THE LIEUTENANT AND COMMANDER;
BEING AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES OF HIS OWN CAREER,
FRAGMENTS OF VOYAGES AND TRAVELS BY CAPTAIN BASIL HALL, R.N., F.R.S.
LONDON: BELL AND DALDY, 186, FLEET STREET, AND SAMPSON LOW, SON, AND CO. 47, LUDGATE HILL. 1862.
The present volume is rather a condensation than an abridgment of the later volumes of Captain Hall's "Fragments of Voyages and Travels," inasmuch as it comprises all the chapters of the second and third series, only slightly abbreviated, in which the author describes the various duties of the naval lieutenant and commander, the personal narrative being the framework, and his own experience in both capacities providing the details.
The editor has no hesitation in stating, after the careful perusal and analysis he has necessarily made of this work, and that, with a tolerably extensive knowledge of books, he knows of none which may, with more propriety, be placed in the hands of young men, whatever may be their destination in life; but more especially are they adapted for the use of young officers and all aspirants to a seaman's life. The personal narrative, slight though it is, renders it very amusing, and every point the author makes inculcates a rigorous attention to "duty" duly tempered with discretion and humanity in commanding officers.
Taking a line in the service—Duty of officers—The dashing boys—Dashing boys ashore—Philosophers afloat—Naval statesmen—Scientific officers—Hard-working officers—Poetical aspirants—Taking a line
A sailor on shore—Irish hospitality—A sailor ashore—Irish factions—Irish scenery—Land-locked bay—Reflections and plans—An awkward dilemma—A retreat—A country party—A medical experiment—My reception
Tricks upon travellers—Irish refinement—A wise resolve—After dinner—The second bottle—One bottle more—Second thoughts best—The game of humbug—The climax—You're off, are you?—A practical bull—Irish hospitality
The Admiralty List—Chances of promotion—The Admiral's list—My own disappointment—A good start—Homeward bound—A spell of bad weather
The tropical regions at sea—Sir Nathaniel Dance—The old Indian ships—Social life at sea—Details of the voyage—The Canary Islands—The Trade-winds—Changes of climate—The variable winds—North-east Trades—Our limited knowledge—The great monsoons
The Trade-winds—The monsoons—Theory of the Trade-winds—Explanations—Tropical winds—Motion of cold air—Direction of clouds—Equatorial Trades—Calms and variables—South-east Trades—Application of theories—Atlantic winds—Monsoons of India—Trade-winds of the pacific—Monsoons of Indian seas—Velocity of equatorial air—Obstructions of the land—Horsburg's remarks—Dampier's essay
Progress of the voyage—Cape of Good Hope—Ships' decks in the tropics—Sweeping the decks—Marine shower-bath—Flying-fish—A calm—Ships in a calm—A tropical shower—Washing-day—Comforts of fresh water
Aquatic sports—Weather wisdom—An equatorial squall—Flying-fish—A chase—The dolphin—Capture—Porpoises—Harpooning—The bonito—Dolphin steaks—Porpoise steaks—The albatross—Shark-fishing—A shark-hook—Habits of sharks—Seizing its prey—Flying at the bait—The shark captured—Killing the shark—The buffalo skin—A narrow escape
A man overboard—Crossing the line—Duty of officers—Rival Neptunes—A boy overboard—Affecting incident—A true-hearted sailor—Bathing at sea—A well-timed action—Swimming—A necessary acquisition—A man overboard—What should be done, and how to do it—Effects of precipitancy—Life-buoy—Regulations for emergencies—Managing the ship with a man overboard—Stationing the crew—Directing the boats
Sunday on board a man-of-war—Mustering by divisions—The fourth commandment—Short services recommended—Order for rigging—Scrubbing and sweeping—Sunday muster—Jack's dandyism—Jack brought up with a round turn—Mustering at divisions—Inspection—The marines—Round the decks—The sick-bay—Lower deck—Below—Cockpit—The gun-room—Quarter deck
The ship church—Rigging the church—Short services recommended—Short sermons recommended—Religious duties necessary to discipline—Church service interrupted—The day of rest
Naval ratings and sea pay—Mustering clothes—Between decks on Sunday—Piping to supper—Mustering by lists—A seaman disrated and rerated—Ratings of seamen—Tendency to do right—Examining stores—Captain's duties—Clothes' muster—Responsibility—A sailor's kit—A sailor's habits—Mizen-top dandies—Hammocks—Piping the bags down—Pressing emigrants—A Scotchman's kit—Improved clothes' muster
Sailors' pets—Purchasing a monkey—Jacko's attractions—Gets monkey's allowance—Jacko and the marines—Jacko's revenge—Jacko turns on his friend—Spills the grog—Is pursued, but is pardoned—Condemned to die—Commuted to teeth-drawing—Surgeon's assistant appealed to—He can't bite—The travelled monkey—Trick on the marines—Its consequences—A potent dose—Its operations—Jack's superstitions—The grunter pet—Jean's advocate—Her good qualities—Jean's obesity, and its attractions—Her death and burial—Well ballasted
Doubling the Cape—Southern constellations—Intelligent chief officer—Sailors and their friends—Parting company—The cape—Simon's town—A fresh breeze—Rising to a gale—All hands shorten sail—Value of experience to an officer—Taking in reefs—Taking in mainsail—Heaving the log—Before the gale—Effects of a gale—Value of a chronometer proved by the want of one—Awful catastrophe
Suggestions towards diminishing the number and severity of Naval punishments—Corporal punishment—The author's own case—An old shipmate—Admiralty regulations—Appeal to officers to avoid precipitation—Dangers of precipitation—Instance of its dangers—A considerate captain—A case for pardon—An obdurate officer—Pardon granted—Retrieving of character
Bombay—First glimpse of India—Bombay and its scenery
Sir Samuel Hood—Naval promotion—Hopes and their disappointment—An ant-hunt—The Admiral's triumph over the engineers
Excursion to Candelay lake in Ceylon—Starting of the expedition—Pearl-divers—A strange tunnel—Hindoo bathing—An amusing exhibition—A tropical forest—A night scene—An alarm—A supper—A midnight burial—Cingalese game—Lake Candelay and its embankment
Griffins in India—Sinbad's valley of diamonds—A mosquito-hunt—Deep anchorage—Local names—Valley of diamonds—Ceylon gems
Ceylonese canoes—Peruvian balsas—The floating windlass of the Coromandel fishermen—American pilot-boats—Balsas of Peru—Man-of-war boats—Ceylonese canoes—Canoe mast and sails—Local contrivances—Construction of the balsa—Management of the sail—Indian method of weighing anchor—A floating windlass—Failure of the attempt—The Admiral's remarks—An interesting feat of mechanical ingenuity
The surf at Madras—Sound of the waves—Masullah boats—Construction of the boats—Crossing the surf—Steering the boat—How a capsize in the surf occurs—Catamarans of the surf—Perseverance of the messenger
Visit to the Sultan of Pontiana, in Borneo—Sir Samuel Hood—Borneo—A floating grove—Pontiana—Chinese in Borneo—The sultan and his audience room—Interior of the palace—The autograph—Anecdote of Sir S. Hood—Getting out of the trap—Sir S. Hood at the Nile—The Zealous and Goliath—Captain Walcott's disinterestedness—Sir S. Hood's kindness
Commissioning a ship—Receiving-hulk—Marines and gunners—Choice of sailors—The ship's company—Choice of officers—Stowing the ballast—Importance of obedience—Complement of men in ships of war—Shipping the crews—A Christmas feast afloat—A Christmas feast in Canton River—Self-devotion
Fitting out—Progress of rigging—The figure-head—Progressive rigging—The boats—Fitting out—Stowage of ships' stores—System requisite—Painting the ship—Policy of a good chief—Anecdote of Lord Nelson—Scrubbing the hulk—Leaving the harbour—Sailing
TAKING A LINE IN THE SERVICE.
That there is a tide in the affairs of men, has very naturally become a figure of frequent and almost hackneyed use in the cockpits, gun-rooms, and even the captains' cabins of our ships and vessels of war. Like its numerous brethren of common-places, it will be found, perhaps, but of small application to the real business of life; though it answers capitally to wind up a regular grumble at the unexpected success of some junior messmate possessed of higher interest or abilities, and helps to contrast the growler's own hard fate with the good luck of those about him. Still, the metaphor may have its grateful use; for certainly in the Navy, and I suppose elsewhere, there is a period in the early stages of every man's professional life at which it is necessary that he should, more or less decidedly, "take his line," in order best to profit by the tide when the flood begins to make. It is difficult to say exactly at what stage of a young officer's career the determination to adopt any one of the numerous lines before him should be taken: but there can be little doubt as to the utility of that determination being made early in life. In most cases, it is clearly beyond the reach of artificial systems of discipline, to place, on a pair of young shoulders, the reflecting head-piece of age and experience; neither, perhaps, would such an incongruity be desirable. But it seems quite within the compass of a conscientious and diligent commanding officer's power by every means to cultivate the taste, and strengthen the principles and the understanding of the persons committed to his charge. His endeavour should be, to train their thoughts in such a manner that, when the time for independent reflection and action arrives, their judgment and feelings may be ready to carry them forward in the right path; to teach them the habit, for instance, of discovering that, in practice, there is a positive, and generally a speedy pleasure and reward attendant on almost every exercise of self-denial. When that point is once firmly established in the minds of young men, it becomes less difficult to persuade them to relinquish whatever is merely agreeable at the moment, if it stand in the way of the sterner claims of duty.
