The Three Cutters, by Captain Marryat.
Captain Frederick Marryat was born July 10 1792, and died August 8 1848. He retired from the British navy in 1828 in order to devote himself to writing. In the following 20 years he wrote 26 books, many of which are among the very best of English literature, and some of which are still in print.
Marryat had an extraordinary gift for the invention of episodes in his stories. He says somewhere that when he sat down for the day's work, he never knew what he was going to write. He certainly was a literary genius.
"The Three Cutters" was published in 1836, the tenth book to flow from Marryat's pen.
This e-book was transcribed in 1998 by Nick Hodson, and was reformatted in 2003, and again in 2005.
THE THREE CUTTERS, BY CAPTAIN FREDERICK MARRYAT.
CUTTER THE FIRST.
Reader, have you ever been at Plymouth? If you have, your eye must have dwelt with ecstasy upon the beautiful property of the Earl of Mount Edgcumbe: if you have not been at Plymouth, the sooner that you go there the better. At Mount Edgcumbe you will behold the finest timber in existence, towering up to the summits of the hills, and feathering down to the shingle on the beach. And from this lovely spot you will witness one of the most splendid panoramas in the world. You will see—I hardly know what you will not see—you will see Ram Head, and Cawsand Bay; and then you will see the Breakwater, and Drake's Island, and the Devil's Bridge below you; and the town of Plymouth and its fortifications, and the Hoe; and then you will come to the Devil's Point, round which the tide runs devilish strong; and then you will see the New Victualling Office,—about which Sir James Gordon used to stump all day, and take a pinch of snuff from every man who carried a box, which all were delighted to give, and he was delighted to receive, proving how much pleasure may be communicated merely by a pinch of snuff; and then you will see Mount Wise and Mutton Cove; the town of Devonport; with its magnificent dockyard and arsenals, North Corner, and the way which leads to Saltash. And you will see ships building and ships in ordinary; and ships repairing and ships fitting; and hulks and convict ships, and the guard-ship; ships ready to sail and ships under sail; besides lighters, men-of-war's boats, dockyard-boats, bum-boats, and shore-boats. In short, there is a great deal to see at Plymouth besides the sea itself: but what I particularly wish now is, that you will stand at the battery of Mount Edgcumbe and look into Barn Pool below you, and there you will see, lying at single anchor, a cutter; and you may also see, by her pendant and ensign, that she is a yacht.
Of all the amusements entered into by the nobility and gentry of our island there is not one so manly, so exciting, so patriotic, or so national, as yacht-sailing. It is peculiar to England, not only for our insular position and our fine harbours, but because it requires a certain degree of energy and a certain amount of income rarely to be found elsewhere. It has been wisely fostered by our sovereigns, who have felt that the security of the kingdom is increased by every man being more or less a sailor, or connected with the nautical profession. It is an amusement of the greatest importance to the country, as it has much improved our ship-building and our ship-fitting, while it affords employment to our seamen and shipwrights. But if I were to say all that I could say in praise of yachts, I should never advance with my narrative. I shall therefore drink a bumper to the health of Admiral Lord Yarborough and the Yacht Club, and proceed.
You observe that this yacht is cutter-rigged, and that she sits gracefully on the smooth water. She is just heaving up her anchor; her foresail is loose, all ready to cast her—in a few minutes she will be under way. You see that there are ladies sitting at the taffrail; and there are five haunches of venison hanging over the stern. Of all amusements, give me yachting. But we must go on board. The deck, you observe, is of narrow deal planks as white as snow; the guns are of polished brass; the bitts and binnacles of mahogany: she is painted with taste; and all the mouldings are gilded. There is nothing wanting; and yet how clear and unencumbered are her decks! Let us go below. There is the ladies' cabin: can anything be more tasteful or elegant? Is it not luxurious? And, although so small, does not its very confined space astonish you, when you view so many comforts so beautifully arranged? This is the dining-room, and where the gentlemen repair. What can be more complete or recherche? And just peep into their state-rooms and bed-places. Here is the steward's room and the beaufet: the steward is squeezing lemons for the punch, and there is the champagne in ice; and by the side of the pail the long-corks are ranged up, all ready. Now, let us go forwards: here are, the men's berths, not confined as in a man-of-war. No! Luxury starts from abaft, and is not wholly lost, even at the fore-peak. This is the kitchen; is it not admirably arranged? What a multum in parvo! And how delightful are the fumes of the turtle-soup! At sea we do meet with rough weather at times; but, for roughing it out, give me a yacht. Now that I have shown you round the vessel, I must introduce the parties on board.
You observe that florid, handsome man, in white trousers and blue jacket, who has a telescope in one hand, and is sipping a glass of brandy and water which he has just taken off the skylight. That is the owner of the vessel, and a member of the Yacht Club. It is Lord B—-: he looks like a sailor, and he does not much belie his looks; yet I have seen him in his robes of state at the opening of the House of Lords. The one near to him is Mr Stewart, a lieutenant in the navy. He holds on by the rigging with one hand, because, having been actively employed all his life, he does not know what to do with hands which have nothing in them. He is a protege of Lord B—-, and is now on board as sailing-master of the yacht.
That handsome, well-built man, who is standing by the binnacle, is a Mr Hautaine. He served six years as midshipman in the navy, and did not like it. He then served six years in a cavalry regiment, and did not like it. He then married, and in a much shorter probation found that he did not like that. But he is very fond of yachts and other men's wives, if he does not like his own; and wherever he goes, he is welcome.
That young man with an embroidered silk waistcoat and white gloves, bending to talk to one of the ladies, is a Mr Vaughan. He is to be seen at Almack's, at Crockford's, and everywhere else. Everybody knows him, and he knows everybody. He is a little in debt, and yachting is convenient.
The one who sits by the lady is a relation of Lord B—-; you see at once what he is. He apes the sailor; he has not shaved, because sailors have no time to shave every day; he has not changed his linen, because sailors cannot change every day. He has a cigar in his mouth, which makes him half sick and annoys his company. He talks of the pleasure of a rough sea, which will drive all the ladies below—and then they will not perceive that he is more sick than themselves. He has the misfortune to be born to a large estate, and to be a fool. His name is Ossulton.
The last of the gentlemen on board whom I have to introduce is Mr Seagrove. He is slightly made, with marked features full of intelligence. He has been brought up to the bar; and has every qualification but application. He has never had a brief, nor has he a chance of one. He is the fiddler of the company, and he has locked up his chambers and come, by invitation of his lordship, to play on board of his yacht.
I have yet to describe the ladies—perhaps I should have commenced with them—I must excuse myself upon the principle of reserving the best to the last. All puppet-showmen do so: and what is this but the first scene in my puppet-show?
We will describe them according to seniority. That tall, thin, cross-looking lady of forty-five is a spinster, and sister to Lord B—-. She has been persuaded, very much against her will, to come on board; but her notions of propriety would not permit her niece to embark under the protection of only her father. She is frightened at everything: if a rope is thrown down on the deck, up she starts, and cries, "Oh!" if on the deck, she thinks the water is rushing in below; if down below, and there is a noise, she is convinced there is danger; and if it be perfectly still, she is sure there is something wrong. She fidgets herself and everybody, and is quite a nuisance with her pride and ill-humour; but she has strict notions of propriety, and sacrifices herself as a martyr. She is the Hon. Miss Ossulton.
The lady who, when she smiles, shows so many dimples in her pretty oval face, is a young widow of the name of Lascelles. She married an old man to please her father and mother, which was very dutiful on her part. She was rewarded by finding herself a widow with a large fortune. Having married the first time to please her parents, she intends now to marry to please herself; but she is very young, and is in no hurry.
That young lady with such a sweet expression of countenance is the Hon. Miss Cecilia Ossulton. She is lively, witty, and has no fear in her composition; but she is very young yet, not more than seventeen—and nobody knows what she really is—she does not know herself. These are the parties who meet in the cabin of the yacht. The crew consist of ten fine seamen, the steward and the cook. There is also Lord B—-'s valet, Mr Ossulton's gentleman, and the lady's-maid of Miss Ossulton. There not being accommodation for them, the other servants have been left on shore.
The yacht is now under way, and her sails are all set. She is running between Drake's Island and the main. Dinner has been announced. As the reader has learnt something about the preparations, I leave him to judge whether it be not very pleasant to sit down to dinner in a yacht. The air has given everybody an appetite; and it was not until the cloth was removed that the conversation became general.
"Mr Seagrove," said his lordship, "you very nearly lost your passage; I expected you last Thursday."
"I am sorry, my lord, that business prevented my sooner attending to your lordship's kind summons."
"Come, Seagrove, don't be nonsensical," said Hautaine; "you told me yourself, the other evening, when you were talkative, that you had never had a brief in your life."
"And a very fortunate circumstance," replied Seagrove; "for if I had had a brief I should not have known what to have done with it. It is not my fault; I am fit for nothing but a commissioner. But still I had business, and very important business, too. I was summoned by Ponsonby to go with him to Tattersall's, to give my opinion about a horse he wishes to purchase, and then to attend him to Forest Wild to plead his cause with his uncle."
"It appears, then, that you were retained," replied Lord B—-; "may I ask you whether your friend gained his cause?"
"No, my lord, he lost his cause, but he gained a suit."
"Expound your riddle, sir," said Cecilia Ossulton.
"The fact is, that old Ponsonby is very anxious that William should marry Miss Percival, whose estates join on to Forest Wild. Now, my friend William is about as fond of marriage as I am of law, and thereby issue was joined."
"But why were you to be called in?" inquired Mrs Lascelles.
"Because, madam, as Ponsonby never buys a horse without consulting me—"
"I cannot see the analogy, sir," observed Miss Ossulton, senior, bridling up.
"Pardon me, madam: the fact is," continued Seagrove, "that, as I always have to back Ponsonby's horses, he thought it right that, in this instance, I should back him; he required special pleading, but his uncle tried him for the capital offence, and he was not allowed counsel. As soon as we arrived, and I had bowed myself into the room, Mr Ponsonby bowed me out again—which would have been infinitely more jarring to my feelings, had not the door been left a-jar."
"Do anything but pun, Seagrove," interrupted Hautaine.
"Well, then, I will take a glass of wine."
"Do so," said his lordship; "but recollect the whole company are impatient for your story."
