The Three Lieutenants, Life in the Royal Navy in the 1860s, by W.H.G. Kingston.
This is the second in Kingston's tetralogy that begins with The Three Midshipmen, and ends with The Three Admirals. These books were among the first written by Kingston, and were published serially in weekly magazines. Kingston's reputation was made by these books, that first appeared about 1860, and dealt with an officer's life in the Navy at about that time.
By an extraordinary co-incidence, the three young men who had met as midshipmen, get postings that enable them to keep their friendships live when they are lieutenants. Another old friend is Admiral Triton, who, though retired, takes a great an interest in the careers of the young men.
This is actually quite a long book, but it is full of adventures, and you will love it.
THE THREE LIEUTENANTS, LIFE IN THE ROYAL NAVY IN THE 1860s, BY W.H.G. KINGSTON.
LIEUTENANT JACK ROGERS AT HOME—HIS BROTHER TOM RESOLVES TO FOLLOW IN HIS WAKE—HIS OLD SHIPMATES DISCUSSED—LETTER FROM TERENCE ADAIR DESCRIPTIVE OF HIS FAMILY—ADMIRAL TRITON PLEADS TOM'S CAUSE—THE ADMIRAL'S ADVICE TO TOM—LEAVING HOME.
"Really, Jack, that uniform is excessively becoming. Do oblige us by standing up as if you were on the quarter-deck of your ship and hailing the main-top. I do not remember ever having seen a naval officer above the rank of a midshipman in uniform before. Do you, Lucy?"
"Only once, at a Twelfth-night party at Foxica, to which you did not go, when Lady Darlington persuaded Admiral Triton to rig himself out, as he called it, for our amusement, in a naval suit of the time of Benbow, belonging to her great-grandfather. I prefer Jack in his uniform, I own, and he looks infinitely better in it than he does in top-boots and a hunting-coat, when he is eclipsed by many of the young farmers who have not two ideas to string together."
These remarks were made in the presence of Jack Rogers by his young and pretty sisters, Mary and Lucy, soon after his return home from China, on his promotion to the rank of Lieutenant, when one morning he entered the breakfast-room, dressed in a bran-new uniform, which, with inward satisfaction, he had put on at their request, that he might exhibit it to them. It set off to advantage his manly, well-knit figure, at which no one could look without seeing that he must possess ample strength of limb and muscle. An honest, kind heart beamed through a somewhat broad, very sun-burnt countenance. His features were good, though, and his head was well set on a wide pair of shoulders, which made him look shorter than he really was, not that he could boast of being a man of inches. Take him for all in all, Jack Rogers was a thoroughly good specimen of the British naval officer. Of course his sisters admired him—what sisters would not?—but their admiration was surpassed by that of his youngest brother, Tom, who was firmly of opinion that there never had been and never could be anybody like him; yet Tom was Jack in miniature, and the portrait of Jack, taken just before he went to sea, was frequently supposed to be that of Tom. At school (Tom went to Eagle House, which, though old Rowley had retired to enjoy a well-earned "otium cum dignitate" in his native Cumberland, still kept up its ancient character under an able master) his great delight was to talk of the sayings and doings of "my brother Jack," and to read extracts from the accounts of the latter, which from time to time came home. Tom's schoolfellows knew almost as much about Jack's adventures as those who, in subsequent years, read them in print, and they all agreed that he must be a first-rate chap.
"I should think so, indeed," said Tom, in a tone of confidence. "If you were just to see him once you'd say I am right, and my great wonder is, that the Lords of the Admiralty don't make him a post-captain right off at once. They couldn't help themselves if they knew him as well as I do."
Thus admiring Jack, it was natural that Tom should have resolved to follow in his footsteps. His whole heart was set upon being a sailor, and going some day to sea with Jack. He did not talk much about his intentions; that was not his way, except, perhaps, to one or two very intimate friends; but he had confided his hopes and wishes to Admiral Triton, who had promised to forward them.
"You can't choose a better profession, and I'll see about it when the time comes," answered the Admiral. "Not that the service is what it was, but I never hold with those who swear that it's going to ruin, and I shall have no fear on that score as long as there are plenty of fine young fellows in it, like your brother Jack and his friends Murray and Adair and scores of others, and such as you'll turn out, Tom, I'm sure. No, no. I've a notion, however, that we should have been much the better if those abominable, smoky tea-kettles of affairs introduced of late years had never been thought of, but one comfort is, that they never can be of the slightest possible use as men-of-war, though they may serve to tow ships into action when forts are to be attacked and such-like work. Never do you get appointed to one if you can help it, Tom. They'll spoil our sailors as sailors if they do nothing else."
This was said before the Nemesis in China, and other steamers had done good service, which even seamen of the old school could not disparage.
Of course Tom regarded steamers with the utmost contempt, and never spoke of them without quoting the remarks of Admiral Triton, who, however, in the course of time, learnt to modify his opinions.
Tom, who had come home for the holidays with secret hopes of not having to return to Eagle House, sat proudly smiling his assent to their sisters' remarks on Jack, stopping for awhile from the vigorous attack on a plate of ham and eggs, which he had before been making. Jack, who had taken a chair at the table, asked quietly,—"do you really wish to hear me hail the main-top?" Mary nodded.
Tom's eyes twinkled, his countenance beamed all over with delight.
Jack got up, planted his feet firmly on the floor, and put his hand to his mouth as if about to hail.
"I had better not," he said, laughing, "lest I frighten the household out of their propriety. They will think that some wild bull has got into the breakfast-room."
"Oh, never mind that; we want to hear how you do speak on board ship," said Lucy; "just a few words, you know."
"As you like it," said Jack, and then, putting his hand to his mouth, he shouted simply, "Maintop there!"
The sound made his sisters jump from their chairs. Tom clapped his hands with delight, and laughed till the tears rolled down his cheeks. In rushed the butler and footman and two housemaids, with dusters in their hands, to ascertain what was the matter. Sir John came hurrying in from the garden with a look of astonishment on his countenance, and her ladyship's own maid was sent down to know if anything had happened.
"I told you so," said Jack to his sisters. "I was only speaking as we do sometimes at sea," he added, turning to the servants, the female portion of whom lingered to take an admiring look at their young master.
Sir John gazed with a father's pride at his manly son, and then looked at Tom, about whom he had the evening before received a letter from Admiral Triton, saying that if the boy still wished to go into the Navy, he should have great pleasure in getting him forthwith appointed to a ship.
"If the service turns him out as fine a fellow as his brother, I shall not regret should he choose it," thought the baronet. "I'll talk to him and Jack about the matter by-and-by, and ascertain the real bent of the boy's inclinations." Had Tom known what was passing in his father's mind he would speedily have decided the question.
The whole party were soon assembled at breakfast—that pleasantest and most sociable of meals in an English country-house. Besides the members of the family already introduced, there was Lady Rogers—fair, comely, gentle-mannered—and kind-hearted—Paul the eldest son, studying the law that he might take the better care of his paternal estates; and, lastly, Sidney, a captain in the Guards, at home on leave. Then there were several guests, county neighbours, who had come for a couple of nights, a brother officer of Sidney's and a school-fellow of Lucy's. Jack cast an appreciating glance over the breakfast-table, with its plates of attractive little rolls, its racks of thin, crisp toast, its small pats of butter, swimming amid ice in elegantly-designed bowls of crystal, its eggs under snow-white napkins, its covered dishes containing muffins or sausages or other minute delicacies, its hissing urn and cream and milk jugs, and tea set at one end, and its coffee set at the other, presided over by two sweet-looking girls; and then he smilingly looked over his shoulder at the side-board, on which, among various comestibles, appeared a round of beef, another of brawn, a huge ham, and a venison-pasty.
Who that has been long a wanderer from home has not gone back in memory to such a scene as now greeted Jack's eyes, especially when hunger has been gnawing or provender coarse? Jack often had, and though he had never grumbled at privations or hardships, he was, notwithstanding, all the more ready to do ample justice to the viands spread out before him. He showed this when, after having helped several of the party from the side-board, he returned with his own well-loaded plate to the table. The guardsman watched him with astonishment, and even his brother, the barrister, thought that Jack had got an enormous appetite. Jack, who was hungry, saw no reason why he should not eat till he was satisfied, and had laid in a store of food to last him till the seven o'clock dinner, for luncheon he eschewed as effeminate and an unnecessary interruption to the business of the day.
Before breakfast was concluded the post-bag was brought in, opened by Sir John, and its contents distributed. An official-looking letter, addressed to Jack, attracted universal attention.
"Who is it from?" asked Mary anxiously.
"About your prize-money, Jack?" inquired his mother. "You are not yet again appointed to a ship, I hope, my dear boy?"
"I am, though!" exclaimed Jack exultingly, for the moment not thinking of his mother's feeling, "and second of a fine new thirty-six gun frigate the Plantagenet, commanded by my old friend Hemming. Couldn't wish for anything better. Where there's work to be done he is sure to be sent."
"But you will not have to go away at once, dear Jack, I trust," cried Lucy, who loved her sailor brother dearly.
Tom said nothing, and it might have been difficult to decide whether he was about to cry or laugh. He evidently felt as much interested in the announcement as Jack himself.
"Faith, they do work you hard," observed his guardsman brother. "If the purchase-system was allowed in your service I suspect that buyers would be rare."