Although the period must vary a good deal, I should be disposed to say, that, in general, a year or two after an officer is promoted to the rank of lieutenant, may be about the time when he ought fairly and finally to brace himself up to follow a particular line, and resolve, ever afterwards, manfully to persevere in it. His abilities being concentrated on some definite set of objects; his friends, both on shore and afloat, will be furnished with some tangible means of judging of his capacity. Without such knowledge, their patronage is likely to do themselves no credit, and their protege very little, if any, real service.
Some young fellows set out in their professional life by making themselves thorough-bred sailors; their hands are familiar with the tar-bucket; their fingers are cut across with the marks of the ropes they have been pulling and hauling; and their whole soul is wrapped up in the intricate science of cutting out sails, and of rigging masts and yards. Their dreams are of cringles and reef-tackles, of knots, splices, grummets, and dead-eyes. They can tell the length, to a fathom, of every rope in the boatswain's warrant, from the flying jib down-haul to the spanker-sheet; and the height of every spar, from the main-top-gallant truck to the heel of the lower mast. Their delight is in stowing the hold; dragging about kentlage is their joy; they are the very souls of the ship's company. In harbour they are eternally paddling in the boats, rowing, or sculling, or sailing about; they are always the first in fishing or bathing parties; in short, they are for ever at some sailor-kind of work. At sea, their darling music is the loud whistle of the hardest storm-stay-sail breeze, with an occasional accompaniment of a split main-topsail. "The harder it blows, and the faster she goes," the merrier are they; "strong gales and squally" is the item they love best to chalk on the log-board; and even when the oldest top-men begin to hesitate about lying out on the yard to gather in the flapping remnants of the torn canvas, these gallant youngsters glory in the opportunity of setting an example of what a gentleman sailor can perform. So at it they go, utterly reckless of consequences; and by sliding down the lift, or scrambling out, monkey fashion, to the yard-arm, where they sit laughing, though the spar be more than half sprung through, they accomplish their purpose of shaming the others into greater exertions. It is well known that one of the ablest, if not the very ablest, of the distinguished men whom the penetrating sagacity of Nelson discovered and brought forward, owed his first introduction to the notice of that wonderful commander by an exploit of this very description.
These are the dashing boys who cut out privateers, jump overboard after men who cannot swim, and who, when the ship is on fire, care not a farthing for the smoke and heat, but dive below with the engine-pipe in their hands, and either do good service, or perish in the flames with a jolly huzza on their lips. Such may fairly be called the muscular parts of our body nautical, for there is no gummy flesh about them; and when handled with skill, they form the stout instruments which help essentially to win such battles as the Nile and Trafalgar.
The young persons I have just been describing are, however, by no means servile imitators of the sailors; they possess much useful technical knowledge, as well as mere energy of character; and often both think and act with originality; yet they are docile to the last degree, and delight in nothing more than fulfilling, to the very letter, the orders of their superiors. They may amuse themselves, as youngsters, by affecting the gait, the dress, and the lingo of the man before the mast; and are at times supposed to be a little too familiar with these models, on whom they pretend to shape their manners; but still they never carry the joke so far as to become what is called "Jack and Tom," even with the leading men in the ship. They can sing, upon occasion, snatches of forecastle ditties, or fling off a hornpipe worthy of the merriest cracked fiddle that ever sounded under the bow of a drunken musician amongst a company, half-seas over, at the back of Point Beach. Not content with
"Their long-quartered shoes, check shirt, and blue jacket,"
they will even thrust a quid into their cheek, merely to gain the credit, such as it is, of "chewing backy like a sailor."
But there must be a limit to the indulgence of these fancies; and if even an elder midshipman or mate of the decks were permanently to distinguish himself after this masquerade fashion, he would speedily lose caste even with the crew. When a mid, for example, is promoted to lieutenant, he must speedily decide whether he shall follow up in earnest a course of strictly seaman-like objects, of which the mere outward show had previously captivated his young fancy; or he must enter into some compromise with himself, and relinquish a part of his exclusive regard for these pursuits, in consideration of others less fascinating, to be sure, but more likely to bear on his advancement; for, without some knowledge of many other things, his chance must be very small in the race of professional life.
In tolerably wide opposition of habits to these tarpaulin men follow the less dashing and showy race sometimes called "star-gazers," sometimes "dictionary-men," who are also occasionally taunted or dignified by their messmates with the title of "philosophers." The object of most of these young philosophisers is to get at the reason of all things, and to be able not only to work by the rules laid down for them in printed books, or in the written orders of their superiors; but to investigate the foundation of these rules and regulations so thoroughly, that when new cases occur, they may have it in their power to meet them by fresh resources of their own: according in spirit, with those which experience has shown to be conducive to the happiness of the crew and the efficiency of the service. Out of the class of officers now alluded to, the growth of which it has been the wise policy of late years to encourage, there have sprung up the numberless voyagers, surveyors, and other strictly nautical men, who are always to be found when the public service requires a practical question to be settled, or a professional office of responsibility and trust to be filled up. If the arctic circle is to be investigated by sea or by land, or the deserts of Africa traversed, or the world circumnavigated afresh, under the guidance of the modern improvements in navigation, the government at once calls upon such men as Parry, Franklin, Clapperton, Beechey, to whom they can safely entrust the task.
From the same class, also, a valuable race of naval statesmen have been drawn. For a considerable number of years, the whole of the diplomatic duties of South America, as far as concerned the interests of England, were carried on by the naval commanders-in-chief. Who can forget how important a share of Lord Nelson's command, or, after him, of Lord Collingwood's in the Mediterranean, consisted of duties of a purely civil description? And it may be questioned if diplomatic history offers a more masterly specimen of address and statesman-like decision, as well as forethought, than was displayed by Captain Maitland, in securing the person of Buonaparte, not only without committing himself or his government, but without wounding the feelings of the fallen emperor. The case was, and ever must remain, unique; and yet the most deliberate reflection, even after the event, has not suggested anything to wish changed. Fortunate, indeed, was it for the reputation of this country that the delicate task fell to the lot of an officer possessed of such inherent vigour of character, and one so familiar with the practical exercise of his own resources, that difficulties which might have staggered ordinary minds vanished before his.
In so extensive a service as the Navy, accident might perhaps occasionally produce such men as have been named above; but it is very material to observe, that unless there existed, as a permanent body, a large class in the Navy, who follow the pursuits alluded to from taste as well as from motives of public spirit, and from whose ranks selections can be made with confidence at moments of need, such opportunities as those above alluded to might often be allowed to pass unprofitably. It is, moreover, important to recollect, that it is in these matters as in everything else where there is a great demand, and consequently a great supply, there will from time to time start up a master spirit, such as that of my lamented friend, the late Captain Henry Foster, to claim, even in the very outset of his career, the cheerful homage of all the rest. So far from the profession envying his early success, or being disturbed at his pre-eminent renown, they felt that his well-earned honours only shed lustre on themselves.
It is also very pleasing to observe the reciprocal feeling which belongs on such occasions to all rightly constituted minds. When Captain Foster, in 1828, then only lieutenant, received the Copley medal, the highest scientific honour in the gift of the Royal Society, it never occurred to him merely to hang it at his breast in solitary dignity, or to chuckle presumptuously at his own particular good fortune. So far from this, he thought only of the service; and proceeding straight to the Admiralty, he showed the medal, and declared modestly, but firmly, to their lordships, that he considered the honour only nominally bestowed upon himself, but essentially conferred upon the naval profession at large. This generous and manly appeal could not fail to make its due impression; and within the same hour, his commission, as commander, was signed, his appointment to a ship ordered, and a voyage of scientific research carved out for him. But I need not add how bitter a grief it is to those who were personally acquainted with this rising young officer, to think that so much knowledge—such useful talents—such unmatched zeal and industry—and such true love for science—all so fertile in promises of future service and renown—should have been lamentably quenched in a moment.
Besides the regular-built sailors, and the saltwater statesmen and philosophers, there is yet another set which greatly outnumbers both, and which, if comparisons must be made, equals, if it does not far exceed them in utility. I allude to that large and very important body of strictly professional persons who are not remarkable for anything in particular, unless it be for a hearty and uncompromising devotion to the service. Captains, it is to be feared, are generally too apt to consider these meritorious persons as less entitled to attention than their more showy companions; just as schoolmasters are, not unnaturally, disposed to devote most of their time to the cleverest boys, to the comparative neglect of those who cluster round the point of mediocrity. It may, however, be easily conceived that the persons least attended to, afloat as well as on shore, often stand more in need of notice and assistance than their gifted brethren, who are better able to make their own consequence felt and acknowledged; for it must not be forgotten that these honest, hard-working men actually perform the greater part of all the routine drudgery of the service, and perhaps execute it better than men of higher talents could do in their place.