"I can assure you, my lord, that it was equal to any scene in a comedy."
Now be it observed that Mr Seagrove had a great deal of comic talent; he was an excellent mimic, and could alter his voice almost as he pleased. It was a custom of his to act a scene as between other people, and he performed it remarkably well. Whenever he said that anything he was going to narrate was "as good as a comedy," it was generally understood by those who were acquainted with him that he was to be asked so to do. Cecilia Ossulton therefore immediately said, "Pray act it, Mr Seagrove."
Upon which, Mr Seagrove—premising that he had not only heard, but also seen all that passed—changing his voice, and suiting the action to the word, commenced.
"It may," said he, "be called:—
"FIVE THOUSAND ACRES IN A RING-FENCE."
We shall not describe Mr Seagrove's motions; they must be inferred from his words.
"'It will, then, William,' observed Mr Ponsonby, stopping, and turning to his nephew, after a rapid walk up and down the room with his hands behind him under his coat, so as to allow the tails to drop their perpendicular about three inches clear of his body, 'I may say, without contradiction, be the finest property in the country—five thousand acres in a ring-fence.'
"'I dare say it will, uncle,' replied William, tapping his foot as he lounged in a green morocco easy-chair; 'and so, because you have set your fancy upon having these two estates enclosed together in a ring-fence, you wish that I should also be enclosed in a ring-fence.'
"'And a beautiful property it will be,' replied Mr Ponsonby.
"'Which, uncle? The estate or the wife?'
"'Both, nephew, both; and I expect your consent.'
"'Uncle, I am not avaricious. Your present property is sufficient for me. With your permission, instead of doubling the property, and doubling myself, I will remain your sole heir, and single.'
"'Observe, William, such an opportunity may not occur again for centuries. We shall restore Forest Wild to its ancient boundaries. You know it has been divided nearly two hundred years. We now have a glorious, golden opportunity of re-uniting the two properties; and when joined, the estate will be exactly what it was when granted to our ancestors by Henry the Eighth, at the period of the Reformation. This house must be pulled down, and the monastery left standing. Then we shall have our own again, and the property without encumbrance.'
"'Without encumbrance, uncle! You forget that, there will be a wife.'
"'And you forget that there will be five thousand acres in a ring-fence.'
"'Indeed, uncle, you ring it too often in my ears that I should forget it. But, much as I should like to be the happy possessor of such a property, I do not feel inclined to be the happy possessor of Miss Percival; and the more so, as I have never seen the property.'
"'We will ride over it to-morrow, William.'
"'Ride over Miss Percival, uncle! That will not be very gallant. I will, however, one of these days ride over the property with you, which, as well as Miss Percival, I have not as yet seen.'
"'Then I can tell you she is a very pretty property.'
"'If she were not in a ring-fence.'
"'In good heart, William. That is, I mean an excellent disposition.'
"'Valuable in matrimony.'
"'And well tilled—I should say well educated—by her three maiden aunts, who are the patterns of propriety.'
"'Does any one follow the fashion?'
"'In a high state of cultivation; that is, her mind highly cultivated, and according to the last new system—what is it?'
"'A four-course shift, I presume,' replied William, laughing; 'that is, dancing, singing, music, and drawing.'
"'And only seventeen! Capital soil, promising good crops. What would you have more?'
"'A very pretty estate, uncle, if it were not the estate of matrimony. I am sorry, very sorry, to disappoint you; but I must decline taking a lease of it for life.'
"'Then, sir, allow me to hint to you that in my testament you are only a tenant-at-will. I consider it a duty that I owe to the family that the estate should be re-united. That can only be done by one of our family marrying Miss Percival; and as you will not, I shall now write to your cousin James, and if he accept my proposal, shall make him my heir. Probably he will more fully appreciate the advantages of five thousand acres in a ring-fence.'
"And Mr Ponsonby directed his steps towards the door.
"'Stop, my dear uncle,' cried William, rising up from his easy-chair; 'we do not quite understand one another. It is very true that I would prefer half the property and remaining single, to the two estates and the estate of marriage; but at the same time I did not tell you that I would prefer beggary to a wife and five thousand acres in a ring-fence. I know you to be a man of your word. I accept your proposal, and you need not put my cousin James to the expense of postage.'
"'Very good, William; I require no more: and as I know you to be a man of your word, I shall consider this match as settled. It was on this account only that I sent for you, and now you may go back again as soon as you please. I will let you know when all is ready.'
"'I must be at Tattersall's on Monday, uncle; there is a horse I must have for next season. Pray, uncle, may I ask when you are likely to want me?'
"'Let me see—this is May—about July, I should think.'
"'July, uncle! Spare me—I cannot marry in the dog-days. No, hang it! Not July.'
"'Well, William, perhaps, as you must come down once or twice to see the property—Miss Percival, I should say—it may be too soon—suppose we put it off till October.'
"'October—I shall be down at Melton.'
"'Pray, sir, may I then inquire what portion of the year is not, with you, dog-days?'
"'Why, uncle, next April, now—I think that would do.'
"'Next April! Eleven months, and a winter between. Suppose Miss Percival was to take a cold and die.'
"'I should be excessively obliged to her,' thought William.
"'No! No!' continued Mr Ponsonby: 'there is nothing certain in this world, William.'
"'Well, then, uncle, suppose we arrange it for the first hard frost.'
"'We have had no hard frosts, lately, William. We may wait for years. The sooner it is over the better. Go back to town, buy your horse, and then come down here, my dear William, to oblige your uncle—never mind the dog-days.'
"'Well, sir, if I am to make a sacrifice, it shall not be done by halves; out of respect for you I will even marry in July, without any regard to the thermometer.'
"'You are a good boy, William. Do you want a cheque?'
"'I have had one to-day,' thought William, and was almost at fault. 'I shall be most thankful, sir—they sell horse-flesh by the ounce now-a-days.'
"'And you pay in pounds. There, William.'
"'Thank you, sir, I'm all obedience; and I'll keep my word, even if there should be a comet. I'll go and buy the horse, and then I shall be ready to take the ring-fence as soon as you please.'
"'Yes, and you'll get over it cleverly, I've no doubt. Five thousand acres, William, and—a pretty wife!'
"'Have you any further commands, uncle?' said William, depositing the cheque in his pocket-book.
"'None, my dear boy: are you going?'
"'Yes, sir; I dine at the Clarendon.'
"'Well, then, good-bye. Make my compliments and excuses to your friend Seagrove. You will come on Tuesday or Wednesday.'
"Thus was concluded the marriage between William Ponsonby and Emily Percival, and the junction of the two estates, which formed together the great desideratum—five thousand acres in a ring-fence."
Mr Seagrove finished, and he looked round for approbation.
"Very good, indeed, Seagrove," said his lordship; "you must take a glass of wine after that."
"I would not give much for Miss Percival's chance of happiness," observed the elder Miss Ossulton.
"Of two evils choose the least, they say," observed Mr Hautaine. "Poor Ponsonby could not help himself."
"That's a very polite observation of yours, Mr Hautaine—I thank you in the name of the sex," replied Cecilia Ossulton.
"Nay, Miss Ossulton; would you like to marry a person whom you never saw?"
"Most certainly not; but when you mentioned the two evils, Mr Hautaine, I appeal to your honour, did you not refer to marriage or beggary?"
"I must confess it, Miss Ossulton; but it is hardly fair to call on my honour to get me into a scrape."
"I only wish that the offer had been made to me," observed Vaughan; "I should not have hesitated as Ponsonby did."
"Then I beg you will not think of proposing for me," said Mrs Lascelles, laughing; for Mr Vaughan had been excessively attentive.
"It appears to me, Vaughan," observed Seagrove, "that you have slightly committed yourself by that remark."
Vaughan, who thought so too, replied: "Mrs Lascelles must be aware that I was only joking."
"Fie! Mr Vaughan," cried Cecilia Ossulton; "you know it came from your heart."
"My dear Cecilia," said the elder Miss Ossulton, "you forget yourself— what can you possibly know about gentlemen's hearts?"
"The Bible says that they are 'deceitful and desperately wicked,' aunt."
"And cannot we also quote the Bible against your sex, Miss Ossulton?" replied Seagrove.
"Yes, you could, perhaps, if any of you had ever read it," replied Miss Ossulton, carelessly.
"Upon my word, Cissy, you are throwing the gauntlet down to the gentlemen," observed Lord B—-; "but I shall throw my warder down, and not permit this combat a l'outrance.—I perceive you drink no more wine, gentlemen, we will take our coffee on deck."
"We were just about to retire, my lord," observed the elder Miss Ossulton, with great asperity: "I have been trying to catch the eye of Mrs Lascelles for some time, but—"
"I was looking another way, I presume," interrupted Mrs Lascelles, smiling.
"I am afraid that I am the unfortunate culprit," said Mr Seagrove. "I was telling a little anecdote to Mrs Lascelles—"
"Which, of course, from its being communicated in an undertone, was not proper for all the company to hear," replied the elder Miss Ossulton; "but if Mrs Lascelles is now ready," continued she, bridling up, as she rose from her chair.
"At all events, I can hear the remainder of it on deck," replied Mrs Lascelles. The ladies rose and went into the cabin, Cecilia and Mrs Lascelles exchanging very significant smiles as they followed the precise spinster, who did not choose that Mrs Lascelles should take the lead merely because she had once happened to have been married. The gentlemen also broke up, and went on deck.
"We have a nice breeze now, my lord," observed Mr Stewart, who had remained on deck, "and we lie right up Channel."
"So much the better," replied his lordship; "we ought to have been anchored at Cowes a week ago. They will all be there before us."
"Tell Mr Simpson to bring me a light for my cigar," said Mr Ossulton to one of the men.
Mr Stewart went down to his dinner; the ladies and the coffee came on deck: the breeze was fine, the weather (it was April) almost warm; and the yacht, whose name was the Arrow, assisted by the tide, soon left the Mewstone far astern.
CUTTER THE SECOND.