"I am very glad it doesn't; for now, if a hardworking fellow gets his foot on the ratlines he has a chance of climbing upwards," answered Jack. "However, as the Plantagenet has only just been commissioned, I shall be able to enjoy the civilising influences of home for a short time longer. In truth, I am almost ashamed at being pleased with the thoughts of going off again to sea; but after having knocked about all one's life as a midshipman it is satisfactory to feel that one is an officer in reality, with a cabin of one's own."
"Of course, my boy; much more natural than to wish to be dangling after your sisters, or any other of the petticoat tribe who might take it into their heads to patronise you," said Sir John, glancing with all a father's pride at his gallant son. "To what station are you to be sent?"
"As far as I can discover, that remains as yet in the mysterious depths of my Lords Commissioners' minds," answered Jack, glancing over some other letters. "Hemming has an idea that it may be to the West Indies; at least such is the opinion of the Portsmouth tailors, who have generally more correct information on these matters than any one else. Just now, when the world is so peaceably disposed, it is not of much consequence where we go; and as I have never been in those seas I would rather be sent there than anywhere else."
"I trust that it will not be to the West Indies, my dear boy," said Lady Rogers. "I have read such sad accounts of the dreadful yellow fever which kills so many people, and of those terrible hurricanes which send so many ships to the bottom, and devastate whole islands whenever they appear, that I tremble at the thoughts of your going there."
"Pray don't let such an idea trouble you, mother," answered Jack; "the yellow fever only comes once in a way, and hurricanes appear even less frequently; so that we may hope to escape both one and the other, even if we do go there. I have no wish, however, to leave home in a hurry, and should be glad to remain long enough to receive Murray and Adair, whom I invited to come here, but I am afraid when they hear of my appointment that they will write to put off their visit till another time, which may never arrive. It is not likely that we shall be at home together again. They are capital fellows. You remember them, Lucy, when we were all on shore after our first trip to sea, and they came to call on us in London, and afterwards Adair went down with us for a few days into the country."
"Yes, indeed. Mr Adair, I suppose I must now call him, was, I remember, a terrible pickle; while Mr Murray appeared to be a wonderfully sedate, taciturn young Scotchman, a pattern of correctness and propriety," said Lucy.
"Maybe, but as noble and brave a fellow as ever breathed!" exclaimed Jack warmly. "I should like to know what opinion you would form of him now. I must write by to-day's post, and beg him to put off other engagements if he can, and come to us at once."
"And that terrible pickle, as Lucy calls him, your Irish friend, Mr Adair, are we to have the honour of renewing our acquaintance with him before you go away?" asked Mary. "I must protest against having him here unless you are present to restrain his exuberant spirits, and the various eccentricities in which he may take it into his head to indulge."
"Oh, Paddy Adair is as gentle as a pet lamb if you only manage him properly," answered Jack, laughing. "Those various eccentricities are merely his little frolicsome ways, which can be restrained by silken cords. There isn't a quieter fellow breathing in the society of grown-up young ladies, such as you now are. Remember, you were school girls when you saw him last, and he possibly did not think it necessary to treat you with the respect he now would."
"He must indeed be much altered then," observed Lucy. "He had then a curious fancy for standing on his head, jumping out of windows, and climbing in at them too, dressing up the dogs and cats in costume, letting off squibs under horses' noses, putting gunpowder into candles, etcetera, while his tongue kept up a continued rattle from morning till night."
"Avast there, sister," cried Jack, interrupting her; "I beg your pardon; you have made me speak like a sailor on the stage. I assure you that Paddy would not dream of committing any of the atrocities you enumerate; on the contrary, if you ask him what is the chief drawback to his pleasure in society he will tell you that it is an overpowering bashfulness, which prevents him from expressing himself with the fluency he desires, and that his great wish when mixing in society is to receive sympathy and gentle encouragement to enable him to feel at his ease."
"From what I recollect of your friend, Mr Adair, I should have thought it difficult to find a young man more at his ease in any society into which he may be thrown," observed Lady Rogers, who was somewhat matter of fact; "I beg therefore, my dear Jack, that you will not persuade your sisters to give him any of that sympathy and gentle encouragement he wishes for, or I do not know where he will stop short."
"Depend on me, mother, I will be as discreet as a judge," said Jack, who had thus succeeded as he desired in turning the thoughts of Lady Rogers and his sisters from the yellow fever and hurricanes of the West Indies, and the conversation for the remainder of breakfast-time became general.
He wrote immediately to his two old messmates, begging them to come at once, and telling them of his appointment to the Plantagenet. Much to his regret, and possibly to that of his sisters, who were curious to see into what sort of persons the young midshipmen had grown, they could neither of them immediately avail themselves of his invitation. They congratulated him on his good luck, and said that as their friends were exerting their interest to get them afloat it was possible that they might ere long meet again, though as they were of the same standing in the service they could not hope all to be appointed to one ship. Alick Murray wrote from Scotland. He had taken under his wing a young orphan cousin, Archy Gordon, who longed to go to sea. Alick said that his great wish was to have the lad with him, should he get a ship, "if not," he added, "I shall be thoroughly satisfied to have him with either you or Adair, as I am sure that you will both stand his friend in case of need, and keep an eye on him at all times."
"Of course I will," said Jack to himself. "Murray's friends must always be my friends, and those he cares for I must care for; however, I hope that he will not be allowed to rust long on shore; little chance of it when once he has made himself known."
Adair was in Ireland. "Things are not quite so bad as I expected to find them in the halls of my ancestors," he wrote. "Although the estate with its thousands of acres of forest and bog was knocked down as I told you, the old castle of Ballymacree, with a few dirty acres surrounding it, was bought back again, and still serves as a residence for my father and mother, and the best part of a score of my brothers and sisters, and the wives and husbands and children of the elder ones—a pretty large party we make, you may fancy. I felt myself quite lost at first among them all, and the noise and confusion which prevailed after the quiet and regularity of a man-of-war quite confounded me; however, I have got accustomed to it now, and can join heartily in the fun and frolic which goes on from morning till night, and considering my bashful and retiring disposition, this will show you that I feel myself at home and perfectly happy."
"I said so," exclaimed Jack triumphantly, showing the letter to his sisters; "I told you what a quiet, sedate fellow Terence has become, and here is proof of it. Let us see what more he says." Jack read on:—
"I confess, however, that the sooner I am away and afloat again, the better for the rest of the family. How they all manage to exist is to me a puzzle. To be sure there are fish in the streams and neighbouring lakes, and game in abundance, which we retain the right of shooting; and sheep on the hills, which, as my father does not attempt any new-fangled plans for improving the condition of the people, are allowed to exist; and there are praties in the fields, and fruit and vegetables in the garden; but there is a scarcity of flour and groceries, and instead of the claret which, in the good old days, flowed freely at table, we are reduced to drink whisky, of which the excise has not always had an opportunity of taking due cognisance. My father does not quite see the matter in the light I do, and was inclined to be offended when I ordered down a cask of the cratur from Dublin, as a salve to my conscience, and a few dozen of claret, as a remembrance of days gone by; but as the latter went in about as many evenings, we shall have to stick to the whisky in future. However, if the house holds together till the Plantagenet is paid off, I can promise you plenty of amusement of one sort or another, and the enjoyment of magnificent scenery, if you, my dear Jack, will pay a visit to Ballymacree. You may depend, too, on as hearty a welcome as I am sure I should have received by your family had I been able to avail myself of your invitation. To be sure we muster somewhat stronger than you do, I suspect, and, might possibly exhibit, what with your sedate English ideas you would consider an exuberance of spirits, and I am almost afraid that you would think my five fair young sisters rather hoydenish young ladies, compared to your own. One of them, Kathleen, is looking over my shoulder and exclaims, 'Arrah, now Terence, don't be after saying that same, or Leeftenant Rogers will be thinking us a set of wild Irish girls, with no more civilisation than a family of gipsies;' but I tell her I won't scratch out what I have written, but I'll add that she's not the ugliest of the lot; so, dear Jack, when you do come, you can form your own opinion; I only wish that I had the chance of making some prize-money for their sakes. By-the-bye, the eldest of them, Nora, who, at sixteen, married Gerald Desmond, has got a son called after his father, who has taken it into his head to go to sea, and as nothing I can say will make him alter his mind, I suppose he must have his way. I have written to our cousin, Lord Derrynane, and asked him to try and get Gerald appointed to the Plantagenet, as I should like him to be under Hemming and you. He is a 'broth of a boy,' as we say here, and I know for my sake, Jack, that you will look after him. They say that he is very like me, which won't be in his disfavour in your eyes— though I don't think I ever was such a wild youngster as he is; not that there's a grain of harm in him. Mind that, and he'll soon get tamed down in the navy. I don't think I ever wrote so long a letter in my life, and so as it's high time to bring it to an end, farewell, Jack, till we meet, and may that be soon, is the sincere wish of,
"Yours ever faithful and true,
"Of course I will look after his nephew, as I would my own brother. I'll write and tell him so, though he knows it," exclaimed Jack; "and now, Lucy, what do you think of my old shipmate?"
"I cannot exactly say that I admire the style of his epistle, but I have no doubt that he is as kind-hearted and brave as you describe him," answered Lucy.
"I don't mean to say that he is much of a letter-writer," said Jack; "but at all events he writes as he feels and speaks, in the belief that no eye but mine would read what he had written. His mind is like a glass—it can be seen through at a glance; and he has no idea of concealing a single thought from those he trusts, though he is close enough with the world in general; and I can tell you that he is as true as steel, and as brave and high-spirited as he is kind-hearted and generous."
