Captain Mugford, or Our Salt and Fresh Water Tutors, by W.H.G. Kingston.
This is not a long book, but it is an absolutely delightful one. The Tregellins had owned a large old house on a headland in Cornwall. They had not lived there for some time, and had left it in the care of Clump and his wife Juno, West Indians, while the family lived in Bristol. Tregellin senior decides that he will install some of his young relatives there, in the care of the Clumps and two tutors, one of which, Mr Clare, has to deal with their academic needs, and the other, Captain Mugford, is to teach them watermanship. The date is early in the nineteenth century.
There is also a brave and virtuous dog, Ugly. The boys' sailing, swimming and rowing improve, and they rise to various challenges. Eventually they all set off for a longer sailing and fishing expedition. But it all goes pear-shaped, as the weather turns very nasty, and they are marooned on a reef some way out to sea. Clare is not on this expedition, but they need a way to alert him to where they are. It is Ugly that saves the day.
They had been using an old wrecked brig, high ashore in the bay, as a classroom, but unknown to them some smugglers have been using it as a base as well. Open war breaks out, and things get nasty. Read the book to find out what happens in the end.
CAPTAIN MUGFORD, OR OUR SALT AND FRESH WATER TUTORS, BY W.H.G. KINGSTON.
We belong to a Cornish family of the greatest respectability and high antiquity—so say the county records, in which we have every reason to place the most unbounded confidence. The Tregellins have possessed the same estate for I do not know exactly how long; only I suppose it must have been some time after Noah disembarked from the ark, and, at all events, for a very long time. The estate of which I speak was in a wild part of the country, and not at that time very productive; but I believe that my father would not have parted with it for ten times its market value. It contained between four and five hundred acres of hill and dale, and rock and copse, and wood; its chief feature a lofty cape, which ran out for a considerable distance into the sea. On one side it was exposed to the almost unbroken sweep of the Atlantic Ocean; on the other it was washed by the tranquil waters of a deep bay, which formed a safe and picturesque harbour for numerous small craft which frequently took shelter there from press of weather when running up channel.
That headland, where the happiest half-year of all my boyhood's days was passed, is now dotted with several pleasant summer residences; its acres are marked off by fences and walls, and variegated with the diverse crops of well-tilled fields, and on its bay-side are occasional small wharves for pleasure-boats. Fifty years ago it was very different, and, (though, perhaps, I may be an old fogey and have that grey-hair fashion of thinking, with an expressive shrug, "Ah, things are not as they were when I was a boy!") I must say, far more beautiful to my eyes than it is now. You have seen a bold, handsome-bearded, athletic sailor-fellow, with a manner combining the sunniness of calms, the dash of storms, and the romance of many strange lands about him. Now, if our admired hero should abandon his adventurous profession, and settle down quietly into the civilised career of an innkeeper, or village constable, or shopman, or sedate church clerk, and we chanced to meet him years after his "life on the ocean wave," it would probably be to find a sober-faced gentleman, with forehead a little bald, with somewhat of a paunch, with sturdy legs and gaiters, perhaps with a stiff stock and dignified white collar—altogether a very respectable, useful citizen. But the eye and the heart could not find in our excellent acquaintance the fascination which so charmed us in our friend the brave sailor. So with our cape: fifty years ago, in all its natural wildness; in the beauty of its lonely beaches strewn with pieces of shivered waterlogged spars and great rusty remnants of ship-knees and keels; in the melancholy of those strips of short brown heath on the seaside, disappearing in the white sand; in the frowning outlines of the determined rocks that like fortresses defied their enemy the ocean; in the roll of crisp pasturage that in unbroken swells covered the long backbone of the cape; in the few giant old trees, and, more than all, in its character of freedom, loneliness, and isolation, there was a savage charm and dignity that the thrift and cultivation, the usefulness and comfort of civilisation's beauty can never equal.
My first sight of the old cape was when I was about nine years of age. My father took me with him in a chaise from Bristol—two days' journey in those times; and I do not think now that my year's tour of Europe, fifteen years after, was half as full of incident and delight as that my first expedition of a few hours. I can recall how the man at the toll-gate hobbled to us on his crutch; how my father chatted with him for a few moments; how, as we drove off, the man straightened himself on his crutch and touched the brim of his hat with the back of his hand. How well I remember the amazement with which I then heard my father say, "Robert, that man lost his leg while fighting under the great Duke in the Peninsula." I thrust my head far out of the chaise to look well at my first live hero. That sight was romance enough for an hour. Then the first glimpse of the top of the high cape, and my father's telling me that where I saw the haze beyond was the ocean, were sources of further reverie and mystery, dispelled, however, very suddenly when directly afterwards a wheel came off the chaise and pitched me into the road, with my father's small valise on my stomach. I remember the walk to the nearest house, which happened to be an inn, and how my father took off a large tumbler of ale, and gave me some biscuits and a glass of water. It occurred to me, I recollect, whether, when I became a man, I should be able to drink a full glass of ale and not be a drunkard, and whether my son would take biscuits and water and I not be conscious that he wanted to taste the ale. A thousand things more I remember—mere trifles in reality, but abounding in great interest to me on my first journey, which really then seemed of as much importance as Captain Cook's voyage around the world or Mungo Park's travels in Africa. It was a delightful day, the most interesting chapter in my life up to that time—brimful of novelty, thought, and excitement—but I shall not write its events in detail. What I have already mentioned will do as a sample. Late in the afternoon—it was the afternoon of a September day, the first fine one after a three days' storm—we reached the cape, just as the short sombre twilight of an autumn day settled down on land and sea. As the horse trudged laboriously along through the heavy piece of sand connecting the cape and the mainland, I was almost terrified by the great sound of waves, whose spray tossed up in vast spouts from every rocky head before us. The rush of waters, the rumbling of great stones receding with the current, the booming as of ships' broadsides—all these united to awe a little boy making his first acquaintance with the ocean.
When we drove up to the house, which was the only habitation on the point, not a light was to be seen, and the dark stone walls were blacker than the night that had settled down so quickly on the land. My father said there was no use to knock, for that old Juno lived in the back part of the house and was too deaf to hear us. So he led the horse round, and we went to the back windows. Through them we saw our old black castellan nodding, pipe in mouth, over the fireplace. She had not heard the noise of our wheels, and it required a vigorous pounding on the heavy back-door before old Juno, in much trembling, opened it to us.
"Oh my, Massa Tregellins, is dat you dis dark night! And Clump, de ole nigger, gone to willage. Lor, massa, how you did frighten me—and, oh my! thar's young Massa Bob!"
Juno had often come up to Bristol to see us, and felt an engrossing interest in all of the family. She now led me into the house, and went as briskly to work as her rheumatic old limbs would allow, to make a good fire—piling on logs, blowing with the bellows, and talking all the while with the volubility of a kind old soul of fully sixty years of age. My father had gone to tie up the horse under the shed until Clump should return and take care of him. Clump was Juno's husband, and her senior by many years. The exact age of negroes is always of unreliable tradition. The two had charge of the house, and were, indeed, rulers of the entire cape. Clump cultivated vegetables sufficient for his wife and himself, and was also a skilful fisherman. His duties were to look after the copses and fences and gates, and to tend the numerous sheep that found a living on the cape; in which tasks Juno helped him, besides keeping the old house free from ghosts and desolation—indeed, a model of neatness and coziness.
I must now pause for a minute and describe how it happened that the two old negroes were living on that out-of-the-way farm in Cornwall. My father had been a West Indian proprietor, and had resided out in the West Indies for many years. It was in the days when Wilberforce and true and noble philanthropists who fought the battle of emancipation with him first began to promulgate their doctrines. My father, like most other proprietors, was at first very indignant at hearing of proceedings which were considered to interfere with their rights and privileges, and he was their strenuous opponent. To enable himself still more effectually to oppose the emancipists, he sent for all the works which appeared on the subject of emancipation, that he might refute them, as he believed himself fully able to do. He read and read on, and got more and more puzzled how to contradict the statements which he saw put forth, till at length, his mind being an honest and clear one, he came completely round to the opinion of the emancipists. He now conscientiously asked himself how, with his new opinions, he could remain a slaveholder. The property was only partly his, and he acted as manager for the rest of the proprietors. They, not seeing matters in the light in which he had been brought to view them, would not consent to free the slaves and, as they believed, not unnaturally, ruin the property as he desired. Then he proposed having the negroes educated and prepared for that state of freedom which, he assured his partners, he was certain they would some day ere long obtain. They replied that slaves were unfit for education, that the attempt would only set them up to think something of themselves, and certainly spoil them, and therefore neither to this proposition would they agree. They were resolved that as the slaves were theirs by right of law—whatever God might have to say in the matter—slaves they should remain. At length my father determined, after praying earnestly for guidance, to have nothing personally to do with the unclean thing. Had he been able to improve the condition of the slaves, the case would have been different; but all the attempts he made were counteracted by his partners and by the surrounding proprietors, who looked upon him in the light of a dangerous lunatic. He therefore offered to give up his share in the property, provided he might be allowed to emancipate some of the slaves. To this even they would not consent, as they were afraid he might select the most able-bodied, and thus deprive the ground of some of its best cultivators. He did his best for the poor blacks, but the law was on the side of his partners, and, to do them justice, they, blinded by their interests and the contempt in which they held the negro race, considered they were right, and that he was wrong. All they would do was to allow him to select ten negroes from among a certain number whom they pointed out, and they agreed to pay him over a sum of money for his share of the land. To this proposal he was compelled to agree, and as West India property was at that time considered of great value, he received a very handsome sum, yet it must be owned not half what he might properly have claimed. With this he returned to England, and, as he was a man who could not bear to be idle, he commenced business as a general merchant at Bristol. Shortly after that he married, and my brothers and sisters and I in due course came into the world. Among the negroes he set free were Clump and his sable partner Juno, and so attached were they to him that they entreated that he would take them with him to England. Clump was, properly speaking, a free man; for having in his younger days, after he had married Juno, gone a short trip to sea, he was wrecked, and after meeting many adventures, finally pressed on board a man-of-war. He saw a good deal of service, (about which he was very fond of talking, by the by), and at last obtaining his discharge, or rather taking it, I suspect, with French leave—ever mindful of his beloved Juno, he returned voluntarily to a state of slavery, that he might enjoy life with her. The navy in those days was not what it now is, and he had not been in the enjoyment of any large amount of freedom. He had, indeed, being a good-natured, simple-hearted fellow, been sadly put upon both in the merchant service and navy. It was always, he used to say, "Clump, you don't want to go on shore, you stay and take care of the ship;" or, "Clump, you stay in the boat while we just take a run along the quay for five minutes;" or, "Clump, leave is no use to you, just let me have it instead of you;" or, "Clump, rum is a bad thing for niggers. I'll drink your grog to-day, and if you just tip me a wink I'll take half of it to-morrow, and let you have the rest, or Bill Noakes'll have the whole of it, and you'll get none." Clump and Juno being intelligent, trustworthy people, my father, as I have said, put them in charge of the farm on the cape, which they in a short time learned to manage with great judgment. Two other negroes he took into his service at Bristol. One of them became his butler, and it would have been difficult to find his equal in that capacity.
