The Three Midshipmen, by W.H.G. Kingston.
The tale of the Three Midshipmen is carried on to the Three Lieutenants, the Three Commanders, and the Three Admirals. The book starts with the arrival of three new boys at a boarding school for young gentlemen. One boy is English, one is Scottish, and the third is Irish. Under the influence of various bullies and other schoolboy adversities the three lads learn to stick together, and to look after each other. They join the Navy, and get various postings by which from time to time they meet, usually under the most difficult circumstances. Of course they each survive bravely, though any of the boats' crews that they have the honour to command are mowed down by the enemy. In other words, some of it is pretty tall stuff, but it was very good fare for the nineteenth century and early twentieth century English schoolboy. I can remember these books on our 1940s school library's shelves, very well-thumbed and many times repaired by one of the masters, whose hobby it was to run a voluntary book-binding class. There are three parts to the book, of which we originally published only the first two, as we were working with a book that did not have the last part. In this new 2006 edition you will be able to read about the Midshipmen in China. We apologise for the delay in making good this omission.
We see no reason why you should not enjoy this book.
THE THREE MIDSHIPMEN IN THE LEVANT, IN AFRICA AND IN CHINA, BY W.H.G. KINGSTON.
Ours was a capital school, though it was not a public one. It was not far from London, so that a coach could carry us down there in little more than an hour from the White Horse Cellar, Piccadilly. On the top of the posts, at each side of the gates, were two eagles; fine large birds I thought them. They looked out on a green, fringed with tall elms, beyond which was our cricket-field. A very magnificent red-brick old house rose behind the eagles, full of windows belonging to our sleeping-rooms. The playground was at the back of the house, with a grand old tulip tree in the centre, a tectum for rainy weather on one side, and the large school room on the other. Beyond was a good-sized garden, full of apple and pear trees, but, as we very seldom went into it, I do not remember its appearance. Perhaps, were I to see the place again, I might find its dimensions somewhat altered. The master was a first-rate schoolmaster. What his attainments were, I cannot say; but he understood managing boys admirably. He kept us all in very good order, had us fairly taught, fed us with wholesome, if not luxurious, food, and, though he used his cane freely, treated us justly. We held him in awe, and yet we liked him.
It was after the summer holidays, when I had just got back, I heard that three new boys had come. In the afternoon they all appeared in the playground. They were strangers to each other as well as to us, but their similarity of fate drew them together. One was a slightly made, dark, and somewhat delicate-looking boy; another was a sturdy little fellow, with a round, ruddy countenance, and a jovial, good-natured expression in it, yet he did not look as if he would stand any nonsense; the third was rather smaller than the other two, a pleasant-looking fellow, and though his eyes were red with crying, he seemed to be cutting some joke which made his companions laugh. He had come all the way from Ireland, we heard, and his elder brother had that morning left him and gone back home, and that made him unhappy just then. He at once got the name of Paddy in the school. He did not mind it. His real name was Terence Adair, so sometimes he was called Paddy Adair.
"I say, you fellow, what's your name?" asked a biggish boy of the stoutest of the three new-comers.
"Jack Rogers," was the answer, given in a quiet tone.
"I don't believe it," replied the big boy, who was known as Bully Pigeon; "it's such a rum name."
"I'll make you believe it, and remember it too," exclaimed the new-comer, eyeing the other from head to foot, and walking firmly up to him, with his lips closed, while he moved his head slowly from side to side. "I tell you my name is Jack Rogers—Now!"
The bully did not say a word. He looked as if he would have liked to have hit, but Paddy Adair had followed his new friend, and was evidently about to join in the fray if it was once begun; so the big boy thought better of it. He would gain no credit for attacking a little fellow the first day of his coming. There were many witnesses of the scene, and Jack was unanimously pronounced to be a plucky little chap. Pigeon, defeated in one direction, turned his attention to the first-named boy, who had scarcely moved since he entered the playground, but kept looking round with his large black eyes on the scene before him, which was evidently strange to his sight.
"What are you called, I should like to know?" he asked in a rude tone.
"Alick Murray," was the answer, in a quiet, gentlemanly voice.
"Then you come from Scotland, I suppose?" said the bully.
"Yes, I do," replied the former.
"Oh! I wonder your mamma would let you go away from her," observed the big boy, with a sneer.
"My mamma is just dead," answered Murray, in a mild tone, a tear springing to his eye.
"Shame! shame!" shouted the voices of several boys who had come up; among them that of Jack Rogers was the loudest.
"I didn't mean to say anything to hurt him," said the bully, sneaking away. "I'll pay you off for this some day," he muttered as he passed Jack.
Jack looked after him and laughed.
"He'll have two to fight if he tries it, mind that," said Adair to his new friend.
Jack thanked him, but said that he should soon be able to tackle him, if he could not just now. He would try at all events.
"That's it," cried Terence enthusiastically. "That's just what I like. If you are knocked down you can but get up again and try once more."
"So my papa says," observed Jack. "He's a first-rate father, let me tell you. He never would let any of us give in except to himself. He used to throw us into a pond, and tell us to swim, and unless we had actually been drowning, nothing would have made him help us; so we all very soon learned, and now there isn't a chap of my size I wouldn't swim against. We live down in Northamptonshire. My papa has a place there. We are all very jolly. There are a number of us, sisters and brothers. You must come down and see them some holidays. You'll like them, I know. There's no nonsense about them."
Terence said he should like it very much, if he did not go back to Ireland. He had three brothers and a sister, but they were all older than himself. His papa was the Honourable Mr Adair, and he had an uncle, Lord Derrynane. He did not know whether they were rich or not. They lived in a big house, and had a number of servants, and people were constantly coming and going; so he supposed they were. The truth was, as I heard afterwards, they were living a great deal too fast, and Terence had nothing left as his share of his father's property, except, as he said, his debts. That, however, was no fault of his.
"I say," observed Jack, "don't let us leave that poor fellow alone any longer. He seems very low-spirited about his mother. It's natural, you know; though I don't like to see a fellow blubbering just because he has hurt himself, or lost a peg-top, or anything of that sort."
So they went up to Alick Murray, and began talking to him, and Terence said something funny and made him laugh.
"I wonder what games they have here?" asked Jack.
"Coach-and-horses," said a biggish fellow, who had just entered the playground with some long strips of leather over his arm and a whip in his hand. "Now, if you three fellows will just be harnessed, you'll make a very good unicorn."
They all looked at each other, and as the big boy spoke in a good-natured tone, they agreed to do as he wished. Jack and Alick were harnessed together; Terence insisted on going as unicorn.
"I say, though," cried Jack, looking back; "what are you called? I always like to know the name of the driver."
"Ben Trotter when I'm not called Master Benjamin Trotter," was the answer.
"Not a bad name for a coachman," observed Jack, beginning to prance and kick about. He got a cut with the whip in return for his remark. Terence reared and neighed, and kicked about furiously all the time, like a high-mettled steed who wanted to be off; and at last, Trotter having got the ribbons adjusted to his satisfaction, away they all went round the playground at a great rate, looking with great disdain on those boys who had only got string for harness. Thus were the three new-comers first yoked in fellowship. They were very much together ever afterwards, though they also had their own especial friends. Murray and Rogers were the most constant to each other. Murray was a studious, gentle boy. He had more talent than Jack; that is to say, he did his lessons a great deal better, and never got into any scrapes. Jack never picked a quarrel, but he now and then got into one, and was apt in his lessons to give a false quantity, and sometimes a translation of his Caesar which put him down to the bottom of the class. Murray was always ready and able to help him, but Jack was not a fellow who would consent to trust to the help of another. When he really tried, he could always do his work, and very creditably too. Adair, unlike his friends, was nearly always getting into trouble. He would not think enough about consequences. Once he and others had been letting off fireworks of their own manufacture in a remote corner of the playground. Notice was given that an usher was coming. They threw away their combustibles, and fled. Terence, however, had a piece of lighted touch-paper, which, in his hurry, he shoved into his pocket. It was already full of a similar preparation. He was caught and hauled away into the schoolroom to receive condign punishment. He tried to look very innocent, and requested to know why he was dragged along so unceremoniously. Paddy, under no circumstances, ever lost his politeness. Unhappily for him just as he reached the door the proofs of his guilt became apparent. Streams of smoke and sparks burst out of his pockets, and the master had to pull out the burning paper to prevent him from being seriously injured. As to his lessons he very frequently was at the top of his class, but he never could manage to keep there many days together. For some neglect or other, he soon again lost his place. Still he was a general favourite. Even the masters could not help liking him. The three new boys were put into one room. They slept there for several halves. On one occasion Terence had kept away a good deal from Jack and Murray, and associated more than was his custom with several of the less nice boys. Among them was Pigeon, the bullying fellow. I happened to be awake one night, when, by the pale moonlight which streamed in at the windows, I saw Paddy Adair sit up in his bed and look about him. Pigeon and another biggish fellow did the same. They signed to each other, and slipping on their clothes, crept with their shoes in their hands out of the room. I could not go to sleep, wondering what had become of them. Jack Rogers slept near me. He likewise had seen what had occurred. They were absent about half an hour. They returned as noiselessly as they had gone out, and crept into bed again, of course thinking that no one had observed them. No sooner was the door closed than there was a strong smell of apples in the room, and presently "crunch! crunch! crunch!" was heard.
"Those fellows have been stealing old Rowley's apples, now," thought Jack; "and that donkey Paddy Adair has, I'd bet, been heading the party."
He felt as if he were a spy by not letting them know that he was awake, so he sat up and said, "Hillo! you fellows, what have you been about?"
"Is that you awake, Jack?" answered Adair. "Never mind, we've had great fun. Have an apple, will you?"