"A perfect hero of romance," observed Lucy, laughing; "I am really sorry that he is not coming here to enable us to judge of him fairly."
Possibly Lucy thought more about Lieutenant Adair than she chose to acknowledge. She could not, however, help reflecting that her mamma would look upon an Irish half-pay naval lieutenant, with a host of penniless brothers and sisters, in no very favourable light, should he come in the character of a suitor, so that after all it was just as well he could not accept Jack's invitation.
Jack made the most of his time while he remained at Halliburton Hall, winning the good-will of everybody in the neighbourhood. He laughed and talked and danced with the fairer portion in the most impartial manner; young and old, pretty and plain, all came in for a due share of his attentions. His sisters were quite vexed with him for not falling in love with one of three or four of their especial friends. They had a preference for a Julia Giffard; but should Jack fail to lose his heart to Julia, or Julia decline bestowing hers on him, there were at least three others of almost equal attractions and perfections, either of whom they could love as a sister-in-law; and it would be so delightful, while Jack was away, to have some one to whom they might talk about him, and to whom he would write such delightful letters which they, of course, would have the privilege of reading.
Then, some day, when he was a commander or post-captain, he would come home, and marry, and settle down in a pretty little cottage near them, and take to gardening, as many naval officers do, and be so happy. One day they delicately broached the subject to Jack. He burst into a hearty laugh.
"I fall in love with Julia Giffard!" he exclaimed. "My dear girls, what a miserable fate you are suggesting for your friend. Suppose she were to engage herself to me! Away I go for three or four years; back for two months, and off again for a cruise of like duration as the first. In the mean time she meets half-a-dozen more likely fellows than I am, as far as money is concerned at all events, but cannot encourage them on account of her fatal engagement to me; and perhaps, after all, I get knocked on the head and never come home at all, while the best years of her youth have gone by. No, no, girls; young naval officers who intend to follow up their profession have no business to marry; that's my opinion, and I intend to act on it."
Jack's sisters were disappointed, for they saw that he was in earnest, and had sound sense on his side, still they were not inclined to give in.
"Then why were you so anxious to get your two brother officers to come here?" asked Lucy, with considerable naivete.
"Whew! was that running in your head, missie?" cried Jack. "There's no use denying the fact."
What that fact was Jack did not say. Lucy blushed, and said no more about Julia Giffard to her hard-hearted brother. Jack went on as usual, making himself agreeable, to the best of his power, and no one would have suspected who saw them together, that the pretty Julia had been suggested to him as his future wife, least of all the young lady herself. He and every one of the family had soon another matter to engage their attention—Admiral Triton arrived. Tom on seeing him could scarcely conceal his agitation. The crisis of his fate, as he believed, had arrived. The Admiral was diplomatic, however, not knowing how Sir John, or at all events Lady Rogers, would receive his proposal to send off another of their sons as an offering to Neptune. He and Tom had a long talk, first in private. Tom acknowledged that he had serious thoughts of stowing himself away in Jack's chest, not to come out till the ship was well at sea when he could not be landed; or, failing that plan, to run off and enter as a powder-monkey or cabin-boy under a feigned tame. Go he would he had determined, in some way or other, for if not, he should certainly fall into a decline, or at all events pine away till he was fit for nothing. As the Admiral looked at his sturdy figure and rosy cheeks he burst into a fit of laughter.
"I don't fear any such result even should you meet with a refusal, Tom," he observed, wishing to try him a little further.
"Oh, Admiral Triton, you don't think that they would wish to make a parson or a lawyer of me surely?" exclaimed Tom, in a tone of alarm.
"I cannot say honestly that I consider you cut out exactly for either profession, though I have no doubt you would do your duty should you be induced to adopt one or the other," was the answer. "However, I will speak to your father and mother, and if they give me leave I will see what can be done for you at the Admiralty, and should there be a vacancy get you appointed to Jack's ship."
Tom thanked the Admiral from the very bottom of his young heart, though he felt a qualm at the thoughts of the sorrow he should cause his mother, even should she consent to part with him her youngest born. It did not, it must be confessed, last very long, and he looked forward anxiously to the result of the Admiral's application on his behalf.
Admiral Triton waited till after dinner, when the party were assembled in the drawing-room to broach the subject. A very short conversation with Sir John showed him that there would be no strong opposition on his part, and he accordingly stumped over to Lady Rogers, by whose side he seated himself on the sofa, sticking out his timber toe and commencing with a warm eulogy on Jack.
"A right gallant fellow is that son of yours. I knew from the first that he would turn out well; has fully equalled my expectations; had the true spirit of a sailor as a boy; we want a succession of such in the service; had I a dozen suits I would send them all to sea, that is to say if they wished to go. Naval men, generally, don't think as I do, perhaps. They fancy that the country doesn't appreciate their services, and, therefore, won't appreciate their sons, and so look out for berths on shore for them; but it's possible, Lady Rogers, that they over-estimate themselves. The case is very different with Jack; he is as modest as a maiden of sixteen, and yet as bold and daring as a lion; a first-rate officer; he's sure to get on; he'll be a commander in three or four years, and be a post-captain not long after. Now, there's your boy, Tom, just such another lad as Jack was—sure to rise in the service; and yet he'd be thrown away in any other profession. If you send him to Oxford or Cambridge he'd expend all his energies in boat-racing, or steeple-chasing and cricket—very good things in their way, but bringing no result; whereas, the same expenditure of energy in the navy would insure him honour and promotion; and depend on it he'll get on just as well as Jack."
"But do you think, Admiral, that Tom really wishes to go to sea?" asked Lady Rogers, in a slightly trembling voice.
"No doubt about it; determined as a young fellow can be, with yours and his father's permission," answered the Admiral; and he gave an account of his conversation with Tom, assuring her ladyship that Sir John had no objection provided she would consent.
Lady Rogers called up Tom, who had been watching her and the Admiral from a distant part of the room, guessing what was going forward. With genuine feeling he threw his arms round his mother's neck, and while, with tears in his eyes, he confessed that he had set his heart on going to sea, he told her how very sorry he felt at wishing to leave her.
"The news does not come upon me unexpectedly, my dear boy," she answered, holding his hand and looking with all a mother's love into his honest face. "I have long suspected that you wished to go to sea; but, as you did not say so positively, I thought, perhaps, that you might change your mind. However, as Admiral Triton assures me that you are cut out for a sailor, and that he can answer for your becoming as good an officer as your brother Jack is said to be, if your father gives his consent, I will not withhold mine."
"Thank you, mother, thank you!" cried Tom, again throwing his arms round her neck, when something seemed to be choking him, and he could say no more.
"He has the right stuff in him, never fear, never fear, Lady Rogers," said the Admiral, nodding his head approvingly behind Tom's back; "he'll do."
The rest of the evening was spent in discussing several important points connected with Tom's outfit, Jack being called in to the consultation. Admiral Triton confessed that, not expecting a refusal, he had already made all arrangements at the Admiralty for Tom to join the Plantagenet with Jack; and Tom, his ardent hopes realised, went to bed to dream of his dashing frigate, of Howe, Nelson, and Collingwood, of the countless adventures in which he expected to engage, and of the heroic exploits he had determined to perform.
Tom got up the next morning, feeling two inches taller, and walked about all day with the full consciousness that he was no longer a schoolboy, but a midshipman in the Royal Navy, with the right to demand due respect from all civilians; indeed the female portion of the establishment, with whom he was a monstrous favourite, were perfectly ready to humour him to his heart's content. He had been the last baby in the family, and it was only a wonder that he had escaped being utterly spoiled. His manners did not escape the notice of the Admiral, who, highly amused, called him to take a turn in the grounds.
"A little advice from an old salt, who has seen no small amount of service, will do you no harm, my boy," he began, after they had walked some way, talking of various matters. "You cannot steer a straight course, either on shore or afloat, without a definite object to guide you. Let yours be Duty. Never mind how disagreeable or how arduous or difficult it may seem, do that which you believe you ought to do, strictly obey the orders you receive, never neglect an opportunity of doing the right thing or of gaining professional knowledge, and never be tempted to do the wrong one. Every officer, remember, and man, too, from the commander-in-chief downwards, is bound to act to the best of his abilities for the good of the service. Whatever you are ordered to do, or however you may be treated by those above you, believe that they are actuated by that principle. If you remember that whatever you may be doomed to bear is for the good of the service, you will be able to endure an immense amount of what you may think hardship without grumbling. You will find a good many persons above you on board ship whom you will be bound to obey—your brother Jack among them. Be as zealous and as ready in obeying him as any one else. Never take offence from superiors or equals; it is the sign of a weak mind. When spoken to or even abused, whether you are in the right or the wrong, don't answer again, and don't be ashamed of expressing regret when anything has gone wrong. Do your best on all occasions—more you cannot do. There, Tom, I have given you a pretty long lecture; log it down in your memory, and act upon it. I repeat—let Duty be your guiding star; do your best for the good of the service, and don't grumble at your superiors or abuse your inferiors. These are golden rules well worth remembering, my boy."
"Thank you very much, Admiral Triton; I will try and not forget them," answered Tom.
"By-the-bye, you'll not find midshipmen of much 'count on board ship," continued the Admiral, with a twinkle in his eye, watching to see how Tom took his remark. "Not only are they inferior in rank to all the commissioned officers, but to the three warrant officers who have risen from before the mast, and even the petty officers and men are inclined to treat them as nurses do the babies under their charge; so you must not be disappointed if you do not meet with the respect you may possibly expect from those whom you may look upon as your inferiors, though they'll obey you readily when you repeat the orders you have received from your superiors."
