Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

commodore made the signal for the Torch to send a boat's crew, the instant it could be done with safety, on board the dismasted ship to assist in repairing damages and in getting up a jury-foretopmast.

The damaged ship was at this time on our weatherquarter; we accordingly handed the fore-topsail, and presently she was alongside. We hailed her, that we intended to send a boat on board, and desired her to heave-to, as we did, and presently she rounded to under our lee. One of the quarter-boats was manned, with three of the car. penter's crew, and six good men over and above her complement; but it was no easy matter to get on board of her, let me tell you, after she had been lowered, carefully watching the rolls, with four hands in. The moment she touched the water, the tackles were cleverly unhooked, and the rest of us tumbled on board, shin leather growing scarce, when we shoved off. With great difficulty, and not without wet jackets, we, the supernumeraries, got on board, and the boat returned to the Torch. The evening when we landed in the lobster-box, as Jack loves to designate a transport, was too far advanced for us to do anything towards refitting that night; and the confusion and uproar and numberless abominations of the crowded craft, were irksome to a greater degree than I expected, after having been accustomed to the strict and orderly discipline of a man-of-war. The following forenoon the Torch was ordered by signal to chase in the south-east quarter, and, hauling out from the fleet, she was soon out of sight.

THE MERCHANTMAN AND THE PIRATE

From “Hard Cash," BY CHARLES READE

ORTH Latitude 231/2, Longitude East 113; the

time March of this same year; the wind southerly;

the port Whampoa in the Canton River. Ships at anchor reared their tall masts here and there; and the broad stream was enlivened and colored by junks and boats of all sizes and vivid hues, propelled on the screw principle by a great scull at the stern, with projecting handles for the crew to work; and at times a gorgeous mandarin boat, with two great glaring eyes set in the bows, came flying, rowed with forty paddles by an armed crew, whose shields hung on the gunwale and flashed fire in the sunbeams; the mandarin, in conical and buttoned hat, sitting on the top of his cabin calmly smoking Paradise, alias opium, while his gong boomed and his boat few fourteen miles an hour, and all things scuttled out of his celestial way. And there, looking majestically down on all these water ants, the huge Agra, cynosure of so many loving eyes and loving hearts in England, lay at her moorings; homeward bound.

Her tea not being yet on board, the ship's hull loated high as a castle, and to the subtle, intellectual, doll-faced, bolus-eyed people, that sculled to and fro, busy as bees, though looking forked mushrooms, she sounded like a vast musical shell: for a lusty harmony of many mellow voices vibrated in her great cavities, and made the air ring cheerily around her. The vocalists were the Cyclops, to judge by the tremendous thumps that kept clean time to their sturdy tune. Yet it was but human labor, so heavy and so knowing, that it had called in music to help. It was the third mate and his gang completing his floor to receive the coming tea chests. (Yesterday he had stowed his dunnage, many hundred bundles of light Alexible canes from Sumatra and Malacca; on these he had laid tons of rough saltpetre, in 200 lb. gunny-bags: and was now mashing it to music, bags and all. His gang of fifteen, naked to the waist, stood in line, with huge wooden beetles, called commanders, and lifted them high and brought them down on the nitre in cadence with true nautical power and unison, singing as follows, with ponderous bump on the last note in each bar

[graphic]

One now it is gone, There's an - other yet to

[graphic]

come, and a.- way we'll go to Flanders,

[graphic]

mongst our wood-en commanders, where we'll get wine in

[graphic]

plen - ty, Rum, bran - dy, and Gena - vy.

Hete'goes two. Owe me there two, &c. And so up to fifteen, when the stave was concluded with a shrill “Spell, oh!” and the gang relieved streaming with perspiration. When the saltpetre was well mashed, they rolled ton waterbutts on it, till the floor was like a billiard table. A fleet of chop boats then began to arrive, so many per day, with the tea chests. Mr. Grey proceeded to lay the first tier on his saltpetre floor, and then built the chests, tier upon tier, beginning at the sides, and leaving in the middle a lane somewhat narrower than a tea chest. Then he applied a screw jack to the chests on both sides, and so enlarged his central aperture, and forced the remaining tea chests in; and behold the enormous cargo packed as tight as ever shopkeeper packed a box—19,806 chests, 60 half chests, 50 quarter chests.

While Mr. Grey was contemplating his work with singular satisfaction, a small boat from Canton came alongside, and Mr. Tickell, midshipman, ran up the side, skipped on the quarter-deck, saluted it first, and then the first mate; and gave him a line from the captain, desiring him to take the ship down to Second Bar—for her waterat the turn of the tide.

Two hours after receipt of this order the ship swung to the ebb. Instantly Mr. Sharpe unmoored, and the Agra began her famous voyage, with her head at right angles to her course; for the wind being foul, all Sharpe could do was to set his topsails, driver, and jib, and keep her in the tide way, and clear of the numerous craft, by backing or filling as the case required; which he did with considerable dexterity, making the sails steer the helm for the nonce: he crossed the Bar at sunset, and brought to with the best bower anchor in five fathoms and a half. Here they began to take in their water, and on the fifth day the six-oared gig was ordered up to Canton for the captain. The next afternoon he passed the ship in her, going down the river, to Lin Tin, to board the Chinese admiral for his chop, or permission to leave China. All night the Agra showed three lights at her mizzen peak for him, and kept a sharp lookout. But he did not come: he was having a very serious talk with the Chinese admiral; at daybreak, however, the gig was reported in sight: Sharpe told one of the midshipmen to call the boatswain and man the side. Soon the gig ran alongside; two of the ship's boys jumped like monkeys over the bulwarks, lighting, one on the main channels, the other on the midship port, and put the side ropes assiduously in the captain's hands; he bestowed a slight paternal smile on them, the first the imps had ever received from an officer, and went lightly up the sides. The moment his foot touched the deck, the boatswain gave a frightful shrill whistle; the men at the sides uncovered, the captain saluted the quarter-deck, and all the officers saluted him, which he returned, and stepping for a moment to the weather side of his deck, gave the loud command, “ All hands heave anchor." He then directed Mr. Sharpe to get what sail he could on the ship, the wind being now westerly, and dived into his cabin.

The boatswain piped three shrill pipes, and “ All hands up anchor” was thrice repeated forward, followed by private admonitions, “ Rouse and bitt!” “Show a leg! etc., and up tumbled the crew with “homeward bound written on their tanned faces.

(Pipe.) “Up all hammocks!”

In ten minutes the ninety and odd hammocks were all stowed neatly in the netting, and covered with a snowy hammock cloth; and the hands were active, unbitting the cable, shipping the capstan bars, etc.

"All ready below, sir," cried a voice.

"Man the bars," returned Mr. Sharpe from the quarter-deck. “Play up, fifer. Heave away!"

Out broke the merry fife with a rhythmical tune, and tramp, tramp, tramp went a hundred and twenty feet round and round, and, with brawny chests pressed tight

« ForrigeFortsæt »