Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

The marine went forward and gave the order ; and Jemmy, who expected a breeze, told his wife to behave herself quietly. His advice did not, however, appear to be listened to, as will be shown in the sequel.

“ How came you on board, woman ?" cried Vanslyperken, looking at her from top to toe several times, as usual, with his hands in his great coat pockets, and his battered speaking-trumpet under his arm.

“ How did I come on board ! why, in a boat to be sure," replied Moggy, determined to have a breeze.

* Why did you not go on shore before the cutter sailed ?” replied Vanslyperken in an angry tone. “ Why, just for the contrary reason, because there was no boat."

“ Well, I'll just tell you this, if ever I see you on board again, you'll take the consequence,” retorted Vanslyperken.

5 And I'll just tell you this,” replied Moggy; “if ever you come on shore again you shall take the consequences. I'll have you~I give you warning. Flog my Jemmy, heh! my own dear darling Jemmy.” Hereupon Moggy held out one arm bent, and with the palm of her other hand slapped her elbow—“ There !cried she.

What Jemmy's wife meant by this sign, it is impossible for us to say; but that it was a very significant one was certain, for Mr. Vanslyperken foamed with rage, and all the cutter's crew were tittering and laughing. It was a species of free-masonry known only to the initiated at the Sally Port.

“ Send the marines aft here. Take this woman below,” cried Vanslyperken. “I shall put all this down to your husband's account, and give him a receipt in full, depend upon it." } .

“ So you may. Marines, keep off, if you don't wish your heads broken ; and I'll put all this down to your account, and as you say that you'll pay off my pet, mark my words, if I don't pay off on your's-on your nasty cur there. I'll send him to cruise after Corporal Van Spitter. As sure as I stand here, if you dare to lay a finger on my Jemmy, I'll kill the brute wherever I find him, and make him into saussingers, just for the pleasure of eating him. I'll send you a pound as a present. You marine, don't be a foolI can walk forward without your hoffering your arm, and be

d d to you." So saying, Moggy stalked forward and joined the men on the forecastle.

“D'ye know much of that strapping lass ?” said Mr. Vanslyperken's new acquaintance.

“ Not I,” replied Vanslyperken, not much pleased at the observation.

“ Well, look out for squalls, she'll be as good as her word. We'll draw the foresheet, and stand in now, if you please."

It was about dusk, for the days were now short, and the cutter was eight miles off the land. By the directions of the informer, for we have no other name to give him, they now bore up and ran along the island until they were, by his calculations, for it then was dark, abreast of a certain point close to the Black Gang Chyne. Here they hove to, hoisted out their boats, three in number, and the men were sent in, well armed with pistols and cutlasses. Short had the charge of one, Coble of the second, the stern sheets of the third was occupied by Vanslyperken and the informer. As soon as all was ready, Jemmy Ducks, who, much to Vanslyperken's wish, was left in charge of the cutter, received his orders to lie to where he was, and when the tide made flood, to stand close in shore, and all was prepared for a start, when it occurred to Vanslyperken that to leave Snarleyyow, after the threat of Jemmy's wife, and the known animosity of Smallbones, would be his death warrant. He determined, therefore, to take him in the boat. The informer protested against it, but Vanslyperken would not listen to his protestations. The dog was handed into the boat, and they shoved off. After they had pulled a quarter of an hour in shore, they altered their course, and continued along the coast until the informer had made out exactly where he was. He then desired the other two boats to come alongside, told the crews that they must keep the greatest silence, as where they were about to proceed was directly under where the smugglers would have a party to receive the goods, and that the least alarm would prevent them from making the capture. The boats then pulled in to some large rocks, against which the waves hoarsely murmured, although the sea was still smooth, and passing between them, found themselves in a very small cove, where the water was still, and in which there was deep water.

The cove was not defended so much by the rocks above water, for the mouth of it was wide; but there appeared to be a ridge below, which broke off the swell of the ocean. Neither was it deep, the beach not being more than perhaps fifty feet from the entrance. The boats, which had pulled in with muffled oars, here lay quietly for nearly an hour, when a fog came on and obscured the view of the offing, which otherwise was extensive, as the moon was at her full, and had shone bright.

