed to the air, told me that my seams were uncaulked, and that I must be new payed. A third, seeing my hair clotted together with blood, as it were, into distinct cords, took notice, that my bows were manned with red ropes, instead of my side. A fourth asked me, if I could not keep my yards square without iron braces ? And, in short, a thousand witticisms of the same nature were passed upon me before I could get up the ship's side. After we had been all entered upon the ship's books, I inquired of one of my shipmates where the surgeon was, that I might have my wounds dressed, and had actually got as far as the middle deck, (for our ship carried eighty guns,) in my way to the cock-pit, when I was met by the same midshipman who had used me so barbarously in the tender. He, seeing me free from my chains, asked, with an insolent air, who had released me? To this question I foolishly answered, with a countenance that too plainly declared the state of my thoughts, “Whoever did it, I am persuaded did not consult you in the affair." I had no sooner uttered these words, than he cried, “D-n you, you saucy s of a b I'll teach you to talk so to your officer." So saying, he bestowed on me several severe stripes with a supple-jack he had in his hand; and, going to the commanding officer, made such a report of me, that I was immediately put in irons by the master-at-arms, and a sentinel placed over me. Honest Rattlin, as soon as he heard of my condition,
came to me, and administered all the consolation he could, and then went to the surgeon in my behalf, who sent one of his mates to dress my wounds. This mate was no other than my old friend Thomson, with whom I became acquainted at the Navy Office. If I knew him at first sight, it was not easy for him to recognise me, disfigured with blood and dirt, and altered by the misery I had undergone. Unknown as I was to him, he surveyed me with looks of compassion, and handled my sores with great tenderness. When he had applied what he thought proper, and was about to leave me, I asked him, if my misfortunes had disguised me so much that he could not recollect my face? Upon this address, he observed me with great earnestness for some time, and at length protested he could not recollect one feature of my countenance.
To keep him no longer in suspense, I told him my name; which when he heard, he embraced me with affection, and professed his sorrow in seeing me in such a disagreeable situation. I made him acquainted with my story; and when he heard how inhumanly I had been used in the tender, he left me abruptly, assuring me I should see him again soon. I had scarce time to wonder at his sudden departure, when the master-at-arms came to the place of my confinement, and bade me follow him to the quarter-deck, where I was examined by the first lieutenant, who commanded the ship in the absence of the captain, touching the treatment I had received in the tender from my friend the midshipman, who was present to confront me. I recounted the particulars of his behaviour to me, not only in the tender, but since my being on board the ship, part of which being proved by the evidence of Jack Rattlin and others, who had no great devotion of my oppressor, I was discharged from confinement, to make way for him, who was delivered to the master-at-arms to take his turn in the bilboes. And this was not the only satisfaction I enjoyed; for I was, at the request of the surgeon, exempted from all other duty than that of assisting his mates in making and administering medicines to the sick. This good office I owed to the friendship of Mr. Thomson, who had represented me in such a favourable light to the surgeon, that he demanded me of the lieutenant to supply the place of his third mate, who was lately dead. When I had obtained this favour, my friend Thomson carried me down to the cock-pit, which is the place allotted for the habitation of the surgeon's mates; and when he had shown me their berth, as he called it, I was filled with astonishment and horror.
We descended by divers ladders to a space as dark as a dungeon, which I understood was immersed several feet under water, being immediately above the hold. I had no sooner approached this dismal gulf, than my nose was saluted with an intolerable stench of putrefied cheese and rancid butter, that issued from an apartment at the foot of the ladder, resembling a chandler's shop, where, by the faint glimmering of a candle, I could perceive a man with a pale meagre countenance, sitting behind a kind of desk, having spectacles on his nose, and a pen in his hand. This, I learned of Mr. Thomson, was the ship's steward, who sat there to distribute provision to the several messes, and to mark what each received. He therefore presented my name to him, and desired I might be entered in his mess; then, taking a light in his hand, conducted me to the place of his residence, which was a square of about six feet, surrounded with the medicine chest, that of the first mate, his own, and a board, by way of table, fastened to the after powder-room; it was also enclosed with canvas, nailed round to the beams of the ship, to screen us from the cold, as well as from the view of the midshipmen and quarter-masters, who lodged within the cable-tiers on each side of us. In this gloomy mansion he entertained me with some cold salt pork, which he brought from a sort of locker, fixed above the table; and, calling for the boy of the mess, sent for a can of beer, of which he made excellent flip to crown the banquet. By this time I began to recover my spirits, which had been exceedingly depressed by the appearance of everything about me, and could no longer refrain from asking the particulars of Mr. Thomson's fortune, since I had seen him in London. He told me, that, being disappointed in his expectations of borrowing money to gratify the rapacious secretary of the Navy Office, he found himself utterly unable to subsist any longer in town, and had actually offered his service in quality of mate to the surgeon of a merchant's ship bound to Guinea, on the slaving trade; when, one morning, a young fellow, of whom he had some acquaintance, came to his lodgings, and informed him, that he had seen a warrant made out in his name at the Navy Office, for surgeon's second mate of a third rate. This unexpected piece of good news he could scarcely believe to be true, more especially as he had been found qualified at Surgeons' Hall for third mate only; but, that he might not be wanting to himself, he went thither to be assured, and actually found it so. Whereupon, demanding his warrant, it was delivered to him, and the oaths administered immediately. That very afternoon he went to Gravesend in the tilt-boat,