Sketches of Naval
Life during the War by the Old Sailor
THE WHITE SQUALL.
I was born in a cloud of sulphureous hue—
Darkness my mother, and Flame my sire;
The earth shook in terror, as forth to its view
I sprang from my throne like a monarch of fire!
My brother, bold Thunder, hurraed as I sped!
My subjects laugh'd wild, till the rain from their eyes
Roll'd fast, as though torrents were dash'd overhead,
Or an ocean had burst through the bounds of the skies!
My last, left the gallant Spankaway with her three topmasts
over the side; and a very natural question arises, "How did it happen?"
Her commander was as smart an officer as ever lived; an excellent
disciplinarian when on duty, a thoroughly brave man, but not much
of a seaman;—he was of a happy turn of mind himself, and nothing
afforded him greater pleasure than to see everybody else, happy around
him. On service no one could be more strict; but he loved to see
his officers surround his mahogany; and not one amongst them
was more jovial than Lord Eustace Dash.
On the evening in question, Old Parallel had glanced at
the glowing clouds in the west; but the invitation to the captain's cabin
had driven the circumstances from his remembrance, and, whilst
clinging to port, he thought but little of a storm at sea.
Mr. Sinnitt was the lieutenant of the watch; but on such occasions,
when there was no apprehension of danger, the mate was allowed to
assume the command of the deck, and his superior joined his
messmates over the flowing bowl.
The evening was delightfully serene, and groups
of seamen clustered together; spinning yarns, conversing on things in general,
or singing songs in a low tone, so as not to disturb the sacred character
of the quarter-deck; where, however, the young gentleman left in
charge was drawing round him a little knot of favourite youngsters,
eager to take advantage of the relaxation of discipline. Some were
attentively listening to the hilarity going on in the captain's cabin,—for
the heat had rendered it necessary to open the skylights; others
were paying equal attention to the vocal talents of honest Jack, who,
if he did not possess quite so much grace or talent as his superiors,
made ample atonement for the deficiency by his peculiar and
characteristic humour. Here and there, the treasured grog was served
out with scrupulous exactness, exciting many a longing and envious
eye. As in communities on shore, every ship had its choice
spirits,—its particular and especial jokers, songsters, and tale-tellers—and,
not unfrequently, that pest to society, the plausible pettifogger,
whose head, like that of a Philadelphy lawyer, was constantly filled with proclamations.
Jack detected sailing under false Colors
The moon shone with a crystalline clearness, and the gentle
motion of the frigate threw the shadows of the people in corresponding
movements on the deck, resembling the ombres Chinois that delighted
us so much in boyhood. The look-outs were posted at their appointed
stations; some with a shipmate to bear them company—others
alone, and thinking upon merry England.
"I say, Bill!" uttered the captain of the forecastle, addressing
one of the men, as he was looking to windward from the cat-head—or, as
it was more generally termed, 'Old Savage's picture-gallery,'—"I
say, Bill! somehow or another I don't much like the looks o' the sky
thereaway; to my thinking it's some'at fiery-eyed."
"Gammon!" returned the man without moving from his
position, "I'd ha' thought you would have known better, Jem! Well, I'm
blowed if we mayn't live and larn as long as there's a flurry o' breath
in the windsel! Why, that's ounly the pride o' the sun, to show his
glory to the last; would you have him go out like a purser's dip,—a
spark and away?"
"No, Bill, I loves to see a good sunset," rejoined the other;
"and I never see'd finer then what I've see'd in these here seas. It's
some'at strange to my thinking, though, messmate, that God A'mighty
should have made this part o' the world so beautiful, and yet have put
such d—— lousy, beggarly rascals to live in it! Look at them there
Italians, with no more pluck about 'em than this here cat-head!"
"Nay, shipmates," said the serjeant of marines, who had just
joined them, "you do yourselves injustice. I hope there is some pluck about
the cat-head, though there may be none in it. But you say right—perfectly
right, as it regards those lazy-roany; they are a d—— set, to
be sure! But, their women, Jem—their women! Oh! they're dear,
delicious, lovely creaturs!"
"Mayhap they may be to your thinking," responded the
captain of the forecastle rather contemptuously: "but give me a good,
hearty, right-arnest, full-plump, flesh-and-blood Englishwoman; and
none o' your skinny, half-starved, sliding-gunter-legged, spindle-shank
sinoreas for me!"
"You manifest a shocking want of taste, shipmate," returned
the serjeant, proudly, and bringing himself to a perpendicular. "The
Italian women are considered the most lovely in women the world."
