Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

(to enter which was out of the question, for the owner, seated on a sort of ottoman in the centre, took down from the shelves the various articles they contained, without rising from his seat,) and supplied themselves with haicks, yellow morocco slippers, cherry-wood pipes, ostrich eggs and feathers, skins of morocco, and jars of honey, at less than half the price demanded at the custom-house.

That done, a Jew vender of rabbits and red-legged partridges accosted them ; and as there was nothing worth staying for at Tetuan, for not a woman's face could be seen, and the haicks which covered them, with two peep-holes for the eyes, might be worn by very old or very young women, the party remounted their barbs, every one carrying a proportion of rabbits and partridges for the mess, as well as their other purchases, at the saddle-bows; and taking leave of the Vice-Consul, to whom they presented a fowling-piece for his hospitality, galloped off to the custom-house, in excellent spirits, which the Consul's old Xeres de la Frontera had very materially contributed to exhilarate. The party reached the ship in safety before gun-fire, where, of course, it became soon bruited about that all the fine things, including rabbits and partridges to boot, were" presents from the Emperor's favourite, his Excellency Abdul Hamed, Ambassador to the Right honourable Lord Collingwood, Commander-inChief of His Majesty's ships and vessels off Cadiz !" So much for British credulity and Spanish compliments !

CHAPTER XXXIX.

A NOVEL CLERICAL CHARACTER. -DIVINE SERVICE WITH A SUD

DEN TERMINATION.—A TILLER BERTH.-JACK'S HEAD IN CHANCERY, WITH A NARROW ESCAPE.

FOR want of better accommodations, Jack had to content himself with the larboard tiller berth, between a brace of thirty-two pounders, --a berth which he had strong reasons for never forgetting, for his life was saved there, almost by a miracle, although not by virtue of his caul ;-that only insures against drowning.

But first, the chaplain must be introduced to the reader. This extraordinary divine was, as he called himself, “a regular-built tory in heart and soul. Church and King man !” which he ever did homage to in Port ; hated cant and hypocrisy as he did the devil ; hated blackstrap, (as Calatonia wine was called,) but nevertheless preferred even that logwood juice to ground-tier essence of gun-barrels and bilgewater, which most of the lads who in those days blockaded the combined fleets were occasionally compelled to strain through their teeth, or go without! for the patent filterer, invented by the once eminent banker, still more eminent for philosophy under unparalleled misfortunes, Mr. Chambers, the benefit of which to the navy, the “Galatea," commanded by Sir Henry Sullivan, has established, whereby water,

pure as crystal,” is supplied to the ship’s company, and insured in every port of the world, was not known ; even drip-stones were un-come-at-ables, except for common use, and then were under a sentry's charge; of whom and his comrades upon that duty at night might be well applied the interrogatory, “ Sed quid custodes custodiet ipsos ?" .... So much as to the Parson's qualifications ! but he was in

one respect unfortunate : he had an irritable temper, which was, perhaps, caused,-increased it certainly was,-by an impediment in his speech ; but that impediment never showed itself by any accident whatever when he called for “ Port."

One Sunday whilst on the voyage from Mazora bay to Palermo, to join Sir Sidney Suith, whose flag was on board the Pompée, the Captain, (a very portly bow-window sort of a John Bull) as was his usual custom, fell asleep during divine service. “O tempora ! O mores .!

It was so habitual, that every one knew what was about to happen by the Captain's preparations. First, he laid his pocket-handkerchief upon his capacious left thigh, and thereon his large red morocco bound prayer-book, bearing his name and rank in very legible gold characters ; after a short time his left hand quitted the prayer-book, and hung, as Jack called it, “a cock-bill !”

