Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

BY W

LEGGETT.

lingering torments of a guilty conscience in search of slave traders; and during and a wasting frame.

that time we had some pretty heavy The reader, who would trace to its weather. When we reached the Straits, close the history of this wretched man, there was a spanking wind blowing from is referred to the Newgate Calendar, about west-south-west ; so we squared where the penitent criminal, the hang- away, and without coming to at the man, the cart, and the crowd at Tyburn, Rock, made a straight wake for old Ma. are so often and so graphically described. hon, the general rendezvous and place of

E. F. refitting for our squadrons in the Medi

terranean. Immediately on arriving THE MAIN TRUCK; OR, A there, we warped in alongside the arseLEAP FOR LIFE.

nal quay, where we stripped ship to a girtline, broke out the holds, tiers, and store-rooms, and gave a regular

built overhauling from stem to stern. “ Stand still! How fearful

For a while, every body was busy, and And dizzy 't is, to cast one's eyes so low!" all seemed bustle and confusion. Orders “ The marmuring surge,

and replies, in loud and dissimilar voices, That on th' annumbered idle pebbles chafes, Cannot be heard so high :--I'll look no more,

the shrill pipings of the different boatLest my brain turr, and the deficient sight

swains' mates, each attending to sepaTopple down headlong." Shakspeare. rate duties, and the mingled clatter and

noise of various kinds of work, all going Among the many agreeable associates on at the same time, gave something of whom my different cruisings and wan- the stir and animation of a dock-yard to derings have brought me acquainted the usually quiet arsenal of Mahon. with, I can scarcely call to mind a more The boatswain and his crew were enpleasant and companionable one than gaged in fitting a new gang of rigging ; Tom Scupper. Poor fellow! he is dead

the gunner in repairing his breechings and gone now-a victim to that code of and gun-tackles; the fo'castle-men in false honour, which has robbed the navy caulking; the top-men in sending down of too many of its choicest officers. Tom the yards and upper spars; the holders and I were messmates during a short and waisters, in white-washing and holyand delightful cruise, and, for a good stoning; and even the poor marines part of the time, we belonged to the were kept busy, like beasts of burden, in same watch. He was a great hand to carrying breakers of water on their spin yarns, which, to do him justice, backs. On the quay, near the ship, the he sometimes told tolerably well: and smoke of the armourer's forge, which had many a long mid-watch has his fund of been hoisted out and sent ashore, asanecdote and sea stories caused to slip cended in a thick black column through pleasantly away. We were lying, in the the clear blue sky; from one of the little schooner to which we were attached, neighbouring white stone warehouses; in the open roadstead of Laguyra, at sin- the sound of saw and hammer told that gle anchor, when Tom told me the story the carpenters were at work; near by, a which I am about to relate, as nearly as livelier rattling drew attention to the I can remember, in his own words. A

cooper, who in the open air was tightenvessel from Baltimore had come into ing the water-casks; and not far reLaguyra that day, and by her I had re- moved, under a temporary shed, formed ceived letters from home, in one of of spare studding-sails and tarpaulins, which there was a piece of intelligence sat the sailmaker and his assistants, rethat weighed very heavily on my spirits. pairing the sails which had been rent by For some minutes after our watch com- the many storms we had encountered. menced, Tom and I walked the deck in Many hands, however, make light silence, which was soon, however, inter- work, and in a very few days all was rupted by my talkative companion, who, accomplished; the stays and shrouds perceiving my depression, and wishing were set up and new rattled down; the to divert my thoughts, began as fol- yards crossed, the running-rigging rove, lows:

and sails bent; and the old craft, fresh The last cruise I made in the Medi- painted and all a-taunt-o, looked as fine terranean was in Old Ironsides, as we as a midshipman on liberty. In place used to call our gallant frigate. We had of the storm-stumps, which had been been backing and filling for several stowed away among the booms and other months on the western coast of Africa, spare spars, amidships, we had sent up cap from the Canaries down to Messurado, to'gallant-masts and royal-poles, with a

as

sheave for sky-sails, and hoist enough hung drooping from the slanting and for sky-scrapers above them: so you may taper yards, shone with a glistening judge the old frigate looked pretty taut. whiteness that contrasted beautifully There was a Dutch line ship in the hare with the dark flood in which they were bour; but though we only carried forty- reflected; and the distant sound of the four to her eighty, her main-truck would guitar, which one of the sailors was listhardly have reached to our royal-mast lessly playing on her deck, came sweetly head. The side-boys, whose duty it over the water, and harmonized well with to lay aloft and furi the sky-sails

