Dick Cheveley, His Adventures and Misadventures, by W.H.G Kingston.
Dick is the teenage son of an early nineteenth century vicar in England. The boy has a passionate desire to go to sea, but his family, especially his Aunt Deb, oppose this. One reason is that if he were to go as a midshipman he would be required to have at least fifty pounds a year to keep appearances up, and that money wasn't available.
He forms a friendship with another boy, Mark, who gets into trouble for being a poacher. Dick peaches on the local smugglers, who imprison him, and he is nearly killed by them.
Wandering out of curiosity round the decks of a ship that is about to sail he falls through a hatchway, and right down into the lower hold. When he comes to the ship is at sea, and the hold is battened down. It takes him several weeks before he can attract attention. But the captain is a horrible man, and some of the crew are not much better. Eventually Dick jumps ship by stealing a ship's dinghy, and lands on a tiny rocky islet. The dinghy is lost in a storm. Eventually Dick is rescued and is taken back to his home town, where he vows never to go to sea again.
The story was written as a cautionary tale to advise boys like Dick never to go to sea as a stowaway, which is effectually what Dick did, and was inspired by a real case, in which the boy was found dying after only thirteen days at sea.
DICK CHEVELEY, HIS ADVENTURES AND MISADVENTURES, BY W.H.G KINGSTON.
So extraordinary are the adventures of my hero, Master Richard Cheveley, son of the Reverend John Cheveley, vicar of the parish of S—, in the county of D—-, that it is possible some of my readers may be inclined to consider them incredible, but that they are thoroughly probable the following paragraph which appeared in the evening edition of the Standard early in the month of November, 1879, will, I think, amply prove. I have no fear that any sensible boys will be inclined to follow Dick's example; but if they will write to him at Liverpool, where he resides, and ask his advice, as a young gentleman did mine lately, on the subject of running away to sea, I am very sure that he will earnestly advise them to stay at home; or, at all events, first to consult their fathers or mothers, or guardians, or other relatives or friends before they start, unless they desire to risk sharing the fate of the hapless stowaway here mentioned:—
"A shocking discovery was made on board the National steamer England, which arrived in New York from Liverpool on the 29th October. In discharging the cargo in the forehold a stowaway was found in a dying state. He had made the entire passage of thirteen days without food or drink. He was carried to the vessel's deck, where he died."
My young correspondent, in perfect honesty, asked me to tell him how he could best manage to run away to sea. I advised him, as Mr Richard Cheveley would have done, and I am happy to say that he wisely followed my advice, for I have since frequently heard from him. When he first wrote he was an entire stranger to me. He has had more to do with this work than he supposes. I have the pleasure of dedicating it to him.
WILLIAM H G KINGSTON.
Some account of my family, including Aunt Deb—My father receives an offer—A family discussion, in which Aunt Deb distinguishes herself— Her opinions and mine differ considerably—My desire to go to sea haunts my dreams—My brother Ned's counsel—I go a-fishing in Leighton Park—I meet with an accident—My career nearly cut short—A battle with a swan, in which I get the worst of it—A courageous mother—Mark Riddle to the rescue—An awkward fix—Mark finds a way out of it—Old Roger's cottage—The Riddle family—Roger Riddle's yarns and their effect on me—Mark takes a different view—It's not all gold that glitters—The model—My reception at home.
We were all seated round the tea-table, that is to say, my father and mother, my five sisters, and three of my elder brothers, who were at home—two were away—and the same number of young ones, who wore pinafores, and last, but not least, Aunt Deb, who was my mother's aunt, and lived with us to manage everything and keep everybody in order, for this neither my father nor mother were very well able to do; the latter nearly worn out with nursing numerous babies, while my father was constantly engaged in the duties of the parish of Sandgate, of which he was incumbent.
Aunt Deb was never happy unless she was actively engaged in doing something or other. At present she was employed in cutting, buttering, or covering with jam, huge slices of bread, which she served out as soon as they were ready to the juvenile members of the family, while my eldest sister, Mary, was presiding at the tea-tray, and passing round the cups as she filled them.
When all were served, my father stood up and said grace, and then all fell to with an eagerness which proved that we had good appetites.
"I say, Aunt Deb, Tom Martin has lent me such a jolly book. Please give me another slice before you sit down. It's all about Anson's voyage round the world. I don't know whether I shall like it as well as 'Robinson Crusoe' or 'Captain Cook's Voyages,' or 'Gulliver's Travels,' or the 'Life of Nelson,' or 'Paul Jones,' but I think I shall from the look I got of it," I exclaimed, as Aunt Deb was doing what I requested.
"I wish, Dick, that you would not read those pestiferous works," she answered, as, having given me the slice of bread, she sat down to sip her tea. "They are all written with an evil intent, to make young people go gadding about the world, instead of staying contentedly at home doing their duty in that state of life to which they are called."
"But I don't understand why I should not be called to go to sea," I replied; "I have for a long time made up my mind to go, and I intend to try and become as great a man as Howe, or Nelson, or Collingwood, or Lord Cochrane, or Sir Sidney Smith. I've just to ask you, Aunt Deb, what England would be without her navy, and what the navy would be unless boys were allowed to go into it?"
"Stuff and nonsense, you know nothing about the matter, Dick. It's very well for boys who have plenty of interest, for sons of peers or members of parliament, or judges or bishops, or of others who possess ample means and influence, but the son of a poor incumbent of an out of the way parish, who knows no one, and whom nobody knows, would remain at the bottom of the tree."
"But you forget, Aunt Deb, that there are ways of getting on besides through interest. I intend to do all sorts of dashing things, and win my promotion, through my bravery. If I can once become a midshipman I shall have no fear about getting on."
"Stuff and nonsense!" again ejaculated Aunt Deb, "you know nothing about the matter, boy."
"Don't I though," I said to myself, for I knew that my father, who felt the importance of finding professions for his sons according to their tastes, had some time before written to Sir Reginald Knowsley, of Leighton Park,—"the Squire," as he used to be called till he was made a baronet, and still was so very frequently, asking him to exert his influence in obtaining an appointment for me on board a man-of-war. This Sir Reginald had promised to do. Aunt Deb, however, had made many objections, but for once in a way my father had acted contrary to her sage counsel, and as he considered for the best. Still Aunt Deb had not given in.
"You'll do as you think fit, John," she observed to him, "but you will repent it. Dick is not able to take care of himself at home, much less will he be so on board a big ship among a number of rough sailors. Let him remain at school until he is old enough to go into a counting-house in London or Bristol, where he'll make his fortune and become a respectable member of society, as his elder brother means to be, or let him become a master at a school, or follow any course of life rather than that of a soldier or a sailor."
I did not venture to interrupt Aunt Deb, indeed it would have been somewhat dangerous to have done so, while she was arguing a point, but I had secretly begged my father to write to Sir Reginald as he had promised, assuring him that I had set my heart on following a naval career, and that it would break if I was not allowed to go to sea. This took place, it will be understood, some time before the evening of which I am now speaking.
Aunt Deb suspected that my father was inclined to favour my wishes, and this made her speak still more disparagingly than ever of the navy.
Tea was nearly over when the post arrived. It only reached us of an evening, and Sarah, the maid, brought in a large franked letter. I at once guessed that it was from Sir Reginald Knowsley, who was in London.
I gazed anxiously at my father's face as he read it. His countenance did not, however, exhibit any especial satisfaction.
"Who is it from?" asked my mother, in a languid voice. "From Sir Reginald," he replied. "It is very kind and complimentary. He says that he has had great pleasure in doing as I requested him. He fortunately, when going down to the Admiralty, met his friend Captain Grummit, who has lately been appointed to the 'Blaze-away,' man-of-war, and who expressed his willingness to receive on board his ship the son of any friend of his, but—and here comes the rub—Captain Grummit, he says, has made it a rule to take no midshipmen unless their parents consent to allow them fifty pounds a year, in addition to their pay. This sum, the Captain states, is absolutely necessary to enable them to make the appearance he desires all his midshipmen to maintain. Fifty pounds a year is a larger sum, I fear, than my purse can supply," observed my father when he had read thus far.
"I should think it was, indeed!" exclaimed Aunt Deb. "Fifty pounds a year! Why, that's nearly half of my annual income. It would be madness, John, to make any promise of the sort. Suppose you were to let him go, and to stint the rest of his brothers and sisters by making him so large an allowance—what will be the result, granting that he is not killed in the first battle he is engaged in, or does not fall overboard and get drowned, or the ship is not wrecked, and he escapes the other hundred and one casualties to which a sailor is liable? Why, when he becomes a lieutenant he'll marry to a certainty, and then he'll be killed, and leave you and his mother and me, or his brothers and sisters, to look after his widow and children, supposing they are able to do so."
"But I shall have a hundred and twenty pounds full pay, and ninety pounds a year half-pay," I answered; "I know all about it, I can tell you."
"Ninety pounds a year and a wife and half-a-dozen small brats to support on it," exclaimed Aunt Deb in an indignant tone. "The wife is sure to be delicate, and know nothing about housekeeping, and she and the children will constantly be requiring the doctor in the house."
"But you are going very far ahead, Aunt Deb, I haven't gone to sea yet, or been made a lieutenant, and if I had, there's no reason why I should marry."
"There are a great many reasons why you should not," exclaimed Aunt Deb.
"I was going to say that there are many lieutenants in the navy who have not got wives, and I do not suppose that I shall marry when I become one," I answered.
"It seems pretty certain that you will never be a lieutenant or a midshipman either, if it depends upon your having an allowance of fifty pounds a year, for where that fifty pounds is to come from I'm sure I don't know," cried my aunt. "As it is, your poor father finds it a difficult matter to find food and clothing for you all, and to give you a proper education, and unless the Bishop should suddenly bestow a rich living on him, he, at all events, could not pay fifty pounds a year, or fifty shillings either, so I would advise you forthwith to give up this mad idea of yours, and stay quietly at school until a profitable employment is found for you."
