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The Three Commanders
by W.H.G. Kingston
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The Three Commanders, by W.H.G. Kingston.



This is the third in the tetralogy commencing "The Three Midshipmen" and ending with "The Three Admirals," so the three principal characters will have been familiar to Kingston's youthful readers. As with the other books it is a very good introduction to Naval life in the middle of the nineteenth century, but there are other things we can learn from this book, as well.

The action soon after the start moves to East Africa, where we see how the anti-slave trade was pursued. The British were against slavery, but the Portuguese, the Americans, the Arabs, and some of the East African states were getting on with it whenever the British backs were turned.

Then we move to the Crimea, where we get a very good view of the naval participation in that war. If you want to know more about the Crimea, you should definitely read this book.

Finally we move to the Pacific, to Sydney and to Hawaii. Here again it is interesting, particularly with regard to the volcanoes of the Hawaii group of islands.



THE THREE COMMANDERS, BY W.H.G. KINGSTON.



CHAPTER ONE.

MURRAY'S HIGHLAND HOME—A VISIT FROM ADMIRAL TRITON—ADAIR AND HIS NEPHEW APPEAR—MURRAY APPOINTED TO THE OPAL, ADAIR FIRST LIEUTENANT— PREPARATIONS FOR DEPARTURE—ADMIRAL TRITON AND MRS DEBORAH INVITE MRS MURRAY TO STAY AT SOUTHSEA—THE OPAL AND HER CREW—A POETICAL LIEUTENANT—PARTING BETWEEN MISS ROGERS AND ADAIR—THE OPAL SAILS FOR THE EAST COAST OF AFRICA.

Alick Murray had not over-praised the Highland home of which he had so often spoken when far away across the wide ocean. The house, substantially built in a style suited to that clime, stood some way up the side of a hill which rose abruptly from the waters of Loch Etive, on the north side of which it was situated. To the west the hills were comparatively low, the shores alternately widening and contracting, and projecting in numerous promontories. The higher grounds were clothed with heath and wood, while level spaces below were diversified by cultivated fields. To the east of the house, up the loch, the scenery assumed a character much more striking and grand. Far as the eye could reach appeared a succession of lofty and barren mountains, rising sheer out of the water, on the calm surface of which their fantastic forms were reflected as in a mirror. Across the loch the lofty summit of Ben Cruachan appeared towering to the sky. The scenery immediately surrounding Murray's domain of Bercaldine was of extreme beauty. At some little distance the hill, rising abruptly, was covered with oak, ash, birch, and alder, producing a rich tone of colouring; the rowan and hawthorn trees mingling their snowy blossoms or coral berries with the foliage of the more gigantic natives of the forest, while the dark purple heath, in tufted wreaths, and numerous wild-flowers, were interspersed amid the rich sward and underwood along the shore beneath. Behind the house were shrubberies and a well-cultivated kitchen-garden, sheltered on either side by a thick belt of pines; while in front a lawn, also protected by shrubberies from the keen winds which blew down from the mountain heights, sloped towards the loch, with a gravel walk leading to the landing-place. Murray had added a broad verandah to the front of the house, to remind himself and Stella of Don Antonio's residence in Trinidad, where they had first met. Indeed, in some of its features, the scenery recalled to their memories the views they had enjoyed in that lovely island; and though they confessed that Trinidad carried off the palm of beauty, yet they both loved far better their own Highland home.

It was a lovely summer day, and Stella was sitting in the verandah with a small stranger, whom her faithful black maiden, Polly, had just placed in her lap. She was fully employed in bestowing on him those marks of affection which a loving mother delights in affording to her first-born. Alick stood by her side, watching her and their child with looks of fond pride. He had just come in from the garden, which it was one of his chief occupations to tend, and had taken off his gardening gloves, that he might pat his child's cheek and tickle its chin to make it coo and smile. He might have been excused if he was proud of his boy, for he was a noble little fellow,—a "braw chiel," as he was pronounced to be by his grand-aunt, Mistress Tibbie Mactavish, who had presided at his birth,—and likely to do no discredit to the name of Murray.

"The cutter ought to have been back by this time," said Alick at length, looking at his watch; "Archie has had a fair tide from Oban, and a leading wind up the loch. I hope that he has not managed to run the Stella ashore. Ben Snatchblock knows the coast, and he himself should be pretty well acquainted with it."

"Perhaps Mr Adair did not arrive at the time expected, and Archie would, of course, wait for him," observed Stella.

"That may be the case," said Alick, taking the telescope from a bracket on the wall, and looking through it down the loch. "There is no sail in sight like her, but I see a four-oared boat, which has just passed Bunaw Ferry, pulling up the loch. Can Adair by any means have missed the cutter, and be making his way alone to us?"

"Probably she contains a party of tourists on an excursion," said Stella.

"She is, at all events, steering for Bercaldine," observed Murray; "if she does not bring Paddy Adair, you will have the opportunity of exhibiting the small Alick to some other visitor. I will go down to the pier to receive him, whoever he is, with due honour." Saying this, Murray, having bestowed a kiss on his wife's brow, and given another tickle to his baby's chin, which produced an additional coo of delight, hurried down to the landing-place, towards which the boat was rapidly approaching. He had his telescope in his hand. He stopped on the way to take another look through it.

"It is not Terence, but—who do you think?—our old friend, Admiral Triton!" he shouted out, as he looked back to his wife; and then hurried on to the landing-place, that he might be there before the admiral could step ashore. In a few minutes he was receiving the old man's hearty grasp of the hand, as he helped him out of the boat.

"I had long promised to pay a visit to some friends in the Highlands, and I determined to make a trip a few miles farther and take you by surprise, for I knew that I should be welcome at whatever time I might arrive," said the admiral.

"Indeed you are, my dear sir," answered Murray; "most sincerely I say it. We are flattered by your visit."

"Give me your arm, my boy, for I don't walk up hill as easily as I used to do a few years back," said the admiral, leaning somewhat heavily on the young commander as he stumped along with his timber toe. "Stay! by the bye, I must dismiss my crew," he exclaimed, stopping short.

"Let them come up to the house first, admiral," said Murray; "they would consider otherwise that we were forgetful of Highland hospitality at Bercaldine. You will find your way up to the kitchen, my lads, by yonder path," he added, turning round to the boatmen. "The cook will have a snack for you before you pull back to Oban."

The men touched their bonnets, and gratefully grinned their assent to the laird's proposal, as they tumbled out of the boat; while Murray conducted Admiral Triton by the centre path, which led through the grounds to the house.

Mrs Murray, having deposited the wee Alick in the arms of Polly, stood ready to receive them.

"I am delighted to see you looking so bright and blooming, my dear Mrs Murray!" exclaimed the old admiral, shaking her warmly by the hand; "it shows that the Highland air agrees with you, notwithstanding your long sojourn in the West Indies."

"Except in being more bracing, the climate differs but little from that to which I was accustomed in the north of Ireland till I grew up; and I was scarcely long enough in the West Indies to become acclimatised," answered Stella, and a shade passed over her countenance as she recollected the trying scenes she had gone through during the time to which the admiral referred.

He observed it, and changed the subject. "And so you are expecting to see our old shipmate, Terence Adair?" he remarked, as he sat himself down in a chair which Murray placed for him. "I shall be heartily glad to shake him by the hand again, and to talk over old times. I haven't forgot his making me carry his portmanteau for him, the rogue!" and the admiral chuckled and laughed, and told Stella the story while he rubbed his hands. "I made him pay, though. He thought he was going to do me out of that, but I was too sharp for him. Ha! ha! ha!" and he laughed till the tears ran down his cheeks. He was becoming more garrulous than before—another sign of advancing age, which Murray was sorry to observe. He told many of his old anecdotes, laughing as heartily at them as ever. He was interrupted by the appearance of Polly, who had been watching for an opportunity of introducing the baby, which she now brought to its mamma.

The admiral started up on seeing it. "What! I hadn't heard of this small stranger!" he exclaimed; "is it a boy or a girl? A fine little creature, at all events! I congratulate you, my dear Mrs Murray, with all my heart. A sailor's wife is all the better for a few small ones to occupy her thoughts when her 'guid mon,' as you call him in Scotland, is away from home; though I suppose you have no intention of letting Murray go to sea again just yet?"

"I hope not, indeed," answered Stella, turning pale at the thought. "There are numberless officers who have nothing to do on shore, and he has plenty to occupy him."

"But he ought to take a trip to sea, to prevent himself from growing rusty," said the admiral. "We want the best officers to command Her Majesty's ships, and he is among them. You will not contradict me on that point?"

"I am sure he is," said Stella, with a sigh.

"Then, in case the Admiralty require his services, you will not dissuade him from accepting an appointment?"

"Oh, admiral, are they going to send him to sea?" exclaimed Stella suddenly.

"Not that I know of," answered the admiral. "I have not been let into their secret intentions, and I don't wish to act the part of a bird of ill-omen; though I confess that, were he to have the offer of a ship, I should advise him to accept it."

Stella's lips quivered. She had thought herself very heroic, and that she should be ready to sacrifice her husband for the good of his country; but when it came to the point, she could not bear the idea of parting from him.

Alick had gone round to see that the boat's crew were attended to. On coming back, he took another glance through his telescope down the loch. "Here comes the Stella; we shall soon have Terence Adair with us!" he exclaimed.

"What brought him home?" asked the admiral. "Surely he went out with Jack Rogers to India?"

"He got an ugly wound in cutting out a piratical junk in the Indian seas," said Murray. "It was a near thing for him, and the doctors insisted on his returning home as the only chance of saving his life; so he wrote me word in a few lines. But he is not much addicted to letter-writing; I, therefore, know no particulars. He will give us the account when he arrives."