"No, thank you," said Jack, "I'd rather not;" laying considerable emphasis on the last words.
"He doesn't deserve one as he hadn't the pluck to go and get them," said a voice from under the bedclothes.
"Who says that?" exclaimed Jack, sitting up in bed.
"Why, I say you would have been afraid to go and do what we have done," answered Bully Pigeon, summoning up more courage than was his wont.
"Afraid!" exclaimed Jack, springing out of bed and slipping on his trousers. "Afraid of what? Afraid of stealing? Afraid of telling a lie I am; but I'm not afraid of you, you thief, I can tell you."
Even Bully Pigeon could not stand this. Unless he would be jeered at and called sneak ever afterwards by all the little boys in the school, he felt that he must retaliate. He jumped up and sprang at Jack, aiming a blow, which, if the latter had not slipped aside, would have knocked him over. Jack, notwithstanding this, sprang back, and put himself on his defence, not only warding off the next blow Pigeon struck, but planting another between his eyes, which brought fire into them with a vengeance.
This enraged the bully, who came thundering down on Jack with all his might, and would have wellnigh crushed him, but Pigeon found a new assailant in the field whom he did not expect—one of his own party. It was Paddy Adair.
"I can't stand that, and I won't," he exclaimed, aiming a blow at Pigeon's head which sent him backwards; while Alick Murray, who had likewise jumped up, appeared on the other side of him.
"We are thieves, I tell you; we've been stealing old Rowley's apples, and Jack Rogers is right," cried Terence.
"A very true remark, boys," said a deep voice which all recognised full well. The door opened, and old Rowley himself, habited in his dressing-gown, with a candle in one hand and a birch in the other, appeared at the entrance, followed by good kind Mrs Jones, the housekeeper. Every one scuttled away to their beds as fast as they could go, except Alick Murray and Terence. Murray was the first Rowley laid hands on, and, putting down his candle on the mantelpiece, he was about to make use of his birch. Murray disdained to utter a word which might inculpate others, and I knew he would have received a flogging without complaint, but Terence cried out, "No, no, it wasn't him—I was one of them—flog me if you like."
"Well, get into bed," answered Rowley, in a voice which did not sound as if he was very angry. "You two have the spoils upon you, however;" saying this, he went to the beds of Bully Pigeon and the other big fellow, and gave them as sound a flogging as they ever had in their lives, while Mrs Jones retired to a little distance, though I believe she always came in the hopes of softening the vigour of the master's arm. He went round to the other rooms, and treated the rest of the culprits in the same way, and we had reason to suspect that he had watched the whole party as they returned from their marauding expedition. All the culprits were sent to Coventry the next day for a week, except Terence, who had however led the expedition, though he did not plan it. "I have great respect for the person who is not afraid to call a thief a thief, or a lie by its right name," said Rowley not long afterwards, looking significantly at Terence.
Time sped on, we were getting up in the school, new boys were coming and old ones were going away, when the first night after our return from the Christmas holidays, we all lay awake talking of our adventures.
"This is my last half," said Jack; "I've made up my mind to be a sailor, and my father says I may; and an admiral, a friend of ours, has promised to get me a ship; and so it's all settled, and I'm going."
"Are you, old fellow? how capital!" exclaimed Terence. "I've been asked if I would go to sea, and I said yes; for there's nothing else I want to do that I know of, but I little thought you would be going too. Well, that is good, and clenches the matter."
"I am very glad to hear it," cried Murray; "it is what I have been longing to do for years past, almost since I could read. The only profession I felt that I should ever like was the navy, but I never saw a chance till these holidays of being able to go into it. I believe it is settled; I shall know shortly, I hope."
"What, are we all three going? how capital! What fun we will have," cried Jack. "Of course they'll let you. Oh, hang it, you must go with us." Murray seldom talked much of what he wished to do, or expressed his feelings, except perhaps to a trusted friend like Jack, but of the three companions he had probably the strongest will, and when he had set his mind on an object, no one could exert himself more resolutely to accomplish it. He wrote and wrote to his friends, expressing his wish in as strong terms as he could, giving many excellent reasons for having formed it. Before many weeks had passed, Murray received a letter. The contents would have made Jack and Terence throw up their caps and shout, had they under similar circumstances received it. He felt a choking sensation, and the tears sprang to his eyes. All his long-cherished hopes were about to be accomplished. He had the promise from the First Lord of the Admiralty of an appointment speedily to a ship. The half came to an end, the school broke up, and the boys separated with all animosities and quarrels sunk in oblivion; and in the belief that they should meet each other again soon, if not at school, somewhere or other. Jack went home, and was then sent, by the advice of his naval friend, to an academy at Portsmouth, where young gentlemen were prepared for the navy. Jack wanted to become a real sailor, so he set to work manfully to stow away all the navigation he could pick up. He soon also made himself known and respected among his companions, much in the same way that he had done at his old school. At last he heard that he was appointed to a ship, but that he was to go home before joining to take leave. He was first to go to Selby the tailor, to get measured for his outfit.
"You'll like to have your uniform at once, sir," observed Mr Selby; "most young gentlemen do." Jack thought it would be very nice, as his best clothes were already shabby; so in an incredibly short space of time he found himself exactly fitted in his naval habiliments with a dirk by his side, and a gold-lace cap. He did not like to wear them in the street, "lest he should appear conspicuous," he observed to a schoolfellow, so he did not put them on till he was ready to start in the morning by the coach up to London. He had got leave to go down to Eagle House to visit his former master and old schoolfellows, and how grand he looked as he walked up and down the playground, handling his dirk. Even Pigeon felt a great respect for him, and looked on him with somewhat an eye of envy, and thought he should like to go into the navy. Had he gone, he would have had to learn many a lesson, or would very soon have been kicked out of it again. Jack dined at the master's table at one end of the long dining-room, and good Mrs Jones looked at him very proudly, for she had always thought him one of her best boys; and many an eye gazed wistfully at his anchor buttons and dirk and smiling jovial countenance, as he laughed and chatted with wonderful ease with old Rowley, as if he was not a bit afraid of him; and some idle fellows envied him his emancipation from Virgil and Horace, and other classical authors, for whom they had so little affection themselves. Then he had to jump up and hurry off to catch the coach, in order to reach the mail, which was to carry him down that night to Northamptonshire. Jack could obtain no certain information about Murray and Adair, but old Rowley told him he understood they had already been sent to sea. Jack spent three very jolly days at home. He had a big trunk filled with all sorts of things which he was to stow away in his chest. Then the moment came for parting—the family were not much addicted to crying, not that they did not love each other very much. Jack's little sister Lucy cried the most. He promised to write to her, and she promised to write to him and tell him about everybody and everything, and the horses and dogs, and something very like a tear came into his eyes, and a difficulty of speaking to which he was not accustomed, as he gave her his last kiss. Just then, Admiral Triton, Jack's naval friend, drove up to the door, and by a mighty effort all traces of his feelings were banished—not that the Admiral would have thought the worse of him a bit on account of them. The Admiral was of the old school. He had one leg, the other being supplied by what looked remarkably like a mop-stick. His appearance was somewhat rough, especially when he went out in rainy weather, and his countenance was not a little battered, but his heart was as tender and almost as simple as Jack's or even Lucy's for that matter. He had insisted on taking Jack to Portsmouth and seeing him on board. "It will be an advantage to the youngster perhaps, and, besides, it will freshen me up a bit myself," he observed to Jack's father; "so say no more about it, neighbour Rogers."
On their arrival at Portsmouth they went to the George, and the Admiral then took Jack to try on the rest of his kit.
"And I say, Mr Selby," observed the Admiral, "just shake the reefs out of the youngster's clothes at once, will you; why you would stop his growth if you were to swaddle him up in that way."
"Certainly, Admiral; but young gentlemen nowadays fancy well-fitting trousers," observed the tailor.
"And tight-pinching shoes, which will give them corns, and prevent them stepping out like men," observed the Admiral; "but though they are silly, wiser people should not humour them."
Leaving Jack with the tailor, who was really a very trustworthy man, Admiral Triton stumped down to the well-known Point, to have a look about him, as he said. While he was standing there, with his hands in his old pea-coat pocket, gazing out on the harbour, and thinking of bygone days and many an event of his youth connected with that place, a man-of-war's boat ran in among the wherries, and a youngster sprang out of her, a small portmanteau being afterwards handed to him.
"Hillo, my man! if you're inclined to gain a shilling, just carry this up to the George for me, will you?" exclaimed the midshipman, addressing the rough-looking, one-legged seaman he saw before him. The Admiral was so tickled with the notion, that without saying a word he touched his hat, and taking the portmanteau, stumped off with it, followed by the owner. Two waiters were standing at the door of the George. When they saw the Admiral they hurried forward.
"Pray, Admiral, let me help you in with that thing," they exclaimed eagerly. At the same moment up came Jack. He burst into a jovial fit of laughter. There before him stood Terence Adair, in midshipman's uniform, the very picture of dismay.
"Oh, sir, I beg your pardon, I did not know you were an Admiral!" he exclaimed. Just then he caught the eye of Jack, who had gone up to the Admiral. Paddy's countenance brightened a little. "How lucky!" he added. "Do apologise for me, Jack."
"Well, well, but I say, youngster, you are not going to do me out of my shilling; just hand me that, at all events," said the Admiral, laughing. "Another time save your money, and carry your shirt-collars yourself."
Terence, fumbling in his pocket, produced the coin, which the Admiral bestowed on an old blind man who was passing at the moment. Jack and Terence shook hands heartily. A look from the first assured the other that he need not have the slightest fear of the consequences of his mistake.