, looked the quiet appearance of every thing no bigger on the yard than a good sized around. The white-washed walls of the duff for a midshipman's mess, and the lazaretto, on a verdant headland at the main-truck seemed not half as large as mouth of the bay, glittered like silver in the Turk’s-head knot on the manropes the slant rays of the sun; and some of its of the accommodation ladder.

windows were burnished so brightly bythe When we had got every thing ship- level beams, that it seemed as if the whole shape and man-of-war fashion, we hauled interior of the edifice were in flames. On out again, and took our berth about half the opposite side, the romantic and picway between the Arsenal and Hospital turesque ruins of fort St. Philip, faintly Island; and a pleasant view it gave us seen, acquired double beauty from being of the town and harbour of old Mahon, tipped with the declining light; and the one of the safest and most tranquil places clusters of ancient-looking windmills, of anchorage in the world. The water which dot the green eminences along the of this beautiful inlet—which, though it bank, added, by the motionless state of makes about four miles into the land, is their wings, to the effect of the unbroken not much over a quarter of a mile in tranquillity of the scene. width — is scarcely ever ruffled by a Even on board our vessel a degree of storm; and on the delightful afternoon stillness, unusual for a man-of-war, preto which I now refer, it lay as still and vailed among the crew. It was the hour motionless as a polished mirror, except of their evening meal; and the low hum when broken into momentary ripples by that came from the gun-deck had an inthe paddles of some passing waterman. distinct and buzzing sound, which, like What little wind we had in the fore part the tiny song of bees of a warm summer of the day, died away at noon; and, noon, rather heightened than diminished though the first dog-watch was almost the charm of the surrounding quiet. out, and the sun was near the horizon, The spar-deck was almost deserted. The not a breath of air had risen to disturb quartermaster of the watch, with his spythe deep serenity of the scene. The glass in his hand, and dressed in a frock Dutch liner, which lay not far from us, and trowsers of snowy whiteness, stood was so clearly reflected in the glassy sur-aft upon the tafferel, erect and motionface of the water, that there was not a less as a statue, keeping the usual lookrope about her, from her mainstay to A group of some half a dozen her signal halliards, which the eye could sailors had gathered together on the not distinctly trace in her shadowy and forecastle, where they were supinely lyinverted image. The buoy of our best ing, under the shade of the bulwarks; bower floated abreast of our larboard bow; and here and there, upon the gun-slides and that, too, was so strongly imaged, along the gangway, sat three or four that its entire bulk seemed to lie above others-one, with his clothes-bag beside the water, just resting on it, as if up- him, overhauling his simple wardrobe ; borne on a sea of molten lead; except another working a set of clues for some when now and then the wringing of a favourite officer's hammock; and a third swab, or the dashing of a bucket over- engaged, perhaps, in carving his name board from the head, broke up the in rude letters upon the handle of a jackshadow for a moment, and shewed the knife, or in knotting a laniard by which substance but half its former apparent to suspend it round his neck. size. A small polacca craft had got un- On the top of the boom-cover, and in derway from Mahon in the course of the the full glare of the level sun, lay black forenoon, intending to stand over to Jake, the jig maker of the ship, and a Barcelona; but it fell dead calm just striking specimen of African peculiaribefore she reached the chops of the har- ties, in whose single person they were

and there she lay, as motionless all strongly developed. His flat nose upon the blue surface, as if she were was dilated to unusual width, and his only part of a mimic scene, from the ebony cheeks fairly glistened with depencil of some accomplished painter. light, as he looked up at the gambols of Her broad cotton lateen sails, as they a large monkey, which, clinging to the

out.

