My First Cruise, and other stories, by W.H.G. Kingston.
There are four stories here, but it is not clear whether they are all by Kingston. The first one, which gives the book its name, certainly is, and possibly the third, "The Enchanted Gate".
The first story is a sort of diary or blog written by a young midshipman on his first voyage to sea, to his brother who was still at school. There are all the usual incidents, including swimming exercises.
The other stories are well outside the Kingston style, but are certainly amusing and worth reading. The book is quite short.
MY FIRST CRUISE, AND OTHER STORIES, BY W.H.G. KINGSTON.
STORY ONE, CHAPTER 1.
NOTES FROM PRINGLE RUSHFORTH'S SEA LOG.
A LETTER TO BROTHER HARRY, AT ETON.
It has become a reality, dear Harry. I feel very strange—a curious sensation in the throat, just as if I was going to cry, and yet it is exactly what I have been longing for. You know better than any one how I had set my heart on going to sea, and yet I thought that I should never manage it. But, after all, here I am, really and truly a midshipman; at least a volunteer of the first class, as we are called now. The first time I put on my uniform, with my gold-band cap and dirk, I could not help every now and then looking at the gold lace on my collar and the buttons with the anchor and crown, and very pretty and nice they looked; and I do believe that this half-reconciled poor mamma, and Fanny, and Mary, and dear little Emily to my going when they saw me with them on. I'll tell you how it all happened. Uncle Tom came to stay with us. He had been at the Hall a week when, the very day before I was to go back to school, while we were all at breakfast, he got a long official-looking letter. No sooner had he torn it open and glanced at its contents, than he jumped up and shook papa by the hand, then kissed mamma, exclaiming, "They do acknowledge my services, and in a handsome way too, and they have appointed me to the Juno intended for the South American station; the very ship I should have chosen! I must have Pringle with me. No nonsense, Mary. He wants to be a sailor, and a sailor he shall be. He's well fitted for it. I'll have no denial. It's settled—that's all right." (I had been telling him the day before how much I wanted to go to sea.) He carried his point, and set all the household preparing my kit, and then posted off for London, and rattled down to Portsmouth to hoist his flag. He is not a man to do things by halves. In three days I followed him. The ship was nearly ready for sea. Most of the officers had joined. There was only one vacancy, which I got. Another captain had been appointed, who had been superseded, and he had selected most of the officers. Many of my messmates are good fellows, but of others the less said about them the better, at least as far as I could judge from the way they behaved when I first went into the berth. We carry thirty-six guns. There is the main deck, on which most of them are placed, and the upper deck, which is open to the sky, and where all the ropes lead, and where some guns are, and the lower deck, where we sleep in hammocks slung to the beams, and where our berth is; that is the place where we live—our drawing-room, and parlour, and study, and anything else you please. There is a table in the centre, and lockers all round, and if you want to move about you have to get behind the other fellows' backs or over the table. Under it are cases and hampers of all sorts, which the caterer has not unpacked. He is an old mate, and keeps us all in order. His name is Gregson. I don't know whether I shall like him. He has been a great many years a midshipman; for a mate is only a passed midshipman who wants to be a lieutenant, but can't. He has no interest—nobody to help him on—so there he is growling and grumbling from morning to night, declaring that he'll cut the service, and go and join the Russians, and make his country rue the day; but he doesn't, and I believe he wouldn't, if they would make him an admiral and a count off-hand. My chief friend they call Dicky Snookes. His real name, though, is Algernon Godolphin Stafford, on which he rather prides himself. This was found out, so it was voted that he should be re-christened, and not be allowed under dreadful pains and penalties to assume his proper appellation in the berth; so no one thinks of calling him anything but Snookes. He is getting not to mind it, which I am glad of, as he does not seem a bad fellow, and is up to fun of all sorts. There is another fellow who is always called Lord Jones or My Lord, because he is as unlike what you would suppose a nobleman to be as possible. Then there is Polly. His real name is Skeffington Scoulding, which was voted too long, so, as poor fellow he has lost an eye, he was dubbed Polyphemus, which was soon turned into Polly. I haven't got a new name yet, so I hope to stick to my own. I have picked up a good many more bits of information during the three days I have been on board, but I have not time to tell them now. I will though, don't fear. I hope to be put in a watch when we get to sea. I don't mean inside a silver case, to go on tick!—ha!—ha!—ha! but to keep watch under a lieutenant, to see what the ship is about, and to keep her out of scrapes. Good-bye, dear old fellow, I'll tell you more when I can.— Your affect brother, Pringle Rushforth.
STORY ONE, CHAPTER 2.
NOTES FROM MY LOG.
The capstern went round with a merry tune—the boatswain's whistle sounded shrilly along the decks with a magic effect—the anchor was hove up—the sails were let fall and but a few minutes had passed, after the captain gave the word of command, before the ship, under a wide spread of snowy canvas, was standing down the Solent towards the Needle passage. It was a lovely summer's day, the sky was blue and so was the water, and the land looked green and bright, and the paint was so fresh, and the deck so white, and the officers in their glittering uniform had so polished an appearance, and the men in their white trousers and shirts with worked collars and natty hats, looked so neat and active as they sprang nimbly aloft, or flew about the decks, that I felt very proud of the frigate and everything about her, and very glad that I had come to sea. To be sure matters below were not quite in the same order just then. Still prouder was I when we saluted the Queen, who was at Osborne—firing away first on one side and then on the other, with a flash and a roar, and a huge puff of smoke. We passed out at the Needles with the cheese-like castle of Hurst and its red ninepin-looking lighthouses on our right, and a little further to the west on our right with the high cliffs of Alum Bay striped curiously with coloured sand and three high-pointed rocks, wading out into the sea, as if wanting to get across to the north shore. These are the Needle rocks. We had run the high white cliff at the west end of the island out of sight before dark, and that, except a thin blue tint of land away to the north-east, was the last I saw of the shores of dear old happy England. I daresay others felt as I did, but we all had so much to do that we hadn't time to talk about it. Dickey Snookes had been to sea already for a few months, and of course knew a great deal more than I could—at least he said that he did, and on the strength of it offered to tell me all about everything. I thought I saw a twinkle in his eye, but his eyes always are twinkling, so I did not suspect him of intending mischief. We had some vegetables for dinner—some carrots and turnips—and he asked me if I knew where they grew? I said in some garden, I supposed. "Of course, young 'un," he answered. But you wouldn't suppose we had a garden up in our foretop, where we grow all sorts of greens and other things. You have not found your way there, I suspect. I told him that I had not, and he said that I must go up there that very afternoon with him, and that he would introduce me to the head-gardener, who was always up there looking after the gooseberry bushes. I knew that this was a joke, but still I wanted to see what he meant. I said that I was ready at once, but he kept putting me off; and whenever he saw me going up the rigging he always got some one to send for me or to call me, so that it was quite late in the day before I succeeded in getting into the shrouds. The sun had now gone down, the sky was overcast, and the sea had a leaden gloomy look—there was a swell also, and the ship rolled so much from side to side, that, as I looked up and saw the mastheads forming arches in the sky, I could not help fancying that I should be sent off when I got up there like a stone from a sling, or an ancient catapult, right into the water. The idea made me hold on very tight, let me tell you; yet, as it would never do to give it up, on I went with my teeth pretty closely clenched, and my eyes fixed on the top, which seemed to grow farther and farther away from me, like Jack's bean-stalk. At last I got up just under the top. There are two ways of getting on to it. One is by going along some ropes, called the futtock shrouds, when one hangs very much as a fly does crawling along the ceiling. I didn't like it, being up there all alone in the gloom, for it was very different to climbing an apple-tree or the oak-tree at the bottom of the lawn, with our nest on the top of it, where you and I used to sit and smoke cane cigars, and fancy ourselves Istelson and Collingwood. It wasn't pleasant going along the futtock shrouds, and still less getting round them outside into the top, for as the ship rolled it felt as if the mast was coming right down on the top of me. I waited, however, holding on as a cat does to a bough when you shake it, till the ship rolled over the other way, and then up I sprang easily enough, and there I saw Dickey Snookes and Polly and My Lord all standing by the side of the captain of the top, and grinning from ear to ear, as if they had some very good joke in hand. At first I thought that the captain of the top was a very important person, but I soon found that he was only one of the seamen who is more active and smarter than the rest, and takes command of those aloft. "Here comes Midshipman Green," they all exclaimed, as they saw my head appearing between the topmast shrouds. When I stood in the top they all insisted on shaking hands with me, pinching my fingers terribly. "And so you want to see our garden up here," said Snookes; "you're the greenest thing we've got in it just now, let me tell you—ha! ha! ha!"