"What ship do you belong to, youngster?" asked the Admiral.
"The Racer, sir," said Terence; "she's a fine frigate—there's not another like her in the service." The Admiral looked approvingly when he heard the remark.
"Why, she's my ship," exclaimed Jack, "though I haven't joined yet."
"Yours, Jack! how capital!" cried Terence in a tone of delight; "well, that is fortunate." The Admiral seemed much amused at the meeting of the two friends. Terence had come on shore to see his relative Lord Derrynane, whom Admiral Triton knew; and they all dined together, and the next day the Admiral accompanied the two lads on board their ship, which had just gone out to Spithead. She was a thirty-six gun frigate, and worthy of all the encomiums Terence had lavishly bestowed on her at dinner. The Admiral stumped all over her, and examined all the new inventions, and went into the midshipmen's berth, which was a very natty one; and he sat down and talked of old times during the war, and told a good story or two, and made himself perfectly at home, and introduced Jack "as a fellow who would speak for himself by and by;" and when he went away he was voted a regular trump, and no small share of his lustre fell on Jack. The Admiral and Jack went on deck. The former was in no hurry to leave the ship. He took a great interest in all that was going forward. They walked the deck for some time. The Admiral stopped, and said with more seriousness than was his wont: "Jack, I have given you several pieces of advice which you have taken well from an old sailor who has lost his leg in the service of his country, and has been pretty well riddled and knocked about besides. I must give you another, the most important of all—never forget that you are a Christian, and never be ashamed of confessing it. Your Bible tells you what that means. You've got one in your chest. Read it often, and learn from it. Nail your colours to the mast, and fight under them. You'll thus keep your spiritual enemies at bay, as I hope you will those of your country." Jack grasped the Admiral's hand to show that he understood him, but for the life of him he could not have found words to express what he wanted to say. They had stopped, and were looking over the ship's side. Jack espied a boat pulling up under the frigate's quarter, with a midshipman's chest and a midshipman in her.
"What, more youngsters!" growled out an old mate; "we've our complement, and more than enough already." Jack's heart gave a jump of pleasure. He thought that he recognised Murray. It was a curious coincidence, if such was the case, that the three schoolfellows should meet. The boat came alongside, the chest was hoisted up in spite of the old mate's growls, the midshipman followed, and in another minute Jack Terence and Alick were shaking hands, and laughing heartily at their happy encounter. Murray said that he had not come to join the Racer permanently, but that he had been ordered a passage to the Mediterranean, where the sloop of war to which he had been appointed was stationed. The Admiral told Murray that he knew his father, and that he was glad a son of his had chosen the navy as a profession. He then heartily shook hands with the three lads; and when he went on shore all the midshipmen of the ship manned the side ropes to show their respect to the fine old sailor, and gave him three cheers as he pulled away. Jack confessed that, somehow or other, he felt more inclined to pipe his eye on that occasion than on any of his other leave-takings. Two days after this the Racer, bound for the Mediterranean, was running out at the Needles, whose jagged peaks and high white cliffs rose in picturesque beauty on the left hand. The wind was fair, the sky blue, and the water smooth, and the three midshipmen looked forward with delight to the numerous adventures they expected to encounter.
IN THE MEDITERRANEAN.
The gallant frigate, which bore the three midshipmen and their fortunes, was soon plunging into a heavy sea, caused by a strong breeze from the westward, which she encountered as she stood across the Bay of Biscay. "There we lay all the day, in the Bay of Biscay, oh!" sang Paddy Adair, as he, with other young gentlemen, sat in the berth after dinner; but, as he sang, there was a tremulousness in his voice ominous of a troubled soul within, while the "Oh!" came out with a peculiar emphasis which brought down upon him the laughter of the other youngsters, who, having been rather longer at sea, had become accustomed to such joltings and tumblings about. Jack meantime, who had just come below from his watch on deck, was attacking, with a ferocity which made it appear as if he was contending with some bitter enemy, instead of a plentiful dinner, the boiled beef and biscuit the boy had lately placed on the table. When spoken to, he scarcely looked up, but continued cramming mouthful after mouthful down his throat, while his eyes rolled round and round; and more than once he gazed at the door, contemplating evidently how he could most quickly make his escape on deck. Alick Murray meantime leaned back at the end of the berth, with a book in his hand, under the impression that he was reading; but his head ached; his dinner had been untasted, and, though his eyes may have seen the letters, they conveyed no impression to his brain. The rest of the members of the mess were variously employed. Some were writing up their logs; others doing their day's work; a few reading, and some were discussing subjects, if not very erudite, at all events, apparently highly amusing to themselves, from the peals of laughter they occasionally elicited. Two youngsters were having a quiet little fight in the corner, pummelling each other's heads to their hearts' content, till brought to order by a couple of books aimed scientifically across the berth by old Hemming, the senior mate of the mess, who, from constant practice, was very perfect in that mode of projecting missiles. There were several other passed mates in the berth, and two assistant-surgeons—one of them old enough to be the father of any of the youngsters—and a second master and a master's assistant, and the captain and purser's clerks, and three or four other midshipmen of various ages. All of them did not belong to the frigate, but some were supernumeraries going out to other ships on the station. The fathers of some present were of high rank, and they had been accustomed to all the luxuries wealth can give, while others were the sons of poor men, officers in the army and navy, who had little beyond their pay on which to depend. Altogether they formed a very heterogeneous mass, and a strict system of discipline was required to keep them in order. Captain Lascelles, who commanded the Racer, was an officer and a gentleman in the true sense of the word, and he wished that all the officers under his command should deserve the same character. Those belonging to the gun-room were mostly men of this description, but one or two scarcely came up to it. Of these one was the lieutenant of marines. He formed an exception to the general character won by that noble corp—for a braver and more gallant set of men are nowhere to be found. Lieutenant Spry was not a favourite either with his superiors or with those below him. The midshipmen especially disliked him, and he seemed to have a decided antipathy to them.
To return to the midshipmen's berth: Jack Rogers continued to bolt his beef, Alick to fancy that he was reading, and Adair to try and sing, when, in spite of his courage, nature, or rather the tumblification of the ship, triumphed;—springing over the table, he rushed up the hatchway towards the nearest port on the upper deck. Now, as it happened, Lieutenant Spry was with uneasy steps endeavouring to take his constitutional walk along the deck at that moment, and Paddy, not seeing him, ran with his head directly against the lower button of the marine officer's waistcoat, whereon the seasick midshipman found his ears pinched, and received a shower of no very refined epithets. Poor Terence, who, essentially the gentleman, would not have retorted if he could, was able only to ejaculate, "Beg pardon, sir!" when the usual result of seasickness followed, to the no small disfigurement of the marine's white trousers. The enraged officer, on this, thundered down invectives on poor Paddy's head, and finished off in a most un-officer-like way by kicking him down the hatchway from whence he had just emerged. Adair returned crestfallen and miserable, brooding over the injury and insults he had received. There could have been no doubt that a formal complaint made to the captain would have brought down a severe reprimand on the head of the marine officer, but the idea of making a complaint never crossed the imagination of the midshipman. Paddy, however, told his story to his companions, and even Murray agreed that Mr Spry had merited punishment. They eagerly discussed the subject—all the midshipmen had been insulted in the person of Adair, and it was not long before a bright idea was elicited from among them. On board the ship, belonging to the men, was a large monkey, whom they called Quirk, a very tame and sagacious animal, who had a peculiar aptitude for learning any trick which any person had perseverance enough to teach him. "He'd know more nor any of the ship's boys if it weren't for his tail," the men used to remark after the performance of one of his clever tricks.
"Capital!" exclaimed Jack, forgetting all about his seasickness and clapping his hands with delight when the idea which had been brought forth was propounded; "he'll do in it first-rate style—ha, ha, ha!" and a merry peal of laughter ran through the berth.
The gale blew over, and the sea once more was bright and blue, as the frigate made her way towards the Rock of Gibraltar. For several days the three midshipmen were wonderfully quiet below; sometimes they were forward, and sometimes they sat together at the farther end of their own berth. They had needles and thread and scissors under weigh, and bits of red cloth and leather, and indeed all sorts of outfitters' materials, the employment on which seemed to afford them infinite satisfaction. Mr Spry, as in fancied dignity he paced the quarter-deck, of course did not remark the constant absence of so insignificant a person as a midshipman from it; and the recollection that he had behaved not altogether in a becoming way to Adair did not probably cross his mind. Now the lieutenant had a peculiarly pompous air, and the habit, whenever he wished to blow his nose, of drawing his white cambric pocket-handkerchief from his breast pocket with what he thought peculiar dignity, and of flourishing it in his hand after each operation in a fine theatrical style. He had read in some advertising circular that the use of a fine cambric handkerchief always marks the gentleman; so he considered that if he purchased a set, no one would afterwards venture to doubt his claim to that character. All day long, Jack, or Alick, or Paddy, sometimes singly and sometimes all together, were forward in the company of no less important a character than Quirk, the monkey. It is extraordinary how perseveringly they devoted themselves to him. Had they employed the same time in teaching some of their fellow-creatures, the ship's boys, they might have imparted a considerable amount of useful knowledge, notwithstanding what the men said on the subject. At last they considered that the time had arrived for bringing their labours to a triumphant result.
One fine calm morning the marines had been called out to drill. For some reason Lieutenant Spry did not at once make his appearance, but a representative came forward instead in the person of Master Quirk, who sprang aft to the spot which should have been occupied by the lieutenant, dressed in full fig, with red coat and belt and hat, and a sword by his side, while his breast pocket was well stuffed out with a huge piece of white cotton. "Attention!" cried out some one on deck. The men unconsciously obeyed, and instantly Quirk drew out his handkerchief, and, spluttering with a loud noise, flourished it vehemently in the air. On this, even the self-possession of the marines gave way; and instead of being angry, they burst into uncontrollable fits of laughter, which were joined in by all the spectators, who were crowding aft to see the fun.
