Imágenes de páginas

bad, and things which look very bad often turn out just as well. I recollect an instance which was told me, which I'll give you as a proof that we never know what is best for us in this world. A man may plan, and scheme, and think, in his blindness, that he has arranged everything so nicely that nothing can fail, and down he lies on his bed, and goes to sleep quite satisfied that affairs must turn out well as he has ordered them, forgetting that Providence disposes as it thinks fit. There was a gentleman by birth, of the name of Seton, who lived at Greenock; he was very poor, and, although he had high friends and relations well to do, he was too proud to ask for assistance. His wife was equally proud; and at last one day he died, leaving her with hardly a penny, and two fino boys, of the names of Archibald and Andrew. Well, the widow struggled on; how she lived no one knew, but she fed the boys and herself, and was just as stately as ever. Her relations did offer to educate the boys, and send them to sea, but she refused all assistance. There was a foundation or chartered school at Greenock, to which she was entitled to send her children to be educated without expense, and to that school they went. I don't know why, but they say the master had had a quarrel with their father when he was alive, and the master had not forgotten it now he was dead, and in consequence he was very severe upon these two boys, and used to beat them without mercy; at all events it did them good, for they learnt faster than any of the others who were at all favoured, and they soon proved the best boys in the school. Well, time ran on, till Archibald was thirteen, and Andrew twelve years old ; and, being very tired of school, they asked their mother what profession they were to be of, and she answered, 'Anything except going to sea, for there you will never get on. But times became harder with the widow; she had not enough to give the boys to eat, and they complained bitterly; but it was of no use, so they got on how they could, until, one day, Archy says to Andrew, Why, brother, we have nothing but ferrule for breakfast, dinner, and supper, and I see little chance of our getting anything more. Mother, poor soul! has not enough for herself to eat, and she very often gives us her dinner, and goes without. I can't stand it any longer; what shall we do, shall we seek our fortunes ?' “Yes,' says Andrew, “and when we are gone, mother will have enough for herself.'

"Well, they say anything is better than going to sea, but I don't know how we can do anything else.'

Well, Archy, going to sea may be the worst of all, but it's better than taking the victuals out of poor mother's mouth.'

“That's very true; so we'll be off, Andrew.

“They walked down to the pier, and then they fell in with the captain of a vessel going foreign, and they asked him whether he wanted any boys on board.

Why,' says he, 'I wouldn't care, but you've never been to sea before.'

“No,' said Archy; but there must be a beginning to everything.'

“Well,' said the captain, 'I suppose you've run away from your friends, and, as I can't get apprentices now, I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll take you on board, and as soon as we get round to another port in the Channel, I'll bind you as apprentices for three years. Will you agree to that?'

" The boys said 'yes,' and the captain told them that he should sail the next morning about daylight, and that they must be down at the pier by that time; so they went back again to their mother, and said nothing about what had passed. There was no supper that night, which confirmed them in their resolution; they kissed their mother, and went up to bed, packed up all their clothes, and before she was down stairs the next morning they were on board of the vessel.

“Well, they were duly apprenticed when the ship arrived at Weymouth, and then off they went. The other men on board were, as usual, very much afraid of being pressed, and every plan was hit upon for stowing away when they were boarded by a man-of-war. Well, time passed, and after many voyages they had both nearly served their time; they were tall, stout young men, and looked older than they really were. At last, one day, when off the Western Isles, they were boarded by a frigate, and the officer who came in the boat asked Archy what he was, and he replied he was an apprentice.

“. You an apprentice! cried he, 'that won't do.' 666 But here are the indentures.'

“* All forged,' cried the officer; just get into the bont, my lad.' (You see that's a very common trick of oflicers; if a boy's grown up and fit for service, they don't care about indentures.) “Well, Archy found it was of no use; so he gets his kit and steps into the boat, shaking hands with Andrew, who was shedding tears at the thoughts of parting with his brother.

“It's no use crying, Andrew,' says ho; 'I miglit

bave been second mate in three months, as the captain promised me, when my time was up, and then I should have been protected, and might have risen from mate to captain ; but now it's all over with me. May you have better luck, and I hope the captain will give you the berth instead of me.' Well, away went Archy on board of the man-of-war, looking very gloomy as you may suppose. When he went aft on the quarter-deck, the captain asked him his name, and where he came from *Ah !' said the captain, and who

are your friends?' So Archy told him that he had only his mother left. The captain asked him a good many more questions as to whether he had been educated or not, and what he knew; and then rated him A.B., and put him into the main top. Well, Archy remained there for about six months, and found that a man-ofwar was not so bad a place after all; and he was well treated by the captain and officers, the more so as he was a good scholar. After the cruise was over, the frigate ran into the Channel, and anchored in Portland Roads, where there were a great many vessels windbound. As usual, they sent round to press the men. Now Archy was one of those sent in the boats, and by this time, being a man-of-war's man all over, he was just as eager to get the men as the others were. They boarded several vessels, and got some men ; about dark they buarded one which laid well in the offing. The captain was not on board, and the men were turned up, but they were very few, and all protected. Now Archy, who was up to the hiding-places on board a merchant vessel, goes down with his cutlass, and

crawls about in the dark, until at last he gets hold of a man by the heels. • Come out, you thief,' cries be, come out directly, or I'll give you an inch of my cutlass ;' so the man, finding that he could not help himself, backs out, stern foremost. Archy collars hin, and takes him on deck, when who should it prove to be but his own brother Andrew! “Oh, Archy, Archy! I didn't think this of you.'

Well, Andrew, I didn't know it was you, but there's no help for it; you must come and serve in the main top along with me, and give up all chance of being a mate or captain of a merchant vessel. We're in bad luck, that's clear; but it can't be helped.' There was a good laugh on board of the man-of-war at Archy pressing his own brother, and the captain was very much amused.

I'm very sorry for it,' said Archy.

"Now the captain was short of midshipmen, and, being obliged to sail immediately, he determined to put Archy on the quarter-deck, and so he did, while Andrew served in the main top. But this did not last long; the captain, who liked Andrew quite as well, and who knew their family and connections, put Andrew also on the quarter-deck: and what was the consequence? Why, they are now both post captains, commanding fine frigates ; so you see, going on board of a man-of-war, which they conceived as their ruin, was the means of their rising to rank and riches, for they have been very lucky in the service. I heard Captain Archibald tell the story himself one day, as I helped at dinner in the cabin, when I was coxswain with Sir Hercules."

« AnteriorContinuar »