I looked up at my father, feeling that there was a good deal of truth in what Aunt Deb said, although I did not like the way she said it.
"Your aunt only states what is the case, Dick," said my father. "I should be glad to forward your views, but I could not venture, with my very limited income, to bind myself to supply you with the sum which Sir Reginald says is necessary."
"Couldn't you get Sir Reginald to advance the money?" I inquired, as the bright idea occurred to me; "I will return it to him out of my pay and prize-money."
Aunt Deb fairly burst out laughing.
"Out of your pay, Dick?" she exclaimed. "Why fifty pounds is required over and above that pay you talk of, every penny of which you will have to spend, and supposing that you should not be employed for a time, and have to live on shore. Do you happen to know what a midshipman's half-pay is? Why just nothing at all and find yourself. You talk a good deal of knowing all about the matter, but it's just clear that you know nothing."
"I wish, my dear Dick, that we could save enough to help you," said my mother, who was always ready to assist us in any of our plans; "but you know how difficult I find it to get even a few shillings to spend."
My mother's remark soothed my irritated feelings and disappointment, or I should have said something which might not have been pleasant to Aunt Deb's ears.
We continued talking on the subject, I devising all sorts of plans, and arguing tooth and nail with Aunt Deb, for I had made up my mind to go to sea, and to go I was determined by hook or by crook; but that fifty pounds a year was, I confess, a damper to my hopes of becoming a midshipman.
If I could have set to work and made the fifty pounds, I would have done my best to do so, but I was as little likely to make fifty pounds as I was to make fifty thousand. Aunt Deb also reminded my father that it was not fifty pounds a year for one year, but fifty pounds for several years, which he might set down as three hundred pounds, at least, of which, through my foolish fancy, I should be depriving him, and my mother, and brothers, and sisters.
There was no denying that, so I felt that I was defeated. I had at length to go to bed, feeling as disappointed and miserable as I had ever been in my life. To Ned, the brother just above me in age, who slept in the same room, I opened my heart.
"I am the most miserable being in the world!" I exclaimed. "I wish that I had never been born. If it had not been for Aunt Deb father would have given in, but she hates me, I know, and always has hated me, and takes a pleasure in thwarting my wishes. I've a great mind to run off to sea, and enter before the mast just to spite her."
Ned, who was a quiet, amiable fellow, taking much after our kind mother, endeavoured to tranquillise my irritated feelings.
"Don't talk in that way, Dick," he said in a gentle tone. "You might get tired of the life, even if you were to go into the navy; but, perhaps, means may be found, after all, to enable you to follow the bent of your wishes. All naval captains may not insist on their midshipmen having an allowance of fifty pounds a year; or, perhaps, if they do, some friend may find the necessary funds."
"I haven't a friend in the world," I answered. "If my father cannot give me the money I don't know who can. I know that Aunt Deb would not, even if she could."
"Cheer up, Dick," said Ned; "or rather I would advise you to go to sleep. Perhaps to-morrow morning some bright idea may occur which we can't think of at present. I've got my lessons to do before breakfast, so I must not stop awake talking, or I shall not be able to arouse myself."
I had begun taking off my clothes, and Ned waited until he saw me lie down, when he put out the candle, and jumped into bed. I continued talking till a loud snore from his corner of the room showed me that he was fast asleep. I soon followed his example, but my mind was not idle, for I dreamed that I had gone to sea, become a midshipman, and was sailing over the blue ocean with a fair breeze, that the captain was talking to me and telling me what a fine young sailor I had become, and that he had invited me to breakfast with him, and had handed me a plate of buttered toast and a fresh-laid egg; when, looking up, I saw his countenance suddenly change into that of Aunt Deb.
"Don't you wish you may get it?" he said. "Before you eat that, go on deck and see what weather it is."
Of course I had to go, when to my astonishment I found the ship rolling and pitching; the foam-covered seas tossing and roaring; the officers shouting and bawling, ordering the men to take in sail. Presently there came a crash, the masts went by the board, the seas dashed over the ship, and I found myself tumbling about among the breakers, until it seemed almost in an instant I was thrown on the beach, where I lay unable to crawl out of the way of the angry waters, which threatened every moment to carry me off again. In vain I tried to work my way up the sands with my arms and legs. Presently down I came, to find myself sprawling on the floor.
"What can have made all that row?" exclaimed Ned, starting up, awakened by the noise of my falling out of bed.
"I thought I was shipwrecked," I answered.
"I'm glad you are not," said Ned. "So get into bed again, and if you can go to sleep, dream of something else."
Feeling somewhat foolish, I did as he advised, but I had first to put my bed-clothes to rights, for I had dragged them off with me to the floor. It was no easy matter, although I was assisted by the pale light of early morning, which came through the chinks of the shutters.
In a short time afterwards Ned again got up to go to his books, for he, being somewhat delicate, was studying under our father, while I, who had been sent to school, had just come home for the holidays. I had a holiday task, but had no intention of troubling myself about it at present. I was, therefore, somewhat puzzled to know what to do. While I was dressing, it occurred to me that I would go over to Leighton Park with my rod, to try the ponds, hoping to return with a basket of fish. I might go there and get an hour's fishing, and be back again before breakfast. I tried to persuade Ned to accompany me, but he preferred to stick to his books.
"Much good may they do you," I answered, rather annoyed. "Why can't you shut them up for once in a way. It's a beautiful morning, and by going early we are sure to have plenty of sport, and you can learn your lessons just as well after breakfast."
"Not if I had been out three or four hours fishing, and came home wet and dirty; and I want to get my studies over while the day is young, and the air fresh and pure. I can read twice as well now as I shall be able after breakfast."
"Well, if you are so unsociable, I must go by myself," I said, getting down my rod from the wall on which it hung with my fishing-tackle and basket. Swinging the latter over my shoulder I crept noiselessly out of the room and down stairs. No one was stirring, so I let myself out by a back door which led into the garden. Even our old dog "Growler" did not bark, for he was, I suppose, taking his morning snooze after having been on the watch all night.
Before setting off I had to get some bait. I found a spade in the tool-house and proceeded with it to a certain well-known heap in the corner of the kitchen garden, full of vivacious worms of a ruddy hue, for which fish of all descriptions had a decided predilection. Even now, whenever I smell a similar odour to that which emanated from the heap, the garden and its surroundings are vividly recalled to my mind. I quickly filled a box, which I kept for the purpose, with wriggling worms. It had a perforated lid, and contained damp moss.
"I ought to have thought of getting these fellows yesterday and have given them time to clean themselves," I said to myself. "They'll do, notwithstanding, although they will not prove as tough as they ought." Shouldering my rod I made my way out of the garden by a wicket gate, and proceeded across the fields on which it opened towards Leighton Park. The grass was wet with dew, the air was pure and fresh, almost cold; the birds were singing blithely in the trees. A lark sprang up before me, and rose into the blue air, warbling sweetly to welcome the rising sun, which he could see long before its rays glanced over the ground on which I was walking. I could not help also singing and whistling, the bright air alone being sufficient to raise my spirits. I hurried away, as I was eager to begin fishing, for I wanted the fish in the first place, and I knew in the second that Ned would laugh at me if I came back empty handed. The pond to which I was going, although supplied by the same stream which fed the ornamental piece of water in the neighbourhood of the Hall, was at a distance from it, and was accessible without having to pass through the grounds. It was surrounded by trees, and one side of the bank was thickly fringed by sedges which extended a considerable way into the water. It served as a preserve for ducks and wild fowl of various descriptions, and was inhabited also by a number of swans, who floated gracefully over its calm surface. As they were accustomed to depend upon their own exertions for a subsistence, they generally kept at a distance from strangers, and I had never been interrupted by them when fishing. I made my way to a spot where I knew that the water was deep, and where I had frequently been successful in fishing. It was a green bank, which jutted out into a point, with bushes on one side, but perfectly free on the other. I quickly got my rod together, and my hook baited with a red wriggling worm. I did not consider that the worm wriggled because it did not like to be put on the hook, but if I had been asked I should have said that it was rather pleased than otherwise at having so important a duty to perform as catching fish for my pleasure. I had a new float, white above and green below, which I thought looked very pretty as I threw my line out on the water. Up it popped at once, there being plenty of lead. Before long it began to move, gliding slowly over the surface, then faster and faster. I eagerly held my rod ready to strike as soon as it went down; now it moved on one side, now on the other. I knew that there was a fish coquetting with the bait, trying perhaps to suck off the worm without letting the hook run into its jaws. Before long down went the float, and I gave my rod a scientific jerk against the direction in which the float was last moving, when to my intense satisfaction I felt that I had hooked a fish, but whether a large or a small one I could not at first tell. I wound up my line until I had got it of a manageable length, then drew it in gradually towards the bank. I soon discovered that I had hooked a fine tench. It was so astonished at finding itself dragged through the water, without any exertion of its fins, that it scarcely struggled at all, and I quickly hauled it up on the bank. It was three-quarters of a pound at least, one of the largest I had ever caught. It was soon unhooked and placed safely in my basket. As I wanted several more I put on a fresh worm, and again threw my line into the water.
