A MARINE'S COURTSHIP.

BY MICHAEL BURKE HONAN.

I have the honour to be one of that class of amphibious animals called in his Majesty's service sea-soldiers; that is to say, I have the honour to hold a commission in the noble, ancient, and most jolly body of the Royal Marines. I am by profession, therefore, as well as by nature, a miscellaneous individual; and circumstances have more than once thrown me into situations where the desire to support the credit of the cloth, added to my own stock of cheerful impudence, have carried me through, in spite of difficulties which would have appalled another man. I had the misfortune to be employed on board one of the ships of the inner squadron in the Douro during the siege of Oporto. I do not say misfortune out of any disrespect to the commodore, or to the captain under whose command I was immediately placed, or to my brother officers, for a more generous, convivial set of fellows could not be got together; but I speak of the place, and of the people, and of the few opportunities which were afforded me of showing off a handsome uniform, and, I must say, rather a well-made person, which it inclosed. Besides, I was kept on hard duty; and though there were some pretty women who appeared on Sunday during the cessations of the usual shower of shells from the Miguelite camp, yet there were so many competitors for their smiles, that I really could not take the trouble of making myself as amiable as I otherwise should, and, as I flatter myself, I could. Don Pedro the emperor, who now sleeps with his fathers, and whose heart is deposited in the cathedral of Oporto, was then without the society of his imperial and beautiful wife; and, whether it was to set a good example to his court, or to prevent his mind from dwelling on the absence of his true love, he was one of the most active of my rivals, and I protest there was not a pretty face in the whole town that he had not the pleasure of paying his addresses to. The Marquis of Loule, his brother-in-law, also separated from that most lovely and most generous of Portuguese princesses who now sits nightly at Lisbon, smiling on all the world from her box at the French theatre in the Rua dos Condes, was regularly employed in the same operations; and I never took a sly peep at a pair of dark and bewitching eyes that I did not find the emperor or the marquis also reconnoitring. The marquis is one of the handsomest men in Europe, but with the most vacant expression possible. He wins every heart at first sight, but he loses his conquests as fast as he makes them. Women may be caught by glare; and a man of high rank, an Adonis in face and person, must tell: but I'll be hanged if the dear creatures are such fools as we think them; and the marquis's wife first, and every other flame of his after, have dismissed him, on finding that his good looks and brains were not measured by the same scale. Then there was the Count Villa Flor, and several other martial grandees; not to speak of the generals and colonels of regiments, and the well-built and well-whiskered officers of the British and French Legion, and the captains and first lieutenants of our squadron. I run over this list just to show what difficulties I had to contend with; and that, if I did not turn the head of the whole town, there was a numerous list of operative love-makers who shared the market with me.

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A Marine's Courtship

About this time the senior captain of the squadron determined to establish a signal-station to communicate with the ships of his Britannic Majesty outside the bar; and, no fitting place being found on the Pedroite side of the river, an application was made to General San Martha, who commanded for the Miguelites, for permission to erect a post on the left bank, which permission was most liberally granted. A party was instantly set to work, and in the course of a few days a flag-staff was hoisted; and a large house and court-yard given for the accommodation of the officer and men who were to work it. As luck would have it, I was selected for this service, in company with a wild lieutenant of the fleet, and we soon established ourselves in a comfortable quarter, having the permission to rove about among the Miguelite grounds where we pleased, and to cross as usual to Oporto, when leave of absence was to be procured.

We had not been long established at this fort, when the batteries which the Miguelites had established at the mouth of the river began to do their work in good earnest, and so effectually to close the bar, that not only was the usual supply of provisions cut off, but strong fears were entertained that the city would be reduced by famine to capitulate. There was an abundance of salt fish, or bacalhao, and a superfluity of port wine; but even the best fare will tire on repetition, and you may be assured that salt fish for breakfast, dinner, and supper was not very acceptable to the officers or the men. Our commodore, with the foresight that distinguishes a British officer, had provided for the coming difficulty; and had arranged with the Miguelite general for an abundant supply of fresh provisions, meat, poultry, and vegetables, for all the ships' crews, on the distinct understanding that no part of it was to be passed over to the besieged city. The squadron therefore lived in abundance, while the garrison was half starved; and as we passed through the streets with our shining red faces and sleek sides, puffed out by the good cheer our commodore had provided, we formed a strong contrast to the lean and shrivelled soldiers of glory, who were starving in honour of the charter. The private families of the town also began to suffer, and the beauty of many of the most admired, sensibly to diminish; salt fish and port wine did not in combination make a healthy chyle: and I could observe that the Oporto ladies, more carefully than before, wrapped their long dark cloaks about them, to hide the ravages which short commons was making in the plumpness of their persons.