bour;

main-stay, just above Jake's woolly head, A red spot mounted to the cheek of was chattering and grinning back at the little Bob, as he cast one glance of ofnegro, as if there existed some means of fended pride at Jake, and then sprang mutual intelligence between them. It across the deck to the Jacob's ladder. In was my watch on deck, and I had been an instant he was half way up the rigstanding several minutes leaning on the ging, running over the ratlines as lightly main fiferail, amusing myself by observ- as if they were an easy flight of stairs, ing the antics of the black and his con- whilst the shrouds scarcely quivered genial playmate; but, at length, tiring beneath his elastic motion. In a second of the rude mirth, had turned towards more, his hand was on the futtocks. the tafferel, to gaze on the more agree- “Massa Stay!” cried Jake, who someable features of that scene which I have times, from being a favourite, ventured feebly attempted to describe. Just at to take liberties with the younger ofthat moment a shout and a merry laugh ficers, “ Massa Stay, you best crawl burst upon my ear, and looking quickly through de lubber's hole-it take a sailor round, to ascertain the cause of the un- to climb the futtock shroud.” usual sound on a frigate's deck, I saw But he had scarcely time to utter little Bob Stay (as we called our com- his pretended caution before Bob was modore's son) standing half-way up the in the top: The monkey, in the meanmain hatch ladder, clapping his hands, while, had waited his approach until he and looking aloft at some object that had got nearly up the rigging, when it seemed to inspire him with a deal of suddenly put the cap on its own head, glee. A single glance to the main-yard and running along the yard to the opexplained the occasion of his merriment. posite side of the top, sprang up a rope, He had been coming up from the gun- and thence to the topmast backstay, up deck, when Jacko, perceiving him on the which it ran to the topmast cross-trees, ladder, dropped suddenly down from the where it again quietly seated itself, and main-stay, and running along the boom- resumed its work of picking the tassel cover, leaped upon Bob's shoulder, to pieces. For several minutes I stood seized his cap from his head, and imme- : watching my little messmate follow Jacko diately darted up the maintop-sail sheet, from one piece of rigging to another, the and thence to the bunt of the main-yard, monkey all the while seeming to exert where he now sat, picking threads from only as much agility as was necessary the tassel of his prize, and occasionally to elude the pursuer, and pausing whenscratching his side and chattering, as if ever the latter appeared to be growing with exultation for the success of his weary of the chase. At last, by this mischief. But Bob was a sprightly, ac- kind of manæuvring, the mischievous tive little fellow; and though he could animal succeeded in enticing Bob as high not climb quite as nimbly as the monkey, as the royal-mast-head, when springing yet he had no mind to lose his cap suddenly on the royal-stay, it ran nimwithout an effort to regain it. Perhaps bly down to the foretop-gallant-masthe was more strongly incited to make head, thence down the rigging to the chase after Jacko from noticing me to foretop, when leaping on the foreyard smile at his plight, or by the loud laugh it ran out to the yard-arm, and hung of Jake, who seemed inexpressibly de- the cap on the end of the studdinglighted at the occurrence, and endea- -sail boom, where, taking its seat, it voured to evince, by tumbling about the raised a loud and exulting chattering. boom-cloth, shaking his huge misshapen Bob by this time was completely tired head, and sundry other grotesque actions, out, and, perhaps, unwilling to return the pleasure for which he had no words. to the deck to be laughed at for his

Ha, you d-d rascal, Jacko, hab you fruitless chase, he sat down in the royal no more respec' for de young officer den cross-trees; while those who had been to steal his cab! We bring you to de attracted by the sport, returned to their gangway, you black nigger, and give you usual avocations or amusements. The a dozen on de bare back for a tief.” monkey, no longer the object of pursuit

The monkey looked down from his or attention, remained but a little while perch as if he understood the threat on the yard-arm; but soon taking up of the negro, and chattered a sort of the cap, returned in towards the slings, defiance in answer.