“ This is all the better," whispered the informer, « they will fall into the trap at once. Hark! hist ! I hear oars.”

They all listened; it was true, the sound of oars were heard, and the men prepared their arms.

The splash of the oars was now more plain. "Be silent and ready," whispered the informer, and the whisper was passed round. In another minute a large lugger-built boat, evidently intended for sailing as well as pulling, was seen through the fog looming still larger from the mist, pulling into the cove.

“ Silence, and not a word. Let her pass us," whispered the informer.

The boat approached rapidly—she was within ten fathoms of the entrance, when Snarleyyow, hearing the sound, darted forward under the thwarts, and jumping on the bow of the boat, commenced a most unusual and prolonged baying of Bow wow, bow wow wow wow !

At the barking of the dog the smugglers backed water to stop their way. They knew that there was no dog with those they expected to meet, it was therefore clear that the Philistines were at hand. The dog barked in spite of all attempts to prevent him, and acting upon this timely warning, the lugger-boat pulled short round, just as lights were shown from the cliffs to notify an enemy at hand, for the barking of the dog had not escaped the vigilance of those on shore, and in a few seconds she disappeared in the mist.

“ Blast your cur! Five thousand pounds out of my pocket !” exclaimed the informer. “ I told you so. Chuck him overboard, my men, for your pockets would have been lined."

Vanslyperken was as savage, and exclaimed, “Give way, my men, give way; we'll have them yet."

“ Send a cow to chase a hare," replied the informer, throwing himself back in the stern sheets of the boat. “I know better; you may save yourself the trouble, and the men the fatigue. May the devil take you, and your cursed dog with you. Who but a fool would have brought a dog upon such an occasion ? Well, I've lost five thousand pounds ; but there's one comfort, you've lost too. That will be a valuable beast, if you put all down to his account.”

At this moment Vanslyperken was so much annoyed at the loss of what would have been a fortune to him, that he felt as angry as the informer. The boats' crews were equally enraged, the dog was pommelled, and kicked, and passed along from one to the other, until he at last gained the stern sheets, and crouched between the legs of his master, who kicked him away in a rage, and he saved himself under the legs of the informer, who, seizing a pistol, struck him with the butt end of it such a blow, that nothing but the very thick skull of the dog could have saved him. Snarley yow was at a sad discount just then, but he very wisely again sought protection with his master, and this time he was not noticed.

“ What are we to do now?” observed Vanslyperken.

“Go back again like dogs with their tails between their legs; but observe, Mr. Lieutenant, you have made me your enemy, and that is more serious than you think for.”

“ Silence, sir, you are in a king's boat." “ The king be

d d,” replied the informer, falling back sulkily against the gunnel of the boat.

“Give way, men, and pull on board,” said Vanslyperken, in equally bad humour. .

In equally bad humour the men did give way, and in about an hour. were on board of the cutter. .

Every one was in a bad humour when the affair was made known ; but Smallbones observed, “ that the dog could be no such great friend, as supposed, of Vanslyperken's, to thwart his interests in that way; and certainly no imp sent by the devil to his assistance.” The ship's company were consoled with this idea, and Jansen again repeated, “ that the tog was but a tog, after all.”

CHAPTER XVI.

In which we change the scene, and the sex of our performers. . We must now leave the cutter to return to Portsmouth, while we introduce to our readers a new and strange association. We stated that the boats had been ensconced in a very small cove at the back

