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We will now suppose the king's health drank, with the hearty and loyal God bless him I from every lip—the navy drank, and thanks returned by the doctor, with his mouth full of vegetable marrow—the army drank, and thanks returned by the major, after clearing his throat with a bumper of brandy—and after “Rule Britannia” had ceased echoing along the now silent esplanade, that had been thundered forth with such energy by the black band, an awful pause
Our first lieutenant of marines rises, and like conscience, “with a still small voice,” thus delivers himself of the anxiety with which his breast was labouring.
“ Major Flushfire, may I claim the privilege of the similar colour of our cloth to entreat the favour of your attention. Ah! hehlbut this land-breeze-laden, perhaps, with the germs of the yellowfever-mephitic—and all that-you understand me, Dr. Thompson ?"
“ As much as you do yourself.”
“ Thank you—men of superior education-sympathy—and all that--you understand me fully, major. Now this night breeze coming through that half-open jalousie-miasmata—and all that. Dr. Armstrong, Dr. Thompson-medical pill—“ pillars of the state "you'll pardon the classical allusion
“I won't,” growled out the doctor.
“ Ah-so like you-so modest—but don't you think the draught is a little dangerous ?”.
“ Do you mean the doctor's, or this ?” said the inattentive and thirsty major, fetching a deep breath, as he put down the huge glass tumbler of sangaree. “O dear no l-I mean the night draught through the window.”
The best way to dispose of it,” said the purser, nodding at the melting Galen,
“ No," replied Major Flushfire courteously, “there's no danger in it at all—I like it."
“ Bless me, major !” said the marine,“ why it comes all in gusts .!"
“ Like it all the better,” rejoined the major, with his head again half buried in the sangaree glass.
“ De gustibus, non est disputandum,” observed Thompson.
“ Very true," said the marine officer, looking sapiently. That remark of yours about the winds is apposite. We ought to dispute their entrance, as you said in Latin. But is it quite fair, my dear doctor, for you and me to converse in Latin ? We may be taking an undue advantage of the rest of the company." “ Greek! Greek!” said the purser.
Aye, certainly-it was Greek to Mr. Smallcoates," muttered Thompson.
“ To be sure it was," said the innocent marine. “ Major Flushfire,” continued he, again on his legs, “may I again entreat the honour of your attention. Dr. Thompson has just proved, by a quotation from a Greek author, Virgil or Paracelsus, I am not certain which, that the entrance of the night air into a hot room is highly injurious, and in—in—and all that. You understand me perfectly—would it be asking too much to have all the windows closed ?”
“ Ovens and furnaces !" cried out the chairman, starting up. “ Look at me and worthy Doctor Thompson. Are we persons to enjoy a repetition of the Blackhole of Calcutta ? The sangaree, Quasha-suffocation ! The thought chokes me !” and he recommenced his devotions to the sangaree.
“ It melts me,” responded the doctor, swabbing his face with the napkin. is Are
you afraid of taking cold ?" said the purser to Mr. Smallcoates.
“ Taking cold—let the gentleman take his wine," said the major.
“ I must confess I am not so much afraid of cold as of fever. I believe, major, you have been three years in this very singularly hot and cold climate. Now, my dear sir, may I tax your experience to tell us which is the better method of living? Some say temperance, carried out even to abstemiousness, is the safer; others, that the fever is best repelled by devil's punch, burnt brandy, and high living. Indeed, I may say that I speak at the request of my messmates. Do, major, give us your opinion.”
“ I think,” said the man of thirst,“ the medical gentlemen should be applied to in preference to an old soldier like myself. They have great practice in disposing of fever cases."
“ But if we must die either of diet or the doctor, I am for knowing,” said the purser, “ what sort of diet is most dilatory in its despatch.”
“Well, I will not answer the question, but state the facts. My messmates can vouch for the truth of them. Five years ago, and not three, I came out with a battalion of this regiment. We mustered twenty-five officers in all. We asked ourselves the very same question you have just asked of me. We split into two parties nearly even in number. Twelve of us took to water, temperance, and all manner of preservatives; the other thirteen of us led a harum-scarum life, ate whenever we were hungry, and when we were not hungry, drank whenever we were thirsty, and when we were not thirsty, and to create a thirst, we qualified our claret with brandy; and generally forgot the water, or substituted madeira for it, in making our punch. This portion of our body, like Jack Falstaff, was given to sleeping on bulkheads on moonlight nights, shooting in the midday sun, riding races, and sometimes, hem ! assisting-a-a—at drinking matches."
Here the worthy soldier made a pause, appeared more thirsty than ever, scolded Quasha for not brandying his sangaree, and swigging it with the air of an Alexander, he proceeded to drain the cup that was fatal, and looked round with conscious superiority. The pale ensign looked more pale—the sentimental lieutenants more sentimental—many thrust their wine and their punch from before them, and there was a sudden competition for the water jug. The marine officer carried a stronger expression than anxiety upon his features—it was consternation—and thus hesitatingly delivered himself : “ And-so-so-sir--the bon vivants—deluded-poor
deluded gentlemen! all perished--but-pardon me—delicate dilemma-but yourself, my good major."
Exactly, Mr. Smallcoates; and within the eighteen months."
There was a perceptible shudder through the company, military as well as naval. The pure element became in more demand than ever, and those who did not actually push away their claret, watered it. The imperturbable major brandied his sangaree more potently.
“ But," said Mr. Smallcoates, brightening up," the temperate gentlemen all escaped the contagion-undoubtedly !"