"Tell that to the marines, ould chap!" chimed in a
boatswain's mate, who now made a fourth in the party. "The most lovely women
in the world, eh? Why, Lord love your foolish heart! I wouldn't give my
Mrs. Sheavehole for all that Italy could stow, take it from stem to starn."
"She's your wife, Jack, and the mother of your children," argued
the serjeant; "but that cannot make her a bit the more of a beauty."
"Can't it, though!" exclaimed the boatswain's mate, sharply,
and at the same time giving the mountain of tobacco in his cheek a
thorough twist. "If it don't, then I'm d——! and, setting a case,
it's just this here: when we first came within hail of each other, she
was as handsome a craft as ever had God A'mighty for a builder;
every timber in her hull was fashioned in Natur's own mould-loft, and
she was so pinned and bolted together that each plank did its own proper duty."
"But she's declining in years, you know, Jack," urged the serjeant,
provokingly; "and though she might have been once handsome, yet
age is a sad defacer of beauty."
"And suppose it is a facer of beauty, it can't change
the fashion of the heart!" uttered the boatswain's mate. "But, that's just like
you jollies!—all for paint and pipe-clay. Now, Suke's as handsome to
me as ever she was; and when I sees her like an ould hen clucking
over the young uns, I'm blessed if I don't love her more than when
she saved me from having my back scratched by the tails o' the cat!
I know, when a craft is obliged to be unrigged and laid up in ordinary,
she don't look not by no manner o' means so well as when she was
all a-taunto, and painted as fine as a fiddle: but still, shipmates, she's
the same craft; and as for beauty, why, setting a case, it's just this
here: there's ould beauty, as well as young beauty; and it a'nt so
much in the figure-head, or the plank-shear, as having done your
duty once, and ready to do it again."
"All that may be very true, Jack," persevered the serjeant;
"but then, you must allow there is as great a difference in the appearance
of some women when compared to others, as there is in the build or rig of a vessel."
"Hearken to that, now!" responded the boatswain's mate.
"Do you think Jack Sheavehole wants to be told that a billy-boy arn't a
ninety-eight, or a Dutch schuyt a dashing frigate? But, look at
this here craft that now rolls us so sweetly over the ocean: arn't she
as lovely now as when she first buttered her bottom on the slips, and
made a bed for herself in the water? and won't she be the same
beauty when she's put out of commission, and mayhap be moored in
Rotten-row? Well, she's stood under us in many a heavy gale, and
never yet showed her starn to an enemy,—that's why I love her; not
for what she may do, but for what she has done."
"But, I say, Jack! it's just the time for a yarn," said the
captain of the forecastle. "Tell us how Suke saved you from the gangway."
"I wull, messmate—I wull," returned the other; "and then
this lubberly jolly shall see if I arn't got a good right to call her a beauty.
I belonged to the Tapsickoree, two-and-thirty; and, though I says it
myself, there warn't many more sich tight-looking, clean-going lads
as ould Jack Sheavehole—though I warn't ould Jack then, but a
reg'lar smart, active, young blowhard of a maintopman. Well, we'd
just come home from foreign, and got three years' pay and a power o'
prize-money; and so most o' the boys goes ashore on liberty, and carries
on till all's blue. This was at Plymouth, shipmates; but, as we
wur expecting to go round to Spithead, I saves my cash—'cause why?
I'd an ould father and mother, from whom I'd parted company when
a boy, and I thought, if I could get long leave—thinks I, mayhap I
can heave alongside of 'em, with a cargo o' shiners, and it'll cheer
the cockles o' their ould hearts to see their son Jack togg'd off like a
jolly tar, and captain of a frigate's maintop; and, setting a case, why
it's just this here: I didn't want anything on 'em, but meant to give
'em better ground-tackle to hould on to life by."
"That was very kind of you, shipmate," said the serjeant.
