Who Milked my Cow, or, the Marine Ghost

BY THE AUTHOR OF "RATTLIN THE REEFER."

Captain the Honourable Augustus Fitzroy Fitzalban, of that beautiful ship his Majesty's frigate Nænia, loved many things. He loved his ship truly, and with a perdurable affection; yet he loved something still more, his very aristocratic self. He had also vowed to love and cherish another person; but what gallant spirit would yield love, even if it were as plenty as blackberries, upon compulsion? The less you give away, the more must remain to be employed in the service of the possessor. Captain Augustus Fitzroy Fitzalban had a great deal of unoccupied love at his disposal. Considering duly these premises, there can be nothing surprising in the fact if he had a surplus affection or two to dispose of, and that he most ardently loved new milk every morning for breakfast.

Now Captain the Honourable Augustus Fitzroy Fitzalban—(how delightful it is to give the whole title when it is either high-sounding or euphonous!)—had large estates and wide pasture-lands populous with lowing kine. But all these availed him not; for, though he was sovereign lord and master pro tempore over all as far as the eye could reach, on the morning of the 6th of June 1826, he could not command so much of the sky-blueish composition that is sold for milk in London, as could be bought for one halfpenny in that sovereign city of many pumps. The fields spread around the honourable captain were wide and green enough, but, alas! they were not pastured with mammiferous animals. Neptune has never been known to take cream to his chocolate and coffee. He would scorn to be called a milk-and-water gentlemen. There is the sea-cow certainly, but we never heard much respecting the quality of her butter.

We are careful. We will not lay ourselves open to animadversion. We have read books. We have seen things. Therefore we cannot suffer the little triumph to the little critics who were just going to tell us that all the cetaceous tribes suckle their young. We can tell these critics more than they know themselves. Whale's milk is good for the genus homo. We know two brawny fellows, maintop-men, who, being cast overboard when infants, were, like Romulus and Remus with their she-bear, suckled by a sperm-whale; and, when their huge wet-nurse wished to wean them, she cast them ashore on one of the Friendly Islands. We think that we hear the incredulous exclaim, "Very like a whale!" Why, so it was.

But to return to another matter of history. On the memorable morning before indicated, the honourable captain, the first lieutenant, the doctor, the marine officer, the officer and the midshipman of the morning watch, had all assembled to breakfast in the cabin. They had not forgotten their appetites, particularly the gentlemen of the morning watch. They were barbarous and irate in their hunger, as their eyes wandered over cold fowl and ham, hot rolls, grilled kidneys, and devilled legs of turkey.

"By all the stars in heaven," said the honourable commander, "no milk again this morning! Give me, you rascally steward," continued the captain, "a plain, straightforward, categorical answer. Why does this infernal cow, for which I gave such a heap of dollars,  give me no milk?"—"Well, sir," said the trembling servitor; "if, sir, you must have a plain answer, I really—believe—it is— because—I don't know."

"A dry answer," said the doctor, who was in most senses a dry fellow.

"You son of a shotten herring!" said the captain, "can you milk her?"—"Yes, sir."

"Then why, in the name of all that is good, don't you?"—"I do, sir, but it won't come."

"Then let us go," said the captain, quite resignedly, "let us go, gentlemen, and see what ails this infernal cow; I can't eat my breakfast without milk, and breakfast is the meal that I generally enjoy most."

So he, leading the way, was followed by his company, who cast many a longing, lingering look behind.

Forward they went to where the cow was stalled by capstan-bars, as comfortably as a prebendary, between two of the guns on the main-deck. She seemed in excellent condition; ate her nutritious food with much appetite; and, from her appearance, the captain might have very reasonably expected, not only an ample supply of milk and cream for breakfast and tea, but also a sufficient quantity to afford him custards for dinner.

Well, there stood the seven officers of his Majesty's naval service round the arid cow, looking very like seven wise men just put to sea in a bowl.

"Try again," said the captain to his servant. If the attempt had been only fruitless, there had been no matter for wonder; it was milkless.

"The fool can't milk," said the captain; then turning round to his officers despondingly, he exclaimed, "gentlemen, can any of you?"

Having all protested that they had left off, some thirty, some forty, and some fifty years, according to their respective ages, and the marine officer saying that he never had had any practice at all, having been brought up by hand, the gallant and disappointed hero was obliged to order the boatswain's mates to pass the word fore and aft, to send every one to him who knew how to milk a cow.

Seventeen Welshmen, sixty-five Irishmen, (all on board,) and four lads from Somersetshire made their appearance, moistened their fingers, and set to work, one after the other; yet there was no milk.

"What do you think of this, doctor?" said the captain to him, taking him aside.—"That the animal has been milked a few hours before."