At that moment Mr Spry rushed on deck, using his handkerchief exactly as Quirk had been doing. When the whole scene burst on him, his fury knew no bounds. He rushed to his station at the head of his men, which the monkey seemed in no way disposed to vacate, nor did he till his quick eye caught sight of the toe of the officer approaching him, when, with a loud chuckling "Quacko! quacko! quacko!" he leaped nimbly up the ringing.
It was some time before order was restored; and even while his drill was going on, a merry peal of laughter reached the ears of the fuming lieutenant from different parts of the deck, in which he felt certain he could recognise the voices of Adair and his two friends. The moment the drill was over, instead of acting like a wise man, and passing the matter over as an occurrence in no way intended to annoy him, he went aft and made a formal complaint to Captain Lascelles. As every man who chooses to encourage a toady can have one, so even had Lieutenant Spry, in the person of one of his men, who had watched the proceedings of the midshipmen, and now came forward as a witness against them. All three were summoned to the cabin, and they could not, of course, deny the charge. The captain had considerable difficulty in keeping his countenance, as Paddy, acting as spokesman of the party, pleaded their cause. He did not mend it when he confessed that the trick had been played in consequence of the way the lieutenant had treated him.
"It is mean, and unchristian, and altogether wrong, to harbour revenge, young gentlemen," said the captain. "I cannot now take cognisance of Mr Spry's conduct on the occasion to which you allude; and I conclude that he will be satisfied if you apologise to him. As the conduct of which you have been guilty was public, so also must be your punishment. Go up, each of you, to one of the mast-heads, and remain there till I call you down. Adair, do you go to the mizen-mast; Rogers, take the mainmast; and Murray, the foremast. I have settled that matter, I hope, to your satisfaction, Mr Spry," observed the captain, with a freezing manner, which somewhat damped the dignity of the lieutenant.
Up the rigging went the three midshipmen, each of them obtaining possession of a handful of biscuit and a piece of beef to stay their hunger, as they had a prospect of losing their dinners unless the captain relented sooner than could be expected. There they all sat on their lofty perches, occasionally making telegraphic signals to each other, and not particularly unhappy with their punishment.
The captain and gun-room officers were taking their for noon quarter-deck walk, and nearly everybody on board was on deck, when a loud chattering was heard, and who should be seen mounting the mizen rigging but Quirk, still habited in his red coat, with his hat fixed firmly on his head, intent, most clearly, on mischief. No sooner did he get alongside Adair, than, pulling out his handkerchief, he flourished it vehemently in his face; and then, as if satisfied with the performance of his lesson, he slid down the mizen topmast stay, and in an instant after was up again close to Jack, before whom he performed the same ceremony. Paddy and Jack almost fell from their perches with laughter, especially when Quirk sprang forward along another stay, and paid a similar visit to Murray. Everybody on deck was looking on, and all abaft were amused, with the exception of Lieutenant Spry, who was in a towering rage, vowing that he would demand a court-martial, and get the midshipmen, or the monkey, or himself—nobody knew exactly which— dismissed the ship. The lieutenant shouted out to somebody to catch the monkey, but as he did not name any one in particular, no one went, and he had the pleasure of observing his own peculiarity exhibited backwards and forwards, from mast-head to mast-head, several times in succession. A joke must have an end; and the captain, seeing that the best way of bringing this to a conclusion (it being somewhat subversive of discipline) was to call the midshipmen down, they were allowed to return once more on deck, while Quirk's new red coat and accoutrements were seized and hove overboard, to appease the rage of the marine officer. However, Quirk, having been carefully instructed, lost no opportunity of exhibiting his talents; and whenever the marines were drawn up, or the seamen were at divisions, if he happened to be loose, he invariably appeared in front of them flourishing a piece of canvas, or a bit of paper, or anything he could lay paws on to represent a pocket-handkerchief.
At length that classic sea, whose shores have been the scene of the most interesting events of the world's history—that sea which leads to Italy, to Greece, to the Holy Land, to Egypt, with its wondrous Nile and grand old mysterious ruins—the Mediterranean, was sighted; and the frigate dropped her anchor below the high rock of Gibraltar, also celebrated, somewhat in later times, for the way in which it was captured by Sir George Rooke, and has been kept ever since by the obstinate English. The midshipmen had just time to run through the galleries perforated in the rock, to climb to its highest peak, and to get a look at the frolicsome monkeys which dwell in undisturbed liberty on its south-eastern side, before the ship again sailed. They heard that the Firefly, the sloop of war to which Murray was appointed, had gone to Greece, so they had the prospect of remaining some time longer together. At Malta the Racer remained only a few days, when she was ordered off to the Ionian Islands.
The first place at which she brought up was in the harbour of Corfu. It is a lovely spot. The picturesque hills of the island are seen on one side, and the lofty mountains of Albania on the other, of the strait which divides it from the mainland. Here Murray was separated from his two old schoolfellows. The Firefly came in, and he had to join her. The three midshipmen had made good use of their time, and had picked up a fair amount of seamanship. They had now some practice in boating, an amusement which the captain always encouraged; for, as he observed, almost as many lives were lost from ignorance of how to manage a boat properly, as in any other way. This sort of work Jack and Adair especially liked. The frigate had put to sea to visit some of the neighbouring islands, and had more than once returned into port; when one forenoon Captain Lascelles summoned Hemming into the cabin.
"I have a despatch to send to Janina, Mr Hemming," said he. "You will take the cutter and two of the midshipmen with you—Adair and Rogers. Send them back as soon as you land. You will take horses and travel across the country, and the frigate will call for you in the course of a few days."
"Ay, ay, sir!" answered Hemming, who never spoke a work more than was necessary in the presence of his superiors.
Jack and Paddy were delighted when they found that they were to go on the expedition; for, though old Hemming kept somewhat a taut hand over them, they had a just regard for his good qualities. They secretly also resolved to indemnify themselves on their return passage by having as much fun as they could. The cutter was a fine boat; and as they had a fair breeze they made rapid progress towards their destination. They sat very demurely, one on either side of old Hemming, eating their bread and cheese, and taking the half wineglassful of grog, which he handed to them each time that he helped himself to a full tumbler.
"That is quite enough for such little chaps as you," said he. "If you were to begin now, and to take two or three tumblersful as I do, by the time you are my age, you would have drunk fifty hogsheads of rum, and I don't know how many tons of water."
Perhaps Hemming's calculations were not exactly correct, but the advice was, at all events, good. He took care that it should be followed by leaving them only half a bottle of rum for their return—putting the remainder of the bottles into the saddle-bags he had brought for his journey. Jack and Terence watched him trotting off on a Greek Rosinante with the said well-filled saddle-bags behind him, a thick stick in his hand, and a brace of ship's pistols in his holsters, till he was out of sight.
"Terence," said Jack, "we ought to return to the boat, and get under weigh."
"Yes; but I vote we do something in the catering line first," was the answer.
So they found their way to the market, where by dint of signs and a few words of lingua franca, they laid in a store of fruit and fowls, and fish and vegetables of various sorts, with two or three bottles of what they understood was first-rate Samian wine. With this provision for the inner man they returned to the boat, and made sail for Corfu. The wind was light, and they made but slow progress. However, they were very happy, and in no hurry to get back to the ship. It happened that they had been lately reading James's Naval History, and Paddy especially had been much struck by some of the exploits performed by single boat's crews.
"Jack," said he, "I don't think we ought to go back to the ship without doing something."
"We are doing a good deal," answered Jack, who was very matter of fact. "We are eating a jolly good dinner." He held up the leg of a chicken. "This is the last of a fowl I've had to my share."
"Ay, but I mean something to be talked about—something glorious," answered Paddy. "Let's take a prize."
"A prize! Where is one to be found?" asked Jack, in no way disinclined to do something.
"Oh! we'll fall in with her before long," replied Paddy. "One of these Greek chaps. They are all pirates, you know, and would cut our throats if they dared."
Paddy was jumping rather too fast at conclusions; but Jack, who also thought it would be a very fine thing to take a prize, although some doubts crossed his mind as to the propriety of so doing, did not attempt to dissuade him from his intentions. It never occurred to the young aspirants for naval renown that they should have made the men get out their oars and pull, as there was a perfect calm. The boat floated quietly on all night. Soon after daylight they espied a long, low, lateen-rigged craft stealing along close in with the land—her white canvas dimly seen through the morning mist.
"That shall be our prize," exclaimed Paddy, standing up in the stern-sheets; whereon he made the crew a speech, and talked a great deal about honour, glory, and renown, and treading in the steps of the old heroes of Great Britain, and prize-money, and several other themes. The last-mentioned his auditors understood somewhat better than the first. It was all the same to them whether England was at war or not with the nation to which the craft in view belonged. Their officers must know all about the matter, so there was no dissentient voice; and now, getting out their oars fast enough, they pulled away with a hearty cheer towards the craft in sight. The vessel was undoubtedly a Greek. Her crew probably could not conceive why they were chased. The wind was too light to enable them to make much way with their sails; and though they had oars, they were unable to urge on their craft fast enough to escape the English boat. From the gestures of their pursuers the Greeks saw that they were about to be attacked, and as the cutter ran alongside they attempted to defend themselves; but although the seamen had only the boat's stretchers, and Paddy and Jack alone had pistols, which fortunately would not go off, the Greeks very speedily gave way and tumbled down below.