Some people say there is no pleasure in float-fishing, but for me it always had a strange fascination, that would not have been the case, if I could have seen through the water, for I believe the interest depends upon not knowing what size or sort of fish has got hold of the hook, when the float first begins to move, and then glides about as I have described, until it suddenly disappears beneath the surface. I caught four or five fine tench in little more than twice as many minutes. I don't know why they took a fancy to bite so freely that fine bright morning. Generally they take the hook best of a dull, muggy day, with a light drizzling rain, provided the weather is warm. After I had caught those four fish, I waited for fully ten minutes more without getting another bite; at last, I came to the conclusion that only those four fish had come to that part of the pond. There was another place a little further on, free of trees and bushes, where I could throw my line without the risk of its being caught in the bushes above my head; I had not, however, generally gone there. Tall sedges lined the shore, and water-lilies floated on the greater part of the surface and its immediate neighbourhood. It was also somewhat difficult to get at, owing to the dense brushwood which covered the ground close to it. I waited five minutes more, and then slinging my basket behind my back, I made my way to the spot I have described. After catching my line two or three times in the bushes, and spending some time in clearing it, I reached the bank and unslinging my basket quickly, once more had my float in the water. The ground, which was covered with moss rather than grass, sloped quietly down to the water, and was excessively slippery. As I held my rod, expecting every moment to get a bite, I heard a low whistling sound coming from the bushes close to me. At first I thought it was produced by young frogs, but where they were I could not make out. I observed that several of the swans I have before mentioned were floating on the surface not far off. Now one, now another would put down its long neck in search of fish or water insects. Presently one of them caught sight of me, and came swimming rapidly towards the extreme point of the bank. In an instant it landed, and half-flying, half-running over the ground, came full at me through the bushes. To retreat was impossible, should it intend to attack me, but I hoped it would not venture to do so. Before, however, I had any time for considering the matter, it suddenly spread its powerful wings, with one of which it dealt me such a blow, that before I could recover I was sent down the slippery bank, and plunged head over heels into the water. In my fright I let go my rod, but instinctively held out my hands to grasp whatever I could get hold of.
The swan, not content with its first success, came after me, when, by some means or other. I caught hold of it by one of its legs. To this day I don't know how it happened. The water was deep, and I had very little notion of swimming, and having once got hold of something to support myself I was not inclined to let go, while the swan was as much astonished at being seized hold of as I was. I shouted and bawled for help, although, as no one was likely to be at the pond at that early hour, or passing in the neighbourhood, there was little chance of obtaining assistance.
Away flew the swan, spreading out her broad wings to enable her to rise above the surface. Instead of seeking the land, to my horror, she dragged me right out towards the middle of the pond; while the other swans, alarmed at seeing the extraordinary performance of their companion, flew off in all directions. Fortunately I was able to keep my head above the surface, but was afraid of getting a kick from the other leg of the swan as she struck the water with it to assist herself in making her onward way, but as I held her captive foot at arm's length, fortunately she did not touch me. I dared not let go with one of my hands, or I should have tried to seize it. Whether it was instinct or not which induced her to carry me away from her nest I cannot tell, but that seemed to be her object. I felt as if I was in a horrid dream, compelled to hold on, and yet finding myself dragged forward against my will. The pond was a long and narrow one, but it seemed wider than it had ever done before. The swan, instead of going across to the opposite bank, took a course right down the centre. My shouts and shrieks must have filled her with alarm. On and on she went flapping her huge wings. I knew that my life depended upon being able to hold fast to her foot, but my arms were beginning to ache, and it seemed to me that we were still a long way from the end. When we got there, I could not tell what she might do. Perhaps, I thought, she might turn round and attack me with beak and wings, when, exhausted by my struggles, I should be unable to defend myself. Still I dared not venture to let go. I heartily wished that I had been a good swimmer, because then, when we got near the end, I might have released her and struck out, either for one side or the other. As it was, my safety depended on being dragged by her to the shore. She frequently struck the water with her wings. Showers of spray came flying over my head, which prevented me from seeing how near I was to it. At last I began to fear that I should be unable to hold on long enough. My arms ached, and my hands felt cramped, still the love of life induced me not to give in.
I shouted again and again. Presently I heard a shout in return.
"Hold on, young fellow. Hold on, you'll be all right." This encouraged me, for I knew that help was at hand. Suddenly, as I looked up, I saw the tops of the trees, and presently afterwards I found the swan was trying to make her way up the bank, while my feet touched the muddy bottom.
I had no wish to be dragged through the bushes by the swan, so, as I was close to the shore, I let go, but as I did so, I fell utterly exhausted on the bank, and was very nearly slipping again into the water. The swan, finding herself free after going a short distance, closed her wings, and recollecting, I fancy, that I had been the cause of her alarm, came rushing back with out-stretched neck, uttering a strange hissing sound, preparing, as I supposed, to attack me. I was too much exhausted to try and get up and endeavour to escape from her. Just as she was within a few feet of me, I saw a boy armed with a thick stick spring out from among the bushes, and run directly towards her. A blow from his stick turned her aside, and instead of making for me, she again plunged into the water, and made her way over the surface in the direction from which we had come.
"I am very much obliged to you, my fine fellow, for driving off the swan, or I suppose the savage creature would have mauled me terribly, had she got up to me."
"Very happy to have done you a service, master; but it didn't give me much trouble to do it. However, I would advise you not to stop here in your wet clothes, for the mornings are pretty fresh, and you'll be catching a bad cold."
"Thank you," I said, "but I do not feel very well able to walk far just yet."
"Have you got far to go home?" he asked.
I told him.
"Well, then, you had better come home with me to my father's cottage. It is away down near the sea, and he'll give you some hot spirits, and you can turn into my bed while your clothes are drying."
I was very glad to accept his proposal, for I did not at all fancy having to go home all dripping, to be laughed at by my brothers, and to get a scolding from Aunt Deb into the bargain, for I knew she would say it was all my own fault, and that if I had not been prying into the swan's nest, the bird would not have attacked me. I did not, however, wish to lose my rod and basket of fish, and I thought it very probable that if I left them, somebody else would carry them off. I asked my new friend his name.
"Mark Riddle," he answered.
"Before I go I must get back my rod and basket of fish; it won't take us long. Would you mind coming with me?"
"No, master, I don't mind; but I would advise you to be quick about it."
Mark helped me up, and as I soon got the use of my legs, we ran round outside the trees as fast as we could go. The basket of fish was safe enough on the bank, but the rod was floating away at some distance.
"Oh dear, oh dear. I shall never be able to get it," I exclaimed.
"What! Can't you swim, master?" asked Mark.
I confessed that I was afraid I could not swim far enough to bring it in.
"Well, never you mind. I'll have it in a jiffy," and stripping off his clothes he plunged into the water and soon brought in the rod.
"There's a fish on the hook I've a notion," he said, as he handed me the butt end of the rod.
He was right, and as he was dressing, not taking long to rub himself dry with his handkerchief, I landed a fine fat tench.
"That belongs to you," I said. "And, indeed, I ought to give you all the fish I have in my basket."
"Much obliged, master; but I've got a fine lot myself, which I pulled out of the pond this morning, only don't you say a word about it, for the Squire, I've a notion, doesn't allow us poor people to come fishing here."
I assured Mark that I would not inform against him, and having taken my rod to pieces and wound up my line, I said that I was ready to set out. Mark by that time was completely dressed. Just as we were about to start I saw the swan—I suppose the same one which had dragged me across the pond—come swimming back at a rapid rate towards where we were standing, in the neighbourhood, as I well knew, of her nest. Whether or not she fancied we were about to interfere with her young, we could not tell, but we agreed that it was well to beat a retreat. We accordingly set off and ran on until we reached the further end of the pond, when Mark, asking me to stop a minute, disappeared among the bushes, and in a few minutes returned with a rough basket full of fine tench, carp, and eels. I had a notion that some night-lines had assisted him to take so many. I did not, however, ask questions just then, and once more we set off running. Wet as I was, I was very glad to move quickly, not that I felt particularly cold, for the sun had now risen some way above the trees, and as there was not a breath of air, his rays warmed me and began to dry my outer garments. I must have had a very draggled look, and I had no wish to be seen by any one at home in that condition. In little more than a quarter of an hour we came in sight of a cottage situated below a cliff on the side of a ravine, opening out towards the sea. A stream which flowed from the Squire's ponds running through it.
"That is my home, and father will be right glad to see you," said Mark, pointing to it.
A fine old sailor-like man with a straw hat and round jacket came out of the door as we approached, and began to look about him in the fashion seafaring men have the habit of doing when they first turn out in the morning, to ascertain what sort of weather it is likely to be. His eyes soon fell on Mark and me as we ran down the ravine.
"Who have you got with you, my son?" he asked.
"The young gentleman from the vicarage. He has had a ducking, and he wants to dry his clothes before he goes home; or maybe he'd call it a swanning, seeing it was one of those big white birds which pulled him in, and towed him along from one end of the pond to the other, eh, master? What's your name?"
"Richard," I replied, "though I'm generally called Dick," not at all offended at my companion's familiarity.
"You are welcome, Master Dick, and if you like to turn into Mark's bed, or put on a shirt and pair of trousers of his, we'll get your duds dried before the kitchen fire in a jiffy," said the old sailor. "Come in, come in; it doesn't do to stand out in the air when you are wet through with fresh water."
I gladly entered the old sailor's cottage, where I found his wife and a young daughter, a year or two older than Mark, busy in getting breakfast ready. I thought Nancy Riddle a nice-looking pleasant-faced girl, and her mother a good-natured buxom dame. As I had no fancy for going to bed I gladly accepted a pair of duck trousers and a blue check shirt belonging to Mark, and a pair of low shoes, which were certainly not his. I suspected that they were Nancy's best.
I quickly took off my wet things in Mark's room, and getting into dry ones, made my appearance in the room which served them for parlour, kitchen, and hall, where I found the table spread, with a pot of hot tea, cups and saucers, a bowl of porridge, a loaf of home-made bread, and a pile of buttered toast, to which several of Mark's freshly caught fish were quickly added. I offered mine to Mrs Riddle, but she answered—
"Thank you kindly, but you had better take them home to your friends, they'll be glad of them, and we've got a plenty, as you see."
I was very thankful to get a cup of scalding tea, for I was beginning to feel somewhat chilly, though Mrs Riddle made me sit near the fire. A saucer of porridge and milk, followed by some buttered toast and the best part of a tench, with a slice or two of bread soon set me up.