I didn't see anything to laugh at; but I laughed just to keep them company, thinking the joke was over. However, before I knew what they were about they caught hold of me, and while one blinded my eyes with a handkerchief, I found myself lashed up to the rigging with my arms and legs spread out just like the eagle on a Russian flag. Presently all was silent. The ship kept rolling backwards and forwards as before, and I began to feel somewhat queer in the region of my waistband and right up to my throat, still I wouldn't cry out. Suddenly I found the bandage whisked off my eyes, and then I could see only one top man standing on the other side of the top, but my messmates had disappeared. I called to the man. He touched his hat with the greatest respect. I told him to cast me loose. "My orders were, sir, not to touch you," he answered. I argued the point. "Well, sir, if as how you pays your footing, I'll do it," he replied; "but, sir, you'll take care that I'm not tied up and get two dozen for disobeying orders." I was ready to promise anything, for it was very unpleasant rolling about up there in the dark. After some hesitation and further talk, Tom Hansard, that was the topman's name, cut off the lashings. I gave him five shillings, all the money I had in my pocket. "You'll keep it secret, sir," said he. "You'll say nothing against a poor fellow like me, sir; that you won't, I know." I promised him, and he then helped me down through the lubber's hole, for as to going down outside, I couldn't just then have done it to save my life. When I got back to the berth, there were all my three messmates seated round the table, taking their tea, and pretending to be very much astonished at hearing all which had happened to me. Of course, I said nothing about Tom Hansard, and they pretended that they could not make out how I had got loose. I found out, however, that the whole plan was arranged beforehand by Dicky Snookes and my other messmates with the captain of the top, just to see what I was made of, and what I would do, it being understood that he was to keep whatever he could get out of me. Had I cried or made a fuss about the matter, or said that I would complain to my uncle, I should have been looked upon as a regular sneak. The fellows hate telling of one another here just as much as we did at school. From the way I took the trick I believe they liked me better than they did before. Of course, all about the garden and the vegetables was nonsense, and I should have been green to have believed it, which I didn't. Away we went rolling along with a westerly swell and a northerly wind, while many of the fellows in the berth were singing: "There we lay, all the day, in the Bay of Biscay, O;" and others "Rule Britannia," old Gregson not forgetting his standing joke of "Bless the old girl; I wish, while she was about it, that she had ruled them straighter." The very next morning the gale, of which the swell was the forerunner, came down upon us with a sudden gust. "All hands shorten sail," was shouted along the decks. The men flew aloft, that is, they climbed up so nimbly that they looked as if they were flying, and they lay out on the yards to reef the sail. Snookes had to go also, as he was stationed in the foretop. "Any greens up there to-day?" I asked as he passed me, not looking happy, for the ship was tumbling about, the spray was flying over us, and the wind was howling terrifically in the rigging. It was altogether very different to what it had been on the previous evening. Still poor Snookes had to go up. The boatswain's whistle and the voices of the officers sounded loud above the gale, and so did the cries of the midshipmen. I contrived to make myself heard, though, of course, I only sung out what I was told to say, and wasn't always certain what would happen after I had said it, any more than does a person in a fairy tale, who has got hold of some magic words and doesn't know what effect they will produce. The topgallantsails and royals were quickly furled—those are the sails highest up, you know; and then the huge topsails came rattling down the masts, and the men lay out on the yards and caught hold of them, as they were bulging out and flapping fearfully about, to reef them. One of the topmen, Tom Hansard, was at the weather yardarm, and had hold of the earing, which isn't a bit like those gold things our sisters wear in their ears, but is a long rope which helps to reef the sails. Suddenly the ship gave a tremendous lurch, I heard a cry, I looked up, and there was Tom Hansard hanging by one hand to the earing from the yard-arm, right over the foaming ocean. I felt as if I had swallowed a bucket full of snow. I thought the poor fellow must be dropped overboard, and so did everybody else, and some were running to one of the boats to lower her to pick him up. He swung fearfully about from side to side. No human power could save him. I was watching to see him drop, when he made a great effort, and springing up, he caught the rope with his other hand. Still he was only a degree better off. Fancy dangling away at the end of a thin rope, jerked backwards and forwards high up in the air, with certain death were he to fall on board, and very small prospect of escape if he fell into the foaming, tumbling sea, through which the ship was flying at the rate of some ten knots an hour. I felt inclined to shriek out in sympathy, for I am sure that I should have shrieked out, and very loudly too, had I been up there in his place. I felt sure that he would come down when I saw two of the topmen going out to the end of the yard-arm and stretching out their arms towards him to help him. He saw them, and began to climb up the thin rope till they could catch hold of his jacket, then up they pulled him, though the sails flapping about very nearly tore him out of their hands. They held him on to the yard for a minute till he could recover himself, and then he scrambled in on to the top. There was a general shout fore and aft when he was safe. Another man went to the weather earing, and three reefs were taken in the topsails. I heard the first lieutenant observe to Uncle Tom that he was very glad to get the ship snug at last; but I cannot say that I thought her snug, or anything snug about her, for there we were among clouds of sleet and spray, tumbling and rolling about in that undignified way in which I had not thought it possible so fine a frigate could have been tumbled and rolled about. It brought down the ship a peg or two in my estimation, and took the shine out of many of us, let me tell you. That fellow Snookes was continually offering me a lump of fat bacon, and at dinner he contrived to slip all the most greasy bits into my plate. I held out manfully, and tried to look very heroic, or, at all events, indifferent; but, oh Harry, I did feel very wretched, and began to reflect that I might possibly have been rather happier on shore. I suspect that the way my lips curled, and the yellow look of my eyes, betrayed me. The gale lasted for three days. I was very glad when it was over; so you understand it is not all sunshine at sea.
STORY ONE, CHAPTER 3.