"Hah! If I was sure of that. And the cow could have been milked only by some one who could milk?"—"The inference seems indisputable."

The captain turned upon the numerous aspirants for lacteal honours with no friendly eye, exclaiming sorrowfully, "Too many to flog, too many to flog. Let us return to our breakfast; though I shall not be able to eat a morsel or drink a drop. Here, boatswain's-mate, pass the word round the ship that I'll give five guineas reward to any one who will tell me who milked the captain's cow."

The gentleman then all retired to the cabin, and, with the exception of the captain, incontinently fell upon the good things. Now, the  midshipman of that morning's watch was a certain Mr. Littlejohn, usually abbreviated into Jack Small. When Jack Small had disposed of three hot rolls, half a fowl, and a pound of ham, and was handing in his plate for a well devilled turkey's thigh, his eye fell compassionately upon his fasting captain, and his heart opening to the softer emotions as his stomach filled with his host's delicacies, the latter's want of the milk of the cow stirred up within him his own milk of human kindness.

"I am very sorry that you have no appetite," said Jack Small, with his mouth very full, and quite protectingly, to his skipper; "very sorry, indeed, sir: and, as you cannot make your breakfast without any milk, I think, sir, that the midshipmen's berth could lend you a bottle."

"The devil they can, younker. Oh, oh! It's good and fresh, hey?"

"Very good and fresh, sir," said the midshipman, ramming down the words with a large wadding of hot roll.

"We must borrow some of it, by all means," said the captain; "but let the midshipmen's servant bring it here himself."

The necessary orders having been issued, the bottle of milk and the boy appeared.

"Did you know," said Captain Fitzalban, turning to his first lieutenant, "that the midshipmen's berth was provided with milk, and that too after being at sea a month?"—"Indeed I did not; they are better provided than we are, at least in this respect, in the ward-room."

"Do you think,—do you think," said the captain, trembling with rage, "that any of the young blackguards dare milk my cow?"—"It is not easy to say what they dare not do."

However, the cork was drawn, and the milk found not only to be very fresh indeed, but most suspiciously new. In the latitude of the Caribbean Islands liquids in general are sufficiently warm, so the captain could not lay much stress upon that.

"As fine milk as ever I tasted," said the captain.

"Very good indeed, sir," said the midshipman, overflowing his cup and saucer with the delicious liquid.

"Where do the young gentlemen procure it?" resumed the captain, pouring very carefully what remained after the exactions of John Small into the cream-jug, and moving it close to his own plate.—"It stands us rather dear, sir," said Mr. Littlejohn,—"a dollar a bottle. We buy it of Joe Grummet, the captain of the waisters."

The captain and first lieutenant looked at each other unutterable things.

Joe Grummet was in the cabin in an instant, and the captain bending upon him his sharp and angry glances. Joseph was a sly old file, a seaman to the backbone; and let the breeze blow from what quarter of the compass it would, he had always an eye to windward. Fifty years had a little grizzled his strong black hair, and, though innovation had deprived him of the massive tail that whilome hung behind, there were still some fancy curls that corkscrewed themselves down his weather-stained temples; and, when he stood before the captain, in one of these he hitched the first bend of the immense fore-finger of his right hand. He hobbled a little in his gait, owing to an  unextracted musket-ball that had lodged in his thigh; consequently he never went aloft; and had been, for his merits and long services, appointed captain of the waist.

The Honorable Augustus Fitzroy Fitzalban said to the veteran mariner quickly, and pointing at the same time to the empty bottle, "Grummet, you have milked my cow."—"Unpossible, sir," said Grummet, bashing at a bow; "downright unpossible, your honour."

"Then, pray, whence comes the fresh milk you sell every morning to the young gentlemen?"—"Please your honour, I took two or three dozen of bottles to sea with me on a kind o' speculation."

"Grummet, my man, I am afraid this will turn out a bad one for you. Go and show your hands to the doctor, and he'll ask you a few questions."

So Joseph Grummet went and expanded his flippers before the eyes of the surgeon. They were nearly as large and as shapely as the fins of a porpoise, and quite of the colour. They had been tanned and tarred till their skin had become more durable than bootleather, and they were quite rough enough to have rasped close-grained wood.

"I don't think our friend could have milked your cow, Captain Fitzalban," said the doctor; "at least, not with his hands: they are rather calculated to draw blood than milk."

Joseph rolled his eyes about and looked his innocence most pathetically. He was not yet quite out of danger.