Nancy, however, now and then got up and gave my clothes a turn to dry them faster—a delicate attention which I duly appreciated. Mr Riddle, who was evidently fond of spinning yarns, as most old sailors are, narrated a number of his adventures, which greatly interested me, and made me more than ever wish to go to sea. Mark had already made a trip in a coaster to the north of England, and I was much surprised to hear him say that he had had enough of it.
"It is not all gold that glitters," he remarked. "I fancied that I was to become a sailor all at once, instead of that I was made to clean out the cabin, attend on the skipper, and wash up the pots and the pans for the cook, and be at everybody's beck and call, with a rope's-end for my reward whenever I was not quick enough to please my many masters."
"That's what most youngsters have to put up with when they first go to sea," remarked his father. "You should not have minded it, my lad."
I found that Mark's great ambition was to become the owner of a fishing-boat, when he could live at home and be his own master. He was fonder of fishing than anything else, and when he could not get out to sea he passed much of his time with his rod and lines on the banks of the Squire's ponds, or on those of others in the neighbourhood. He did not consider it poaching, as he asserted he had a perfect right to catch fish wherever he could find them, and I suspect that his father was of the same opinion, for he did not in any way find fault with him. When breakfast was over Mark exhibited with considerable pride a small model of a vessel which he and his father had cut out of a piece of pine, and rigged in a very perfect manner. I was delighted with her appearance, and said I should like to have a similar craft.
"Well, Master Cheveley, I'll cut one out for you as soon as I can get a piece of wood fit for the purpose," said the old sailor; "and when Mark and I have rigged her I'll warrant she'll sail faster than any other craft of her size which you can find far or near."
"Thank you," I answered, "I shall be very pleased to have her; and perhaps we can get up a regatta, and Mark must bring his vessel. I feel sure he or I will carry off the prize."
As I wanted to get home, dreading the jobation I should get from Aunt Deb for not making my appearance at prayer-time, I begged my friends to let me put on my own clothes. They were tolerably dry by this time, though the shoes were still wet, but that was of no consequence.
"Well, Master Dick, we shall always be glad to see you. Whenever you come this way give us a call," said the old sailor, as I was preparing to wish him, his wife and daughter good-bye.
I shook hands all round, and Mark accompanied me part of the way home. I parted from him as if he had been an old friend, indeed I was really grateful to him for the way in which he had saved my life, as I believed he had done, when he drove off the enraged swan.
Aunt Deb's lecture, and what came of it—My desire to go to sea still further increases—My father, to satisfy me, visits Leighton Hall—Our interview with Sir Reginald Knowsley—Some description of Leighton Hall and what we saw there—The magistrate's room—A smuggler in trouble—The evidence against him, and its worth—An ingenious plea— An awkward witness—The prisoner receives the benefit of the doubt— Sir Reginald consults my father, and my father consults Sir Reginald— My expectations stand a fair chance of being realised—The proposed crusade against the smugglers—My father decides on taking an active part in it—I resolve to second him.
On reaching home, the first person I encountered was Aunt Deb.
"Where have you been, Master Dick?" she exclaimed, in a stern tone, "you've frightened your poor father and mother out of their wits. They have been fancying that you must have met with some accident, or run off to sea."
"I have been fishing, aunt," I answered, exhibiting the contents of my basket, "this shows that I am speaking the truth, though you look as if you doubted my word."
"Ned said you had gone out fishing, but that you promised to be back for breakfast," she replied, "it has been over half an hour or more, and the things have been cleared away, so you must be content with a mug of milk and a piece of bread. The teapot was emptied, and we can't be brewing any more for you."
"Thank you, aunt. I must, as you say, be content with the mug of milk and piece of bread you offer me," I said, with a demure countenance, glad to escape any questioning. "I shall have a better appetite for dinner, when I hope you will allow these fish to be cooked, and I fancy that you will find them very good, I have seldom caught finer."
"Well, well, go in and get off your dirty shoes, you look as if you had been wading into the pond, and remember to be home in good time another day. While I manage the household, I must have regularity; the want of it throws everybody out, though your father and mother do not seem to care about the matter."
Glad to escape so easily, I hurried away. My father had gone out to visit a sick person who had sent for him. My brothers and sisters were engaged in their various studies and occupations, and my mother was still in her room. Jane, the maid, by Aunt Deb's directions, brought me the promised mug of milk and piece of bread, and I, without complaint, ate a small piece of the one, and drank up the contents of the other, and then said I had had enough, and could manage to go on until dinner-time. It did not strike me at the time that I was guilty of any deception, though I really was; but I was afraid if I mentioned my visit to Roger Riddle's cottage, the rest of my adventures in the morning would come out, and so said nothing about the matter.
When my father came home, I told him that I was sorry for being so late, but considering the fine basket of fish I had brought home, it would add considerably to the supply of provisions for the family, and hoped he would not be angry with me.
"No, Dick, I am not angry," he said, "but Aunt Deb likes regularity, and we are in duty bound to yield to her wishes."
"I wish that Aunt Deb were at Jericho," I muttered to myself, "and I should not have minded saying the same thing aloud to my brothers and some of my sisters, for we most of us were heartily tired of her interference with all family arrangements, and were frequently on the verge of rebellion, but my father paid her so much deference, that we were afraid of openly breaking out."
Finding that my father was disengaged, I followed him into the study, and again broached the subject of going to sea.
"Couldn't you take me to Squire Knowsley, and talk the matter over with him," I said. "You can tell him that 50 pounds a year is a large sum for you to allow me, and perhaps he may induce Captain Grummit to take me, although I may not have the usual allowance. I promise to be very economical, and I would be ready to make any sacrifice rather than not go afloat."
"Sir Reginald came back yesterday, I find," said my father. "You know, Dick, I am always anxious to gratify your wishes, and as I do not see any objection to your proposal, we will set off at once to call on him; perhaps he will do as you desire. If he does not, it will show him how anxious you are to go to sea, and he may assist you in some other way."
I was very grateful to my father, and thanked him for agreeing to my proposal.
"It won't do, however, for you to go in your present untidy condition," he remarked; "go and put on your best clothes, and by that time I shall be ready to set off."
I hurried to my room, and throwing my clothes down on my bed, rigged myself out in the best I possessed. I also, as may be supposed, put on dry socks and shoes. It did not occur to me at the time, that the condition of the clothing I threw off was likely to betray my adventure of the morning. I went down stairs and set off with my father. We had a pleasant walk, although the weather was rather hot, and in the course of about an hour arrived at Leighton Park.
Sir Reginald, who was at home, desired that we should at once be admitted to his study, or rather justice-room, in which he performed his magisterial duties. It was a large oak room, the walls adorned with stags' horns, foxes' brushes, and other trophies of the chase, with a couple of figures in armour in the corner, holding candelabra in their hands. On the walls were hung also bows and arrows, halberds, swords, and pikes, as well as modern weapons, and they were likewise adorned with several hunting pictures, and some grim portraits of the Squire's ancestors. On one side was a bookcase, on the shelves of which were a few standard legal works, with others on sporting subjects, veterinary, falconry, horses and dogs, and other branches of natural history.
Sir Reginald himself, a worthy gentleman, with slightly grizzled hair and a ruddy countenance, was seated at a writing-table covered with a green cloth, on which was a Bible and two or three other books, and writing materials. He rose as we entered, and received us very courteously, begging my father and me to take seats near him on the inner side of the table.
"You will excuse me, if any cases are brought in, I must attend to them at once. I never allow anything to interfere with my magisterial duties. But do not go away. I'll dispose of them off-hand, and shall be happy to continue the conversation. I want to have a few words with you, Mr Cheveley, upon a matter of importance, to obtain your advice and assistance. By-the-bye, you wrote to me a short time ago about a son of yours who wishes to enter the naval service. This is, I presume, the young gentleman," he continued, looking at me, "Eh! My lad? And so you wish to become a second Nelson?"
"I wish to enter the navy, Sir Reginald, but don't know whether I shall ever become an admiral; my ambition is at present to be made a midshipman," I answered boldly.
"I am very ready to forward your wishes, although it is not so easy a matter as it was a few years ago during the war time. I spoke to my friend Grummit, who has just commissioned the 'Blaze-away,' and he expressed his willingness to take you. I think I wrote to you, Mr Cheveley, on the subject."
"That is the very matter on which I am anxious to consult you, Sir Reginald," said my father. "You mentioned that Captain Grummit insists on all his midshipmen having an allowance from their friends of 50 pounds a year, and although that does not appear to him probably, or to you, Sir Reginald, a large sum, it is beyond the means of a poor incumbent to furnish, and I am anxious to know whether Captain Grummit will condescend to take him with a smaller allowance."
"I am sorry to say he told me that he made it a rule to receive no midshipman who had not at least that amount of private property to keep up the respectability of his position," answered Sir Reginald, "and from what I know of him, I should think he is not a man likely to depart from any rule he may think fit to make. However, my dear Mr Cheveley, I will communicate with him, and let you know what he replies. If he still insists on your son having 50 pounds a year, we must see what else can be done. Excuse me for a few minutes, here come some people on business."
Several persons who had entered the hall, approached the table. One of them, a dapper little gentleman in black, with a bundle of papers in his hand, took a seat at one end, and began busily spreading them out before him. At the same time two men, whom I saw were constables, brought up a prisoner, who was dressed as a seafaring man, handcuffed.
"Whom have you got here?" asked Sir Reginald, scrutinising the prisoner.
"Please, your honour, Sir Reginald, we took this man last night assisting in running contraband goods, landed, as we have reason to believe, from Dick Hargreave's boat the 'Saucy Bess,' which had been seen off the coast during the day between Milton Cove and Rock Head."
"Ah, I'm glad you've got one of them at last. We must put a stop to this smuggling which is carried on under our noses to the great detriment of the revenue. What became of the rest of the crew, and the men engaged in landing the cargo?"