"What are we to do now?" asked Jack, who, having joined the ship later, was under Adair's command.
"Carry our prize in triumph into Corfu," answered Paddy, taking a turn with a dignified air on the deck. "I should like, to see what that prig Spry will say to us now."
As the Greeks could not speak a word of English, nor the English a word of Greek, no explanations could be made. The Greeks shrugged their shoulders, and having been accustomed to be knocked about a good deal by the Turks, and to untoward events in general, took things very philosophically. A breeze sprang up, and with the cutter in tow, the midshipmen shaped a course, as well as they could calculate, for Corfu. The Greek crew were far more numerous than the English; so Jack advised that a guard should be set over them lest they might attempt to retake the vessel—an occurrence, he had read, which had often happened when proper precautions were neglected.
"I hope it's all right," observed Jack, "but what we have done seems somewhat funny."
"Who fears?" answered Paddy. "What else have we to do but to fight our enemies?"
As Jack had not a ready answer to this question, the subject dropped. Their attention was soon occupied by seeing a vessel standing up the channel, so as directly to cross their course.
"She's the Firefly," exclaimed Jack; "is she not, Thomson?" he asked of the boatswain of the boat.
"No doubt about it, sir," was the answer; and in a lower voice, "And now, my wigs, won't the youngsters catch it!"
When the sloop of war drew near, she fired a gun as a signal to the Greek vessel to heave-to. As the midshipmen knew what that meant, they at once obeyed, and in a short time a boat was seen pulling towards them; a lieutenant and a midshipman were in her. The latter was no other than Alick Murray. They cordially greeted him; and Terence had begun to boast of their achievement when the lieutenant, Mr Gale, exclaimed, "What does all this mean, youngsters? What have you been about?"
Terence tried to explain, but everything he said only made matters worse. Happily, Mr Gale was a very kind, judicious man, and soon comprehended that the midshipmen had acted through ignorance and thoughtlessness.
"Had you reached Corfu with your so-called prize, you might have been brought into serious trouble," he remarked. "As no great harm has hitherto taken place, perhaps we may induce the Greek master and his crew not to make any complaint. I will see what can be done."
"Oh, yes, sir," exclaimed Alick Murray; "if we can bribe him off I shall be glad to pay any sum you think necessary. Fortunately, I have the means at my disposal;" and he put a purse into Mr Gale's hand. "Don't say a word about it, my dear fellows," he added, as Terence and Jack were expostulating with him for spending so much money on their account. "As we have done the harm, we must stand the blame, you know," they said.
Mr Gale had long been accustomed to the Greeks, and spoke their language fluently; and having first frightened the master by proving to him that his detention was his own fault, because he had not explained that he was an honest trader, in order to show the good feeling of the English, he promised forthwith to liberate him. The Greek was profuse in his thanks, especially when the lieutenant, to exhibit the magnanimity of his captors, presented him with a bottle of rum and a few piastres.
Perfectly satisfied with this turn in the state of affairs, the Greeks were voluble in their expression of gratitude, and waving their hands, pressed them to their hearts, as the two boats pulled away for the corvette. Captain Hartland, her commander, soon after they came on board, gave the two midshipmen a severe lecture for their behaviour, and telling them to make the best of their way back to Corfu, advised them not to boast too loudly of their exploit. Alick, who was decidedly a favourite, had, they found in the meantime, contrived to plead their cause. They followed Captain Hartland's advice, but they felt very crestfallen and sheepish for some days after they got back to their own ship. The story, however, leaked out in time, and Terence and Jack had, of course, to stand a good deal of quizzing on the subject. At last, a Paddy's Prize became a cant saying on board, when anybody had taken anything to which he had no right.
Several months passed away—the winter came on. The Racer met with a severe gale, in which she was partially dismasted, and received so much damage that she had to put into Valetta harbour to repair. She found the Firefly there, and as Captain Hartland had the character of being very attentive to the instruction of his midshipmen in seamanship, Captain Lascelles got him to take Terence and Jack with him for a cruise while the frigate was refitting. Nothing loath, they transferred themselves, with their chests, on board the corvette, and once more the three schoolfellows were together. They found the life on board the corvette very different to that of the frigate. Their hands were constantly in the tar-bucket and paint-pot. They were for ever employed in knotting and splicing, and in rigging and unrigging a model ship, which had been made on purpose to instruct them. All the midshipmen of the brig were compelled to man the mizen-mast, and to take it completely under their charge. This system very much increased the knowledge of the practical details of seamanship, which it is important every officer should know. A good officer is thoroughly acquainted in the most minute particular with everything men are required to know, and a great deal more. This remark refers not only to the Navy, but to the Army, and to every other calling in life. The Firefly was a very happy ship; for though no one was allowed to be idle, the captain was kind and just, and took care that each person should do his duty; so that the work to be done was equally divided among all hands.
On quitting Malta she sailed for the eastward, and was for some time kept cruising among the Ionian Islands, and on the coast of Greece, carrying despatches from place to place. The wind had been from the northward, and the ship had been kept somewhat close in with the Greek coast, to shorten the distance to be run from one spot to another, when one of those severe gales, which in the winter season in the Mediterranean sometimes spring up suddenly, came on to blow. The corvette was caught on a lee shore and embayed. It was night. All hands were called. The fury of the gale increased. Sail was taken off the ship, but still it was necessary to carry far more than would have been set under other circumstances, that she might, if possible, beat out of the bay. She was pressed down till the hammock-nettings were almost under water. Still her masts stood, but no one could predict how long they could bear the terrific strain put upon them. Darker and darker grew the night; the vivid flashes of lightning very now and then revealing the countenances of the officers and crew, as they strained their eyes in their endeavours to discover through the darkness how far off was the much-dreaded shore. The three midshipmen stood together, holding on to the weather bulwarks with some of the gun-room officers. Others were at their stations in different parts of the ship. The lightning showed that the cheeks of the oldest were pale. They full well knew the terrific danger in which the ship was placed. The captain stood calm and collected, conning the ship, and ready to take advantage of any shift of wind which might enable her to get a point off the shore. No one moved—no one spoke—the howling of the gale and the dashing of the waters were the only sounds heard. Suddenly all were aroused into activity by the deep full tones of the captain's voice. "About ship!" "Down with the helm!" "Helm's a-lee!" "Maintopsail haul!" "Haul-of-all!" were the orders given in slow succession. Round came the ship in noble style, but it was soon clear that she had gained nothing by the change. Her course did not point more off shore on her present tack than it had done on the former one. No land could be seen, but men were stationed in the chains with the lead to give notice of their approach to it. It was soon evident that the ship was drifting nearer and nearer to the shore, the rocky and dangerous character of which every one on board full well knew, yet each was prepared to struggle to the last to do his duty, whatever might befall them.
"What's going to happen?" asked Paddy. "People don't seem to like this fun."
"We shall have to swim for it, I suspect," remarked Jack.
"We must be prepared for the worst," observed Alick Murray. "Rogers, Adair, has it ever struck you that we maybe summoned at any moment to stand in the presence of the Judge of all men? What shall we have to say for ourselves? The thought should not make us cowards, but we should not drive it away—I know that."
While Murray was speaking there was a terrific report. The foresail was blown out of the bolt-ropes. At the same moment a more than usually bright flash of lightning, which darted across the whole northern sky, revealed the frowning rocks of the coast under their lee. "Prepare to anchor ship!" cried the captain. It was a last resource. The remaining canvas was furled. The best bower was let go; the topmasts were struck; and it was hoped that the ship might hold on till the gale abated. No one went below. This work performed, all hands returned to their stations. Once more the gale came down on them with increased fury. The ship plunged into the foaming seas which rolled up around her. The best bower parted. Another anchor was let go, and the full length of the cable veered out. An hour more passed by in anxious suspense; death, in its most ferocious aspect, threatening all on board. The cable parted. The sheet anchor was let go, and alone now kept the brig from destruction. Still the gale did not abate. The night wore on. The officers forward reported that the ship was dragging the anchor—her last hope of safety.
"It must be done," said the captain with a sigh, to the first lieutenant. "Order the carpenter to cut away the foremast."
The carpenter and his crew were prepared for what they had suspected was inevitable. Their axes gleamed as the lightning flashed vividly around them. The crew stood by to cut away the rigging with axes and knives. Down came the mast with crash to port, and floated quickly by towards the shore. The next few minutes were passed with intense anxiety by every one on board.
"Does she hold on, Mr Gale?" the captain asked of the first lieutenant.
"She still drags, sir," was the ominous reply.
"The other masts must go," cried the captain.
The order was quickly executed. The mainmast fell to starboard, followed by the mizen-mast, and the late gallant-looking ship floated a dismantled hulk amid the foaming waves. But the sacrifice was in vain; scarcely had the masts gone than the last cable parted, and the gallant ship drifted onwards towards the threatening shore. Still Captain Hartland was not a man to yield while a possibility remained of saving his ship and the lives of those entrusted to him. The corvette carried aft two heavy guns for throwing shells. Some spare hempen cables were got up from below, and made fast to them; when hove overboard they checked her way. Daylight at length came, and revealed her terrific position. High cliffs, and dark, rugged, wild rocks, over which the sea broke in masses of foam, appeared on every side. Pale and anxious the crew stood at their stations. The wind roared, the cold was bitter. A startling terror-inspiring cry was heard. "The last cable has parted!" The three midshipmen shook hands; they believed that they were soon to be separated, never to meet again in this world. On—on, with heavy plunges, amid the foaming waters, the doomed ship hurried to meet her fate.
AMONGST THE GREEKS.