Reader, have you ever been at Portsmouth? If you have, you must have been delighted with the view from the saluting battery; and if you have not you had better go there as soon as you can. From the saluting battery you may look up the harbour, and see much of what I have described at Plymouth; the scenery is different, but similar arsenals and dockyards, and an equal portion of our stupendous navy are to be found there; and you will see Gosport on the other side of the harbour, and Sallyport close to you; besides a great many other places, which, from the saluting battery, you cannot see. And then there is Southsea Beach to your left. Before you, Spithead, with the men-of-war, and the Motherbank crowded with merchant vessels; and there is the buoy where the Royal George was wrecked and where she still lies, the fish swimming in and out of her cabin windows but that is not all; you can also see the Isle of Wight,—Ryde with its long wooden pier, and Cowes, where the yachts lie. In fact there is a great deal to be seen at Portsmouth as well as at Plymouth; but what I wish you particularly to see just now is a vessel holding fast to the buoy just off the saluting battery. She is a cutter; and you may know that she belongs to the Preventive Service by the number of gigs and galleys which she has hoisted up all round her. She looks like a vessel that was about to sail with a cargo of boats; two on deck, one astern, one on each side of her. You observe that she is painted black, and all her boats are white. She is not such an elegant vessel as the yacht, and she is much more lumbered up. She has no haunches of venison hanging over the stern! But I think there is a leg of mutton and some cabbages hanging by their stalks. But revenue-cutters are not yachts. You will find no turtle or champagne; but, nevertheless, you will, perhaps, find a joint to carve at, a good glass of grog, and a hearty welcome.
Let us go on board. You observe the guns are iron, and painted black, and her bulwarks are painted red; it is not a very becoming colour, but then it lasts a long while, and the dockyard is not very generous on the score of paint—or lieutenants of the navy troubled with much spare cash. She has plenty of men, and fine men they are; all dressed in red flannel shirts and blue trousers; some of them have not taken off their canvas or tarpaulin petticoats, which are very useful to them, as they are in the boats night and day, and in all weathers. But we will at once go down into the cabin, where we shall find the lieutenant who commands her, a master's mate, and a midshipman. They have each their tumbler before them, and are drinking gin-toddy, hot, with sugar— capital gin, too, 'bove proof; it is from that small anker standing under the table. It was one that they forgot to return to the custom-house when they made their last seizure. We must introduce them.
The elderly personage, with grizzly hair and whiskers, a round pale face, and a somewhat red nose (being too much in the wind will make the nose red, and this old officer is very often "in the wind," of course, from the very nature of his profession), is a Lieutenant Appleboy. He has served in every class of vessel in the service, and done the duty of first-lieutenant for twenty years; he is now on promotion—that is to say, after he has taken a certain number of tubs of gin, he will be rewarded with his rank as commander. It is a pity that what he takes inside of him does not count, for he takes it morning, noon, and night. He is just filling his fourteenth glass; he always keeps a regular account, as he never exceeds his limited number, which is seventeen; then he is exactly down to his bearings.
The master's mate's name is Tomkins; he has served his six years three times over, and has now outgrown his ambition; which is fortunate for him, as his chances of promotion are small. He prefers a small vessel to a large one, because he is not obliged to be so particular in his dress—and looks for his lieutenancy whenever there shall be another charity promotion. He is fond of soft bread, for his teeth are all absent without leave; he prefers porter to any other liquor, but he can drink his glass of grog, whether it be based upon rum, brandy or the liquor now before him.
Mr Smith is the name of that young gentleman whose jacket is so out at the elbows; he has been intending to mend it these last two months; but is too lazy to go to his chest for another. He has been turned out of half the ships in the service for laziness; but he was born so—and therefore it is not his fault. A revenue-cutter suits him, she is half her time hove to; and he has no objection to boat-service, as he sits down always in the stern-sheets, which is not fatiguing. Creeping for tubs is his delight, as he gets over so little ground. He is fond of grog, but there is some trouble in carrying the tumbler so often to his mouth; so he looks at it, and lets it stand. He says little because he is too lazy to speak. He has served more than eight years; but as for passing—it has never come into his head. Such are the three persons who are now sitting in the cabin of the revenue-cutter, drinking hot gin-toddy.
"Let me see, it was, I think, in ninety-three or ninety-four. Before you were in the service, Tomkins—"
"Maybe, sir; it's so long ago since I entered, that I can't recollect dates—but this I know, that my aunt died three days before."
"Then the question is, when did your aunt die?"
"Oh! She died about a year after my uncle."
"And when did your uncle die?"
"I'll be hanged if I know!"
"Then, d'ye see, you've no departure to work from. However, I think you cannot have been in the service at that time. We were not quite so particular about uniform as we are now."
"Then I think the service was all the better for it. Now-a-days, in your crack ships, a mate has to go down in the hold or spirit-room, and after whipping up fifty empty casks, and breaking out twenty full ones, he is expected to come on quarter-deck as clean as if he was just come out of a band-box."
"Well, there's plenty of water alongside, as far as the outward man goes, and iron dust is soon brushed off. However, as you say, perhaps a little too much is expected; at least, in five of the ships in which I was first-lieutenant, the captain was always hauling me over the coals about the midshipmen not dressing properly, as if I was their dry-nurse. I wonder what Captain Prigg would have said if he had seen such a turn-out as you, Mr Smith, on his quarter-deck."
"I should have had one turn-out more," drawled Smith.
"With your out-at-elbows jacket, there, eh!" continued Mr Appleboy.
Smith turned up his elbows, looked at one and then at the other; after so fatiguing an operation, he was silent.
"Well, where was I? Oh! It was about ninety-three or ninety-four, as I said that it happened—Tomkins, fill your glass and hand me the sugar— how do I get on? This is Number 15," said Appleboy, counting some white lines on the table by him; and taking up a piece of chalk, he marked one more line on his tally. "I don't think this is so good a tub as the last, Tomkins, there's a twang about it—a want of juniper; however, I hope, we shall have better luck this time. Of course you know we sail to-morrow?"
"I presume so, by the leg of mutton coming on board."
"True—true; I'm regular—as clock-work. After being twenty years a first-lieutenant one gets a little method. I like regularity. Now the admiral has never omitted asking me to dinner once, every time I have come into harbour, except this time. I was so certain of it, that I never expected to sail; and I have but two shirts clean in consequence."
"That's odd, isn't it?—and the more so, because he has had such great people down here, and has been giving large parties every day."
"And yet I made three seizures, besides sweeping up those thirty-seven tubs."
"I swept them up," observed Smith.
"That's all the same thing, younker. When you've been a little longer in the service, you'll find out that the commanding officer has the merit of all that is done; but you're green yet. Let me see, where was I? Oh!—It was about ninety-three or ninety-four, as I said. At that time I was in the Channel fleet—Tomkins, I'll trouble you for the hot water; this water's cold. Mr Smith, do me the favour to ring the bell.—Jem, some more hot water."
"Please, sir," said Jem, who was bare-footed as well as bare-headed, touching his lock of hair on his forehead, "the cook had capsized the kettle—but he has put more on."
"Capsized the kettle! Hah!—very well—we'll talk about that to-morrow. Mr Tomkins, do me the favour to put him in the report: I may forget it. And pray, sir, how long is it since he has put more on?"
"Just this moment, sir, as I came aft."
"Very well, we'll see to that to-morrow. You bring the kettle aft as soon as it is ready. I say, Mr Jem, is that fellow sober?"
"Yees, sir, he be sober as you be."
"It's quite astonishing what a propensity the common sailors have to liquor. Forty odd years have I been in the service, and I've never found any difference. I only wish I had a guinea for every time that I have given a fellow seven-water grog during my servitude as first-lieutenant, I wouldn't call the king my cousin. Well, if there's no hot water, we must take lukewarm; it won't do to heave-to. By the Lord Harry! Who would have thought it?—I'm at number sixteen! Let me count, yes!—surely I must have made a mistake. A fact, by Heaven!" continued Mr Appleboy, throwing the chalk down on the table. "Only one more glass, after this; that is, if I have counted right—I may have seen double."
"Yes," drawled Smith.
"Well, never mind. Let's go on with my story. It was either in the year ninety-three or ninety-four that I was in the Channel fleet: we were then abreast of Torbay—"
"Here be the hot water, sir," cried Jem, putting the kettle down on the deck.
"Very well, boy. By-the-bye, has the jar of butter come on board?"
"Yes, but it broke all down the middle. I tied him up with a ropeyarn."
"Who broke it, sir?"
"Coxswain says as how he didn't."
"But who did, sir."
"Coxswain handed it up to Bill Jones, and he says as how he didn't."
"But who did, sir."
"Bill Jones gave it to me, and I'm sure as how I didn't."
"Then who did, sir, I ask you."
"I think it be Bill Jones, sir, 'cause he's fond of butter, I know, and there be very little left in the jar."
"Very well, we'll see to that to-morrow morning. Mr Tomkins, you'll oblige me by putting the butter-jar down in the report, in case it should slip my memory. Bill Jones, indeed, looks as if butter wouldn't melt in his mouth. Never mind. Well, it was, as I said before—it was in the year ninety-three or ninety-four, when I was in the Channel fleet; we were then off Torbay, and had just taken two reefs in the top-sails. Stop—before I go on with my story, I'll take my last glass; I think it's the last—let me count. Yes, by heavens! I make out sixteen, all told. Never mind, it shall be a stiff one. Boy, bring the kettle, and mind you don't pour the hot water into my shoes, as you did the other night. There, that will do. Now, Tomkins, fill up yours; and you, Mr Smith. Let us all start fair, and then you shall have my story—and a very curious one it is, I can tell you, I wouldn't have believed it myself, if I hadn't seen it. Hilloa! What's this? Confound it! What's the matter with the toddy? Heh, Mr Tomkins?"
Mr Tomkins tasted; but, like the lieutenant, he had made it very stiff; and, as he had also taken largely before, he was, like him, not quite so clear in his discrimination. "It has a queer twang, sir: Smith, what is it?"
Smith took up his glass, tasted the contents.
"Salt-water," drawled the midshipman.
"Salt-water! So it is by heavens!" cried Mr Appleboy.
"Salt as Lot's wife! By all that's infamous!" cried the master's mate.
"Salt-water, sir!" cried Jem in a fright, expecting a salt eel for supper.
"Yes, sir," replied Mr Appleboy, tossing the contents of the tumbler in the boy's face, "salt-water. Very well, sir,—very well!"
"It warn't me, sir," replied the boy, making up a piteous look.
"No, sir, but you said the cook was sober."