"I understand, Admiral," said Tom, wincing a little at the remark about the babies, though he laughed as he spoke; "but I suppose, if I set to work to learn my duty and get quickly out of petticoats, I shall be sent away in charge of boats, as Jack used to be, and have opportunities of proving that I am worth something."
"Well said, Tom; it won't be long before you are breeched, depend on that," said the Admiral, laughing and patting him on the back. "Just don't mind asking for information from those able to afford it, and you will soon become a sailor."
The last days at home went rapidly by. Tom enjoyed the satisfaction, shared in by the whole household, of appearing in his new uniform, an old one of Jack's, which exactly fitted him, having been sent to Selby, the Portsmouth tailor, as a pattern. With no little pride also he buckled on a sword to his side, dirks having by that time gone out of fashion. Dreading the Admiral's quizzing glances, he took the opportunity of his absence to exhibit himself, again putting on plain clothes before his return, and only at his mother's request did he venture to resume his uniform at dinner, not again for many a day to appear in mufti.
Admiral Triton insisted on accompanying Jack and Tom to Portsmouth, where he was always glad of an excuse for going. It was a consolation to Lady Rogers to see Tom go off under Jack's wing, as she knew that, as far as one human being can take care of another, Jack would watch over Tom. Jack left Halliburton without having, by word or look, confessed an attachment, even if he felt it, for Julia Giffard, or for any other young lady among his sisters' dear friends. He and Tom were much missed, and certainly Julia Giffard, who came to stay there, took considerable interest in listening to his sisters' accounts of Jack's numerous exploits—so at least these young ladies fancied.
ADMIRAL TRITON AT PORTSMOUTH—THE THREE OLD MESSMATES MEET EACH OTHER, AND THEIR THREE YOUNG RELATIVES BECOME ACQUAINTED—THE DINNER AT THE "GEORGE" WITH ADMIRAL TRITON—ANECDOTES—AN ECCENTRIC COMMANDER—THE FRIGATE AND CORVETTE SAIL FOR THE WEST INDIES—A PHILOSOPHICAL BOATSWAIN—JOLLY TIME WITH FINE WEATHER—A HEAVY GALE—TIMES CHANGE— MARINES AND MIDSHIPMEN ON THEIR BEAM ENDS—MEN LOST—THE MIDSHIPMEN REGAIN THEIR APPETITES.
The Admiral and his two young friends were soon at Portsmouth. The former took up his quarters at the "George," while Jack, who had remained at home to the last day allowable, accompanied by Tom, at once went on board the Plantagenet, lying alongside a hulk off the dockyard. He was warmly welcomed by Captain Hemming, and, much to his satisfaction, he found that the newly appointed first-lieutenant of the frigate was his old acquaintance Nat Cherry, lately second of the Dugong in the China Seas, from whence he had only just arrived. "The authorities give us but little time to enjoy the comforts and quiet of home," he observed, "but it's flattering to one's vanity to discover that one's services are considered of value; and so when Hemming applied for me I could not decline, on the plea that my health required recruiting after the hard work I went through in China, although my friends declare that I have become as thin as a lath, and have no more colour than a piece of brown leather. I cannot say that of you, Rogers, however."
"Really, Cherry, you look to me as well filled out and as blooming as ever," answered Jack, surveying the rotund figure and rosy cheeks of his new messmate; "you and I afford proof that hard work seldom does people harm. Idleness is the greatest foe to health of the two. And who is to be third of the frigate?"
"No one has as yet been appointed. The master and purser have joined— very good fellows in their way—with an assistant-surgeon, and three or four youngsters; among them young Harry Bevan, who was with us in the Dugong."
"I am very glad of that," said Jack; "Bevan is the style of lad I should wish as a companion for my young brother Tom."
"Your brother, the youngster who came on board with you. I was sure of it; you are as like as two peas," said Mr Cherry. "I hope that he'll imitate you in all respects. It's a satisfaction to have steady youngsters on board who keep out of scrapes and don't give trouble."
Tom—who had already made himself known to Harry Bevan—was called aft, and introduced by Jack to Mr Cherry, and felt very happy and proud as he looked along the deck of the fine frigate to which he belonged. It was no dream; there he was in reality, walking about and talking to Bevan and other fellows dressed like himself in midshipmen's uniforms; and then he went into the berth, and took his seat among the others at dinner. It was just as Jack had described it; not very large, but, till the rest of the mess had joined, with just sufficient elbow-room. They had plenty of good things, for the caterer, old Higson, was something of an epicure; and Tom tasted grog for the first time, which he thought very nasty stuff, though he did not say so, as he knew that sailors liked it; and besides it would not be polite to express his opinion to Higson, who had evidently no objection to its taste. Altogether Tom was convinced that midshipmen, as he had always supposed, must lead very jolly lives. That very night, too, he was to sleep in a hammock, which he thought would be rare fun. He and his new messmates soon returned on deck, when the men who had been at dinner came tumbling up from below, and set to swaying up yards and hoisting in stores, the boatswain sounding his shrill pipe amidst the hubbub of noises—the officers, from Mr Cherry downwards, shouting at the top of their voices, and the men bawling and rushing in gangs here and there at headlong speed, hauling away at ropes till Tom felt more bewildered than he had ever before been in his life, and narrowly escaped being knocked over several times in spite of the efforts he made to keep out of the way. However, his experiences were only those of midshipmen in general when they first join a ship.
Tom had been advised by Jack to learn all about the masts and rigging as soon as possible, and he accordingly set to work without delay, asking questions of every one whom he for a moment saw standing quiet, and was likely to answer him. Harry Bevan told him a good deal, as did the other midshipmen, no one showing a disposition to humbug him, possibly on Jack's account, who would have found them out if they had. Before night Tom began to fancy that he really knew something about a ship, though it might be some time before he could consider himself a thorough sailor.
Though the captain lived on shore, the first lieutenant had taken up his quarters on board; Jack finding plenty to do, and being economically inclined followed his example. A fine-looking corvette, the Tudor, was fitting out a little way higher up the harbour. Jack scanned her with a seaman's eye, and thought that had he not been appointed to the frigate he should like to belong to her. It was still uncertain to what station the Plantagenet would be sent. No great difficulty, however, was found in getting men to enter for her. Sailors look more to the captain and officers than to the part of the world to which they are to go. One clime to them is much the same as another. They are as ready to go to the North Pole as to the coast of Africa, if they like the ship and the commander. Captain Hemming bore a good character, as did Lieutenants Cherry and Rogers, among those who had ever sailed with them. No persons are more thoroughly discussed than are naval officers by seamen; the wheat is completely sifted from the chaff, the gold from the alloy; and many who pass for very fine fellows on shore are looked upon as arrant pretenders afloat. Jack was making his way towards the shop of Mr Woodward the bookseller, when two seamen in a happy state of indifferentism to all sublunary affairs came rolling out of the street which debouches on the Common Hard near the Dockyard gates.
"I say, Dick, if that bean't Jack Rogers, say I never broke biscuit!" exclaimed one of the men, pointing ahead with out-stretched arm.
"No doubt about it, Ben," answered his companion, "I'd a known him a mile off, and I see'd last night in the paper that he's appointed to the Plantagenet along with Captain Hemming. (Dick pronounced all the syllables long.) What say you? my pockets are pretty well cleaned out, and so, I've a notion, are yours. Shall we go and enter at once? It must come to that afore long."
"I'm agreeable, Dick—when a thing's to be done, it's best to do it like men," said Ben, just as they arrived in front of the bookseller's shop, where they waited the reappearance of the lieutenant, Jack soon came out, and at once recognising two former shipmates in the Dugong, Dick Needham and Ben Snatchblock asked them if they were willing to join the Plantagenet. An affirmative being given, he begged them to pick up any other prime hands they could come across. By the evening, when he returned on board, he had, much to his satisfaction, obtained ten good men.
The next day Jack went on shore for the same purpose, accompanied by Tom, with the intention of calling on Admiral Triton before returning on board. They had just passed through the Dockyard gates when Jack saw approaching from the left, accompanied by a young midshipman, a lieutenant, whom it did not take him many seconds to recognise as his old messmate, Alick Murray. They did not exactly rush into each other's arms as Frenchmen or Spaniards would have done, but they shook hands with honest warmth, and Jack exclaimed, "I thought you were in Scotland. Where have you sprung from, Alick?"
Murray then told him that he had been appointed as second lieutenant to the Tudor, Commander Babbicome, with orders to join immediately, which he had done the previous evening but having the outfit of a youngster to look after, and letters to write, he had been unable to get on board the Plantagenet. He turned round and introduced his companion, a tall, slight lad, as his cousin Archy Gordon, who had also been appointed to the corvette. Thereon Jack introduced Tom, and the two midshipmen, who had before been eyeing each other askance, shook hands, and of course at once fraternised. Tom felt very proud of being able to speak in an authoritative tone about the frigate to Archy, who had not as yet been on board the corvette, and had not even seen a ship of war except at a distance.
"We do things as smart as lightning aboard our frigate, I can tell you," continued Tom. "Our first lieutenant is a very good fellow, and our second is my brother Jack, and there are not many like him. I've been twice up to the main truck, and ever so often into the mizen-top, and we've a capital mess, and shall be a jolly set when all hands join. Are you going to belong to us?"