"Please, your worship, the cargo was sprighted away before we could get hold of a single keg or bale, and all the fellows except this one made their escape. The 'Preventive' men had been put on a wrong scent, and gone off in a different direction, so that we were left to do as best we could, and we only captured this one prisoner with a keg on his shoulders, making off across the downs, and we brought him along with the keg as evidence against him."
"Half a loaf is better than no bread, and I hope by the punishment he will receive to induce others now engaged in smuggling to abandon so low a pursuit. What is your name, prisoner?"
"Jack Cope, your worship," answered the smuggler, who looked wonderfully unconcerned, and spoke without the slightest hesitation or fear.
"Well, Mr Jack Cope, what have you to say for yourself to induce me to refrain from making out a warrant to commit you to gaol?" asked the magistrate.
"Please, your worship, I don't deny that I was captured as the constables describe with a cask on my shoulders, for I had been down to the sea to fill it with salt water to bathe one of my children whose limbs require strengthening, and I was walking quietly along when these men pounced down upon me, declaring that I had been engaged in running the cargo of the 'Saucy Bess,' with which I had no more to do than the babe unborn."
"A very likely story, Master Cope. You were caught with a keg on your shoulders; it's very evident that you were unlawfully employed in assisting to run the cargo of the vessel you spoke of, and I shall forthwith make out the order for your committal to prison."
"Please, your worship, before you do that, I must beg you to examine the keg I was carrying, for if it contains spirits I am ready to go; but if not, I claim in justice the right to be set at liberty."
"Have you examined the keg, men," said the squire, "to ascertain if it contains spirits?"
"No, your worship, we would not venture to do that, seeing that t'other day when one of the coastguard broached a keg to see whether it had brandy or not he got into trouble for drinking the spirits."
"For drinking the spirits! He deserved to be," exclaimed Sir Reginald. "However, that is not the point. Bring the keg here, and if you broach it in my presence you need have no fear of the consequences. There can be little doubt that we shall be able to convict this fellow, and send him to gaol for twelve months. I wish it to be understood that I intend by every means in my power to put a stop to the proceedings of these lawless smugglers, who have so long been carrying on this illegal traffic with impunity in this part of the country."
Jack Cope, who had kept a perfectly calm demeanour from the time he had been brought up to the table, smiled scornfully as Sir Reginald spoke. He said nothing, however, as he turned his glance towards the door. In a short time a revenue man appeared carrying a keg on his shoulders.
"Place it on the table," said Sir Reginald. "Can you swear this is the keg you took from the prisoner?" he asked of the constable.
"Yes, your worship. It has never been out of our custody since we captured it," replied the man.
"And I, too, can swear that it is the same keg that was taken from me!" exclaimed the bold smuggler in a confident tone.
"Silence there, prisoner," said Sir Reginald, "You are not to speak until you are desired. Let the cask be broached."
A couple of glasses and a gimlet had been sent for. The servant now brought them on a tray. One of the officers immediately set to work and bored a couple of holes in the head and side of the cask. The liquid which flowed out was bright and sparkling. The officer passed it under his nose, but made no remark, though I thought his countenance exhibited an odd expression.
"Hand it here," said Sir Reginald. "Bah!" he exclaimed, intensely disgusted, "why, it's salt water."
"I told you so, your worship," said Jack Cope, apparently much inclined to burst into a fit of laughter. "You'll believe me another time, I hope, when I said that I had gone down to the seaside to get some salt water for one of my children; and I think you'll allow, your worship, that it is salt water."
"You are an impudent rascal!" exclaimed Sir Reginald, irritated beyond measure at the smuggler's coolness. "I shall not believe you a bit the more. I suspect that you have played the officers a trick to draw them away from your companions, and though you escape conviction this time, you will be caught another, you may depend upon that; and you may expect no leniency from me. Set the prisoner at liberty, there is no further evidence against him."
"I hope, Sir Reginald, that I may be allowed to carry my keg of salt water home," said the smuggler demurely. "It is my property, of which I have been illegally deprived by the officers, and I demand to have it given to me back."
"Let the man have the keg," said Sir Reginald in a gruff voice. "Is there any other case before me?"
"No, your worship," replied his clerk.
And Jack Cope carried off his cask of salt water in triumph, followed by the officers and the other persons who had entered the hall.
I had observed that Jack Cope had eyed my father and me as we were seated with the baronet, and it struck me that he had done so with no very pleasant expression of countenance.
"These proceedings are abominable in the extreme, Mr Cheveley," observed the justice to my father. "We must, as I before remarked, put an effectual stop to them. You have a good deal of influence in your parish, and I must trust to you to find honest men who will try and obtain information, and give us due notice when a cargo is to be run."
"I fear the people do not look upon smuggling as you and I do, Sir Reginald," observed my father. "The better class of my parishioners may not probably engage in it, but the very best of them would think it dishonourable to act the part of informers. I do not believe any bribe would induce them to do so."
"Perhaps not, but you can place the matter before them in its true light. Show them that they are acting a patriotic part by aiding the officers of the law in putting a stop to proceedings which are so detrimental to the revenue of the country. If they can be made to understand the injury which smuggling inflicts on the fair trader, they may see it in a different light from that in which they at present regard it. The Government requires funds to carry on the affairs of the nation, and duties and taxes must be levied to supply those funds. We should show them that smuggling is a practice which it is the duty of all loyal men to put a stop to."
"I understand your wishes, Sir Reginald, and agree with you that energetic measures are necessary; and you may depend upon my exerting myself to the utmost."
"My great object, at present, is to capture the 'Saucy Bess.' The revenue officers afloat will, of course, do their duty; but she has so often eluded them that my only hope is to catch her while she is engaged in running her cargo. I will give a handsome reward to any one who brings reliable information which leads to that desirable result."
"I am afraid that, although one or two smugglers may be captured, others will soon take their places; as while the present high duties on spirits, silks, and other produce of France exist, the profit to be made by smuggling will always prove a temptation too strong to be resisted," observed my father. "If the smugglers find that a vigilant watch is kept on this part of the coast they will merely carry on their transactions in another part."
"At all events, my dear Mr Cheveley, we shall have the satisfaction of knowing that we have done our duty in removing what I consider a disgrace to our community," observed Sir Reginald. "As to lowering the duties, that is what I will never consent to. I shall always oppose any scheme of the sort while I hold my place in Parliament. I feel that I am bound to preserve things as they are, and am not to be moved by the brawling cries of demagogues."
"Of course, Sir Reginald, you understand these things better than I do. I have never given my mind to politics, and have always been ready to record my vote in your favour, and to induce as many as possible of my parishioners to follow my example."
All this time I had been sitting on the tenter-hooks of expectation, wondering if my father would again refer to the subject which had induced him to pay a visit to the baronet.
"I must wish you good morning, Sir Reginald," he said, rising. "You will, I feel sure, not forget your promise regarding my son Dick, and if Captain Grummit cannot take him, I trust that you will find some other captain who does not insist on his midshipmen having so large an allowance."
"Of course, my dear Mr Cheveley, of course," said the baronet, rising; "although it did not strike me as anything unreasonable. Yet I am aware how you are situated with a numerous family and a comparatively small income; and, believe me, I will not lose an opportunity of forwarding the views of the young gentleman. Good morning, my dear Mr Cheveley, good morning," and nodding to me, he bowed us out of the hall.
"I hope Sir Reginald will get me a berth on board some other ship," I said to my father, as we walked homeward. "He seems wonderfully good-natured and condescending."
"I don't feel altogether satisfied as to that point," answered my father, who knew the baronet better than I did.
The crusade against the smugglers—Sir Reginald's measures—The "Saucy Bess"—My father's sermon, and its effects in different quarters—Ned and I visit old Roger Riddle—Mr Reynell's picnic and how we enjoyed it—Roger Riddle tells the story of his life—Born at sea—The pet of the ship—Stormy times—Parted from his mother—His first visit to land—Loses his parents.
Day after day went by and nothing was heard from Sir Reginald Knowsley about my appointment as a midshipman. Aunt Deb took care to remark that she had no doubt he had forgotten all about me. This I shrewdly suspected was the case. If he had forgotten me, however, he had not forgotten the smugglers, for he was taking energetic steps to put a stop to their proceedings, though it was whispered he was not always as successful as he supposed.
Whenever I went to the village I heard of what he was doing, yet from time to time it was known that cargoes had been run while only occasionally an insignificant capture was made, it being generally, as the saying is, a tub thrown to a whale.
The "Saucy Bess" appeared off the coast, but it was when she had a clean hold and no revenue officer could touch her. She would then come into Leighton bay, which was a little distance to the westward of the bar, and drop her anchor, looking as innocent as possible; and her hardy crew would sit with their arms folded, on her deck, smoking their pipes and spinning yarns to each other of their daring deeds, or would pace up and down performing the fisherman's walk, three steps and overboard. On two or three occasions I caught sight of them from the top of a rocky cliff which formed one side of the little bay, and I acknowledge that I had a wonderful longing to go on board and become better acquainted with the sturdy looking outlaws, or rather, breakers of the law. As, however, I could find no boat in the bay to take me alongside, and as I did not like to hail and ask them to allow me to pay them a visit, I had to abandon my design.
My father was busy in his way in carrying out the wishes of the baronet. He spoke to a number of his parishioners, urging them to assist in putting a stop to the proceedings of the smugglers, and endeavouring to impress upon them the nefarious character of their occupation. More than once he got into the wrong box when addressing some old sea dog, who would curtly advise him to mind his own business, the man he was speaking to probably being in league with the smugglers. He said and did enough indeed to create a considerable amount of odium against himself. He went so far as one Sunday to preach a sermon in which he unmistakably alluded to smuggling as one of the sins certain to bring down condign punishment on those engaged in it.