Now a lesson may be learned from this history. My father did what he considered right, and prospered; his partners, neglecting to enlighten themselves as they might have done, persisted in holding their black fellow-creatures in abject slavery, refusing one of the great rights of man—a sound education. Emancipation was carried, and they received a large compensation, and rejoiced, spending their money extravagantly; but the half-savage negroes whom they had neglected to educate refused to work. Their estates were left uncultivated for want of labourers, and they were ruined. My father, managing his mercantile affairs wisely, was a prosperous man.
His business on this visit was to see an adjoining property which had once belonged to the family, and which, being in the market, he hoped to repurchase.
The house had been built as long back as 1540-1550. It was of stone— the rough stone, as it had been taken from the beaches and cliffs, of different shades and kinds. Above the ground floor was only an attic storey; and the main part of the ground floor consisted of four large low rooms, panelled in wood, and with ceiling of dark, heavy beams. Adjoining the rear of these, my grandfather had built a comparatively modern kitchen; but every fireplace in the old house preserved the generous cheerful style of ample spread and fire-dogs. From the great door of the main floor a narrow stairway, like cabin steps, led up, with quaintly carved banisters, to five real old-fashioned bedrooms, rising above to the ridge of the steep-sloping roof and its uncovered but whitewashed rafters. The windows were at least five feet above the floor, and had the many small panes we sometimes yet see in very old houses. No doubt it was a house of pretension in its day. When I was a boy it remained a precious ark of family legends and associations. How splendid it is to possess a house nearly three hundred years old. To-day nothing could induce me to exchange the walls of that dear old house for the handsomest residence in Belgravia. A house can be built in a few months; but to make a home—that is beyond the craft and quickness of masons, carpenters, and architects.
Alone on that bold, sea-beaten cape, so sturdy, dark, and time-worn, it looked out always with shrewd, steady little window-eyes on the great troubled ocean, across which it had watched the Pilgrim Fathers sailing away towards the new home they sought in the Western world, and many a rich argosy in days of yore go forth, never to return. It might have seen, too, the proud Spanish Armada gliding up channel for the purpose of establishing Popery and the Inquisition in Protestant England, to meet from the hands of a merciful Providence utter discomfiture and destruction. With satisfaction and becoming dignity, too, it seemed on fresh sunny mornings to gaze at the hundreds of sails dotting the sea, and bound for all parts of the globe, recalling, perhaps with some mournfulness, the days of its youth and the many other varied scenes of interest which it had witnessed on those same tossing billows from its lofty height.
All through our supper, which was laid in the largest of the first floor rooms, did Juno stand by, repeating the refrain—
"Oh dat nigger, dat Clump,—why he no come? And here's Massa er waitten and er waitten; but Clump, ole mon, he get berry slow—berry, berry slow. Now Massa Bob, vy you laff at ole Juno so?—hi! hi!"
However, Clump came at last; and when he beheld us, great and comical was his surprise. He dropped his basket to the floor, and, with battered hat in hand and both hands on his knees, stood for a moment and stared at us, and then his mouth stretched wide with joy and his sides shook with delight, while the tears trickled down from the wrinkled eyes to the laughing ivory.
"Tank de Lord! tank de Lord! Clump lib to see his ole Massa agin; and dat young gemmen,—vy, lem'me see! vy, sure as I'm dat nigger Clump, ef dat ain't—Massa Drake?—no,—Massa Walter?—no,—vy Juno, ole woman! dat are Massa Bob!" He took my hands and shook and squeezed them, saying over and over again, "Massa Bob am cum ter see de ole cradle. Oh! hi hi!"
THE DREAM CONFIRMED BY REALITY.
Three years elapsed before I saw the cape again. Indeed the remembrance of that visit there, of a few days only, began to assume indistinctness as a dream, and sometimes as I thought of it, recalling the events of the journey there and back in the chaise, the wild scenery and the strange sound of the surf, the old dark house and the devoted black servants—sometimes, I say, as I thought of all these, as I loved to do when I settled myself in bed for the night, or when in summer I lay on my back in the grass looking up at the flying clouds, I would have to stop and fix my attention sharp, to be sure whether it ever had been a reality, or whether it might not be, after all, only a dream. I think my father was afraid of the fascination of the cape for us boys—afraid its charms, if we once partook of them freely, might distract our attention from the order and duties of school life. To be sure, we always went to the country with our parents for a month or six weeks, and enjoyed it exceedingly, laying up a stock of trout, squirrel, and badger stories to last us through the winter. But there was no other country, we imagined, like the cape; and as our father and mother never lived there, and rarely spent even a single night on the whole property, they thought it best, I suppose, that we should not run wild there and get a relish for what all boys seem to have, in some degree, by nature. I mean the spirit of adventure, and love of the sea.
However, the good time came at last, or a reliable promise of it first, just fifty years ago this very February. We older boys—Walter, sixteen years of age, Drake, fourteen, and I, Robert, twelve—were attending school at Bristol, and were, as usual too in the winter evenings, at work over our lessons at the library table, when, on one never-to-be-forgotten evening, our father, who was sitting in an easy chair by the fire, suddenly asked, "Boys, how would you like to pass next summer on the cape?" Ah! didn't we three give a terrific chorus of assent? "Jolly! magnificent! splendid!" we cried, while Walter just quietly vaulted over half a dozen chairs, two or three at a time, backwards and forwards, till he had expended some of the animal vivacity stored up in abundance within him. Drake, as usual when extremely pleased, tried to accomplish the rubbing of his stomach and the patting of his head both at the same time; and I climbed into the chair with my father, and patted his cheeks and thanked him with a fierce shake of the hands.
"Bob, boy, you are the only one of my youngsters who has been at the old place, and you must have painted it as a wonderful corner of the earth, that Walter and Drake should testify their pleasure in such eccentric ways.—And look here, Walter: when you wish to turn acrobat again, let it not be in this library or over those chairs; choose some piece of green grass out of doors.—Well, boys, perhaps you can pass the summer at the cape. I do not promise it, but shall try to arrange it so if your mother is willing; but under the unfailing condition that you make good progress in your studies until that time."
"Shall we all be there together, father, and for the whole summer, and without any school? How delightful!"
"Not too fast, Drake. Without school? What an idea! Why, in six months you would be as wild and ignorant as the sheep there. No; you shall have a strict tutor, who will keep you in harness, and help Walter to prepare for going up next year to Cambridge. But only you three will be there. I have some business in London, and I shall take your mother and Aggie and Charley with me."
During those February evenings there were many more conversations on the same subject, full of interest to us boys, and finally it was fully decided by our father and mother that we should go in May, and stay there until autumn; that a certain Mr Clare should be our tutor, and that Clump and Juno should be our housekeepers and victuallers.
Never did a springtime appear longer and more wearisome. We counted every day, and were disgusted with March for having thirty-one of them. What greatly increased our impatience and the splendour of our anticipation was that, some time in March, our father told us that a brig had been cast away in a curious manner on the shore of the cape, and that he had purchased the wreck as it lay, well preserved and firmly held in the rocks above ordinary high-tide. He proposed, at some future time, to make use of it as a sort of storehouse, or perhaps dwelling for labourers. A shipwreck! a real wreck! and on our cape! stranded on the very shore of our Robinson Crusoe-like paradise! Just imagine our excitement.
The particulars of the wreck were as follows:—A brig of 300 tons burden, on a voyage from South America to the Thames, having lost her reckoning in consequence of several days' heavy gale and thick weather, suddenly made the light on the Lizard, and as quickly lost it again in the fog which surrounded her. The captain, mistaking the light he had seen for some other well-known beacon, set his course accordingly. That was near nine o'clock in the evening. The wind and tide helped him on the course steered, and a little after midnight the misguided brig struck on a rock three-quarters of a mile south-west of our point of land. The wind had then increased to a gale, and was gathering new strength with every moment. In less than an hour the thumping and grating of the vessel's keel ceased, and then the captain knew that the rising tide had set him off the rock; but, alas! his good brig was leaking badly, and the fierce wind was driving her—whither the captain knew not; and in five minutes more, by the force of the wind and suction of the shore current, she was thrown high up on a rocky projection of our cape. One sailor was washed overboard by the breakers as she passed through them, and was dashed to death, probably in an instant, by the fierce waves. The next day, when the storm had abated, the body was found far above where the brig lay fastened immovably in the vice-like fissure of enormous rocks. Twenty sovereigns, which perhaps the poor fellow had saved to bring home to his old mother, were found in a belt around his waist.
The damaged cargo was removed, and the wreck sold at auction, my father being the purchaser.