of the Isle of Wight. Above these hung the terrific cliff of the Black Gang Chyne, which, to all appearance, was inaccessible. But this was not the case, or the smugglers would not have resorted there to disembark their cargo. At that time, for since that period much of the cliff has fallen down, and the aspect is much changed, the rocks rose up from the water nearly perpendicular, to the height of fifty or sixty feet. At that height there was a flat of about one hundred feet square in front of a cave of very great depth. The flat, so called in contradistinction to the perpendicular cliff, descended from the seaward to the cave, so that the latter was not to be seen either by vessels passing by, or by those who might be adventurous enough to peep over the ridge above; and fragments of rocks, dispersed here and there on this fat, or platform, induced people to imagine that the upper cliff was a continuation of the lower. The lower cliff, on which this platform in front of the cave was situated, was on the eastern side as abrupt as on that fronting the sea to the southward; but on the western side, its height was decreased to about fifteen feet, which was surmounted by a ladder removed at pleasure. To this means of access to the cave there was a zigzag path, used only by the smugglers, leading from the small cove, and another much more tedious, by which they could transport their goods to the summit of this apparently inaccessible mass of rocks. The cave itself was large, and with several diverging galleries, most of which were dry; but in one or two there was a continual filtering of clear pure water through the limestone rock, which was collected in pits dug for that purpose on the floor below ; these pits were always full of water, the excess being carried off by small open drains which trickled over the eastern side of the platform. Some attention to comfort had been paid by the inhabitants of these caverns, which were portioned off here and there with sail cloth and boards, so as to form separate rooms and storehouses. The cookery was carried on outside at the edge of the platform nearest the sea, under an immense fragment of rock, which lay at the very edge; and by an ingenious arrangement of smaller portions of the rock neither the flame was to be distinguished, nor was the smoke, which was divided and made to find its passage through a variety of fissures, ever in such a volume as to be supposed to be any thing more than the vapours drawn up by the heat of the sun.

In this abode there were at least thirty people residing, and generally speaking, it might be called a convent, for it was tenanted only by women. Their husbands, who brought over the cargoes," returning immediately in their boats to the opposite shore, for two reasons; one, that their boats could only land in particular seasons, and could never remain in the cove without risk of being dashed to pieces; and the other, that the absence of all men prevented suspicion; the whole of the interior smuggling being carried on by the other sex, who fearlessly showed themselves on every part of the island, and purchased their necessary supplies of provisions here and there, without exciting any misgivings as to the nature of their employment. A few isolated cottages, not far from the beetling brow of the cliff above, were their supposed abodes ; but no one ever troubled

them with a visit, and if they did, and found that they could gain no admittance, they imagined that the occupants had locked their doors for security, while they were busied with their labours in the field. Accustomed to climb up the tortuous path from the cave to the summit, the women would, on the darkest night, carry up their burdens and deposit them in the cottages above, until they had an opportunity of delivering their contraband articles into the hands of their agents; and this traffic had been carried on for many years, without the government or excise having the slightest suspicion by what means the smuggling was accomplished. As we before observed, the great articles in request, and which were now smuggled from France, were alamodes and lutestrings. The attention of government had been called to check the admission of these goods, but hitherto their attempts had not been attended with much success.

At the grey of the morning after the attempt to seize the smugglers had been defeated by the instrumentality of Snarley yow, upon the top of the immense fragment of the rock which we have described as lying upon the sea-edge of the platform, was perched a fair, slightmade little girl, of about twelve years of age. She was simply clad in a short worsted petticoat and bodice of a dark colour, her head was bare, and her hair fluttered with the breeze; her small feet, notwithstanding the severity of the weather, were also naked, and her short petticoat discovered her legs half way up to the knee. She stood there, within a few inches of the precipice below, carelessly surveying the waves as they dashed over the rocks, for she was waiting until the light would enable her to see further on the horizon. By those who might have leaned over the ridge above, as well as by those who sailed below, she might have been taken, had she been seen to move, for some sea bird reposing after a flight, so small was her frame in juxtaposition with the wildness and majesty of nature which surrounded her on every side. Accustomed from infancy to her mode of life, and this unusual domicile, her eye quailed not, nor did her heart beat quicker, as she looked down into the abyss below, or turned her eyes up to the beetling mass of rock which appeared, each moment, ready to fall down and overwhelm her. She passed her hand across her temples to throw back the hair which the wind had blown over her eyes, and again scanned the distance as the sun's light increased, and the fog gradually cleared away.

« A sharp look out, Lilly, dear; you've the best eyes among us, and we must have a clue from whence last night's surprise proceeded."

“I can see nothing yet, mother ; but the fog is driving back fast."

" It's but a cheerless night your poor father had, to pull twice across the channel, and find himself just where he was. God speed them, and may they be safe in port again by this time.”

" I say so too, mother, and amen." “ D'ye see nothing, child ?" “ Nothing, dear mother ; but it clears up fast to the eastward, and June 1836.-VOL. XVI.--NO. LXII.

« НазадПродовжити »