It was reported that we were to touch at one or two places on the coast of Africa, and then to stand across to the Brazils. The first land we made was that near Sierra Leone. I always thought that negroes lived in thatched huts, and wore bits of white cloth round their loins. We brought up before Free Town, the capital of the colony, when what was my surprise to see really a very handsome place, containing between fifteen and twenty thousand inhabitants, the greater number black or brown men, and as well-dressed and comfortable-looking as any white people could be. What is more, they have schools and colleges where they are capitally taught, and all the little black children go to school; so that the truth is, that they are far better educated than are the children of the working classes in many parts of England, and are all just as good Christians as we are. Sommers told me all this, and a great deal more. I haven't spoken about him before. He's a mate—such a good-natured, kind fellow, and is very merry, though he can be very serious; and do you know, when he's in the berth, none of the others, big or little, swear and talk about things they oughtn't to. I like Sommers, and so even does Snookes and My Lord; and he never lets anybody bully Polly when he's near. I think that I should have been bullied a good deal, but I took everything that was said or done in good part, or pretended to be unconscious of it, and lost no opportunity of retorting—good-naturedly of course—it would not have done otherwise. And now, the rest only play the same tricks with me that they do with each other. No one makes any difference with me because I am the captain's nephew, any more than Uncle Tom does himself. Uncle Tom is very kind, but he makes no difference that I can see between the rest of the midshipmen and me. He does the best that he can for all of us, that is the truth: he punishes all alike if we do wrong, and has us all into the cabin and gives us good advice, and talks to us frequently. Still we do, somehow or other, manage to get into scrapes. I have been mastheaded twice, and Dickey Snookes five times, since we came to sea; once for dressing up the sheep in some of the men's clothes just before the crew were mustered, and then letting them out on the deck; and another time for cutting poor Polly's hammock down by the head, and very nearly cracking his skull—luckily it's rather thick. After leaving Free Town we touched at Monrovia, the capital of Liberia. Have you ever read about that settlement? It was established by the people of the United States, and colonised by men of colour, or blacks, who had been once slaves and had obtained their freedom. It is a republic, and the chief magistrate as well as all the officers are brown or black men. It is not nearly so large nor so flourishing a place as Sierra Leone. In the latter, you see, there are a great many intelligent white men who set the blacks an example of industry and perseverance, in which qualities they are somewhat wanting generally. Still it is wonderful to see what black men can do when left free with a good example before them. Monrovia is really a very respectable-looking city. There are a number of stone warehouses full of goods near the water, and a good many dwelling-houses of brick, nicely furnished, and of two storeys high, but the greater number of the habitations are of wood, on brick foundations. There are several churches, four or five at least, with black or coloured preachers. The greater part of the principal inhabitants are engaged in trade, exchanging palm oil, ivory, cam-wood, which is a valuable dye, for European or American manufactures. They have also a number of vessels manned by Liberian sailors, which sail along the coast to collect the produce of the country. Uncle Tom took me on shore, but we remained only a very short time, so that I cannot give you a more particular account of the place. Leaving the coast of Africa, we stood across the Atlantic towards that of America. We had left the land some four or five days when the wind fell, and we lay becalmed, one side and then the other dipping provokingly into the smooth, glassy, and shining water, and very nearly rolling our masts out. It was so hot, too, that the pitch bubbled up through the seams in the deck, and Dickey Snookes declared we could have roasted our dinners on the capstern-head. I believe, indeed, that we could. I was very glad when the sun went down, and the night came, but it was not so very much cooler even then, and most of the watch below remained on deck to swallow some fresh air, but very little any one of us benefited by it. The next day, at all events, I thought that we should get a breeze, but it was much the same. Hot! oh, how hot it was! We all went gasping about the decks, not knowing what to do with ourselves, and the sea shone so brightly that it was positively painful to look at it. I daresay that it would have been much worse on shore, for, at all events, the air we breathed was pure and clear, though it was pretty well roasted. It was curious to see the same chips of wood and empty hampers, and all the odds and ends thrown overboard, floating around us day after day. We had been a week thus becalmed when I was sent aloft, as the midshipmen occasionally are, to see what was to be seen. I did not expect to see anything, but I did, and that was a long, thin, dark blue line away to the north-east. I reported it to the officer of the watch. He said it was all right, and that we should have a breeze before long, and ordered the watch to trim sails. The blue line increased in width till it could be seen from the deck, and on it came, growing broader and broader every instant. Sure enough it was a breeze stirring up the surface of the ocean. In a little time the upper sails felt its influence, and then the topsails began to bulge out, and the courses moved, and away we glided through the still smooth water faster than we had done for many a day. For some hours we ran on till a sail was reported right ahead still becalmed. As we drew near we discovered her to be a large topsail schooner, with a very rakish appearance. She was still becalmed, but as we brought the breeze up with us her sails bulged out, and she began to glide through the water. There were many discussions as to what she was; some thought her an honest trader, others a slaver; some said she was American, and others Spanish or Portuguese. "One thing is in her favour," observed old Gregson, "she does not attempt to run away." "Good reason, Greggy," said Dickey Snookes aside to me, "she can't—just see what she will do when she gets the wind!" Though I had never seen a slaver, the stranger came exactly up to my idea of what a slaver was like. We always at sea call a vessel, whose name and country we don't know, a stranger. Still she did not run away even when she got the breeze, but hove her topsail to the mast, and kept bobbing gracefully away at us as we came up, while the stars and stripes of the United States flew out at her peak. All doubts as to the honesty of her character were dissipated when an officer standing at her gangway hailed and asked what frigate we were. The reply was given, and he was asked what schooner that was. "'The Wide Awake,' from New Orleans, bound in for Sierra Leone. Shall be happy to take any letters or packages you have to send for that settlement, captain," exclaimed the speaker through his trumpet. This was all very polite. Still more so was it when the American skipper offered to send his boat aboard us to receive our despatches. As it happened, the captain had been wishing to send a letter back to Sierra Leone, and several of the officers wished to write, and as the delay would not be great, we told the polite American that we would trouble him. He seemed well pleased, and said that he would get his boat ready, and drop aboard us. I remained on deck watching the schooner, for there is something very attractive to my eye in the movements of another vessel at sea. A boat was after some time lowered from the schooner and pulled towards us, when she filled her fore-topsail, stood a little way on, tacked, and then steered so as to get to windward of us. I saw our first lieutenant watching her very narrowly when she did this, and then looking at her boat. Presently he went into the captain's cabin. He was not there long. When he came out he ordered a boat to be manned, with the crew all armed, and directed the crews of three or four guns on either side to go quietly to their quarters. I saw, meantime, that the American's boat, instead of pulling up alongside, was passing astern of us, so as to meet the schooner, now rapidly approaching our weather quarter. She was still within hearing when the first lieutenant shouted, "Our despatches are ready—come on board!" But the people in the boat pretended not to hear, and pulled on towards the schooner. On this Sommers was ordered to take command of the boat, and to proceed on board the stranger. To my great delight I got leave from Uncle Tom to accompany him. It was very kind—it was the first piece of favouritism he had shown me. Dickey Snookes was quite jealous when he saw me jump into the boat. "Ah, Pringle, you'll get knocked on the head, my boy, depend on that!" was his encouraging observation. Away we pulled towards the schooner. Her boat had reached her, and was hoisted up. We had before not observed more than a dozen or fifteen men at the utmost. There were now more than double that number on her deck, or about her rigging. Every stitch of canvas she could carry was set; her yards were braced sharp up, and away she went like a shot on a bowline. "Give way, my lads, give way!" cried Sommers, and the men did give way, pulling with all their might; but the schooner went through the water much faster than we did, and in spite of all our efforts soon left us far behind. "That was the meaning of all his politeness about the letters— he expected to hoodwink us, did he? the rogue!" exclaimed Sommers. "But though we do not catch him, the frigate will; there is no fear of that!" We pulled on after the schooner some time longer, but Sommers at length saw that the chase was perfectly hopeless. "The worst of it is, that the frigate will have to heave to to pick us up," he observed. He then asked me if I should mind letting the frigate stand on after the chase, and stand the chance of being picked up when she had caught her. I cannot say that I particularly liked the notion of being left all alone in a boat in the middle of the Atlantic. Still I did not like to say so. However, the captain settled the point by heaving the frigate to as she came up to us, and ordering us to return on board. This we did with as little delay, as possible, when once more the frigate stood on after the schooner. Still the latter had gained a considerable advantage, but she was not beyond the range of our guns, and we now began to fire away at her to make her heave to again. Of course she had no intention of doing this if she could help it. Our shot went flying pretty thickly after her, but still, though several struck her and cut her ropes, and made eyelet holes in her sails, her damages were repaired as quickly as they were produced, and there seemed a considerable chance of her getting away from us altogether.
STORY ONE, CHAPTER 4.