and dropped it down upon deck. “ Ha, ha! Massa Stay, he say you Some little piece of duty occurred at mus' ketch him 'fore you flog him; and this moment to engage me, as soon as it's no so easy for a midshipman in which was performed, I walked aft, and boots to ketch a monkey barefoot.” leaning my elbow on the tafferel, was quickly lost in the recollection of scenes perceived the imminence of his peril; very different from the small pantomime and I half thought that I could see his I had just been witnessing. Soothed by limbs begin to quiver, and his cheek the low hum of the crew, and by the turn deadly pale. Every moment I exquiet loveliness of every thing around, pected to see the dreadful catastrophe. I my thoughts had travelled far away from could not bear to look at him, and yet the realities of my situation, when I was

could not withdraw my gaze. A film suddenly startled by a cry from black came over my eyes, and a faintness over Jake, which brought me on the instant my heart. The atmosphere seemed to back to consciousness, “ My God! grow thick, and to tremble and waver Massa Scupper !” cried he, “ Massa like the heated air around a furnace: the Stay is on de main truck !"

mast appeared to totter, and the ship to A cold shudder ran through my veins pass from under my feet. I myself had as the word reached my ear. I cast my the sensations of one about to fall from eyes up-it was too true! The adven a great height, and making a strong efturous boy, after resting on the royal fort to recover myself, like that of a cross-trees, had been seized with a wish dreamer who fancies he is shoved from a to go still higher, and impelled by one precipice, I staggered up against the of those impulses by which men are bulwarks. sometimes instigated to place themselves When my eyes were once turned from in situations of imminent peril, without the dreadful object to which they had a possibility of good resulting from the been rivetted, my sense and consciousexposure, he had climbed the sky-sail ness came back. I looked around mepole, and at the moment of my looking the deck was already crowded with peoup, was actually standing on the main- ple. The intelligence of poor Bob's truck! a small circular piece of wood on temerity had spread through the ship the very summit of the loftiest mast, like wild-fire—as such news always will and at á height so great from the deck —and the officers and crew were all that my brain turned dizzy as I looked crowding to the deck to behold the apup at him. The reverse of Virgil's line palling — the heart-rending spectacle. was true in this instance. It was com- Every one, as he looked up, turned paratively easy to ascend—but to de- pale, and his eye became fastened in scend—my head swam round, and my silence on the truck-like that of a spec. stomach felt sick at thought of the perils tator of an execution on the gallows, comprised in that one word. There with a stedfast, unblinking and intense, was nothing above him or around him yet abhorrent gaze, as if momentarily but the empty air- and beneath him, expecting a fatal termination to the nothing but a point, a mere point-a awful suspense. No one made a sugsmall, unstable wheel, that seemed no gestion—no one spoke. Every feeling, bigger from the deck than the button on every faculty seemed to be absorbed and the end of a foil, and the taper sky-sail swallowed up in one deep, intense emopole itself scarcely larger than the blade. tion of agony. Once the first lieuteDreadful temerity! If he should attempt nant seized the trumpet, as if to hail to stoop, what could he take hold of to poor Bob, but he had scarce raised it steady his descent? His feet quite co- to his lips when his arm dropped again, vered up the small and fearful platform and sunk listlessly down beside him, as that he stood upon, and beneath that a if from a sad consciousness of the utter long, smooth, naked spar, which seem- inutility of what he had been going to ed to bend with his weight, was all that say. Every soul in the ship was now on upheld him from destruction. An at- the spar-deck, and every eye was turned tempt to get down from “that bad emi- to the main-truck. nence,' would be almost certain death; At this moment there was a stir among he would inevitably lose his equilibrium, the crew about the gangway, and di.. and be precipitated to the deck, a crush- rectly after another face was added to ed and shapeless mass! Such was the those on the quarter-deck—it was that nature of the thoughts that crowded of the commodore, Bob's father. He through my mind as I first raised my had come alongside in a shore-boat, eye, and saw the terrible truth of Jake's without having been noticed by a single exclamation. What was to be done in eye, so intense and universal was the inthe pressing and horrible exigency? To terest that had fastened every gaze upon hail him, and inform him of his danger, the spot where poor Bob stood trembling would be but to ensure his ruin. In- on the awful verge of fate. deed, I fancied that the rash boy already modore asked not a question, uttered