"Well," continued the boatswain's mate, without heeding the
serjeant's observation, "I has a bit of a spree ashore at Dock, in course;
but soon arter we goes round to Portsmouth. I axes for long leave;
and, as I'd al'ays done my duty to Muster Gilmour's—he was first
leeftenant—to Muster Gilmour's satisfaction, I gets my fortnight and
my liberty-ticket, and the large cutter lands me at Sallyport; so I
hauls my wind for the Blue Postes on the Pint, and enters myself
on the books of a snug-looking craft, as was bound through my native
village.—Well, shipmates, in regard o' my being on liberty, why, I
was a gemman at large; so I buys a few duds for ould dad, and a suit
of new sails, and some head-gear for the ould woman: for, thinks I
to myself, mayhap we shall cruise about a bit among the neighbours,
and I'll let 'em see we arn't been sarving the king or hammering the
French for nothin'. And, mayhap, thinks I, they arn't never got too
much to grub; so I gets a bag, and shoves in a couple of legs o' mutton
and a whole shole of turnips, a full bladder of rum, and, as I knew
the old uns loved cat-lap, there was a stowage of sugar and tea, with
a bottle o' milk; and, having plenty of the ready, I buys a little
of everything useful in the small way, that the ould chap at the
shop showed me: and, my eyes! but there was thousands of packages
twisted and twined in true-blue paper;—there was 'bacca, mustard,
snuff, salt, soft tommy, pepper, lickerice, matches, gingerbread,
herrings, soap, pease, butter, candles, cheese,—in short, something of
everything, not forgetting a Welsh wig and a mousetrap; and I'm blowed
if I warn't regularly fitted out for a three months' cruise! Well, by
the time I'd got all my consarns ship-shape, I twigs the signal for
sailing, and so I gets aboard; and in course, in regard o' my station
in the maintop, I goes aloft, as high as possible upon the upper-deck,
and claps myself upon the luggage; but when the governor as had
charge comes to take the twiddling-lines, he axes me to berth myself
on the fokstle, and so, not to be outdone in civility, or to make 'em
think I'd let slip my edication, I comes down, and goes forud, and
stows myself away just abaft the pilot; when we made sail, there
was a party o' liberty boys from the ould Hibernia gives me three
cheers, and I waves my bit o' tarpaulin, sports a fresh morsel o' 'bacca,
and wondered what made the houses and everything run past us so
quick; but I soon found out it was the craft—for I remembered the
comb of the sea did just the same when the frigate was walking along
at a spanking rate. So, for the first hour, I sits quiet and alone, keeping
a sharp look-out on the pilot, to see how he handled the braces,
rounding 'em in to starboard, or to port—for, thinks I to myself, it's
best to larn everything—'cause why? who can tell but Jack Sheavehole
mayn't some day or another command just sich a consarn of his
own! and how foolish he'll look not to know which way to shape
his course, or how to steer his craft! But, I'm blowed! shipmates, if
the horses didn't seem to savvy the thing just as well as the man at the
helm; for the moment he tauten'd the gear, the hanemals slued round
o' themselves all ship-shape, and Bristor-fashion."
"Why, it was the reins that guided them,"
said the serjeant, laughing.
"Then I'm blessed if it was!" returned old Jack;
"for there warn't a drop o' rain fell that arternoon—it
was a bright, sun-shiny day."
"What you call twiddling-lines, they call reins," explained
the serjeant; "and the horses are steered by them."
"Mayhap so, brother,—mayhap so," responded the boatswain's
mate; "for I arn't much skilled in them matters—'cause why? I
never sail'd in one on 'em afore, and ounly once since;—the first was
a happy trip, the last was melancholy; and Jack sighed like an eddy
wind in the galley funnel. "But, to heave a-head—"
"A good look-out before, there!" shouted the mate of the watch,
from the quarter-deck, where he was showing his authority by thrashing
"Ay, ay, sir!" responded the man at the cat-head; and then
added, in a lower tone, "They're having a jolly sheave-o in the cabin!"
"It's a sad heart as never rejoices!" said the captain of the
forecastle. "But, I say, Jack! I don't like the look o' that sky to windard."
"It's one of two things—a parting blush o' the sun,
or a gathering squall o' the night," returned the boatswain's mate; "but we've
no reason to care about it—'cause, why? we're all as snug as possible.
Well, shipmates, to get on with my yarn:—when we'd run a
league or two, out of Portsmouth, we hove to at a victualling port,
and I spied a signal for good cheer hanging out aloft; and so, without
any bother, I boards 'em for a reg'lar stiff Nor'-wester, more nor
half-and-half, and says I to the pilot, 'Yo-hoy, shipmate!' says I, 'come,
and set up the standing backstays o' your heart a bit; and here, ould
chap, is someut to render the laneard;' and so I gives him a share
out o' the grog-tub, that set his eyes a-twinkling like the Lizard lights
on a frosty night. Well, just as we were going to trip the anchor
again, a pretty, smart-looking young woman rounds to under our
starn and ranges up alongside; and she says to the pilot, says she,
'Coachman, what'll you charge to take me to ——?' and I'm blessed
if she didn't name the very port I was bound to!"
"Why, 'tis quite romantic, Jack!" said the serjeant;
"we shall, no doubt, have a love-story presently: but, I'll wager you my grog
to-morrow, I can tell you who the female was."
"Then, I'm blowed if you can!" retorted the boatswain's mate.
"Now, who was she, pray?"
"Is it a fair bet?" inquired the serjeant with a look
of conceited knowledge.