The class amongst us who devote themselves to sober literary pursuits is necessarily very small; but that of the happy youths, who dream the gods have made them poetical, has many members, who "rave, recite, and madden round the ship," to their own (exclusive) satisfaction. Others there are who deal desperately in the fine arts of painting and music,—that is, who draw out of perspective, and play out of tune: not that the ability to sketch the scenes and phenomena continually passing before them is objectionable; I allude here to the pretenders to art. Their poor messmates can have little respect for these pretending Rembrandts and Paganinis; and the happiness of the mess would be considerably improved if authority were given to pitch every such sketch-book and every flute out at the stern-port.
Finally come the raking, good-looking, shore-going, company-hunting, gallivanting, riff-raff set of reckless youths, who, having got rid of the entanglement of parents and guardians, and having no great restraint of principle or anything else to check them, seem to hold that his Majesty's service is merely a convenience for their especial use, and his Majesty's ships a sort of packet-boats to carry their elegant persons from port to port, in search of fresh conquests, and, as they suppose, fresh laurels to their country.
Few men do anything well which they do not like; for the same reason, if an officer be capable of performing services really valuable, his success must arise from turning his chief attention to those branches of the profession which he feels are the most congenial to his peculiar tastes, and which experience has shown lie within the range of his capacity. Some officers deliberately act upon this, while the greater number, as may be supposed, adopt their line unconsciously. Still, it is the bounden duty of every well-wisher to the service to use the influence he possesses to lead the young persons about him to follow the true bent of their genius, and to select as a principal object of study the particular branch of the profession in which they are most likely to benefit themselves permanently.
I well remember, in my own case, the day, and almost the very hour, when these convictions flashed upon my mind. I then saw, for the first time, that unless I speedily roused myself, and "took my line" vigorously, the proper occasion might swiftly pass away. I was quite astonished how, up to that moment, I had seen so little of what now appeared so very palpable; every other consideration was instantly dismissed, and all minor vanities being shaken off like dew-drops to the air, I set resolutely about the attainment of my promotion, the grand object of every officer's ambition. But before describing how this important affair was put in train, I shall attempt a sketch of the kind of life I was leading about this period. In looking back to those days, and glancing the mind's eye along the intermediate years, I sometimes ask myself whether or not I should act very differently if permitted to make the voyage over again, under the guidance of experience bought by the practice of life. The retrospect, of course, offers some unavailing regrets; but still I can hardly believe that the result would, on the whole, have proved materially happier for myself.
Such being the case, I trust there is no unpardonable egotism in mentioning, in a work intended for young people, that one of my chief motives for bringing these Fragments of my life and adventures before them, is the hope of imparting to others, similarly circumstanced, a portion of that spirit of cheerfulness, and that resolute determination to make the most of things, which, after thirty years of activity and enjoyment in foreign climes, have landed me in perfect contentment at home.
 All gone since our author wrote. Now it looks for Osbornes, Maclures, and other names as trustworthy.
A SAILOR ON SHORE.
It is a far easier thing to get into a house in Ireland than to get out of it again; for there is an attractive and retentive witchery about the hospitality of the natives of that country, which has no match, as far as I have seen, in the wide world. In other places the people are hospitable or kind to a stranger; but in Ireland the affair is reduced to a sort of science, and a web of attentions is flung round the visitor before he well knows where he is: so that if he be not a very cold-blooded or a very temperate man, it will cost him sundry headaches—and mayhap some touches of the heartache—before he wins his way back again to his wonted tranquillity.
I had not a single acquaintance in Ireland when first I visited that most interesting of countries: before leaving it, however, after about a year and a-half's cruising off and on their coasts, I was on pretty intimate terms with one family at least for every dozen miles, from Downpatrick on the east, to the Bloody Foreland on the west, a range of more than a hundred and twenty miles.
The way in which this was brought about is sufficiently characteristic of the country. I had inherited a taste for geology; and as the north of Ireland affords a fine field for the exercise of the hammer, I soon made myself acquainted with the Giant's Causeway, and the other wonders of that singular district. While engaged in these pursuits, I fell in with an eminent medical practitioner resident in that part of the country, a gentleman well known to the scientific world: he was still better known on the spot as the most benevolent and kindest of men. In no part of the globe have I made a more agreeable or useful acquaintance. During a residence of a week under the roof of this delightful person, he frequently urged me to make acquaintance with some friends of his, living also in the north of Ireland, but at the opposite angle. He was, in particular, desirous that I should see a family with whom he described himself as being very intimate, and who were then on a visit far in the west.
Influenced by the extreme earnestness of my worthy friend, who, indeed, would hardly let me stir from his house until I had promised to deliver, with my own hands, a letter of introduction to a lady alluded to, who, he assured me, would introduce me to the family with whom she was then living as a guest. I thought it rather an odd arrangement that a mere guest should introduce a stranger to another person's house: but I had already seen enough of the hearty hospitality of Ireland not to wonder at anything having a kind purpose in view. I therefore promised that, if at any time I could obtain leave of absence for a few days, the introductory letter should be delivered.
I did not discover, until long afterwards, the secret motive of my friend's anxiety that I should pay the visit in question, though, at the time alluded to, I was quite coxcomb enough to suppose that it all arose from personal consideration. It mattered little to me, however, to what the kindness was due; and, my leave having expired, I set off to the Endymion, of which I was then second lieutenant, with a firm resolution to avail myself of the first opportunity of visiting the persons to whom my excellent friend the doctor had given me an introduction. I had been so frequently absent before, that I expected to be fixed on board for a long time to come, and was therefore agreeably disappointed to discover that my brother-officers had formed so many pleasant acquaintances at Burncrana, a town on the banks of the magnificent Lough Swilly, that they were quite willing to remain on the spot, and to take upon their shoulders the extra duty which my renewed absence imposed upon them. I had only, therefore, to obtain the captain's permission for a fresh run. This was easily gained, for he was the most indulgent of mortals; and his only caution was, "Now, mind, don't you be falling in love with any of these Irish girls. It will be quite time enough for that when you are a post captain."
I promised to attend to his advice, and set out in the highest glee, wishing for no better sport than to try the firmness of my resolutions on this head, though, it must be confessed, I was fully more inclined to follow the precept enjoined upon me by another friend, who, by way of improving the captain's instruction, said,—
"Do take care what you are about when you mix with those fair and fascinating witches, and never hold yourself as heart-safe, unless you are in love with at least two of them at once!"
Off I went; but it matters not whether the course steered was to the east or to the west after leaving Londonderry: a letter of introduction in my pocket naturally determined my route; and, having hired a good stout horse, I strapped my valise behind, and set out on a fine summer's evening in quest of adventures. Yet I was in no respect prepared to find myself so soon in what appeared very like a field of battle. I had not proceeded twenty miles before I came to a village surrounded by troops, and guarded at the ends of its few streets by loaded cannon, with lighted matches smoking by their sides. A considerable encampment was formed on a slightly rising eminence near the village; and on the neighbouring ground, still farther off, might be seen large irregular groups of people, who, I learned, upon inquiry, were chiefly Orangemen, preparing for a grand ceremonial procession on this the 12th of July, the well-known anniversary of the battle of the Boyne. In order to resist this proceeding on the part of the Protestants, an immense multitude on the Roman Catholic side of the question were likewise assembled, and all the roads converging towards that quarter were lined with parties of men carrying sticks in their hands, flocking to the expected scene of action. The military had been called in to keep the peace, but the angry passions of the respective factions were so much roused, that even the precautions above described seemed hardly sufficient to prevent the threatened conflict.
As a matter of curiosity, I could have no great objection to seeing another such battle as the one I had witnessed near Corunna between those long-established fighting-cocks, the French and English; but to look on while honest Pat and Tim were breaking one another's heads upon abstract political grounds, and English soldiery interposing with grapeshot and fixed bayonets to make them friends again, was what I had no mind for. I tried, therefore, to extricate myself forthwith from this unhappy struggle; but my horse being tired, I was forced to sleep in a village which, for aught I knew, might be sacked and burned before morning; nothing occurred, however: nevertheless, I felt far from easy till out of reach of the furious factions; the strangest thing of all being that some quiet folks, a few miles distant, with whom I took breakfast, seemed scarcely to mind it, although the country round them was all on fire. From thence the course lay across a wild range of mountains, one of them having on its top a sheet of fresh water called Loch Salt. Nothing can be conceived more desolate or dreary than this part of the country; and as there were few inhabitants upon it at any time, and none at all at this moment, I had no small difficulty in making good my way. On coming nearer to the noble bay or lough, on the banks of which the country-seat of my unknown friends was to be found, the aspect of things changed as if by magic. A slight inequality in the ground concealed this "jewel in the desert," as it was often called, till the whole of its rare beauties could be seen to the greatest advantage. Even without the contrast of wild moors, the singular beauties of the spot claimed the highest admiration; but after such a preparative they appeared doubly grateful to the senses, and I put spurs to my horse, anxious to come nearer to such a delicious scene.
The mansion of my future friend, of which only partial glimpses could be caught now and then, was well guarded on every side by fine old trees, rising from the surface of carefully-dressed grounds, richly stocked flower-gardens, long and wide avenues, and graceful terraces, some of which reached to the very water's edge, along a delicate beach on which the ripple scarcely broke. This charming domain occupied a narrow spit of land, or promontory, jutting forwards into a landlocked bay, or arm of the sea, in which the water appeared to lie always asleep, and as smooth as if, instead of being a mere branch uniting with the stormy Atlantic, it had been some artificial lake. Nothing, indeed, which the most fertile imagination could suggest seemed to be wanting.