The Parson, (a name by the bye that he hated, and for which very reason he was always so called) had got to the tenth commandment, “Thou shalt not cuck-cuck-co-covet thy neighbour's wife; thou shalt not cuck-cuck-cuck-co-vet," when down went the conspicuous prayer-book upon the deck. The Captain, awakened by its noise, looked at the parson, whose impediment had so much increased by irritation, that he was all but black in the face, when he involuntarily rapped out one of his usual condemnations in the midst of the commandment! The blue-jackets and marines could hold out no longer ; there was an unusual bustle ; the game-legged First Lieutenant looked around him with all the eyes of Argus; the officers stuffed their handkerchiefs into their mouths ; the mates and mids bolted as they could ; the boatswain, carpenter, and gunner had previously “slipped their cables ;" the parson was suddenly taken ill ; and the First Lieutenant, seeing how the wind blew, ordered “messstools, and pulpit to be piped down ;" and a general hubbub closed the divine service of the day! The Parson was soon brought about again by Jack handing him a tumbler of Port.

After the occurrences of the morning, it may well be imagined that the most prominent subjects of conversation referred to them. The

was

that over

Parson's cabin was on the starboard side of the lower deck; and as Jack went into his own canvass berth, where he had every now and then the tiller for his chum, the Parson spoke to him. At that moment the helm

“hard-a-port.” To those who recollect what a tiller berth was in the olden times, when we had a navy awed the world, and a Government which felt that its existence, and the country's honor, glory, and safety depended upon its wooden walls, (this may be said without disparagement to that brave army whose glory is as high above detraction as its gallantry and discipline,) it is unnecessary to explain its construction ; but for the general reader's information, a tiller berth may as well be described.

Just then before the aftermost gun on the larboard side, and between that gun and its neighbour (two long ever-creaking thirtytwo pounders) a deal frame was raised about four feet and a half from the deck, supported by a high stauncheon in the foremost corner, from the deck overhead to the lower deck itself, and low one abaft. Upon this frame canvass was nailed, leaving a similar entrance to that of a tent. A loose canvass, like a vallance to a curtain, was suspended from the deck over-head to the frame work, so as to admit of the tiller traversing freely. A vertical speaking trumpet, attached to the mizen-mast, communicated between the quarter-deck and gunroom, for the facility of steerage in the event of accident to the wheel. Jack having inconsiderately engaged in conversation with the Parson, (whose cabin was on the starboard side,) stretching his neck on the rail, the sudden change of the tiller, caught him by the neck as firmly as if it had been in the crutch of a guillotine. Most fortunately the Parson immediately observed the danger that threatened his messmate, and sung out as lustily as he could, through the speaking trumpet, “PORT,” to which the Quartermaster, suspecting something wrong below, immediately attended, by quickly calling “hard-a-port” to the men at the wheel; by which time, however, Jack, already black in the face from the pressure, was nearly, and but for the Parson's quick-sightedness and presence of mind would have been as completely decapitated as if the guillotine had done

the job.

Now, if the tiller berth had been on the starboard side, ewher there was none, instead of the larboard, the Parson's natural impediment would have prevented his calling “hard a starboard,” or “starboard," and one turn “a port ” would have settled Jack's hopes and troubles in this world. What a dreadful loss to society that would have been !

[blocks in formation]

No occurrence worthy of record took place between the ship's calling off Palermo, and telegraphing His Majesty's ship Pompée, at that time snag in the mole, and bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral Sir William Sidney Smith, and her arrival at Malta, except the capture of a splendid tunny, (scomber thunnus,) which afforded a great deal of sport, and received every harpoon and grains in the ship before it could be secured. It was nine feet long; its crescent tail. was two feet nine inches from tip to tip, and weighed four hundred and ninety pounds. The skin on the back was smooth and black ; sides and back silvery, shot with occasional tinges of sky-blue and purple ; and near the caudal fin greyish, and veined like marble. The flesh had all the appearance of fresh beef, and a great deal of it was salted; that which was dressed had a peculiar and fine flavour ; some compared it to veal cutlets, others to the fowl part of turtle. The fish was a gigantic albicore.

In Sicily there is a royal fishery for the tunny, which in the time of Ferdinand IV. was generally commenced by the King in person.

« НазадПродовжити »