Murray stood watching the cutter, while the admiral continued talking to Stella. The little craft, a vessel of about twelve tons, had been built by the young commander soon after he settled at Bercaldine. What naval officer, who has the means in his power, would fail of possessing a vessel of some sort? She was not only a pleasure-yacht, but was useful as a despatch-boat to bring the necessary stores for the house from Oban, and served also for fishing in summer and for wild-fowl shooting in winter. She was a trim yacht, notwithstanding her multifarious employments. Ben Snatchblock, who acted as master, with a stout lad as his crew, was justly proud of her. He boasted that nothing under canvas could beat her, either on a wind or going free, and that in heavy weather she was as lively as a duck. Not a better seaboat could be found between the mainland and the Hebrides. Indeed, she had often been pretty severely tried; and on one occasion Murray had had the satisfaction of preserving the crew of a wreck on a dangerous reef, when no other craft was at hand to render them assistance. He had, of course, named his yacht the Stella; for what other name could he have thought of giving her? He now watched her with the interest which every seaman feels for the vessel he owns, as, close-hauled, she stood up the loch. Now a breeze headed her, and she had to make a couple of tacks or more to weather a point. Now she met a baffling wind, and it seemed impossible that she would do it. "Keep her close, Archie!" exclaimed Murray, as if addressing his cousin; "now keep her full again and shoot her up round the point. That will do it, lad. Capital! Another tack and you will have the wind off the shore; that is only a flaw. Put her about again. With two more tacks you will do it."

The breeze freshening and proving steady, in a short time the Stella was near enough to enable Murray to distinguish Terence Adair and another person, in addition to those who had gone away in the yacht. As the jib and foresail were taken off her, she shot up to the buoy. Murray hastened down to the landing-place, in time to meet Adair and the stranger, whom Archie pulled on shore in the punt.

Adair sprang to land with much more agility than the old admiral had exhibited, and was warmly greeted by Murray. "As you told me that Archie was staying with you, I brought that broth of a boy, my nephew, Gerald Desmond, to bear him company and to help keep him out of mischief," exclaimed Adair, turning round and pointing to his nephew, who hung back till his uncle had offered some explanation as to the cause of his appearance uninvited.

"Desmond, you have grown such a strapping fellow that I didn't recognise you," said Murray, putting out his hand. "You are welcome to Bercaldine, and we can easily stow you away in some odd corner or other, notwithstanding your inches. Will you come up to the house with us, or will you wait for Archie?"

"I will wait for Archie, sir, thank you," answered Gerald; and Murray and Adair walked on.

"We have had sad times at Ballymacree," said the latter, speaking in a much graver tone than usual for him. "Gerald only arrived a couple of weeks ago. Although he has grown so much, the climate of the China seas has played havoc with his constitution, and I didn't like to leave him in a house of mourning. His mother died while he was away, and my poor sister Kathleen caught cold, and went off in a rapid consumption a few days after he arrived."

"Your sister Kathleen! to whom Rogers was engaged!" exclaimed Murray; "I am truly sorry to hear it. What a blow for him, too, poor fellow! You said nothing about this in your letter, though I saw that you were in mourning."

"Faith, I hadn't the heart to do so," answered Terence. "I knew that I'd have to tell you all about it, and so I thought it better just to ask the question whether I might come and see you, without saying more, knowing very surely what your answer would be, if I didn't get it—which I didn't, seeing I left home before it arrived; but I suppose it's all right, as Archie said that you were expecting me?"

"Of course, my dear fellow," said Murray. "Poor Jack! Have you written to him?"

"No, but Kathleen did, while she had strength to hold a pen; and her mother put in a few words to tell him that all was over. On my life, I couldn't have done it. Things have gone badly, too, at Ballymacree in other respects. The old place must go, after all; and it will break my father's heart, I am very certain. If we had had a good rattling war, and I had picked up lots of prize-money, I might have saved it. But that is not to be thought of. And then, my dear Murray, a little private affair of my own, which has put me out sadly. I wrote, when I first came home, to Lady Rogers, asking leave to pay a visit at Halliburton Hall. I got an answer from Sir John, very kind and very polite. At the same time, he gave me to understand that he considered it better I should not make my appearance there; in other words, that I wasn't wanted. I fancied that Lucy had begun to care for me, and so Jack thought, I suspect, from what he said when I confessed to him that I was over head and ears in love with his sweet little sister, and had for her sake kept my heart intact, notwithstanding the fascinations of all the charming creatures we met with in the West Indies. So in truth, Murray, I am about as miserable a fellow as any in the three kingdoms just now."

"I am very sorry to hear what you tell me," answered Alick. "We will do our best to cheer you up; and our old friend, Admiral Triton, who arrived a couple of hours ago, will, I am very sure, lend a hand in the good work."

Terence, having unloaded his heart of his griefs, had considerably regained his usual spirits by the time he had got up to the house, and had shaken hands with Stella and the admiral. While he was talking to the latter, Murray hinted to his wife not to ask questions about his family or the Rogers', telling her briefly what had occurred. The admiral immediately attacked Terence about the old story of the portmanteau, and that led him into a whole series of yarns, laughing so heartily himself at them, that Adair was compelled to laugh also.

"You must give me a cruise in the Stella to-morrow, Murray," he said; "she will be far the best style of locomotion for me, for these mountains of yours don't suit me—and yet I should like to see something of the magnificent scenery surrounding you." The proposal was at once agreed to, and Stella said that she should like to go also.

Archie and Desmond now arrived, and paid their respects to the admiral. Desmond was introduced in due form to the young heir of Bercaldine.

"Faith, Mrs Murray, he'll be after making a fine young midshipman one of these days," said Gerald, patting the baby's cheek. "Won't you just let Archie and me take him to sea with us next time we go afloat? We'll watch over him as carefully as any she-nurse can do on shore, and teach him all manner of tricks."

"I daresay you would," said Stella, laughing. "His nautical experiences must be confined at present to a cruise on board the yacht now and then in fine weather, though I don't forget the good care you took of Master Spider on board the Supplejack. By the bye, what became of your pet, may I ask?"

"Tom Rogers and I took him with us on board the Niobe. He was making immense strides in civilisation, having taken to sleeping in a hammock under bedclothes, and learned to drink tea in a teacup, when he was lost at sea in a gale of wind rounding the Cape. Tom tried to write a poem to his memory, but broke down, declaring that his feelings overcame him; though in truth he couldn't manage to make even the two first lines rhyme, so that that might have had something to do in the matter."

While Gerald was rattling on, Archie produced the letter-bag, which he had hitherto forgotten to give to Commander Murray. It contained several letters for him, as also others forwarded by his navy agent to Lieutenant Adair. Among them were two long, official-looking despatches, with the words, "On Her Majesty's Service," printed outside. Murray looked somewhat grave as he read his; at the same time, an expression arising from gratified pride appeared on his countenance.

Terence tore his letter open. "They don't intend to let me rest on shore, at all events. I expected to have my promotion, however; but instead, their lordships send me off to sea again. I am appointed to the Opal, just commissioned at Portsmouth, as first lieutenant. I ought to be highly flattered; and, Desmond, my boy, you are to go with me."

"The best thing that could happen to you; I congratulate you," said the admiral. "And what news does your despatch contain?" he continued, to Murray. Without answering, Alick put the letter into the admiral's hands, and, taking his wife's arm, led her into the garden, where they were concealed from sight by the shrubbery.

"It will be a blow to her," said the admiral, as he glanced over the official document; "still it is flattering to Murray, and, unless he has resolved to give up the service altogether, I could not wish him better luck. You and your old shipmate are not to be parted, Adair. He is appointed to the command of the Opal, and I have a notion that she will be stationed at the Cape, and probably sent to the East Coast of Africa, where there is work to be done, and prize-money to be picked up, not to be got every day in these piping times of peace. It is no easy matter, however, to catch those slippery Arab slavers, so you mustn't count your hens before they are hatched. Still, the Opal is a fast craft, and if any man can do what is to be done, Murray will do it."

"At all events, I am delighted to hear that I am to serve with him. I was anxious to be off to sea as soon as possible, and it makes amends to me for my disappointment in not getting my promotion."

"I say, Archie, I suppose that you will be appointed to the same craft?" exclaimed Desmond.

"Nae doot about it, mon," answered Archie; "I've a notion it's the doing of our cousin, Admiral McAlpine, who returned home not long ago from the West Indies, and would of course have been looking after our interests, for he is a very kind man."

"I suspect that Mrs Murray considers it a very cruel kindness," observed the admiral; "but every sailor's wife must be prepared to be parted from her husband, and to make the most of him when he is on shore."

"He is a lucky fellow who has got a wife to be parted from," said Terence, thinking of Lucy; "at all events, when he is away, he can look forward to the happiness of being again united to her, instead of having to come home, as is the lot of some of us, without anyone who cares for him to give him a welcome; so the favours of Heaven are very fairly divided, and in my opinion Murray has the best of it, though it may give him and his wife a severe pang to part from each other."

"Here they come, and we shall learn how they have settled the matter," observed the admiral; "but as duty has ever been my friend Murray's guiding star, I am very sure that he will not allow his inclination to prevent him from acting as he thinks right, and, unless I am mistaken as to his wife's character, she will not utter a word to prevent him."

No one would have supposed from the countenances of Alick and Stella how much their hearts were agitated. "I am sorry, admiral, we must give up our projected cruise for to-morrow, and cut yours and Adair's visit short, as we shall have much to do in preparing to leave Bercaldine, though I must beg you to stay as long as we remain," said Alick, quite calmly. "We must treat you without ceremony; and I know, Adair, that you and Desmond will lend a hand in setting things in order for our departure."

"Then you have made your mind up to accept the command of the Opal," said the admiral. "I said it would be so; I was sure of it. I must compliment Mrs Murray, for there are some wives, who don't love their husbands a jot the better, who would have turned the scale the other way. Duty, my lads, duty should carry everything before it," continued the admiral, turning to the midshipmen. "Learn a lesson from your superiors, and never let anything induce you to swerve from duty!"