Sir Reginald Knowsley, who had driven over, as he occasionally did, to attend the service, waited for my father in the porch, and complimented him on his sermon. "Excellent, Mr Cheveley, excellent," he exclaimed, "I like to hear clergymen speak out bravely from the pulpit, and condemn the sins of the people. If the smugglers persist in carrying on their nefarious proceedings, they will now do it with their eyes open, and know that they are breaking the laws of God and man. I was delighted to hear you broach the subject. I expect some friends in a few days, and I hope that you will give me the pleasure of your company at dinner. I have some capital old port just suited to your taste, and I will take care to draw your attention to it. Good-bye, my dear Mr Cheveley, good-bye; with your aid I have no doubt smuggling will, in a short time, be a thing of the past;" and the squire walked with a dignified pace to his carriage and drove off, not regarding the frowning looks cast at him by some of his fellow-worshippers.
As I afterwards went through the churchyard I passed several knots of persons talking together, who were making remarks of a very different character to those I have spoken of on the sermon they had just heard. They were at no pains to lower their voices even as they saw me.
"I never seed smuggling in the Ten Commandments, an' don't see it now," remarked a sturdy old fisherman, who was looked upon as a very respectable man in the village. "What has come over our parson to talk about it is more than I can tell."
"The parson follows where the squire leads, I've a notion," remarked another seafaring man, who was considered an oracle among his mates. "He never said a word about it before the squire took the matter up. Many's the time we've had a score of kegs stowed away in his tool-house, and if one was left behind, if he didn't get it I don't know who did."
On hearing this I felt very much inclined to stop and declare that my father had never received a keg of spirits, or a bribe of any sort, for I was very sure that he would not condescend to that, though I could not answer for the integrity of John Dixon, our old gardener, who had been, on more than one occasion, unable to work for a week together; and although his wife said that he was suffering from rheumatics, the doctor remarked, with a wink, that he had no doubt he would recover without having much physic to take.
Some of the men were even more severe in their remarks, and swore that if the parson was going to preach in that style, they would not show their noses inside the church. Others threatened to go off to the methodists' house in the next village, where the minister never troubled the people with disagreeable remarks.
I did not tell my father all I had heard, as I knew it would annoy him. It did not occur to me at the moment that he had introduced the subject for the sake of currying favour with Sir Reginald, indeed I did not think such an idea had crossed his mind.
He was greatly surprised in the afternoon, when the service was generally better attended than in the morning, to find that only half his usual congregation was present. When he returned home, after making some visits in the parish, on the following Tuesday, he told us he suspected from the way he had been received that something was wrong, but it did not occur to him that his sermon was the cause of offence.
I, in the meantime, was spending my holidays in far from a satisfactory manner. My elder brothers amused themselves without taking pains to find me anything to do, while Ned was always at his books, and was only inclined to come out and take a constitutional walk with me now and then. My younger brothers were scarcely out of the nursery, and I was thus left very much to my own resources. I bethought me one day of paying the old sailor Roger Riddle a visit, and perhaps getting his son Mark to come and fish with me.
I told Ned where I was going, and was just setting off when he called out—
"Stop a minute, Dick, and I will go with you; I should like to make the acquaintance of the old sailor, who, from your account, must be something above the common."
I did not like to refuse, at the same time I confess that I would rather have gone alone, as I knew that Ned did not care about fishing, and would probably want to stop and talk to Roger Riddle.
I was waiting for him outside in front of the house, when a carriage drove up full of boys, with a gentleman who asked me if my father was at home. I recognised him as a Mr Reynell, who lived at Springfield Grange, some five or six miles inland. Two of the boys were his sons, whom I knew; the others, he told me, were their cousins and two friends staying with them.
"We are going to have a picnic along the shore, and we want you and your brother to come and join us," said Harry Reynell, the eldest of the two.
Ned came out directly afterwards, and said he should be very happy to go.
"Can't you get any of your friends to go also? The more the merrier."
There were two or three other boys whom I knew staying with an aunt in the village, and I offered to run down and ask them.
"By all means," said Harry, "we have provisions enough, so that they need not stop to get anything; but I'm afraid we cannot stow them all away; if it's not very far off we may go on foot."
"It is no distance to the prettiest part of the coast," I replied; "and I know a capital spot where we can pick up shells and collect curiosities of all sorts, if any of you have a fancy for that sort of thing."
"That will do," said Harry Reynell; "go and fetch your friends, and we will walk together."
I accordingly ran down the village to Mrs Parker's, whose nephews were at home. We formed a tolerably numerous party. As my father was unable to go, Mr Reynell was the only grown-up person among us. The spot I had fixed upon was not far from Roger Riddle's cottage. As I had been thinking of him, I proposed asking the old sailor and Mark to join our party.
From the account I gave to Mr Reynell of Roger Riddle, he did not object to this. As Harry Reynell, his brother, and friends were good-natured merry fellows, we had a pleasant time as we walked or ran along, laughing and singing, and playing each other tricks. We soon left Mr Reynell behind, but he told us not to mind him, as he should soon catch us up. The carriage followed with the prog, but as the road was in many places heavy, it did not move as fast as we did. We at length reached the spot I had proposed, a small sandy bay, with cliffs on either side, out of which bubbled a stream of sparkling cold water, with rocks running out into the sea.
"This will do capitally," said Harry. "See, the whole beach is covered with beautiful shells, and there may be sea anemones and echini, and star-fish, and all sorts of marine creatures."
Having surveyed the place, we heard Mr Reynell shouting out to us to carry down the baskets of pies, tarts, cold ham, and chicken, plates, knives and forks. While the rest of the party were so engaged, I ran on to invite old Roger. I found him and Mark within.
"Much obliged to the young gentlemen, but I've had my dinner," he answered; "however, I'll come and have a talk with them, if you think they'll like it. May be, I'll spin them a yarn or two, which will do to pass the time while they are sniffing in the breezes, which they don't get much of while they are away up the country."
"You'll come as soon as you can," I answered, "for they will be disappointed if you don't take a tart or two and a glass of wine."
"Never fear, I'll come before long," said old Roger.
Mark, however, looked as if he would have no objection to taste some of the good things in our hampers, so he very readily agreed to accompany me. We found the cloth spread out on the smooth dry sand, and covered with pies and other dainties, and the plates and the knives and forks. Mr Reynell was engaged in making a huge salad in a wooden bowl. I introduced Mark in due form.
"Come and sit down," said Harry to him in a kind way which soon made him feel quite at home. I don't know whether he had much of a dinner before, but he did ample justice to the good things which our friends had brought. We had nearly finished before old Roger made his appearance.
"Your servant, gentlemen all," he said, making a bow with his tarpaulin; "Master Dick here has asked me to come, saying it was what you wished, or I would not have intruded on you."
"Very pleased to see you, Mr Riddle," said Harry, who did the honours of the feast, "sit down, and have some of this cherry pie, you will find it very nice, and, for a wonder, the juice hasn't run out."
Harry chose the largest plate, and filled it with fully a third of the pie.
"Thank you, young gentleman; I may take a snack of that sort of thing;" and the old sailor set to work, his share of the pie rapidly disappearing, as he ladled up the cherries with his spoon.
"Take a glass of cider now, Mr Riddle," said Harry, handing him a large tumbler, which the old sailor tossed off, and had no objection to two or three more.
Meantime the tide had been rising, and no sooner was dinner over, than we had to pack up and beat a rapid retreat. We soon washed the plates and dishes in the water as it rose, and Ned packed them up. The expectations of those of our party who hoped to pick up shells, and collect sea curiosities were thus disappointed.
"Never mind, lads," said old Roger; "Master Dick here tells me that you would like to hear a yarn or two; the grass here, as much as there is of it, is dry enough," and Mr Riddle seated himself on the bank, while we all gathered round him. Mr Reynell placed himself at a little distance, although within earshot, when he took out his sketchbook to make a drawing of the scene.