There was one extremely well-conceived device at this delightful spot, which I never remember to have seen anywhere else, though, there must often occur in other places similar situations in which it might be imitated. Not far from the house, but quite hid under a thickly-wooded cliff, overhanging a quiet bight or cove, about ten or fifteen yards across, lay a perfectly secluded pool, with a bottom of snow-white sand. It was deep in the middle, but shelved gradually to its margin, which rested on a narrow strip, or beach, of small round polished pebbles. This fringe, encircling the cove, was surmounted by a dry grassy bank, or natural terrace, reaching to the foot of the rock, the face of which was not merely perpendicular, but projecting so much that the top more than plumbed the edge of the basin. Along the sky-line there was drawn a fence or veil of briars, honeysuckles, and other impervious bushes, interspersed with myrtles, wild roses, and foxgloves, so thickly woven together, that all external view of this beau ideal of a bath was rendered impossible. The only access was by a narrow, steep, and winding path; and at the upper end was placed a high, locked gate, the key of which was in the exclusive charge of the ladies.
As I rode on, ignorant as yet of these and many other rich and rare beauties of this singular spot, and only admiring the general aspect of things, I began, for the first time, to reflect on the extreme awkwardness of my situation.
Here was I merely the bearer of an introductory letter to a lady, herself a guest in the house; and although it might have been allowable enough to have called to deliver such an introduction, had business or accident brought me to the neighbourhood, now it seemed rather a strong measure to travel fifty or sixty miles across a wild and disturbed country merely to pay a morning call. The inference that my intention was to make a visit of some duration, became inevitable; and I pictured to myself the string of explanations I had to give, which might, after all, not be followed by any invitation to remain. After long cogitations, I resolved to steal up to the house, if possible, unperceived; have my horse turned over to the groom, and my portmanteau stowed out of sight, and then to walk boldly up to the door, with a visiting-card in one hand, and my credentials in the other, to be delivered to the servant for the lady to whom the letter was addressed. I next proposed to stroll about the woods, to give time for any good things said of the bearer to work their way, hoping, by this rather clumsy manoeuvre, that by the time I returned to the house its inmates might be prepared to receive the stranger; and then, if their invitation to remain should happen not to be very pressing, I might pretend to be collecting specimens for my geological friends, and so make my escape; though, to own the truth, nothing was farther from my thoughts than geology.
In spite of these ingenious plans, I felt myself rather absurdly situated, and half wished I had not engaged at all in such an unpromising adventure. It seemed, however, too late to retreat, and therefore I jogged on, as earnestly hoping not to be detected as ever did any troops in advancing to the attack of a besieged fort.
What, then, was my speechless horror, on riding up the approach, to discover a cavalcade of not fewer than a dozen ladies and gentlemen bearing right down upon me from the house. Had it been a troop of French cuirassiers charging across the ground, and threatening annihilation to the unfortunate hack and his rider, I could not have been much more astounded. The master of the house was probably of the number; he would stop to inquire the business of the suspicious-looking stranger invading his territories. The person for whom I brought a letter, being an elderly lady, was not likely to be on horseback amidst a party of young folks. There would be a general halt ordered; while the poor new-comer, with his draggled horse and swollen valise indicative of anything but a hasty departure, would become the subject of a pleasant criticism to the quizzical dandies and young ladies of the party. Even when this scrutiny was over, what were they to do with their unexpected, self-elected companion? His horse was now too tired, and much too ugly at any time to accompany such gay palfreys as were prancing over the lawn; yet they could not, in common civility, leave a stranger adrift; nor could they accompany him back to the house, without breaking up their expedition for the day.
All this flashed through my mind in a moment, and left me in a dire dilemma. I pulled up my jaded nag, however, with such a jerk, that I well-nigh threw him on his haunches. Fortunately, a little unevenness in the ground hid me from the view of the advancing cavalry; and at the same critical instant I discovered an opening in the fence on one side. Without considering or caring whither it might lead, I turned my charger round, urged him forwards with whip and spur, and dashed into the gap as if I had been flying from the arm of justice, instead of making my escape from as companionable a set of people as ever breathed. Had any of the party detected the bashful fugitive, and given chase, he must have been caught; for the path into which I had fled terminated in a road leading to some farm offices, but with no opening beyond.
The awkwardness of my situation, which was already considerable, became greatly augmented by this ridiculous proceeding; and I heard the riders pass within twenty yards of my hiding-place, with the most unspeakable alarm lest any one of them should catch a glimpse of me nestling behind a cart of hay. I breathed freer when the last servant's horse crossed the ridge; and then, creeping from my hole, soon gained the stables adjoining the house, gave up my horse, secured the well-stuffed valise out of sight, and repaired, according to the original precious scheme, to the front door with my letter. I stood for five minutes with the knob of the bell in my hand, irresolute whether to go on with the adventure, or fairly to cut and run from it. At length, when the fatal pull was given, I listened to the sound, and felt myself what statesmen call "fully committed." There was now nothing left but to screw up my courage, as I best might, to meet the dangers and difficulties of the crisis.
There happened to be no one at home except the old lady, to whom my introduction was addressed, so that the plan succeeded very well; I forget now the details of the introduction, but I can never cease to remember the unbounded cordiality of the reception, not only from this excellent person, but from the master and mistress of the house, and all their assembled friends, showing how totally I had miscalculated the nature and extent of Irish hospitality. There were several elderly persons, then in the autumn of life, and several were very young folks, scarcely able to walk, who now count many "daughters and sons of beauty." There was a pretty equal admixture of Irish and English, amongst them several persons of rank; also one or two foreigners; besides much native wit, worth, and beauty, of the highest order, and all most delightfully set off by the graces and nameless enchantments of refined manners, and tasteful as well as useful accomplishments. I have rarely, if ever, seen in any part of the world so fascinating an assemblage of all that would render a country party agreeable as was here collected in one of the most out-of-the-way corners of Ireland. My worthy captain's advice was now thrown to the winds; and indeed any heart, aged twenty-two, must have been made of cast-iron to have resisted the rides and walks, the picnic dinners, the dances, and the music parties, and suppers, besides the infinitely varied round of other amusements, grave and gay, which contributed to render, and will for ever preserve, this nook of Ireland the true terrestrial paradise of my early days.
How the deuce I ever contrived to get out of the magic circle, I hardly know; but if I could only feel myself at liberty, without a breach of confidence, to give a few details of those hours, I would stake great odds on the side of the effect which the description of such a reality might produce, against the interest of the imaginary scenes in almost any romance.
I have already mentioned that the gentleman whose introduction I carried was most urgent for me to deliver the letter in person; but he gave no reasons for this anxiety; nor indeed was I then aware, that, besides his being an intimate friend, he was their family physician. While acting in this capacity, he had seen with regret how ineffectual his art had proved to alleviate the mother's sorrow caused by the recent loss of her favourite son. The young man had been in the Navy, and would have been about my own age and standing in the service. These accidental coincidences suggested to her judicious and kind-hearted friend, that as I, in some degree, resembled him in appearance and in manners, the poor mother's thoughts and feelings might possibly be diverted into a new channel, by the society of a person in so many respects similarly circumstanced to the child she had lost.
It so happened, fortunately for me, that the experiment completely succeeded—I hope and believe, to the mother's consolation. To me, of course, the reception I met with was matter of delight and astonishment; so much so, indeed, that I occasionally felt somewhat startled, and almost oppressed, with the sense of obligation imposed by such unusual and unmerited attentions.
The first explanation of the mystery is really so touching in itself, that I give it without reserve as I received it in a letter from this most excellent old lady, about six months after my first acquaintance with her, and just before I quitted England for the East Indies:—
"Once more adieu!" She concludes, "I must hope you will write to me often; let me constantly know how you proceed, and how I can address you; and recollect, you have received the freedom of this house. I believe I told you I had lost a son, a lieutenant in the Navy, and of superior talents. I therefore consider that Heaven has given you to my care in his place—and may the Almighty protect you!"
TRICKS UPON TRAVELLERS.
A curious and vastly pleasing fashion prevails in that part of Ireland where I was so nearly bewitched as almost to forget my ship, my duties, and everything else, but beauty! When a party, such as I have been describing, had passed a certain time together, they seldom broke up entirely, but generally shifted, or emigrated in a body (flitted, I think they used to call it) to the house of some one of their number. Now and then various members of the group dropped off by the way, but their places were presently filled up by others, who soon found their way to the new hive when the well-known sounds of festivity were heard in the neighbourhood.
In this manner the party, into which I had been so kindly admitted, made several moves, with sundry losses and accessions to its numbers; and as every day rendered this life more and more grateful, I could scarcely bear to think of returning to the tame occupations and rugged society of the frigate, the duties of which had so recently been my greatest and most sincere delight. Meanwhile, since my good-natured captain, and still better-natured messmates, made no difficulties about this protracted absenteeism, I continued to involve myself deeper and deeper at every step. I failed not to perceive at times that I was getting into rather a dangerous scrape for a younger son and a young officer, who had yet to work his own way in the world. But as these reflections interfered rather impertinently with the enjoyments of the hour, they were crushed down, and kept out of sight as much as possible at that gay period.