It was at this moment that I conceived and executed the bold plan which forms the subject of this paper, and from which all learned communities may be informed that, for originality of thought and ability in the execution, no adventurer can compare to a British marine.

The most beautiful maiden at Oporto was a Spanish girl called Carolina. She was the daughter of the alcade of Ponte Vedra in Galicia, who had fled some time before, from the retributive justice of the law, which he himself had so long administered; he had died months before the present period, leaving Carolina exposed to all the privations of a besieged town, and to the temptations of a profligate and military court. I never saw a more lovely creature: her eyes were as dark as night, and her cheeks glowed with a warmth unknown in the cold complexions of the north. Her person was faultless; her feet and her hands were small: one could span her waist; and she walked with that combination of majesty and grace which a Spanish woman can alone assume. Poor Carolina was as good as she was beautiful; and though the emperor, and his hopeful brother-in-law, and all the gay cavaliers of the camp, were ready to throw themselves at her feet, she behaved with a discretion which won her the good opinion of the whole army, not to speak of the fleet, where such remarkable virtue could be fully estimated. I among the rest of the inflammable multitude had been struck with the magic charms of the angelic Carolina, and devoted every moment of the occasional leave of absence which I procured, to promenading up and down before her window, in the hope of catching a glance of her beautiful eyes, and of attracting her regard to my own beloved person. I was as much in love with her as a marine could be, and my hopeless passion became so well known that it was a standing joke at the mess-table, and our wicked wag of a commodore, who I fancied was a little caught himself, never failed to inquire if I had taken my usual walk, and met with the same good fortune.

You can easily imagine my delight when I heard that a scarcity was making such rapid progress in the city, and when I found that even the emperor's table was limited to the ordinary rations of bacalhao, black bread, and port wine. I will own that my heart leaped for joy when I ascertained from an emissary employed to watch the house of Carolina that she too was experiencing the pangs of want, and that with her scanty means she was unable to procure the common necessaries for her sustenance. Our ships were abundantly supplied, as I have before informed you; and the little signal-station which I occupied was the abode of plenty. The Miguelites faithfully performed their engagement; and day after day the regular supplies of beef, poultry, vegetables, and fruit came in. The commodore of course respected the contract that he had entered into; and though the emperor made several advances to his favour, and though he was openly solicited on his behalf by various officers of the staff, he refused to allow a pound of meat to be passed into the city. Several of the British residents represented their claims in a formal manner for his protection; but he did his duty like a man, and he resolutely determined not to break the engagement he had entered into with the general of Don Miguel, or compromise the safety of his own crews by giving way to his good-nature. The value of a leg of fowl may therefore be estimated; and it immediately occurred to me that I could soften the obdurate heart of the beautiful Spaniard by secretly conveying to her some portion of the stock which was appropriated to our own table.

I therefore set about purloining a capital gallina; and when I had secured it, in defiance of the jealous watch of the steward, I crammed it into my pocket, and, asking leave to go on shore, started about the close of day to try whether hunger, which breaks through stone walls, would open the oak door of the charming Carolina. I soon found myself in the well-known quarter, and before the house that contained my love; and, after reconnoitring for an instant to see that the emperor or his staff were not in the way, ran up to the first landing, where she lived, and pulled the little bell-string which hung at the door. In an instant I heard the pretty feet tapping along the passage, and the soft voice of Carolina herself exclaiming "Quien es?" Who is there? "It is I, a British officer, and a friend of yours," I replied; "I want particularly to speak to you."

"Sir," said Carolina, "I have not the honour of your acquaintance."

"It is true, seņorita; but I come to serve you, and my good intentions will excuse the absence of ceremony."