"He was not so very much disguised, sir," replied Jem.
"Oh! Very well—never mind. Mr Tomkins, in case I should forget it, do me the favour to put the kettle of salt-water down in the report. The scoundrel! I'm very sorry, gentlemen, but there's no means of having any more gin-toddy. But never mind, we'll see to this to-morrow. Two can play at this; and if I don't salt-water their grog, and make them drink it too, I have been twenty years a first-lieutenant for nothing, that's all. Good night, gentlemen; and," continued the lieutenant, in a severe tone, "you'll keep a sharp look-out, Mr Smith— do you hear, sir?"
"Yes," drawled Smith, "but it's not my watch: it was my first watch: and, just now, it struck one bell."
"You'll keep the middle watch, then, Mr Smith," said Mr Appleboy, who was not a little put out; "and, Mr Tomkins, let me know as soon as it's daylight. Boy, get my bed made. Salt-water, by all that's blue! However, we'll see to that to-morrow morning."
Mr Appleboy then turned in; so did Mr Tomkins; and so did Mr Smith, who had no idea of keeping the middle watch because the cook was drunk and had filled up the kettle with salt-water. As for what happened in ninety-three or ninety-four, I really would inform the reader if I knew; but I am afraid that that most curious story is never to be handed down to posterity.
The next morning Mr Tomkins, as usual, forgot to report the cook, the jar of butter and the kettle of salt-water; and Mr Appleboy's wrath had long been appeased before he remembered them. At daylight, the lieutenant came on deck, having only slept away half of the sixteen, and a taste of the seventeenth salt-water glass of gin-toddy. He rubbed his grey eyes, that he might peer through the grey of the morning; the fresh breeze blew about his grizzly locks, and cooled his rubicund nose. The revenue-cutter, whose name was the Active, cast off from the buoy, and, with a fresh breeze, steered her course for the Needles' passage.
CUTTER THE THIRD.
Reader! Have you been to Saint Malo? If you have, you were glad enough to leave the hole; and if you have not, take my advice, and do not give yourself the trouble to go and see that or any other French port in the Channel. There is not one worth looking at. They have made one or two artificial ports, and they are no great things; there is no getting out or getting in. In fact, they have no harbours in the Channel, while we have the finest in the world; a peculiar dispensation of Providence, because it knew that we should want them, and France would not. In France, what are called ports are all alike,—nasty, narrow holes, only to be entered at certain times of tide and certain winds; made up of basins and backwaters, custom-houses, and cabarets; just fit for smugglers to run into, and nothing more; and, therefore they are used for very little else.
Now, in the dog-hole called Saint Malo there is some pretty land, although a great deficiency of marine scenery. But never mind that. Stay at home, and don't go abroad to drink sour wine, because they call it Bordeaux, and eat villainous trash, so disguised by cooking that you cannot possibly tell which of the birds of the air, or beasts of the field, or fishes of the sea, you are cramming down your throat. "If all is right, there is no occasion for disguise," is an old saying; so depend upon it that there is something wrong, and that you are eating offal, under a grand French name. They eat everything in France, and would serve you up the head of a monkey who has died of the smallpox, as singe a la petite verole—that is, if you did not understand French; if you did, they would call it, tete d'amour a l'Ethiopique, and then you would be even more puzzled. As for their wine, there is no disguise in that; it's half vinegar. No, no! Stay at home; you can live just as cheaply, if you choose; and then you will have good meat, good vegetables, good ale, good beer, and a good glass of grog; and, what is of more importance, you will be in good company. Live with your friends, and don't make a fool of yourself.
I would not have condescended to have noticed this place, had it not been that I wish you to observe a vessel which is lying along the pier-wharf, with a plank from the shore to her gunwale. It is low water, and she is aground, and the plank dips down at such an angle that it is a work of danger to go either in or out of her. You observe that there is nothing very remarkable in her. She is a cutter, and a good sea-boat, and sails well before the wind. She is short for her breadth of beam, and is not armed. Smugglers do not arm now—the service is too dangerous; they effect their purpose by cunning, not by force. Nevertheless, it requires that smugglers should be good seamen, smart active fellows, and keen-witted, or they can do nothing. This vessel has not a large cargo in her, but it is valuable. She has some thousand yards of lace, a few hundred pounds of tea, a few bales of silk, and about forty ankers of brandy—just as much as they can land in one boat. All they ask is a heavy gale or a thick fog, and they trust to themselves for success.
There is nobody on board except a boy; the crew are all up at the cabaret, settling their little accounts of every description—for they smuggle both ways, and every man has his own private venture. There they are all, fifteen of them, and fine-looking fellows, too, sitting at that long table. They are very merry, but quite sober, as they are to sail to-night.
The captain of the vessel (whose name, by-the-bye, is the Happy-go-lucky,—the captain christened her himself) is that fine-looking young man, with dark whiskers meeting under his throat. His name is Jack Pickersgill. You perceive at once that he is much above a common sailor in appearance. His manners are good, he is remarkably handsome, very clean, and rather a dandy in his dress. Observe how very politely he takes off his hat to that Frenchman, with whom he had just settled accounts; he beats Johnny Crapeau at his own weapons. And then there is an air of command, a feeling of conscious superiority, about Jack; see how he treats the landlord, de haut en bas, at the same time that he is very civil. The fact is, that Jack is of a very good, old family, and received a very excellent education; but he was an orphan, his friends were poor, and could do but little for him: he went out to India as a cadet, ran away, and served in a schooner which smuggled opium into China, and then came home. He took a liking to the employment, and is now laying up a very pretty little sum: not that he intends to stop: no, as soon as he has enough to fit out a vessel for himself, he intends to start again for India, and with two cargoes of opium he will return, he trusts, with a handsome fortune, and re-assume his family name. Such are Jack's intentions; and, as he eventually means to reappear as a gentleman, he preserves his gentlemanly habits: he neither drinks, nor chews, nor smokes. He keeps his hands clean, wears rings, and sports a gold snuff-box; notwithstanding which, Jack is one of the boldest and best of sailors, and the men know it. He is full of fun, and as keen as a razor. Jack has a very heavy venture this time—all the lace is his own speculation, and if he gets it in safe, he will clear some thousands of pounds. A certain fashionable shop in London has already agreed to take the whole off his hands.
That short, neatly-made young man is the second in command, and the companion of the captain. He is clever, and always has a remedy to propose when there is a difficulty, which is a great quality in a second in command. His name is Corbett. He is always merry—half-sailor, half-tradesman; knows the markets, runs up to London, and does business as well as a chapman—lives for the day and laughs at to-morrow.
That little punchy old man, with long grey hair and fat face, with a nose like a note of interrogation, is the next personage of importance. He ought to be called the sailing-master, for, although he goes on shore in France, off the English coast he never quits the vessel. When they leave her with the goods, he remains on board; he is always to be found off any part of the coast where he may be ordered; holding his position in defiance of gales, and tides, and fogs; as for the revenue-vessels, they all know him well enough, but they cannot touch a vessel in ballast, if she has no more men on board than allowed by her tonnage. He knows every creek, and hole, and corner of the coast; how the tide runs in—tide, half-tide, eddy, or current. That is his value. His name is Morrison.
You observe that Jack Pickersgill has two excellent supporters in Corbett and Morrison; his other men are good seamen, active, and obedient, which is all that he requires. I shall not particularly introduce them.
"Now you may call for another litre, my lads, and that, must be the last; the tide is flowing fast, and we shall be afloat in half an hour, and we have just the breeze we want. What d'ye think, Morrison, shall we have dirt?"
"I've been looking just now, and if it were any other month in the year I should say, yes; but there's no trusting April, captain. Howsomever, if it does blow off, I'll promise you a fog in three hours afterwards."
"That will do as well. Corbett, have you settled with Duval?"
"Yes, after more noise and charivari than a panic in the Stock Exchange would make in England. He fought and squabbled for an hour, and I found that, without some abatement, I never should have settled the affair."
"What did you let him off?"
"Seventeen sous," replied Corbett, laughing.
"And that satisfied him?" inquired Pickersgill.
"Yes—it was all he could prove to be a surfaire: two of the knives were a little rusty. But he will always have something off; he could not be happy without it. I really think he would commit suicide if he had to pay a bill without a deduction."
"Let him live," replied Pickersgill. "Jeannette, a bottle of Volnay of 1811, and three glasses."
Jeannette, who was the fille de cabaret, soon appeared with a bottle of wine, seldom called for, except by the captain of the Happy-go-lucky.
"You sail to-night?" said she, as she placed the bottle before him.
Pickersgill nodded his head.
"I had a strange dream," said Jeannette; "I thought you were all taken by a revenue-cutter, and put in a cachot. I went to see you, and I did not know one of you again—you were all changed."
"Very likely, Jeannette; you would not be the first who did not know their friends again when in misfortune. There was nothing strange in your dream."
"Mais, mon Dieu! Je ne suis pas comme ca, moi."
"No, that you are not, Jeannette; you are a good girl, and some of these fine days I'll marry you," said Corbett.
"Doit etre bien beau ce jour la, par exemple," replied Jeannette, laughing; "you have promised to marry me every time you have come in these last three years."
"Well, that proves I keep to my promise, anyhow."
"Yes; but you never go any further."
"I can't spare him, Jeannette, that is the real truth," said the captain: "but wait a little,—in the meantime, here is a five-franc piece to add to your petite fortune."
"Merci bien, monsieur le capitaine; bon voyage!" Jeannette held her finger up to Corbett, saying, with a smile, "mechant!" and then quitted the room.
"Come, Morrison, help us to empty this bottle, and then we will all go on board."
"I wish that girl wouldn't come here with her nonsensical dreams," said Morrison, taking his seat; "I don't like it. When she said that we should be taken by a revenue-cutter, I was looking at a blue and a white pigeon sitting on the wall opposite; and I said to myself, Now, if that be a warning, I will see: if the blue pigeon flies away first, I shall be in jail in a week; if the white, I shall be back here."
"Well?" said Pickersgill, laughing.
"It wasn't well," answered Morrison, tossing off his wine, and putting the glass down with a deep sigh; "for the cursed blue pigeon flew away immediately."
"Why, Morrison, you must have a chicken-heart to be frightened at a blue pigeon!" said Corbett, laughing and looking out of the window; "at all events, he has come back again, and there he is sitting by the white one."