What surprised me most, all this time, was the air of refinement and high polish in the Irish society amongst which I was thus casually thrown. I had previously entertained an idea that their hospitality, proverbial in all parts of the world, was of a rude and rather troublesome description. I found it, on the contrary, marked not only by the strongest lines of sincerity and kindness, but by many of those delicate touches of consideration for the feelings of others which form the most indubitable symptoms of genuine good-breeding.
Instead of discovering that the stories were true about the sort of compulsion used in matters of drinking, I can safely say that, during the course of experience in joviality I went through in the north of Ireland, I seldom met with anything at a gentleman's table approaching even to exigence on this score. I do not deny that our friends the Irish have a wonderfully winning way of insinuating their good cheer upon us, and sometimes of inducing us to swallow more claret than is perhaps good for us.
I landed once at Burncrana, a pretty quiet little village, with a watering-place look, on the eastern banks of that great and beautiful bay Lough Swilly. One side of this fine harbour is formed by the bold promontory of Inishowen, celebrated in every land for its noble whiskey, second only (which, as a Scotchman, I am bound to assert) to Ferntosh or Glenlivet. I was accompanied by an English gentleman, on the first day of his landing in Ireland. As he then seriously imagined the inhabitants to belong to a sort of wild and uncouth race, I could see he was rather surprised at the gentleman-like deportment of an acquaintance of mine resident on the spot, for whom he had brought a letter. We had walked together to his house, or rather cottage, for he was not a fixed resident, but came there for summer quarters. The neatness, and even elegance, of the domestic arrangements of his temporary establishment, both without and within the dwelling, gave token of a taste many degrees removed from the state of people far back in civilization. Presently the ladies came; and their national frankness, modified by the most entire and unaffected simplicity, puzzled my friend completely. In due season the dressing-bell sent us off to prepare for dinner; and while we were getting ready, my companion said, "I see what this fellow is at: he means to sew you and me up. You may do as you please; but I'll be shot if he plays off his Irish pranks on me. I will eat his dinner, take a couple of glasses of his wine, make my bow to the ladies, go on board by eight or nine o'clock, and, having given them a dinner in return, shall have done my duty in the way of attention; after which I shall totally cut the connection. I have no idea of their abominable fashion of forcing strangers to drink."
"We shall see," said I; and having knocked the dust off our shoes, down we went to dinner.
Everything was plain, and suitable to the pretensions of a cottage. There was no pressing to eat or drink during dinner; and in process of time the cloth was removed, the Ladies sipped a little sweet wine, and disappeared.
"Now for it," whispered my friend; "he has sent the women out of the way, that he may ply us the better."
And I must own things looked rather suspicious; for our host, instead of sitting down again at the dinner-table, walked to a bow-window overlooking the anchorage, and exactly facing the setting sun, at that hour illuminating the whole landscape in the gorgeous style peculiar to combined mountain and lake scenery. "Why should we not enjoy this pleasant prospect while we are discussing our wine?" said the master of the house. At that instant the door opened, and in walked the servant, as if he knew by intuition what was passing in his master's head.
"Tim," said our host, "put the card-table here in the bow-window, and give us some other glasses; also, if you have such a thing, bring up a bottle of claret."
Tim nodded, smiled, and made the fitting adjustments. The table was barely large enough to hold a noble long-corked bottle, for the fashion of claret decanters had not as yet reached that remote district of the empire. Round the margin was placed the necessary accompaniment of capacious glasses—famous tall fellows, with such slender stalks that they seemed scarcely equal to the weight of their generous load.
My friend and I exchanged glances, and I could see his shoulders slightly raised, as if he was saying internally, "Now we are in for it! but I will not drink a drop more than I choose." The claret, which in itself was most delicious, was cooled in perfect style. The party consisted, I think, of four or five persons, and this one bottle, I remember, just passed round the group twice. As the flavour of the beverage appeared to have become more exquisite at the second turn than at the first, though but a short interval had been allowed to elapse, it seemed odd that another bottle was not instantly called for. Instead of this our landlord went on expatiating on the beauties of the Lough, and the fineness of the season in general, and the sunset in particular, for full five minutes after the wine had disappeared; when he suddenly said, with a half-hesitating tone, towards my English friend, who sat at his elbow——
"I beg your pardon! perhaps you would take some more wine?"
As no one made any objection, the bell was rung, and Tim re-appeared, bearing with him another bottle. This likewise vanished in a trice, and Tim was again summoned. "Bring some more claret," said the master to the man, or rather boy, as he was called, though twice as old as any of the party.
At this instant I caught my companion's eye; and I could see he was becoming alive to the plot against him, so much so, indeed, that he seemed to be preparing to rise. The following conversation, however, attracted his attention, and fixed him to his seat. "Well, Tim, what are you gaping at? Why don't you run for the clar't?"
"I didn't know," replied the other, "whether you'd like to use the whole of it."
"Use the whole of it!" exclaimed his master—"what does the boy mean? Why, Tim, what are you at?"
"Oh, sir," quoth the well-instructed rogue, "as the wine you brought was but little, I thought you might not wish to use it all entirely to-day." And then he whispered something in his master's ear, the words of which we could not distinguish. The reply, however, showed, or seemed to show, what had been said. "Nonsense, Tim, nonsense! you're an ass, man; bring it up."
Tim accordingly disappeared, but soon returned with a basket apparently full of straw; at the bottom of which, however, after some considerable show of hunting, a couple of bottles were said to be found. "Confound you, Tim, is this all?" said the host.
"It is, sir," lied Tim; "and in faith, sir," added he, still lying, "it's one more bottle than I thought; for there was but a dozen when we started from Derry a week ago; and you know, sir, you and the collector on last Tuesday"
But the catalogue of circumstances which were intended to act as buttresses to Master Tim's inventions was cut short by a peremptory order to leave the room. This he did so soon as he had made a circumbendibus to escape notice, and deposited the basket behind his master's chair, muttering, as he put it down with a thump, "There's a couple of bottles of as good wine as ever was uncorked."
The fresh broach was indeed so delicious that we could hardly believe it was of the same vintage as that of the previous bin, though our host assured us it was "the identical." Tim's basket well merited a higher eulogium than he had given it; but while his reputation as a judge of wine rose, his character for veracity fell in about the same proportion, since we beheld, in due season, not merely two, but three, and at last a fourth long-necked gentleman from Bordeaux emerge from under the straw!
The trick played upon us by these confederates was now apparent enough; but the wine, fortunately, was of that light and pure kind which does not produce much effect on strong heads, and that of my companion was proof against far greater trials than this. He was indeed perfectly aware of what was passing; and though dearly loving the wine, which was superior to any he had ever before tasted, yet he had no notion of being made tipsy by means of a common-place concert between host and butler. He therefore rose to leave the room, expecting, of course, to be forcibly detained, or, at all events, being begged and entreated to sit down again. Not a whit! The wily native merely observed to him that "if he had a mind to admire the prospect, there was still daylight enough to command a view down the bay from the little knoll on the right." The Englishman was sorely puzzled by all this. There was none of the detention he expected would be practised upon him, and yet he had a strong consciousness that he was undergoing the operation well known afloat and ashore by the title of "the game of humbug." At the same time, he felt the most eager desire to take another good pull at the claret.
There was no wine before us at this critical juncture of the evening, and our landlord, who, most unaccountably, seemed indifferent to this material circumstance, went on prosing for a quarter-of-an-hour about Protestant ascendancy, the eternal siege of Derry, the battle of the Boyne, and such like stale topics. At length one of the company became somewhat impatient, and, watching for a pause, asked his host if it were the custom in Ireland to discuss Orange politics with empty glasses?
"God bless me," cried the other, with well-feigned surprise, "is there no wine on the table?" and ringing the bell furiously, scolded poor Tim so naturally that the confederate was almost thrown out. "Well! you numskull, why don't you make off with you, and bring something for the gentlemen to drink?" Tim stood fast till interrogated a second time, and then replied with perfect gravity that "there wasn't another drop of wine in the house." Upon this the master got up in a rage, and brushing past the servant, declared his intention of searching the cellar himself. He was absent some time, and we had just prevailed on our hesitating companion to sit down again, when, as if there had been some electrical communication between his chair and the handle of the door, it opened, and in walked our generous entertainer, exulting in his success, crowing like chanticleer, and bearing in each hand a couple of bottles, clicking against each other; while Tim, with a degree of impudence equalled only by that of his master, substituted clean glasses, of a still more capacious swallow than the first. To these were added two pair of candles which towered high above the jolly crew, and promised to last till another dawn should look in upon our revels. By this time the twilight had almost entirely ebbed away, and was succeeded by that cheerful, aurora-kind of brilliancy in the sky, which points out the place of the sun during the whole of his summer night's journey in those high latitudes. Politics dropped, for the joyous juice of the grape soon melted us all into one mind; and a hundred topics of more pleasing interest were started, in which the strangers could join without fear of any angry discussion. The mirth and animation of the company rose very pleasantly as each fresh bottle found its way by some magical process to the table. But it became rather difficult to tell who were the listeners amongst us, or to say who was guest and who landlord, for the party seemed like a circle of brothers, all equally at home.