"I dinna think so," answered Archy, in a broad Scotch accent. "My cousin, that is my father's sister's son, Alick Murray there, is lieutenant of a ship they call the Tudor, and I'm to go alang wi' him."
"Oh, that's the small craft fitting out ahead of us. She's a fine little ship of her class though, so my brother Jack says, and so I may congratulate you, but of course she's not to be compared to our frigate. I say, you must come and pay us a visit on board, and I'll put you up to all sorts of things."
Archy expressed himself much obliged, but cautiously refrained from accepting the invitation till he knew what his cousin Alick might say on the subject.
Meantime Jack and Alick Murray were talking eagerly together.
"And where are you bound for?" asked Jack.
"I heard through a friend at the Admiralty that the Tudor is to be sent to the same station as the Plantagenet, which, as you may suppose, gave me no slight satisfaction," answered Murray.
"That is capital news," cried Jack. "It will be curious if we keep together as lieutenants as much as we did as midshipmen, and go through as many more adventures as we have already fallen in with. I only wish that by some wonderful chance Paddy Adair could be with us."
"And that same wonderful chance has brought him here," exclaimed a voice from behind, and while a hand was placed on the shoulders of each, on looking round they caught sight of the merry countenance of Paddy himself, now smiling into the face of one, now into that of the other.
"It's dropped from the clouds you are after thinking I am now," he continued, laughing, "only they don't as a rule rain such big fish as myself. Well then, to satisfy your curiosity you are indebted for the satisfaction of seeing me here this morning, to a peremptory missive from my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, directing me to hasten over from Ireland to join the Plantagenet as third lieutenant, and I needn't tell you I never obeyed an order with more willing alacrity."
"And I don't think anything next to being made commander-in-chief right off could have given me greater satisfaction," said Jack, who seldom indulged in anything so nearly approaching a sentimental speech.
Murray said something of the same sort.
While the three old school-fellows were carrying on an animated conversation, a third midshipman had joined Tom and Archy.
"Will ye be after telling me, if ye plase, who are those two leetenants my Uncle Terence is talking to?" he said, as he stepped up to them and made them a polite bow with his cap. Archy returned it, but Tom, who had discovered that it was not the fashion for midshipmen to bow to each other, only laughed, and asked as he pointed with his chin at the three lieutenants—
"Do you mean that merry-looking fellow between those two?"
"That same sure," was the answer.
Tom explained who they were, adding, "And who are you, and what ship do you belong to?"
"Sure I don't belong to one at all at all, but my Uncle, Terence Adair, is to be third lieutenant of the Plantagenet frigate, and I'm to be a midshipman with him; and in the matter of my name, I'm Gerald Desmond, of Ballymacree Castle, in County Clare, Ireland."
"Well, Mr Gerald Desmond, of Bally—what do you call it, County Clare, Ireland? I have the pleasure of informing you that you are to be a messmate of mine, and as I've heard a good deal of your uncle, Paddy Adair, from my brother Jack, I shall be very happy to welcome you on board and to introduce you to the other fellows."
Gerald expressed himself much obliged to Tom for the intended favour.
"But ye'll not be after calling my Uncle Terence, Paddy, if ye plase," he added, his Irish blood rising with the idea that some disrespect was shown to his relative.
"Don't trouble yourself about that, my dear fellow," said Tom, who never wished to quarrel with any one. "My brother Jack always calls him so, and the Paddy slipped out by mistake; but you may be very sure that you'll be Paddy Desmond from the hour you step on board, and for ever after unless there's another Irishman to deprive you of the title, though, probably, there'll then be a brace of Paddies."
"Faith, I'm not ashamed of my country, and I am perfectly happy to be Paddy Desmond if you and the other boys like to call me so," answered Gerald, laughing.
Adair finding that it was not necessary to go on board the frigate immediately, accompanied his two friends into Portsmouth, the three young midshipmen following in their wake, Gerald having first been introduced to Jack and Alick. The youngsters were fast friends from that moment, laughing and rattling away, and playing each other all sorts of tricks. No one would have supposed that they had only just met for the first time in their lives. As they turned into the High Street the lieutenants encountered Admiral Triton stumping along in his flushing coat and weather-beaten hat. He recognised Murray and Adair at once, and invited them and Jack, with Tom and his two friends to dine with him at the "George" at six.
"I shall then hear how you like being a sailor. It isn't too late to give it up," said the Admiral, looking at Tom.
"Wouldn't change if they would make me a judge or Archbishop of York," answered Tom, in a positive tone.
"Just like Jack," observed the Admiral, smiling, "I hope at the end of your cruise you'll have no reason to repent your resolution."
Jack during the day picked up several more men, and returned early on board; when Tom, with no little pride, introduced his new friend to the mess, as Mr Gerald Desmond, of Ballymacree Castle, County Clare, Ireland.
"Mr Gerald Desmond be hanged!" exclaimed old Higson, who had come down tired, after having worked hard all day, and was out of humour. "Call him Paddy Desmond at once. We have no misters in this berth."
"And sure, so I am Paddy Desmond, and if it's to show that I come from old Ireland, I'm proud of the title," said Gerald, taking his seat, and looking about him with an air of unconcern.
"I told you so," whispered Tom. "I knew from the first that they would call you Paddy."
Gerald quickly made himself at home, and took in good part all the quizzing his messmates chose to bestow on him.
The dinner at the "George" went off capitally. The Admiral put his young guests at their ease, and let them talk and laugh away to their hearts' content, telling them all sorts of amusing anecdotes, and though he took good care not to allow them to drink more wine than their heads could carry, they unanimously declared that he was the jolliest old fellow they had ever met. Of course, he did not forget to tell all the company boxy Adair had made him carry his portmanteau, and to chuckle over the story for five minutes at least.
"A pretty pass the service has come to when midshipmen take such liberties with their superiors, eh, Captain Sourcrout?" he exclaimed, giving a poke in the ribs with his elbow to a stiff, old, martinet style of post-captain, who sat next to him, and had looked utterly horrified at his story.
"The world's turned upside down, isn't it? We shall have the youngsters mast-heading us next, if we don't exactly please them, eh?"
Captain Sourcrout, unable to speak from indignation, could only shake his head and frown terribly, at which the midshipmen, as he was not their captain, laughed the more heartily. The Admiral had heard, too, of the trick Jack and his messmates had played with Quirk, the monkey, on Lieutenant Spry, of the marines, and while he told the story as he had received it from Jack, with a few amplifications of his own, the tears ran down his eyes, till Captain Sourcrout, boiling over with indignation, exclaimed:
"The navy has indeed come to a pretty pass when such things are allowed. Instead of being mast-headed, the three midshipmen should have been brought to a court-martial, and dismissed the service."
"But, my dear Captain Sourcrout, the affair happened a good many years ago, remember," interrupted the Admiral, wishing to tranquillise him, "and had not leniency been shown to the culprits, the service would have lost three promising young officers likely to prove ornaments to it. However, I would advise other youngsters not to imitate them. Such tricks don't bear repetition, I'll allow. By-the-bye, Captain Sourcrout, are you acquainted with my old shipmate, Jerry Hazledine? He served under me as a youngster, and I have kept an eye on him ever since. He hailed from Ireland, and as all his ways and doings savoured strongly of the Emerald Isle, he was known as Paddy throughout the service."
The Admiral went on, without wailing to hear whether Captain Sourcrout was or was not personally acquainted with the officer in question.
"Paddy Hazledine was possessed of prodigious strength, though he seldom put it forth, except in what he considered the side of right and justice. His notions, to be sure, on these points, were occasionally like himself, somewhat eccentric; ha! ha! ha! I remember it as if it were yesterday. Coming up High Street one night, I saw a crowd collected round a lamp-post, not one of your modern iron affairs, but a stout, honest one of timber, with a cross-bar at the top as long as a sloop's cross-jack-yard. Seated with his legs over it was Paddy Hazledine in full rig, cocked hat and sword—he was a lieutenant then as composed as possible, smoking a cigar, which, it appeared, he had got up there for the purpose of lighting at the huge glass lamp, as big as a seventy-four's poop-lantern. While he held on with one hand, in the other he flourished a formidable shillaly, which he usually carried, as he declared, in order to keep the peace when more warlike weapons could not be used. Below him stood half-a-dozen watchmen, who, in angry tones, were ordering him to come down, while he, in eloquent language, was asserting his right to be where he was, and proclaiming his intention of remaining there as long as suited his pleasure. Every now and then the watchmen made a rush at him with their cudgels, the blows from which his faithful shillaly enabled him to ward off, and occasionally to bestow a pretty heavy tap on the heads of the most daring of his assailants.
"'Is it breaking the peace I am, do ye say?' he exclaimed. 'Not at all at all. It's you are doing the same, and running the risk of getting your on heads broken as the consequence. Now be off wid you, and lave a quietly-disposed citizen to his meditations.'
