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company, and I
I should say,” remarked the stranger, " but will you favour me with the particulars how you lost it.”
“ To be sure I will,” replied the veteran with eagerness, “I haven't got no matter of cause as I know of to be ashamed on it.—D'ye see, I'd been on a cruise to Greenwich to see owld Sam Blake, and Tom Groggins, and another or two, in regard of our having been messmates together, and they now snugly moored in that grand and beautiful place which, they tell me, was formerly the palace of good Queen Bess of glorious memory, God rest her soul; but it was given by some king or other for the use of disabled seamen, and Sam and Tom had brought up under the lee of it, to ride out for the rest of their lives in peace and plenty. So we had a glorious day of it, and overhauled owld consarns when we were youngsters together, and sported a bit of the monkey. At last, when night came, we parted
'em a farewell wind of my call—that call as you've got hanging there-and makes sail for home. But some how or another I couldn't keep my wooden leg to one side of the street, and it would keep crossing over, and crossing back again, that I got quite dizzy and nonplushed with staggering, and maybap,' thinks I, ‘it wants to go back again to Greenwich and chum with its brothers.' Well, this sort of tack and half-tack bothered my course, and delayed me ever so long, as more than once I had to bring up for the tide as was running strong again me. It was taut work, but by dint of good seamanship I contrived to make George's Fields, where a strange sail as was carrying on a heavy press, come slap aboard of me, and would have foundered, but that I rigged out my spars and shored him up.
‘Yo hoy,' says I—Save me,' says he, “there's the enemy in chase and no port to shelter in'—'Run, run,' says I, “heave a-head out of this;' and having got the breeze again, away he started. So I hauls up alongside of a tree as a bit of ambuscade, and presently up comes a man at a rattling pace, as if the devil kicked him endways. “Do your duty, owld Benbow,' says I to my stick, and I'm blessed if he wanted a second bidding, for he gave only one twirl, and down dropped the runner as flat as a Chinaman's face. Up comes another, and owld Benbow having whispered a word in his ear, off he went and clapped himself alongside of his consort. Number three came next, but Benbow missed him, and I was just threatening a dozen for it in my own mind, when number three tumbled over his companions, and scatters himself all along upon the
grass, rolling over and over like fun. Still I hears another a coming, and stand by, owld Benbow,' says I, but he caught sight of the others afore he got to them, and brings up all standing; so I boxes the
compass round the tree whilst they were all hanging in the doldrums, and carries on till I got clear, and when I went to turn in after getting home, I diskivered as the call was gone, and in course I suspects the man I'd saved as having stole or borrowed it by accident.—”
My gallant friend," exclaimed the stranger, "you are indeed my preserver, but the call was neither borrowed nor stolen-it came into my possession by sheer accident, having caught to the hook of my short cloak whilst you were supporting me, and must have been torn away when I again set off.” He threw open his coat and unfastening the instrument held it out to the veteran. “ Take it-take it,” said he, observing that old John was gazing earnestly at the silver chain. “The whole is yours-let the chain be a memorial of my gratitude-I have generally worn it as you have seen, under the hope that it would be recognized by the owner, and now that he is found, most heartily do I restore it.”
Thus induced, old John received the call, and applying it his lips, there issued forth tones, which, if not strictly harmonious, were musical and shrilly piercing. This brought out Mrs. Paulet, who had often rated her husband for his negligence in losing so valuable a relic, especially as she attributed it to intoxication, and her gratification on beholding it once more was little less than the brave old seaman's; nor did the sight of the massive chain in any way diminish her pleasure. It was delivered into her hands, and was safely conveyed into the cottage.
“ And now," said old John, “since I have told you all about it, may I ax—though it arn't altogether no business of mine-yet may I ax what you was running away for that night ?"
“Certainly my friend--it all originated in a mistake," answered the stranger. “My name is James Trueman, a loyal subject of the king, but it appears that whilst travelling at some distance from the metropolis, I fell into company with an outlawed rebel, and we journeyed for the space of two days upon the same road—of course I was ignorant of his character, or I would not have run such a risk; but be was a pleasant-speaking gentleman, and I was glad of his society. At Coventry he was recognized, and attempts were made to take him, when I, acting upon the spur of the moment, and unacquainted with his person, took the weaker side, and after a smart brush he got off; but I was not so fortunate, for having no fear of the consequences, and being encumbered besides, was made prisoner, taken before the magistrates—witnesses proved my association with the outlaw, and my aiding his escape-communications were forwarded to the government, who sent orders for my removal to the
metropolis to be examined before the Privy Council. I was on my way thither, when taking advantage of a relaxation in vigilance amongst my guards, I cleared myself of them, and took to my heels.”