Murray, of course, had an immense amount of work to get through. It was at once settled that Stella should accompany him to Portsmouth, and should take up her residence in the neighbourhood during his absence. Bercaldine was to be let, and a tenant had to be found, arrangements made with the factor and grieve, and other retainers; various articles to be stored up, and others to be carried with them; the Stella to be laid up, and the horses to be sold.

A couple of days thus passed rapidly away, and, all working with a will, the party were ready to start. The rays of the sun, just rising above the lofty summits of the hills, glanced down the loch as they assembled on the landing-place with their dependents, and every cotter on the estate from far and near, who had come to bid them farewell. Many a tear was shed by the females of the family, as Mrs Murray, the baby and Polly, with the gentlemen of the party, embarked on board the Stella, which was to convey them to Oban. The men waved their bonnets, and uttered a prayer in Gaelic that the laird and his good wife and the "bairn" might be brought back to them in safety.

Sail was made, and the little craft glided away from her moorings with a fair breeze down the loch. Mrs Murray looked with fond regret at the lovely home she was leaving, though no longer the home it had been to her without her husband. The admiral, of course, did his best to keep up her spirits, and whatever Alick might have felt, he was as cheerful as if they were merely making a day's excursion. The scenery around the home he loved so well looked even more attractive than ever. On the port hand Ben Cruachan rose proudly amid the assemblage of craggy heights which extended to the eastward along the shores of the loch. The ruins of Ardchattan Priory, covered with luxuriant ivy, and o'er-canopied by lofty trees, soon came in sight on the starboard side.

"The monks of old, wise in their generation, chose pleasant places for their residences," observed the admiral, pointing to the ruins.

"They must have been of great benefit to the surrounding population in those turbulent times," said Mrs Murray. "I have sometimes thought that it would be well if they still existed in districts where no landed proprietors live to look after the people."

"Very well in theory, my dear madam," said the admiral; "but we must take into consideration what human nature really is. Monks in many instances proved themselves to be arrant knaves, and among every assemblage of mortals such will ever be found in time to leaven the whole mass. These and friaries and convents were not abolished a day too soon; and, advanced as the present generation esteems itself, I am very sure that if we were to shut up a dozen men together, picked from among the most learned and enlightened students at our universities, or the same number of the most charming women to be found, and insist on their living as celibates to the end of their days, and devoting themselves to a certain routine of strict forms and ceremonies, they would very soon come to loggerheads, and do more harm to themselves and others than they could possibly do good. The wisest men in all the nations of Europe have seen the necessity of abolishing the conventual system, and I cannot suppose that English men and women are more likely to be holy and immaculate than the people of other countries. The whole thing is an illusion; and I am very sure that the system, if, as according to the wishes of some, it should again prevail in England, would only tend to the corruption of those who are beguiled by it, and to the dishonour of true religion."

"You are right, admiral, and certainly my wife does not advocate the re-establishment of monasteries in this country," remarked Alick.

"Oh no, no! I was thinking rather of the past," said Stella; "and probably, if we could look into the interior of convents in their best days, we should see much to grieve and shock us."

The tide was on the ebb, and as the cutter passed through the narrows at Connel Ferry, she pitched and tossed in the turbulent current, here forming a perfect race, in a way which put a stop to further conversation. The breeze being steady, she, however, with Murray's skilful handling, ran through and glided forward on her course. Now Dunstaffnage Castle, standing on a slight elevation near the shore, came in sight—a picturesque ruin, its high walls and round towers rising boldly against the sky. Farther on appeared Dunolly Castle—an ivy-clad, square keep, in former times the seat of the Macdougals of Lorne; and now the cutter entered the bay of Oban, with the long island of Kerrera on the right, and brought up amid a fleet of small craft and coasters. A steamer on her way to Glasgow was waiting for passengers, and the party had just time to get on board before she began paddling on to the southward.

"You will take good care of the craft, Dougal," said Ben Snatchblock, as he handed over his command to the old Highland skipper, into whose charge Murray had given the yacht: "cover her over carefully, and keep the sun from her in summer and the snow in winter, and we'll have many a cruise in her yet when we come back from the East Indies."

"Dinna fash ye, mon; she'll no' take harm under my charge," said Dougal.

"Dougal has been somewhat jealous of Ben on account of his having been appointed to the yacht instead of himself," remarked Alick.

Glasgow was reached before nightfall, and the next morning the whole party started by train for the south. Admiral Triton insisted on accompanying his friends to Portsmouth. "My sister Deborah and I have taken a house on Southsea Common for three years, and you and your wife and bairn must be our guests, and we have a room for Archie till it is time for him to take up his berth on board. You will cheer us up, and we old people want companionship, for I can't get about as I once did; and the young fellows fight shy of me and don't laugh at my yarns, as you and Jack used to do; and I say, Murray, if you want to do me a favour, you will let your wife stay on as our guest. The boy will be a great amusement to us both. We'll not spoil him, depend on that. I then can come and go as I like. And when I am away, she'll help to keep my good sister alive and cheerful. When Deb hasn't me to look after, she's apt to get out of spirits, and to be thinking about her own ailments—fancied more than real, for she is as hearty as she can expect to be at her age; while, if she has a guest and a little child to occupy her thoughts, she'll be perfectly happy and contented; so, you see, you'll be doing her and me the greatest possible favour. Don't say no, but settle the matter at once."

Murray, of course, thanked the admiral very heartily. He was sure that the invitation was given from the kindest of motives, and he fully believed that Stella would contribute greatly to the happiness of the old man and his sister, who, without kith or kin, required someone to solace them in their declining years. He seemed truly grateful when Murray, after talking the matter over with Stella, accepted his kind proposal.

"She mustn't consider herself a mere visitor, but must be as much at home as if Deb were only her housekeeper—that is just what Deb will like. And I must be looked upon as their visitor when I come back from paying a visit to any of my friends who are still willing to receive me; though the only people on whom I can now depend to give me a hearty welcome are Sir John and Lady Rogers; they don't get tired of my yarns, and Sir John laughs at them as heartily as he did many a long year ago."

So the matter was settled; and, on reaching Portsmouth, Murray and Stella accompanied the admiral to his very comfortable house at Southsea, at the entrance door of which Mrs Deborah Triton—she had taken brevet rank—stood with smiling countenance ready to receive them. It overlooked Spithead and the Isle of Wight, with the Solent stretching away to the westward; the entrance to Portsmouth harbour, with steamers and vessels of all sizes running constantly in and out, being seen at no great distance off across the common. But Sister Deb, as the admiral generally called her, is more worthy of a description than the house. She was remarkably like her brother, except that she had two feet, whereas he lacked one; and that her still plump face was free from the weather-beaten stains contracted by his honest countenance during his days afloat. Her figure was short and round, exhibiting freedom from care—it was such, indeed, as only a good-natured person could possess; but her face was the index of her mind and heart. That bore an unmistakable expression of kindness, gentleness, and good-temper, which perfect faith in the simple truths of Christianity could alone give. Murray felt perfectly confident that his wife and child would be in good keeping during his absence, and his heart felt lightened of one of its chief cares.

Next morning, Murray, accompanied by Archie, went on board the Opal, which, having just been brought out of dock, lay alongside the hulk. She was still in the hands of the riggers', who, busy as bees, swarmed in every part, rattling down the rigging, swaying up the topmasts, and getting the yards across. Her appearance in that condition was not attractive; but as he surveyed her with a seaman's eye, he felt satisfied that she was a fast craft, and well calculated for the service on which she was to be sent.

"I have no wish to command a steamer, but I cannot help fancying that a pair of paddles would be more likely to catch the Arab dhows we are to go in search of than is the fastest craft under canvas," he observed to Adair, whom he found on board.

They at once set to work to collect a crew, in which business Ben Snatchblock was especially active. Ben a few days afterwards received, to his satisfaction, his warrant as boatswain, his zeal being considerably enlivened thereby. He, before long, managed to pick up a number of prime hands from among his old shipmates, on whom he could thoroughly depend. The gunner and carpenter joined the same day he got his warrant. The former, Timothy Ebbs, was a little man, but he had a big voice and a prodigious pair of black whiskers, which, sticking out on either side of his face, gave him a sufficiently ferocious aspect to inspire ship-boys and other young members of the crew with the necessary amount of awe; while the able seamen respected him for his tried courage and undoubted nautical experience. Adair was very glad to find that Jos Green was appointed as master, as he had known him well when he was second master of the Tudor, in the West Indies, and a more merry, kind-hearted, better-disposed fellow never stepped. Jos, it was said, never went anywhere without finding friends, or came away without having made fresh ones. Adair, Archie, and Gerald, with all the officers who had as yet been appointed to the corvette, took up their quarters on board, and the work of fitting out made rapid progress.

"I wonder whom we shall have for our second lieutenant?" said Gerald, as they were sitting in the berth; "an old shipmate or a new one? I hope we may get a good sort of a fellow. I should like to have old Higson. What a good-natured chap he was!"

"That was when he was first promoted; he may have grown rusty by this time, at not getting another step," observed Archie. "He is older than the captain, and yet junior to Mr Adair."

On going on deck soon afterwards, an officer came up the side, who introduced himself to Terence as Lieutenant Frank Mildmay, come to join the Opal as second lieutenant. No two persons could be more dissimilar than the first and second lieutenants of the corvette. He had a smooth face with pink cheeks, whiskers curled to a nicety, and hair carefully brushed. His figure was slight and refined, and he wore lilac kid gloves, his appearance being certainly somewhat effeminate; indeed, he looked as if he had just come out of a bandbox.

"He'll never set the Thames on fire," observed Paddy Desmond to Archie. "Faith, the men will be after calling him Mr Mildman, unless he condescends to dip those delicate paws of his into the tar-bucket."