Our frigate sails very fast; there are few ships in the service sail faster, and none in most respects to surpass her, or indeed, I really believe, to equal her. I do not know what she cannot do. The boatswain says, and I believe him, that she can do everything but talk. Still, somehow or other, that piccarooning-looking schooner managed to keep ahead of us, and after some time actually ran out of the range of our shot. She was undoubtedly one of the fastest vessels of her class ever built, or it would not have happened. The schooner made a number of short tacks right away in the wind's eye. This would not have suited us, as we took longer to go about, so we had to stretch away to the eastward, while she, tacking once more, stood to the north-west. Sometimes we appeared to be a long way apart, then about we would go and be almost up with her again. What we had to fear was night coming on before we could get up to her, when very probably she would contrive to escape in the dark. Old Gregson watched her moodily. "Of course she will escape," he observed. "She is probably full of slaves, and would prove a rich prize to us. We are not likely to have any luck; no ship has that I'm on board." It seemed probable that in this case, at all events, he would be right. We were all so eager in watching the chase that none of us felt inclined to go below. The pangs of hunger at dinner-time, however, drove most of us there. We had not got half through the meal before Dickey Snookes made his appearance with the announcement that the schooner's maintopmast had been carried away, and that we should be soon up to her. We all rushed on deck to find matters very much as they were when we went below, and on our return to the berth there was Master Dickey comfortably seated at table, helping himself to the best bits of the boiled beef and duff, and laughing at our simplicity, or, as he remarked, at our being so easily sold. He got a cobbing by the by, as a wind-up to his amusement, after dinner was over. It is an operation by no means over-pleasant to the person on whom it is inflicted. The weapon employed is a handkerchief with a corner knotted; or a stocking, with the end filled with socks, or something to make a hard knot. The patient is laid across the mess-table, and each member of the berth inflicts a blow on a part of his body, over which his clothes are tightly drawn. As the day drew on, the wind increased. Dickey Snookes having been properly cobbed, we all hurried on deck. As we looked through our glasses, we saw that the schooner was staggering along under as much canvas as she could carry; while the frigate glided on with becoming dignity, we having decidedly the advantage in a strong wind. I asked Sommers what he thought about the matter. "We are coming up with her, lad, hand over hand, and if the wind holds she will be under our guns before nightfall," he answered. As you may suppose, I was highly delighted with the thoughts of this, and hoped that I might be sent on board with the prize crew. Still the schooner held on her course, and her determined attempts to escape convinced us more and more that she had good reason for so doing. The evening was now drawing on. We had gained on her very considerably, but still she was sufficiently ahead, should the night prove dark, to escape us. The very idea that she would do so was provoking. Some did not seem to care so much about it as others. Dickey made a joke of the matter, and said how foolish we should all look in the morning when the schooner was nowhere; and Polly was provokingly indifferent. The sun went down, and darkness came on, and very dark it was; and though I looked and looked I could not see the chase, but there were many on board who could, and we began firing away, the flashes of the guns looking very bright through the darkness. At last I saw the schooner's dark hull and masts, like a shadow against the sky, and there then was a cry that her foretopmast was shot away, and our people gave a loud cheer. Directly after this the first lieutenant shouted that she had struck, and we ceased firing. Two boats were ordered away to take possession. The second lieutenant went in one, and Sommers had command of the other. I jumped into his boat, as if it were a matter of course; and away we pulled toward the schooner. "I guess that you have pretty considerably outmanoeuvred us, gentlemen, but still I don't know, by what right you, or any other men alive, venture on board a free and independent merchantman of the United States of America," said a man who met us at the gangway. "You come on board at your peril!"
"We are well aware of that, friend," answered our lieutenant; "but we must be satisfied that you are an American before we let you go."
Saying this, he led the way on board. By the light of the lanterns we carried, we could see a very ill-looking crew scowling at us, and evidently wishing to heave us overboard. It was lucky that we were all well armed. I daresay that you will fancy I could not have done much, but I could fire off a pistol at all events, which was as likely to kill as that of a bigger fellow—that was one comfort. The man who had hailed us, and pretended to be the captain, had said that the vessel was American. Mr Talbot was only a short time in the cabin when he came out again, and telling us that he had no doubt she was a Portuguese or Brazilian, ordered the hatches, which were closed, to be lifted off. This took us some little time to do. Never shall I forget the horrible stench—the shrieks and cries and groans which ascended from the hold as the hatches were got off. We lowered our lanterns and looked down. There, arranged in rows along the deck, and chained two and two, squatting on their hams, were several hundreds of blacks—men, women, and children. I cannot describe the dreadful faces of despair and horror and suffering which met our view as the light of our lanterns fell on them, while they looked up with their white eyes and black visages imploringly at us. I fancy that they thought we were going to shoot them all; for the Portuguese crew had told them so, in the hopes, should we free them, that they might set upon us and throw us overboard. This amiable intention was frustrated, because Mr Talbot had been on the coast of Africa and was well up to the tricks of the slavers. He consequently would not allow any of the poor wretches to be liberated till all necessary precautions had been taken to prevent them from doing any harm. Our first care was to secure the slaver's crew. They seemed as if inclined to make some resistance; but we pointed to the frigate, which was close to us, and intimated that if they did not behave themselves we should call her to our assistance; so, with no very good grace, they consented to step into one of our boats to be carried on board the Juno. I was very glad to get rid of them, for I could not help feeling, as I walked about the deck, that any moment they might set upon us and knock us on the head. As soon as they had gone, Mr Talbot sent Sommers and me round the deck with water and farinha; that is the food the blacks are fed on. We had four men with us carrying the provisions. I could not have supposed that human beings, with flesh and blood like ourselves, could have existed in such a horrible condition. In the first place, there was barely four feet between the decks, and that was very high for a slaver; many are only three feet. Even I had to bend down to get along. Close as they could be packed, the poor creatures sat on the bare, hard, dirty deck, without even room to stretch their legs. I almost fainted, and even Sommers and the men had great difficulty in getting along. Oh! how eagerly the poor creatures drank the water when we put it to their mouths, though they did not seem to care much about the food. Many could not even lift up their heads to take the water. Several were dying; and as we put the tin cups to their mouths, even while gazing at us, and, I am sure, feeling grateful, they fell back and died. Many were already dead when we came to them, and there they lay, chained to the living. Sometimes we found that a father had died, leaving two or three small children; sometimes a mother had sunk, leaving an infant still living. Several poor children had died, and it was hard work, and cruel it seemed, to make the poor mothers give up the bodies to be thrown overboard. We came to one black lad, who was sitting by the side of a woman, whom we guessed must be his mother. Sommers said that he thought she had not many minutes to live. The poor fellow seemed so grateful when we gave her some water and food, which revived her somewhat. I never saw a greater change in anybody's countenance. He was at first the very picture of misery and despair. Then he thought that she was going to recover. He looked up as if he could almost have worshipped us, with a smile which, though his countenance was black, was full of expression. We knocked off her chains, and then those of the lad, and Sommers directed one of the men to assist me in carrying her on deck. There were many in as deplorable a condition as this poor woman, and I scarcely know why it was I felt so anxious to assist her, except on account of her son; there was something in his face which had so interested me. When we got her on deck, she sat up but she could not reply to her son, who, with tears in his eyes, spoke to her, imploring her, it seemed, to answer him. The surgeon and assistant-surgeons had by this time come on board. I begged the first to come and look at the poor woman before he went below. When I returned, she had sunk back in her son's arms. Our kind doctor took her hand—"It's all over with her; I can do nothing. The poor lad will find it out," he observed, and then he had to hurry below. It was some time before the poor lad could believe that his mother was dead, and then he burst into such a fit of tears that I thought he would have died himself. It convinced me that negroes have got hearts just like ours, though Dickey Snookes always declares they have not, and that they once had tails, which is all nonsense. We had now a strong body of seamen on board, and they kept bringing up the negroes from below—men, women, and children. Several were dead, and two or three had been dead for a couple of days or more. One poor woman had kept the dead body of her child, pretending that it was alive, nor bearing to part with it, till she herself fell sick. At length it was taken from her, but she died as soon as she was brought on deck. In spite of all the doctors could do, many others died also. It was daylight before we got the slave hold in anything like order. As soon as the sun rose, up went the glorious flag of old England, and from that moment every negro on board was free. It is a proud thing to feel that not for a moment can a man remain a slave who rests under the shadow of that time-honoured banner. The instant the slave, whatever his country, sets foot on British soil, he is free, or placed under the protection of the British flag. It is a thing to be proud of. Of that I am certain. Not for a long time, however, could we persuade the poor slaves that we meant them well, and were doing all we could for their benefit. When they once were convinced of this, they gave us their unlimited confidence. We were then able to trust about a third at a time on deck, to enable us to clean out the hold. It was not so much that we had reason to be on our guard against what the negroes could do to us, as to prevent them from injuring themselves. Mr Talbot had ordered about fifty to be brought on deck soon after daylight. He had their irons knocked off, and water and brushes were given them that they might clean themselves. No sooner, however, did two of them find themselves free, than, before anybody could prevent them, they leaped overboard. One poor fellow sunk at once, and disappeared from our sight; the other seemed to repent of the act, and swam to regain the schooner. I, with others, instantly leaped into one of the boats alongside to go and pick him up. Just as we were shoving off, I saw a black triangular fin sticking up above the surface dart from under the counter. We shouted and splashed the oars as we pulled with all our might towards the poor fellow. There was a terrible shriek; he gave one imploring gaze at us as he threw up his arms and sank from view. We could see him going rapidly down, with a large dark object below him, while a red circle came up and filled the eddy he had made. "Jack Shark musters pretty thick about here," observed the coxswain; "he knows well enough when he's likely to have a feast." It was very dreadful, but, do you know, it is extraordinary how little one feels those sort of things at the time. When I got on board I looked about for the poor lad whose mother had died. I found him still sitting by her body. That had to be taken from him, and then he was left alone. He seemed not to know or to care for any of the other blacks, but when I spoke to him he knelt down and kissed my hand, and said some words which I thought meant—"You'll be kind to me and take care of me. I know you will. I'll trust to you." I do not know whether this was really what he said or not, but, at all events, I determined to do my best, and to be a friend to him. Slavers, when captured, are usually sent into Sierra Leone to be condemned, when the slaves are set free, and the vessels are sold. On examining our prize, however, it was discovered that she had but a short allowance of water and farinha, or provisions of any sort; and as the wind was fair for Rio de Janeiro, and contrary for Sierra Leone, the captain decided on carrying her to the former place, or to some other port on the Brazilian coast, where she might obtain a sufficient supply of necessaries, which we could not afford to give her from the frigate. Sommers was appointed to command the prize, and I was not a little gratified when he obtained leave to take me with him. My traps were soon on board, and we then shaped a course for Rio de Janeiro.