There was an old church situated on the summit of a neighbouring point of land, and to its now seldom used churchyard the body of the poor sailor was conveyed. His grave was one of the first points of interest to us when our visit to the cape commenced; and many a time that season did I sit and watch the brown headstone topping the bleakest part of the sea-bluff, and as the great voice of the sea, dashing and foaming on the stony beach beneath, sang in its eternal melancholy grandeur, I fancied long, long histories of what might have been that sailor's life; and I wondered sadly if the poor mother knew where her son's grave was, and whether she would ever come to look at it. On the stone was written:—
HARRY BREESE LIES HERE, NEAR WHERE A CRUEL SHIPWRECK CAST HIM, MARCH 23RD, 1814: AGED 24 YEARS, 2 MONTHS, AND 17 DAYS. REST IN PEACE, POOR BODY; THY SHIPMATE, SOUL, HAS GONE ALOFT, WHERE THY DEAR CAPTAIN, JESUS, IS.
By the 7th May everything was prepared for our departure. On the next morning early we were to start in the stage-coach, and, what had lately added to our brilliant anticipations, Harry and Alfred Higginson, two of our most intimate friends, were to go with us—to be with us all the summer, join our studies and our fun. But we were to separate from our father and mother, and from our dear sister Aggie and the little Charley—from all those dear ones from whom we had never been parted for a day and night before. We were to leave for half a year. All this, covered at first by the hopes and fancies we had built, and by the noise and activity of preparation, appeared then, when everything was packed, and we, the evening before the journey, drew our chairs about the tea-table. The prospect of such a magnificent time as we expected to have on the cape lost some of its brilliancy. Indeed, I positively regretted that we were to go. We boys were as hushed as frightened mice.
After tea, Drake and I got very close to our mother on the sofa, but Walter lounged nervously about, trying to appear, I think, as if such an affair—a parting for six months—were nothing to such a big fellow as he. Aggie came and held my hand. When our father had taken his usual seat, he and our mother commenced to give us careful instructions how we were to regulate our time and conduct during our separation from them; we were directed about our lessons, clothes, language, and play; to be kind and patient with Clump and Juno; and very particular were our orders about the new tutor, Mr Clare, to whom we had been formally introduced a few days before, and we were required to promise solemnly that we would obey him implicitly in every respect. Besides which our father delighted us very much by the information that he had engaged an old seaman, Mugford by name, once boatswain of an Indiaman, who had taken up his abode at the fishing town across the bay from our cape, to be with us often through the summer in our out-of-school hours; that he would be, as it were, our skipper—perhaps reside with us—and that he was to have full command in all our water amusements; he would teach us to swim, to row, and to sail. That last subject cheered us up a bit, and when I saw Walter, who was still walking up and down the room, going through a pantomimic swim, striking out his arms in big circles, right and left, I commenced to smile, and Drake to laugh outright. So our conference ended in good spirits. And then we all kneeled in family prayer, and that evening before the parting, as we kneeled and heard my father's earnest words, I realised fully, perhaps for the first time, how, more than parents or friends, God was our Father; how, though we were going away from home and its securities, yet God was to be with us, stronger and kinder than any on earth, to guard and care for us.
During the few days we had known Mr Clare, he had been with us constantly, but we had not decided whether to like him or not. He seemed pleasant, and was easy enough, both in his manners and conversation, but yet he had a calm and decided way that was rather provoking; as if to say, "I have read you through and through, boys, and can govern you as easily as possible." Now we had no idea of resisting him; we intended to behave well, and therefore his manner rather nettled us. However, there was not much to object to. His appearance was certainly all right—a large, bright, manly face and hearty smile, and a strong, agile figure. We five boys had talked him over, and at the last balloting our votes were a tie, for Walter declined to express an opinion yet whether Mr Clare was a "screw" or a "good fellow." Harry Higginson and Drake voted "screw," whilst Alfred and I said "good fellow."
We must pass over the "goodbyes" of the next morning. Let us imagine there were no wet eyes and sinking hearts. However it may have been, the big rumbling old stage-coach containing Mr Clare and five boys, and loaded well with trunks and boxes, rattled from our house in —- Street at about six o'clock on that eighth morning in May, fifty years ago. Our hearts cheered up with the growth of the sun. By ten o'clock we were very talkative; by one, very hungry. The contents of a basket, well-stored by our mother, and put in just as we were starting, settled that complaint. The afternoon was tedious, and we were not sorry when the coach dropped us at the quiet little country inn where we were to sleep. I need not describe the journey of the next day. We were too eager to get to its termination to care much for the beautiful scenery through which we passed. As the evening drew on the weather became chilly. Ah! we were approaching the sea. By nine at night innumerable stars were twinkling over a dusky point of land which seemed to have waded out as far as possible into the indefinable expanse mirroring unsteadily a host of lights. A strong, damp, briny breath came up to us, and a vast murmur as if thousands of unseen, mysterious, deep-voiced spirits were chanting some wonderful religious service. "Whoa!" with a heavy lurch the yellow post-chaise, in which we had performed the second day's journey, came to a stand. We had arrived before the old stone ark that was to be our home for half a year.
INTRODUCTION TO OUR SALT TUTOR AND THE WRECK.
It was on Wednesday night that we became the guests of Clump and Juno, and commenced our cape life. The next morning at breakfast—and what a breakfast! eggs and bacon, lard cakes, clotted cream, honey preserves, and as much fresh milk as we wanted—Mr Clare told us that we need not commence our studies until the next week; that we could have the remainder of this week as holidays in which to make a thorough acquaintance with our new world.
Our first wishes were to see the wreck and old Mr Mugford, whom we agreed to dub Captain Mugford; and so, immediately after breakfast, we started out with Mr Clare to find those items of principal interest. When we had got beyond a hillock and an immense boulder of pudding-stone, which stood up to shut out the beach view from the west side of the house, we saw the wreck, only about half a mile off, and hurried down to it. Mr Clare joined in the race and beat us, although Walter pushed him pretty hard.
The brig sat high up on the rocky cliff, where only the fullest tides reached it. The deck careened at a small angle, and the stern projected several feet beyond the rocks hanging over the sea. The bow pointed toward the house. The brig's foremast only was standing, to the head of which old Mugford used to hoist, on all grand occasions, or on such as he chose to consider grand, a Union Jack or a red ensign, which had been saved from the wreck. The bowsprit was but little injured, and the cordage of that and of the foremast was there, and the shrouds—all of which had been replaced by old Mugford, who, having made the wreck his residence by my father's wishes, restored to it some of the grace and order the good brig possessed before misfortune overtook her, and now it looked fit for either a sailor or a landsman—a curious mongrel, half ship, half house. By the stump of the mainmast there stood a stove-pipe projecting from the deck.
When near the brig, which we always afterwards called by the name she had sailed under—Clear the Track—we hailed "Brig ahoy!" In a moment the head and shoulders of the Captain appeared above the companion-hatch, and his sonorous voice answered heartily, "Ah! ahoy, my hearties: this is the good brig Clear the Track; come aboard." He cast over the side a rope-ladder, such as is in common use on board ships, and we climbed to the quarterdeck, over the stern-board of which, and covering the companion-hatch, there had been built a roof, or open cabin, making that part of the brig answer the same purposes as the porch of a house. There were benches along the sides, a spyglass hanging overhead in beckets, and a binnacle close by where the wheel had once stood.
The Captain, as we will henceforth call him, however, just then fixed our attention more than the strangely fitted—up wreck. He was short, only about five feet four in height, with very heavy, broad, straight shoulders, immense chest, long arms, very narrow, compact hips, and short, sturdy legs, much bowed. His features were large, straight, and determined, and with something of the bulldog in them, yet stamped with kindness, intelligence, and humour—a face that might be a terror to an enemy, as it was a surety to a friend. It was well bronzed by many a storm and tropical sun, and a dark beard grew on it, as the wild moss on the sea-rocks, in a luxuriant, disorderly manner. His hair was very thick, black, and glossy, only here and there flecked with the grey of age, and hung in curls that almost made his rough and powerful head even handsome. Walter said that night that he was sure Samson and Neptune were relatives, for without doubt the Captain was descended from both of them. With the jawbone of an ass he might put to flight a thousand Philistines, and with a trident drive a four-in-hand of porpoises.
We told that to the Captain afterwards, when we got to know him well, and it tickled him greatly. He declared it was the finest compliment he had ever received, and took Walter high in his favour from that moment.
Our new friend never wore either collar or vest. When not "on duty," as he expressed it, he went about in his shirt-sleeves. His breeches were of the ample sailor-cut, and hung from suspenders as intricate as a ship's rigging. His shirts were spotlessly white, and of very fine linen. A short black pipe was always in his mouth, or sticking its clay stem from a waist-band pocket.
Such, my dear boys, was Captain Mugford, whom we fellows dubbed "our salt tute," in contradistinction to Mr Clare, who was afterwards known as "our fresh tutor."
As Mr Clare came over the brig's side, he said, with a bow, "Captain Mugford, I believe. These boys are to be both your crew and my scholars. I am their tutor, Richard Clare."
"I am happy to see you, Mr Clare. Give me your hand, sir. I hope our different commands will not clash."
As the skipper shook hands, he looked Mr Clare all over at a glance, and smiled as if pleased with the inspection.
"Come here, boys; if I'm not out in my calculation, these boys will do to sail any craft on land or water! Well, my hearties, we are often to be shipmates, so let's be friends to start with. I don't know your different names, boys, only that three of you are sons of my old and respected friend and owner—that's good enough—and you all look as if you hated lies and kept above-board."
"These," said Mr Clare, laying his hands on Harry's and Alfred's shoulders, "are Higginsons!"
"Higginsons? Fancy I knew your father, young gentlemen—an honest man, and a kind man, and a true man, and a brave man, if he was John Higginson; and brother of David Higginson, under whom I once served, and a better sailor never stepped. As he died unmarried, I take you to be John Higginson's sons. And if all you boys act as honest as you look, you need not care for shipwrecks of any kind—love or money, lands or goods, by land or by water."
Well, we thought the Captain a brick. So he was. So he proved.
We passed all the morning on the wreck. Each one of its details was a new delight. The Captain talked about the brig as if she were a human being in misfortune. An old invalid, he said—a veteran old salt laid up in a sailor's snug harbour; laid up and pensioned for the remainder of life, where it was able to overlook, by the side and in the very spray of its well-loved brine, the billows it had often gloried in.