"It's the first time that ever I was called chicken-hearted," replied Morrison, in wrath.
"Nor do you deserve it, Morrison," replied Pickersgill; "but Corbett is only joking."
"Well, at all events, I'll try my luck in the same way, and see whether I am to be in jail: I shall take the blue pigeon as my bad omen, as you did."
The sailors and Captain Pickersgill all rose and went to the window, to ascertain Corbett's fortune by this new species of augury. The blue pigeon flapped his wings, and then he sidled up to the white one; at last, the white pigeon flew off the wall and settled on the roof of the adjacent house. "Bravo, white pigeon!" said Corbett; "I shall be here again in a week." The whole party, laughing, then resumed their seats; and Morrison's countenance brightened up. As he took the glass of wine poured out by Pickersgill, he said, "Here's your health, Corbett; it was all nonsense, after all—for, d'ye see, I can't be put in jail, without you are. We all sail in the same boat, and when you leave me you take with you everything that can condemn the vessel—so here's success to our trip."
"We will all drink that toast, my lads, and then on board," said the captain; "here's success to our trip."
The captain rose, as did the mates and men, drank the toast, turned down the drinking-vessels on the table, hastened to the wharf, and, in half an hour, the Happy-go-lucky was clear of the port of Saint Malo.
The Happy-go-lucky sailed with a fresh breeze and a flowing sheet from Saint Malo, the evening before the Arrow sailed from Barn Pool. The Active sailed from Portsmouth the morning after.
The yacht, as we before observed, was bound to Cowes, in the Isle of Wight. The Active had orders to cruise wherever she pleased within the limits of the admiral's station; and she ran for West Bay, on the other side of the Bill of Portland. The Happy-go-lucky was also bound for that bay to land her cargo.
The wind was light, and there was every appearance of fine weather, when the Happy-go-lucky, at ten o'clock on the Tuesday night, made the Portland lights; as it was impossible to run her cargo that night, she hove to.
At eleven o'clock the Portland lights were made by the revenue-cutter Active. Mr Appleboy went up to have a look at them, ordered the cutter to be hove to, and then went down to finish his allowance of gin-toddy. At twelve o'clock, the yacht Arrow made the Portland lights, and continued her course, hardly stemming the ebb tide.
Day broke, and the horizon was clear. The first on the look-out were, of course, the smugglers; they, and those on board the revenue-cutter, were the only two interested parties—the yacht was neuter.
"There are two cutters in sight, sir," said Corbett, who had the watch; for Pickersgill, having been up the whole night, had thrown himself down on the bed with his clothes on.
"What do they look like?" said Pickersgill, who was up in a moment.
"One is a yacht, and the other may be; but I rather think, as far as I can judge in the grey, that it is our old friend off here."
"What! Old Appleboy?"
"Yes, it looks like him; but the day has scarcely broke yet."
"Well, he can do nothing in a light wind like this; and before the wind we can show him our heels: but are you sure the other is a yacht?" said Pickersgill, coming on deck.
"Yes; the king is more careful of his canvas."
"You're right," said Pickersgill, "that is a yacht; and you're right there again in your guess—that is the stupid old Active which creeps about creeping for tubs. Well, I see nothing to alarm us at present, provided it don't fall a dead calm, and then we must take to our boats as soon as he takes to his; we are four miles from him at least. Watch his motions, Corbett, and see if he lowers a boat. What does she go now? Four knots?—that will soon tire their men."
The positions of the three cutters were as follows:—
The Happy-go-lucky was about four miles off Portland Head, and well into West Bay. The revenue-cutter was close to the Head. The yacht was outside of the smuggler, about two miles to the westward, and about five or six miles from the revenue-cutter.
"Two vessels in sight, sir," said Mr Smith, coming down into the cabin to Mr Appleboy.
"Very well," replied the lieutenant, who was lying down in his standing bed-place.
"The people say one is the Happy-go-lucky, sir," drawled Smith.
"Heh? What! Happy-go-lucky? Yes, I recollect; I've boarded her twenty times—always empty. How's she standing?"
"She stands to the westward now, sir; but she was hove to, they say, when they first saw her."
"Then she has a cargo in her," and Mr Appleboy shaved himself, dressed, and went on deck.
"Yes," said the lieutenant, rubbing his eyes again and again, and then looking through the glass, "it is her, sure enough. Let draw the foresheet-hands make sail. What vessel's the other?"
"Don't know, sir,—she's a cutter."
"A cutter? Yes, may be a yacht, or may be the new cutter ordered on the station. Make all sail, Mr Tomkins: hoist our pendant, and fire a gun—they will understand what we mean then; they don't know the Happy-go-lucky as well as we do."
In a few minutes the Active was under a press of sail; she hoisted her pendant, and fired a gun. The smuggler perceived that the Active had recognised her, and she also threw out more canvas, and ran off more to the westward.
"There's a gun, sir," reported one of the men to Mr Stewart, on board of the yacht.
"Yes; give me the glass—a revenue-cutter; then this vessel in shore running towards us must be a smuggler."
"She has just now made all sail, sir."
"Yes, there's no doubt of it. I will go down to his lordship; keep her as she goes."
Mr Stewart then went down to inform Lord B—- of the circumstance. Not only Lord B—- but most of the gentlemen came on deck; as did soon afterwards the ladies, who had received the intelligence from Lord B—-, who spoke to them through the door of the cabin.
But the smuggler had more wind than the revenue-cutter, and increased her distance.
"If we were to wear round, my lord," observed Mr Stewart, "she is just abreast of us and in shore, we could prevent her escape."
"Round with her, Mr Stewart," said Lord B—-; "we must do our duty and protect the laws."
"That will not be fair, papa," said Cecilia Ossulton; "we have no quarrel with the smuggler: I'm sure the ladies have not, for they bring us beautiful things."
"Miss Ossulton," observed her aunt, "it is not proper for you to offer an opinion."
The yacht wore round, and, sailing so fast, the smuggler had little chance of escaping her; but to chase is one thing—to capture, another.
"Let us give her a gun," said Lord B—-, "that will frighten her; and he dare not cross our hawse."
The gun was loaded, and not being more than a mile from the smuggler, actually threw the ball almost a quarter of the way.
The gentlemen, as well as Lord B—-, were equally excited by the ardour of pursuit; but the wind died away, and at last it was nearly calm. The revenue-cutter's boats were out, and coming up fast.
"Let us get our boat out, Stewart," said his lordship, "and help them; it is quite calm now."
The boat was soon out: it was a very large one, usually stowed on, and occupying a large portion of, the deck. It pulled six oars; and when it was manned, Mr Stewart jumped in, and Lord B—- followed him.
"But you have no arms," said Mr Hautaine.
"The smugglers never resist now," observed Stewart.
"Then you are going on a very gallant expedition, indeed," observed Cecilia Ossulton; "I wish you joy."
But Lord B—- was too much excited to pay attention. They shoved off, and pulled towards the smuggler.
At this time the revenue boats were about five miles astern of the Happy-go-lucky, and the yacht about three-quarters of a mile from her in the offing. Pickersgill had, of course, observed the motions of the yacht; had seen her wear on chase, hoist her ensign and pendant, and fire her gun.
"Well," said he, "this is the blackest ingratitude! To be attacked by the very people whom we smuggle for! I only wish she may come up with us; and, let her attempt to interfere, she shall rue the day: I don't much like this, though."
As we before observed, it fell nearly calm, and the revenue boats were in chase. Pickersgill watched them as they came up.
"What shall we do?" said Corbett,—"get the boat out?"
"Yes," replied Pickersgill, "we will get the boat out, and have the goods in her all ready; but we can pull faster than they do, in the first place; and, in the next, they will be pretty well tired before they come up to us. We are fresh, and shall soon walk away from them; so I shall not leave the vessel till they are within half a mile. We must sink the ankers, that they may not seize the vessel, for it is not worth while taking them with us. Pass them along, ready to run them over the bows, that they may not see us and swear to it. But we have a good half hour, and more."
"Ay, and you may hold all fast if you choose," said Morrison, "although it's better to be on the right side and get ready; otherwise, before half an hour, I'll swear that we are out of their sight. Look there," said he, pointing to the eastward at a heavy bank, "it's coming right down upon us, as I said it would."
"True enough; but still there is no saying which will come first, Morrison, the boats or the fog; so we must be prepared."
"Hilloa! What's this? Why, there's a boat coming from the yacht!"
Pickersgill took out his glass.
"Yes, and the yacht's own boat with the name painted on her bows. Well, let them come—we will have no ceremony in resisting them; they are not in the Act of Parliament, and must take the consequences. We have nought to fear. Get stretchers, my lads, and hand-spikes; they row six oars, and are three in the stern-sheets: they must be good men if they take us."
In a few minutes Lord B—- was close to the smuggler.
"Boat ahoy! What do you want?"
"Surrender in the king's name."
"To what, and to whom, and what are we to surrender? We are an English vessel coasting along shore."
"Pull on board, my lads," cried Stewart; "I am a king's officer: we know her."
The boat darted alongside, and Stewart and Lord B—-, followed by the men, jumped on the deck.
"Well, gentlemen, what do you want?" said Pickersgill.
"We seize you! You are a smuggler,—there's no denying it: look at the casks of spirits stretched along the deck."
"We never said that we were not smugglers," replied Pickersgill; "but what is that to you? You are not a king's ship, or employed by the revenue."
"No; but we carry a pendant, and it is our duty to protect the laws."
"And who are you?" said Pickersgill.
"I am Lord B—-."
"Then, my lord, allow me to say that you would do much better to attend to the framing of laws, and leave people of less consequence, like those astern of me, to execute them. 'Mind your own business,' is an old adage. We shall not hurt you, my lord, as you have only employed words, but we shall put it out of your power to hurt us. Come aft, my lads. Now, my lord, resistance is useless; we are double your numbers, and you have caught a Tartar."
Lord B—- and Mr Stewart perceived that they were in an awkward predicament.
"You may do what you please," observed Mr Stewart, "but the revenue boats are coming up, recollect."
"Look you, sir, do you see the revenue-cutter?" said Pickersgill.
Stewart looked in that direction and saw that she was hidden in the fog.
"In five minutes, sir, the boats will be out of sight also, and so will your vessel; we have nothing to fear from them."