Now there was every reason in the world why this cow should give the captain at least a gallon of milk per diem—but one, and that he was most anxious to discover. The cow was in the best condition; since she had been embarked, the weather had been fine enough to have pleased Europa herself; she had plenty of provender, both dry and fresh. There were fragrant clover closely packed in bags, delicious oat-cakes—meal and water, and fine junks of juicy plantain.—The cow throve, but gave no milk!

"So you brought a few dozen bottles of milk to sea with you as a venture?" continued the man of medicine in his examination.—"I did, sir."

"And where did you procure them?"—"At English Harbour, sir."

"May I ask of whom?"—"Madame Juliana, the fat free Negro woman."

"Now, my man," said the doctor, looking a volume and a half of Galen, and holding up a cautionary fore-finger—"now, my man, do not hope to deceive me. How did you prevent the acetous fermentation from taking place in these bottles of milk?"

The question certainly was a puzzler. Joe routed with his fingers among his hair for an answer. At length he fancied he perceived a glimmering of the doctor's meaning; so he hummed and ha-ed, until, the doctor's patience being exhausted, he repeated more peremptorily, "How did you prevent acetous fermentation taking place in these bottles of milk?"

"By paying ready money for them, sir," said the badgered seaman boldly.

"An excellent preventative against fermentation certainly," said the captain half smiling. "But you answer the doctor like a fool."

"I was never accused of such a thing, please your honour, before, sir," said tarrybrecks, with all his sheets and tacks abroad.

"Very likely, my man, very likely," answered the captain, with a look that would have been invaluable in a vinegar manufactory. "How did you prevent this milk from turning sour?"

"Ah, sir!" said Grummet, now wide awake to his danger: "if you please, sir, I humbly axes your pardon, but that's my secret."

"Then by all that's glorious I'll flog it out of you!"

"I humbly hopes not, sir. I am sure your honour won't flog an old seaman who has fought with Howe and Nelson, and who was wounded in the sarvice before your honour was born; you won't flog him, sir, only because he can't break his oath."

"So you have sworn not to divulge it, hey?"

"Ah, sir: if I might be so bold as to say so, your honour's a witch!"

"Take care of yourself, Joseph Grummet; I do advise you to take care of yourself. Folly is a great betrayer of secrets, Joseph. Cunning may milk cows without discovery: however, I will never punish without proof. How many bottles of this excellent milk have you yet left?"—"Eight or ten, sir, more or less, according to sarcumstances."

"Well! I will give you a dollar a-piece for all you have."

At this proposition Joseph Grummet shuffled about, not at all at his ease, now looking very sagacious, now very foolish, till, at last, he brought down his features to express the most deprecating humility of which their iron texture was capable, and he then whined forth, "I would not insult you, sir, by treating you all as one as a midshipman. No, your honour: I knows the respect that's due to you,—I couldn't think of letting you, sir, have a bottle under three dollars—it wouldn't be at all respectful like."

"Grummet," said Captain Fitzalban, "you are not only a thorough seaman, but a thorough knave. Now, have you the conscience to make me pay three dollars a bottle for my own milk?"—"Ah, sir, you don't know how much the secret has cost me."

"Nor do you know how dearly it may cost you yet."

Joseph Grommet then brought into the cabin his remaining stock in trade, which, instead of eight or ten, was found to consist only of two bottles. The captain, though with evident chagrin, paid for them honourably; and whilst the milkman pro temp. was knotting up the six dollars in the tie of the handkerchief about his neck, the skipper said to him, "Now, my man, since we part such good friends, tell me your candid opinion concerning this cow of mine?"—"Why, sir, I thinks as how it's the good people as milks her."

"The good people! who the devil are they?"—"The fairies, your honour."

"And what do they do with it?"—"Very few can tell, your honour; but those who gets it are always desarving folks."

"Such as old wounded seamen, and captains of the waist especially. Well, go along to your duty. Look out! cats love milk."

So Joseph Grummet went forth from the cabin shrugging up his shoulders, with an ominous presentiment of scratches upon them. The captain, the Honourable Augustus Fitzroy Fitzalban, gave the marine officer orders to place a sentry night and day over his cow, and then dismissed his guests.

The honourable commander was, for the rest of day, in a most unconscionable ill humour. The ship's sails were beautifully trimmed, the breeze was just what it ought to have been. The heavens above, and the waters below, were striving to outsmile each other. What then made the gallant captain so miserable? He was thinking only of the temerity of the man who had dared to milk his cow.

The first lieutenant touched his hat most respectfully to the Honourable Captain Augustus Fitzroy Fitzalban, and acquainted him that the sun indicated it to be twelve o'clock.

"Milk my cow!" said the captain abstractedly.