We went below to the Captain's cabin and stateroom. There everything bore the marks of a sea habitation, and when hearing the dash of the waves on the shore and listening to the Captain's talk, I could not help fancying myself on a voyage. Not a nook or hole of that vessel but we explored, and numberless questions had each one of us to ask. Mr Clare seemed as much pleased and interested as we were. When at play, indeed, he was as heartily a boy as any of us.
Great was our astonishment—Mr Clare, however, was prepared for it— upon going between decks, where the cargo had once been stored, to find ourselves in a schoolroom—a long, low schoolroom. Thick glass windows, only about eighteen inches square, had been set in on each side, and protected with dead-lights to fasten tight in case a heavy surf should dash up so high, and the entire hold—where on many and many long voyages there had been stored, in darkness, spices, coffee, sugar, and perhaps gold and jewels—was now transformed to a schoolroom.
There was a long table and there were globes and maps, shelves of books, and a blackboard. That schoolroom had, I am sure, none of the dulness and repulsiveness of other schoolrooms to us. No; it rather seemed a delightful place—an Arabian Nights' sort of study, with a romantic salty influence pervading it to comfort us at our tasks. We could take hold there of geography and history. Mathematics in a vessel's hold, what was it but a foreshadowing of navigation? We felt no hostility to Latin and Greek, for we were but reading of foreign lands and strange people across the ocean in old times, the occurrences of which were but storm-cast hulks like our old brig.
So low was our roof, the deck, that the crown of Walter's cap touched it, and Mr Clare had to bend his neck when he moved about. The square, dwarf windows looked out on nothing but jagged rocks and rolling blue waves.
Away forward and aft our schoolroom was dark, and the distance between decks so narrowed that we could only explore those extremes of the hold by going on hands and knees—with the chance, too, of starting some big rat, an old grey navigator, perhaps, who, believing firmly in "Don't give up the ship!" could not get over his surprise at seeing his once rolling and well-stored residence now stationary, and furnishing no better victuals than book-leaves, chalk, and sometimes the crumbs of a boy's lunch. I imagined the crew of old rats assembling beneath the globes at night, when a moon streamed through the small windows; and the captain, a surly grey fellow, with long whiskers and brown, broken grinders, taking his place on a Greek lexicon, and then the speeches of inquiry and indignation shrilly uttered in the mass meeting. "Long tails!"—would commence some orator with a fierce squeak—"long tails, long tails, I say! what in the name of all that's marine does this mean? Cheese and spices! how things are changed. Will this craft never sail, and our parents waiting for us in the New World over the sea! Where is our 'life on the ocean wave'? where is, I say, where 'a home in the rolling deep'? Can it be that our young are no longer to be nourished on sago, rice, or maize? Alas! if it has come to that, I myself will gnaw the beard from the old curmudgeon who thinks he sleeps here safely. Is the degradation of effeminate land rats, cheese-eaters, wharf robbers, stable vermin, to come upon us? Fates forbid it! Soon, perhaps, some fierce tabby may come to make our once brave hearts tremble. Then, then,"—but I imagined the eloquence broken off there and giving place to a furious scamper, as perhaps old Captain Mugford, arrayed in a long nightshirt and red bandanna nightcap, would fling open his stateroom door and send a boot-jack flying amid the noisy, noxious animals.
To think that our schoolhouse was on such a wild seashore—in a wrecked vessel, the same craft in which poor Harry Breese, who rested in the churchyard near by, had voyaged and been lost from—to have the smell of tar, and be surrounded by a thousand other sailor-like associations. What a glorious school-house, that old wreck by the ocean! What boy ever had a finer one!
The afternoon of that first day of novelty on the cape I remember with minute distinctness. We strolled about the beaches and climbed the rocks, everything being marvellous and delightful to us. In the evening Captain Mugford came in, and Mr Clare and he talked whilst we boys listened. After the Captain had gone, Mr Clare read the evening prayers to us, and that grand Psalm, the one hundred and seventh. The words reached us with the noise of the waves they sang of:—
They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters. These see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep. For He commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit's end. Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and He bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.
CAPTAIN MUGFORD'S SATURDAY LESSON.
With a new week commenced our studies—order in tasks and play taking the place of the licence and excitement of the first days of novelty.
By Mr Clare's rule we reached our school-house in the wreck every morning at eight—that is, every morning except Saturday and Sunday. The brig's bell was our summons. Captain Mugford struck it as punctually as if the good order and safety of a large crew were dependent on his correctness. Our school-hours continued until half-after one. The remainder of each day was our own, only subject to the general directions of Mr Clare and the instructions of Captain Mugford in boating. Of course that was no task—rather the very best sport we had. Mr Clare grew fast in our good opinions. He was strict; but boys do not dislike strictness when it is mated with justice and guided by a firm and amiable disposition, as it was with our tutor.
We soon got to see that Mr Clare, in his way, was as much of a man as Captain Mugford, and that the Captain respected him highly. The Captain always liked to have an evening smoke with our tutor, and the boating excursions were much jollier when Mr Clare made one of the party, as he often did. He was our master in school, but only wished to be our companion in play. In every athletic exercise he excelled, and I dare say that was one great reason of the powerful influence he soon gained with us—for boldness, strength, and agility are strong recommendations to boyish admiration. About two weeks after the commencement of our cape life, as we were going to bed one night, "our fresh tute" became the subject of discussion; and our first opinions were changed by a vote, in which all but Drake joined, that Mr Clare was a regular brick. Drake had a prejudice against tutors that required more than two weeks to break up. He allowed that Mr Clare seemed a very respectable sort of fellow, but then he said—
"I can't join in all the praise you boys give him; now my idea of a 'regular brick' is our 'salt tute.' He's the sort of man for me. If Captain Mugford only knew Latin and Greek!"
Mr Clare was from the north of England. His parents being poor, he had obtained his education under difficulties, and did not enter college until he was twenty-three years of age. His parents had emigrated when he was a child to Canada, where he had seen a good deal of wild life among the Indians. For some cause his father returned—to take possession of a small property, I believe—and brought him with him. After the common country schooling he could pick up in winter, he began to prepare himself for college in the hours he was off work on his father's farm, or had to take from sleep. So he had a life of some difficulty and adventure; and now, in his own hours, he was studying to become a clergyman. Notwithstanding such a boyhood of labour, his manners were good and agreeable, and no one would ever have guessed that his training until he went to college had been little above that of a farm servant.
It was some time before we made acquaintance with the sailing-boat which had been provided by our father, for the first weeks of our new life were stormy and cold. What whetted our desire for a sail was that Captain Mugford would not even show us the boat. We would tease him, and guess at every mast we saw in the bay; but the Captain only laughed, and put us off with such remarks as "Keep your powder dry, my young hearties!" "Avast heaving! the skipper is dumb."
However, one fine morning the Captain steered into our breakfast-room before all the fresh brown bread and clotted cream and eggs and bacon had been quite stowed away. "At it, ain't you, boys, with forecastle appetites? Pitch in, old fellows; make the butter fly!" He had wished Mr Clare a good morning, sat down on a corner of a side-table, wiped his forehead with a great red silk handkerchief, and got his elbows well akimbo, before he directed the remark to us. There he sat shaking with a pleasant little interior rumble of laughter at our earnestness in the meal, and expressing his appreciation every few moments with, "Well! that's jolly!" which remark each time portended another series of sub-waistcoat convulsions. He got through laughing as we finished breakfast, and then each of us went up for a shake of his hand.
"Your cargoes are in. When do you sail?"
"O Captain! can we sail to-day?" we all cried, for the joke and his unusually radiant face signified something better to come.
"I have a fancy that way, if Mr Clare says yes. That's my business here this fine Saturday. Yes, Mr Clare? Thank you! the youngsters are mad for a trip under canvas. You will go with us, sir, I hope? Thank you again!—Scamper, boys, for your caps! Ha! ha! ha!—With your permission, Mr Clare, I will fill my pipe.—Juno! Juno! Ah! there you are. Do, like a good old woman, get me a coal out of your wood-fire— just such a red, round piece of oak as Clump always chooses."
Presently Juno trudged smiling back, with a hot coal held in the tongs.
"Here, massa! here, Capting, is de berry heart of de fire!" and laying it carefully in the bowl of his pipe—"dat, sar, will keep yer terbacker gwine all day."
"Thank you, marm Juno! We shall try and bring you home some fish for dinner. A ninety-pound halibut, eh?"
The Captain having performed that operation so very necessary to his comfort, we all sallied forth for the long-anticipated sail.
The cape was about three-quarters of a mile wide where our house stood— it being on high ground, about halfway between the ocean and bay-side. The ground fell gradually in wavelike hillocks in both directions, and its chief growth was a short fine grass on which the sheep throve well. Here and there we saw them in little companies of eight or ten, but before we could get within fifty yards they scampered off in a fright, so unaccustomed were they to strangers.
Soon we descried a boat with pennant flying at moorings just off the bay shore before us. That, the Captain told us, was our "school-ship."
"And now come, boys," said he, "let us see which one of you will be the best hand on watch when we sail a frigate together—let us see which one can first read the boat's name; it is on the pennant."
At that distance we were all baffled.
"Well, try ten yards nearer; there, halt. Now try."
We all strained our eyes. I thought it read, Wave.
"No, Robert, it is not Wave.—Come, boys, sharpen your eyes on the sides of your noses, and try again."
"I can read it," shouted Harry Higginson, throwing up his hat. "Youth! Youth!—that's it."
"Yes, that's it. Hurrah for you, Master Harry! I promote you on the spot captain of the maintop."
We hurried down to a white sand-beach on which lay a punt. In that the Captain pulled us, three at a time, out to the Youth. When well under sail and standing out for more open water, our good skipper at the tiller, having filled his pipe, rolled up his sleeves, and tautened the sheet a bit, said—
"Boys, this craft is yours, but I am Commodore until each and all of you have learned to sail her as well as I can. May you prove quick to learn, and I quick to teach. But as I'm an old seadog, my pipe is out already. Give us a light, shipmate?"—I was trying with flint and steel to strike a few sparks into our old tinder-box—"there!—puff—puff— puff—that will do. I must talk less and smoke more."