“I beg your pardon—they all died within the year. I alone remain of all the officers to tell the tale. The year eight was dreadful. Poor fellows !" The good major’s voice faltered, and he bent over his sangaree much longer than was necessary to enjoy the draught.
Blank horror passed her fearful glance from guest to guest. Even the rubicund doctor's mouth was twitched awry. I did not quite like it myself.
“ But I'm alive," said the major, rallying up from his bitter recollections, “and the brandy is just as invigorating, and the wine just as refreshing, as ever.”
“ The major is alive," said the marine officer, very sapiently. “Is that brandy before you, Mr. Farmer? I'll trouble you for it-I really feel this claret very cold upon my stomach. “ Yes," he repeated, after taking down a tumbler full of half spirits, half wine, “ the major is alive-and-so am I."
The major is alive,” went round the table; “ let us drink his health in bumpers."
The major returned thanks, and volunteered a song. I begged it, and the reader may sing it as he pleases, though I shall please myself by recording how the major was pleased to have it sung.
“ Gentlemen,” said he, “ you will do me the favour to fill a bumper of lemonade, and when I cry chorus, chorus me standing, with the glasses in your hands; and at the end of each chorus you will be pleased to remember, that the glass is to be drained. No heel-taps after, and no daylight before. Now for it, my lads,” and with a voice that must have startled the land crabs from their avocations, he roared out
“ Yellow Jack! Yellow Jack! hie thee back! bie thee back!
l'll be sober and staid,
And drink LEMONADE,
Yellow Jack !
“ But he came, the queer thief, and be seiz'd my right hand,
And I writh'd and I struggled, yet could not withstand
CHORUS, (with increasing loudness.)
We'll be sober and staid,
And we'll drink lemonade,
Yellow Jack! (tremendously.) " Bumpers of sangaree," roared the major, and sang,
“ Yellow Jack! Yellow Jack! bie thee back! hie thee back !
For I'll drink SANGAREE,
Whilst my heart's full of glee,
Yellow Jack !
How I burn'd, and I froze, and all vainly I tried
Chorus, (still more loudly.)
For we'll drink sangaree,
Whilst our hearts throb with glee,
Yellow Jack !"
After the sangaree, strong and highly spiced, had been quaffed, the excitement grew wilder, and the leader of our revels exclaimed at the top of his voice, “Wine, gentlemen, wine-brimmers," and thus continued
“ Yellow Jack! Yellow Jack! bie thee back! hie thee back!
Pure wine now I'll drink,
So Jack, I should think,
Yellow Jack !
“ But a third time he came, and seized hold of my head,
'Twas in vain that the doctor both blister'd and bled,
Pure wine now we'll drink,
So Jack, we should think,
Yellow Jack !
“ Brandy," shouted the major. “Brandy-he's craven who shirks the call.” There was no one there craven but myself. My youth excused my apostasy from the night's orgies. The major resumed, his red face intensely hot and arid.
“ Yellow Jack! Yellow Jack! hie thee back! hie thee back!
For with BRANDY I'll save
My heart, and thus brave
Yellow Jack !
Brandy punch and neat brandy drink morn, noon, and eve,
The chorus, (most uproariously.)
" Yellow Jack! Yellow Jack! hie thee back! hie thee back!
For with brandy we'll save
Our hearts, and thus brave
Yellow Jack !"
At last “ Yellow Jack” was thundered out loud enough to awake his victims from the palisades. The company were just then fit for any thing, but certainly most fit for mischief. Our first lieutenant intimated to me that the jolly-boat was waiting, to take the junior officers on board—considerate man-so I took the hint, marvelling much upon the scene that I had just witnessed.
Whether or not there was any mystic virtue in the exorcisory cantation of the previous night, I cannot determine ; but it is certain, that next morning, though headaches abounded among our officers, indications of fever there were none.
But, as it is not my intention to write a diary of my life, which was like all other midshipmen's lives in the West Indies, I shall pass over some months, during which we remained tolerably healthy, took many prizes, cut out some privateers, and spent money so rapidly gained, in a manner still more rapid.
Of my own messmates I remember but little. They were generally shockingly ignorant young men, who had left school too early, to whom books were an aversion, and all knowledge, save that merely nautical, a derision. I had to go more often to fisty-cuffs with these youths, in defending my three deckers—words of Latin or Greek derivation—than on any other occasion. I remember well that the word “idiosyncracy” got me two black eyes, and my opponent as “pretty a luxation" of the shoulder, by being tumbled down the main hatchway at the close of the combat, as any man of moderate expectations might desire. I was really obliged to mind my parts of speech. I know, that instead of using the obnoxious word, idiosyncracy, I should have said, that Mr. So-and-so had “ a list to port in his ideas." I confess my error-my sin against elegance was great; but it must be said in extenuation, that then I was young and foolish.
However, I really liked my mode of life. Notwithstanding my occasional squabbles with my messmates upon my inadvertently launching a first rate, I can safely say, I was beloved by every body-nor is the term too strong. The captain liked me because I was always well dressed, of an engaging appearance, and a very handsome appendage to his gig, and aide-de-camp in his visits on shore ; perhaps from some better motives—though certainly, amidst all his kindness to me, he once treated me most tyrannously. The doctor and the purser liked me, because I could converse with them rationally upon matters not altogether nautical. The master almost adored me, because, having a good natural talent for drawing, I made him plans of the hold, and the stowage of his tiers of water-casks, and sketches of headlands in his private log-book, to all which he was condescending enough to put his own name. The other superior officers thought me a