"Sir, I must wish you a good day: I cannot accept a service from strangers; I have not asked you for any."

"Stay, beautiful Carolina," I exclaimed; "I adore you."

"Sir, I have the honour to wish you good evening."

"Stay, angelic vision: I am an officer of Marines."

"What have I to do with the Marines?"

"I come to devote myself to you."

"Sir,—really sir, you carry the joke too far; I must dispense with your unseasonable visit. I have again the honour to wish you good evening."

Carolina was about to close the little slide of the door through which this brief conversation had been carried on, when, growing desperate with vexation, I held the slide open with one hand, while with the other I pulled the fowl from my pocket, and held it dangling before her face. Oh! if you had seen her look!—her eyes were fixed as Hamlet's when he sees his father's ghost, her mouth opened, and two little rivulets of water ran down at each side as when an alderman gets the first odour of a well-kept haunch.

"Seņorita," said I, eager to take advantage of the favourable impression the vision of the fowl had made on my beloved; "this bird is a proof of the warm interest which I take in your welfare. I have heard that you were suffering from the severe affliction that has fallen on this city; and, though I risk my character and the safety of his Britannic Majesty's fleet by bringing into Oporto any part of the provision allotted for the crews, I could not resist the impulse of stealing this bird, which I now have the honour to lay at your feet."

The seņorita answered not: pride on the one hand, and hunger on the other, were struggling. The physical want prevailed over the moral feeling. "Seņor," said she, "I will accept the fowl, and cannot but feel obliged by the interest you have taken in my welfare. Good night, seņor; it is getting late: I am certain you are anxious to return to your ship." With these words she shut the little slide of the door, and I remained in the passage, gaping with astonishment, confounded with delight, and wondering at the new recipe I had invented for making love. I waited for some time, hoping that the little wicket would be again opened; but Carolina, I presume, was too much occupied with the present I had made her to think of returning to bid me a second farewell; and I descended the staircase, charmed beyond expression with the result of my stratagem.

I kept, of course, my recipe for making love a profound secret; but I did not venture to put it again into operation for two or three days. I made, however, the accustomed regular survey of the street in which Carolina resided, and watched with much interest for the reception given to my rivals. I cannot express the delight with which I witnessed them all, one after the other, refused admittance to her house. "She is picking the bones of the fowl," thought I; "that is a much better employment than listening to their stupid declarations. I must take care to keep my mistress in good humour, and to improve the favourable opinion she has already formed of me." I therefore watched my opportunity; secured a duck out of the next basket of poultry, and hastened on the wings of love to lay my treasure at her feet. No sooner did my trembling hand pull the bell-cord, and my eager voice announce my name, than I heard her gentle step in the passage, and soon the little slide of the door was opened, and I felt my heart leap to my mouth as I beheld her beautiful eye beaming on me with undisguised satisfaction. To ensure my welcome, and to save the dear creature from the pangs of expectation, I produced the duck, swinging it to and fro before the wicket, as a nurse does a pretty toy that she offers to the longing wishes of the child. Carolina smiled her sweetest smile; and, when I pushed in the prize, she returned me thanks in so endearing a manner that I lost all command of my reason, and poured out upon the staircase a volume of protestations of eternal love which might have served for the whole ship's company. From that hour my affair was done. Carolina could not resist the voice of truth, and the tender proofs of esteem which I alone had the power to offer. She refused to admit me then, but promised to consult her aunt on the propriety of receiving my visits; and that, if the discreet matron permitted it, she would be too happy in my acquaintance. I entreated the dear girl not to delay my happiness, and I fixed the following Thursday for the formidable interview with the aunt.

I lay the whole of the next night awake, thinking over the present which would be most acceptable to the old lady. I finally resolved to purloin a small leg of lamb, which I observed hung up in the steward's pantry; and, in order to make room for it in my pocket, I cut a great hole in the bottom, so that the handle of the leg would hang down, while the thicker part prevented it from slipping through. Armed with my leg, I asked leave to go to Oporto, and received with joy the accustomed friendly nod. I soon landed at the arsenal, and mounted the long hill which led into the town, holding myself as straight as possible, so that the exuberance of my pocket should not be perceived. Unfortunately for me, a score of hungry dogs, which infest all Portuguese towns, were holding a council of war at the quay when I stept on shore; and one of them, getting scent of the end of the leg of mutton which hung through the hole in my pocket, gave a hint to the rest of the contraband which was going on, and I soon had the whole train after me, sniffing at my tail, and making snaps at the tempting morsel. I would have stooped to pick up a stone, which is the only way of frightening a Portuguese street dog; but I was afraid to disarrange the perpendicular, recollecting that, as I bent down, the end of the leg of lamb would be visible. I therefore bore the annoyance as well as I could, kicking out behind from time to time when my friends were most troublesome.