"No, she warn't a fair Bet, nor a fair Moll either," returned
old Jack surlily. "I thought you'd know nothing whatsomever about
it! for that's always the case when a jolly tries to shove his oar into
a seaman's rullock—'cause why? he don't savvy the loom from the blade."
The serjeant laughed. "I meant a fair wager—that is,
my allowance against yours to-morrow that I name the female."
"Done!" exclaimed the boatswain's mate; "and, shipmates,
I call you all to witness that everything's square and above-board."
"Why, it was your Sukey, to be sure—Mrs. Sheavehole—anybody
could tell that," replied the serjeant.
"There—you're out in your chrissening, ould chap, as
you'll find presently," asserted the veteran; "and so you've lost your grog.
But, d—it! I'd scorn to take a marine's allowance from him, though
you richly desarves it."
"Come, heave ahead, Jack!" said the captain of the forecastle;
"make a clear run of it, and don't be backing and filling this fashion."
"Ay, ay, Jem, I wull, I wull," answered old Jack. "But,
I say, shipmate! just clap a stopper on the marine's chattering-gear whilst I
overhaul my log.—Oh, now I have it! Up comes the young woman,
and 'Coachman, what'll you charge no take me to ——?'—'Seven
shillings, ma'am,' says he.—'Carn't you take me for less?' axes she;
'I've ounly got five, and I am very tired with walking.'—'Not a
ha'penny less, ma'am,' says he, just as cool as an iceberg in Hudson's
Bay; 'carn't do it, ma'am.'—'Oh, do try!' says she, and I could see
sorrow was pumping the tears into her eyes; 'I would give you more
if I had it,' says she.—'Carn't help it, ma'am,' says ould surly-chops,
'carn't help it; grub for the hanemals is very dear.'—'Oh, what shall
I do!' says she so piteously; 'night is coming on, and it's a long
way to travel on foot; I shall sink under it: do take the money!'—'Werry
sorry, my dear,' says he, shaking his blubber head like a
booby, perched on a ratlin, 'werry sorry, but never takes under price.
You must use your trotters if you arn't never got seven bob.'—'Then
I'm d—if she does!' says I, 'for you shall carry her.'—'Gammon!'
says he, as spiteful as a pet monkey; 'who's to tip the fare?'—So I
ups and tells him a piece o' my mind, and axes him if he ever know'd
anything unfair by Jack Sheavehole, or if he thought I wanted to
bilk him out o' the passage-money.—'Will you stand the two odd
bob?' axes he.—'And d' ye think I won't stand as much as Bob or
Dick, or any one else?' says I in a bit of a passion. 'Avast, ould
chap!' says I; 'humanity arn't cast off the mooring lashings from my
heart yet awhile, and I hopes never will;' and so I gives him a
seven-shilling bit without any more palaver, and 'Come, my precious,' says
I, houlding out my fin, 'mount areevo;' but I'm blessed if she didn't
hang back till the pilot rung out for us to come aboard! And 'Lord
love you!' says I, 'you arn't afeard of a man-o'-war's-man, are you?'—Oh
no,' says she, brightening up for all the world like the sun
coming out of a fog-bank,—'Oh no; you have been my friend this
night, and God reward you for it!' So we soon clapped one another
alongside upon the break of the fokstle, and got to overhauling a little
smattering o' larning, by way of being civil, seeing as we'd ounly just
joined company. 'I'm thinking that's a pretty village you're bound
to,' says I in a dubersome way; 'I was there once,' says I, 'when I
was a boy about the height of a tin pannikin;' for, shipmates, I didn't
like to overhaul how I'd run away from home. 'Pray, is ould Martin
Joyce alive?' says I.—'He was when I left yesterday morning,' says
she; 'but he is confined to his bed through illness.'—'And the ould
woman.' says I, 'does she still hould on?'—'Yes,' says my companion;
'but she's lame, and almost blind! Well, I'm blow'd, shipmates,
if I didn't feel my daylights a-smarting with pain with the
briny water that overflowed the scuppers—'cause why? them there wur
my own father and mother, in the regard of my having been entered
on the muster-books in a purser's name, my reg'lar right-arnest one
being Jack Joyce. 'And what makes you cruising so far away from
port?' says I, all kindly and messmate-like.—'It's rather a long
story,' says she; 'but as you have been so good to me, why, I must
tell you, that you mayn't think ill of me. You shall have it as short
as possible.'—'The shorter the sweeter, my precious,' says I, seeing
as I oughtn't to be silent. Well, she begins—'Sister Susan and I
are orphans; and when our parents died, ould Martin and his dame,
having no children, took us under their roof.'—'No children!' says I.
