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“I believe I've got the two first; I don't know about the other."
“I suppose not; it hasn't been tried yet. How far can you see through a fog?"
“According how thick it is.”
“I see you've a glass there; tell me what you make of that vessel just opening from Blackwall Reach?"
“ What, that ship?"
"Oh, you can make it out to be a ship, can you, with the naked eye? Well, then, you have good eyes."
I fixed my glass upon the vessel; and, after a time, not having forgotten the lessons so repeatedly given me by Spicer, I said, “She has no colours up; but she's an Embden vessel, by her build.”
"Oh!" said he, hand me the glass. The boy's right, -and a good glass, too. Come, I see you do know something; and good knowledge, too, for a pilot. It often saves us a deal of trouble when we know a vessel by her build; them foreigners sail too close to take pilots. Can you stand cold ? Have you got a P-jacket ?” “ Yes ; father bought me one."
Well, you'll want it this winter; for the wild geose tell us that it will be a sharp one. Steady, starboard !"
“Starboard it is !"
“Well, stop till we get down to Deal. Now, stand by me, and keep your eyes wide open; for, d'ye sco, you've plenty to larn, and you can't begin too soon. We must square the mainyard, captain, if you please," continued he, as we entered Blackwall Reach.
“ What could make the river so perverse as to take these two bends in Limehouse and Blackwall reaches, unless to give pilots trouble, I can't say."
The wind being now contrary, from the sharp turn in the river, we were again tiding it down; that is, hove to and allowing the tide to drift us through the Reach; but, as soon as we were clear of Blackwall Reach, we could lay our course down the river. As we passed Gravesend, Bramble asked me whether I was ever so low down.
“Yes," replied I, “I have been down as far as Sea Reach;" which I had been when I was upset in the wherry, and I told him the story.
“Well, Tom, that's called the river now; but do you know that, many years ago, where we now are used to be considered as the mouth of the river, and that fort there” (pointing to Tilbury Fort)“ was built to defend it; for they say the French fleet used to come and anchor down below.”
“ Yes," replied I; "and they say, in the History of England, that the Danes used to come up much higher, even up to Greenwich ; but that's a very long while ago."
“Well, you beat me, Tom; I never heard that; and I think, if ever they did do so, they won't do it again in a hurry. What water have you got, my man ? Port there !"
“ Port it is.”
“Shall we get down to the Nore to-night, pilot ?" said the captain.
“Why, sir, I'm in hopes we shall; we have still nearly three hours daylight; and now that we are clear of the Hope, we shall lay fairly down Sea Reach; and if the wind will only freshen a little (and it looks very like it), we shall be able to stem the first of the flood, at all events.”
I ought to observe, that Bramble, as soon as he had passed any shoal or danger, pointed it out to me: he said, —
“I tell it to you, because you can't be told too often. You won't recollect much that I tell you, I dare say; I don't expect it; but you may recollect a little, and every little helps.”
The tide had flowed more than an hour when we passed the Nore light and came to an anchor.
“What lights are those ?" inquired I.
“That's Sheerness,” replied Bramble. “ We were talking of the French and Danes coming up the river. Why, Tom, it is not much more than one hundred and fifty years ago when the Dutch flect came up to Sheerness, destroyed the batteries and landed troops there; howsomever, as I said of the French and the other chaps, they won't do so again in a hurry."
As soon as they had veered out sufficient cable, Bramble accepted the invitation of the captain to go down in the cabin, when I went and joined the men, who were getting their supper forwards. I was soor: on good terms with them; and after supper, as it was cold, they went down to the foro peak, got out some beer and grog, and we sat round in a circle, with the bottles and mugs and a farthing candle in the centre, Being right in the eyes of her, as it is termed, we could plainly hear the water slapping against the bends outside of her, as it was divided by the keelson, and borno away by the strong flood tide. It was a melancholy sound; I had never heard it before; and during ! pause, as I listened to it, one of the men observed, “Queer sound, boy, ain't it? You'd think that the water was lapping in right among us. But noises aboard ship don't sound as they do on shore; I don't know why." No more did I at that time; the fact is, that nothing conveys sound better than wood, and every slight noise is magnified, in consequence, on board of a vessel.
“I recollect when I was on a Mediterranean voyage how we were frightened with noises, sure enough,” observed one of the men.
“ Come, that's right, Dick, give us a yarn,” said tho others.
“ Yes,” replied Dick, “and it's a true yarn too, and all about a ghost."
Well, stop a moment,” said one of the men, let us top this glim a bit before you begin; for it seemed to get dimmer the moment you talked about a ghost.” Dick waited till a little more light was obe tained, and then commenced.
“I had shipped on board of a vessel bound to Smyrna, now about seven years ago. We had gone down to Portsmouth, where we waited for one of the partners of the house by which we had been freighted, and who was going out as passenger.
We were a man short, and the captain went on shore to get one from
the crimps, whom he krew very well, and the fellows promised to send one on board the next morning. Well, sure enough a wherry came off with him just before break of day, and he and his traps were taken on board ; but it was not perceived, at the time, what he had in his arms under his grego; and what do you think it proved to be at daylight? Why- large black tom cat."
“What, a black one ?”
“Yes, as black as the enemy himself. The fellow came down forward with it, and so says I, “Why, messmate, you're not going to take that animal to sea with
«« Yes, I am,' said he very surlily; 'it's an old friend of mine, and I never parts with him.'
"Well,' says I, you'll find the difference when the captain hears on it, I can tell you; and, for the matter of that, I won't promise you that it will be very safe if it comes near me, when I've a handspike in my hand.
“I tell you what,' says he, “it ain't the taking of a cat on board what brings mischief; but it's turning one out of a ship, what occasions ill-luck. No cat ever sunk a ship till the animal was hove overboard, and sunk first itself, and then it does drag the ship down after it.'
Well, one of the boys who did not care about such things, for he was young and ignorant, put his hand to the cat's head to stroke it, and the cat bit him right through the fingers, at which the boy gave a loud cry.
“Now, that will teach you to leave my cat alone, said the man ;
· he won't coine near nobody but me,