"Had not that better be postponed till to-morrow morning, Captain Fitzalban?" said the lieutenant, with a very little smile; "and in the mean time may we strike the bell, and pipe to dinner?"

The captain gazed upon the gallant officer sorrowfully, and, as he shook his head, his looks said as plainly as looks could speak, and with the deepest pathos, "They never milked his cow."

"Do what is necessary," at last he uttered; then, pulling his hat more over his eyes, he continued to pace the quarter-deck.

Now, though the Honourable Captain Augustus Fitzroy Fitzalban was the younger son of a nobleman, and enjoyed a very handsome patrimony, and his temper had been thoroughly spoiled by that process that is too often called education, yet his heart was sound, English, and noble. He revolted from doing an unjust action; yet he smarted dreadfully under the impression that he was cheated and laughed at to his very face. He did not think that Joseph Grummet had milked his cow, but he felt assured that the same milk-dealing Joseph knew who did; yet was he too humane to introduce the Inquisition on board his ship by extracting the truth by torture.

The Honourable Captain Fitzroy Fitzalban slept late on the succeeding morning. He had been called at daylight, pro forma, but had merely turned from his left side to the right, muttering something about a cow. It must be supposed that the slumbers of the morning indemnified him for the horrors of the night, for breakfast was on the table, and the usual guests assembled, when the captain emerged from the after-cabin.

There was no occasion to ask the pale and trembling steward if the cow had given any milk that morning.

The breakfast remained untouched by the captain, and passed off in active silence by his guests. Not wishing to excite more of the derision of Jack than was absolutely necessary, the Honourable the Captain Augustus Fitzroy Fitzalban, when he found that the various officers whom he had invited to breakfast had sufficiently "improved the occasion," as the methodists say, turned to the first lieutenant, who was again his guest, and asked him if nothing had transpired on the over-night to warrant a suspicion as to the lacteal felony.

The first luff looked very mysterious, and not wholly disposed to be communicative upon the subject. He had been piously brought up, and was not at all inclined to be sarcastic upon the score of visions or the visited of ghosts; yet, at the same time, he did not wish to subject himself to the ridicule of his captain, who had rationally enough postponed his belief in apparitions until he had seen one. Under these difficulties, he replied hesitatingly, that a ghost had been  reported as having "come on board before daylight in the morning, without leave."

"A ghost, Mr. Mitchell, come on board, and I not called!" said the indignant captain: "By G—, sir, I would have turned out a guard of honour to have received him! I would have sooner had a visit from his spirituality than from his Excellency the Spanish Ambassador.—The service, sir, has come to a pretty pass, when a ghost can come on board, and leave the ship too, I presume, without even so much as the boatswain to pipe the side. So the ghost came, I suppose, and milked my cow?"

The first lieutenant, in answer, spoke with all manner of humility. He represented that he had been educated as a seaman and as an officer, and not for a doctor of divinity; therefore he could not pretend to account for these preternatural visitations. He could only state the fact, and that not so well as the first lieutenant of marines. "He begged, therefore, to refer to him."

That officer was immediately sent for, and he made his appearance accompanied by one of the serjeants, and then it was asserted that, when the guard went round to relieve the sentries, they found the man who had been stationed over the cow, lying on the deck senseless in a fit, and his bayonet could nowhere be found. When by the means of one of the assistant-surgeons, who had been immediately summoned, he had been sufficiently recovered to articulate, all the explanation they could get from him was, that he had seen a ghost; and the very mention of the fact, so great was his terror, had almost caused a relapse.

"Send the poltroon here immediately: I'll ghost him!" cried the enraged captain. In answer to this he was informed, that the man lay seriously ill in his hammock in the sick-bay, and that the doctor was at that very moment with the patient.

"I'll see him myself," said the captain.

As the honourable captain, with his cortège of officers, passed along the decks on his way to the sick-bay, he thought—or his sense of hearing most grievously deceived him—that more than once he heard sneering and gibing voices exclaim, "Who milked my cow?" but the moment he turned his head in the direction from whence the sounds proceeded, he saw nothing but visages the most sanctimonious: indeed they, instead of the unfortunate sentry, appeared to have seen the ghost. The captain's amiability that morning might have been expressed by the algebraical term—minus a cipher.

When the skipper hauled alongside the sick man, he found that the doctor, having bled him, was preparing to blister his head, the ship's barber at the time being occupied in very sedulously shaving it. The patient was fast putting himself upon an equality to contend with his supernatural visitant, by making a ghost of himself. He was in a high fever and delirious,—unpleasant things in the West Indies! All the captain could get from him was, "The devil—flashes of fire—milk cow—horrible teeth—devil's cow—ship haunted—nine yards of blue flame—throw cow overboard—go to heaven—kicked the pail down—horns tipped with red-hot iron," and other rhapsodies to the same effect.