This went on for an indefinite length of time, but I should be the veriest conjuror on earth to say how long. Through the hazy atmosphere of my recollection of that jolly evening, I remember that about eleven o'clock, more or less, our host was enchanted almost beyond the power of words by seeing his wine so much relished, and tickled also with the success of his joke, in making his suspicious guest drink just as much wine as he thought fit to impose. On this occasion, however, he inverted the proverb, and reckoned without his guest; for, by one imprudent remark, he had well-nigh torn the laurels from his brow.
"Well, sir!" he exclaimed, "although this is the first day you ever set foot on the island, you have seen enough, I hope, to satisfy you that we are not quite such savages as you supposed; liberty hall, you see, is the true title of every Irish gentleman's dining-room: there's no compulsion here, you must see very clearly." It was little that my English friend could now see very clearly of anything; but the above premature announcement of victory brought back all the stranger's suspicions. Fired with this idea, he started on his feet, and eyeing the door for a long time before he ventured on the voyage, with a bold determination, and taking a good departure from his chair, he gained his port. He had undoubtedly expected to be lugged back again; for he whisked the tails of his coat out of reach, while, with his other hand on the lock of the door, and swaying himself about from side to side, like a ship in a calm, he stood the very image of tottering equilibrium, as the mathematicians call it. Our adroit landlord, who was not a man to shrink from difficulties, mustered to his aid all the resources of a long well-practised hospitality, and gallantly met this great occasion. His devices were, probably, exhausted; so he took another line, and called out, "Oh, you're off, are you? Very well—you'll find the ladies in the drawing-room. I think I hear the tinkle of the piano: I prefer the tinkle of the glass. Pray tell the damsels we are coming by-and-bye: mind you say 'by-and-bye.' I don't like to be too particular, for fear of seeming rude: don't you see?"
This speech was wound up by a telegraphic flourish of the hand towards Tim, who stood near, with a bottle between his feet, the screw buried in the cork, and his body bent to the effort, which he only delayed to exercise till ordered by his master to pull. "Out with him, man! out with the cork!" cried the host. The loud report which succeeded rang over the apartment like the sweetest music to the souls of the ever thirsty company. Tim's thunder was echoed back by a truly bacchanalian shout, such as nothing on earth can give proper emphasis to, except a double allowance of claret. The Englishman, fairly subdued by the sound, glided again to the table; then seizing his brimming glass in one hand, and grasping the fist of his merry host in the other, he roared out,—
"You really are an uncommon good fellow; and hang me if ever I distrust an Irishman again as long as I live!"
But within three minutes afterwards this promise was broken; for as soon as we had discussed the bottle which the incomparable Tim had so opportunely introduced, the master of the house, seeing us at length quite at his mercy, and eager to go on, rose, and said, to our great amaze,—
"Come! we've had wine enough; let's join the ladies in the next room."
The disappointed company stared at one another, and loudly proclaimed that it was not fair to limit them in this way. The Englishman, in particular, wished to remain; but our host was inexorable. Meanwhile, Timothy grinned from ear to ear; familiar with his master's tricks upon travellers; and the landlord deliberately opening the door, marched off the field of battle with flying colours.
As we moved along to the drawing-room, my companion whispered to me,—
"I must own I have been rightly served for my suspicions. I made quite certain of being bullied into drinking more than was agreeable to me; but it turns out," added he, laughing, "quite the reverse; for I cannot get a drop of wine, now that I want it."
"Well! well!" cried our hospitable friend, who overheard the conclusion of this remark, "you shall do as you please ever after this evening."
He then showed us to a couple of snug rooms, which he said were ours, as long as we chose to occupy them.
For myself, I went off to the Giant's Causeway in the course of next day; and on returning, at the end of a week, found that my friend, instead of cutting the connection, according to promise, had not been once out of sight of the house, and had never been asked to drink a bottle, or even a glass, more than he liked. He declared, indeed, that he had rarely met, in any country, with persons so truly hospitable, or more gentleman-like, in the truest sense of these words.
THE ADMIRALTY LIST.
In the midst of these gay doings, which were all very well for a time, but rather profitless on the whole, an extremely favourable opening for promotion suddenly occurred. The late Sir Samuel Hood, on being appointed commander-in-chief of the East India station, was applied to by my friends, and agreed to take me with him as one of his lieutenants. His list of proteges, he said, was a long one, and I must come in last; after his old followers were provided for, but there could not be a moment's doubt on the occasion. In his letters, the Admiral dwelt very strongly on the importance of having the name of his young friend, as he was good enough to call me, placed likewise on the Admiralty List.
The purpose of this advice is easily explained. The Admiral on a foreign station is allowed actually to appoint, or promote, to certain vacancies only, any officer whom he pleases, while on the occurrence of all other vacancies, except those which are thus specifically placed at his disposal, he is furnished with what is called an Admiralty List. In former times, whatever it be now, the Admirals abroad were allowed to appoint officers of their own selection to vacancies occasioned by death, or by the sentence of a court-martial; while they were instructed to nominate those persons only who stood on the Admiralty List to such vacancies as arose from officers falling sick and invaliding; from the accession of ships captured and purchased into the service; from officers deserting (which strange event has sometimes happened); or from the squadron being increased by ships built and launched on the station. But as these last enumerated are, generally speaking, of much more frequent occurrence than those which fall to the Admiral's peculiar share, an officer on the Admiralty List has a proportionately better chance of promotion than one who stands merely on that of the commander-in-chief.
These two lists differ essentially in one material feature. As a matter of course, the Admiral's List possesses some degree of stability; since a place upon it is generally won by long service under his flag, and retained there by personal esteem or family connection. An Admiral's follower, indeed, far from being a term of reproach, is always one of honour, as it implies the confidence and regard of the flag-officer. To get placed therefore, however near the end, on the good books of a rising Admiral is almost a certain road to promotion.
On the other hand, the Admiralty List is kept a profound secret, or, what comes nearly to the same thing, is kept strictly out of sight of those it most concerns. It is well known to be formidably intricate in its arrangements, and very slippery in its promises; indeed, from the circumstance of its depending on the fluctuating interests of party politics, it must be essentially pie-crusty in its texture. For it is sometimes thought in the political world that as much may be done by propitiating antagonists as by rewarding friends. How all this may be in sound principle I cannot tell; but nothing in practice can be more unsteady, or less to be relied upon, as I too well know, than this said Admiralty List. Still, the advantages of getting his name on this precious little slip of paper are very great, though it be a most unofficial-looking note sheet, as I can testify, from having once incidentally been afforded a glimpse of one, on which, to my horror, my own name was not! If the admiral of the station be also a personal friend, that source of favour, of course, always adds another string to the young man's bow. Circumstances likewise occasionally arise which enable an admiral, who has an officer's interest really at heart, to give him an extra lift at the right moment, and in the right direction, provided his name actually stands on the Admiralty List, even though it be ever so low down.
Before sailing for India, accordingly, I took a world of pains to make out this grand point, tormented my friends and relations most wofully, and, as I conceived, with eventual success. A distinct assurance was given to a near connection of my own, and a member of parliament, that my name would certainly stand on the First Lord's list, to be sent out to India in his Majesty's ship Volage, of which I had the farther good fortune to be appointed junior lieutenant. A change at the Admiralty was then confidently expected; and I took every care, as I thought, to have it arranged that my name should not be omitted when the new First Lord came into power. Little dreamed I that, in the melee of official patronage and personal favour which shortly afterwards took place at headquarters, my poor name would be dropped out altogether. The provoking consequence was, however, that I had the mortification of seeing sundry capital vacancies in India pass by, one after another, which, had I occupied even the very low place on the fresh list which I had filled on the old one, might have secured my promotion several years sooner than it came.
The old Volage, in which we sailed for India, I am forced to confess, was one of the least good-looking of all his Majesty's ships and vessels then afloat. But by this time I cared not one fig for the looks of my ship, though, a month or two before, I should have considered it a point of honour to maintain its beauty. I was delighted beyond measure to think that, at length, I was on the right road to promotion; and this satisfaction was more than doubled by finding the East was the region in which that great prize was to be sought for.
Although the men-of-war and their convoy sailed from Spithead on the 25th of March, they did not reach Madeira till the 19th of April. It is always more teasing to be delayed at the outset of a voyage than at any other stage of its course, just as it is mortifying and hurtful to be checked in the commencement of a profession. Upon this occasion we had a fine rattling easterly breeze for eight-and-forty hours after starting, which swept us all, dull sailers and good ones, merrily out of the British Channel. This fair start is always a grand affair, whatever succeeds; for if the prevalent westerly wind catches a ship before the channel is left well behind, she may be driven back to Plymouth or Falmouth, and all the agony of bills, news, leave-taking, and letters, has to be endured over again. Whereas, if she once gets the Lizard Light some fifty leagues astern of her, all these worrying distractions may be considered at an end. A totally new world—the "world of waters"—is now entered upon, far beyond the reach even of those long-armed persons, the "gentlemen of the press," or the startling sound of the postman's knock; that call which so often sets off the steadiest-going pulse at a gallop!
Oh, the joy! the relief unspeakable! of feeling oneself fairly under weigh, and of seeing the white cliffs of Old England sinking in the north-eastern horizon right to windward! Let the concocters of romances and other imaginary tales say what they please of the joys of returning home; give me the happiness of a good departure, and a boundless world of untried enjoyments ahead. If a man be out of debt and out of love, or only moderately involved in either of these delicate predicaments; if he have youth and health and tolerable prospects, a good ship under his foot, good officers over him, and good messmates to serve with, why need he wear and tear his feelings about those he leaves behind? Or rather, why need he grieve to part from those who are better pleased to see him vigorously doing his duty rather than idling in other people's way at home? Or wherefore should he sigh to quit those enjoyments in which he cannot honourably participate till he has earned his title to them by hardy service?