Onward drove the sloop of war with the three midshipmen on board to certain destruction. "Heave the guns overboard!" cried Captain Hartland, on the discovery that the last cable had parted. Severe indeed was the pang it caused him to give the order. As the ship rolled, first the starboard, and then the guns on the other side, were cut loose and allowed to run through the ports. With sullen plunges they disappeared in the foaming seas.
"There go all our teeth," cried Paddy Adair, who even at that awful moment could not refrain from a joke. Even Murray smiled.
"I wish that I were like you, Paddy," said Jack; "I couldn't have said that sort of thing just now."
"Well, but I'm sure that I can't help feeling as if every tooth in my mouth had been hauled out with a huge wrench," observed Adair. "There! there goes the last."
"We must lighten the ship aft as much as possible, Mr Gale, and make sail on the stump of the foremast, so as to force her up on the beach," observed the captain. "If we can find the beach," he added in a lower voice.
These orders were promptly obeyed. Every man worked with a will. There was no hurry, no confusion, though all were engaged in the most active exertion. No one seemed to be conscious, while thus at work, that in a few short minutes their fate might be sealed. Meantime, sail being set forward, while the ship headed on towards the shore, Captain Hartland and the master were engaged in looking out, in the hopes of discovering some sandy beach between the rocks, on which they might run the ship. Still they scarcely expected to find what they were seeking for; yet no one on board would have guessed from their looks what very slight hopes they entertained of success. The work was done; the ship hurried through the raging surf. Still the most perfect discipline prevailed; not a man quitted his station. Here and there a few might be seen loosing their shoe-ties, or getting ready to cast off their flushing coats; but no other sign was observable that an awful struggle for life and death was about to commence.
"Where are we driving to, Jack?" asked Adair; "I cannot make out through all this spray."
"I thought I caught a glimpse of a white patch not much bigger than my hand when we were at the top of the last sea," answered Rogers. "I hope it may be sand."
"Starboard, starboard!" shouted the captain. Three hands were at the helm. The spokes flew quickly round. A little sandy bay appeared; it seemed under the ship's bowsprit; then she was enveloped in a thick cloud of foam; the terrific roar of the surf became deafening. On flew the corvette; a concussion which sent all who had not a secure hold flat on the deck was felt, and the seas came rolling up with tremendous force, heaving her broadside to the beach, and about twenty fathoms from it. Still they did not at first break completely over her; a rock, inside of which she had been judiciously steered, somewhat broke their force.
"We are ashore—we are ashore!" was the cry, but still every man waited for the captain's orders. He stood calm and collected, with his officers round him. His glass was in his hand; he was constantly looking through it watching the shore.
"Some people are collecting on the heights, and will soon be down on the beach," he exclaimed. "Hold on till they come, my lads, and we may be able to send a line on shore." This exhortation was not unnecessary, for the seas rolling in constantly struck the vessel with such terrific force, that it appeared she could not possibly hold together, while two or three men, who had incautiously relaxed their hold, were washed overboard and drowned. A beaker or small cask was in the meantime got ready with a line secured to it. The most important object was to form a communication with the shore. It was evident that if a hawser could once be carried between the ship and the beach, the crew might be dragged along it and be saved. As soon as the people began to collect on the beach, the cask with the line attached to it was hove overboard. All watched its progress with intense anxiety, for all felt that no time was to be lost in getting the hawser on shore. The cask neared the shore, then the wave rolled on, but again coming thundering down the beach, carried it back almost as far as the ship. Again and again the attempt was made, and each time the cask, almost getting within the grasp of the people on shore, was hurled back once more out of their reach.
"I think, sir, I could manage to put the jolly-boat on shore, if you will allow me," said Mr Wenham, the second lieutenant, addressing the captain.
"The risk is very great, Wenham," said the captain, shaking him by the hand; "but go if you think fit."
"Volunteers for the jolly-boat!" sang out the second lieutenant. Several men sprang forward; he selected four. The boat was launched into the raging sea, and they leaped into her, carrying a line. With a cheer from their shipmates they shoved off. Rapidly the boat approached the beach, borne onward with a huge wave. Intense was the anxiety of all who watched her. She reached the spot where the sea curled backward in a mass of raging foam. Down it came upon her. A cry was heard uttered by the Greeks on shore, as well as by the seamen on board. Over went the boat, and all her hapless crew were engulfed. Rolled over and over among the seaweed and masses of the tangled rigging and pieces of the wreck, they struggled in vain to gain the shore. One after the other they were swept out to sea and lost. It was evident that none of the other boats would serve to carry the line on shore. Again the experiment was tried with a cask, but failed.
"I say, Murray—Adair," exclaimed Jack, earnestly, "do you know, I think that I could do it. I was always a first-rate swimmer, you know, for my size. I'll ask the captain's leave to try."
"No one in the berth is better able to do it than you are," replied both his companions.
"Oh Jack, I wish that I could go with you," cried Murray, as he wrung his hand.
"So do I," added Adair; "but I know that I could never swim through that surf."
No time was to be lost, so Jack Rogers worked his way up to Captain Hartland, and offered to swim on shore with the line. The captain looked very much astonished, and replied that he thought the risk was too great.
"Do let me try, sir," urged Jack. "I'm like a fish in the water, I am indeed, sir; and if I don't reach the beach I can but be hauled back again, you know. I've a notion that I could swim through all that foam. I've done something like it before now."
"You are a brave fellow, Rogers," exclaimed Captain Hartland; "I will not prevent you." Jack, delighted, began to throw off his clothes, which he handed to Adair and Murray, to prepare for his swim.
"Mr Gale, tend the line carefully, and haul him in if he seems distressed," said the captain to the first lieutenant. Jack had a belt secured round his body, so that it could not slip off or cut him, and he had the line made fast to it. Watching his opportunity as a wave rolled in, he boldly sprang out on the top of it, and was borne onwards towards the shore with little or no exertion to himself. He wisely reserved all his strength for the last struggle at the end of the trip. Every one watched him with intense interest. Not a word was spoken, but a hundred hands were eagerly held out to him from the shore, to show him the welcome he would receive on landing. Some of the strongest men among the Greeks joined hands and formed a line into the sea, that the outer man might clutch the bold young swimmer if he could get within his reach. Meantime a boat's oar and some line had been cast on shore. Some of the Greeks, more thoughtful than the rest, had secured the oar to the line, and stood ready to let it float out as Jack approached. He saw the aid prepared, and made towards it. He waited outside the place where the sea which took him in broke into foam, and then, when another sea rolled in, exerting all his strength he dashed forward; but in spite of all his efforts, the undertow was carrying him out again; still he bravely struggled on. He saw the men on shore holding out their hands to him; could he but make head for a distance of two or three more fathoms he would succeed. Another sea rolled in. "Hurrah, hurrah!" resounded from all sides; "he has grasped the oar." He was almost exhausted, still he clutched it with all his might. Cautiously they drew him onward. He could not have held on many moments longer, but the men who had formed the chain into the water seized him by the collar, and he and the end of the line he had so gallantly conveyed through the raging surf were carried up in safety on the beach. Murray and Adair had watched his progress with an interest such as none but true old friends can feel. Tears of gratitude sprang into Murray's eyes, and his heart bounded with joy as he saw that Jack was in safety. Adair did not feel less satisfaction, but he expressed it differently, by joining heartily in the shout given by the rest of the ship's company. A hawser was immediately attached to the line, by which it was drawn on shore, and one end being made fast round the stump of the foremast over the topgallant forecastle, the other was secured round the rocks. A traveller with a line and slings being now fitted to the hawser, the men were told off to be conveyed on shore, the boys and those of lowest rating, being, as is customary, sent first. The traveller being hauled backwards and forwards, one after the other the men were conveyed to the beach. The operation, however, was a slow one, and not without danger, as part of the hawser was completely at times submerged by the breakers. Meantime the sea had made a breach over the afterpart of the ship, carrying away portions of the bulwarks. A piece of the planking, as it washed by, struck Adair on the leg, and knocking him down, the sea would have swept him overboard had not Murray seized him by the arm, when Mr Gale coming to his assistance they carried him forward. He was too much hurt to move, and they were afraid his leg was broken. Murray sat with him on the deck, holding on by a ring-bolt and supporting him in his lap. Notwithstanding the accident, they both of them had held fast to Jack's clothes. What was their surprise not ten minutes afterwards to see Jack himself make his appearance on board.
"Why, Rogers!—why have you come back, my dear lad?" exclaimed Captain Hartland.
"To look after my clothes, sir," answered Jack; "and besides, sir, I didn't like to be going on shore out of my turn; none of the officers have gone yet." The captain must have been puzzled what reply to make to this reason, for he said nothing. Night was now coming on; still many people remained on board.
"Come, bear a hand, my hearties; let us be getting on shore out of this," cried some of those left on board to their shipmates. All who had gone before had been landed safely, but it was necessary to be very careful during the transit in keeping a tight hold of the slings, especially in passing through the surf. One man, a fine young topman, grasped hold of the traveller, and with a wave of his hat gave the sign to haul away. He went on well for a few seconds, apparently thinking it a good joke, till a roller overtook him. In an instant the poor fellow was torn from his hold, and the raging waters rushing down again carried him far away beyond human help.
"Now, Murray, it is your turn," said Mr Gale; "we will see by and by how we can get Adair on shore."
"No, sir, thank you," said Murray calmly; "I would rather stay by Adair. If he cannot be landed now, he will require some one to look after him."
"Go, Alick, go," said Adair faintly. "Don't mind me."
"Come, Rogers, you must be off then," exclaimed the first lieutenant, in a hurried tone. "See, the men are waiting to haul you on shore."