From the man the captain went to the cow; but she was looking excessively sleek, and mild, and amiable, and eating her breakfast with the relish of an outside mail-coach passenger. The captain shook his head, and thought himself the most persecuted of beings.

When this self-estimated injured character gained the quarter-deck, he commenced ruminating on the propriety of flogging Joseph Grummet; for, with the loss of his cow's milk, he had lost all due sense of human kindness. But, as the Lords of the Admiralty had lately insisted upon a report being forwarded to them of every punishment that took place, the number of lashes, and the crime for which they were inflicted, the Honourable the Captain Augustus Fitzroy Fitzalban thought that a report would look rather queer running thus: "Joseph Grummet, captain of the waist, six dozen, because my cow gave no milk," or "because private-marine Snickchops saw a ghost," or "for selling the midshipmen sundry bottles of milk;" and this last imagination reminded him that there was one of this highly-gifted class walking to leeward of him. "Mr. Littlejohn!" said the captain with a voice that crawled over the nerves like the screeching of an ill-filed saw.

Small Jack touched his hat with more than usual respect to the exasperated officer, and then, stepping to windward, humbly confronted him.

The captain was too angry for many words; so, looking fearfully into the happy countenance of the reefer, and pointing his fore-finger down perpendicularly, he laconically uttered, "Milk this morning?"—"Yes, sir."

"Good?"

The well-breakfasted midshipman licked his lips, and smiled.

"Grummet?"—"Yes, sir."

"Tell the boatswain's mate to send him aft."—"Ay, ay, sir."

And there stood the captain of the waist, with his hat in his hand, opposite to the captain of the ship. There was some difference between those two captains:—one verging upon old age, the other upon manhood. The old man with but two articles of dress upon his person, a canvass shirt and a canvass pair of trousers,—for in those latitudes shoes and stockings are dispensed with by the foremast men, excepting on Sundays and when mustering at divisions; the other gay, and almost gorgeous, in white jeans, broad-cloth, and gold. There they stood, the one the personification of meekness, the other of haughty anger. However firm might have been the captain's intentions to convict the man before him by an intricate cross-examination, his warmth of temper defeated them at once, for the old seaman looked more than usually innocent and sheepish. This almost stolid equanimity was sadly provoking.

"You insolent scoundrel!—who milked my cow last night?"— "The Lord in heaven knows, your honour. Who could it be, sir, without it was the ghost who has laid that poor lad in his sick hammock?"

"And I suppose that the ghost ordered you to hand the milk to the young gentlemen when he had done?"—"Me, sir! Heaven save me! I never se'ed a ghost in my life."

"Hypocrite! the bottle you sold the midshipmen!"—"One, your honour, I brought from Antigua, and which I overlooked yesterday."

"I shall not overlook it when I get you to the gangway. Go, Mr. Littlejohn, give orders to beat to quarters the moment the men have had their time."

All that forenoon the captain kept officers and men exercising the great guns, running them in and out, pointing them here and there;—sail-trimmers aloft—boarders on the starboard bow—firemen down in the fore-hold: the men had not a moment's respite, nor the officers either. How potently in their hearts they d—d the cow, even from the tips of her horns unto the tuft at the end of her tail! Five secret resolves were made to poison her that hard-worked morning. Mr. Small Jack, who was stationed at the foremost main-deck guns near her, gave her a kick every time the order came from the quarter-deck to ram home wad and shot.

Well, this sweltering work, under a tropical sun, proceeded till noon, the captain alternately swearing at the officers for want of energy, and exclaiming to himself indignantly, "D—them! how dare they milk my cow! There must be several concerned. Send the carpenter aft. Mr. Wedge, rig both the chain-pumps,—turn the water on in the well. Waisters! man the pumps. Where's that Grummet? Boatswain's mates, out with your colts and lay them over the shoulders of any man that shirks his duty; keep a sharp eye on the captain of the waist."

And thus the poor fellows had, for a finish to their morning's labour, a half-hour of the most overpowering exertion to which you can set mortal man,—that of working at the chain-pumps. When Mr. Littlejohn saw elderly Joseph Grummet stripped to the waist, the perspiration streaming down him in bucket-fulls, and panting as it were for his very life, he, the said Small Jack, very rightly opined that no milk would be forthcoming next morning.

At noon the men were as usual piped to dinner, with an excellent appetite for their pork and pease, and a thirsty relish for their grog; for which blessings they had the cow alone to thank. They were very ungrateful.