On the other hand, who is there so insensible as not to feel the deepest apprehension, on returning from a long and distant voyage? Busy fancy will conjure up images of death and sickness, of losses and sorrows. And when the accumulated pile of letters is first placed in our hands after a long voyage, with what sickening eagerness do we not turn from the superscription to discover the colour of the seal?
It happened once to me to be nearly fifteen months without receiving a single line from home, or seeing an English newspaper. On reaching the port of rendezvous, I found that as the ship I commanded was the only man-of-war in the harbour, there devolved upon me an immense load of official business requiring immediate and careful attention. All this I learned on my way to the consul's office, where a huge budget of letters was delivered to me. My first impulse, naturally, was to tear away the envelopes, and dive into the secrets of these domestic dispatches; but I paused on detecting several ominous-looking patches of black wax, and, thrusting them all into a drawer, did not open one till next day. Officially considered, it was well I imposed this restraint upon my curiosity; for the fatal news these letters contained must have seriously interfered with the exclusive professional attention which the nature of the service required me to bestow upon various public matters admitting of no delay; whereas, in regard to the private intelligence, a single day, added to so many months, signified nothing.
After leaving Spithead, our two days of fair wind were enough to take us clear of the channel, and well off the bank of soundings, far beyond the danger of return. A tolerable spell of bad weather then came on, which in one sense was of essential service, by contributing greatly to assist the first lieutenant's arrangements, though it discomfited most grievously the apple-pie order of those disturbers of his peace, the shore-going, long-coated gentry, our passengers, whom the sailors, in their coarse but graphic vocabulary, call "dog robbers," from their intercepting the broken meat on its way to the kennel from their master's table. Our gale of wind, indeed, was no gale to speak of; but as the sea rose, and a heavy press of canvas laid the creaking old barky well over on her broadside, many of the beautifully piled boxes, the well-packed portmanteaus, the polished dressing cases and writing-desks, the frail glass, crockery, and other finery, fetched way, and went rattling, smash! dash! right into the lee scuppers. In the next instant, the great bulk of these materials were jerked back again to their original situation, by that peculiar movement, so trying to unpractised nerves, called a lurch to windward. To unaccustomed ears, the sounds on this occasion lead one to suppose the ship is going to pieces; while the cries for help from the broken-shinned, sea-sick landsmen, the bawling for cleats and lashings from the mate of the decks, the thumping of hammers, and the loud laugh of the light-hearted middies, enchanted with the uproar, make a fine concert. The sedative effect of two or three hours of this work exceeds fresh-water belief; so that in a day or two, Messrs. Neptune, Boreas, First Lieutenant, and Co., have re-established their legitimate authority so completely, that neither servants, nor any other passengers, ever afterwards venture to indulge in those liberties which, at first coming on board, they fancied might be taken with impunity.
THE TROPICAL REGIONS AT SEA.
There sailed along with us in the Volage, from Spithead, the Princess Caroline, 74, and the Theban frigate, to aid in protecting a fleet of East India Company's ships, all for China direct. As these ships were of the largest class, well manned, well commanded, and were likewise pretty well armed, and got up to look like men-of war, our force had not only an imposing appearance, but was capable of baffling an enemy, even in considerable strength. There is, indeed, one signal instance on record in which a fleet of East India Company's ships actually beat off, unassisted, a French squadron of very powerful vessels. These striking incidents, peeping out from time to time, show what is called the true blood, and are extremely valuable, proving how essential it is that an officer in command should "Never say die while there is a shot in the locker!" a pithy old phrase, which will apply to many situations in life, civil as well as military. Had the gallant commander alluded to, Sir Nathaniel Dance, yielded when the French Admiral Linois, and his squadron, consisting of the Marengo, a line-of-battle ship of 84 guns, and the Belle Poule and Semillante frigates, each of 44, bore down on the China fleet, not less than six millions of English property, and some of the noblest trading ships that float on the ocean, must have been carried into the Isle of France.
This memorable affair took place near Pulo Aor, in the China seas, and by a very interesting, and no doubt useful coincidence, on the 14th of February, 1804, the seventh anniversary of the glorious action off Cape St. Vincent. Had the enemy only known the real force of his opponents, which he most certainly ought to have found out before he quitted them, the bold front these ships put forward might indeed have served them nothing. A less resolute man than Captain Dance might have said this good fortune was hardly to be calculated upon; but it is the duty of a commander, at all times and under all circumstances, to afford himself every possible chance, and never to give up while there is one of these chances left.
A useful chapter in naval history and tactics could be written on the defence of convoys, by which it might perhaps be made manifest that a determined bearing, accompanied by a certain degree of force, and a vigorous resolution to exert that force to the utmost, would, in most cases, save the greater part of the convoy, even against powerful odds. In the well-known instance, in which Captain Richard Budd Vincent sacrificed his ship, in a contest where he was from the first sure to be overpowered, he gained sufficient time for most of his flock of merchant-ships to escape.
In February, 1805, this gallant officer, in the Arrow, of 18 twenty-four pounders, ably supported by Captain Arthur Farquhar, in the Acheron bomb, carrying not half that number, actually engaged two large French frigates, mounting in all 90 guns and 1300 men, while the English force was only 26 guns and 90 men. The damage and delay caused to the enemy by this spirited resistance enabled the convoy to disperse, and all get off but three, out of thirty-two. The English ships did not strike till they were so much cut up that one sunk immediately afterwards, and the other was burned by the captors as useless.
On the occasion of our voyage in 1812, however, the fortitude and skill of our East India ships were put to no such proof, as our most interesting evolutions were confined to the interchange of good dinners; for your Indiamen know as well how to eat, drink, and be merry, as to fight, if need be. Their chief business is to trade; but their trading is a widely different thing from that of the ordinary merchant service. The East India Company's officers are bred in many respects like naval men, and they feel in the same manner. Being sprung from as good a stock as the officers of the Navy, they possess a kindred gentleman-like spirit, and are in every respect suitable allies in battle.
In fine weather, during our whole voyage, there scarcely occurred a day on which, in the course of the morning, if the sea were tolerably smooth, and the wind not too strong, the dinner invitation signal was not displayed from the commodore, or from some of his flock. When there was a breeze, and the ships were making way through the water, some technical address was necessary to avoid delay. This will easily be understood, without going into minute details, when it is remembered, that there must always in a convoy be found certain ships which sail worse than others, and that, although these tubs, as they are most deservedly called, crowd all their canvas, the rest are obliged to shorten sail in order to keep them company; as Lightfoot, in the fairy tale, was obliged to tie his feet in the race. If it be the commodore who gives the dinner, he either heaves to, while the boats of the several captains come on board, or he edges down to the different ships in succession, passes them at the distance of a quarter of a cable's length, picks up his guests, and resumes his station ahead, or to windward, or wherever it may suit him to place himself so as best to guard his charge. If any of the fast sailers have occasion to heave to, either before or after dinner, to lower down or to hoist up the boat which carries the captain backwards and forwards to the ship in which the entertainment is given, and in consequence of this detention any way has been lost, that ship has only to set a little more sail that she may shoot ahead, and regain her position in the line.
The bad sailers of all fleets or convoys are daily and hourly execrated in every note of the gamut; and it must be owned that the detention they cause, when a fine fresh breeze is blowing, is excessively provoking to all the rest, and mortifying to themselves. Sometimes the progress of one haystack of a vessel is so slow that a fast-sailing ship is directed to take her in tow, and fairly lug her along. As this troublesome operation requires for its proper execution no small degree of nautical knowledge, as well as dexterity, and must be performed in the face of the whole squadron, it is always exposed to much sharp criticism. The celerity with which sail is set, or taken in, by the respective ships, or the skill with which broken spars are shifted, likewise furnish such abundant scope for technical table-talk, that there is seldom any want of topic in the convoy. Sailors, indeed, are about as restless as the element on which they float; and their hands are generally kept pretty full by the necessity of studying the fluctuating circumstances of wind and weather, together with due attention to the navigation.
These occupations served to give a high degree of interest to this Indian voyage, which, to most of us, was the first; the mere circumstance of having to pass successively and quickly through a number of different climates, first in the order of increasing warmth, and then in the reverse order of increasing cold, was of itself most striking. The change of latitude being the chief cause of these phenomena, a succession of astronomical variations were necessarily attendant upon the progress of the voyage; easily explained by reasonings, and the actual, practical exhibition, as it may be termed, of the truths of astronomical science failed not to strike the unfamiliarised imagination as both wonderful and beautiful.