"Indeed, my lord, we had better return," said Mr Stewart, who perceived that Pickersgill was right.
"I beg your pardon, you will not go on board your yacht so soon as you expect. Take the oars out of the boat; my lads, two or three of you, and throw in a couple of our paddles for them to reach the shore with. The rest of you knock down the first man who offers to resist. You are not aware, perhaps, my lord, that you have attempted piracy on the high seas?"
Stewart looked at Lord B—-. It was true enough. The men of the yacht could offer no resistance; the oars were taken out of the boat and the men put in again.
"My lord," said Pickersgill, "your boat is manned, do me the favour to step into it; and you, sir, do the same. I should be sorry to lay my hands upon a peer of the realm, or a king's officer even on half pay."
Remonstrance was vain; his lordship was led to the boat by two of the smugglers, and Stewart followed.
"I will leave your oars, my lord, at the Weymouth Custom-house, and I trust this will be a lesson to you in future to 'mind your own business.'"
The boat was shoved off from the sloop by the smugglers, and was soon lost sight of in the fog, which had now covered the revenue boats as well as the yacht, at the same time it brought down a breeze from the eastward.
"Haul to the wind, Morrison," said Pickersgill, "we will stand out to get rid of the boats; if they pull on they will take it for granted that we shall run into the bay, as will the revenue-cutter."
Pickersgill and Corbett were in conversation abaft for a short time, when the former desired the course to be altered two points.
"Keep silence all of you, my lads, and let me know if you hear a gun or a bell from the yacht," said Pickersgill.
"There is a gun, sir, close to us," said one of the men; "the sound was right ahead."
"That will do, keep her as she goes. Aft here, my lads; we cannot run our cargo in the bay, for the cutter has been seen to chase us, and they will all be on the look-out at the preventive stations for us on shore. Now, my lads, I have made up my mind that, as these yacht gentlemen have thought proper to interfere, that I will take possession of the yacht for a few days. We shall then outsail everything, go where we like unsuspected, and land our cargo with ease. I shall run alongside of her—she can have but few hands on board; and mind, do not hurt anybody, but be civil and obey my orders. Morrison, you and your four men and the boy will remain on board as before, and take the vessel to Cherbourg, where we will join you."
In a short time another gun was fired from the yacht.
Those on board, particularly the ladies, were alarmed; the fog was very thick, and they could not distinguish the length of the vessel. They had seen the boat board, but had not seen her turned adrift without oars, as the fog came on just at that time. The yacht was left with only three seamen on board, and should it come on bad weather, they were in an awkward predicament. Mr Hautaine had taken the command, and ordered the guns to be fired that the boat might be enabled to find them. The fourth gun was loading, when they perceived the smuggler's cutter close to them looming through the fog.
"Here they are," cried the seamen; "and they have brought the prize along with them! Three cheers for the Arrow!"
"Hilloa! You'll be on board of us?" cried Hautaine.
"That's exactly what I intend to be, sir," replied Pickersgill, jumping on the quarter-deck, followed by his men.
"Who the devil are you?"
"That's exactly the same question that I asked Lord B—- when he boarded us," replied Pickersgill, taking off his hat to the ladies.
"Well, but what business have you here?"
"Exactly the same question which I put to Lord B—-," replied Pickersgill.
"Where is Lord B—-, sir?" said Cecilia Ossulton, going up to the smuggler; "is he safe?"
"Yes, madam, he is safe; at least he is in his boat with all his men, and unhurt: but you must excuse me if I request you and the other ladies to go down below while I speak to these gentlemen. Be under no alarm, miss, you will receive neither insult nor ill-treatment—I have only taken possession of this vessel for the present."
"Take possession," cried Hautaine, "of a yacht."
"Yes, sir, since the owner of the yacht thought proper to attempt to take possession of me. I always thought that yachts were pleasure-vessels, sailing about for amusement, respected themselves, and not interfering with others; but it appears that such is not the case. The owner of this yacht has thought proper to break through the neutrality and commence aggression, and under such circumstances I have now, in retaliation, taken possession of her."
"And, pray, what do you mean to do, sir?"
"Simply for a few days to make an exchange. I shall send you on board of my vessel as smugglers, while I remain here with the ladies and amuse myself with yachting."
"Why, sir, you cannot mean—"
"I have said, gentlemen, and that is enough; I should be sorry to resort to violence, but I must be obeyed. You have, I perceive, three seamen only left: they are not sufficient to take charge of the vessel, and Lord B—- and the others you will not meet for several days. My regard for the ladies, even common humanity, points out to me that I cannot leave the vessel in this crippled condition. At the same time, I must have hands on board of my own, you will oblige me by going on board and taking her safely into port. It is the least return you can make for my kindness. In those dresses, gentlemen, you will not be able to do your duty: oblige me by shifting and putting on these." Corbett handed a flannel shirt, a rough jacket and trousers, to Messrs. Hautaine, Ossulton, Vaughan, and Seagrove. After some useless resistance they were stripped, and having put on the smugglers' attire, they were handed on board of the Happy-go-lucky.
The three English seamen were also sent on board and confined below, as well as Ossulton's servant, who was also equipped like his master, and confined below with the seamen. Corbett and the men then handed up all the smuggled goods into the yacht, dropped the boat, and made it fast astern, and Morrison having received his directions, the vessels separated, Morrison running for Cherbourg, and Pickersgill steering the yacht along shore to the westward. About an hour after this exchange had been effected the fog cleared up, and showed the revenue-cutter hove to for her boats, which had pulled back and were close on board of her, and the Happy-go-lucky about three miles in the offing; Lord B—- and his boat's crew were about four miles in shore, paddling and drifting with the tide towards Portland. As soon as the boats were on board, the revenue-cutter made all sail after the smuggler, paying no attention to the yacht, and either not seeing or not caring about the boat which was drifting about in West Bay.
"Here we are, Corbett, and now I only wish my venture had been double," observed Pickersgill; "but I shall not allow business to absorb me wholly—we must add a little amusement. It appears to me, Corbett, that the gentleman's clothes which lie there will fit you, and those of the good-looking fellow who was spokesman will, I am sure, suit me well. Now let us dress ourselves, and then for breakfast."
Pickersgill then exchanged his clothes for those of Mr Hautaine, and Corbett fitted on those of Mr Ossulton. The steward was summoned up, and he dared not disobey; he appeared on deck, trembling.
"Steward—you will take these clothes below," said Pickersgill, "and, observe, that I now command this yacht; and during the time that I am on board you will pay me the same respect as you did Lord B—-: nay, more, you will always address me as Lord B—-. You will prepare dinner and breakfast, and do your duty just as if his lordship was on board, and take care that you feed us well, for I will not allow the ladies to be entertained in a less sumptuous manner than before. You will tell the cook what I say; and now that you have heard me, take care that you obey; if not, recollect that I have my own men here, and if I but point with my finger, overboard you go. Do you perfectly comprehend me?"
"Yes,—sir," stammered the steward.
"Yes, sir!—what did I tell you, sirrah?—Yes, my lord. Do you understand me?"
"Pray, steward, whose clothes has this gentleman put on?"
"Mr—Mr Ossulton's, I think—sir—my lord, I mean."
"Very well, steward; then recollect, in future you always address that gentleman as Mr Ossulton."
"Yes, my lord," and the steward went down below, and was obliged to take a couple of glasses of brandy to keep himself from fainting.
"Who are they, and what are they, Mr Maddox?" cried the lady's-maid, who had been weeping.
"Pirates!—bloody murderous, stick-at-nothing pirates!" replied the steward.
"Oh!" screamed the lady's-maid, "what will become of us, poor unprotected females?" And she hastened into the cabin, to impart this dreadful intelligence.
The ladies in the cabin were not in a very enviable situation. As for the elder Miss Ossulton (but perhaps, it will be better in future to distinguish the two ladies, by calling the elder simply Miss Ossulton, and her niece, Cecilia), she was sitting with her salts to her nose, agonised with a mixture of trepidation and wounded pride. Mrs Lascelles was weeping, but weeping gently. Cecilia was sad, and her heart was beating with anxiety and suspense—when the maid rushed in.
"O madam! O miss! O Mrs Lascelles! I have found it all out!—they are murderous, bloody, do-everything pirates!"
"Mercy on us!" exclaimed Miss Ossulton; "surely they will never dare—?"
"Oh, ma'am, they dare anything!—they just now were for throwing the steward overboard; and they have rummaged for all the portmanteaus, and dressed themselves in the gentlemen's best clothes. The captain of them told the steward that he was Lord B—-, and that if he dared to call him anything else, he would cut his throat from ear to ear; and if the cook don't give them a good dinner, they swear that they'll chop his right hand off, and make him eat it without pepper or salt!"
Miss Ossulton screamed, and went off into hysterics. Mrs Lascelles and Cecilia went to her assistance; but the latter had not forgotten the very different behaviour of Jack Pickersgill, and his polite manners, when he boarded the vessel. She did not therefore believe what the maid had reported, but still her anxiety and suspense were great, especially about her father. After having restored her aunt she put on her bonnet, which was lying on the sofa.
"Where are you going, dear?" said Mrs Lascelles.
"On deck," replied Cecilia. "I must and will speak to these men."
"Gracious heaven, Miss Ossulton! Going on deck! Have you heard what Phoebe says?"
"Yes, aunt, I have; but I can wait here no longer."
"Stop her! Stop her!—she will be murdered!—she will be—she is mad!" screamed Miss Ossulton; but no one attempted to stop Cecilia, and on deck she went. On her arrival she found Jack Pickersgill and Corbett walking the deck, one of the smugglers at the helm, and the rest forward, and as quiet as the crew of the yacht. As soon as she made her appearance Jack took off his hat, and made her a bow.
"I do not know whom I have the honour of addressing, young lady; but I am flattered with this mark of confidence. You feel, and I assure you, you feel correctly, that you are not exactly in lawless hands."
Cecilia looked with more surprise than fear at Pickersgill. Mr Hautaine's dress became him; he was a handsome, fine-looking man, and had nothing of the ruffian in his appearance; unless, like Byron's Corsair, he was half savage, half soft. She could not help thinking that she had met many with less pretensions, as far as appearance went, to the claims of a gentleman, at Almack's and other fashionable circles.