The men probably looked on their second lieutenant with much the same feelings as did the two midshipmen; while he, regardless of what they thought of him, accompanied Adair into the gun-room to make himself acquainted with the rest of his messmates. The remainder of the gun-room officers and midshipmen joined the next day, and, the complement of the crew being made up, the corvette, casting off from the hulk, took up her moorings in the middle of the harbour. Of the new-comers, two small midshipmen, who had never before been to sea, Paddy Desmond immediately designated one "Billy Blueblazes," in consequence of his boasting that he was related to an admiral of that name, while the other was allowed to retain his proper appellation of "Dicky Duff," Paddy declaring that it required no reformation. An old mate who was always grumbling, and two young one who had just passed their examination, with an assistant-surgeon, two clerks, and a master's assistant, made up the mess; and pretty closely stowed they were in the narrow confines of the berth. The only other person worthy of note was the third warrant-officer, the carpenter, who rejoiced in the designation of Caractacus Chessle, the name of the British hero having been bestowed on him by his father, who had once on a time been a stage-player. He was as tall and bulky as the gunner was short and wiry; indeed, the three warrant-officers formed a strange contrast with each other.

Murray frequently came on board to see how things were getting on, but never interfered with Adair's arrangements. He was sometimes accompanied by Admiral Triton, who seemed to take almost as much interest as he did in fitting out the ship. The sails were now bent, and Murray waited in daily expectation of receiving his sailing orders. Meantime, the kind admiral and his sister were moved with the thoughts of poor Stella's approaching bereavement, and, knowing nothing of Adair's attachment, he got Deb to write to Lady Rogers, inviting one of her daughters to pay them a visit, and assist in taking care of Mrs Murray. As it happened, he said nothing of the first lieutenant of the Opal, and Sir John and her ladyship, supposing that Adair was at Ballymacree, made no objection to Lucy's accepting the invitation. She accordingly, much to Murray's satisfaction, arrived the very day the ship was ready for sea. It so fell out that Adair, who had managed to escape from his multifarious duties, and was not aware of her coming, called to pay a farewell visit at the house. He was ushered into the drawing-room, where a lady was seated with a book in her hand, though her eyes were oftener cast over the blue ocean than at its pages.

The servant announced his name; the lady rose from her seat, and gazed at him with a look in which surprise was mingled with pleasure, a rich blush suffusing her countenance. "Mr Adair!" she exclaimed, holding out her hand, which Terence took, and seemed very unwilling to relinquish. Nor did she withdraw it.

"I thought you were at Ballymacree," she said. "I was very sorry that papa thought it right not to accept your proposal to pay us a visit at Halliburton while Jack was absent, but, believe me, he did not intend to be unkind."

"I felt that, though it made me very unhappy," answered Terence; "but did you wish me to come?"

"Yes," said Lucy, "I should have been very glad to see you; I should not be speaking the truth if I did not say so."

"Then, if I get my promotion and come back with lots of prize-money, may I hope—"

"Pray don't speak about that," answered Lucy, growing agitated; "I can make no promise without papa's sanction, and I have already said enough to show that I am not indifferent to you."

Terence was an Irishman, and Irishmen are not wont to be bashful, but at that moment Alick and Stella entered the room, not failing to remark the confusion their appearance created. Terence, of course, explained that he had called, not expecting to see Miss Rogers, but had come to pay his respects to Mrs Murray. She tried to send her husband out of the room, intending to follow, but he would not take the hint; and Terence, who had but a short time to spare, was compelled at length to pay his adieux without eliciting the promise he wished from Lucy. She looked very sorry when he had gone, but probably was the better able, from sympathy, to afford consolation to poor Stella, when the moment for her parting with her husband arrived. That moment came the very next day. It need not be dwelt on. Stella's lot was that which numberless wives of naval officers have to endure; but, though widely shared, her grief was not the less poignant as she watched with tearful eyes through the admiral's spy-glass the corvette under all sail standing down the Solent.



CHAPTER TWO.

CROSSING THE EQUATOR—BILLY BLUEBLAZES LOOKS OUT FOR THE LINE, BUT DOES NOT SEE IT—HE AND GERALD MASTHEADED—TRISTAN D'ACUNHA: JOS GREEN, AS USUAL, "MEETS WITH A FRIEND"—THE OPAL AT THE CAPE—SAILS FOR MADAGASCAR—COMMODORE DOUCE OF THE RADIANT—A BOAT EXPEDITION UP THE ANGOXA RIVER—THE SLAVERS' STRONGHOLD—MILDMAY'S SONNET INTERRUPTED BY THE GUNS OF THE FORT—ATTACK ON THE SLAVE-DHOWS—THE COMMODORE IS LANDED BY TOM BASHAN—CAPTURE OF THE FORT—CROSSING THE BAR.

Her Majesty's corvette Opal, under all sail, was slowly gliding across the line, for which Dicky Duff and Billy Blueblazes were eagerly looking out, Paddy Desmond having assured them that if they watched fast enough they would be sure to see it. Mr Mildmay, being addicted to poetry, was busily engaged in writing a sonnet on the subject, which, however, did not corroborate Gerald's statement, as it began, "Ideal cincture which surrounds the globe;" but as he was interrupted by Ben Snatchblock's pipe summoning the crew to exercise at the guns, the second line was not written, when Jos Green caught sight of the manuscript which he had left on the gun-room table.

"I say, Desmond, Dicky and I have been looking out this last hour or more for the line, and haven't sighted it yet," said Billy.

"Of course not; and you never will on deck. You should go to the fore-topgallant-masthead; you will see it clearly from thence, if you keep your eyes open wide enough; but if not, you have no chance."

"But if we do, we shall miss Neptune's visit. I suppose he'll be on board us before long?" answered Billy.

"Of course he will, if he doesn't happen to be otherwise engaged; but he has plenty of work on hand just now, and is just as likely as not paying a visit to some other ship away to the eastward. You see, he can't be everywhere at the same time. Or maybe his children have got the measles or whooping-cough, and of course he wouldn't like to leave them, especially if his wife happens to be out marketing. He's a domestic old fellow, and the best of husbands and fathers. So you youngsters mustn't depend on seeing him; and lucky for you, too; for his barber would be after shaving your chins off, seeing you've nothing else round your faces for him to operate on."

Paddy, the rogue, knew very well that the commander did not intend to allow the once usual frolics and gambols to take place; the time-honoured custom having, of late years, been generally abandoned on board Her Majesty's ships of war, as has the barbarous custom of burning Guy Fawkes been given up on shore by the more enlightened of our times; albeit the fifth of November and the lesson it teaches should never be forgotten.

The two midshipmen, who mustered a binocular between them, thus instigated by Paddy, made their way aloft, where, for their own pleasure, they remained looking out for Mr Mildmay's "ideal cincture" with the utmost patience, though they would have grumbled greatly had they been ordered up for punishment. At length they were espied by the first lieutenant. "What are you two youngsters doing up there aloft?" he shouted.

"Looking for the line, sir," was the answer, in Billy's shrill voice.

"Then remain till you see it, or till I call you down!" cried Adair. "I say, Gerald, you've been after bamboozling those youngsters," he added, as he caught sight of a broad grin on his nephew's face. "Go up to the main-topgallant-masthead, and assist them in looking out for the line. Perhaps you will sight it sooner than they will, and it will help you to correct your day's work."

Gerald, pulling a long face, began to ascend the rigging, greatly to the amusement of Archie and his other messmates.

"I say, Adair, you're somewhat hard upon the youngsters," observed the commander, who had just then come on deck. "You remember that Rogers and you and I thought ourselves severely dealt with when we three had to grace the mastheads of the old Racer."

"Faith, but I think we were rightly punished, and that's the reason I sent Desmond aloft, and allowed the other youngsters to remain where they had gone of their own accord."

"You forget that the sun is somewhat hot, and they may come down by the run and knock their brains out; so don't you think it would be better to call them down presently, and give Master Gerald a lecture on the impropriety of playing on the credulity of his younger messmates?"

Of course Adair did as the commander wished, though he had some difficulty in keeping his countenance when he called up the three youngsters before him to receive his lecture.

"Remember, Master Desmond, if you begin by bamboozling, you may end by practising more serious deceptions on your fellows; so let me advise you in future to restrain your propensity in that direction," he wound up by saying, with as grave a countenance as he could command. He then informed the youngsters that the line was only imaginary, to denote the sun's course round the globe.

"An 'ideal cincture,' you will understand, youngsters," observed the master, who had heard Adair's remarks, giving at the same time a nod to Mr Mildmay, who blushed an acknowledgment of being the author of the poetical simile.

The two youngsters were very greatly disappointed when they found that they had got some way to the south of the line without having made acquaintance with Neptune and his charming family.

Rio was at length reached, and Gerald and Archie had time to pay visits, in company with the good-natured master, to many of the localities with which they were acquainted when there before, though unable to get up the harbour, as they wished to call on the officious old magistrate, the Juiz da Fora who had imprisoned them and Higson. They remained, however, only long enough to take in a stock of fresh provisions and water, and then steered eastward across the Atlantic to the Cape of Good Hope.

About sixteen days after leaving Rio, land was sighted.

"What, have we got to the Cape already?" exclaimed Desmond, who heard the cry from aloft.

"No, my lad; if you had been attending to your day's work you wouldn't have asked the question," answered Green. "The land ahead is the island of Tristan d'Acunha, not the most delectable of spots for the residents, though I believe there are some on it. We are going to put in to get some more fresh mutton and beef, with any vegetables they are able to spare."

"Hands shorten sail and bring ship to an anchor!" shouted Adair soon afterwards, and the corvette brought up before a green slope, spotted with small whitewashed buildings, the hill becoming more rough and craggy till it reached an elevation of eight thousand feet above the sea. The other side of the island, as they afterwards discovered, rose sheer out of the water in a vast precipice to the summit. Between the anchorage and the shore was a prodigious mass of enormous seaweeds, inside of which the water was perfectly calm, forming a safe harbour for small craft. Off it appeared two small islands, known as Inaccessible and Nightingale. To the latter, Billy and Dicky Duff were anxious to go and catch some of the birds, from which, as they were informed by the irrepressible Paddy Desmond, the island took its name. Its feathered inhabitants are, however, only the wild sea-fowl which seek their prey from among the denizens of the ocean.