"I kept out of sight to see what would happen next. At length the watchmen lost patience. While three of their number remained at a respectful distance from the heavy end of the shillaly to prevent Paddy from escaping, the others went off, as I supposed, for a ladder and further assistance. Hazledine, fearless of consequences, sat smoking his cigar with perfect composure. Presently a dozen watchmen came trooping up, some armed with sticks and others with crow-bars and pick-axes and spades. Their object was evident. While one party began digging away round the lamp-post, the others defended them by fierce assaults with their sticks on the gallant lieutenant's legs, giving him enough to do for their defence, and thus preventing him from bringing down his weapon on the heads of their comrades. Still he showed every intention of keeping his seat, and notwithstanding the violent shaking which the working party gave the post as they got near the heel, he held on. At length, several stout fellows putting their shoulders to it, up it came, but instead of toppling it over, away they marched, carrying off Paddy in triumph, as they thought, to the watch-house; but they little knew the man they had got hold of. He seemed to enjoy the fun, and sat smoking as before, and occasionally indulging in a quiet laugh. Suddenly uttering a wild Irish shout, he sprang over the heads of his bearers, and with a whirl of his shillaly, scattering those who attempted to stop him, he darted down a narrow lane, the end of which they were passing at the time, and disappeared from sight. As his ship sailed the next morning, the police of Portsmouth searched in vain for the culprit, who, getting undiscovered on board, did not fail to amuse his messmates with a full account of his exploit; ha! ha! ha!"
The Admiral laughed heartily at his story, as, of course, did everybody else, with the exception of Captain Sourcrout, who, grimly smiling, observed—
"I should have brought that harum-scarum lieutenant to a court-martial pretty sharply."
"What for—smoking a cigar on the top of a lamp-post?" asked the Admiral. "It is not against the articles of war."
"No, Admiral Triton, but for conduct unworthy the character of an officer and a gentleman," answered Captain Sourcrout gruffly.
"Well, as to that, people may be allowed to have their opinion. It's not a usual proceeding, I grant you, but the act was beyond the jurisdiction of his captain, and as Paddy was as gallant a fellow as ever stepped and never failed in his duty, I don't think he would have been willing to act as you suggest. We must not forget that we were once upon a time youngsters ourselves, and we may possibly recall to mind some of the tricks we played in those days, ay, and after we had mounted a swab, or maybe two, on our shoulders. You remember the sentry-box which stood at the inner end of the landing-place on the Common Hard, with a comfortable seat inside it, rather tempting, it must be confessed, to a drowsily-disposed sentry to take a quiet snooze. Our fore-fathers had more consideration for the legs and feet of soldiers than the martinets of our times. To be sure, it a sentry was found asleep he ought have been flogged or shot, but he could sit down and rest himself, and if he did so it was at his own risk.
"One night several young commanders, there may have been a post-captain among them, coming down to the Common Hard, after a dinner-party on shore, to go on board their ships, found the sentry fast asleep in his sentry-box. They, of course, were as sober as judges; he, evidently, drunk as a fiddler. They thereon held a consultation, and came to the unanimous conclusion that it was meet and fit that a man guilty of so flagrant an infraction of military discipline should receive condign punishment, and constituting themselves the executioners as well as the judges of the law, forthwith set about carrying out the sentence they had pronounced. Calling up the strongest men of their boats' crews, they ordered them to shoulder the sentry-box and its sentry within, and to carry it down to one of the boats as gently as possible, not to awake the occupant. There, however, was little chance of that. Safe on board,—there being no witnesses but themselves to the operation,—the boat containing it was towed across to the Gosport shore, on which, being carefully landed, it was set up in its proper position, facing the harbour. Great, as may be supposed, was the consternation of the 'Relief' when it arrived at the post, to find sentry-box and sentry gone. The soldier could not have walked off with it as a snail does its shell on its back. A rigid search was instituted, but no sign of sentry or box could be discovered, and the sentry at the Dockyard gates, having also been snoozing at the time, had neither seen nor heard anything unusual. The captain of the guard, unable, even by a conjecture, to solve the mystery, considered it of sufficient importance to report without delay to the major, who, jumping to the conclusion, as he heard it when awakened from his first sleep, that the French had made their way into the harbour, and were about to assault the town, turned out the guard, ordered the draw-bridge to be hauled up, and, like a wise soldier, took every precaution to avoid surprise. Not till the next morning was his mind set at rest, when a report came from across the harbour that a sentry-box had been found on the Gosport shore, where one had not stood the night before, with a sentry in front of it, who could give no account of how he got there. The sentry, on awaking at daybreak, had in vain looked for the objects he expected to see around him, but deemed it prudent to maintain his post. When questioned, he roundly asserted that he had been broad awake all night, and the only conclusion to which he or any one else could come, was that he had been the victim of some trick of witchcraft."
"Were you, admiral, among those who played it?" asked Captain Sourcrout "because then the less I say on the subject the better."
"A man is not compelled by law to give evidence against himself," answered the admiral, laughing. "I give the tale current at the time, and happened to have been informed of the facts which solved the mystery. I should say that Jerry Hazledine had nothing to do with it, as it was before his day. He has a good many things set down to his account."
"Some of them were true bills, however," observed another post-captain. "I was a midshipman under him when he commanded the old Turk. Though good-natured he was somewhat hot-tempered. One of our marines had been bred a barber, and Jerry, discovering this, made the man come in every morning to shave him, the steward following with a jug of warm water. It had just been placed on the table as the barber had finished lathering the captain's face, but instead of being only warm was scalding hot. The marine, not reflecting on this, dipped in his razor, and intending to commence operations on the captain's upper lip, touched the tip of his nose with the back. As Jerry felt the pain, on the impulse of the moment up went his fist, which he planted with a knock-down blow between the eyes of the unfortunate jolly, who rolled over, half-stunned, on the deck. I, at that moment, went into the cabin, having been sent on some duty or other, and heard Jerry shout out in a voice of thunder:—
"'Take that, ye spalpeen, and think yourself fortunate to get it instead of the three dozen you would have had as sure as you're alive for burning your captain's nose.' The captain, in half a minute, sitting down as if nothing had happened, the jolly picked himself up and went on with the operation, taking very good care, you may be certain, not to burn Jerry's nose again. Some time after this, our captain received an intimation from the Admiralty, as did other captains, that flogging was as much as possible to be avoided, and other punishments substituted. On this, Jerry, who was possessed of an inventive turn of mind, set himself to work to devise such as would to a certainty be so hated by the men that they would answer the purpose of maintaining discipline fully as much as flogging. The ship's cook was a one-legged negro, a jolly, fat fellow with a comical expression of countenance, Sambo Lillywhite by name, generally known as Sam Lilly. Sam had a white mate called Tim Dippings, an incorrigibly idle rascal. One day Tim—not for the first time—had neglected to clean the galley, and on being reported, both he and Sam Lilly were put in the black list. Jerry, exercising his inventive genius, ordered Tim to walk the deck the whole of the afternoon watch, with a cauldron slung round his neck half full of slush; while the black cook, with a huge frying-pan held at arm's length in each hand, had to pace up and down for the same period. As each bell struck Tim had to sing out, 'Here am I for not cleaning the galley,' which was responded to by Sambo, in the most dolorous tone, with, 'I here for no see 'um do it,' his peculiar voice and the comical expression of his countenance eliciting roars of laughter from his shipmates. Thus at every half-hour the words went sounding along the deck, 'Here am I for not cleaning the galley!' 'I here for no see 'um do it.' Jerry, however, on another occasion, surpassed even himself, he caught a man smuggling a bottle of rum on board. The opportunity for exhibiting his inventive genius was not to be lost. The bottle was captured and the man put in the black list. The captain, after due consideration, ordered a cock to be fixed in a seven-gallon beaker, into which, being more than half-filled with water, the rum was emptied. It was then secured by a rope yarn round the neck of the culprit, who appeared thus at the commencement of the watch with a tumbler in his hand, and as the bell struck he had to fill his glass and drink the contents, shouting out at the top of his voice each time, 'Here am I, a smuggler bold!' He was never again caught smuggling spirits on board. Some captains with less inventive genius are much more cruel than was our friend Jerry in their black list punishments."
"That is not a subject I wish to bear spoken of," observed Captain Sourcrout, in an angry tone.
"Come, come, we'll change it then, gentlemen," exclaimed the good-natured admiral.
"I forgot," whispered Jack's neighbour to him. "Old Sourcrout is said to have had a man's head shaved, and to have made him carry a kettle of boiling water on the top of it for two hours during every day-watch for a week, but that may be scandal."
"As to the shaving I fancy so, but with regard to the water it is true enough, only it was not boiling," answered Jack. "He got hauled up for it, notwithstanding, and no wonder that he does not like the subject of black-listing spoken of."
Notwithstanding the grumpy remarks Captain Sourcrout occasionally let drop, the party went off very pleasantly, and Desmond and Gordon assured Tom that he had not overpraised the admiral, and that they had no notion there were such jolly old fellows in the navy. He, at all events, was worthy of all the patronage they could bestow.
Murray came on board the frigate the next day to see Jack and Terence. He was pleased with the corvette as far as she herself was concerned.
"She is as fine a little craft as I could wish for, but," he added, "the commander is one of the oddest fish I ever fell in with. He has not been to sea for a number of years, and having, as he says, turned his sword into a ploughshare, has devoted his mind to farming and rural sports. Unwilling to tear himself altogether from his beloved beeves and sheep, and pigs and poultry, he has brought them along with him, and has converted the little ship into a regular Noah's ark. The boats are turned into sheep-pens and hen-coops, and the decks cumbered with ox-stalls and hay-stacks. If the latter, in the meantime, do not catch fire, the admiral, when he comes to inspect us, will order them and the greater portion of the live-stock to be landed, and we shall probably benefit by the remainder, as they must be killed for want of food, so we have said nothing to him as yet on the subject; but Haultaut, our first, grumbles and looks askance at the beasts every time he goes along the deck, and declares that the ship is more like a Thames barge than a man-of-war, while Grummet, the boatswain, grins ominously at them, and tells the butcher to keep his knife sharp, as he will have work enough on his hands before long. Old Babbicome is afflicted, it seems, with absence of mind. The day after he joined the ship he sang out to a midshipman, 'Let my cab be brought round to the door.' The youngster stared. 'Do you hear? What did I say?' 'You desired to have your cab brought round to the door, sir,' answered the midshipman, trying to stifle his laughter. 'Ah! did I?' exclaimed the commander. 'Well, possibly. It's no easy matter to change one's mode of expression on a sudden. I mean, man my gig; I am going on shore.' The first day he attempted to carry on duty, he threw all the crew into convulsions by shouting out, 'Wo-ho! wo-ho, there! I mean, avast hauling, you lubbers!' and he swore and stamped with rage when he saw the men tittering near him, and wanted to know what they were laughing at."