No sooner was the hour of dinner over than the captain all of a sudden discovered that his ship's company were not smart enough in reefing topsails. So at it they went, racing up and down the rigging, tricing up and laying out, lowering away and hoisting, until six bells, three o'clock, when the angry and hungry captain went to his dinner. He had made himself more unpopular in that day than any other commander in the fleet.

The dinner was unsocial enough. When a man is not satisfied with himself, it is rarely that he is satisfied with any body else. Now the whole ship's company, officers as well as men, were divided into parties, and into only two, respecting this affair of the cow; one believed in a supernatural, the other in a roguish agency; in numbers they were about equal, so that the captain stood in the pleasant predicament of being looked upon in a sinful light by one half of his crew, and in a ludicrous one by the other.

However, as the night advanced, and the marine who had seen the cow-spirit grew worse, the believers in the supernatural increased rapidly; and as one sentinel was found unwilling to go alone, the cow had the distinguished compliment of a guard of honour of two all  night. The captain, with a scornful defiance of the spiritual, would allow of no lights to be shown, or of no extraordinary precautions to be taken. He only signified his intentions of having himself an interview with the ghost, and for that purpose he walked the deck till midnight; but the messenger from the land of spirits did not choose to show himself so early.

Let me hear no more any querulous talk of the labour of getting butter to one's bread—no person could have toiled more than the Honourable Captain Augustus Fitzroy Fitzalban to get milk for his breakfast.

The two sentries were relieved at twelve o'clock, and, for a quarter of an hour after, everything remaining dark and quiet about the haunted cow, the captain went below and turned in, joyfully anticipative of milk and cream in the morning. He left, of course, the most positive orders that the moment the ghost appeared he should be called.

Mr. Mitchell, the pious first lieutenant, remained on deck, determined to see the sequel; told the master he was much troubled in spirit, and he thought, with all due deference to the articles of war, and respect for the captain, that he was little better than an infidel, and an overbold tempter of God's providence. The master remarked in reply that it was an affair entirely out of soundings; but very sagely concluded that they should see what they should see, even if they saw nothing.

It was a beautiful night, darkly, yet, at the same time, brightly beautiful. There was no moon. The pure fires above were like scintillations from the crown of God's glory. Though the heavens were thus starred with splendours, it was deeply, though clearly, dark on the ocean. There was a gentle breeze that was only sufficient to make the sails draw, and the noble frigate walked stately, yet majestically onwards.

Forward on the main-deck the darkness was Cimmerian. When lights had been last there at the relieving of the sentinels, the cow had laid herself quietly down upon her litter, and seemed to be in a profound sleep; the first hour after midnight was passed, and all was hushed as death, save those noises that indicate what else would be absolute silence more strongly. There was the whispering ripple of the sea, the dull creaking of the tiller-ropes, and the stealthy step of the sentinels: these sounds, and these only, were painfully distinct. One bell struck, and its solemn echoes seemed to creep through the decks as if on some errand of death, and the monotonous cry of the look-outs fell drearily on the ear.

The first lieutenant and the officers of the watch had just begun to shake off their dreamy and fearful impressions, to breathe more freely, and to walk the deck with a firmer tread, when, from what was supposed to be the haunted spot, a low shriek was heard, then a bustle, followed by half-stifled cries of "The guard! the guard!"

The officers of the watch jumped down on to the main-deck, the midshipmen rushed into the cabin to call the captain, and men with and without lights rushed forward to the rescue.

Deep in the darkness of the manger there glared an apparition that might more than justify the alarm. The spot where the phantom was seen, (we pledge ourselves that we are relating facts,) was that part of a frigate which seamen call "the eyes of her," directly under the foremost part of the forecastle, where the cables run through the hawse-holes, and through which the bowsprit trends upwards. The whole place is called the manger. It is very often appropriated to the use of pigs until they take their turn for the butcher's knife. This was the strange locality that the ghost chose to honour with its dreadful presence.

From the united evidences of the many who saw this ghastly avatar, it appeared only to have thrust its huge head and a few feet of the forepart of its body through the hawse-hole, the remainder of its vast and voluminous tail hanging out of the ship over its bows. The frightful head and the sockets of its eyes were distinctly marked in lineaments of fire. Its jaws were stupendous, and its triple row of sharp and long-fanged teeth seemed to be gnashing for something mortal to devour. It cast a pale blue halo of light around it, just sufficient to show the outlines of the den it had selected in which to make its unwelcome appearance. Noise it made none, though several of the spectators fancied that they heard a gibbering of unearthly sounds; and Mr. Littlejohn swore the next day upon his John Hamilton Moore, that it mooed dolefully like a young bullock crossed in love.