As the jolly Captain got up a storm of smoke, slapped me a stinger on the knee, and winked at the pennant, Mr Clare jumped up, and swinging his hat, cried—
"Boys, let's give cheers, three rousing cheers, for our brave boat, the Youth, and her good master, Captain Mugford!"
And didn't we give them!!!
BATH BAY LESSON—THE MIDNIGHT COUNCIL.
June came before we had made acquaintance with all the corners of our little new world. Every day it grew in interest to us, and, with the increasing fine weather, was the most beautiful spot on earth in our eyes. Once a week one of us was allowed to go over to the town with Clump, in his rowboat, and get letters from the post-office. That opportunity was always improved to purchase stores of groceries and other requisites. Each one's turn to be commissary only came once in five weeks.
Clump enjoyed those trips as much as we did. He would have meat or other things to get for the table, but would always reach the boat first in returning, and when he saw his "young master?"—as he called each of us boys—coming down the wharf loaded with a week's supply of various things, the old darky would commence to grin and slap his sharp knees, the slaps growing quicker and the grin breaking into "yha! yha! yhi!" as we drew near enough to show him our different purchases.
There was always a new pipe or a paper of tobacco for Clump, which he would lay on the seat beside him, and then put out the oars and pull with long, slow sweeps for our neck, each swing accompanied by a grunt, which, however, did not break the conversation he carried on, chiefly telling us stories of my father when he came as a boy, which often lasted till we reached our destination. Many a frolic and adventure would he thus relate with great gusto, and he had generally, too, some remembrance of my grandfather to repeat.
About the twentieth of June, the water was warm enough to allow us to bathe, and then began that exercise, the most useful and most wholesome, and perhaps among the most manly that a boy can practise.
Walter and both the Higginsons could swim. Drake and I were beginners. Captain Mugford was our teacher. He chose a little bay within, as it were, the large bay on the neck end of our cape. Bath Bay, as we named it, was about two hundred and fifty yards long, and sixty to seventy yards wide. Its shores were rocks, except at its bow end, where a soft beach sloped gradually for forty feet from the shore. About fifteen feet beyond our depth the Captain had anchored a stationary staging, which was merely an old flatboat caulked and floored over. It had steps and ropes from its sides, and was intended as the first object to reach and rest on when we had learned to swim a dozen or more strokes. Farther on, halfway the length of Bath Bay, was a large flat rock, which stood at high-tide two feet above water. Its sides were almost perpendicular, and were made accessible in the same way as "Youngster's Wharf." By that name those who could already swim called our staging near the beach. Leander's Rock, for we had a name for everything, had a depth of nearly thirty feet, and a finer place for diving cannot be imagined. Bath Bay was shut in by its wall-like sides and a bluff behind the sand-beach from all the severe winds, but after a storm out at sea we would get an even swell that was very pleasant to float on.
Our time for bathing was between the close of school at half-after one and our dinner-hour, three. All through the season, until early in October, we never lost a bath unless rain was falling heavily, so greatly did we enjoy it under the Captain's care. He would not have bathing-houses for us, as he said that the sun-bath after a swim was almost as good as the salt water itself. The Captain was always near the swimmers, in his punt, that in case of accident his assistance might be immediate.
Boys, if you have ever read Benjamin Franklin's directions to those learning to swim, you will understand the methods our Captain pursued to teach us. In his boat he was always dressed in bathing-clothes, and would often jump out to show us by example how to swim under water, how to float, how to dive, etcetera. I can assure you we enjoyed that sport as much as any we had, and before many weeks had passed we could all swim a few strokes. By the close of the season, I, the youngest pupil, could swim out to Leander's Rock, dive from it twenty feet deep, and swim ashore again easily. But more about Bath Bay, and our adventures there, hereafter.
After our baths and Juno's nice dinners we usually went to sail, and in a few weeks the Captain let some of us take the helm, he sitting by to instruct us, and to remedy, if need be, any mistake of the young sailor who happened to be our skipper at the time. Sometimes, instead of sailing, we would row in an excellent boat which we had for that purpose, and, four of us being at the oars, try how quick time we could make from point to point of the shore. With such practice, we made rapid improvements and by the middle of July could row a mile in twelve minutes; a month before we could only do that in twenty minutes. Sometimes Mr Clare and the captain took oars in our boat; at other times they rowed against us in the Captain's punt. That was glorious fun, and how we fellows did strive to beat our tutors, and often came very near it too—so near that we determined, if there was any merit in TRY, to do it yet.
One night—it was about the 2nd of June, if my memory serves me—when we had gone up to our rooms for bed, and got undressed, Walter, who had been very quiet ever since our row in the afternoon when our tutors contended with and beat us as usual, called us to order, that we might organise, he said, as a regular boat club. We answered, "Good!" "Good!" and each boy, putting a pillow on his footboard, took a senatorial seat—each boy arrayed in the flowing cotton nightgown. When silence ensued, Walter addressed us in his energetic, determined way, but lowered his voice that not a whisper of our deliberations might reach the ears of Mr Clare, who was only separated from us by a partition.
"Fellows, we must beat our tutes—we must beat them, that is what I say. Let's get our boat in good order immediately—let's call her the Pupil—let's row every day, but not alongside of our adversary—no, no!—but where we can't be seen, and for two hard hours each day. And I move we have a coxswain, and that Bob be the boy—he is small, quick, and cool. Let's challenge our tutes to-morrow for a race."
"Agreed—agreed! hurrah!" we all shouted.
"For a race, I say, on, let me see, the anniversary of the glorious battle of Waterloo."
"Grand! splendid! hurrah!" were our interruptions again, and Drake expressed his delight by taking the pillow from beneath him, and slinging it with tremendous speed at Alf Higginson's head, who in consequence fell off his perch like a dead squirrel from a pine-tree. Alf fell heavily on his side, and we roared with laughter; but he was up in a moment, and rushed at Drake with a bolster. Walter, our dignified chairman, swooped down from his perch in a second, and catching the incensed Alfred by the extremity of his flying robe, slung him under a bed.
"Order! Order, boys!" he cried. "Pretty fellows you are to hold a meeting. You, Drake! pitch any more pillows, and we'll slide you out of the window. There, stop your racket! Mr Clare is up. Before he comes hurry up and say, all together, 'We will beat.'"
"We will beat," was responded as fiercely as if life was at stake, and, as Mr Clare opened the door to ascertain what was the disturbance, five innocent boys were under blankets and apparently sleeping the deepest slumber. Drake had even reached a regular bass snore. The moonlight streaming in the room, and which showed us a smile breaking irresistibly on Mr Clare's face, was not more placid than we. The door had hardly closed behind Mr Clare before Harry Higginson had sprung from his bed, and, almost on the space our tutor had stood a half second before, was enacting a ridiculous and vigorous pantomime of kicking our "fresh tute" from the room. As quickly the door opened again, and before Harry could get a single limb in order, Mr Clare had him by the arm. But the whole affair was too humorous for even Mr Clare's dignity. He could only say "So you are the noisy one, Henry Higginson. You can get in bed now as quickly as you got out of it, and to-morrow, when the afternoon's study is done, recite to me fifty lines of Virgil—from the twentieth to the seventieth line of the first book."
With that, Mr Clare went from the room, and Harry, with a low, long, whistled "phew," sought his bed disconsolately.
The next day after lessons I, as coxswain, by Walter's order, handed copies of the following note to Captain Mugford and Mr Clare:—
"Cape —-, June 3, 1816.
"Messrs. Mugford and Clare,
"The oarsmen of the galley Pupil would hereby challenge the gentlemen of the boat Tutor to a race on the eighteenth of June, in Bath Bay waters. The course to be from Youngster's Wharf around Leander's Rock, and return. Stakes to be—the championship of Bath Bay. The oarsmen of the Pupil would respectfully propose three p.m. as the hour for the race, and the firing of a gun the signal for the start. The oldest inhabitant, Clump, offers his services as umpire, referee, judge, and signalman.
"All which is submitted for the acceptance and concurrence of the gentlemen of the Tutor.
"(Signed) Walter Tregellin, Henry C. Higginson, Drake Quincy Tregellin, Alfred Higginson, Oarsmen,
"Robert Tregellin, Coxswain."
Mr Clare, when he read it, smiled and said he would see about it, and then turned to Henry and asked him if he had learned those fifty lines yet.
Captain Mugford was presented with his copy as he entered the house for dinner. "Hu-um!" he said, as he took the note in the hand with his hat, and wiped his red, wet forehead with an immense silk handkerchief printed with the maritime flags of all nations. "A note! Who writes me notes? Some of your nonsense, boys, eh?" So he hitched up his trousers and sat down on the doorstep, placing the red handkerchief in his hat beside him. "Let's see!"
"Good! good! that's very good. The middies have got their courage up. The idea of such a stiff old seadog racing with you youngsters!"
"But you will though, won't you, Captain, and make Mr Clare, too?" said Harry.
"Perhaps, boys, if Mr Clare will join, and then we will make you smart. And I tell you what, young gentlemen, if you beat I'll give you a splendid Malay race-boat that I have had stored in my ship-loft these three years."
"Hurrah! Captain, we shall win the boat!" we all cried.
"Ha! ha! what boys for warm weather! You talk as brave as a west wind. But I smell Juno's cooking; let's go in and talk it over with Mr Clare and a warm dish of stew."
It was all settled to our satisfaction before dinner was over. Mr Clare enjoyed the thing as much as the Captain, and declared they would have to practise together once a week. As for us, we never missed our two hours' pull every afternoon, rain or shine, blow high or blow low, until the all-important day proposed for the race.
DISSENSIONS IN CAMP.
For every afternoon of those beautiful June and July days we rowed for two hours, from five to seven. Our studies were not relaxed in the morning, and our hours for swimming were regularly enjoyed, but the absorbing topic of thought and conversation was the approaching boat-race. Twice on Saturday afternoons we had seen Captain Mugford and Mr Clare pulling in their boat. They did not condescend to practise oftener, but we noticed that they worked in earnest when they did row. With the confidence of youth we feared not, feeling sanguine that we must beat them.