"Please, sir, Paddy Adair is an old schoolfellow of mine, and now he is a messmate; and while he is in that state and unable to help himself I cannot desert him, indeed I cannot, sir," said Jack very quietly. "I'm very hardy; the cold and wet won't hurt me. I'd much rather Murray went."
"No; I agreed to stay first," said Murray; "I cannot go."
"Then we'll both stay," said Jack. "That's settled, sir, isn't it?"
Mr Gale had not seen exactly how the seaman had been lost; and believing that there was nearly as much risk in making the passage in the dark as in staying, agreed to allow the youngsters to do as they wished, resolving at the same time to remain by them himself. The captain had gone forward; and before he was aware of it, believing that everybody had left the ship, he was hurried by those in charge of the hawser into the slings.
"We are coming sharp after you, sir," they exclaimed, anxious to secure the life of their captain.
Such acts of devotion are too common in the navy, where the men have officers they esteem, to be thought much of by them.
The three midshipmen, meantime, remained together, sheltered as much as possible by the topgallant forecastle, but still the sea was continually breaking over them. The night was very dark, and the wind bitterly cold; the lightning too at times flashed vividly, revealing the horrors with which they were surrounded. Mr Gale had seen the last of the people off, they thinking that he was going to follow; but two other unfortunate men demanded his care. One was a marine, whose arm had been broken; the other the assistant-surgeon. The latter, never strong, had become exhausted with the exertions he had gone through; and, when urged to go on shore, he had declared his inability to venture on the rope. He felt, poor fellow, that if he did, he should be washed off and drowned. It was sad to hear the groans of the poor marine, as he lay secured to the deck near them. Jack felt that he could have borne the trial much better, had he and his friends been alone on the wreck. The surgeon made no complaint, beyond the utterance now and then of a faint moan. The horrors of death were encircling him around. Fortunately Mr Gale had secured a flask of brandy, a few drops of which he occasionally administered to the sufferers. He also succeeded in fishing out from forward some of the men's clothing, which he distributed among the party; and then, having done all that a man could do, he sat himself down, almost overcome, to wait till the morning, when he might hope to get the survivors on shore. Adair's leg gave him excruciating pain. Rogers sat on one side of him, Murray on the other, supporting him in their arms, and endeavouring, by every means they could think of, to alleviate his suffering, by gently rubbing his legs, frequently changing his position, and tightly grasping his hands.
"Thank you, Alick; thank you, Jack," said he faintly; "I'm better. I'd not die this time, if it were not so bitter, bitter cold; but I wish you two fellows were safe on shore. I should never forgive myself if any harm was to come to you."
"Oh, nonsense, Adair, don't think about us. We are all very well, and shall be very well, no fear," was the answer; but Jack spoke in a voice very different to his usual tone. The exertions he had gone through had been almost too much even for his well-knit frame; a sort of stupor was stealing over him, and his senses began to wander. Murray discovered his condition with great alarm. He called to him to arouse himself.
"Oh, Jack, don't give way," he exclaimed. "If you fall asleep, the cold may overpower you."
Mr Gale, hearing Murray's exclamation, gave Jack a few drops of brandy, which revived him. Murray gladly took a few drops. At the moment of trial he was not found wanting. In spite of his more delicate frame, he bore up as well as the strongest. Thus the night drew slowly on. How earnestly did all on the wreck long for the blessed light of day. Three of them had the consciousness that they had remained both from a high sense of duty and from the call of friendship, and this undoubtedly contributed to support them. They too well knew in whose right arm they had to trust to save them. Jack had not forgotten the lessons he had received at home, nor the counsel given him by Admiral Triton. But Jack on no subject was much of a talker; he was a doer, however, which is more important. The nearer a matter was to his heart, the less he allowed it to come out on his tongue, except at the proper moment. By some of his shipmates, who did not understand him, he was considered rather a close fellow. The same might be said of Murray, even in a greater degree. Few indeed guessed, when they saw his slight frame and delicate features, how much he would both dare and do. The power of passive endurance of all three was most fully tried during that awful night. None of them flinched. Murray alone, however, never allowed himself for a moment to lose his consciousness. The rain and sleet came down with pitiless force; the bleak wind howled round them, the sea beat over them, the ceaseless breakers roared in their ears all the night through. Murray felt as if it would never come to an end. Every moment too the ship seemed as if she was about to break up, when he knew that death must be the lot of all remaining on board. How thankfully he saw the first faint gleam of dawn breaking in the east, to him a sign, as he afterwards said, that the moment of their preservation was at hand. He shook Jack, and pointed it out to him.
"All right, old fellow," answered Jack; "I'm ready for a swim." But Rogers did not know what he was saying, for he nodded off again. Adair was with difficulty aroused to consciousness. He was utterly unable to help himself or to move. Had he been left alone he must have perished. Murray called loudly on Mr Gale. He sprang up; though, when he moved, he found his limbs very stiff. They went to examine into the state of their other companions. Both the poor fellows were dead. The survivors felt that they had still greater reason for gratitude that they had been spared while others had been taken.
When daylight increased sufficiently to enable them to discover objects on shore, they found Captain Hartland and several of the men, with a number of the Greeks, assembled on the beach to help them. Another pair of slings on a second traveller was now fitted, and Adair being placed in it, Mr Gale accompanied him on shore, helping him along through the surf. Murray and Jack followed, several of the men, with ropes round their waists, rushing out into the surf to help them, for no men more than sailors know how to appreciate the act of devotion the two lads had that night performed. The captain met them as they came dripping out of the surf, and shook them heartily by the hand. He was one of those doing men who do not expend many words in expressing their feelings. The words he did speak were very gratifying to the young midshipmen. He would not allow them, however, to remain on the beach, but had them all carried up to the nearest house, and put to bed, when the doctor soon arrived to attend to poor Adair's leg. The house where they were lodged was of some size. It belonged to a Greek nobleman, who was absent at the time of their arrival, but an old woman, a sort of housekeeper, and her two daughters had charge of it, and took very good care of them. Their attendants did not come very near the classic models they had read about at school, but they were good-natured and kind, and evidently anxious to please them. The three midshipmen did their best to talk Greek, but though they summoned up all the choicest phrases they had learned at school, they signally failed at first in making themselves understood. At last they bethought them of putting all their previous knowledge of the Hellenic tongue out of the question, and of pointing to things and asking their names. Frequently they found a great similarity between the modern and ancient Greek, which assisted them very much in recollecting the names of the things they learned. They thus in their turn rather surprised the natives by the rapidity with which they acquired their language.
"I used to think it a great bore to have to learn Greek when I was coming to sea," observed Jack; "but now I find that there is use for it even here, besides helping one on wonderfully with one's own language."
The midshipmen were not left alone all this time to the care of their Greek friends. The doctor and their shipmates used now and then to look in on them. They found that an attempt was being made to get the ship off, and of course all hands were engaged in the work. Jack wanted to get up and help, but the doctor would not let him, thinking he would be much better employed in helping Murray to look after Adair. They all heard, however, with great interest of the progress of the undertaking. But one night it came on to blow again harder than ever; a tremendous sea rolled in, and the poor sloop was irretrievably bilged, and in a few days broke up altogether. The three midshipmen were very sorry for this, but they got over the loss of the ship with philosophical resignation, as other midshipmen have under like circumstances done before them; and with the rest of their shipmates amused themselves very well in shooting snipe and red-legged partridges, in wandering about, in trying to talk Greek, and in doing nothing, till a brig of war arrived and carried them all back to Malta. Captain Hartland and his officers were tried for the loss of his sloop, and honourably acquitted; and Adair and Rogers rejoined the Racer, to which, to their great satisfaction, a short time afterwards Murray was appointed. The Racer, after a cruise to the westward, came back, and was ordered to proceed to the Greek Islands to assist in repressing piracy, an occupation to which the descendants of the heroes whose deeds were sung by Homer of old have of late years been somewhat addicted.
"I wonder whether you will take another prize, Paddy," said Murray with a quiet smile, in which he frequently indulged; but Jack and Terence begged that the subject might not be alluded to.
The Racer, before long, fell in with an English merchant brig having a flag of distress flying. The man-of-war hove-to, and the brig sent a boat on board. The poor master who came in her was in a sad plight.
"I have been tricked, robbed, and cruelly treated, sir on the high seas!" he exclaimed, as he appeared on the quarter-deck.
"What has happened? Tell me your story, and I will see what can be done for you," answered Captain Lascelles.
"Why, sir, I was bound out of Liverpool with a cargo of manufactured goods for Smyrna, when yesterday, as I was standing on my course with a light wind, I fell in with a polacre brig with a signal of distress flying. I hove-to, when her boat came alongside me with a dozen cut-throat looking fellows in her, in red caps, and one very fine gentleman with pistols in his belt, and a sword by his side. He was very polite, and said that he was hard up for several things, but would only trouble me for some biscuit and water. I was very glad to get off so cheap, for I guessed what sort of a calling his was, so I gave him as much as he wanted. He spoke a lingua franca, which he found I understood. He said that he had known very unjust complaints being made by merchantmen against his poor countrymen, and that, if I would be so obliging, he would be very thankful if I would give him a certificate that he had treated me and my people kindly, and had only taken a little bread and water. Of course I was very willing, and thought him the mildest and best-mannered of pirates; so I gave it to him at once. Immediately he got it he put it in his pocket, and, turning to his people, told them to knock down every one of my men who made any resistance, and clapping a pistol to my head ordered me to hand out all my cash. Meantime the polacre ran alongside, thirty or forty cut-throat fellows jumped on board, and very quickly transferred the cargo of the Pretty Polly on board their vessel. When they had completely gutted my brig, the pirate captain made me a polite bow, and thanking me for the certificate, which, he said, he had no doubt would be useful to him, wished me good-day, and returned on board his vessel, leaving all my people with their hands lashed behind them. His followers had amused themselves by painting my poor fellows' faces, and otherwise ill-treating them. One had a tar-brush jammed into his mouth, another a towel stuffed down his throat; and my mate they had almost beaten to death because he had ventured to show fight."