To describe the confusion on the main-deck, whilst officers, seamen, and marines were gazing on this spectre, so like the fiery spirit of the Yankee sea-serpent, is a task from which I shrink, knowing that language cannot do it adequately. The first lieutenant stood in the middle of the group, not merely transfixed, but paralysed with fear; men were tumbling over each other, shouting, praying, swearing. Up from the dark holds, like shrouded ghosts, the watch below, in their shirts, sprang from their hammocks; and for many, one look was enough, and the head would vanish immediately in the dark profound. The shouting for lights, and loaded muskets and pistols was terrible; and the orders to advance were so eagerly reiterated, that none had leisure to obey them.

But the cow herself did not present the least imposing feature in this picture of horror. She formed, as it were, the barrier between mortality and spirituality—all beyond her was horrible and spectral; by her fright she seemed to acknowledge the presence of a preternatural being. Her legs were stiff and extended, her tail standing out like that of an angered lion, and she kept a continued strain upon the halter with which she was tethered to a ring-bolt in the ship's side.

By this time several of the ward-room officers, and most of the midshipmen, had reached the scene of action. Pistols were no longer wanting, and loaded ones too. Three shots were fired into the manger, with what aim it is impossible to specify, at the spectre. They did not seem to annoy his ghostship in the least; without an indication of his beginning to grow hungry, might be deemed so. As the shot whistled past him, he worked his huge and fiery jaws most ravenously.

"Well," said the second lieutenant, "let us give the gentleman another shot, and then come to close quarters. Mr. Mitchell, you have a pistol in your hand: fire!"

"In the name of the Holy Trinity!" said the superstitious first, "there!" Bang! and the shot took effect deep in the loins of the unfortunate cow.

At this precise moment, Captain the Honourable Augustus Fitzroy Fitzalban rushed from his cabin forward, attired in a rich flowered silk morning-gown, in which scarlet predominated. He held a pistol cocked in each hand; and, as he broke through the crowd, he bellowed forth lustily, "Where's the ghost! let me see the ghost!" He was soon in the van of the astonished gazers; but, disappointed Fitzalban! he saw no ghost, because, as the man says in the Critic, "'twas not in sight."

Immediately the honourable captain had gained his station, the much wronged and persecuted cow, galled by her wound, with a mortal effort snapped the rope with which she was fastened, and then lowering her horned head nearly level with the deck, and flourishing her tail after the manner that an Irishman flourishes his shillelagh before he commences occipital operations, she rushed upon the crowded phalanx before her. At this instant, as if its supernatural mission had been completed, the spirit vanished.

The ideal having decamped, those concerned had to save themselves from the well followed up assaults of the real. The captain flew before the pursuing horns, d—ning the cow in all the varieties of condemnation. But she was generous, and she attached herself to him with an unwonted, or rather an unwanted, fidelity. Lanterns were crushed and men overthrown, and laughter now arose amidst the shouts of dismay. The seamen tried to impede the progress of the furious animal by throwing down before her lashed-up hammocks, and by seizing her behind by the tail: but, woe is me! the Honourable the Captain Augustus Fitzroy Fitzalban could not run so fast in his variegated and scarlet flowered silk dressing-gown as a cow in the agonies of death; for he had just reached that asylum of safety, his cabin-door, when the cow took him up very carefully with her horns, and first giving him a monitory shake, then with an inclination to port, she tossed him right over the ward-room skylight, and deposited him very gingerly in the turtle-tub that stood lashed on the larboard side of the half-deck. This exertion was her last; for immediately alter falling upon her knees, and then gently rolling over, to use an Homeric expression, her soul issued from her wound, and sought the shades below appropriated to the souls of cows.

In the mean time, the captain was sprawling about, and contending with his turtle for room, and he stood a very good chance of being drowned even in a tub; but assistance speedily arriving, he was drawn out, and thus the world was spared a second tale of a tub. But there was something in the spirit of the aristocratic Fitzalban that neither cows, ghosts, nor turtle-haunted water could subdue. Wet as he was, and suffering also from the contusions of the cow's horns, he immediately ordered more light, and proceeded to search for the ghost,—prolific parent of all his mishaps.

Well escorted he visited the manager, but the most scrutinising search could discover nothing extraordinary. The place seemed to have been undisturbed, nor once to have departed from its usual  solitariness and dirt. There was not even so much as a smell of sulphur on the spot where the spectre had appeared, nor were there any signs of wet, which, supposing the thing seen had been a real animal, would have been the case, had it come from the sea through one of the hawse-holes. The whole affair was involved in the most profound mystery. The honourable captain, therefore, came to the conclusion that nothing whatever had appeared, and that the whole was the creation of cowardice.