"You will not find any friends here, Jos, I suppose?" said Adair to the master.

"It is possible, as I have never been off the place before," answered Jos; "but still I am never surprised at meeting someone who knows me. Once, when pulling up the Nun, in Africa, on the first visit I paid to that delectable stream, as I happened to be remarking that I had no friends there, at all events, a black, who had swum off from the shore, put his head over the bows and exclaimed, 'Massa Green, glad to see you. What! sure you 'member Jiggery Pop, who served aboard the Frisky, at the Cape?' And sure enough I remembered Jiggery well, seeing that I had once picked him out of the water when he was near drowning, and he had served me the same good turn."

While Jos was narrating this anecdote, a boat, pulled by half a dozen stout seamen in blue and red shirts, was coming off from the shore to the ship. Without ceremony they stepped on board, when one of them, coming aft, touched his hat to the master. "You'll remember me, sir. Served with you aboard the Pantaloon. I'm Jerry Bird."

"Glad to see you, Jerry; you saved me from being cut down when we had that affair out in the Pacific."

"No, sir, I think it was t'other way," said Jerry; "I haven't forgotten it, I can tell you, sir."

"Well, it was one or the other," observed Green. "Tell me what brought you to this out-of-the-way place?"

"Couldn't help it, sir—ship cast ashore, and I was the only one to get to land alive, and have been living here ever since; but, if so be the captain will ship me aboard, I'll enter at once."

As Jerry was a prime hand, the offer was not likely to be refused, and he was entered accordingly.

A boat with several officers visited the shore, making their way, not without difficulty, through the floating breakwater of seaweed. The inhabitants, consisting of about forty men, women, and children, gathered on the beach to welcome them in front of their little stone-boxes of dwellings which were scattered about here and there. They appeared to be a primitive race, the descendants of two old men-of-war's men, who, having been discharged from the service at the end of the last century, had lived there ever since with wives whom they had brought from the Cape, their respective children and grandchildren having intermarried. Their wealth consisted in bullocks and flocks of sheep, which, having increased in the same proportion as their owners, were now very numerous. Their carcases, as well as the skins and wool, were exchanged for such luxuries as they required with the skippers of ships calling off their island. Here the old patriarchs, with their families, had dwelt for well-nigh half a century or more, knowing little of what was going forward in the world, and by the world unknown.

The Opal, having supplied herself with a stock of fresh provisions, once more weighed anchor, carrying off Green's old shipmate, Jerry Bird, who seemed heartily glad to get away from his friends, whom he described in no very flattering colours. After a run of twelve days, the Opal came in sight of the Cape, but it was night before she dropped her anchor in Simon's Bay. Dark masses of land were seen towering above her mastheads, and rows of light streaming from the maindeck ports of two frigates, between which she took up her berth; while the sound of bugles coming across the water betokened the neighbourhood of troopships, with redcoats on board, bound out to India, or returning home. It reminded those whose thoughts were with the loved ones in Old England, to lose no time in sitting down to their desks. Of course the commander wrote to his wife, and Adair humbly requested that he might be allowed to enclose a letter to Lucy, in case, as he observed, she might still be staying with Mrs Deborah Triton. They both also wrote to the kind old admiral.

As the morning broke, a ship was seen standing out of the harbour, and a boat sent with a well-filled letter-bag to overtake her. How hard the crew pulled! for they knew by the commander's manner that he intended that letter-bag to be put on board. They did it, however,—as British seamen generally do whatever they are ordered,—though at no small expenditure of muscular strength, and, of course, received, well pleased, a glass of grog on their return on board.

The Opal remained but a short time at the Cape. Murray received orders to follow the Radiant, one of the frigates seen on the night of her arrival, to the Mozambique Channel, as soon as she had filled up with water and other stores.

The corvette made but a short stay, and again sailed for Saint Augustine's Bay, at the southern end of Madagascar, which island was sighted in little more than a fortnight. The Radiant was found at anchor in the bay, Commodore Douce, who commanded her, having put in to water the ship.

Murray went on board to pay his respects and receive his orders, and numerous visits were exchanged between the two ships. The commodore, a remarkably small man with a fiery countenance, overshadowed by a prodigious cocked hat, was walking the deck with hasty strides as Murray came up the side.

"I have been expecting you here for three days, at least, Commander Murray," he exclaimed, as Alick made his bow. "There is work to be done, and the sooner it is done the better. I have received notice that a piratical band of Arabs, who have long had possession of a strong fort up the river Angoxa, have a number of barracoons full of slaves and several dhows lying under the protection of their guns. I have resolved to make a dash up the river to cut out the vessels, capture the slaves, and destroy the fort."

"I am very glad to hear it, sir," answered Murray, "and will send my boats on shore to procure water immediately, so that we may be ready to sail with as little delay as possible. The men, when they hear the object, will work with a will, you may depend on that, commodore; and I trust that the crew of the Opal is not to be surpassed in smartness by that of any other ship in commission. I think that you will acknowledge that when you have an opportunity of judging."

"Well, well, you brought to in very good style, I must confess that," answered the commodore, who, though inclined to be irascible, was quickly appeased. "When you send your boats on shore, let the officers in command keep an eye on the natives, and take care that none of the crew stray. The people about here are treacherous rascals, and would murder anyone they could catch hold of without any provocation. I'll send three of the frigate's boats to assist you, and order the crew of one of them to remain on guard while the others are filling the casks."

The news which Murray took when he returned on board made everyone alive. In a few minutes the boats were ready to shove off. The brown-skinned natives kept hovering about all the time, seeing the sailors engaged in filling the casks; and it was very evident that, had they dared, they would have treated their visitors as the commodore had thought probable. Not long before, in the bay, a short distance to the northward, the inhabitants had murdered an officer and boat's crew, without, as far as could be ascertained, the slightest provocation. Murray was therefore thankful when his boats returned safely on board.

Leaving Saint Augustine's Bay, the frigate and corvette sailed across the Mozambique Channel, and came to an anchor off the mouth of the Angoxa. During the passage, every possible preparation was made for the intended expedition; the firearms were looked to, cutlasses sharpened; the surgeons packed up their instruments, bandages, and medicines. The Arabs were not fellows to yield without a determined struggle, and some sharp fighting was expected. About midway across the channel, a thin wreath of smoke was observed to the southward. "A steamer in sight, standing this way, sir," reported Adair to the commander. "The commodore has made the signal to heave-to."

In a short time the steamer got near enough to allow her number to be made out. "The Busy Bee" reported Archie, who was acting as signal-midshipman. The commodore directed her to join company; her boats would be an important addition to the proposed expedition. The three vessels now stood on to the mouth of the river, off which they brought up, for the depth of water on the bar was not sufficient to allow even the Busy Bee to enter. The boats were therefore immediately lowered, those considering themselves most fortunate who had to go in them; and it was hoped that by pulling up at once the Arabs might be taken by surprise. The frigate sent four boats, the corvette three, and the steamer two of her paddle-box boats and a gig. The larger boats were armed with guns in their bows, capable of carrying shell, grape, and canister, as well as round-shot. The crews were provided with muskets, pistols, and cutlasses; and all formed a pretty strong body, against which the Arabs were not likely to make any effectual stand. All hands were in high spirits—there is nothing Jack enjoys so much as an expedition on shore, whether for fighting or for a game of cricket. Provisions for three days were stowed away in the boats, with plenty of ammunition, and numerous articles, including pots and pans for cooking, blanket-frocks and trousers, blankets and other means for making themselves comfortable at night. The surgeons did not forget a supply of quinine to mix with the men's grog, the only way in which they could be induced to swallow the extract, albeit the only reliable preventive for fever.

Jos Green was much disappointed at being compelled to remain in charge of the corvette. "I fully expected to find some old friend or other among the Arabs or captured slaves; however, give my kind regards to anyone who knows me, and say I shall be happy to see them on board," he exclaimed, as Terence went down the side.

Murray went in his gig, accompanied by Archie; Adair had command of the pinnace, a mate and Desmond going with him; Mr Mildmay commanded the cutter, accompanied by Billy Blueblazes; and Dicky Duff was in the boatswain's boat. The commodore led the expedition in his own gig, in the stem of which sat, as coxswain, Tom Bashan, noted as the biggest man in the fleet—even the carpenter of the Opal looked but of ordinary size alongside him. He had followed Captain Douce from ship to ship, and had often rendered his commander essential service, when the little man might otherwise have come to serious grief. Bashan had the affection for his chief which a nurse entertains for the child under her charge, and considered it his especial duty, as far as he had power, to keep him out of harm—not that the commodore ever suspected that his subordinate entertained such a notion; he always spoke of him as an honest, harmless fellow, who knew his duty and did it.

The bar being tolerably smooth, the boats crossed without any accident, the crews giving way with a will up the river. The tide was flowing, so they made rapid progress.

"This is something like our expedition up the San Juan de Nicaragua," observed Desmond to Adair. "Except that we had white fellows to fight instead of Arabs, and a hot stream to pull against instead of having the tide with us."

"The tide will turn before long," answered Adair; "and if the boats get aground we may find these same Arabs rather tough customers. However, we must look out to avoid the contingency, and if we can take the fellows by surprise, we may manage to get hold of a good number of slaves."

The tide before long, as Adair predicted, began to ebb, and the boats made much slower progress than before. It was nearly nightfall when they got up to Monkey Island, inside of which the commodore ordered them to anchor; the boats being brought up close together, the awnings were spread, the mainbrace spliced, and other preparations made for passing the night. An extra allowance was served out to induce the men to swallow the quinine mixed with it; for though some made wry faces, their love of grog induced them to overcome their objection to the bitter taste.