STORY ONE, CHAPTER 5.
I forgot to say that Dickey Snookes was sent on board the prize to keep me company. He told me that the captain had called him into the cabin, and given him a long lecture about playing tricks, and that he had made up his mind to behave very circumspectly. I doubted that he would keep very long to his good resolution. I felt excessively proud when I first walked the deck of the prize as officer of the watch, though that fellow Snookes would declare that the old quartermaster who kept it with me was my dry-nurse, and that I was a mere make-believe. I know that I kept pacing up and down on the weather side of the quarter-deck with great dignity, looking up at the sails, and every now and then giving a glance at the compass, to assure myself that the man at the helm was steering a proper course. I should like to know what officer in the service, under the circumstances, could do more. We were ordered to keep the frigate always in sight, and as the prize sailed well, we had little difficulty in doing that. In the day time we collected the poor blacks to come on deck in fifties at a time, and walk up and down. We had a black man on board the frigate, who was now sent with us, and he understood the language of some of the slaves. I had not forgotten the poor boy whose mother I had seen die, and I got permission for him to attend at our mess. The other black seaman was able to explain to him what he had to do, and I set to work to teach him English. He learned with surprising rapidity, and could soon exchange words with me. I wished to give him a name, and succeeded in learning that his native one was Pongo. He, of course, had no Christian name, so I proposed calling him Peter, and he was always afterwards known as Peter Pongo. He soon became a capital servant, though he did now and then make curious mistakes. Once he brought our soup into the cabin in a wash-bowl, and another time emptied into a pail two bottles of wine which he had been ordered to cool in water. Snookes was for punishing him, but I saved the poor fellow, as I was certain that he had not done either of the things being aware of their incorrectness. He exhibited, in consequence, the greatest gratitude towards me, and evidently looked up to me as his friend and protector. He improved rapidly in his knowledge of English, and by the time we drew near the coast of South America he was able to explain himself with tolerable clearness. With the aid of the negro seaman I spoke of, I got somewhat of poor Peter Pongo's simple history out of him. I cannot put it in his words, for though at the time I could understand them, yet you certainly would not if I wrote them down. One day I had gone forward, and when seated on the forecastle, under the shade of the fore-staysail, I listened to his narrative. "Ah! Massa Pringle, my country very good," he began. He always called me Pringle, for he could not manage to pronounce my surname. "Plenty yams there— plenty denge—plenty corn—plenty sheep—tall trees—high mountains— water come gushing out of rocks up among clouds—so cool with foam—loud roar—make grass grow—bright ponds—many animals come and drink. Ah! no country like mine. My father have good house too—very warm—very cool—no rain come in—all built round square—high roof, hang long way over wall—room for walk up and down under it. Dere we all sit in middle of square, listen to stories—now we laugh, now we cry—sun go down, moon get up—star twinkle in dark sky, all so bright—still we talk—talk on—tell long stories—so happy—laugh still more. Ah! what is dat? Dreadful shriek—shriek—shriek—guns fire—we all start up— some run one way, some anoder—house on fire—flames rise up—fierce men come in—cut down some—kill—kill—take women, children—many young men—some fight—dey all killed—my father killed—mother, brother, and me all carried away together—hands tied behind our backs—hundreds— hundreds poor people, all drive away towards coast—then with long sticks and whips drive along—walk, walk—foot so sore—sleep at night under tree—all chained—up again before sun—walk, walk on all day— cruel men beat us—some grow sick. My brother, him grow sick—lie down under tree—men beat him with stick—he look up—say, Oh, no beat me— give one sigh, fall back and die. Dere he stay—many die like him—some lie down, and men beat him up again. On we go—see at last blue ocean— put into Barracoon—all chained to iron bar—no move one side nor oder— wait dere many days. Ship with white sail come at last—we all put on raft—carried to ship. Oh, how many—more, more come—ship no hold them—many sick—many die—thrown overboard—shark eat them. On we sail—oh, how hot—more, more die—many days no more—float on water like one log—den you come—white man, Spaniard, say you kill us—ah, no, no—you very good—we very happy—yes, massa, Peter Pongo very happy now." Such was Peter's brief account of himself. You will not consider it too much of a rigmarole. I was, I know, much interested when he told it me, and I had some little difficulty in making out what he meant. Soon after this we entered the magnificent harbour of Rio de Janeiro, which looks like a lake surrounded by lofty hills, the curious sugar-loaf rising above all. I have heard it said that it would contain all the ships in the world; but, large as it is, I have an idea that they would be very close packed if they were all brought together there. The city is large, built on level ground, or rather on a swamp, with mountains covered with trees rising directly behind it. There are numerous churches and fine palaces, and many large public buildings, but the white inhabitants are very brown and dirty, and the black, who seem to be very numerous, wear a remarkably small amount of clothing. Though the greater number are slaves, they are very merry slaves, and it was amusing to see one party meet another. They would stop, pull off their straw hats, make a series of mock polite bows, and some remarks which were sure to produce roars of laughter; how they would twist and turn about, and at last lean against each other's backs, that they might more at their ease indulge in fresh cachinnations. I have never seen any but blacks twist themselves into such curious attitudes. I cannot give a more lucid account of this imperial city, because I was so very little on shore. We had a great deal of work in getting the schooner refitted. All the poor blacks were taken on board the frigate, for we could not trust them on shore lest the Brazilians might have spirited them away, while the schooner was thoroughly cleansed and fumigated. We then took in an ample supply of water and provisions, and prepared to recross the Atlantic. The Brazilians could not understand why we took so much trouble about a few miserable blacks, and thought that we should have done much more wisely had we sold them to them at half-price. Mr Talbot had still charge of the prize, and having Sommers as his lieutenant, with Dickey Snookes and me, he was ordered to carry her back to Sierra Leone. We flattered ourselves that both My Lord and Polly looked at us with a considerable amount of envy as we wished them farewell.
STORY ONE, CHAPTER 6.