"Which way did the polacre stand after she left you?" asked Captain Lascelles.
"To the eastward, sir."
"You would know her again?"
"That I should, among a hundred like craft."
"Can you come with us?"
"No, sir, but I can let my mate go," answered the master to Captain Lascelles' last query; "he knows every bale of the cargo too, and he'll not forget our friend or his craft."
The mate of the merchantman, Mr Dobbin, came on board, and the frigate continued her course. From the account given of him, Captain Lascelles had little doubt that the pirate was the very man he was in search of, and whose stronghold he had been directed to attack. Among the numerous isles of Greece there are several of small size, with but little room on their summits for cultivation, which have for ages past, from their inaccessible character, afforded a secure retreat to the somewhat piratically disposed inhabitants. The Racer was now in search of one of these respectable little strongholds of piracy.
"Will the Greeks show fight, I wonder?" said Jack. "I should like just to have a sniff of gunpowder."
"It may blacken your face more than you expect, youngster," answered old Hemming, who sat at the end of the berth; "however, we have not yet found out where the fellows are hid."
"I hear that the captain has discovered their retreat, and that, if the breeze holds, we are likely to be not far off them this very evening," said Murray, who had just come below. "It is said we are to attack them in the boats."
"Hurrah! that will be fun!" exclaimed Adair. "I suppose the captain will let some of us go."
"Be sure of that, youngsters; the expedition would never succeed without you," said old Hemming in a sarcastic tone.
Murray's information proved to be right. The frigate stood on for an hour after dark, and then dropped her anchors in a bay to leeward of a rocky island, at no great distance from the one to be attacked. Captain Lascelles' object was to take the pirates by surprise. The boats had, therefore, a long way to pull. They were to proceed in two divisions. One was to land a body of bluejackets and marines, so as to attack the fort in the rear; the other was to approach it on the sea side, and to endeavour to scale the heights. The second lieutenant and old Hemming had charge of the two divisions; they had each a midshipman with them, and a mate and a midshipman went into each of the other boats. Adair was with the land party. The division to which Jack and Murray belonged was to attack the fort in front. The men gave a suppressed cheer as they shoved off, and then away they pulled as eagerly as if they were going on a party of pleasure. They had a long pull; but many a joke was cut, and many a suppressed laugh was indulged in, till they got so near the spot that silence was imposed on every one. Hemming's party landed at the back of the island. They were to lie concealed as near as they could get to the fort, till the other division threw up a rocket as a signal that they were attacking, and were discovered by the enemy. Jack and Murray were in boats close together. The night was very dark. They could just see that high, rugged, black cliffs towered up above them, and that they were entering a little cove or harbour, through a narrow entrance which put them in mind of a huge mouse-trap. The boats had muffled oars; not a sound was heard; but had any one been on the lookout, the phosphorescent flashes as the blades touched the water would have betrayed them. The boats reached some black slippery rocks. The crews, led by their officers, leaped out, leaving two boat-keepers in each; and, holding their cutlasses in their teeth, away they scrambled up the steep and rugged cliffs.
ALAS, POOR PADDY!
The night was very dark: Jack and Murray and their companions, in perfect silence, climbed up the rugged precipice which formed the outworks of the island fortress. They knocked their knees and cut their shins against the sharp points of the rocks, and scratched their hands and faces with the thorny plants which grew out of the crevices; but, undeterred by these obstacles, they boldly scrambled on till they saw some figures moving above them, and a shower of stones came rattling down on their heads.
"Powder is scarce among the pirates, I suppose, that they treat us in this way," remarked Jack, as he was nearly knocked over by a stone striking his shoulder.
"Yes; these Greek heroes are defending their stronghold as the Tyrolese defended their Alpine homes," answered Murray; "but come along, we shall soon have them at close quarters."
"Hurrah! the enemy have found us out. Fire the rocket down there below!" shouted the lieutenant in command. The order was quickly conveyed to the boat, and up flew a rocket with a loud hiss through the darkness, its bright stream of light forming a beautiful curve over the fortress. All necessity for silence was now over, the men shouted and cheered and cut many a joke at each other's mishaps as they clambered on up the height, some of them slipping half the way down again, as, indifferent to danger, they too carelessly attempted to scale unscalable rocks. Still the whole body, by no small exertion, foot by foot, worked their upward way till they reached the summit. What was next going to happen? The enemy, it was evident, had a due respect for British courage, for they had fled from the ramparts and undoubtedly had taken up a stronger position in the interior of the fortress. Perhaps they had formed a mine ready to spring, and the idea that such might be the case created a few very uncomfortable sensations in the breasts of some of the assailants. To feel the ground shaking under the feet during an earthquake is far from agreeable, but it is a mere pleasant excitement compared to the feelings a person experiences, when he knows that at any moment he may be lifted off his legs and blown up into the sky in company with some dozen wagon-loads of stones and earth, and bricks and mortar, and beams and rubbish of all descriptions. I do not know that Jack allowed such an idea to trouble him much, and if Murray thought about the matter it did not make him hang back at all events; for on he and all the rest pushed to meet the enemy. Had they made any calculations on the subject, they would have found that it is better to move quickly across dangerous ground just as it is to skate rapidly over thin ice. The shouts and cheers of the seamen, it appeared, had struck terror into the hearts of the pirates, for they did not come forth from their places of concealment. The storming-party passed by some low huts, but no one was within, and then they came to an open space. Just then, through the gloom, they caught sight of a band emerging from behind some buildings opposite, and advancing boldly to defend the place. They themselves, apparently being hidden by the dark shade of the huts, were not seen. So, waiting a little, out they rushed, clearing the open space at full speed to meet the pirates. Pistols were flashing, cutlasses were clashing in an instant of time, and all parties were engaged to their hearts' content in a desperate struggle. Jack descried a young pirate, as his size showed him to be, on the right of the party, and they at once, as if by mutual consent, singled each other out, and were instantly hot at work like the rest, slashing away with their cutlasses most desperately. "Yield, you young pirate, yield!" sang out Jack, finding that he could gain no advantage over his opponent.
"Pirate! I'm no more pirate than you are," was the reply, in a voice which Jack instantly recognised as that of Paddy Adair, whose skull he had been endeavouring so hard to split.
"Oh! Paddy, is that you?" cried Jack. "Well, I'm so glad that I didn't hurt you. But I say, old fellow, if you are not a pirate, where are the rascals? Let's go and find them out."
"Hillo! what's all this about?" sang out Mr Thorn. "Why, Hemming, is that you? I thought you were pirates."
"I paid you the same compliment, sir," answered the old mate, with a slight touch of irony in his tone, for Mr Thorn had just shot off the rim of his cap. "You very nearly spoilt my beauty by mistake."
"I am very sorry for that, Hemming," answered the lieutenant coolly; "but I wonder where the fellows have got to. We must rout them out."
Fortunately, the most serious injury inflicted was to Hemming's cap, and, as Paddy afterwards declared (not very correctly, as they had found no one to conquer), the victorious party hurried off in search of fresh enemies. They soon came to the door of a large building; it was bolted and barred. "The pirates are inside here, my lads, there can be no doubt of it," shouted Mr Thorn. They soon found a spar, a brig's topmast. The heel made a capital battering-ram, and with a cheery "Yeo, ho, ho!" the seamen gave many a heavy blow against the oaken door. It cracked and cracked and groaned, and at length, with a loud bang, burst open. "Stand by, my lads, to cut down the fellows as they rush out," cried Lieutenant Thorn; but as the pirates did not come out, the sailors, following their officers, cutlass in hand, rushed in. They found themselves in a large hall; they looked about for the ferocious pirates armed to the teeth, and resolved with the last drop of their blood to defend their hearths and homes. Loud shrieks and cries, however, assailed the ears of the seamen, and by the glare of a brazier of burning coals in the middle of the apartment they beheld three old women. Their appearance was not attractive; they were very thin and parchment-like, and dark; but they might have been very good old bodies for all that. They had, distaff in hand, been sitting, spinning, and talking over affairs in general, if not those of their neighbours, when they had been aroused by the unwelcome sounds of the battering-ram. While the door resisted its efforts they had prudently kept quiet, but when it gave way, they expressed their very natural fears by the sounds which had reached the seamen's ears. As the storming-party advanced, they shrieked louder and louder, but did not run away, because apparently there was no where to run to.
"Don't be frightened, missis," exclaimed Hemming, taking one of them by the arm. "Tell us where the men are, whose heads we have come to break. We won't hurt you."
The old ladies, however, made no reply to this assurance; but only screamed on, probably because they did not understand English. As no one of the party spoke a word of Greek, there was little chance of any information being obtained from the ancient dames. Perhaps they had an object in screaming, to cover the retreat of their friends; so thought Lieutenant Thorn, because if the pirates were not in the fort, who else could have pitched down the stones on their heads as they scrambled up? Certainly not the three old women; that would have been a disgrace. They would not have had time even to have hobbled away and retreated to the place where they were found. Many of the men declared vehemently that they had seen the heads of the pirates, long-bearded fellows, looking over the ramparts, and that they could not be, even then, very far off. Accordingly, leaving Murray with a couple of sailors to look after the three old women, the two parties of seamen, under their respective officers, once more divided to go in search of the outlaws.