Carolina and her aunt were at the window, probably expecting my arrival, and enduring the grumbling recollections of an ill-digested dinner of bacalhao, in the hope of a more wholesome supper being provided for them through my care; but when they saw me turn the corner of the street, and at least two dozen dogs smelling and sniffing at my skirts, they both burst out into an uncontrollable fit of laughter, and roared and roared again in a paroxysm of mirth. A crowd of dandies were passing at the moment, watching the window of Carolina, each hoping to be the favoured man; but when they heard the sudden burst of merriment which proceeded from her window, they looked round naturally for the cause, and they soon joined in the same chorus at my expense, on seeing me parade, with all the gravity of a drum-major, at the head of a legion of filthy curs.

To make my situation worse, I dared not enter the house of Carolina; her character would be compromised by a visit in presence of so many admirers: and I had the additional mortification of being obliged to pass her door, and to walk a considerable distance until I escaped the impertinence of the sneering puppies, though I could not shake off the annoyance of those that followed at my heels. How gladly would I have drawn my sword, and challenged the whole party! how cheerfully would I have drawn the leg of lamb from my pocket, and stuffed it in the mouth of each impertinent dandy! but not only was my own honour at stake, but that of the British fleet, and I bore all in the king's name, and for the credit of the service. I have been in many a hot engagement, but I never suffered more than I did that day. At length, after doubling through two or three by-streets, I got rid of my impudent macaroni, and traced my way back again to the house of my beloved. She, with the old lady, were watching me from the window; but, grown wiser by experience, and probably afraid of losing a good supper, they did not laugh again with the same violence. I observed, however, the wicked smile with which my fair one retired to receive me at the door, and the suppressed titter with which the maiden aunt pulled her head from the window.

The cursed dogs followed me up stairs, and it was with considerable difficulty I could prevent the most insolent from forcing their way with me into the presence of my mistress; but, after I got in, I heard them growling and barking on the stairs. The neighbours wondered what the deuce was the matter with the curs, or why they had come from their usual haunts to that unfrequented quarter.

The seņorita presented me in due form to her aunt.

"Allow me," said she, "to introduce to you, dear aunt, this gallant English cavalier, Seņor Gallina,—I beg pardon, Seņor Marinero,—and permit me to present to you, seņor, my respected aunt, Donna Francisca Azanares."

I made a low bow, but said nothing, seeing that my mistress thought more of the fowl than of me; such is the way of the world, and those who will win women must endure to have their pride occasionally mortified. The old lady, however, covered me with compliments; she was delighted to make my acquaintance; her niece had told her what an amiable and gentlemanlike young man I was. I could observe, while the aunt was hard at work overloading me with compliments, that Carolina was taking a sly peep at the bulk of my pockets, and wondering what kind of commodity it was that produced so misplaced a swelling on so well-formed a young man as I flatter myself no one can deny I am; but, just at this moment, the bevy of hungry curs at the door set up such a howl in concert, that my angel was fain to cram her handkerchief into her mouth to conceal her laughing, and I thought the old dame would go into a fit, so violent was her merriment. Finding the case going thus hard against me, I determined to strike a bold stroke for conquest; so, slipping out my penknife, I slit up the pocket where the treasure lay, and down fell the leg of lamb in all its natural beauty on the floor. I thought the aunt would have fainted with delight, such an unexpected vision of glory dazzled her understanding and her sight. The bouquet of the meat was, I suppose, conveyed through the keyhole to the canine multitude that still lined the stairs, and another universal howl proclaimed their despair that it was beyond their reach.