Once more we were at sea. Had it not been for the honour of the thing, we should have preferred being on board the frigate, for although I have a great respect for many Africans, I must say that it is not agreeable to have some hundreds of them as shipmates. We had happily very fine weather, and the poor people were able constantly to take the air on deck. They seemed to have forgotten all their sufferings and miseries, and would sing and dance and tell stories, and laugh all day long. I still continued to take Peter Pongo in hand, and began to teach him not only to speak but to read and write English. Snookes used to laugh at me at first, but when he saw the progress Peter made he wanted to teach him likewise. To this I said No, he might try and teach some one else, but he was not to interfere with my pupil. He agreed to this, but either he selected a stupid subject, or his mode of teaching was not good, for he made wonderfully little progress. For a week he was trying to teach his pupil Tommy Toad, as he called him, three letters of the alphabet, and at the end of the time he could not tell B from C. Mr Talbot took care also that we should not be idle, and kept us knotting and splicing and doing all sorts of work aloft. We were approaching our port, and were congratulating ourselves on having made a favourable passage, when two of our men were taken sick, then another and another, till our strength was sadly reduced. One poor fellow died, and there appeared every prospect of our losing more. The negroes were generally ready enough to work, but as they did not know how, they were of little use. Mr Talbot and Sommers worked away most heroically, attending to the sick, pulling and hauling, and often steering the vessel. Dickey and I did our best to help them. While the fine weather lasted our difficulties were not very great; at the same time, we were so short handed that the labour fell heavily on those who remained well. Dickey and I, though not very big or strong, from going constantly aloft, were of no little use, we flattered ourselves. One evening as we were approaching our destination, being closed hauled under all sail and standing on our course—Sommers was at the helm, Mr Talbot was below, and Dickey and I with two men were on deck, all we could muster for the watch—Sommers kept looking anxiously round the horizon, especially to the southward, where I observed some dark clouds banking up. As I watched them, they seemed suddenly to take it into their heads to roll rapidly onward, and down they bore upon us like a flock of sheep scouring over the downs. "All hands shorten sail," shouted Sommers. "Stafford. Rushforth, aloft lads, and furl the fore-topgallantsail." Up we sprang into the rigging. As yet the breeze was very light, and there was no difficulty in what we had to do, but a few minutes' delay might make the task impracticable. Dickey was spirited enough in reality. We lay along on the yard, and had begun to haul the sail, when, as I was stretching over to get a hold of the canvas to gather it up, I lost my balance, and over I went head first. I heard a shriek. It was from Dickey. He thought I should be killed. So should I, if I had had time to think about the matter; but providentially at that moment a sudden puff of wind bulged out the foretopsail to its utmost extent, and I striking it at the moment, away it sent me, as from a catapult, right over the bows, clear of the vessel. Had I struck the deck or bulwarks I should have been killed. I sank, but quickly coming to the surface, looked about me with very little hope of being saved, for there was the schooner flying on before the fast-increasing gale; and as I knew full well, with so few seamen on board, that it would take some time to put about to come to my relief. All this flashed rapidly through my mind. Farther and farther away flew the schooner, still I determined not to give in. I could swim pretty well, and I managed to throw off my jacket and kick off my shoes, and as only a thin pair of trousers and a shirt remained, I had no difficulty in keeping myself above water; but the knowledge that sharks abounded in those seas, and that any moment one of those horrid monsters might catch hold of my leg and haul me down, gave me very unpleasant sensations. I watched the receding vessel—moments seemed hours. There was no sign of her putting about. I at length was about to give way to despair, when my eye fell on an object floating between her and me. It was of some size—a grating I concluded—and I made out a black ball on the other side of it. The grating was moving towards me. I struck out to make it, and then I saw that it was pushed by a negro. "Keep up, Massa Pringle, keep up," said a voice in a cheery tone, which I recognised as that of Peter Pongo. My spirits returned. I had been a careless, thoughtless fellow, but I prayed then as I never prayed before, that the dreadful sharks might be kept from me, that I might reach the grating, and might by some means or other be saved. I felt a strength and courage I had not felt before. I struck out with all my power, still it seemed very very long before I reached the grating, and in my agitation I almost sank as I was catching hold of it. Peter Pongo had, however, sprang on to it and caught hold of me. I soon recovered. Words enough did not just then come into my head to thank him, but I took his hand, and he understood me. So far I was safe, for the grating was large enough to hold us both, but the sea was rapidly rising, and we might easily again be washed off. We looked about us, the schooner had not yet tacked, and the squall had already caught her. She was heeling over on her beam-ends, and everything seemed in confusion on board—yards swinging about, ropes flying away, and sails shivering to tatters. It was late in the evening, the sky was obscured, and darkness was coming on. The seas, too, began to dance wildly about us; their white tops, curling over and leaving dark cavern-looking hollows underneath, into which it seemed every instant that we must glide and be swallowed up. The prospect altogether was gloomy in the extreme. I felt how much I owed to poor Peter Pongo, who had voluntarily exposed himself to it for my sake, and I felt that had he not done so, I should long before this have been numbered with the dead. I still thought that we should both be saved. There were some bits of rope fastened to the grating, and by these we lashed ourselves to it, or we should inevitably have been washed off. We were constantly under water, but as it was warm that did not signify, as we soon again came to the surface. Our fear was lest some hungry shark should make a dart at us on those occasions and pick us off. Darker and darker it grew, the seas as they dashed wildly about made a loud prolonged roar, and at last, as we cast our eyes forward, not a glimpse of the schooner could we see. As the conviction of our forlorn condition broke upon me—I could not help it—I gave way to tears. I could not wring my hands because they were busy holding on to the grating. I thought of you, mother, and papa, and dear Harry, and our sisters, and that I should never see you any more; or old England, or the Hall, or Uncle Tom, or any of my friends. Peter wasn't so unhappy, because he had no friends remaining, and his native village was in ruins. The darkness came thicker and thicker down upon us. Nothing could we see but the dark waves rising up on every side against the sky. Not a star was visible. We no longer, indeed, knew in which direction to look for the schooner. It appeared, I remember exactly, as if we were being tossed about inside a black ball. I could not calculate how long a time had passed since I had fallen overboard, when I began to feel very hungry. I had had a bit of biscuit in my pocket, but that had been lost with my jacket, and now I had nothing to eat. I bore it for some time, and then I felt very faint, and thought that I could not possibly hold on any longer. Still I did my best not to let go, and every now and then Peter spoke to me and encouraged me, "Neber fear, massa," said he. "Him you tell me of, live up in sky, Him watch over us." We did not speak much, however; we could not, I do not know why. Oh, that was a dreary, awful night, not likely to be forgotten! Yet here I am alive. I shall never despair after that, and shall always feel, in however terrible a position I am placed, that a merciful God is watching over me, and that He will find means to save me.
STORY ONE, CHAPTER 7.
CAUSE FOR GRATITUDE.
The longest night must come to an end. Many people, when kept awake in a comfortable bed with the toothache or some other pain, or perhaps with a little fever, think themselves very miserable, and much to be pitied. Peter Pongo and I were rather worse off, tossing about on the grating out on the Atlantic there, not having anything to eat, and not knowing any moment when we might be washed away from our unsteady raft. How we held on during all that night I cannot tell. The light came at last. We knew where the east was by seeing a bright red streak in the sky. We kept our eyes turned eagerly in that direction, for we fancied that there we should see the schooner. Our view, however, was very much circumscribed, and it was only as we were tossed up to the top of a sea that we could obtain even a glimpse of the horizon. We had scarcely time to assure ourselves whether or not there was a sail there before either a foam-topped sea jumped up before us, or we sank down again into the trough. We gazed, but we gazed in vain. No sail was to be seen. In spite of our almost hopeless position we became very hungry, and, what was worse, thirsty also. As the sun rose and struck down on our heads my thirst increased. I felt certain that I could not hold on much longer. Peter Pongo did not care so much about the hot sun, but he was very hungry. Suddenly I saw some red objects floating near us in the water. I looked again. Oh, how eager I felt to get them—they were oranges. They were too far off to reach. I was afraid to quit the grating. I had no strength left to swim. No sooner did Peter see them than he slid off the raft, and swimming round them collected a dozen or more before him, and pushing them on enabled me to pick them out of the water. I felt greatly relieved when he was once more safe on the grating. Oh, how delicious those oranges were! They were the means, I doubt not, of preserving our lives. They quenched our thirst, but they could not stop the pangs of hunger. The sun rose higher and higher, till we guessed it was noon. The wind went down, but the sea still continued to tumble us about most uncomfortably. Both of us were becoming very drowsy when we started up—a loud shout sounded in our ears. "Why, lads, you keep a bad look-out on board your craft," said a voice. We looked up—a large ship was passing us. "Don't fear—we'll pick you up," said the former speaker. I heard the cry of "helm's alee!" The yards swung round, and the ship was rounded too. By that time she seemed to have got a