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occurred during the night, and my intention to consult with my father and Anderson upon the subject.
Virginia then left me that she might assist her mother, and I hastened to my father's ward, where I found him, and, after our first greeting, requested that he would accompany me to Anderson's office, as I had something to communicate to them both. As I walked along with my father, I perceived Spicer at a corner, with his foot on a stone step, and his hand to his knee, as if in pain. At last he turned round and saw us. I walked up to him, and he appeared a little confused, as he said, “ Ah! Tom, is that you? I did not know you were at Greenwich.” “I came here last night," replied I ; " and I must be off again dre you
lame?" “ Lame! No; what should make me lame?" replied he, walking by the side of us as if he were not so.
I looked at his coat, and perceived that the third button on the right side was missing.
“ You've lost a button, Spicer,” observed I.
“ So I have,” replied he; and, as we had now arrived at Anderson's door, my father and I turned from him to walk in, and wished him good-by.
Anderson was in his office; and, as soon as the door was closed, I communicated to them what had occurred during the night, expressing my conviction that Spicer was the party who had attempted the murder. In corroboration I reminded my father of the loss of the button from Spicer's coat, and produced the one which Nanny had torn off.
“ This is something more than suspicion," observed Anderson ; “ but if, as you say, Old Nanny will not give evidence against him, I know not what can be done. Did you say that the old woman wanted to speak with me?"
“ Yes, and I really wish that you would call there oftener."
“Well," replied Anderson, “I'll go, Tom ; but, to be plain with you, I do not think that I can be of much use there. I have been several times : she will gossip as long as you please; but, if you would talk seriously, she turns a deaf ear. You see, Tom, there's little to be gained when you have to contend with such a besetting sin as avarice. It is so powerful, especially in old age, that it absorbs all other feelings. Still it is my duty, and it is also my sincere wish, to call her to a proper sense of her condition. The poor old creature is, like myself, not very far from the grave; and, when once in it, it will be too late. I will go, Tom; and most thankful shall I be, if, with God's help, I inay prove of service to her.”
We then left old Anderson to his duties, and my father went home with me. We had a long conversation relative to my sister, as well as about my own affairs. I had intended to have remained some days at Greenwich, but this was the first time that I had been there since Janet's desertion, and the sight of every thing so reminded me of her, and made every thing so hateful to me, that I became very melancholy. My mother was, moreover, very cross, and my sister any thing but comfortable; and, on the third day, having received a letter from Bramble, stating that he had arrived at Deal, and that the easterly winds having again set in, they talked of setting out again in the galley, I made this an excuse for leaving; and, for the first time, did I quit Greenwich without regret.
IN WHICH IT IS PROVED THAT SAILORS HAVE VERY CORRECT IDEAS AS
The day after my return to Deal I again embarked with Bramble and three others, to follow up our vocation. The second day we were abreast of the Ram Head, when the men in another pilot boat, which had come out of Plymouth and was close to us, waved their hats and kept away to speak to us. We hove-to for them.
“Have you heard the news ?” cried one of the men.
“Lord Nelson's killed ! !” the intelligence was repeated from mouth to mouth, and then every voice was hushed; the other boat hauled her wind without further communication, nor did we at the time think of asking for any more.
The shock which was given to the whole country was equally felt by those who were seeking their bread in a small boat, and for some little while we steered our course in silence.
“What d'ye say, my lads ?” said Bramble, who first broke silence ; “shall we haul up for Cawsand, and get a paper ? I sha'n't be content till I know the whole history."
This was consented to unanimously; no one thought of piloting vessels for the moment, and earning food for their families. When the country awarded a public funeral to our naval hero, it did not pay him a more sincere tribute than was done in this instance by five pilots in a galley. At Cawsand we obtained the newspaper, and after a few pots of beer, we again made sail for the mouth of the Channel. It hardly need be observed, that the account of this winding-up, as it proved, of our naval triumphs, with the death of Nelson, was the subject of conversation for more than one day. On the third, we were all separated, having fallen in with many wind-bound vessels who required our services. The one I took charge of was a West Indiaman, deeply laden with rum and sugar, one of a convoy which were beating about in the chops of the Channel. As we were standing out from the English coast, the captain and one of the passengers were at the taffrail close to me.
“What do you think of the weather, pilot ?" said the captain.
“I think we shall have a change of wind, and dirty weather before twelve hours are over our heads,” replied I. “Well," said he, “that's my opinion; there is a cloud rising in the south west ; and, look, there are some Mother Carey's chickens dipping in the water astern."
“Where?” said the passenger, a curly-headed Creole, about twenty years old.
“Those small birds," replied the captain, walking forward.
The passenger went down belaw, and soon returned with his double-barrelled fowling-piece.
“ I have long wished to shoot one of those birds,” said he ; “and now they are so near, I think I may get a shot."
He raised his piece several times without firing, when the captain came aft, and perceiving his intention, caught his arm as he was about to level again.
“I beg your pardon, Mr. Higgins, but I really must request that you
will not fire at those birds." “Why not?" “Because I cannot permit it.”
“But what's to hinder me?" replied the young man, colouring up; "they are not in your manifest, I presume."
“ No, sir, they are not; but I tell you frankly, that I would not kill one for a hundred pounds. Nay, I would as soon murder one of my fellow-creatures."
“Well, that may be your feeling, but it's not mine."
“ Nevertheless, sir, as it is, to say the least of it, very unlucky, you will oblige me by yielding to my request."
“ Nonsense !—just to humour your superstitious feeling."
“ We are not in port yet, Mr. Higgins; and I must insist upon it you
do not fire. You have taken my gunpowder, and I cannot allow it to be used in that way.”
During this altercation I observed that many of the sailors had come aft, and, although they said nothing, were evidently of the same opinion as the captain. I was aware that there was a superstitious feeling among the seamen relative to these birds, but I had never seen it so strongly exemplified before.
The mate gave a wink to the captain, behind the passenger's back, and made a motion to him to go forward, which the captain
my gun alone.”
did. The passenger again raised his gun, when it was seized by two of the seamen.
“You must not fire at these birds, sir !” said one of them.
“Why, you scoundrel ? — I'll give you the contents of both barrels if
don't leave “No, you won't - you're not among niggers now, master,” replied the seaman ; “and as you have threatened to shoot me, I must take the
from you." A scuffle ensued, during which both barrels were discharged in the air, and the gun taken from Mr. Higgins, who was boiling with rage: the gun was handed forward, and I saw it no more. Mr. Higgins, in a state of great excitement, went down into the cabin.
The captain then came aft to me, when I observed that I had no idea that seamen were so very particular on that point; and I thought that they had gone too far.
“You may think so, pilot,” replied he; “ but when I tell you that I fully believe that these birds are as good as ourselves, you will not be surprised
“ How do you mean, as good as ourselves ?”
“I believe that they were every one sailors like ourselves in former times ; they are now the sailors' friends, come to warn us of the approaching storm, and I can tell you a circumstance which occurred in the West Indies, which fully proves to me that they are not wantonly killed without a judgment upon those who
I never believed it myself till then; but old Mason, who is now on board, was one of the seamen of the vessel in which the circumstance happened.”
“ Indeed !" replied I, “I should like to hear it."
“I can't tell you now," said he; “I must go down and satisfy that
puppy Creole, whose sugars are on board; he will otherwise make such a row between me and the owners, that I may lose the command of the vessel. And yet, would you imagine it? although he will not credit what I tell him about Mother Carey's chickens, the foolish young man firmly believes in the Obi.”
I did not think one superstition more ridiculous than the other,