Probably, we shall hear more of Commander Babbicome. Murray's account highly amused his friends.
"Well, Alick, you may possibly pick up a few wrinkles which may be of use to you when your time comes, and you settle down on the Highland farm you used to talk about," said Jack, laughing.
"I would sacrifice so remote a benefit for the sake of having the ship look rather more like a man-of-war than she does at present," answered Murray.
Two days after this a lighter was seen alongside the corvette, when truss after truss of hay was lowered into her. Then came two fat oxen and lastly, nearly a dozen sheep.
"Any more coming?" asked the master of the lighter.
"No, no," exclaimed the commander, who had been looking on with ruthful countenance, adding, as he turned aft, clenching his fist, and pulling at his hair, "I'd sooner throw up my command than part with them."
The frigate and corvette were ready for sea at the same time, and went out together to Spithead. Still their destination was unknown. The tailors, the Jews, and even the bumboat-women were unable to solve the mystery, the fact being that the Lords of the Admiralty had not decided themselves. Ships were wanted at three different stations, but economy being the order of the day, all three could not be supplied. The West Indies, the South American station and the Pacific were spoken of. At length Captain Hemming announced that he had received orders to proceed to Jamaica, and that the Tudor was to accompany the Plantagenet. More stores and provisions were received on board, till every locker and cranny in the two ships was filled, as Adair remarked, to bursting.
Admiral Triton came on board the frigate to wish his young friends good-bye.
"I cannot say that I hope you'll come back crowned with glory and your pockets filled with prize-money, for such things are not to be picked up now-a-days," he said, shaking Jack's hand, "but may you enjoy health and happiness and have many a long yarn to spin about your adventures in the West Indies or wherever you may be sent to, and I suspect that your captain has got orders to proceed rather farther than you at present expect."
As the kind old admiral went down the side, the anchor was run up to the bows, to the sound of the merry fife, the topsails were sheeted home, and the two ships glided westward over the smooth waters of the Solent. It was a lovely morning, a few fine weather clouds were to be seen here and there in the sky, but there were not enough of them to obscure the noon-day splendour of the sun. The duck trousers and shirts of the crews looked clean and summerish; the new gold lace on the uniforms of the officers glittered brightly as they paced the deck, or hurried here and there as duty called; the sentries with gleaming arms and white belts; the fresh paint, the light-coloured copper, the snowy canvas, all indicated that the ships were just out of harbour, to many an admiring eye from Ryde pier, and from yachts large and small, as the frigate followed by the corvette, with a leading wind, ran past the shores of the Isle of Wight, towards the Needles passage. Numberless yachts skimmed by them; those fairy-like fabrics which Englishmen alone know how thoroughly to enjoy, varying in size from Lord Yarborough's superb Falcon, to the tiny craft whose owner is probably proud of her in inverse ratio to her tonnage. All is not gold that glitters, and the fair admirers of the graceful frigate and corvette would have been somewhat horrified, could they have witnessed the various scenes taking place within the dark recesses of the ships, and had they heard the language, neither refined nor pious, uttered by their sturdy crews, and it must be confessed by some of the officers also—not by Jack Rogers though—for neither oath nor unbecoming phrase ever issued from his honest hips. The mate of the lower deck, with the purser's clerks and assistants, had provisions and articles innumerable to stow away; the gunner, boatswain, and carpenter, their respective stores to look to; indeed, in every department order had to commence its reign, where chaos had hitherto seemed to prevail, operations not to be performed without their due allowance of shouting and swearing. On deck all went smoothly, and under the pleasantest of auspices the two ships ran through the Needles, and stood down channel.
Tom and Paddy Desmond (for, of course he was so called, as Tom said he would be) were as jolly as possible, and laughed at sea-sickness, or any of the ills landsmen are subject to; they were not going to be ill, not they. Already they began to consider themselves first-rate sailors, for they could go aloft and skylark as fearlessly as young monkeys, and box the compass; and had some notion when the helm was a-lee, and the head-sails backed against the mast, that the ship would come about. As yet, to be sure, they had had only light winds and smooth water, but even a heavy gale would make no difference to them, of that they were very sure. Old Higson grinned sarcastically when he heard them say so.
"Oh, of course, sucking Nelsons like you are above such weaknesses; we shall see, though, when the time comes. The proof of the pudding is in the eating."
"Faith, I hope to have some better pudding to eat than this hard duff," answered Paddy, who seldom understood the meaning of the proverbs Higson was in the habit of quoting. The old mate only laughed; though he had a colt, to keep the turbulent in order, he seldom used it, treating the two youngsters with more consideration than he might have done under other circumstances, out of respect to Rogers and Adair, though they were under the impression that it was owing to their own merits, and were apt accordingly to take liberties with him. He behaved to them as a good-natured bear might towards a couple of playful children whom he could munch up in a moment.
"I say, Tom, couldn't we be after playing some trick like that the admiral told us of, which your brother and my uncle Terence played off on Lieutenant Spry, with Quaco, the monkey," said Gerald, one day to his messmate, when they were alone together; "it would be mighty good fun."
"I should like to do something of the sort amazingly, but once when Jack was telling me some of the tricks of his midshipman-days, he gave me a strong hint not to imitate them, as he would certainly be down upon me," answered Tom; "for all he is so good-natured, he can be wonderfully strict, I can tell you. He was saying that tricks are very well in their way if they are original and have fun in them, but that those who play them must look out for the consequences."
"I shouldn't have supposed that of him," said Gerald; "I'm after thinking now that my uncle Terence would be as ready for any fun as he ever was in his life."
"Very likely, but he mightn't approve of our indulging in it notwithstanding," answered Tom; "however, if you can think of anything, I'm willing enough to lend a hand. We can't play Lieutenant Jennings such a trick as they did old Spry, because he's too wide awake and wouldn't stand it; besides, we've no Quaco to dress up in his uniform. By-the-bye, I hope that we shall be able to get a jolly monkey before long, at Jamaica or elsewhere. I don't know if they run wild in the woods there, indeed it might be as well to have a civilised one who knows how to behave himself, and then I think we might manage to play old Scrofton, the boatswain, a trick."
"How?" asked Gerald eagerly.
"Don't you know that he has got a notion in his head that men are descended, or rather, I should say, ascended from apes, which he declares has been proved by a Lord Monboddo, or some other wiseacre, and if we had a monkey, we might somehow or other put his theory to the test, and, at all events, have some fun with the old fellow."
"Capital; I'll think over what can be done," exclaimed Gerald, rubbing his hands with glee; "do the gunner and carpenter agree with him?"
"No; the three are constantly disputing on the subject. I heard them yesterday, and they are probably at it again to-day. Come below; it will be good fun to hear them."
The midshipmen found the three warrant officers in the boatswain's cabin. He was seated; the others standing at the door, leaning against the bulkheads. They took up a position, so as not to be seen within earshot. The gunner was arguing that if men have grown out of monkeys, there would be none of the latter left, as they would all have turned into men; and the carpenter declared that though he had wandered all the world over, he had never met with one half-way between a man and a monkey, which he should have done if any change does take place.
"Have you ever seen apes without tails?" asked old Scrofton triumphantly.
"Yes," answered Gimlett, "with blue faces and hinder-ends of the same colour, but they moved on all fours, and though we had one aboard, and did our best to teach him to speak, and light a fire, and make himself useful, he could never do anything, and remained as great a beast as ever to the cud of his clays."
"Of course," said Blake, the gunner; "a man's a man, and a beast's a beast; and there are no greater beasts than apes; that's my opinion, whatever Lord What-do-ye-call-him, or any other of your philosophers says to the contrary."
"I tell you it's all down in my book as clear as a pikestaff, and it's my Lord Monboddo says it," exclaimed Mr Scrofton indignantly. "He, I should think, would know more about the matter than any warrant officer in her Majesty's service, or any captain or commander to boot."
The midshipmen's laughter made the gunner pop his head out, when they, feeling ashamed of acting longer the part of eaves-droppers, moved off.
"Old Scrofton is fair game anyhow," said Desmond. "I wonder a man can be such a fool."
"He is a very good boatswain, notwithstanding, my brother Jack says," observed Tom.