Hot with rage and agueish with cold, he retired to his cabin, vowing all manner of impossible vengeance, muttering about courts-martial, and solemnly protesting that Mr. Mitchell, the first lieutenant, should pay him for the cow that he had so wantonly shot.

Blank were the countenances of many the next morning. The first lieutenant was not, as usual, asked to breakfast. There was distrust and division in his Majesty's ship Nænia, and the Honourable the Captain Augustus Fitzroy Fitzalban had several severe contusions on his noble person, a bad cold, and no milk for breakfast; an accumulation of evils that one of the aristocracy ought not to be obliged to bear. Though Mr. Mitchell did not breakfast with the captain, Jack Small, alias Small Jack, alias Mr. Littlejohn, did. The only attempt of the captain that morning at conversation was as follows. With a voice that croaked like a raven's at the point of death, evidence externe of an abominable sore-throat, the captain merely said to the reefer, pointing his fore-finger downwards as he did the day before, "Milk?"

Mr. Littlejohn shook his head dolefully, and replied, "No, sir."

"My cow died last night," said the afflicted commander with a pathos that would have wrung the heart of a stone statue—if it could have heard it.

"If you please, sir," said the steward, "Mr. Mitchell sends his compliments, and would be very glad to know what you would have done with the dead cow."—"My compliments to Mr. Mitchell and he may do whatever he likes with it. He shot it, and must pay me for it: let him eat it if he will."

The first lieutenant and the captain were, after this, not on speaking terms for three months. Several duels had very nearly been fought about the ghost; those who had not seen it, branding those who had with an imputation only a little short of cowardice; those who had seen it, becoming for a few weeks very religious, and firmly resolving henceforward to get drunk only in pious company. The carcase of the cow was properly dressed and cut up, but few were found who would eat of it; the majority of the seamen thinking that the animal had been bewitched: the captain of course would take none of it unless Mr. Mitchell would permit him to pay him for it at so much per pound, as he pertinaciously pretended to consider it to be the property of the first lieutenant. Consequently, the animal was neatly shared between the midshipmen's berth and the mess of which Joseph Grummet, the captain of the waist, was an unworthy member.

The day following the death of the cow, Joseph Grummet was found loitering about the door of the young gentlemen's berth.

"Any milk to-morrow, Joseph?" said the caterer.—"No, sir," with a most sensible shake of the head.

"Oh!—the cow has given up the ghost!"—"And somebody else too!" This simple expression seemed to have much relieved Joe's overcharged bosom: he turned his quid in his month with evident satisfaction, grinned, and was shortly after lost in the darkness forward.


There never yet was a ghost story that did not prove a very simple affair when the key to it was found. The captain of the Nænia never would believe that anything uncommon was ever seen at all. He was, however, as much in the wrong as those who believed that they had seen a ghost. The occurrence could not be forgotten, though it ceased to be talked of.

Two years after the ship came to England, and was paid off. Joseph Grummet bagged his notes and his sovereigns with much satisfaction; but he did not jump like a fool into the first boat, and rush ashore to scatter his hard-earned wages among Jews, and people still worse: he stayed till the last man, and anxiously watched for the moment when the pennant should be hauled down. When he saw this fairly done, he asked leave to speak to the captain. He was ushered into the cabin, and he there saw many of the officers who were taking leave of their old commander.

"Well, Grummet," said the skipper, "what now?"

"Please your honour, you offered five guineas to anybody who would tell you who milked the cow."

"And so I will gladly," said the captain, pleasantly, "if the same person will unravel the mystery of the ghost." And he turned a triumphant look upon the believers in spirits who stood around him.

"I milked your cow, sir."

"Ah! Joseph, Joseph! it was unkindly done. But with your hands?"—"We widened a pair of Mr. Littlejohn's kid-gloves, sir."

"I knew that little rascal was at the bottom of it! but there is honour in the midshipmen's berth still. What is the reason that they thus sought to deprive me of my property?"—"You wouldn't allow them to take any live stock on board that cruise, sir."

"So—so—wild justice, hey? But come to the ghost."—"Why, sir, I wanted to have the cow unwatched for a quarter of an hour every middle watch; so I took the shark's head we had caught a day or two before, scraped off most of the flesh, and whipped it in a bread-bag,—it shone brighter in the dark than stinking mackerel;—so I whips him out when I wants him, and wabbles his jaws about. I was safely stowed under the bowsprit from your shot; and when your honour walked in on one side of the manger, I walked, with my head under my arm, out of the other."

"Well, Joseph, there are your five guineas: and, gentlemen," said the Honourable the Captain Augustus Fitzroy Fitzalban, bowing to his officers, "I wish you joy of your ghost!"