"None of you young gentlemen have ever been to sea, I suppose?" continued the old sailor. "I dare say you fancy it all sunshine and smooth sailing, and think you'd like to go and be sailors, and walk the deck in snowy-white trousers and kid gloves. I have known some who have taken that notion into their heads, and have been not a little disappointed when they got afloat, to find that they had to dip their fists into the tar-bucket, to black down the rigging, and swab up the decks, though some of them made not bad sailors after all. If any of you young gentlemen think of leading a seafaring life, you must be prepared for ups and downs of all sorts, heavy gales, and rough seas, shipwrecks and disasters. You'll be asking how I came to go to sea, perhaps you may think I ran off, as some silly lads have done, but I didn't do that. If I had run, it would have been ashore, seeing as how I was born at sea. It happened in this wise:—My father, Bob Riddle, was bo'sun's mate of the old 'Goliath,' of eighty guns, and as in those days two or three women were allowed on board line-of-battle ships to attend to the sick, and to wash and mend clothes, provided the captains did not object; so my mother, Nancy Riddle, who loved her husband in a way which made her ready to go through fire and water for his sake, got leave to accompany him to sea. She made herself wonderfully useful on board, and won the hearts of all the men and officers too, who held her in great respect, while the midshipmen just simply adored her; indeed, I've heard say that she saved the lives of several who were sick of fever by the careful way in which she nursed them. She had had no children, and I've a notion that if she had known what was going to happen, like a wise woman she would have remained on shore, but as the ship was in the East India station, and she wanted her boy to be British born, for she guessed she was going to have a boy, she had no help for it but to remain on board and take her chance. The 'Goliath' had just been in action, and beaten off two of the enemy's ships which wanted to take her but couldn't, when she was caught in a regular hurricane, and had to run before it under bare poles. During that time I came into this world of troubles. I can't say that I remember anything about it, but I've been in many a typhoon and hurricane since then, with the big foaming seas roaring, the wind whistling and howling in the rigging, the blocks rattling, the bulkheads creaking and groaning, and the ship rolling and pitching and tumbling about in a way which made it seem wonderful that wood and iron could hold together. It wasn't exactly under such circumstances that the wife even of a boatswain's mate would have chosen to bring a puling infant into the world. The doctor thought that mother would have died, and, as there was no cow on board, that I should have shared her fate, but she got through it and nursed me, and I throve amazingly, so that in six months I was as big as most children of a year or more old. Before the ship was ordered home, I could chew bacon and beef, and toddle about the decks. Of course I was made much of by officers and crew. Mother rigged me out in a regular cut seaman's dress. The midshipmen taught me the cutlass exercise, and to ride a goat the captain bought as much for my use as his own. For'ard my education was equally well attended to, and I don't remember when I couldn't dance a hornpipe—double shuffle and all—or sing a dozen sea songs, some of them sounding rather strange, I've a notion, coming from juvenile lips. All went on smoothly till the ship was paid off, and my early friends were scattered to the four winds of heaven. My father, who felt like a fish out of water when ashore, soon obtained another berth, with the same rating on board the 'Victorious,' seventy-four, but he had great difficulty in getting leave for my mother to accompany him, and if another woman who was to have gone hadn't fallen ill just in the nick of time, he would have had to sail without her. I was smuggled on board instead of a monkey shipped by the crew, which fell overboard and was drowned. It was some weeks before the captain found out that I wasn't the monkey he had given the men leave to take. When the first lieutenant at length reported to him that I was a human being without a tail, he was very angry, and father was likely to have got into trouble. Still as he had done nothing against the articles of war, which don't make mention of taking babies to sea, he couldn't be flogged with his own cat. The captain then swore that he would put mother and me ashore at the first port we touched at; but the men, among whom I had many friends, begged hard that we might be allowed to remain, and when he saw me scuttling about the rigging in a hairy coat and a long tail, laughing heartily, he relented, and as he got a hint that the men would become very discontented if he carried his threat into execution, father was told that he would say nothing more about the matter. Soon afterwards the captain fell ill, and mother nursed him in a way no man could have done, so that he had reason to be thankful that he had allowed mother and me to remain on board. The 'Victorious' became one of the best disciplined and happiest ships in the service, all because she had a real live plaything on board. She fought several bloody actions. During one of them, when we were tackling a French eighty-gun ship, I got away from mother, who was with the other women in the cockpit attending to the wounded, and slipped up on deck, where before long I found father. 'Here I am,' I said, 'come to see the fun. When are you going to finish off the mounseers?' The round shot were flying quickly across the decks, and bullets were rattling on board like hail, for though the French were getting the worst of it, they were, as they always do, dying game. 'Get below, boy, get below!' shouted father, 'what business have you here?' As I didn't go, he seized me by the arm, and dragged me to the hatchway, in spite of my struggles and cries. 'I want to see the fight. I want to see the mounseers licked,' I cried out. 'Let me go, father; let me go!' Just then there was a shout from the upper deck, 'The enemy has struck—the enemy has struck!' Father let me go, and up I ran and cheered, and waved my hat among the men with as hearty good will as any of them. When I saw the men shaking hands with each other, I ran about, and, putting out my tiny fist, shook their hands also, exclaiming, 'We've licked the mounseers, haven't we? I knew we would. Hoora! Hoora!' This amused the men greatly, and they called me a plucky little chap, though I certainly could not boast of having contributed to gain the victory, as I was considerably too young to act the part even of a powder-monkey. We had lost a good many officers and men, some of whom I saw stretched on the deck, and wondered what had come over them, as they did not move or speak. As long as the 'Victorious' remained in commission, I continued with my father and mother aboard her; but when she was paid off, an order came out, prohibiting women from going to sea on board men-of-war, and mother, greatly to her grief, had to live on shore. It was now a question whether I should accompany my father or stay with my mother and get some book-learning, of which I was as yet utterly ignorant, as I did not even know my letters. I was scarcely old enough to be rated as a ship's boy, though father would have liked to take me with him, but mother said she could not lose us both, and, fortunately for me, father consented to leave me with her. As the 'Victorious' was paid off at Plymouth, mother remained there, and father soon afterwards got his warrant as boatswain to the 'Emerald' sloop-of-war, ordered out on the West India station. This was the first time I had been on shore, except for a few days when the 'Goliath' was paid off, during the whole of my life, and I did not find it very easy to get accustomed to the ways of shore-going people. At first I did not at all like them. There was no order or regularity, and I missed more than anything the sound of the bell striking the hours and half-hours day and night. However, I got accustomed to things by degrees. I was sent to school, where I gained a good character for regularity and obedience, just because I had been trained to it, do ye see. I couldn't bear not to be there at the exact time, and I never thought of disobeying the orders of these under whose authority I was placed. I also was diligent, and thus made good progress in my studies. I might have become a scholar had I remained at school, but after I had been there about two years, when I got home one day I found mother leaning back in her chair, in a fit, it seemed to me, and the parson of the parish, who had a letter in his hand, trying to rouse her up. As soon as I came in, he bade me run for the doctor, who lived not far off. He came at once with a woman, a neighbour of ours, and while they were attending to mother, the parson, sitting down, placed me between his knees, and looking kindly in my face, said that he had some bad news to tell me, which he had got in a letter from the West Indies. It was that my brave father was dead, carried off by the yellow fever which has killed so many fine fellows on that station. My mother was a strong and hearty woman, and any one would have supposed that it would have taken a great deal to kill her; but, notwithstanding her robust appearance, she had gentle and tender feelings, and though for my sake she wished to live, within a year she died of a broken heart for the loss of my father and I was left an orphan."
Roger Riddle continues his story—Goes to sea as a man-o'-war's-man— His voyages—The Mediterranean—Toulon—Chasing the enemy—Caught in a trap—A hard fight for it—Escape of the frigate—Corsica—Martello Bay—The tower and its gallant defenders—Its capture—Origin of its name—San Fiorenzo—Convention redoubt—What British tars can do— Capture of the "Minerve"—The taking of Bastia—Nelson loses an eye—"Jackass" frigates—Toulon again—More fighting—The advantage of being small—Prepare to repel boarders—The colours nailed to the mast—The chase—Never despise your enemy—Teneriffe—Attack on Santa Cruz—Nelson loses his arm—Abandonment of the enterprise—What people call glory—The Hellespont—The captain steers his own ship—The island of Cerigotto—Breakers ahead—The ship strikes—The value of discipline—Their condition on the rock—The ship goes to pieces— Their chances of escape—The gale—A brave captain—A false hope—The effects of drinking sea-water—Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink—Reduced to extremities—They lose their brave captain and first lieutenant—They construct a raft—Cowardice of the Greek fishermen—The rescue of the survivors—Fresh adventures—The Dardanelles—Fire!—An awful spectacle—Destruction of the ship— Reason to be thankful—A father's love—How they took a Spanish sloop-o'-war—The ruse and how it succeeded—Between two fires—Good and bad captains—Roger quits the navy—Becomes mate of a merchantman and retires on his laurels—His marriage and settlement—Our picnic breaks up.
"Mother had a good many friends, old shipmates of hers and father's, but most of them having families of their own were not able to do much for me. I was now, however, big enough to go to sea, and of course there was no question but that I should be a sailor. England had been at peace for some time, but she and France were once more at loggerheads, and ships were fitting out with all despatch at every port in the kingdom. There was no difficulty therefore in finding a ship for me, and an old messmate of father's, Andrew Barton, having volunteered on board the 'Juno' frigate, of thirty-two guns, took me with him. He was rated as captain of the maintop and I as ship's boy, having to do duty as powder-monkey. I quickly found myself at home, and those who didn't know that I had been to sea before, wondered how well I knew my way everywhere about the decks and aloft. I soon took the lead among the other boys, many of them much bigger and older than myself. 'Why, one would suppose that you had been born at sea,' said Tom Noakes, a big hulking fellow, who never could tell which was the stem, and which the stern. 'And so I was,' I answered. I then told him how many storms and battles I had been in, and all that I remembered about my early life. This made my messmates treat me with wonderful respect, and they never thought of playing me the tricks they did each other.
"Our frigate was bound out to the Mediterranean to join the fleet under Lord Hood. She was, I should have said, commanded by Captain Samuel Hood, a relation of the Admiral's. We knew that we should have plenty of work to do. When we sailed, it was understood that an English force had possession of Toulon, which was besieged by the republicans, who had collected a large army round the city, but it was supposed that they would be kept at bay by the English and royalists. We had been cruising off Toulon, when we were despatched to Malta to bring up supernumeraries for the fleet. We were detained, however, at the island for a considerable time, by foul winds. At length we sailed, and steered direct for Toulon. We arrived abreast of the harbour one evening, some time after dark. The captain, anxious to get in, as we had no pilot on board, nor any one acquainted with the dangers of the place, stood on, hoping by some means or other, to find his way. The officers with their night-glasses were on the look-out for our ships, but they were nowhere to be seen. Our captain, however, concluded that as a strong easterly wind had been blowing, they had run for shelter into the inner harbour. We accordingly shortened sail, and stood on, under our topsails. As at last several ships could be distinguished, it was supposed that we were close up to the British fleet. We soon afterwards made out a brig, and in order to weather her, the driver and topsail were set. As we were tacking under the brig's stern, some one on board her hailed, but not being able to make out what was said, Captain Hood shouted, 'This is His Britannic Majesty's frigate "Juno."' 'Viva,' cried the voice from the brig, and after this we heard the people on board her jabbering away among themselves. At last one of them shouted out, 'Luff, luff.' The captain on this, ordered the helm to be put down, but before the frigate came head to wind, she grounded. The breeze, however, was light, and the water perfectly smooth, and the sails were clewed up and handed. While this was being done, we saw a boat pull away from the brig, towards the town. Before the men aloft had left the yards, a sudden flaw of wind drove the ship's head off the bank, when her anchor was let go, and she swung head to wind. Her heel, however, was still on the shoal, and the rudder immovable. To get her off, the launch was hoisted out, and the kedge anchor with a hawser, was put into her. While we were engaged in hauling the frigate off the shoal, a boat appeared coming down the harbour, and being hailed some one in her answered 'Ay, ay.' She quickly came alongside, and the crew, among whom were two persons apparently officers, hurried on deck; one of the latter addressed our captain, and said he came to inform him that according to the regulations of the port, the frigate must go to the other part of the harbour, and perform ten days' quarantine. The Frenchmen, who were supposed to be royalists, were jabbering away together, when one of our midshipmen, a sharp young fellow, cried out, 'The chaps have national cockades in their hats.' The moon which shone out brightly just then, threw a gleam of light on the Frenchmen's hats, and the three colours were distinctly seen. They finding that they were discovered, coolly said in French, so I afterwards heard, 'Make yourselves easy, the English are good people, we will treat you kindly. The English fleet sailed away some time ago.'