After the grog, songs were sung alternately by the crew of each boat, the commodore, who had nothing of the martinet about him, being always ready to encourage his men to amuse themselves harmlessly; and they were yet too far off from the fort to run any risk of their approach being betrayed by their voices.

"Sweethearts and wives," sung out a voice from one of the boats, and was taken up by the rest, as the last drop of grog was drained. Murray and Adair drank the toast heartily, though in a less demonstrative manner than their companions, who possibly might have been very little troubled with the thoughts of either wives or sweethearts. No one for the time dwelt on the somewhat serious work on which they were likely to be engaged the next day. At length, each man looked out for the softest plank he could find, and turned in to sleep, the officers enjoying no more luxurious couches than their inferiors; to some poor fellows it might be the last rest they were to take here below.

A look-out, however, was kept, in case any of the Arab dhows should slip down the river. Two of the gigs were sent alternately ahead to watch for any craft which might come in sight. None, however, were seen, and just as the first streaks of daylight appeared in the sky, the commodore gave the order to "pipe to breakfast." Fires were lighted on the island, and cocoa and coffee warmed up, while another dose of quinine was served out to each man.

The operation did not take long, and once more the flotilla advanced, the tide carrying them rapidly up the river. About noon, as the sun was beating down with tremendous force, Angoxa came in sight, with, as the commodore had expected from the information he had received, several dhows at anchor before it under the protection of its guns. Directly the boats rounded the last point, which had before concealed their approach, the red flag was hoisted above the fort, and at the same time the loud sounds of the beating of tom-toms and drums commenced, continuing incessantly, as if to intimidate the English tars and induce them to pull back again to their ships.

The men laughed. "What a row them niggers do kick up! I wonder whether they think we're going back frightened by all their tom-tomming. We'll show them presently that we've got some chaps aboard which will bark not a little louder and do a precious deal more harm," exclaimed Ben Snatchblock, who accompanied Mr Mildmay in one of the Opal's boats. That young officer took things very coolly. He was observed with his notebook jotting down his thoughts, but whether in the form of a poetical effusion or not, Billy Blueblazes, who was beside him, could not ascertain, though he tried hard to do so.

"The great Wolfe recited poetry when about to die in the arms of victory on the heights of Abraham," observed Mr Mildmay to the midshipman; "do you recall the lines to your memory, Billy? What were they?"

"I think, sir, they were something about 'the curfew tolling the knell of parting day,' but I can never recollect more of the poem."

"Ah! so they were—let me see," and the lieutenant bit the end of his pencil. "'As Britain's tars who plough the mighty deep.'"

"'Sheep' or 'sleep' come in rhyme with 'deep,'" suggested Billy.

"Be silent—I want a grander term," said the lieutenant. "'Where waves on waves in wild confusion leap'—that's fine isn't it?"

"Yes, sir," said Billy. "We're up an African river, and are going to lick a lot of blackamoors; you'll have a difficulty in bringing blackamoor into your lines, I've a notion."

"Of course I should call them Arabs, their proper designation, when I get as far," replied Mr Mildmay.

Just then the boat grounded, as did several others near her, and there the whole flotilla lay in sight of the fort, outside of which appeared a number of barracoons, but whether full of slaves or not it was impossible to say. The unavoidable delay of the leading boats enabled the others to overtake them; and as the tide rose, their crews shoved them over the shoals, and once more they advanced in line abreast. Their progress was slow; again several of the larger boats grounded, and the whole, consequently, had to wait till the rising tide floated them. The next time they grounded, the Arabs seemed to have discovered that they were within range of the eight guns mounted on the fort, as well indeed as the muskets of the large party sent out along the bank. The latter, as well as the guns in the fort, now began blazing away, shot and bullets flying thickly over and around the boats. Mr Mildmay at this juncture thought it as well to put his notebook into his pocket. The boats' guns, however, were not to be idle; the commander gave the order to fire, and immediately they opened with spherical case-shot, grape and canister, the former thrown with great accuracy into the middle of the fort, while the latter quickly sent some of the swarthy heroes under shelter, and put the greater number to flight. Several of the men in the boats had been hit, which excited the eagerness of the crews to get at the foe. The first thing, however, to be done was to destroy the dhows. As the boats worked their way up over the shoals towards them, a hot fire was opened from those lowest down. This was quite sufficient to show their character, and the marines and small-armed men began peppering away at every Arab turban or cap of which they could catch sight, while the shells and grape prevented the enemy from returning to their guns in the fort. The tide, rushing in more rapidly than before, quickly enabled the smaller boats, led by Adair, to get up to the dhows. He was the first on board the largest, a craft of a hundred tons or more. Her crew, having had no time to escape, fought desperately. Some were cut down, and the rest driven overboard, not a human being remaining alive on board. She was at once set on fire, and the rest of the dhows were attacked in the same manner in succession. On board, some resistance was offered, but the crews of others, leaping overboard, attempted to save themselves by swimming to the shore. As there was no object in carrying any of them off, they were all burned, there being no doubt of their piratical character.

Though the guns in the fort were for the time silenced, they were still capable of mischief, and the commodore wisely resolved entirely to destroy the hornets' nest. "We must land, Commander Murray, and drive the enemy into the woods, burn their stockade, spike their guns, and tumble them into the river," he shouted. The first part of the business, on which the rest depended, was not so easily accomplished. The banks shelved so gradually that the boats grounded when still some twenty yards or more from the shore. The rising of the tide would in time carry them nearer; but in the interval they were exposed to a galling fire from the enemy, who were under shelter both in the fort and in several other spots along the bank; while, in all probability, before the fighting on shore was over the tide would again ebb and leave the boats high and dry, exposed to the attacks of the numerous bands who were gathering on the spot in the hope of wreaking their vengeance on their foes. Still the plucky little commodore, in spite of all risks, was determined to carry his plan into execution. The commanders of the boats received orders to sweep round in line, run their bows as far up as they could, and while the enemy were driven from the banks by showers of grape and canister, the marines and small-armed men were to land and attack them with the bayonet should they attempt to make a stand.

The order was quickly obeyed; the guns from the larger boats sent forth so deadly a shower of missiles that the Arabs, who were coming down in force to dispute their landing, took to flight, leaving many dead and wounded. The difficulty was now to get on shore; the bottom was likely to be muddy, the water tolerably deep. Murray and Adair, with their boats' crews, were among the first to gain a footing on dry land. The commodore was eager to be up with them, but, at the same time, was very unwilling to get wet. Tom Bashan, having stepped out into the mud, received orders from his chief to lift him on his shoulders and carry him on shore. Tom, who had his musket in his right hand, did as he was ordered by taking the little commodore up with his left arm and placing him behind his back, where the brave leader of the expedition sat, his head just above Tom's grinning countenance, while he waved his sword with no little risk of cutting off his coxswain's nose, shouting in his eagerness, "On, my lads! on! form on the beach as you land—skirmishers to the front. Now let the brown-skinned rascals see what British sailors are made of!"

The marines, who had landed by the time the commodore had been deposited by Tom on the ground, formed in good order, with parties of bluejackets on either flank. The Arabs appeared to be taken completely by surprise, never apparently supposing that the British would leave their boats. They had halted at some distance, and looked a formidable body, ten times more numerous than those who were about to attack them; while the commodore, nothing daunted, waving his sword and dashing forward, shouted, "Charge, my lads! charge!"

The British bayonets gleamed brightly in the sun, as, with steady tramp, the line of redcoats and bluejackets advanced at the charge. The Arabs fired a round, the scimitars of their leaders flashing for a few seconds, and then, unable to face the bristling wall of bayonets, their courage gave way, and they fled helter-skelter for safety towards the neighbouring woods. The English pursued them for some distance, firing as they advanced, and halting only to give sufficient time to reload. If they advanced too far, as the fort was yet unsubdued, there was a risk of a sally being made from it and the boats being destroyed. The commodore, carried away by his ardour, had already gone farther than was wise. Discovering his error, he ordered his followers to fall back as rapidly as possible on the boats.

Just then a strong body of men were seen issuing from the fort. Not a moment was to be lost, or they might reach the boats. The commodore was pretty well blown by his recent exercise, but, putting forth all his strength, he led his men back even faster than they had come. As soon as the enemy saw their approach, they hastily retreated within the stockades.

"Now, my lads," cried the commodore, "we have the last part of the business to accomplish. Before a quarter of an hour is over, we must be inside that fort. I know that you can do it, and will do it."

The men replied by a loud cheer, and advanced, in high spirits at their previous success, towards the stockades. The Arabs, who had seen their friends beaten, lost heart from the first; and though they defended the stockades for some minutes with considerable bravery, they quickly took to flight as the bluejackets came tumbling down over their heads, cutlass in hand. In a few minutes the place was won, the garrison escaping by a western gate, as the English forced their way in over the eastern side. The commodore's first impulse was to follow the enemy, but there were still too many people in the fort to make such a proceeding safe. The non-combatants, women and children, received orders to take themselves off with such of their personal property as they could carry, an act of leniency which surprised them not a little. In a short time not a single inhabitant remained behind.

The guns were then spiked and dragged to a part of the fort directly over the stream, into which they were tumbled, and from whence it would give the Arabs no small amount of trouble to fish them out again. The place was next set on fire in every direction, when the party, each man carrying such booty as he had managed to pick up, left the fort to the destruction awaiting it. The flames spread amid the wooden and thatch-roof buildings, till the surrounding stockades caught fire, and the whole hornets' nest was one sea of flame.