Mr Scrofton was a character, as are many other warrant officers. They must, indeed, besides being sober and steady and good seamen, be somewhat above the average as to intellect to obtain their appointments, while their eccentricities and peculiarities have generally not till then been noticed. Possessing but a limited amount of education, the boatswain of the Plantagenet endeavoured, on attaining his present rank, to instruct himself; and having no one to advise him, he had purchased some books at haphazard, the contents of which he respected the more that they were totally beyond his comprehension. The work mentioned was among them, and as he thought that he understood it best it was his chief favourite. He was a short, spare man, with a red face tanned by tropical suns, ferrety eyes, sharp as needles, and huge black whiskers which stuck out like studding-sails on either side of his countenance. Once upon a time it was reported a Russian admiral, on visiting the ship to which he belonged, was much astonished when Scrofton was pointed out to him as the boatswain. "What, so small a fellow as that?" he exclaimed; "we always select our boatswains from men six feet high and upwards, who can use their rattans with good effect." Small as he was the boatswain of the Plantagenet had a voice which could be heard amid the loudest strife of the elements; and being a thorough seaman he was respected by the crew in spite of his philosophical notions, about which they cared nothing. He was extremely loath to get the men punished if he could help it, and never swore at them in the way they called swearing—not that they would have minded it much if he had—though he occasionally seasoned his remarks with expressions gleaned from his books, which had the more force that their meaning was utterly incomprehensible. He entertained a friendly feeling for the two young midshipmen, whom he took great pains to instruct in their nautical duties; and under his tuition they soon gained a fair knowledge of the arts of knotting, splicing, and other practical details of their profession; nor did he entertain a suspicion that they held his philosophical opinions otherwise than in profound respect. Jack and Adair gave them lessons in navigation, so that they had advantages not generally possessed by youngsters in those days who had not been to the Naval College. Tom, having got the start, though only of a few days, kept steadily ahead of his companion. He had had the advantage of better training at school, as far as navigation was concerned. Dick Needham, also, who had been rated as boatswain's-mate, was another of their instructors; and as he was always in good humour, and took the greatest possible pains to teach them all he knew, they gained as much from him as from any one else.
The frigate and corvette sailed forward on their course across the Atlantic, with every stitch of canvas they could carry set slow and aloft. Two or three times they were totally becalmed, when the officers of the two ships paid visits to each other. Murray, with Archy Gordon, had come on board the Plantagenet.
"Well, Gordon, how do you get on aboard the corvette?" was the natural question put by Tom.
"Vary weel, but we've much the same sort of thing to do every day; washing and holy-stoning decks in the morning, and exercising at the guns and mail arms in the forenoon, and studying navigation and seamanship, and sic like," answered Archy.
"Faith, that's what we've to do here," said Gerald. "I came to sea to enjoy some fun; but we've not had much of it yet, though, to be sure, we lead a jolly life, take it all in all."
"The fun will come in time," observed Tom. "We never can tell what will turn up—perhaps before long—who knows?"
Murray was with Jack and Terence in the gun-room.
"Well, and how does old Babbicome get on?" asked Jack.
"He is amusing enough, but not altogether satisfactory as a commander," answered Murray. "He and Haultaut are continually disputing, and he never comes on deck without finding fault, at which Haultaut very naturally sets up his back, and generally finishes by going below. The commander seldom attempts to carry on duty, and that only in fine weather, without making some egregious blunder, and he always excuses himself by observing, 'I don't admire the new-fangled ways you young men have of doing things. We managed matters very differently on board the old Orion, I can tell you,' or, as he walks up and down the deck examining everything not in existence when he was last at sea, he exclaims, 'We'll change all this presently—it doesn't come up to my notions; never saw thingumbobs fitted in this way before.' We have eaten most of his sheep, as it was necessary to kill them for want of provender; but if the rest live till we reach Madeira, he will, I conclude, lay in a fresh supply. His pigs are, however, his great delight. He gloats over them, and spends an hour every day in currying them as he would a horse. They do him credit, for they are as sleek and fat as poodles. Though he avows that he is fond of pork, I suspect that he will never bring himself to order one of them to be slaughtered. To his credit I must say that he does not swear at the men; he is not, however, liked by them. When a lieutenant he got the name of 'Jib-and-Foresail Jack,' and it sticks to him still. When he had the watch at night he would be always bothering them to alter sails, and it was, they say, 'Up jib,' and 'Down jib,' and 'Up foresail' and 'Down foresail' every minute. He carries on much in the same way at present, and seldom comes on deck without shaking his head as he looks aloft, and shouting out 'Another pull at the lee-braces, Mr Haultaut;—we always trimmed sails properly on board the old Orion, sir,' or some such complimentary remark to our much-enduring first. The boatswain has a dog—a favourite with the men—which goes by the no uncommon name of Shakings. The commander detests Shakings, who he unjustly declares worries his sheep. One evening poor Shakings fell overboard. The men were in despair, knowing that the commander would not dream of heaving-to to pick him up. I saw what had occurred, and was going to intercede for the dog when I heard a voice from forward sing out, 'One of the captain's pigs overboard—there he goes astern.' The commander ran to the taffrail. Just then there was a splash, and as I looked over the side I saw one of his sleek pigs swimming as fast it could away from the ship. The commander soon caught sight of his favourite. The ship was hove-to, a boat lowered, and the boatswain, who jumped into her and managed to pick up the dog before he reached the other animal, avowed roundly that Shakings had jumped overboard to save the pig."
Jack and Terence laughed heartily at Murray's account of his commander, given as it was with all the gravity imaginable.
"Well, we bear with him as best we can," he added, "and only hope that he may ere long return to the bosom of his family, and to the congenial pursuits which occupy his thoughts."
A light breeze springing up compelled Murray and his companions to return to their ship. That night during the middle watch Tom and Gerald, who were fast asleep in their hammocks, were aroused by the boatswain's shrill pipe and gruff voice bawling, "All hands on deck— shorten sail!" They turned out with the rest; most of the officers and crew were on deck before they reached it. The frigate, caught in a squall, was heeling over till her lee-scuppers were under water, while dark, foam-crested seas came rolling up, deluging her deck fore and aft. The fore-topgallant-mast had been carried away, and was striking against the fore-topsail, ready to sweep to destruction the hands who were swarming on the yard; the main and mizen-topgallant-sheets had been let fly, and the sails were flapping wildly in the gale; while the wind whistling through the rigging—ropes slashing about—the seas dashing— the bulkheads creaking—the masts and spars groaning, created a perfectly deafening uproar. Then came a clap like thunder—the foretack had parted, and the block striking a seaman had carried him overboard. To attempt to pick him up was useless—he must have been killed instantaneously. For a moment there was confusion; but the voice of the captain, heard above all other sounds, quickly restored order. While the topmen were clearing away the wreck of the fore-topgallant-mast, the most dangerous task, handing the main and mizen-topgallant-sails, and reefing topsails, the courses were hauled up, and the frigate righting flew forward on her course. The sudden movement threw Tom and Gerald, who had been holding on to the capstan, off their legs, and the next moment, as she again heeled over to the gale sent them rolling into the lee-scuppers, where they lay sprawling in the mass of water washing across the deck—Gerald striking out with arms and legs under the belief that he was overboard.
"Help! help! Heave us a rope. Where is it you are, Tom? Don't be after giving up—swim away," he cried out, as he got his head above the water still rushing round him.
Tom was striking out lustily, as Gerald soon discovered by a kick he received from his foot, of which he caught hold, supposing it to be the end of a rope. Tom struggled the more to release himself, having found out that he was safe on deck.
"Let go, I say, or I shall never get on my legs," he exclaimed, kicking away with all his might.
"Arrah now, I'll be drowned entirely," bawled Gerald, as the water again washed over him. His shouts fortunately at this juncture attracted the attention of Jack, who, setting him and Tom on their legs, told them to go below and turn into their hammocks, as they were not of the slightest use on deck.
Drenched to the skin and crest-fallen, after holding on to each other for half a minute and gazing round them at the dark tumultuous billows, they did as they were bid, glad to strip off their wet clothes and endeavour to get between the blankets.
"Sure I'm after feeling mighty quare," said Gerald, as he was trying to scramble into his hammock, but it would not remain quiet as it was accustomed to do.
"So do I," groaned Tom, "I didn't think anything could upset me, but this is awful."
"Faith there's but little fun in it at all at all," cried Gerald, who had succeeded in getting in and covering himself up. "Will we all be drowned, do you think?"
"I hope not; my brother Jack seems to consider that there's nothing in it, and of course he's right—oh!"
The frigate gave a pitch, which made Tom feel as if he was going to be shot feet foremost along the deck.
"Arrah, now, where will we be after going to?" cried Paddy, from his hammock.
"Belay the slack of your jaws, youngsters," growled out old Higson, who had just turned in after his watch, and being perfectly indifferent to all the rolling and pitching, and the wild uproar of the elements, wanted to go to sleep.
"If you make such a row, my colt and your backs will become acquainted with each other before long."
"Why, man alive, it isn't we are making the row, sure it's the wind and the big waves outside the ship," exclaimed Paddy.
The midshipmen's small voices were, however, much more disturbing to the old mate than the sounds of the gale. A threatening growl was the only answer he condescended to make, as he had no intention to take the trouble of turning out of his hammock to execute the vengeance he promised.
Tom also by this time was dropping off to sleep, and Gerald shortly after followed his example. They ought properly to have kept the morning watch, but they were not called till the hammocks were piped up. They had then to turn out, feeling utterly unable to do anything but sit on their chests and languidly clutch their wet clothes. The two marines acting as their servants at length came aft, looking as pale and miserable as they were, and suggested that it would be wiser to get out some dry things. Dressing, after several pauses, was accomplished, and washing having been dispensed with, they managed to reel into the berth. There sat Higson, with coffee-pot in hand, and most of the other oldsters holding on to cups and plates, the biscuit-boat and more substantial viands being secured by puddings on the table.