"'We are prisoners, caught like rats in a trap!' cried the men from all parts of the ship. The entrance to the harbour is guarded by heavy forts on either side, between which we had run some distance, and their guns pointed down on our decks might sink us before we could get outside again. The officers, on hearing the report, hurried aft, scarcely able to believe that it was true. They found, however, on seeing the Frenchmen, that there was no doubt about the matter. Just then a flaw of wind came down the harbour, when our third lieutenant, Mr Webbley, hurrying up to the captain, said, 'I believe, sir, if we can get her under sail, we shall be able to fetch out.' 'We will try it at all events!' cried the captain; 'send the men to their stations, and hand those French gentlemen below.' The mounseers, on finding that they were not yet masters of the ship, began to bluster and draw their sabres, but the marines quickly made them sound another note, and in spite of their 'Sacres!' they were hurried off the deck under a guard. The men flew aloft, and in three minutes every sail was set, and the yards braced up for casting. The frigate was by this time completely afloat, the cable was cut; her head paid off, the sails filled, and away she stood from the shore. The wind freshening, she quickly gathered way. The launch and the French boat were cut adrift, and we had every hope of escape. Directly we began to loose sails, we saw lights appear in the batteries, and observed a stir aboard the brig. She soon afterwards opened fire on us, as did the fort on the starboard bow, and in a short time every fort which could bring a gun to bear on us, began to blaze away. We were now, however, going rapidly through the water, but there was a chance of our losing a topmast, as the shot came whistling through our sails, between our rigging. The wind shifting, made it seem impossible that we could get out without making a tack, but our captain was not a man to despair, and I am pretty sure that there was no one on board who would have given in, as long as the frigate was afloat. Fortunately the wind again shifted and blew in our favour. Blocks and ropes came falling from aloft, we could see the holes made in the canvas, by the shot passing through them. Several of the masts and spars were badly wounded, and two thirty-six pound shot came plump aboard, but no one was hurt. As soon as the hands came from aloft, they were ordered to their quarters, and we began firing away in return at the forts, as well as at the impudent little brig, which we at length silenced. As may be supposed, we gave a right hearty cheer when we saw the shot the Frenchmen were firing at us fall far astern, and we found that we were well clear of the harbour. We made sail for Corsica, where we found a squadron under Commodore Linzee, engaged in attempting to drive the French from that island. The first expedition in which we took part was to Martello Bay. It was guarded by a strong round tower, to which the same name had been given. The troops to the number of fourteen hundred, were landed the same evening, and while they took possession of a height, which overlooked the tower, we, and the 'Fortitude' frigate were ordered to attack it from the sea. The 'Fortitude' got the worst of it, for the French turned their fire chiefly on her, while for three hours we kept blazing away, without producing any visible effect. Some guns had been got up by the troops to the height, and by the use of hot shot they managed to set on fire some bass junk which lined the parapet. At last the gallant little garrison had to give in, when it was found, that they numbered only thirty-three men, and had but one six and two sixteen pounders; yet so well did they work their guns, and so strong was the tower, that they had held it for nearly two days against a large body of troops and our two frigates. During the time the 'Fortitude' had lost six killed, and fifty-six wounded. Three of her lower-deck guns had been dismounted, and she had been set on fire by the red-hot shot discharged at her, besides other damages. The tower, I believe, took its name from the myrtles growing on the shores of the bay. In consequence of the way this little tower had held out, the government had a number of similar towers built on the English coast, which were called after the original, 'Martello' towers. We next attacked a fortification called the Convention redoubt, which was considered the key to the town of San Fiorenzo. The redoubt was commanded by a rocky hill, rising to the height of seven hundred feet above the level of the sea. As it was nearly perpendicular at its summit, it was considered inaccessible, but British sailors had to show the Frenchmen that where goats could find a foothold they could climb.
"Looking up at the hill, it certainly did appear as if no human being could reach the summit. Not only, however, did our men get up there, but they carried several eighteen-pounders with them. On the right there was a descent of many hundred feet, down which a false step would have sent them headlong, and on the left were beetling rocks, while along the path they had to creep, only one man could pass at a time. The pointed rocks, however, served to make fast the tackle by which the guns were hoisted. To the astonishment of the Frenchmen, the eighteen-pounders at length began firing down upon their redoubt, which was then stormed by the troops, and quickly carried. Part of the garrison were made prisoners, but a good number managed to scamper off on the opposite side. We, however, took possession of a fine thirty-eight-gun frigate, called the 'Minerve,' which the Frenchmen had sunk, but which we soon raised and carried off with us. She was then added to the British navy, and called the 'San Fiorenzo,' and was the ship on board which King George the Third used often to sail when he was living down at Weymouth. She also fought one or more actions when commanded by Sir Harry Neale, one of the best officers in the service. However, young gentlemen, these things took place so long ago that I don't suppose you will care much to hear about them."
"Oh, yes, we do. Please go on!" cried out several voices from among us. "It is very interesting, we could sit here all day and listen to you."
"If that is the case, I'll go ahead to please you," said old Riddle.
"In those days we didn't let grass grow on our ship's bottoms. Soon after we left San Fiorenzo we took Bastia, the seamen employed on shore being commanded by Captain Nelson, of the 'Agamemnon.' After we had besieged it for thirty-seven days the garrison capitulated, we having lost a good many officers and seamen killed and wounded.
"We next attacked Calvi, which we took with the loss of the gallant Captain Serocold and several seamen killed, and Captain Nelson and six seamen wounded. It was here Captain Nelson had his right eye put out. I saw a good deal of service while on board the 'Juno.' Whilst still on the station I was transferred with Andrew Barton and others, to the 'Dido,' twenty-eight-gun frigate, commanded by Captain Towry. These small craft used to be called 'Jackass' frigates, but the 'Dido' showed that she was not a 'Jackass' at all events. Soon after I joined her she and the 'Lowestoff,' thirty-two-gun frigate, were despatched by Admiral Hotham to reconnoitre the harbour of Toulon. We were on our way, when, one evening, we discovered standing towards us two large French frigates. We made the private signal, when, supposing that we were the leading frigates of the fleet, they both wore and stood away. We chased them all night, but in the morning, when they discovered that there were only two frigates, and both much smaller than themselves, they tacked and stood towards us. One of the Frenchmen was the 'Minerve,' of forty guns, and the other the 'Artemise,' of thirty-six guns. When the 'Minerve' was about a mile away from us, on the weather bow, and ahead of her consort, she wore, and then hauling up on the larboard tack, to windward, commenced firing at us. I was still, you will understand, only a powder-monkey. My business was to bring the powder up from the magazine in a tub, upon which I had to sit till it was wanted to load the guns. Still, I could see a good deal that was going forward through the ports; besides which I heard from the men what was taking place. My old messmate, Tom Noakes, had joined the 'Dido.' He was now seated on his tub next to me—the biggest powder-monkey I ever knew. Poor Tom was not at all happy. He said that we smaller fellows had only half the chance of being killed that he had, as a shot might pass over our heads which would take his off. I tried to console him by reminding him that there were a good many parts of the ship where no shots were likely to pass, and that he had less chance of being hit than the men who had to stand up to their guns all the time. We stood on till the 'Minerve' was on our weather beam, when we could see her squaring away her yards, and presently the breeze freshening, she bore down upon our little frigate with the evident intention of sinking us. So she might have done with the greatest ease, but having fired our broadside just as her flying jibboom was touching our mainyard, we bore up, and her bow struck our larboard quarter. So great was the shock, that for the moment many thought we were going down, but instead of that our frigate was thrown athwart the 'Minerve's' hawse, her bowsprit becoming entangled in our mizen rigging. The Frenchmen immediately swarmed along their bowsprit, intending to board us. Our first lieutenant then shouted for 'boarders to repel boarders,' but as the French crew doubled ours, we should have found it a hard matter to do that. Fortunately the Frenchman's bowsprit broke right off, carrying away our mizen-mast, and with it the greater number of our assailants, who failed to regain their own ship. With our mizen-mast of course went our colours, but that the Frenchmen might not suppose that we had given in, Harry Barling, one of our quarter-masters, getting hold of a Union Jack, nailed it to the stump of the mizen-mast. All this time, you must understand, we had been blazing away at each other as fast as we could bring our guns to bear. The 'Minerve' at last ranged ahead clear of us, but we continued firing, till the 'Lowestoff,' seeing how hard pressed we were, came up to our assistance, and tackled the Frenchman. In a few minutes, so actively did she work her guns, that she had knocked away the enemy's foremast and remaining topmast. As the 'Minerve' could not now possibly escape, we threw out a signal to the 'Lowestoff' to chase the 'Artemise,' which instead of coming to the assistance of her consort was making off. She however had the heels of us, and we therefore, returning again, attacked the 'Minerve,' which, on her mizen-mast being shot away, hauled down her colours. We had our boatswain and five seamen killed, two officers and thirteen men wounded. The 'Lowestoff' had no one hurt, and so, although she certainly contributed to the capture of the prize, we gained the chief credit for the action, which, considering the difference in size between our frigate and the Frenchman, we certainly deserved. But in those days we didn't count odds. We thought that we had only to see the enemy to thrash him. Even our best captains, however, sometimes made a mistake.