The barracoons, from which the slaves had, as it was expected, been removed, were treated in the same manner, when the commodore, highly satisfied with the result of the expedition, ordered the men to embark. To get the heavy boats afloat, however, was no easy matter; the tide had already begun to ebb; it seemed very doubtful whether they could be got off, till the crews, putting their shoulders under the gunwales, lifted them by sheer strength into deeper water. Before a single man attempted to get on board, the gallant commodore, who, though not afraid of the hottest fire, had an especial dread of getting wet, was again carried for some distance on Bashan's shoulders, till he was safely deposited in the sternsheets of his boat, where the giant, with dripping clothes, followed him.

Further delay would have been dangerous, as, the channel being unknown, the boats might at any moment get aground, and be left there by the rapidly-falling tide. It was, besides, important, for the sake of the wounded men, to return as soon as possible to the ships. Although not a man had been hit on shore, either when attacking the enemy in the open or storming the fort, during the first part of the day several casualties had occurred; two poor fellows had been killed, and six others had been wounded, one very severely. Excepting, however, on board the boat in which the dead bodies lay, the men were in as high spirits as usual, exulting in the success of the expedition. Now and then they restrained their mirth, as first one and then another of the boats grounded, and there seemed a probability that the rest would share their fate. They, however, were got off, and the flotilla continued its course down the stream, one boat following the other in line.

They reached their anchorage inside Monkey Island soon after darkness came on. Though the water was here of sufficient depth, even at low tide, to allow the boats to keep afloat, and, the dhows having been destroyed, they could not be assailed from above, still their dangers and difficulties were not over; for, should their position be discovered, a force might gather on the banks, and cause them considerable annoyance. During the night, therefore, the men were ordered to keep their arms by their sides, ready for instant use—it being impossible to say at what moment they might be attacked.

The bar, also, had to be crossed. It was sufficiently smooth when they came over it, but how it would be on their return was the question. Those who had before been on the coast declared that they had frequently seen a surf breaking over it in which even a lifeboat could scarcely live.

"Faith, Archie, we've had a jolly day of it," remarked Desmond, whose boat was lying alongside that of the commander of the Opal; "if this is the sort of fun we're generally to have, I'm mighty glad we came out here."

"Small fun for the poor fellows who have been shot," answered Archie; "I hear one of them groaning terribly; the sooner we get back to the ships the better for them."

"Faith, it isn't pleasant to have a shot through one, and I hope that won't be our lot," said Desmond. "I only wish Tom Rogers was with us. From what I hear, the boats of the squadron are constantly sent away on separate cruises to look after slavers, and it would be capital if we could get sent off on a cruise together—much more amusing than having to stick on board the ship with the humdrum, everyday routine of watches and musters and divisions."

To this, of course, Archie agreed. The youngsters, forgetting that their commander was close to them, were chattering away in somewhat loud voices, when Murray ordered them to knock off talking, and to turn in and go to sleep. The night passed away quietly, and all hoped to get on board their respective ships at an early hour the next morning.

After the men had breakfasted on the island, the squadron of boats, led by their gallant commodore, pulled down with the ebb towards the mouth of the river, up which a stiffish breeze was blowing, just sufficient to ripple over the surface of the water glittering in the rays of the rising sun. On either hand rose a forest of tall trees, their feathery tops defined against the clear blue sky. In a short time the ships could be discerned in the offing, rolling their masts ominously from side to side, while ahead rose a threatening wall of white foam, extending directly across the river's mouth. The crew of the commodore's boat ceased pulling, and the other boats as they came up followed their example.

"Here we are, caught like mice in a trap, gentlemen!" exclaimed Adair, as Murray and the commander of the Busy Bee came up alongside him.

"It will be madness to attempt forcing the boats through yonder breakers; the largest would be swamped directly she got among them," observed Murray. "It's now nearly low tide; but perhaps at the top of high-water they may prove less formidable, and we may be able to get out. We shall, at all events, have to wait till then."

As the boats, during this conversation, had been carried somewhat close to the dangerous breakers, the commodore ordered them to pull round and to make their way some little distance up the river, where the men could lie on their oars and wait for an opportunity of crossing the bar. Many an eye was turned towards the shore, where a game of leap-frog or some other amusement could be indulged in, but not a spot appeared on which they could land. The sun rose higher and higher in the sky, his rays beating down on their heads and blistering their noses and cheeks, while the stock of water and other liquids which had been brought rapidly diminished.

"I hope that we shall be able to get out when the tide rises," said Desmond to Adair; "if not, I've a notion that we shall be pretty hard pressed."

"So have I," said Adair; "but it is possible that the bar may remain in its present state for several days together, and, if so, we shall have to forage on shore for whatever food we can pick up. It may not be so easy to find pure water, though."

"For my part, I should be ready to drink ditch-water," exclaimed Desmond; "I never felt so thirsty in my life."

Many others were in the same condition as Paddy, but no one complained. A small quantity only remained, which was willingly given up for the use of the poor wounded men, who of course suffered greatly. Hour after hour passed by, and anxious eyes were cast at the white wall of surf, which cut them off from the blue ocean beyond; its summit, dancing and leaping, glittered brightly in the sun's rays.

At length, the tide rising, the breakers appeared to decrease somewhat in height. "I think, sir, that I could carry my gig through," said Murray, "and, if so, the heavier boats may be able to follow."

"You may make the attempt, provided all your people can swim, for your boat may be swamped," said the commodore; "but as the tide is rising, you will be drifted back, and we must be ready to pick you up."

"All my boat's crew are good swimmers," said Murray, "but I hope they will not be compelled to exercise their powers."

Murray, having placed the remainder of the stores, with all unnecessary weight, on board the larger boats, prepared to make the bold attempt; Adair and Snatchblock following him, as close as they could venture, to the inner line of breakers. Standing up and surveying the bar for some minutes, he at length selected a part where the rollers which came in from the ocean appeared to break with less violence than on either hand.

"Give way, my lads," he cried suddenly; and the crew bending to their oars, the boat shot quickly up the foaming side of the first of the formidable watery hills which had to be passed before the open sea could be gained. His progress was watched with intense eagerness by those in the other boats. Now she was lost to sight, as she sank into a valley on the farther side of the inner roller; now she rose to the foaming summit of the next.

"He'll do it!" cried the little commodore, standing up in the sternsheets, that he might the better watch the progress of the young commander's boat, and clapping his hands like a midshipman. The more dangerous part of the bar, however, had not yet been reached; still Murray continued his course. Now the summit of another roller was gained, the white foam hissing and sparkling over the boat, and almost concealing her from sight.

"She's capsized after all, and they'll have a hard swim of it," shouted someone.

"No, she isn't," cried another voice; "I see her bows rising up on the outer roller. In another minute she'll be clear of them."

"Bravo! well done!" exclaimed the commodore, dancing with delight; "she's through it, and will soon be on board the Busy Bee."

The officer in charge of the steamer, it should be said, not finding the boats at the time expected, had, according to orders, got up steam and stood in to ascertain what had become of them.

"Now, my lads," cried the commodore, "what the gig has done we can do. I'll bring up the rear, and be ready to help any boat which may meet with an accident. The post of most danger is the post of honour, which I claim for myself; for those in the last boat will have less chance of being rescued than any of the rest."

Adair was the next to attempt the hazardous experiment. His boat was half filled, but he got through without being swamped, and the water was baled out. The rest in succession followed, each officer waiting for a favourable opportunity to steer through the line of surf.



CHAPTER THREE.

MOZAMBIQUE—VISIT TO THE GOVERNOR—HAMED, THE INTERPRETER—ESCAPE OF A SLAVE TO THE OPAL—PREPARATIONS FOR SHARP WORK—A SLAVE DHOW IN SIGHT— HER WRECK—ADAIR AFTER HER THROUGH THE BREAKERS—SEVERAL OF THE SLAVES RESCUED—BEN SNATCHBLOCK ATTEMPTS TO COMFORT THEM—HIS EFFORTS NOT APPRECIATED—RETURN TO THE SHIP—HORRIBLE STATE OF THE RESCUED BLACKS.

While the frigate stood to the northward, and the Busy Bee buzzed across to Madagascar, the Opal stood for Mozambique, where Murray had to obtain an interpreter, to pick up all possible information regarding the movements of slavers. Two days afterwards the corvette came to an anchor off the chief settlement of the Portuguese on that coast.

The town stands on an island, about a mile and a half in length, situated on a deep inlet of the sea, into which several small rivers fall. The harbour is of considerable size, its entrance guarded by a fort, beyond which appeared an avenue of trees on a gentle slope, then a collection of flat-roofed whitewashed houses, then the palace of the Portuguese governor, with pink walls, and a considerably dilapidated cathedral, below which a stone pier, with buttresses of a sugar-loaf form, runs out into the sea.

"Not a very attractive-looking place," observed Terence to his brother lieutenant, as they viewed it from the ship.

"Yet it speaks of the bygone magnificence of the once proud Lusitanian," answered the poet. "I must write some lines on the subject. The place is not without interest."

"Those dhows, and low, dark, piratical-looking schooners, have considerably more interest to us, however," said Adair; "they are not employed in any honest calling, depend on that; and there lie two Spaniards and a Yankee. If they have no slaves on board, they will have before long, and we must do our best to catch them. We must depend on our own wits, though, for it's impossible to get any correct information from the Portuguese officers—they are most of them as arrant slave-dealers as the Arabs themselves. That man-of-war schooner, for instance, is much more likely to help the slavers to escape than to assist us in catching them, and is very likely often employed in bringing off a cargo of ebony from the shore."

The schooner he pointed at was a handsome vessel, with a thoroughly piratical look about her. However, she formed a strong contrast to the Arab dhows by which she was surrounded. They were of all sizes, the largest measuring, perhaps, three hundred and fifty tons.