"I have ventured on deck, sir," said Cecilia, with a little tremulousness in her voice, "to request, as a favour, that you will inform me what your intentions may be with regard to the vessel and with regard to the ladies!"
"And I feel much obliged to you for so doing, and I assure you I will, as far as I have made up my own mind, answer you candidly: but you tremble—allow me to conduct you to a seat. In few words, then, to remove your present alarm, I intend that the vessel shall be returned to its owner, with every article in it as religiously respected as if they were church property. With respect to you, and the other ladies on board, I pledge you my honour that you have nothing to fear; that you shall be treated with every respect; your privacy never invaded; and that, in a few days, you will be restored to your friends. Young lady, I pledge my hopes of future salvation to the truth of this; but, at the same time, I must make a few conditions, which, however, will not be very severe."
"But, sir," replied Cecilia, much relieved, for Pickersgill had stood by her in the most respectful manner, "you are, I presume, the captain of the smuggler? Pray answer me one question more—What became of the boat with Lord B—-? He is my father."
"I left him in his boat, without a hair of his head touched, young lady; but I took away the oars."
"Then he will perish!" cried Cecilia, putting her handkerchief to her eyes.
"No, young lady; he is on shore, probably, by this time. Although I took away his means of assisting to capture us, I left him the means of gaining the land. It is not every one who would have done that, after his conduct to us."
"I begged him not to go," said Cecilia; "I told him that it was not fair, and that he had no quarrel with the smugglers."
"I thank you even for that," replied Pickersgill. "And now, miss—I have not the pleasure of recollecting his lordship's family name—"
"Ossulton, sir," cried Cecilia, looking at Pickersgill with surprise.
"Then with your permission, Miss Ossulton, I will now make you my confidant: excuse my using so free a term, but it is because I wish to relieve your fears. At the same time, I cannot permit you to divulge all my intentions to the whole party on board. I feel that I may trust you, for you have courage, and where there is courage there generally is truth; but you must first tell me whether you will condescend to accept these terms?"
Cecilia demurred a moment; the idea of being the confidant of a smuggler rather startled her: but still, her knowledge of what his intentions were, if she might not reveal them, might be important; as, perhaps, she might dissuade him. She could be in no worse position than she was now, and she might be in a much better. The conduct of Pickersgill had been such, up to the present, as to inspire confidence; and, although he defied the laws, he appeared to regard the courtesies of life. Cecilia was a courageous girl, and at length she replied:—
"Provided what you desire me to keep secret will not be injurious to any one, or compromise me in my peculiar situation, I consent."
"I would not hurt a fly, Miss Ossulton, but in self-defence; and I have too much respect for you, from your conduct during our short meeting, to compromise you. Allow me now to be very candid; and then, perhaps, you will acknowledge that in my situation others would do the same, and, perhaps, not show half so much forbearance. Your father, without any right whatever, interferes with me and my calling: he attempts to make me a prisoner, to have me thrown into jail, heavily fined, and, perhaps, sent out of the country. I will not enter into any defence of smuggling; it is sufficient to say that there are pains and penalties attached to the infraction of certain laws, and that I choose to risk them. But Lord B—- was not empowered by Government to attack me; it was a gratuitous act; and had I thrown him and all his crew into the sea, I should have been justified; for it was, in short, an act of piracy on their part. Now, as your father has thought to turn a yacht into a revenue-cutter, you cannot be surprised at my retaliating, in turning her into a smuggler; and as he has mixed up looking after the revenue with yachting, he cannot be surprised if I retaliate, by mixing up a little yachting with smuggling. I have dressed your male companions as smugglers, and have sent them in the smuggling vessel to Cherbourg, where they will be safely landed; and I have dressed myself, and the only person whom I could join with me in this frolic, as gentlemen in their places. My object is twofold; one is to land my cargo, which I have now on board, and which is very valuable; the other is, to retaliate upon your father and his companions for their attempt upon me, by stepping into their shoes, and enjoying, for a day or two, their luxuries. It is my intention to make free with nothing but his lordship's wines and eatables—that you may be assured of; but I shall have no pleasure if the ladies do not sit down to the dinner-table with us, as they did before with your father and his friends."
"You can hardly expect that, sir," said Cecilia.
"Yes, I do; and that will be not only the price of the early release of the yacht and themselves, but it will also be the only means by which they will obtain anything to eat. You observe, Miss Ossulton, the sins of the fathers are visited on the children. I have now told you what I mean to do and what I wish. I leave you to think of it, and decide whether it will not be the best for all parties to consent. You have my permission to tell the other ladies that, whatever may be their conduct, they are as secure from ill-treatment or rudeness as if they were in Grosvenor-Square; but I cannot answer that they will not be hungry, if, after such forbearance in every point, they show so little gratitude as not to honour me with their company."
"Then I am to understand that we are to be starved into submission?"
"No, not starved, Miss Ossulton; but recollect that you will be on bread and water, and detained until you do consent, and your detention will increase the anxiety of your father."
"You know how to persuade, sir," said Cecilia. "As far as I am concerned, I trust I shall ever be ready to sacrifice any feelings of pride to spare my father so much uneasiness. With your permission, I will now go down into the cabin and relieve my companions from the worst of their fears. As for obtaining what you wish, I can only say that, as a young person, I am not likely to have much influence with those older than myself, and must inevitably be overruled, as I have not permission to point out to them reasons which might avail. Would you so far allow me to be relieved from my promise, as to communicate all you have said to me to the only married woman on board? I think I might then obtain your wishes, which, I must candidly tell you, I shall attempt to effect only because I am most anxious to rejoin my friends."
"And be relieved of my company," replied Pickersgill, smiling ironically,—"of course you are; but I must and will have my pretty revenge: and although you may, and probably will, detest me, at all events you shall not have any very formidable charge to make against me. Before you go below, Miss Ossulton, I give you my permission to add the married lady to the number of my confidants; and you must permit me to introduce my friend, Mr Ossulton;" and Pickersgill waved his hand in the direction of Corbett, who took off his hat and made a low obeisance.
It was impossible for Cecilia Ossulton to help smiling.
"And," continued Pickersgill, "having taken the command of this yacht instead of his lordship, it is absolutely necessary that I also take his lordship's name. While on board I am Lord B—-; and allow me to introduce myself under that name; I cannot be addressed otherwise. Depend upon it, Miss Ossulton, that I shall have a most paternal solicitude to make you happy and comfortable."
Had Cecilia Ossulton dared to have given vent to her real feelings at that time, she would have burst into a fit of laughter; it was too ludicrous. At the same time, the very burlesque reassured her still more. She went into the cabin with a heavy weight removed from her heart.
In the meantime, Miss Ossulton and Mrs Lascelles remained below, in the greatest anxiety at Cecilia's prolonged stay; they knew not what to think, and dared not go on deck. Mrs Lascelles had once determined at all risks to go up; but Miss Ossulton and Phoebe had screamed and implored her so fervently not to leave them that she unwillingly consented to remain. Cecilia's countenance when she entered the cabin, reassured Mrs Lascelles, but not her aunt, who ran to her crying and sobbing and clinging to her, saying, "What have they done to you, my poor, poor Cecilia?"
"Nothing at all, aunt," replied Cecilia, "the captain speaks very fairly, and says he shall respect us in every possible way, provided that we obey his orders; but if not—"
"If not—what, Cecilia?" said Miss Ossulton, grasping her niece's arm.
"He will starve us, and not let us go!"
"God have mercy on us!" cried Miss Ossulton, renewing her sobs.
Cecilia then went to Mrs Lascelles, and communicated to her apart, all that had passed. Mrs Lascelles agreed with Cecilia that they were in no danger of insult; and as they talked over the matter they at last began to laugh; there was a novelty in it, and there was something so ridiculous in all the gentlemen being turned into smugglers. Cecilia was glad that she could not tell her aunt, as she wished her to be so frightened as never to have her company on board the yacht again; and Mrs Lascelles was too glad to annoy her for many and various insults received. The matter was therefore canvassed over very satisfactorily, and Mrs Lascelles felt a natural curiosity to see this new Lord B—- and the second Mr Ossulton. But they had had no breakfast, and were feeling very hungry now that their alarm was over. They desired Phoebe to ask the steward for some tea or coffee. The reply was, that "Breakfast was laid in the cabin, and Lord B—- trusted that the ladies would come to partake of it."
"No, no," replied Mrs Lascelles, "I never can, without being introduced to them first."
"Nor will I go," replied Cecilia, "but I will write a note, and we will have our breakfast here." Cecilia wrote a note in pencil as follows:
"Miss Ossulton's compliments to Lord B—-, and, as the ladies feel rather indisposed after the alarm of this morning, they trust that his lordship will excuse their coming to breakfast; but hope to meet his lordship at dinner, if not before that time on deck."
The answer was propitious, and the steward soon appeared with the breakfast in the ladies' cabin.
"Well, Maddox," said Cecilia, "how do you get on with your new master?"
The steward looked at the door, to see if it was closed, shook his head, and then said, with a look of despair, "He has ordered a haunch of venison for dinner, miss, and he has twice threatened to toss me overboard."
"You must obey him, Maddox, or he certainly will. These pirates are dreadful fellows. Be attentive, and serve him just as if he was my father."
"Yes, yes, ma'am, I will; but our time may come. It's burglary on the high seas, and I'll go fifty miles to see him hanged."
"Steward!" cried Pickersgill, from the cabin.
"O Lord! He can't have heard me—d'ye think he did, miss?"
"The partitions are very thin, and you spoke very loud," said Mrs Lascelles: "at all events, go to him quickly."
"Good bye, miss; good bye, ma'am; if I shouldn't see you any more," said Maddox, trembling with fear, as he obeyed the awful summons—which was to demand a tooth-pick.
Miss Ossulton would not touch the breakfast; not so Mrs Lascelles and Cecilia, who ate very heartily.
"It's very dull to be shut up in this cabin," said Mrs Lascelles; "come, Cecilia, let's go on deck."
"And leave me!" cried Miss Ossulton.
"There is Phoebe here, aunt; we are going up to persuade the pirates to put us all on shore."