There was a vein of discord, however, in our little colony. Alfred Higginson and my brother Drake, who only differed by a few months in age, in other respects differed greatly, and had never been able, since our first acquaintance, to get along together. Alfred Higginson was of a nervous, sensitive disposition, quick in temper, and easily provoked. His tastes were fastidious. He was an excellent scholar, (much better than my brother Drake), and very fond of reading. He entered fully into all our sports, but preferred fishing, sailing, and swimming to our rougher harder amusements. He drew excellently, landscape and marine views and figures. He was a healthy, active boy, and could beat us all in running. I have said his was a quick temper, but it was a forgiving one. If he laughed not as loud and often as many of us, he caused us to laugh oftener than any, for he had a quick dry humour and witty tongue. When it came to chaffing, he was always conqueror.
My brother Drake was entirely unlike Alfred Higginson. He was a hardy, rough, jolly boy, overflowing with fun and animal life, what is called a "regular boy." Never quiet—laughing, singing, whistling all the time, heels over head in everything, pitching into his studies as irrepressibly as into his games, but with more success in the latter, though he was a fair student; better in his mathematics and other English studies than in the languages. The only reading he cared for was that of travel and adventure, voyages of whalemen and discoveries, histories of pirates, Indian scenes, hunting stories, war histories, Walter Scott's novels, "Gulliver's Travels," and the unequalled "Robinson Crusoe." Everything he could find about the Crusaders he revelled in, and even went at Latin with a rush when, Caesar and Nepos being put aside, the dramatic narrative of Virgil opened to him, and the adventures of the Trojan heroes became his daily lesson. But that he had to feed his interest, crumb by crumb, painfully gathered by dictionary and grammar, made him chafe. He enjoyed it, though, with all of us, when, after each day's recitation—after we boys had marred and blurred the elegance and spirit of Virgil's eloquence with all sorts of laboured, limping translations, that made Mr Clare fairly writhe in his chair—our tutor would drop a word of commendation for Walter's better rendering of the poem, and then read the lesson himself, and go over in advance the one for the next day. Then the ribs and decks of our schoolroom in the wrecked brig melted away as the scenes of the Aeneid surrounded us. The dash of the waves we heard was on the Trojan shore, or the coast of Latium, as we wandered with storm-tossed Aeneas. Or we walked the splendid court of Dido, or were contending in battle with the warlike Turnus for our settlement in Latium. Turnus and the fierce Mezentius were Drake's favourites. He never liked Aeneas, who was always Alfred Higginson's hero. Those readings were often disturbed by Drake's exclamations. His overflowing, outspoken disposition could not be restrained when his interest was powerfully enlisted; and as Mr Clare read, in his clear, impassioned manner, some exciting passage, Drake would shout out an exclamation of encouragement or satisfaction with a favourite warrior, and bring down his fist on the desk, as another favourite was discomfited or came to grief. I remember very well how often Drake was reproved for such unseasonable enthusiasm, which always caused an after sarcasm or witticism from Alfred Higginson; and I distinctly recall how, notwithstanding the formality of school-hours, when we came to the single combat between Aeneas and Turnus, and the death of the latter, Drake flung his book from the table, and shouted out in an angry voice, "I'll bet anything Virgil tells fibs!"
Those readings were treats to all of us. Drake having told Captain Mugford of them, and discussed the incidents that vexed him with the Captain, got him so interested that he asked Mr Clare to allow him to come in at the close of our recitations. Of course that favour was readily granted, and after that time the Captain always made one of the auditors. He used to laugh and shake over Drake's excitement, and yet entered into it himself, and I have seen salt drops running down his cheeks and Mr Clare's, as the latter rendered in a voice slightly trembling some of the pathetic passages in which Virgil is so exquisitely beautiful.
I am glad to write of those lessons in the old brig's carcass, for they are remembered so pleasantly. Moreover, it came naturally in drawing my dear brother Drake's character, and the effect of those heroical classics influenced, in a manner very quixotic, the crisis of the continued quarrel between Drake and Alfred Higginson, to which we are coming. The great dissimilarity in the characters of the two was a reason for their want of sympathy and agreement, one with the other, but the causes of the open warfare which existed between them were the faults of each—the irritability, slight conceit, and stinging tongue of Alfred Higginson; the teasing practices, want of toleration for the feelings and peculiarities of others, and a certain recklessness of Drake's. And yet they were both noble boys, with nothing false or ungenerous or underhanded about either of them.
Ever since we had come to the cape, their skirmishes of words and disagreement had been continual, and several more tangible collisions, where blows had been exchanged between them, were nipped in the bud by Walter and the others of us, and once by the Captain, who, wrought up by their quarrelsomeness, separated them pretty fiercely, and, holding each at arm's length, told them that, if there was any fighting to be done among his crew, he must have a hand in it. Then he laughed one of his bars of rollicking "ha-has," and dropped the boys with the injunction that if they had another "mill," he should certainly let their fathers know. "Now, boys, try if you cannot get along better, and when you have a quarrel again, bring it to Mr Clare or to me, and we will settle it better than your blows and frowns can do."
You remember how Drake knocked Alfred from the footboard of his bed on the occasion of our night meeting to get up the boat-race. That was a good example of Drake's reckless rudeness, proceeding merely from his boisterous disposition, but somehow those outbreaks were always directed to Alfred, just as the rough points of Alfred's disposition were sure to be turned to Drake. That fall had hurt Alfred, and from the date of the commencement of our boat-practice, the war between the two had waxed hotter and hotter. The contest seemed only to amuse Harry Higginson, but Walter—our mentor, my conscientious, tender-hearted brother, who led us all in games as well as in lessons—worried over it, and each day he exhorted the two to govern their tempers, and, with great tact and decision, whenever he saw a storm brewing, managed to throw oil upon the waters. However, his influence did not heal up the difference, and in about a fortnight, a few days before the intended race, there occurred during our afternoon boat-practice a little row between the two antagonists, which proved a final skirmish before the severe but ludicrous battle which crowned the civil war.
We were rowing in Bath Bay as usual, Walter pulling the stroke oar, and Harry Higginson the bow, whilst Drake and Alfred held the intermediate positions, Drake sitting behind Alfred—that is, nearer the bow. I had my place at the tiller.
Alfred Higginson had made a very ridiculous blunder in a French translation that morning. Such a thing was unusual for him, and was such a comical one that it set the others of the class in a roar of laughter. Drake was so extravagantly affected by Alf's blunder that Mr Clare had to stop his laughter, which was half genuine and half pretence, by ordering him out of the room. Even then we heard him ha-ha-ing outside. Poor Alfred was terribly mortified, and did not recover his composure even when the school-hours were over, and the first greeting he received, on emerging from the house, was from Drake, who immediately mimicked Alfred's mistake, and performed a variety of antics supposed to proceed from convulsions of mirth. On the way to the boat, Drake continued to tease Alfred. Walter reproved him continually, and even took hold of him once to compel him to stop; but he was in one of his most boisterous moods, and was so very funny that he kept every one but Alfred in shouts of laughter. But Alfred lashed him with the bitterest satire, and, as they say, sometimes "made him laugh on the other side of his mouth," until by the time we had reached the bay Drake had subsided into silence, and the tight closing of his lips, and quick walk, proved that Alfred's sharp wit was more fatal than Drake's broad fun. Both of the boys rowed sullenly, and we all felt that a storm was brewing. In the final round, when we made the course at our best and timed the performance, so as to notice what improvement we were making, Alfred caught a crab with his oar, in consequence of which the head of Drake's oar hit him sharply in the back. The mortification of a miss stroke is enough to anger a boatman, but coming as it did after the morning's blunder in class, and made, too, a pain of the flesh by Drake's blow, it was too much for Alfred's temper, and as Drake increased the irritation by calling him an "awkward lout," and then mimicking the blunder of translation with the accompaniment of a shout of laughter, Alfred turned quickly, and hit his opponent a stinging blow in the face.
In a moment the two boys grappled each other, and in a shorter period than it takes my pen to write it, the boat was upset, and we were all in the water. The combatants still clung to one another, and disappeared together. The adage, however, that "discretion is the better part of valour," enforced by such a deep, cold plunge, bore proof; for the irate youths came to the surface apart, and we all struck out for the rocks, distant about eighty yards. We climbed like half-drowned rats up the shore, where the fight was not resumed. Its very strange continuation was postponed until the Saturday after the boat-race, which must be reserved for another chapter. We, however, read then, in the faces of the discomfited antagonists, as plainly as you read here—
"To be continued."
BEFORE THE BOAT-RACE—CLUMP'S STORY.
The day before the eighteenth was a Monday. In consideration of beginning a week's study to have it broken off again on Tuesday, and because of the many preparations there were to make for the great day, Mr Clare gave us the two holidays. We had our swim and boat-practice on Monday morning, and then set to work to make arrangements for the next day, every one taking a part with real zest. First the boat was carefully hauled up on the shore, and turned over on a way of joists we had prepared for her. The bottom was then carefully washed, and, after that, thoroughly rubbed with the sand-paper—about an hour's work, at which we all had a hand. Having got the sides and keel beautifully smooth in that way, Clump brought a kettle of pure grease, which was placed over a little fire of driftwood, and when the grease had become liquid, Walter, with a large fine paint-brush, anointed the entire boat's bottom in a most painstaking manner. We boys stood by, entering into the operation, which was supposed to prove wonderfully efficacious in increasing our boat's speed, with great interest, and Clump bent over the kettle, stirring the oil, and puffing at the short stern of his pipe eagerly.
Grouped with such absorbing concern about the body of the boat, Walter moving slowly from stem to stern, and stern to stem, laying on the magic oil, (unctuous of victory to our noses), with steady sweeps, and the bent figure of black old Clump beside the caldron, from which rose a curling smoke, we must have made a tableau of heathen offering sacrifice, or some other savage mystery.