long way from us. Presently, however, we saw a boat dashing among the seas towards us. I thought that her bow would have come right down on our raft, but just then I felt a strong arm grasp me by the shoulder, and haul me in, while Peter was treated in the same way, and we were quickly alongside the ship. We were lifted on board. She appeared full of people, who looked very kindly at us. At first I could not speak a word; I did not know why. I thought that I was going to say something, but no sound was produced. The people who stood round remarked that I was a foreigner, and two or three people came up and addressed me in strange languages, but of course I was not more likely to answer them than I was my own countrymen. At last I heard Peter Pongo, who had been much concerned at my silence, say, "Him officer—speakie by and by." This remark seemed to satisfy those present, and in about an hour I was able to sit up and explain what had happened. I found that we had been rescued by an emigrant ship bound for the Cape of Good Hope. I was in hope that she might be able to land us at Sierra Leone, but I found that she could not possibly go out of her course; indeed, that we were much to the southward of that place, and that on to the Cape we also must go. In a very few minutes I became, I must own, reconciled to the necessity. When the cabin passengers found that I was a midshipman they rigged me out in very comfortable clothes, and clubbing together presented me with a sum of money, as they said, to enable me to live comfortably, till I could find my way back to my ship. When, also, they heard how gallantly Peter Pongo had rescued me, they gave him a handsome present. He could scarcely comprehend his good fortune, and as he looked at the money he evidently thought himself the owner of boundless wealth. I had the best of everything at the chief cabin table, and could not help thinking how pleasant it would be to live the life of a passenger on board an emigrant ship all the year round. I was therefore very much surprised to hear some of them grumbling from morning to night, complaining of having nothing to do, and wishing that the voyage was over. If they had lived in a midshipman's berth for a few months, I rather suspect that they would have thought themselves well off. I need not describe our passage to the Cape; it was a very pleasant one. I was very happy during the short time I remained at that curious old Dutch place, Cape Town. I saw the table-mountain and the tablecloth on the top of it, and then a sloop of war called there, and the commodore, who was there, ordered me and Peter Pongo a passage back to Sierra Leone. I was never idle, for I found ample employment in teaching Peter to read, and wonderful was the progress he made. He was a great favourite on board the corvette on account of his intelligence and amiable manners, and the gallant way in which he had preserved my life. On entering the harbour of Sierra Leone, there, to my great satisfaction, lay our schooner, with the pennant flying at her masthead, and the British ensign at her peak. I got a boat from the corvette, and at once pulled on board. I could see at a glance that the schooner had been turned into a man-of-war. She had been bought, as I afterwards found, into the service. I was in plain clothes, and Peter Pongo who accompanied me, was very nicely dressed, and no one would have recognised him as the little slave boy he had before appeared. Dickey Snookes looked over the side. I sprang up the side. "What do you want?" he asked. "To see that very important personage, Mr Algernon Godolphin Stafford, commonly known as Dickey Snookes," I answered, taking his hand. He started, and looked at me very hard, really gasping for breath, so astonished was he. "What! is it you yourself, Rushforth, my dear fellow?" he exclaimed. "I am indeed glad. We thought you were lost; gobbled up by a shark, or sunk to the bottom of the sea. Here, Sommers—here's Rushforth come to life again, and the black boy too." Sommers, who was below, came on deck, and received me most cordially. Mr Talbot, who had command of the schooner, now called the Liberia, was on shore. She was to sail, I found, the very next day for Rio Janeiro, to act as a tender to our ship. I consulted with Sommers what would be most to the advantage of Peter Pongo to do. He strongly advised his going to the college at Sierra Leone, where he would receive a very good education, and he undertook to arrange the matter. I had still the greater part of the money given me by the passengers of the emigrant ship, which I had kept for the purpose of devoting it to Peter's use. This, with what he had of his own, would enable him to make a fair start in life. Peter himself, though very sorry to leave me, was much pleased with the proposal. That very afternoon he and I accompanied Sommers on shore, when the whole matter was arranged in a very satisfactory way with some of the gentlemen connected with the college, who undertook to invest the sum I have mentioned for Peter's benefit. Peter burst into tears as I wished him good-bye, and I felt a very curious sensation about the throat. The next day we sailed for Rio.
STORY ONE, CHAPTER 8.
We had a fast run across the Atlantic. The news of my supposed loss had reached the frigate, and the kind way in which my uncle and the gun-room officers, as well as my messmates, received me, showed me that I had been regretted—of course a midshipman cannot expect to create any very great sorrow when he loses the number of his mess, as an admiral or a post-captain would. I did not meet with any other very extraordinary adventures during the remainder of the four years the frigate was in commission. I found the South American station a very pleasant one. I might have found Rio dull, but that I was constantly sent away in the Liberia, which did good service by capturing several slavers. We used to make her look like what she formerly was, and in that way she acted as a decoy, and entrapped several slavers who approached her without suspicion. We had one long trip round Cape Horn, and visited the coast of Chili and Peru. That was the most interesting we took. I feel that I have a right to be considered something of a sailor after having doubled Cape Horn, and crossed and re-crossed the Line. At length the frigate was ordered home; the schooner remained at Rio to do duty as before as a tender. On our way we touched at Sierra Leone. My uncle gave me leave to go on shore. I hurried off to the college, for I was anxious to hear something of my old friend and the preserver of my life. Three years had passed since I had seen him. He was then little more than fourteen. I was shown into a room where several pupil teachers were engaged in giving instruction to a number of young lads and boys. One teacher was evidently taking the lead of the rest. In very eloquent language he was explaining the truths of Christianity to a class of most attentive listeners. Though the skin of the speaker was black, the voice was that of an educated Englishman. I waited till he had ceased speaking. There is Mr Pongo, said the person who had conducted me to the room. His eye brightened as he saw me, and in an instant springing from his desk his hands were warmly pressed in mine. What immense progress he has made! how little I have advanced since we parted! I thought as I looked at him and heard him describe his work. I felt humbled and ashamed of myself. I thought over the matter, and resolved in future to employ my time, as far as I had the power, to the advantage of myself as well as that of others. Pongo came on board the frigate, and was received most kindly by my uncle and all the officers. He was, I found, training to become a missionary of the Gospel among his countrymen, and hoped ultimately to be ordained. I have since frequently heard from him. We spent only three days at Sierra Leone, and arrived at last safely in old England, and thus ended my first cruise.
STORY TWO, CHAPTER 1.
THE TRAVELLING TIN-MAN, FOUNDED ON FACT, BY MISS LESLIE.
Micajah Warner was owner and cultivator of a small farm in one of the oldest, most fertile, and most beautiful counties of the State of Pennsylvania, not far from Maryland line. Micajah was a plain Quaker, and a man of quiet and primitive habits. He was totally devoid of all ambitious cravings after tracts of ten thousand acres, and he aspired not to the honour and glory of having his name given to a town in the western wilderness (though Warnerville would not have sounded badly), neither was he possessed of an unconquerable desire of becoming a judge, or of going to Congress. Therefore, he had always been able to resist the persuasions and example of those of his neighbours who left the home of their fathers, and the comforts of an old settlement, to seek a less tedious road to wealth and consequence, on the other side of the Allegany. He was satisfied with the possession of two hundred acres, one half of which he had lent (not given) to his son Israel, who expected shortly to be married to a very pretty and notable young woman in the neighbourhood, who was, however, no heiress. Upon this event, Israel was to be established in an old frame-house that had long since been abandoned by his father in favour of the substantial stone dwelling which the family occupied at the period of our story. The house had been taken up and transplanted to that part of the farm now allotted to Israel, and he very prudently deferred repairing it till he saw whether it survived its progress across the domain. But as it did not fall asunder during the journey, it was judged worthy of a new front-door, new window-panes, and new shingles to cover the vast chasms of the roof, all which improvements were made by Israel's own hands. This house was deposited in the vicinity of the upper branch of the creek, and conveniently near to a saw-mill, which had been built by Israel in person.
Like all of her sect, whether in town or country, Bulah, the wife of Micajah Warner, was a woman of even temper, untiring industry, and great skill in housewifery.
Her daughters, commonly called Amy and Orphy, were neat pretty little Quaker girls, extremely alert, and accustomed from their earliest childhood to assist in the work of the house. As her daughters were so handy and industrious, and only went half the year to school, Mrs Warner did not think it necessary to keep any other help than an indentured negro girl, named Chloe.
Except the marriage of Israel, which was now in prospect; a flood in the neighbouring creek, which had raised the water so high as to wash away the brick oven from the side of the house; a tornado that carried off the roof of the old stable, and landed it whole in an adjoining clover field; and a visit from a family of beggars (an extraordinary phenomenon in the country), nothing occurred among the Warners for a long succession of years that had occasioned more than a month's talk of the mother, and a month's listening of the children.
"They kept the noiseless tenor of their way."
