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“He's on board of the Indiaman, but being in chargo he cannot come on shore, so he sent me.”
“Oh! I'm so glad you have been away so long; and we have had nothing but gales of wind; and do you know that Williams and Steers are both drowned ?"
“No, indeed, we know nothing; but father will be sorry to hear of it, for they were friends of his.”
“Well, Tom, it's not fair to leave a little girl like me alone here, for Mrs. Maddox has kept her bed ever since you left. Her leg is better, but she has pains in her limbs, and groans so all night, and here I am left by myself, to hear her groan and the wind roar.”
Here Bessy began to cry, and I to console her as well as I could, although I did feel that it was hard that such a child should be left so lonely. The presents I brought her made her wipe away her tears, and she was very soon as lively and joyous as ever.
“I heard father say, Bessy," (I always called Bramble my father, as he had said I might) “ that he had picked up something this winter, for he has had none but heavy vessels, and you know pilotage is paid by the draught of water."
Well, he may have made money, but I'm sure we haven't spent any to matter; for I have hardly been once a week to Mrs. Maddox for money since you have gone. She eats hardly anything, and I can't eat my mcals, when I'm alone down here. Will father come home after he has been up the river?”
“Yes, Bessy, he said that we should take a spell on shore."
"Tom, don't you think I might go on board and see him for half an hour ?"
“ Yes, I don't see why not: speak to Mrs. Maddox.”
Bessy ran up stairs, and came down with the required permission, provided a neighbour's girl would remain in the house, and that she went under my escort. Her bonnet was soon on, and we obtained a passage in one of the Indiaman's boats which was shoving off, for the water was quite smooth, and the ship's boats could lie on the shingle without difficulty. The officer took Bessy under his boat cloak, and we were soon on board. Bramble was not on deck at the time, and when I went down to look for him, Bessy remained on the quarter-deck in admiration of all she
But Bramble was not below as I supposed : he had gone into the cuddy with the captain; and when he came out, his first knowledge of Bessy's being on board was being embraced by the waist with her little
"Why, Bessy, my child !" said Bramble, just as I returned on deck. “ This is Master Tom's doing," continued he, kissing her; “so you have come to see your father?"
“Why, you would not come on shore to see me, father," said Bessy, as Bramble took her up and kissed
"Well, Tom, have you brought the clean things ?" “No, I must go on shore again with Bessy, father.” “Very true, so you must.”
Bessy was taken much notice of by the captain and all on board. No wonder ; her fair skin, and clear transparent red and white, were in such contrast with the bilious-looking passengers, that she appeared as if she was not of the same race. She was much admired, and received many little presents; and when she left the ship, after staying on board an hour, she was much delighted with her trip, and still more so with the promise of Bramble, that he would stay ashore for some time, as soon as he came back from the river. I remained with her on shore till dusk, and then, having collected the clean linen, as we were expected to sail early the next morning, I returned on board the Indiaman.
SHOWING THE IMPORTANCE, ON BOARD SHIP, OF A ROPE'S END
The next morning, as we expected, the orders came down for the Indiaman to go round to the river. The wind was fair, but light; we hove up and made sail, stemming the last of the ebb. When the flood made, the wind died away, so that we made but little progress; much to the annoyance of those on board, who were naturally impatient to land after so tedious a voyage. Towards the evening it fell calm, and a fog bank rose on the horizon to the eastward. There wero still two hours of daylight, when, as I was sweeping the horizon with my glass, I discovered the three masts of a vessel with no sails set on them. As she was a long way off, I went half way up the main rigging to have a better view of her, and made her out to be & large lugger. I went dowa to the poop, where Bramblo
stood smoking a cheroot with some of the officers of the ship. “Father,” says I, “there's a large lugger on our beam, with her sails lowered down. I caught her masts with the glass just now.”
“ Then she's a French privateer, you may depend upon it,” replied Bramble, “and she means to try to take us by surprise to-night."
The officers went down and reported it to the captain : the glasses were fixed upon her, and there was little doubt as to what she was.
"Lucky you discovered her, boy, for we might have been surprised, that's a fact,” said the captain ; “however, now she shall catch a Tartar."
She's waiting for the fog, captain,” said Bramble, “ which will come rolling down with the shift of wind in about an hour or two, I expect; and then we must allow her another hour to get alongside of us. Depend upon it she has plenty of men, and intends to try to board us in the fog.”
Everybody was now on the qui vive; the women were, as usual, frightened; the men passengers lookel grave; the Lascars rather unsteady ; but we had forty English seamen, and a hundred invalid soldiers on board, who could all be depended upon. The guns were loaded and shotted ; and the invalid soldiers were mastered; muskets and ammunition handed up; the bayonets fixed, unfixed again, and then they were ordered to remain on the booms with their accoutrements on and their muskets by their sides. Tho officers still kept their glasses on the lugger, until at last the fog came down and we could see her no moro.
The officers who commanded the invalids, after a
consultation with the captain, at which Bramble assisted, told off their men into two parties, one of them being appointed to assist the seamen with their bayonets in repelling the boarders (should the attempt be made), and the other to fire upon them, and into the deck of the vessel, when she came alongside. The Lascars were stationed at the guns, in case they might be required; but no great dependence was placed upon their services.
By the time that these arrangements had been made, the fog had reached the Indiaman, and we were at the same time taken aback with the easterly breeze which brought it down to us: being near to the land, we put the ship's head off shore. The wind continued light and the water smooth, but the fog thickened every minute : at last we could hardly sce as far as the foremast of the vessel.
“He'll be puzzled to find us, I think,” said the captain. “ He'll find us, never fear,” replied Bramble.
“ Ho has calculated the time of the fog reaching us, and he knows that we must lay our head off shore : to be sure, we might give him the go-by if we bore up and ran back again to the Downs.”
“ I think I see myself bearing up and running away from a rascally French privateer,” said the captain. “Keep a sharp look out there forward.”
“Ay, ay, sir,” replied the chief officer.
Half an hour more passed, and by our calculation the privateer should have been on board of us, but wo could see nothing of her, although the fog had cleared up a little. The soldiers were now ordered to load