The all-important job was at length completed, and we left our ark of many hopes to rest until the exciting hour of the morrow.
Clump was a sharer in our great expectations. His heart was set upon our success. He had to fill his pipe again before we left the boat, and pulled at it nervously and wrinkled his black skin into countless puckers as he walked beside us, thinking of the vast interests at stake and listening to our excited conversation. As we left him to go over to the town for a small cannon we had borrowed to fire the signals, he touched Walter on the sleeve, and said in the most slow and earnest manner, as he drew the pipe from his mouth and knocked its ashes on the ground—
"An I'se to be judge an' udder ting you'se talk of, Massa Walter, eh? An I'se to fire de gun, eh? W-a-all, I'se an ole nigger, an my heart ees shree-veled up like, I s'pose, but my gorry, young massas, ef you don't beat, old Clump will jist loaden up do musket again an'—an'—an' but 'is 'ed agin de rock! Yah, fur sure!"
Having delivered himself of that tragical decision in a manner mixed of sadness and frenzy, he hobbled off, amidst our laughter and assurances that we should never allow him to injure the rock in that way, to consult with Juno, and probably load his pipe again.
No noble lord, with his thousands of pounds wagered on the Derby or Saint Leger, or perhaps, rather, I should say on some of the crack yachts of the day, was ever half so excited as was this good old darky about our boat-race.
Under the escort of Walter, Harry, Alfred, and Drake, the cannon arrived in the afternoon, and, by their united efforts and the assistance of the Captain, was mounted before sundown on a heavy piece of timber in the Clear the Track's bow.
By night the flags, ammunition, and many other necessaries for the morrow's undertaking were in order and readiness for service.
After the day's work, and filled with anticipations of the eventful morrow, we felt no desire for our usual outdoor games that evening, but found seats on the great boulder beside our house, where Mr Clare was resting, and the Captain was enjoying his smoke. Old Clump, too, having finished his tea and swept out Juno's kitchen, loitered toward us with his comforter—the pipe—and edged up respectfully within hearing of our conversation. So we boys leaned on our elbows, looking out at the dimly defined water, sometimes lighted in streaks by gleams of phosphorescence where shoals of fish were jumping; or, stretched on our backs, we watched the shooting-stars hurrying with speed quick as thought from one part of the immeasurable blue to another; while our tutors talked earnestly of former times, and we heard the shrill calls of gulls and other sea birds, the occasional tender bleating of the lambs in the distant sheepfold, and the soft regular splash of a summer sea on the rocks, until the delicate young crescent had dozed slowly down to its bed in the ocean,—and we, profiting by example, sought slumber in the old dreamful attic.
Harry Higginson was the first one up in the morning. He shook us to our senses, and whispered to get out of the house quietly, that we might call our tutors with the cannon's voice. That was an acceptable proposition, and we were soon stealing down the creaking stairs, shoes in hand. Having put those on, seated by the door-stone, we started on a run for the Clear the Track. It was just light, the soft dawn of a warm summer's day—not yet half-past four. Walter said he would bet old Sol had already fired a gun in honour of the glorious battle won that day by England and her Allies, but so far off we could not hear it.
We got on board the wreck as carefully as we had quitted the house, and I, being delegated to descend to the Captain's cabin and steal one of the flannel powder cartridges, was soon creeping by the snoring Captain with my booty secured. It took but a moment to ram home the charge and pack it over with pockets full of wadding; and then Harry, our gunner, touched it off. As the old brig shook with the report, Alfred jumped to the bell, and the way that clanged was splendid.
"Boys," said Drake, who was shaking with the fun, "can't you see old topgallant sail down below springing up in his berth with a lurch and cracking his head against the beams, and our dignified fresh tute jerking those long, thin legs out of bed, and wondering what's about to happen this fine morning, and old Clump and Juno groaning out 'O de Lord!' and knocking their black pates together as they both try to get out of bed at the same instant. How jolly!"
An immense red bandanna handkerchief at that moment popped above the companionway—then a hearty, weather-marked face we well knew—then a portion of an ample East Indian nightshirt, which threw up a pair of arms and fired off a couple of boarding-pistols. The discharge was followed by a stentorian "Three cheers for the great and glorious battle won this day!—hip! hip! hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!" in which we fellows joined with a yell.
"Ah! you young rascals have got before me this morning, but this afternoon it will be my turn—mine and Mr Clare's, you roystering middies!" and the Captain popped down again to finish his toilet.
We were soon joined by the Captain, and a little while after by Mr Clare, who was in the best of spirits, complimented us on our display of zeal and patriotism, and touched off the old gun once himself—"for practice," he said.
"But," continued the jolly old Captain, having taken Mr Clare's arm, "suppose we visit Ethiopia and see if a hot breakfast is not waiting for us there. These boys would rather stay here and load this cannon."
"No sir, no sir!" replied Harry, "we must load our own personal guns, for we mean to make our report this afternoon."
Laughing over that threat to our tutors, we went with them to breakfast, which we found ready as soon as our morning prayers were read. Clump brought in the dishes—Clump in uniform—and I never saw a funnier figure in my life. The coat was once my grandfather's—a colonel of West India Militia, I believe. Now my grandfather had been a rather short man, but very broad and stout, particularly round the stomach. Old Clump was tall and thin as a spectre, so the epaulettes fell over his shoulders, the waist flapped loosely eight inches above his trousers, and the short swallow-tails did not sufficiently cover the spot which the venerable darky usually placed on the chair to hide a patch, the bigness of a frying-pan and of a different material from the breeches themselves, that Juno's affectionate care had strengthened her liege lord's garments with—which garments, far more pastoral than military, and forced by suspenders as near the coat as Clump's anatomy otherwise would allow, failed by three inches of woollen stocking to meet his shoes. When you think how comical the excellent, old, white-woolled darky appeared, remember, too, that he was perfectly unconscious, until our laughter startled him, that he was not becomingly attired.
As our irrepressible appreciation of the fun was shouted out, Clump did not realise at first that he was its cause, but when he did all the pride and alacrity died from his face in an instant. In a bewildered, palsied way he put down the dish he carried, and, heaving a sad sigh, drew himself up until the rheumatic spine must have twinged, and, fixing his eyes on some point far above our head, stood in motionless dignity.
Even Mr Clare had laughed, but, recovering equanimity immediately that he saw how deeply Clump was wounded, he said:
"Boys, stop that laughing." He might have addressed his reproof to the Captain, too, for he was in paroxysms, and had his face buried in the countless flags of that great red silk bandanna of his. "Is it so very funny to see Clump doing honour to a day once so big with the fate of England and the world? Had the Allies been beaten at Waterloo, what might not have become of our beloved country? Instead of Napoleon being an exile in Saint Helena, he might have carried out his darling project of invading and humbling England to the dust. Though he cares no more for the Pope of Rome than does the Sultan of Turkey or the Shah of Persia, he would probably have established Popery with all its horrors and impositions, for the sake of more completely bringing our country into subjection to his will; and, once established, it would have been a hard matter to throw off its iron shackles. Boys, you do not sufficiently value your privileges as Englishmen and Protestants—or rather, I should say, as inhabitants of this free and favoured island of Great Britain. We are free to read our Bibles; we are free to worship God as we think fit; we are free to go and come as we list; we have a good constitution and good laws; we may think freely, speak freely, and act freely."
"Yes, Massa Clare; you may tell de young gemmen dey may laff freely too," broke in Clump. "I laff freely, I know, when I first set foot on de English land. I no longer slave, I free man, and so dey may laff as much as dey likes at ole Clump, perwided dey laffs wid him. I know one ting, dey would not have laff if dey had been in deir grandfather's coat when dis hole was made right through it into his arm." Clump held up his right arm and showed the bullet-hole in the coat, and what he declared to be the stain of blood still on it; and he then continued in a triumphant strain—
"Dis ole man Clump was 'is body-sarvant: but Clump was not ole den, and he follow his massa to de war—dat was long, long before dose young gemmen was born—afore dey was tinked of—and Massa Tregellin deir fader was young gemmen like dose, but more politer. We was sent wid de seamen to take de island of Martinique; and so we landed and looked bery fierce, and de Frenchmen thought we had come to eat dem; so dey say, no use fighting; and so, after firing a great many shot at us; but doing no harm, dey say when we land, 'We give in, we no fight more.' So we take de island, and no one hurt except one man scratch anoder's nose wid his bagonet, and make blood come. When de generals and de admirals see we done so well, dey say we go and take anoder island; so we all sets sail for to take Guadeloupe. Some of de ships got in one day, some anoder, and anchored in Grozier Bay. Ah, de enemy thought we come to eat him up, but dis time he stop. Dere was de frigate Winchelsea, of which Lord Garlies was de cap'en. He tun in, and bring his guns to bear on de shore, and under deir cover de soldiers and de bluejackets landed. Dere was a high hill, wid de fort full of French soldiers on de top of it. 'Dere, my brave fellow, we have to go up dere,' said de Kunnel. De seamen was commanded by Cap'en Robert Faulkner. He bery brave man. I could just tall you how many brave tings he did; how he lash de bowsprit of de enemy to his own mainmast, and neber let her go till he took her, and den was shot through de heart in de hour of victory. Well, de gen'ral say to us—'Now, boys, we don't want firing, but just let de enemy feel de cold steel. Dey don't like dat. Soldiers, use bagonets. Bluejackets, use your pikes and cutlashes.' 'Ay, ay, sir,' we shout; and den up de hill we go—up! up! De faster we go de better for us, for de French bullets come down peppering pretty sharp. We just near de top, and de enemy begin to look bery blue, when I see de Kunnel's right arm drop—he was only a cap'en den—his sword fell from his hand, but he seize it wid de oder hand, and wave it above his head, shouting, 'On, boys, on.' We reach de fort: de Frenchmen fire wid de guns, and poke at us wid de pikes, and swear at us wid deir mouds, and grapeshot and musket-balls come rattling down about our heads; but dat no stop us; and on we went till we got into de fort, and trou de gates, and den de Frenchmen, who had fought bery well, but could fight no more, rushed away. Just den I see de Kunnel look bery pale, just like one nigger when he frightened, and he goed round and round, and would hab fallen, but Clump caught him in de arms, and den Clump put him on de ground, and shouted for de doctor, and ran and got some water, and de doctors came and splashed water in de Kunnel's face, and he oped his eyes, and he say, 'Tank you, Clump.' Yes, de Kunnel, dis ole nigger's massa, tank him on de field of battle. When de dear Massa got better, he one day take de coat and say to me, 'Here, Clump, you and I went up dat hill, and it's a mercy we eber came down again. It's my belief if you hadn't got de water dat day to throw in my face, I should never have come round again; and so, Clump, here, take dis coat, I'll gub tur you to r'member dis fite.' And now dese gemmen laff at deir gran'pa's coat! but black Clump, ole nigger, lub it! Yaas, he'll lub it till he's 'posited in de bowels ob de arth."