The occupations of Israel and his father (assisted occasionally by a few hired men) were, of course, those of the farm, except when Israel took a day now and then to attend to his saw-mill. With regard to domestic arrangements, everything connected with household affairs went on in the same course year after year except that, as the daughters of the family improved in capability of work, Chloe the black girl, retrograded. They washed on Monday (with the assistance of a woman, hired for the day), ironed on Tuesday, performed what they called "the little baking" on Wednesday, and "the big baking" on Friday; cleaned the house on Saturday, and clear-starched their book-muslin collars; rode on horseback to Friends' meeting on Sunday morning, and visited their neighbours on Sunday afternoon.
It was the day after the one on which Israel and his bride-elect had passed meeting, and consequently, a month before the one fixed for the wedding, that something like an adventure fell among the Warner family.
It was a beautiful evening at the close of August. The father and son had been all day in the meadows, mowing the second crop of grass; Mrs Warner was darning stockings in the porch, with her two daughters knitting on the bench beside her; Amy being then fourteen, and Orphy about twelve. Chloe was absent, having been borrowed by a relation, about five miles off, to do the general work of the house, while the family were engaged in preparing for a quilting frolic.
"Come, girls," said Mrs Warner to her daughter, "it's just sun-down. The geese are coming home, and daddy and Israel will soon be here. Amy, do thee go down to the spring-house, and bring up the milk and butter, and Orphy, thee can set the table."
The two girls put up their knitting (not, however, till they had knit to the middle of the needle), and in a short time, Amy was seen coming back from the spring-house, with a large pitcher of milk and a plate of butter. In the meantime, Orphy had drawn out the ponderous claw-footed walnut table that stood all summer in the porch, and spreading over it a brown linen cloth, placed in regular order their everyday supper equipage of pewter plates, earthen porringers, and iron spoons.
The viands consisted of an immense round loaf of bread, nearly as large as a grindstone, and made of wheat and Indian meal, the half of a huge cheese, a piece of cold pork, a peach pie, an apple pie, and, as it had been baking day, there was the customary addition of a rice pudding, in an earthen pan of stupendous size. The last finish of the decorations of the table was a large bowl of cool water, placed near the seat occupied by the father of the family, who never could begin any of his meals without a copious draught of the pure element.
In a few minutes, the farmer and his son made their appearance as they turned the angle of the peach-orchard fence, preceded by the geese, their usual avant-couriers, who went out every morning to feed in an old field beyond the meadows.
As soon as Micajah and Israel had hung up their scythes and washed themselves at the pump, they sat down to table, the farmer in his own blue-painted, high-backed, high-armed chair, and Israel taking the seat always allotted to him—a low chair, the rushes of which having long since deserted the bottom, had been replaced by cross pieces of cloth listing, ingeniously interwoven with each other; and this being, according to the general opinion, the worst seat in the house, always fell to the share of the young man, who was usually passive on all occasions, and never seemed to consider himself entitled to the same accommodation as the rest of the family.
Suddenly, the shrill blast of a tin trumpet resounded through the woods, that covered the hill in front of the house, to the great disturbance of the geese, who had settled themselves quietly for the night in their usual bivouac around the ruins of an old waggon. The Warners ceased their supper to listen and look; and they saw emerging from the woods, and rolling down the hill at a brisk trot, the cart of one of those itinerant tin merchants, who originate in New England, and travel from one end of the Union to the other, avoiding the cities, and seeking customers amongst the country people; who, besides buying their ware, always invite them to a meal and a bed.
The tinman came blowing his horn to the steps of the porch, and there stopping his cart, addressed the farmer's wife in the true nasal twang that characterises the lower class of New Englanders, and inquired "if she had any notion of a bargain."
She replied that "she believed she had no occasion for anything"—her customary answer to all such questions.
But Israel, who looked into futurity, and entertained views towards his own housekeeping, stepped forward to the tin-cart, and began to take down and examine various mugs, pans, kettles, and coffee-pots—the latter particularly, as he had a passion for coffee, which he secretly determined to indulge both morning and evening, as soon as he was settled in his domicile.
"Mother," said Amy, "I do wish thee would buy a new coffee-pot, for ours has been leaking all summer, and I have to stop it every morning with rye-meal. Thee knows we can give the old one to Israel."
"To be sure," replied Mrs Warner, "it will do well enough for young beginners. But I cannot say I feel quite free to buy a new coffee-pot at this time. I must consider about it."
"And there's the cullender," said Orphy, "it has such a big crack at the bottom, that when I am smashing the squashes for dinner, not only the water, but the squashes themselves drip through. Better give it to Israel, and get a new one for ourselves. What's this?" she continued, taking up a tin water-dipper.
"That is for dipping warter out of the bucket," replied the tinman.
"Oh, yes," cried Amy, "I've seen such a one at Rachel Johnson's. What a clever thing it is, with a good long handle, so that there's no danger of splashing the water on our clothes. Do buy it, mother. Thee knows that Israel can have the big calabash: I patched it myself, yesterday, where it was broken, and bound the edge with new tape, and it's now as good as ever."
"I don't know," said the farmer, "that we want anything but a new lantern; for ours had the socket burnt out long before these moonlight nights, and it's dangerous work taking a candle into the stable."
The tinman knowing that our plain old farmers, though extremely liberal of everything that is produced on their plantations, are, frequently, very tenacious of coin, and much averse to parting with actual money, recommended his wares more on account of their cheapness than their goodness; and, in fact, the price of most of the articles was two or three cents lower than they could be purchased for at the stores.
Old Micajah thought there was no actual necessity for anything except the lantern; but his daughters were so importunate for the coffee-pot, the cullender, and the water-dipper, that finally all three were purchased and paid for. The tinman in vain endeavoured to prevail on Mrs Warner to buy some patty-pans, which the girls looked at with longing eyes; and he reminded them how pretty the pumpkin pies would look at their next quilting, baked in scollop-edged tins. But this purchase was peremptorily refused by the good Quaker woman, alleging that scollop-edged pies were all pride and vanity, and that, if properly made, they were quite good enough baked in round plates.
The travelling merchant then produced divers boxes and phials of quack medicines, prepared at a celebrated manufactory of those articles, and duly sealed with the maker's own seal, and inscribed with his name in his own handwriting. Amongst these, he said, "there were certain cures for every complaint in natur'—draps for the agur, the toothache, and the rhumatiz; salves for ringworms, corns, frostbitten heels, and sore eyes; and pills for consumption and fall fevers; beside that most valuable of all physic, Swain's Wormifuge."
The young people exclaimed with one accord against the purchase of any of the medicines; and business being over, the tinman was invited by the farmer to sit down and take his supper with the family—an invitation as freely accepted as given.
The twilight was now closing, but the full moon had risen, and afforded sufficient light for the supper table in the porch. The tinman took a seat, and before Mrs Warner had finished her usual invitation to strangers, of—"reach to, and help thyself; we are poor hands at inviting, but thee's welcome to it, such as it is"—he had already cut himself a huge piece of the cold pork, and an enormous slice of bread. He next poured out a porringer of milk, to which he afterwards added one-third of the peach pie, and several platesful of rice pudding. He then said, "I suppose you haven't got no cider about the house;" and Israel, at his father's request, immediately brought up a pitcher of that liquor from the cellar.
During supper the tinman entertained his entertainers with anecdotes of the roguery of his own countrymen, or rather, as he called them, his "statesmen." In his opinion of their general dishonesty, Mrs Warner most cordially joined. She related a story of an itinerant Yankee who persuaded her to empty some of her pillows and bolsters, under colour of exchanging with him old feathers for new; a thing which she acknowledged had puzzled her not a little, as she thought it strange that any man should bargain so badly for himself. He produced from his cart a bag of feathers which he declared were quite new; but after his departure she found that he had given her such short measure that she had not half enough to fill her ticking, and most of the feathers were proved, upon examination, to have belonged to chickens rather than to geese—nearly a whole cock's tail having been found amongst them.
The farmer pointed into the open door of the house, and showed the tinman a large wooden clock put up without a case between two windows, the pendulum and the weights being "exposed and bare." This clock he had bought for ten dollars of a travelling Yankee, who had set out to supply the country with machines. It had only kept tolerable time for about two months, and had ever since been getting faster and faster, though it was still faithfully wound up every week. The hands were now going merrily round at the rate of ten miles an hour, and it never struck less than twelve.