'Why, I thought they had a young scamp of a son.' I said this,
shipmates, just to hear what she would log again me.—'Oh yes,' says
she; 'but he ran away to sea when a boy, and they never heard from
him for many years, till the other day they received a letter from
Plymouth to say he was in the Tapsickoree frigate, and expected to
be round at Spithead before long. So, the day before yesterday, a
sailor passing through the village told us she had arrived; and so his
parents getting poorer and poorer, with his father sick and his mother
lame, I thought it would be best to go to him and tell him of their
situation, that if he pleased he might come and see them once more
before they died.'—I was going to say, 'God A'mighty bless you for
it!' but I couldn't, shipmates; she spoke it so plaintively, that I felt
sumeut rise in my throat as if I was choking, and I gulped and gulped
to keep it down till I was almost strangled, and she went on:—'So
yesterday I walked all the way to Portsmouth, and went aboard the
frigate; but the officer tould me there was no man of the name of Joyce
borne upon the books.'—'It was a d—lubberly thing!' says I, 'and
now I remembers it.'—'What,' says she, 'what do you mean?'—'Oh,
nothing, my precious,' says I, 'nothing in the world;' for I thought
the time warn't come for me to own who I was, and it fell slap across
my mind that the doctor's boy who writ the letter for me, had signalised
my right-arnest name at the bottom, without saying one word
about the purser's consarn of Sheavehole. 'And so you've had your
voyage for nothing,' says I, 'and now you're homeward-bound; and
that's the long and the short on it. Well, my precious, I'm on
liberty; and as ould Martin did me a kindness when I was a boy,
why, I'll bring up for a few hours at his cottage, and have a bit of a
confab consarning ould times.' And the young woman seemed
mightily pleased about it; so that by the time we got to ——, I'm
blessed if, in all due civility, we warn't as thick as two Jews on a
payday. Well, we landed from the craft, and away we made sail in consort
for ould dad's cottage; and I'm blessed if everything didn't look
as familiar to me as when I was a young scamp of a boy! but I never
said not nothing; and so she knocks at the door, and my heart went
thump, thump,—by the hookey! shipmates, but it was just as I've
seen a bird try to burst out of its cage. Presently a voice sings out,
'Who's there?'—and such a voice!—I never heard a fiddle more
sweeterer in the whole course of my life—'Who's there?' says the
voice, in regard of its being night, about four bells in the first
watch.—'It's Maria,' says my convoy,—'And Jack Sheavehole,' says
I. 'Heave ahead, my cherub! give us a clear gangway and no
favour.'—'Oh, Maria, have you brought him with you?' said a young
woman, opening the door; and by the light she carried in her hand,
she showed a face as beautiful—I'm d—if ever they carried such
a figure-head as that, in any dock-yard in the world!—'Have you
brought him with you?' says she, looking at me, and smiling so
sweetly, that it took me all aback, with a bobble of a sea running on
my mind that made my ideas heave and set like Dutch fisherman
on the Dogger-bank.—'No,' says Maria, with a mournful sough, just
as the wind dies away arter a gale—'No; there was no such person
on board the frigate, and I have had my journey for nothing.'—'Nonsense!'
says the other; 'you want to play us some trick. I know this
is he;' and she pointed to me.—'Lord love your heart!' says I, plucking
up courage, for I'd flattened in forud, and fallen off so as to fill
again,—'Lord love your heart! I'd be anything or anybody to please
you,' says I; 'but my name, d' ye mind, is Jack Sheavehole, at your
sarvice in all due civility. But let us come to an anchor, and then
we can overhaul the consarn according to Hamilton Moore.' So we
goes in; and there sat my poor ould mother by the remains of a fire,
moored in the same arm-chair I had seen her in ten years afore, and
by her side was an ould wheezing cat that I had left a kitten; and,
though the cabin-gear warn't any very great shakes, everything was
as clean as if they'd just washed the decks. 'Yo-hoy, dame!'
says I, 'how do you weather the breeze?'—'Is that my John?' says
she, shipping her barnacles on her nose, like the jaws of a spanker-boom
on the saddle; and then Maria brings up alongside of her, and
spins the yarn about her passage to Portsmouth, boarding the frigate,
finding that she was out in her reckoning, and her return with me;
and ould dad, who was in his hammock in the next berth, would have
the door open to hear it all. And I felt so happy, and they looked so
downcast and sorrowful, that I'm blessed if I could stand it any
longer: so I seizes Susan round the neck, and I pays out a kiss as
long as the main-t'-bowline, till she hadn't breath to say 'Don't;' and
then I grapples 'em all round, sarving out hugs and kisses to all hands,
even to the ould cat; and I danced round the chairs and tables so,
that some o' the neighbours came running in; and 'Blow me tight!'
says I, 'side out for a bend; here I am again, all square by the lifts
and braces!'—and then I sings,
'Here I am, poor Jack,
Just come home from sea,
With shiners in my sack'—
and I whips out a handful of guineas from my jacket pocket,
and shows 'em,—
'Pray what do you think of me?'