The com

not a syllable. He was a dark-faced, move! he struck out towards the ship! austere man, and it was thought by -and despite the discipline of a man-ofsome of the midshipmen that he enter- war, three loud huzzas, an outburst of tained but little affection for his son. unfeigned and unrestrainable joy from However that might have been, it was the hearts of our crew of five hundred certain that he treated him with pre- men, pealed through the air, and made cisely the same strict discipline that he the welkin' ring. Till this moment did the other young officers, or if there the old commodore had stood unmoved. was any difference at all it was not in The eyes, that glistened with pleasure, favour of Bob. Some who pretended now sought his face, saw that it was ashy to have studied his character closely, pale. He attempted to descend the affirmed that he loved his boy too well horse-block, but his knees bent under to spoil him, and that intending him for him; he seemed to gasp for breath, and the arduous profession in which he had put up his hand, as if to tear open his himself risen to fame and eminence, he vest; but before he accomplished his thought it would be of service to him to objcct, he staggered forward, and would experience some of its privations and have fallen on the deck, had he not been hardships in the outset.

caught by old black Jake.

He was The arrival of the commodore changed borne into his cabin, where the surgeon the direction of several eyes, which now attended him, whose utmost skill was turned on him, to trace what emotions required to restore his mind to its usual the danger of his son would occasion. equability and self-command, in which But their scrutiny was foiled. By no he at last happily succeeded. As soon outward sign did he shew what was pass- as he recovered from the dreadful shock, ing within. His eye still retained its he sent for Bob, and had a long confisevere expression, his brow the slight dential conference with bim; and it was frown which it usually wore, and his noticed, when the little fellow left the lip its haughty curl. Immediately on cabin that he was in tears. The next reaching the deck he had ordered a ma- day we sent down our taunt and dashy rine to hand him a musket, and with poles, and replaced them with the stumpthis stepping aft, and getting on the to’gallant-masts; and on the third, we look-out block, he raised it to his weighed anchor, and made sail for Gibshoulder, and took a deliberate aim at raltar. his son, at the same time hailing him, without a trumpet, in his voice of

STEAM. thunder:

“ Robert!” cried he, "jump! jump [We find that a correspondent of the overboard ! or I'll fire at you !”.

Merthyr Guardian, has sent to the The boy seemed to hesitate, and it

Editor the following lines by way of was plain that he was tottering, for his

postcript to the article on Steam, given arms were thrown out like those of one

in our 1lth number,] scarcely able to retain his balance. The commodore raised his voice again, and Ye lovers of being in motion, in a quicker and more energetic tone,

Of flying in air do not dream, cried,

Of wings, or balloons, form no notion, “ Jump! 't is your only chance for There 's nothing like going by steam. life.”

The swiftness of racers surpasses The words were scarcely out of his

A thought mouth, before the body was seen to

- on the course as they leave the truck and spring out into the

gleam, air. A sound, between a shriek and But, believe me, they sink to mere asses,

Compared with the swiftness of steam. groan, burst from many lips. The father spoke not-sighed not-indeed he did Philosophers tell us strange stories, not seem to breathe. For a moment of

Here the sun sends, to light us, his intense agony a pin might have been beam, heard to drop on deck. With a rush But I'll never believe but his glories like that of a cannon-ball, the body de- Would travel much faster by steam. scended to the water, and before the waves closed over it, twenty stout fellows, Steam furnishes washing and cooking, among them several officers, had dived Saves all the expense of a team, from the bulwarks. Another short pe- Sews gloves, and makes shoes without riod of bitter suspense ensued.

looking, - he was alive! his arms were seen to So clever and nimble is steam.

It rose

« ForrigeFortsæt »