The remembrance of my grandfather and that proud day for Clump, the keenness with which he had felt our rudeness, and the excitement of recital were, all together, too much for our good old castellan. The erectness of his figure gave way as he concluded, the enthusiasm in his features faded into dejection, and, as he turned from the table to leave the room, I saw a big drop, that had trickled down his wrinkled face, fall on his extended hand.
The cruelty of boys is an idiosyncrasy in their otherwise generous character. Of course there are mean boys, hard-hearted boys, cowardly boys; but Boyhood is more generous, open, tender-hearted, daring, than Manhood, yet its cruelty stands out a distinguishing trait. An old French teacher, loving children, wanting in dignity, broken in English, irritable in disposition; a sensitive young stranger, fresh from home, charming in innocence, sad with thoughts of a dear mother; a poor, frightened kitten, are all objects for boys' cruelty to gloat over.
And so, too, on the oddities of that dear old Clump, that excellent, noble-hearted old black man, who loved us with surpassing pride and tenderness, we delighted to prey on as vultures on a carcass, and yet, I am sure, we were neither vicious nor hard-hearted, but simply and entirely—Boys.
All this time, since our Saturday afternoon, when the fight overset our boat, Alfred Higginson and Drake had not spoken to one another. This eighteenth of June, even, Drake did not wake Alfred, but left others of us to do so. Thrown together so intimately every minute of the day, and so often on the point of speaking—often almost necessitated to do so by circumstances, and frequently through forgetfulness—their unfortunate difficulty and enmity stole the freshness from their sports, and acted as a check and damper on the spirits of all our little company. However, the finale was not far-distant, but it was postponed until after the boat-race.
THE REGATTA—THE DUEL.
By agreement we rested through the middle of the day, and, in place of our usual hearty dinner, took an early lunch. It was irksome, though, to be quiet when so excited, and when, too, a multitude of pastimes were suggested to our senses by the loveliness of that June day.
Mr Clare and Captain Mugford had gone to fish in the Race off the extreme point.
When half-past one o'clock came, Harry, who seemed the most impatient, proposed that we should go down to Bath Bay then, and wait there until three, the hour of the race. That we agreed to, but left directions with Clump to hurry our tutors up as soon as they returned, and have them ready for the race.
We had time to launch our boat carefully, and take a nice swim, before we descried our tutors, followed by Clump with a long musket, descending the knoll toward us. So we hastened our dressing, and, when they reached the beach, were ready to receive them in our extemporised costume of blue shirts and white trousers. Captain Mugford was already in a perspiration from his walk, and, what we boys also noticed with delight, seemed somewhat blown. However, he was jolly, and, flourishing the ever active handkerchief, proposed to Mr Clare that they should row round Leander's Rock, and let the boys follow them! "But at a respectful distance, remember, boys!" We laughed scornfully at his chaff. Harry touched his cap like a middy, and promised for our boat that it should keep at a very "respectful distance."
It took but a short time to complete preparations. Our tutors threw off hats, coats, and vests, and tied handkerchiefs about their heads. Then they lifted their boat into the water, and stood smiling at the excitement we could not help betraying. Clump was on his way to Youngster's Wharf, where, at the proper moment, he was to give the signal for starting by firing the musket. A flag waved from Leander's Rock; another was flying over our heads. The clear water of the bay soused in impatient little ripples against the boats we stood ready to enter, as if to say, "Well, why don't you come on?" and then, purling a few feet farther, skipped over the spar which was to be our goal. Clump had reached Youngster's Wharf. Seeing that, we entered our boats, seated ourselves carefully, balancing the oars ready to spring, and waited the signal. I alone could see Clump; the oarsmen had their backs to him. The long gun was brought up to his shoulder, and his eyes fixed on us. I saw his finger twitch, and as the hammer fell, my body gave way to help the start. The oarsmen, with their eyes on mine, acted in sympathy, and every oar touched the water; but the old flintlock had only snapped. How our adversaries laughed! The old man sprang about on the rock like a wounded baboon. He was indignant at the failure. Again we were in order. Again I saw the musket brought up. Bang! We were off, and were opposite Youngster's Wharf before the smoke had cleared from above Clump's head. The boats were side by side then. Notwithstanding the eagerness with which I swayed forward with every pull of the oars, and the frenzy that filled me, as in a moment more I saw our tutors' boat drawing slightly ahead, I had to laugh at the antics of Clump, who was rushing from side to side of his floating staging, dancing up and down like a rheumatic lunatic, tossing his arms wildly about his uncovered head, his face a kaleidoscope of grimaces, while he shouted to each one of us by name, in encouragement, in entreaty, in fear: "Oh, Massa Drake! pull, pull!" "Massa Walter! Massa Walter! dus you let 'em beat!" "Day'se gwine ahead! Oh dear! oh dear! oh dear!"
His voice was lost in another moment. We were nearly half across the bay, and our tutors' boat a full length ahead. I saw that my crew were too excited to do their best, so I called to them: "Boys, steady now! Keep cool, cool. Only think of what your arms are doing."
"There, that's better already! We're gaining! Hurrah! Stick to it!"
"Come, boys," called Mr Clare. "Come, we can't wait for you longer!"
I believe that lent five pounds of extra strength to every arm in my boat.
We were nearing Leander's Rock. Ay! and we were steadily gaining on our tutors.
They, too, saw that, but could do no better. Having a steersman, gave our boat an advantage of rounding the Rock closely.
We gained distance. In five minutes we were thirty or forty feet ahead.
But then, terrible to see, our adversaries made a spurt, and were coming up again, hand over hand.
They gained, gained, gained, until their stern was opposite Harry's oar-blade. I was almost wild with excitement. I called upon the boys, with every entreaty I could think of, to pull harder; urging on Alfred, who was evidently the weakest oar, and whose strength seemed waning.
But our tutors could not pull harder. They had done their best. Could we but keep our speed.
So we went, without widening or lessening the distance between us, for a hundred yards. But was it possible for us to hold out? How I prayed we might! We neared Clump again. The comic sight cheered me. Truly, if hopping about and entreaties could help us, what aid must that old nigger give us. I almost expected to see him soar off to us, he looked so like a crow taking flight.
"Fellows! keep a morsel of extra strength to use when we pass Clump, then just let us put forth our utmost breath and strength for those forty yards. But don't let our tutes gain. Look! look!"
But they were coming up—only by inches, to be sure, but coming.
We rushed past Youngster's Wharf. Clump stretched out his body as if to pull us on.
Hurrah! hurrah! Their bow is a foot beyond our stern.
"Hi! hi! hi! Yah! yah! Hurrah! hurrah! My young—"
Clump had pitched in sure enough, head first. But there was no stop to our engines. Our tutors were four feet behind; but they were working with a last hope and mad effort.
"One more, boys!"
Cr-u-a-nk! we touched the spar, slid over its roundness as it sunk beneath our keel, and were on the soft beach—Victors!
We were crazy with joy, and completely used up. The boys jumped from the boat and threw themselves, laughing hysterically, on the sand.
Our tutors only said, in tones of mingled chagrin and exhaustion, "Boys, we are beaten, well and fairly;" and they pushed off again to pick up Clump.
I do not know any successes or honours of after-life sweeter or more satisfying than that boat victory.
Until bedtime, we remained just tired and happy enough to sit quietly and talk over the events of the afternoon.
In resuming study for the few days before Saturday, we had in anticipation for that time a fishing party on the rocks, for bass, which were beginning to bite sharply, and for which our bait was lobster and the crabs that were found under the small rocks at low tide.
In talking over the project together, Drake said he would not go this time, but would wait to see our luck. Alfred Higginson expressed neither assent nor dissent with the general arrangement, and of course we supposed he was to be of our party, until Saturday came and we were ready to start, poles, bait and basket in hand, when he was not to be found. We wondered at his disappearance, but had no time to hunt him up. Drake was there to see us off. The Captain and Mr Clare, who were going with us, told Drake they thought that boat-race had proved too much for him. He laughed, but was not as ready at an answer as usual. Indeed, he appeared rather low-spirited. However, we started on our excursion without a suspicion of the affair which prevented both fellows from joining it. It afterwards appeared that Drake had addressed the following note to Alfred Higginson on the day before the boat-race:—
"Cape —-, June 17, 1816.
"Our quarrels have gone nearly far enough, disturbing the peace of our entire company, and increasing the irritation between us. Let us conclude the dissension in a thorough and honourable way that may satisfy both and prove a final contest. After that I will agree to strive not to give offence to you, and also to bear silently whatever conceit and insults may escape you. Perhaps we may become friends. But we cannot remain as we are. The blow you struck the other day must be answered for. I ask satisfaction, and the incompleteness and vulgarity of a pugilistic encounter will not suit me. I propose, therefore, as we cannot resort to the regular duel of pistols, (for reasons so good and evident that I need not name them), that after the example of the ancients, whose history we are now daily reading, we have our combat. Arms of their fashion our ingenuity can supply, not of the same materials, I know, but of wood, which should prove effective enough for our purposes. I propose Saturday as the time, when those who might otherwise disturb our meeting are absent: and I propose the hold of the wreck as a suitable spot. Your sense of honour will, of course, keep this affair secret, and I ask a speedy reply.