When we sailed from England the weather was very cold, raw, and uncomfortable; and although we had a couple of days' fair wind at starting, we were met in the very chops of the channel by hard-hearted southerly and south-westerly winds, which tried our patience sorely. On the evening of the tenth day we caught a glimpse of the north coast of Spain; and the rugged shore of Galicia was the last which most of us saw of Europe for many years. It was not till after a fortnight's hard struggling against these tiresome south-westers that we anchored in Funchal Roads, having by the way dropped several of our convoy. These stray sheep came in during the few days we remained to refresh ourselves at this most charming of resting-places. After nearly a week's enjoyment, we proceeded on our course to the southward; within three days we came in sight of Palma, the most northern of the Canary Island group. It was thirty miles distant in the south-east quarter; and Teneriffe, the sea "monarch of mountains," lay too far off for us to perceive even his "diadem of snow," which at that season (April), I presume, he always wears. Some years after the period in question, when I paid him a visit, in the month of August, the very tip-top was bare, and the thermometer at 70 deg..
Under more favourable circumstances, we might possibly have seen Teneriffe from the Volage, for our distance was not above a hundred miles. This, however, it must be owned, is a long way to see the land, unless it form a continuous ridge of great elevation, like the Andes; and even then, to be distinguished well, it requires to be interposed between a bright sky and the ship. At day-break, and for about half an hour before sunrise, if the weather be clear, even sharp peaks, like the cone of Teneriffe, may be seen with a degree of distinctness which is very remarkable, when viewed from the distance of a hundred miles and upwards, as I have several times experienced when navigating in the Pacific. But when the full splendour of the sun's light begins to fill the air, these gigantic forms gradually fade away amongst the clouds, or melt into the sky, even when no clouds are visible. I have likewise been told, that, in sailing directly away from Teneriffe (or other high insulated peaks), and keeping the eye pretty constantly fixed in the proper direction, it may be retained in sight at much greater distance than it can be discovered on approaching. I am disposed to consider this very probable, but have never had a good opportunity of trying the experiment.
It was late in April, as we were stealing slowly past these distant Canary Islands, when the first real puff of the Trade-wind caught our sleeping sails, and made the braces, haulyards, and all the other ropes connected with the yards, crack again. This breeze served more effectually to detach our thoughts from European interests than anything which had occurred since our leaving England. At the very moment, however, when we were chuckling at this disentanglement of our feelings from domestic anxieties, and all the varied agitation of home concerns, we observed a ship crossing our path at some distance. Signal being made to chase, we instantly darted off from the convoy to examine the stranger, which proved to be an English ship from Lisbon. We hailed, and asked, "What news?"
"Badajoz has fallen," replied the other, "after a terrible siege."
This was received with a general buzz of joyous congratulation along the decks. In answer to further questions, we were told of some three or four thousand men killed and wounded in the trenches and breach. Then, indeed, the glorious intelligence was greeted by three jolly huzzas from every ship in the convoy!
Nothing so startling as this occurred to us again; but the serenity of our thoughts was in some degree interrupted, a few days afterwards, by the north-easterly Trade-wind dying away, and a gentle south-wester springing up in its place. This occurred in latitude 25-1/2 deg. N., where, according to our inexperienced conception of these singular winds, we ought to have found a regular breeze from the very opposite quarter! Nor was it till long afterwards that I learned how much the force and direction of the Trade-winds are liable to modification by the particular position which the sun occupies in the heavens; or how far the rotatory motion of the earth, combined with the power which the sun possesses of heating certain portions of the circumambient air, are the regulating causes of the Trades, Monsoons, and, indeed, of all the other winds by which we are driven about. It is by no means an easy problem in meteorology to show how these causes act in every case; and perhaps it is one which will never be so fully solved as to admit of very popular enunciation applicable to all climates. In the most important and useful class of these aerial currents, called, par excellence, and with so much picturesque truth, "the Trade-winds," the explanation is not difficult. But before entering on this curious and copious theme, I feel anxious to carry our convoy fairly across the tropical regions; after which an account of the Trades will be better understood.
I have just mentioned that the changes of temperature, on a voyage to India, are most remarkable. We set sail, for instance, in the month of March, when it was bitterly cold in England; then we came off the coast of Spain, where it was a little more moderate; next to Madeira, which is always agreeable. Then we passed the Canaries; after which we sailed over the tropic of Cancer, and got well toasted in the torrid zone; steered down upon the equinoctial line, passed the tropic of Capricorn, and again became conscious of the weakened influence of the sun; till, at length, off the Cape of Good Hope, we were once more nipped with the cold. Anon, having rounded the south point of Africa, we put our heads towards the line, and a second time, within a few weeks, emerged from the depth of winter into the height of summer.
The proximate cause of all these vicissitudes was, of course, our approach towards and removal from the direct influence of the great source of light and heat. At one time, the sun, even at noon, was seen creeping stealthily along, low down in the horizon, at another his jolly countenance was blazing away right overhead. On the 5th of May, when our latitude was 17-1/2 deg. N., the sun's declination was 16-1/4 deg. N., his centre being only one degree from our zenith: shadows we had none. On that day we saw St. Antonio, the north-westernmost of the Cape de Verde Islands, the summit of which is about seven thousand feet above the sea.
On the next day I well remember going on deck with a certain flutter of spirits, to see, for the first time in my life, the sun to the northward, and moving through the heavens from right to left, instead of from left to right. No one doubts that the earth is round; yet these conspicuous and actual proofs of its rotundity always amuse the fancy, and frequently interest the judgment, almost as much as if they were unexpected. The gradual rise, night after night, of new stars and new constellations, belongs to a still higher order of curiosity; for it not merely places well-known objects in strange positions, but brings totally new subjects of contemplation before our eyes, and leads us to feel, perhaps more strongly than upon any other occasion, the full gratification which novelty on the grandest scale is capable of producing. I shall never forget the impatience with which I have often watched the approach of darkness after a long day's run to the south, knowing that, in a few moments, I was to discover celestial phenomena heretofore concealed from my view.
After slanting through the north-east Trade-wind, we reached that well-known but troublesome stage in the voyage, so difficult to get over, called the Variables. This region has acquired its title from the regular Trades not being found there, but in their place unsteady breezes, long calms, heavy squalls, and sometimes smart winds from the south and south-westward. These Variables, which sorely perplex all mariners, even those of most experience, while they drive young ones almost out of their senses, are not less under the dominion of the causes which regulate those great perennial breezes the Trades, blowing to the northward and southward of them. Their laws, however, are not quite so readily understood, and consequently are not so easily allowed for in the practice of navigation.
When we actually encounter, on the spot, and for the first time, a crowd of new circumstances, of which, previously, we have only known the names, or have merely heard them described by others, we feel so much confused and bewildered, that we fly eagerly to the nearest authority to help us out of the scrape. It generally happens, in these cases, that the reference does not prove very satisfactory, because the actual circumstances with which we are engaged are rarely similar in all their bearings to those with which we compare them; and when this is not the case, the blindfold method of proceeding in the beaten path is very apt to mislead.
As an illustration of this kind of deception, it may be stated that navigators, whose actual experience has not extended to the tropical regions, are very apt, in poring over the voyages of others, to acquire, insensibly, a very confident notion that each of the great Trade-winds blowing on different sides of the Line (the North-east and the South-east by name), are quite steady in their direction; and that, in the equatorial interval which lies between them, only calms and light winds are to be found. Moreover, inexperienced persons generally believe this interval to be equally divided by the equator, and that both the breadth and the position of this calm region continue unchanged throughout the whole year. Now, here are four important mistakes,—important both in a scientific and in a practical point of view. For, 1st, Not calms and squalls alone, but occasionally fresh and steady winds, are found between the Trades; 2ndly, The belt called the Variables is by no means equally divided by the equator; neither, 3rdly, is that belt stationary in its position; nor, 4thly, is it uniform in its breadth. It will thence be easily understood, even by a person who has never quitted one of the midland counties in England, and to whom the ocean is an unseen wonder, that a new-comer to the tropical regions, his head loaded with these false views, will be very apt to mistake his own ignorance for the caprice of Nature, and perhaps call out, as I once heard a man do, in all the agony of impatience caused by a protracted head-wind,—"Now, this is really scandalous usage of the clerk of the weather-office!" The scandal, however, lay not so much with the clerk's usage as with his own limited knowledge; for if, at the very time of his imprecation, instead of abusing the foul wind, and keeping his yards braced sharp up, and making his sails stand like a board, the grumbler had known how to take advantage of it, and had kept away two or three points, set his fore-topmast studding-sail, and flanked across or through the breeze which he had in vain tried to beat against, he might not only have saved his temper, but have made his passage in half the time.
I am not sure that, in the whole range of this extensive subject, there could be picked out an instance more in point to what has just been said, than these interesting phenomena of the Trade-winds. To sailors of every age and rank, and especially to naval officers, an acquaintance with the laws which regulate these extraordinary aerial currents must be of great importance. For a commander may be ordered, at a moment's warning, either to carry his own ship, or to lead a squadron, or to guard a convoy, from the northern to the southern hemisphere, or perhaps from the West to the East Indies. If, however, he have not previously made a tropical voyage or two, or have not studied the subject in its genuine theoretical spirit, as well as in the log-books of his predecessors, he may expect to find himself most wofully embarrassed, both on entering and on leaving the Trades.
Independently of all such public objects concerned in these inquiries, there appears to exist a very general interest in the Trade-winds, sufficiently strong to engage the attention even of unprofessional persons. These vast currents of air, which sweep round and round the globe, in huge strips of more than twelve hundred miles in width, are in a manner forced on every one's notice, from contributing to that boundless interchange of the productions of distant regions by which modern times are so agreeably distinguished from the old.