“ But why, if you had nothing to fear, why should you run away," asked old John.
“ These are perilous times, my friend,” returned Trueman,“ to be suspected and to be condemned are almost synonymous terms. As soon as I ascertained that my companion was indeed a rebel spy
in the service of Prince Charles, I became sensible that strong suspicion would be excited against me, and as proofs of innocence are but too often mystified so as to be taken in evidence for guilt, I weighed the matter well, preferring freedom to confinement, and through your aid most happily obtained it. Since then the affair has been fully explained—at all events, Master Paulet, you see that I am enjoying liberty, and shall be glad to exercise it in partaking of your hospitality, for after so sudden and strange an introduction, it follows naturally that we should become better known to each other.”
And better known as good friends they very soon were; for Trueman, though not frequent in his visits, seldom came without bringing some present of hardware, or cloth, or ornament for Mrs. Paulet: all which things, he said, were appertaining to his usual trade. At certain times his manners assumed a loftiness that seemed to be far superior to his avowed station in life, and occasionally he indulged in a freedom of speech that would have been more than hazardous had he exercised it in general society.
Such was the visitor to the hatch, who, as already mentioned at the commencement of this chapter, hailed the veteran with
“So-ho, Master Paulet-fighting your battles over again, with the union of Saint Andrew and Saint George flying above your head, as if the victory off La Hogue had finally settled the business between the two countries. Yes, there are the united crosses of Papistry which our gallant seamen firmly established on that day, though the Protestants were everywhere knocking the Catholics on the head.”
« All that may be correct enough in the ship’s reckoning, worthy Sir,” responded the veteran, as he unclosed the hatch, never no consarn of mine, seeing as all I had to do with the matter was to obey orders, and beat the French”
“ And by defeating the French,” remarked the other, as he entered the barrier and shut it after him, "you destroyed the prospects of the rightful Monarch of these realms, and fixed his doom in exilean outcast from his throne and his dominions, which were usurped by another.”
- but it was
“ Aye, aye, friend Trueman," returned the veteran, “ I've heard you say as much afore. But your Jameses or your Williamses are all as one to me, as long as there's a Commander in Chief's flag leading the fleet against a foreign enemy-and more especially the French. Besides, I've often told you, friend Trueman, that King William was on the throne when I first shipped in a man-of-war; and though it was said that Admiral Russell favoured the cause of James, and would have brought him to his own again if he could, yet the owld boy knew better than to let Mountseer de Towerwille get to windard of his duty to his country.”
“It was a strange affair, Master Paulet-a very strange affair," remarked the other, leaning his shoulder against the entrance to the lodge in which old John had again re-seated himself. “I was then but a young man, just out of my apprenticeship; but as in those times Protestant ascendancy was the universal cry; and only three or four years before, the King, being deserted by his subjects, in turn abandoned them—there was a general feeling amongst young and old—for a civil war, Master Paulet, brings such matters home to our own doors; and as party strife and religious rancour grew stronger and stronger, why it was very natural for people to take one side or the other.”
“All ship-shape and proper, friend Trueman," returned the seaman, continuing his work, “I arnt never the man to gainsay it, or to quarrel with people because they chooses to work their ship different to myself; all as I've got to say is, he's no Englishman who catches sight of French colours and doesn't want to have a slap at the craft as carries 'em.”—
“Always touching the same chord, I find, Mr. Paulet," observed his companion with a sarcastic smile; “fight the French whether or no-right or wrong. But if I recollect right, Russell was strongly suspected at the time, and it was asserted that he would surrender the fleet to the French Admiral for the service of James; nay more, that negociations had been going on between Russell and the expatriated Monarch to that effect.”
Harkee, friend Trueman,” uttered the veteran with some degree of sternness in his manner, as he laid aside his netting and looked earnestly in the other's face. “Harkee, my friend; crack your jokes on my head and you're welcome, but don't go for to disparage and damage a character as wont be easily found now Admiral Russell has gone to give in his reckoning in another world; he was as brave as a lion, and as generous as half a dozen princes put together.”—
“I deny him the possession of neither generosity nor bravery,