I soon took my leave, to the delight of Carolina and her aunt. I think I showed considerable tact in so doing; well knowing that a slice off the leg of lamb would be more acceptable to both than all the professions of admiration which I was prepared to make. I ventured on two or three civil things, but I could see my beloved's eyes fixed upon the handle of the leg; and it was evident the aunt was carrying on an internal debate whether it should be boiled, broiled, roasted, or stewed, or served up, according to the fashion of the province, with a mass of garlic. The dogs were waiting for me in the passage, and they eagerly followed me as I went down stairs; even the smell of my pocket had its attraction for them, but they dropped off one by one when they found the reality was gone. One old savoury rogue alone persecuted me to the river side; and though I pelted him with stones, and kicked him when I could, he still hung on my rear with his tongue out, licking the shreds which dangled from my torn pocket.

The next day, when I went on board ship to make the usual report to the captain, I found that a court of inquiry was going on into the disappearance of the very leg of lamb which I had feloniously purloined. The steward had reported the accident to the purveyor of the mess, and he had called a council of war, who thought fit to make an official report to the skipper; so that the readers will readily imagine the agony of my feelings when I was asked to join the board, and to assist in the investigation. Fortunately for me, one of the aides-de-camp of the emperor had that morning come on board to request of the captain some provision for the imperial table, protesting that Don Pedro and his staff had nothing better than salt fish for rations; which request the captain was compelled, by a strict sense of duty, to refuse; and everybody set it down as certain, the instant the circumstance was brought to mind, that it was the aide-de-camp who stole the lamb. He had come wrapped up in his cloak, which was a circumstance fatal to his character; and it was agreed by the whole conclave that the gentleman with the gold-laced hat and large cloak had been the thief. I blushed up to the eyes at the consciousness of my guilt, and the dishonourable part I was playing in allowing an innocent person to be wronged for my misdeed; but I recollected that the young man was one of the party who ridiculed me the day before in the presence of Carolina, and wounded vanity made me disregard the twitchings of conscience.

In order to avoid suspicion, I lay quiet for a day or two, and allowed Carolina and her aunt to feel the value of such an acquaintance as I was, under existing circumstances. While engaged with the captain on some official duty, the following morning, in his cabin, a young officer was introduced who solicited an immediate audience. The young man appeared buried in grief, and every now and then applied a handkerchief to his eyes, to wipe off the unbidden tears which mocked the sword which hung at his side. His profound sorrow and gentlemanlike appearance interested the good heart of our excellent captain; he begged him to be seated, and wished to know what service he could render him. The young man could with difficulty master his emotion, and the only words that were heard from him were, "My aunt!—my aunt!"

"Pray, sir, be composed;" said the captain, a little tired of the display.

"I will, sir," replied the young man, giving a great gulp, as if to swallow his misery, and applying his handkerchief to wipe off the tears from both his swimming eyes. "Oh! sir," he continued, "my poor aunt, she who reared me from a child, when I was left an unprotected orphan, and has placed me in the station which I now hold, is at the point of death, and the doctors all agree that nothing but caldo di gallina (fowl broth) can save her life. You know the state which we are in at Oporto, and that not a fowl is to be had if one offered a thousand milreas for it; I come to you, as a man and a Christian, to beg you will give me one single chicken from your larder."

"It is impossible," said the captain; "you know the convention we have made with Santa Martha."

"I know all that," resumed the young man; "but you must admit, my dear captain, that the convention is directed against the troops of Don Pedro, and the inhabitants at large who support him; but surely an old woman at the point of death was not contemplated by the treaty, and I entreat you to save the life of this most deserving and venerable of aunts." With these words the young officer again took out his handkerchief, and gave way to a flood of tears that would have moved the strictest disciplinarian that ever commanded a ship.

It was not to be wondered at that the soft heart of our benevolent skipper was affected. He took the young man by the hand, and said, "My dear fellow, I can do nothing for you; I have signed a convention, and I cannot break it, were it to save the emperor's life: but go you to my steward, and if you can manage to extract a fowl from what he has prepared for my table, you may do so; but take care, I am not to know anything about it."