'What! mother,' says I, 'don't you know me? Why, I'm
your true and lawful son Jack Joyce; though, arter I run away, the purser
made twice-laid of it, and chrissened me Sheavehole, in regard of his
Majesty liking to name his own children. Never say die, ould woman!
there's plenty o' shot in the locker. And come, lasses,' says I to
the young uns, 'one on you stand cook o' the mess;' and I empties
my bag on the floor, and away rolled the combustibles, matches, and
mutton, and mousetraps, and all, scampering about like liberty boys
arter a six months' cruise; and I picks up the bladder o' rum, and
squeezes a good drain into a tea-cup, and hands it to the ould woman,
topping up her lame leg while she drinks. And, my eyes! there
was a precious shindy that night: the ould uns were almost dying
with joy, and the young uns had a fit o' the doldrums with pleasure.
So I gets the big pot under weigh, and shoves in both legs o' mutton
and a full allowance o' turnips, and I sarves out the grog between
the squalls; and ould dad blowed a whiff o' 'bacca, and mother payed
away at the snuff; and nobody warn't never happy if we warn't happy
that night. Well, we'd a glorious tuck-out o' mutton, wi' plenty o'
capers; and arter that I stows the ould woman in alongside o' dad,
kisses the girls in course, and then takes possession o' the arm-chair,
where I slept as sound as a jolly on sentry."
"That's libellous!" exclaimed the serjeant somewhat roughly,
as if offended; "it is an unjust reflection, and is clearly libellous."
"It's all the same to ould Jack whose bellows it is,"
returned the boatswain's mate carelessly; "it's no lie, howsomever, for none
sleeps so soundly as a marine on duty. But I arn't got time to overhaul
that consarn now; I know I laid in a stock of 'hard-and-fast'
enough to last for a three weeks' cruise. Well, shipmates, we keeps
the game alive all hot and warm, and we sported our best duds, and
I makes love to Susan, and we'd a regular new fit-out at the cottage,
and I leaves fifty pounds in the hands of the parson o' the parish for
the ould folks, and everything went on, in prime style, when one day
the landlord of the public comes in, and says he, 'Jack, the lobsters
are arter you.'—'Gammon!' says I; 'what can them fellows want
with me?'—'Arn't your liberty out?' says he.—'I never give it a
thought,' says I.—'Where's your ticket?' says he. So I showed him
the chit; and I'm blessed, shipmates, but it had been out two days!
Well, there I was in a pretty perdiklement; and the landlord, says he,
'Jack,' says he, 'I respect you for your goodness to the ould uns;
though I suspects they arn't altogether the cause of your losing your
memory:' and he looks and smiles at Suke. 'Howsomever, the lobsters
are at my house axing about you; and I thought I'd slip out
and let you know, so that you might have time to stow away.'—'Thanky,
my hearty,' says I; 'but I'm blessed, shipmates, if I
warn't dead flabbergasted where to find a stow-hole, till at last I hits
upon a scheme to which Susan consented! And what do you think
it was, shipmates?—but you'd never guess! Why, Suke slips on a
pair o' my canvass trousers and comes to an anchor in the arm-chair
with a blanket round her, below, and I stows myself under her duds,
coiling away my lower stanchions tailor-fashion; and the doctor
coming in to see the ould folks, they puts him up to the trick, and so
he brings up alongside of her, and they whitens her face, to make her
look pale, as if she was nigh-hand kicking the bucket: and there I lay,
as snug as a cockroach in a chafing-mat, and in all due decency,
seeing as Suke had bent my lower casings hind part afore, and there
warn't a crack nor a brack in 'em. Presently in marches the swaddies,
and 'Pray whose cottage is this?' axed the serjeant as stiff as a
crutch.—'It is Martin Joyce's,' said Maria.—'Ay, I thought as
much,' says he: 'pray where is his son, Jack Joyce, or Jack Sheavehole?'