"If I had to describe a dhow, I should say that her shape was like half a well-formed pear, cut longitudinally," observed Adair, looking towards the large craft over the quarter, which lay at some little distance, and was preparing apparently to put to sea. "See, her bow sinks deeply in the water, while the stern floats lightly upon it. Large as that craft is, she is only partially decked. She has cross-beams, however, to preserve her shape, and on them are laid flat strips of bamboo, which enable the crew to make their way from one end to the other. At the afterpart she has a large house, lightly built, the roof of which forms a poop, while the interior serves, I have no doubt, for the cabin of the skipper, and probably for his wives and children, as well as his passengers and the whole of his crew. She has a heavy, rough spar for a mast, tapering towards the head and raking forward. The sail which they are now just hoisting is, in shape, like a right-angled triangle, with a parallelogram below its base; the hypothenuse or head of the sail is secured to a yard, like an enormous fishing-rod; the halyards are secured to it about a third of the way from the butt-end, and it is hoisted close up to the head of the mast. A tackle brings down the lower end of the yard to the deck, and serves to balance the lofty tapering point, while the sheet is secured to the lower after-corner of the sail. Though many of the smaller dhows have only one mast, that big fellow has two, with a sail of the same shape as the first, but more diminutive. The larger sail is of preposterous proportions, and it seems wonderful that she can carry it without being capsized. It appears to be formed of a strong soft cotton canvas, of extreme whiteness. Those vessels don't tack, but when beating to windward wear by putting up the helm and taking the sheet round before the yard and bringing it aft again on the other side; the deepest part of the dhow being, as you see, under the foremast, it forms a pivot round which the shallow stern, obeying the helm, rapidly turns. Clumsy as they look, I hear that these craft are wonderfully fast, and, with the wind free, will put us on our mettle to overhaul them."

"I should like to judge for myself on that point," observed Mildmay. "Fellows who have allowed prizes to escape them always declare that the craft they have chased is faster than anything afloat."

"I hope we shall have the chance before long," said Adair; "we must keep a bright lookout from the ship and try to do what we can. The commander intends running down the coast, and then despatching all the boats which can be spared to look into the creeks and harbours, and other hiding-places in which any slavers are likely to take shelter. I should like to go on such an expedition myself, if the commander can spare me, shouldn't you?"

"No, thank you," answered Mildmay; "I've no fancy for going away and sleeping in an open boat, without a change of linen or any of the necessaries of life."

"Well, then, I'll leave you to do my duty on board, and volunteer to command the first expedition sent away," said Adair; "you'll take good care of the ship in the meantime."

"Ah, yes!—though I have never aspired to the post of first lieutenant,—to oblige you," said Mildmay.

"Thank you," answered Adair, laughing.

In the afternoon the captain and lieutenants went to pay their respects to the Portuguese governor, and Desmond and Archie were invited to accompany them. Landing on the stone pier before described, they made their way along the narrow, dirty streets, which literally swarmed with slaves. There were faces of every form, if not of colour, for all were black as jet; their faces disfigured in every variety of manner, some with lip-rings, others with rings in their noses, and some with pieces of bone stuck spritsail fashion through the cartilage. Some, instead of bone, wore brass-headed nails, while many had pieces of bone through their ears. The faces of others were fearfully gashed, a yellow dust filling up the grooves.

Mozambique, indeed, is the chief slave-mart of the Portuguese, and thousands of unhappy beings are kidnapped and brought there from all parts of the interior, ready to be shipped to any country where slave-labour is in demand.

The English officers found the Portuguese governor seated in a broad verandah, in an easy chair, smoking a cigar, and enjoying the sea-breeze, while sheltered from the hot sun. He received them courteously, begging them to be seated, and ordering coffee and cigarettes, which were immediately brought by his slaves, the latter accompanied by a plate of hot charcoal, from which to light them. He expressed himself gratified by their visit, and assured them that his great desire was to put down the slave-trade; but, shrugging his shoulders, he acknowledged that it was no easy matter. "In spite of all I can do," he added, sighing, "my subordinates will indulge in it. What can be expected? They do not like the country, and are naturally in a hurry to make their fortunes and get away again. It is a second nature to the Arabs, and their chief mode of existing; and as long as the French and Brazilians and Cubans will buy slaves, what can prevent it? The former, to be sure, ship them as emigrants and free Africans, though not a negro would leave his country if he could help it."

The governor was so frank, and apparently so sincere in his offers of assistance, that Murray told him one of his chief objects in coming to Mozambique was to obtain an interpreter who could thoroughly be trusted.

"I know the man for you," said the governor; "though not a beauty, he is worthy of confidence—knows the whole coast and the tricks of the slave-dealers, and would obtain for you all the information you require. I'll give directions to have him sent on board, and you can there make any arrangements you think fit."

Murray having thanked the governor for his courtesy, he and his party took a walk round the island. "Faith, for my part, I'd rather be first lieutenant of the Opal than governor-general of all the Portuguese settlements in the East put together," exclaimed Adair; "for of all the undetectable places I ever set foot in, this surpasses them in its abominations."

Soon after they returned on board, an individual, who announced himself as the interpreter sent by the governor-general of Mozambique to serve on board Her Majesty's warship, came up the side.

"And what's your name, my fine fellow?" asked Murray, as he eyed the unattractive personage. The governor had certainly not belied him when he described him as destitute of good looks. On the top of his grisly head he wore a large white turban. His colour might once have been brown, but it was now as black as that of a negro, frightfully scarred and marked all over. He had but one eye, and that was a blinker, which twisted and turned in every direction when he spoke, except at the person whom he was addressing. His lips were thick, his nostrils extended—indeed, his countenance partook more of the negro than of the Arab type. His feet were enormous, with toes widely spread. He wore a loose jacket, striped with blue, over a dirty cotton coat reaching to his knees, and huge blue baggy trousers.

"Me Haggis ben Hamed at your sarvice, Senor Capitan," he answered, making a salaam; "me undertake show where you find all the slaves on the coast, and ebbery big ship and dhow that sails."

"And what payment do you expect for rendering us these services?" asked Murray.

"Forty pesados for one month, sar; eighty, if I take one dhow; and hundred and sixty, if I help you to one big ship."

"Pretty heavy payment, Master Hamed," observed Murray.

"Ah, Senor Capitan, you not take one vessel without my help—you see," answered the interpreter, drawing himself up and looking very important. Murray suspected that he was right, and finally agreed to pay the reward demanded. From that moment Hamed was installed on board.

As a fair breeze blew out of the harbour, Murray was in a hurry to be off. The pilot, however, asserted that he could not venture to take out the ship except during broad daylight. The Opal had therefore to wait till the next morning. The pilot accordingly took his departure, promising to come off again at an early hour. Some time after sunset, Adair and the master were walking the deck, discussing the plan of their proposed boat excursion, to which the commander had agreed, when, as they turned aft, they caught sight of the dark figure of a man who had just climbed over the taffrail, and now stood quaking and shivering before them.

"Where do you come from, my friend?" asked Jos; but the stranger did not reply, except by an increased chattering of his teeth, though he put up his hand in an attitude of supplication.

"Well, no one wishes to hurt you," said Green; "come forward and let us see what you are like," and he called to the quartermaster to bring a lantern. The stranger, gaining courage from the master's kind tone of voice, followed him and Adair. He was evidently greatly exhausted.

"Bring a cup of hot coffee and some biscuit; it will restore the poor wretch, and help him to tell us what he wants," said the master.

After taking the food and liquid, the negro speedily revived, and, drawing his finger across his throat, with the addition of other signs, he intimated that his master was about to kill him, when he made his escape; and it was evident that he must have swum a distance of two miles or more at the risk of his life, to put himself under the protection of the British flag. His name, he intimated, was Pango; and that his master, if he should recapture him, would carry him off and kill him. Hamed, on being summoned, interrogated the black; and from the account he gave, Adair and Green were convinced that they had clearly understood Pango's pantomimic language.

The commander, who had not turned in, on coming on deck and hearing the case, promised poor Pango that he should be protected; and to do so effectually, at once entered him on the ship's books. The negro expressed his gratitude by every means in his power, and, being taken below by Ben Snatchblock the boatswain, was speedily, to his delight and satisfaction, rigged out in seaman's duck trousers and shirt. He was, notwithstanding, far from being at ease, dreading lest the tyrannical master from whom he had fled should discover his place of retreat, and claim him. Hamed, however, made him understand that he now belonged to the ship, and that all on board would fight for him with their big guns and small-arms, and go to the bottom rather than give him up. On comprehending this, he showed his joy by capering and singing, and making a variety of demonstrative gestures, signifying that if his former owner came to look for him, he would get more than he bargained for. At length he stopped, and a shade of melancholy came over his countenance. Hamed, who, in spite of his ugliness, possessed some of the better feelings of human nature, asked him what was the matter.

He sighed, and said that he had a brother on shore who was as badly off as he had been, and that he should now be parted from him for ever, as he could never venture back to Mozambique, or set his foot on shore in the neighbourhood, lest he should be kidnapped and carried back to a worse bondage than that from which he had escaped.

Hamed, of course, could give him little hope of rescuing his brother, and advised him to turn in and be thankful that he himself had escaped. Notwithstanding poor Pango's fears, no one appeared to claim him, and the next morning he was seen among the men forward, lending a hand at all sorts of jobs, evidently anxious to make himself useful.

The pilot at length came off, announcing that the tide and wind would now serve for taking out the ship. "Hands shorten in cable!" shouted Ben Snatchblock, his pipe sounding shrilly along the decks. Pango remained forward, concealing himself behind the foremast, though he every now and then took a glance at the ill-favoured pilot, a big, cut-throat, piratical-looking individual, who was standing aft near the master, while his boat hung on alongside the quarter.

Sail was made, the anchor lifted, and the ship was gathering way, when a black sprang out of the boat alongside through a port, and tried to hide himself under one of the midship guns. The savage-looking pilot espied him, and ordered him back into the boat. Instead of obeying, he clung tightly to the gun. "Remove the man and put him back into the boat," said the commander; "but do not handle him roughly." Now, as the poor black clung with might and main to the gun, and shrieked loudly for mercy, the latter order prevented the seamen from executing the former.

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