I fancied the young fellow smiled in the midst of his grief at the mention of the emperor; but he dried up his tears in double quick time, and soon made his way to the steward's room, where I suppose he contrived to settle his affair to his satisfaction. He called on the following day to return his grateful thanks; but the captain would not hear a word. I observed, however, that he went down to the steward's cabin, and took a hasty leave as he went over the ship's side on his return. He scarcely failed to pay us a daily visit, and made us all take a strong interest in him and the recovery of this favourite aunt to whom he was so devotedly attached.

This aunt, we found out afterwards, was the emperor; and so reduced was the imperial table for a short time, that Don Pedro must have starved, or lived on bacalhao, if this stratagem had not been adopted. The young fellow acted his part in a consummate manner, and I am told he boasts to this day of the trick he played the British squadron in the Douro. The captain, I am also told, gave him a little of his mind, having met him last year near the Admiralty, dressed out in fine feathers, and swelling with the importance of new-born greatness. "How is your aunt, you d—— lying Portuguese?" said the skipper. "If I ever catch you on board my ship, I'll give you a rope's end, you dog!"

The more you beat one of the class of which this hero was a specimen, the more he likes it. So our Pedroite friend shrugged up his shoulders, and vanished in double quick time, the captain vociferating after him, "How is your aunt, you lubber?"

Afraid of the consequences in case a discovery should take place, I kept quiet for nearly a week together, until a little note, written in a cramped hand, was brought for me to the signal-station, from which I found by the confession of the aunt that Carolina was in despair at not seeing me again, and that she was very ill from a salt-fish diet. I was conscience-stricken at the consequences of my neglect, and determined not to lose a moment in carrying provisions to my starving beauty; so, running to a basket that had just been brought in from the Miguelite market to be passed on board the commodore, I seized a turkey-poult, feathers and all, and thrust it into the same coat-pocket which had been enlarged to hold the leg of lamb. I asked and received leave to go on shore, and pushed as fast as four oars could impel me to the usual landing-place near the old nunnery. I saw some of the idle dogs basking in the sun, but did not heed their presence, so filled was I with the idea of my Carolina; and, jumping out of the boat, I ran along the quay, totally unconscious of the sneers that my presence excited. At last, when I got to the open rope-walk where the market is usually held, the number of my canine assailants became increased; and one of them, bolder than the rest, making a sudden snap at the head of the young turkey, which hung down through the fatal hole in my pocket, dragged its long neck to view, and exposed my shame to the assembled multitude. A crowd immediately gathered round me, and a score of other dogs began to contest the prize with him that held the head of the turkey in his mouth. I was in despair, and drew my sword to rid me of the cursed assailants; when, on the instant, as if to overwhelm me with disgrace, the captain of the ship to which I belonged forced his way through the crowd, and, laying his hand on my arm, told me to consider myself under arrest.

The turkey-poult had by this time been torn from my pocket by the perseverance of my tormentors. It was pulled from one to the other on the ground; while the hungry citizens endeavoured to save its mangled remains, and a running fight was kept up between them and the dogs, which under other circumstances would have been highly amusing. My heart was heavy, and I was incapable of enjoying the most palpable joke. I walked slowly to the quay side, threw myself into the first boat that offered, went on board my ship, gave up my sword to the senior officer; was placed under a formal arrest, and told to prepare myself for a court of inquiry. I must say that I felt more for poor Carolina than I did for myself; and I could not help expressing my anxiety on her account to one of the brother officers who came to condole with me on my situation. The false friend, I was told afterwards, profited by the hint; and, instead of committing himself as I did, he hired a little cottage at the Miguelite side of the river, under cover of the guns of the fleet, where he placed Carolina and her aunt, and soon taught them to forget me. The worst of the affair was, that General Santa Martha sent in a formal complaint to the consul and the commodore of the squadron, and threatened to stop the usual supply of provisions for the ships' use. A long correspondence took place on the subject, which may be found now in the records of the Foreign Office. I am glad to say, for the credit of the service, that the affair was hushed up in the end, and the Miguelites consented to give the required number of rations. I was made the victim of that arrangement, and was glad to retire from the service on half-pay, to escape being ignominiously dismissed by a court-martial. I now live a miserable example of the doctrine of expediency. I entertain a horror of young turkeys and of dogs, and would be gladly informed of some land where neither of those odious creatures are to be met with.