says he.—'He left us three days ago,' answered Maria, 'to join
his ship: I hope nothing has happened to him?'—'Indeed!' says the
serjeant. 'Now, pretty as you are, I know that you are telling me
what I should call a very considerable ——' Suke shrieked out, and
stopped what he was going to say: for, shipmates, she sat so quiet,
that, thinks I to myself, they'll find out that she's shamming; so I
gives her a smart pinch in an inexpressible part, that made her sing
out. Well, the long and the short on it, is, that the party, who were
looking out sharp for 'straggling money,' had a grand overhaul; but
the doctor would not let them interfere with Susan, who, he declared,
was near her cushionmong; and at last, being unable to find
me, they hauls their wind for another port.—Well, shipmates, as soon
as possible arter they were gone, why, Suke got rid of her trouble,
and forth I came, as full-grown and handsome a babby as ever cut a
tooth. But I warnt safe yet; and so I claps a suit of Suke's duds
over my own gear, and, being but a little chap, with some slutching,
and letting out a reef or two here and there, I got my sails all snugly
bent, and clapped a cap with a thousand little frills round my face,
and a straw hurricane-house of a bonnet as big as a Guineaman's
caboose over all, with a black wail hanging in the brails down afore,
and my shoes scandaled up my legs, that I made a good-looking
wench. Well, I bid all hands good-bye. Suke piped her eye a bit;
but, Lord love you! we'd made our calculations o' matrimony, and
got the right bearings and distance, (else, mayhap, I should
never have got stowed away under her hatches,) and she was to join me at
Portsmouth, and we were to make a long splice of it off-hand; but
then, poor thing! she thought, mayhap, I might get grabbed and punished.
Up comes the coach; but the fellow wouldn't heave to directly,
and 'Yo-hoy!' says I, giving him a hail.—'Going to Portsmouth,
ma'am?' says he, throwing all aback, and coming ashore from his
craft.—'To be sure I am,' says I. 'What made you carry on in
that fashion, and be d—to you!—is that all the regard you have for
the sex?' says I.—'Would you like to go inside, ma'am?' says he,
opening the gangway port.—'Not a bit of it,' says I: 'stow your
damaged slops below, but give me a berth 'pon deck.'—'Werry good,
ma'am,' says he, shutting the gangway port again; 'will you allow
me to assist you up?'—'Not by no manner o' means,' says I. 'Why,
what the devil do you take me for! to think the captain of a
frigate's maintop can't find his way aloft!'—'You mean the captain
of the maintop's wife,' says Susan, paying me back the pinch I gave
her.—'Ay, ay, my precious,' says I; 'so I do, to be sure. God bless
you! good-b'ye! Here I go like seven bells half struck!—carry on,
my boy, and I'm blessed if it shan't be a shiner in your way!' And
so we takes our berths, and away we made sail, happy-go-lucky,
heaving-to now and then just to take in a sea-stock; and the governor
had two eyes in his head, and so he finds out the latitude of the
thing, but he says nothing; and we got safe through the barrier and
into Portsmouth, and I lands in the street afore they reached the
inn,—for, thinks I to myself, I'd better get berthed for the night and
go aboard in the morning. Well, shipmates, I parts company with the
craft, and shapes my course for Pint,—'cause I knew a snug corner in
Capstan-square, and I was determined to cut with all skylarks, in regard
o' Suke. Well, just as I was getting to steer with a small helm,
up ranges a tall man who had seen me come ashore from the coach,
and 'My dear,' says he, 'what! just fresh from the country?' But I
houlds my tongue, shipmates, and he pulls up alongside and grabs
my arm. 'Come, don't be cross,' says he; 'let me take you in tow;
I want to talk with you, my love.' I knew the voice well; and though
he had a pea jacket over his uniform-coat, and, take him 'half way
up a hatchway,' he was a d— good-looking fellow, yet nobody as ever
had seen him could forget them 'trap-stick legs;' and so, thinks I to
myself, Jack, you'd better shove your boat off without delay: for,
d'ye see, shipmates, I'd sailed with him when I was a mizen-top-mun
in the ould Stag, and I well remembered Sir Joseph Y—ke. But
I'm blessed if he didn't stretch out arter me, and sailed two foot to
my one; and 'Come, come, my darling,' says he, 'take an honest tar
for your sweetheart. Let's look at that beautiful face;' and he
catches hould o' the wail and hauls it up chock ablock; but I pulls
down my bonnet so as he couldn't see my figure-head, and I carries
on a taut press to part company. But, Lord love yer hearts! it
warn't no manner o' use whatsomever—he more than held his own;
and 'A pretty innocent country wench indeed!' says he. 'What!