Mrs Lascelles and Cecilia put on their bonnets and went up. Lord B—- took off his hat, and begged the honour of being introduced to the pretty widow. He handed the ladies to a seat, and then commenced conversing upon various subjects, which at the same time possessed great novelty. His lordship talked about France, and described its ports; told now and then a good anecdote; pointed out the different headlands, bays, towns, and villages, which they were passing rapidly, and always had some little story connected with each. Before the ladies had been two hours on deck they found themselves, to their infinite surprise, not only interested, but in conversation with the captain of the smuggler, and more than once they laughed outright. But the soi-disant Lord B—- had inspired them with confidence; they fully believed that what he had told them was true, and that he had taken possession of the yacht to smuggle his goods, to be revenged, and to have a laugh. Now none of these three offences are capital in the eyes of the fair sex, and Jack was a handsome, fine-looking fellow, of excellent manners and very agreeable conversation; at the same time, neither he nor his friend were in their general deportment and behaviour otherwise than most respectful.
"Ladies, as you are not afraid of me, which is a greater happiness than I had reason to expect, I think you may be amused to witness the fear of those who accuse your sex of cowardice. With your permission, I will send for the cook and steward, and inquire about the dinner."
"I should like to know what there is for dinner," observed Mrs Lascelles demurely; "wouldn't you, Cecilia?"
Cecilia put her handkerchief to her mouth.
"Tell the steward and the cook both to come aft immediately," cried Pickersgill.
In a few seconds they both made their appearance. "Steward!" cried Pickersgill, with a loud voice.
"Yes, my lord," replied Maddox, with his hat in his hand.
"What wines have you put out for dinner?"
"Champagne, my lord; and claret, my lord; and Madeira and sherry, my lord."
"No Burgundy, sir?"
"No, my lord; there is no Burgundy on board."
"No Burgundy, sir! Do you dare to tell me that?"
"Upon my soul, my lord," cried Maddox, dropping on his knees, "there is no Burgundy on board—ask the ladies."
"Very well, sir, you may go."
"Cook, what have you got for dinner?"
"Sir, a haunch of mut—of venison, my lord," replied the cook, with his white night-cap in his hand.
"What else, sirrah?"
"A boiled calf's head, my lord."
"A boiled calf's head! Let it be roasted, or I'll roast you, sir!" cried Pickersgill, in an angry tone.
"Yes, my lord; I'll roast it."
"And what else, sir?"
"Maintenon cutlets, my lord."
"Maintenon cutlets! I hate them—I won't have them, sir. Let them be dressed a l'ombre Chinoise."
"I don't know what that is, my lord."
"I don't care for that, sirrah; if you don't find out by dinner-time, you're food for fishes—that all; you may go."
The cook walked off wringing his hands and his night-cap as well—for he still held it in his right hand—and disappeared down the fore-hatchway.
"I have done this to pay you a deserved compliment, ladies; you have more courage than the other sex."
"Recollect that we have had confidence given to us in consequence of your pledging your word, my lord."
"You do me, then, the honour of believing me?"
"I did not until I saw you," replied Mrs Lascelles, "but now I am convinced that you will perform your promise."
"You do, indeed, encourage me, madam, to pursue what is right," said Pickersgill, bowing; "for your approbation I should be most sorry to lose, still more sorry to prove myself unworthy of it."
As the reader will observe, everything was going on remarkably well.
THE SMUGGLING YACHT.
Cecilia returned to the cabin, to ascertain whether her aunt was more composed; but Mrs Lascelles remained on deck. She was much pleased with Pickersgill; and they continued their conversation. Pickersgill entered into a defence of his conduct to Lord B—-; and Mrs Lascelles could not but admit the provocation. After a long conversation she hinted at his profession, and how superior he appeared to be to such a lawless life.
"You may be incredulous, madam," replied Pickersgill, "if I tell you that I have as good a right to quarter my arms as Lord B—- himself; and that I am not under my real name. Smuggling is, at all events, no crime; and I infinitely prefer the wild life I lead at the head of my men to being spurned by society because I am poor. The greatest crime in this country is poverty. I may, if I am fortunate, some day resume my name. You may, perhaps, meet me, and if you please, you may expose me."
"That I should not be likely to do," replied the widow; "but still I regret to see a person, evidently intended for better things, employed in so disreputable a profession."
"I hardly know, madam, what is and what is not disreputable in this conventional world. It is not considered disreputable to cringe to the vices of a court, or to accept a pension wrung from the industry of the nation, in return for base servility. It is not considered disreputable to take tithes, intended for the service of God, and lavish them away at watering-places or elsewhere, seeking pleasure instead of doing God service. It is not considered disreputable to take fee after fee to uphold injustice, to plead against innocence, to pervert truth, and to aid the devil. It is not considered disreputable to gamble on the Stock Exchange, or to corrupt the honesty of electors by bribes, for doing which the penalty attached is equal to that decreed to the offence of which I am guilty. All these, and much more, are not considered disreputable; yet by all these are the moral bonds of society loosened, while in mine we cause no guilt in others—"
"But still it is a crime."
"A violation of the revenue laws, and no more. Observe, madam, the English Government encourage the smuggling of our manufactures to the Continent, at the same time that they take every step to prevent articles being smuggled into this country. Now, madam, can that be a crime when the head of the vessel is turned north, which becomes no crime when she steers the opposite way?"
"There is a stigma attached to it, you must allow."
"That I grant you, madam; and as soon as I can quit the profession I shall. No captive ever sighed more to be released from his chains; but I will not leave it, till I find I am in a situation not to be spurned and neglected by those with whom I have a right to associate."
At this moment the steward was seen forward making signs to Mrs Lascelles, who excused herself, and went to him.
"For the love of God, madam," said Maddox, "as he appears to be friendly with you, do pray find out how these cutlets are to be dressed; the cook is tearing his hair, and we shall never have any dinner; and then it will all fall upon me, and I—shall be tossed overboard."
Mrs Lascelles desired poor Maddox to wait there while she obtained the desired information. In a few minutes she returned to him.
"I have found it out. They are first to be boiled in vinegar, then fried in batter, and served up with a sauce of anchovy and Malaga raisins!"
"First fried in vinegar, then boiled in batter, and served up with almonds and raisins."
"No—no!" Mrs Lascelles repeated the injunction to the frightened steward, and then returned aft, and re-entered into a conversation with Pickersgill, in which for the first time, Corbett now joined. Corbett had sense enough to feel, that the less he came forward until his superior had established himself in the good graces of the ladies, the more favourable would be the result.
In the meantime Cecilia had gone down to her aunt, who still continued to wail and lament. The young lady tried all she could to console her, and to persuade her that if they were civil and obedient they had nothing to fear.
"Civil and obedient, indeed!" cried Miss Ossulton, "to a fellow who is a smuggler and a pirate! I, the sister of Lord B—-! Never! The presumption of the wretch!"
"That is all very well, aunt; but recollect, we must submit to circumstances. These men insist upon our dining with them; and we must go, or we shall have no dinner."
"I, sit down with a pirate! Never! I'll have no dinner—I'll starve— I'll die!"
"But, my dear aunt, it's the only chance we have of obtaining our release; and if you do not do it Mrs Lascelles will think that you wish to remain with them."
"Mrs Lascelles judges of other people by herself."
"The captain is certainly a very well-behaved, handsome man. He looks like a nobleman in disguise. What an odd thing it would be, aunt, if this should be all a hoax!"
"A hoax, child?" replied Miss Ossulton, sitting up on the sofa.
Cecilia found that she had hit the right nail, as the saying is; and she brought forward so many arguments to prove that she thought it was a hoax to frighten them, and that the gentleman above was a man of consequence, that her aunt began to listen to reason, and at last consented to join the dinner-party. Mrs Lascelles now came down below; and when dinner was announced they repaired to the large cabin, where they found Pickersgill and Corbett waiting for them.
Miss Ossulton did not venture to look up, until she heard Pickersgill say to Mrs Lascelles, "Perhaps, madam, you will do me the favour to introduce me to that lady, whom I have not had the honour of seeing before?"
"Certainly, my lord," replied Mrs Lascelles. "Miss Ossulton, the aunt of this young lady."
Mrs Lascelles purposely did not introduce his lordship in return, that she might mystify the old spinster.
"I feel highly honoured in finding, myself in the company of Miss Ossulton," said Pickersgill. "Ladies, we wait but for you to sit down. Ossulton, take the head of the table and serve the soup."
Miss Ossulton was astonished; she looked at the smugglers, and perceived two well-dressed gentlemanly men, one of whom was apparently a lord and the other having the same family name.
"It must be all a hoax," thought she, and she very quietly took to her soup.
The dinner passed off very pleasantly; Pickersgill was agreeable, Corbett funny, and Miss Ossulton so far recovered herself as to drink wine with his lordship, and to ask Corbett what branch of their family he belonged to.
"I presume it's the Irish branch?" said Mrs Lascelles, prompting him.
"Exactly, madam," replied Corbett.
"Have you ever been to Torquay, ladies?" inquired Pickersgill.
"No, my lord," answered Mrs Lascelles.
"We shall anchor there in the course of an hour, and probably remain there till to-morrow. Steward, bring coffee. Tell the cook these cutlets were remarkably well-dressed."
The ladies retired to their cabin. Miss Ossulton was now convinced that it was all a hoax; "but," said she, "I shall tell Lord B—- my opinion of their practical jokes when he returns. What is his lordship's name who is on board?"
"He won't tell us," replied Mrs Lascelles; "but I think I know; it is Lord Blarney."
"Lord Blaney you mean, I presume," said Miss Ossulton; "however the thing is carried too far. Cecilia, we will go on shore at Torquay, and wait till the yacht returns with Lord B—-. I don't like these jokes; they may do very well for widows, and people of no rank."
Now Mrs Lascelles was sorry to find Miss Ossulton so much at her ease. She owed her no little spite, and wished for revenge. Ladies will go very far to obtain this. How far Mrs Lascelles would have gone, I will not pretend to say; but this is certain, that the last innuendo of Miss Ossulton very much added to her determination. She took her bonnet and went on deck, at once told Pickersgill that he could not please her or Cecilia more than by frightening Miss Ossulton, who, under the idea that it was all a hoax, had quite recovered her spirits; talked of her pride and ill-nature, and wished her to receive a useful lesson. Thus, to follow up her revenge, did Mrs Lascelles commit herself so far, as to be confidential with the smuggler in return.