have you lost your tongue?'—'No, I'm d— if I have!' says I: for I
forgot myself, shipmates, through vexation at not being able to get
away. 'Hallo!' says he, gripping me tight by the shoulder; 'who
have we here?' I'm blessed, shipmates, if, what with his
pulling at my shawl, and my struggling to sheer off, my spanker boom
didn't at that very moment get adrift, and he caught sight of it
in a jiffy. 'Hallo!' says he, catching tight hold of the pig-tail,
and slueing me right round by it. 'Hallo!' says he, 'I never see an
innocent country wench dress her hair in this way afore;—rather a
masc'line sort o' female,' he says. 'Who the devil are you?' 'It's
Jack Sheavehole, your honour,' says I, bringing up all standing; and,
knowing his generous heart, thinks I, Now's your time, Jack; overhaul
the whole consarn to him, and ten to one but he pulls you
through the scrape somehow or other. So I ups and tells him the
long and the short on it, and he laughs one minute, and d—ns me for
a desarting willun the next; and 'Come along!' says he 'I must see
what Captain B—n will think of all this.' So he takes me in tow,
and we went into one of the grand houses in High-street; and 'Follow
me,' says he, as he walked up stairs into a large room all lighted up
for a sheave-o; and there wur ladies all togged out in white, and silver
and gold, and feathers, and navy officers and sodger officers,—a grand
dinner-party. 'B—n,' hails Sir Joseph, 'here's a lady wants you;'
and he takes me by the hand, all complimentary like, and the captain
of the frigate comes towards us, and I'm blessed if every soul fore
and aft didn't fix their eyes on me like a marine looking out for a
squall. 'I've not the pleasure of knowing the lady,' says the skipper;
'I fear, Sir Joseph, you're coming York over me. Pray,
ma'am, may I be allowed the happiness of seeing your countenance
and hearing your name?'—'I'm Jack Sheavehole, yer honour,' says
I, 'captain o' the Tapsickorees maintop, as yer honour well knows.'—'I
do, my man,' says he with a gravedigger's grin on his countenance:
'and so you want to desert?'—'Never, yer honour,' says I,
'in the regard o' my liking my ship and my captain too well.'—'No,
no, B—n,' says Sir Joseph, 'I must do him justice. It appears that
he had long leave, and onknowingly overstayed his time; so he rigged
himself out in angel's gear to cheat them devils of sodgers. I'll
vouch for the fact, B—n,' says he, 'for I saw him myself get down
from the coach—.'—'All fresh from the country, yer honour,'
says I.—'Ay, all fresh from the country,' chimes in Sir Joseph. 'He's
an ould shipmate o' mine, B—n, and I want you, as a personal favour
to myself to back his liberty-ticket for to-morrow. Such a lad
as this, would never desart the sarvice.'—'If I would, then I'm
d—! saving yer honour's presence,' says I. Well, shipmates, there
I stood in the broad light, and all the ladies and gemmen staring at
me like fun; and 'Come, B—n,' says Sir Joseph, 'extend his liberty
till to-morrow'—'Where's your ticket?' axes the skipper: and so,
in regard of its being in my trousers pocket, I hauls up my petticoats
to get at it; and, my eyes! but the women set up a screeching,
and the officers burst out in a broadside o' laughing, and you never
heard such a bobbery as they kicked up,—it was a downright reg'lar squall."
"Ay, squall indeed," said the captain of the forecastle:
"here it comes with a vengeance!" he bellowed out with stentorian lungs.
"Hard up with the helm—hard a-weather." In an instant the sea
was one sheet of foam; the wind came whistling like the rustling of
ten thousand arrows in their swiftest flight; a report like the discharge
of a heavy piece of artillery was heard forward, and away flew
the jib like a fleecy cloud to leeward. The frigate heeled over,
carrying everybody and everything into the lee scuppers; the lightning
hissed and cracked as it exploded between the masts, making
everything tremble from the keel to the truck; broad sheets of water
were lifted up and dashed over the decks fore and aft: indeed, it
seemed as if the gale were striving to raise the ponderous vessel from
the ocean for the purpose of plunging it into the dark abyss; a thick
mist-like shroud hung round her, alow and aloft, as she struggled to
lift herself against the tempest. The topsail halliards were let go;
but the nearly horizontal position of the masts prevented the sails
from running down. Inevitable destruction for the moment threatened
to engulph them all, when "crack, crack, crack!" away
went the topmasts over the side; the spanker sheet had been cut
away, and off bounced the spanker after the jib. The frigate partially
righted, and Lord Eustace and his officers rushed to the deck.
But the squall had passed: the moon again shone beautifully clear;
the deceitful sky and still more deceitful ocean were all smiles, as if
nothing had happened,—though the evidences of their wrath were but
too apparent in the dismantled state of his Majesty's ship. But we
must again leave them, as we did before, to "Call all hands to clear the wreck."