Imágenes de páginas

my father inspired me with a feeling of tenderness towards him, which I could not repress. I was old enough to understand why my mother had received such treatment, and I could not feel angry with my father; I therefore stayed below, and went for the porter as was required.

I believe that at first it had been my father's intontions to have administered a much severer castigation to my mother, and then to have left the house, taking me with him, for he had not been apprised of the birth of Virginia ; but whatever were his intentions before he came, or for the morrow, it is certain that he continued to smoke and talk with old Ben the Whaler till a very late hour, while I sat by and listened.




“I BEG pardon, messmate," said Ben, as he and my father became more sociable, “but may I make so bold as to ask you how you contrived to get that seam across your figurehead ? You did say something about a Frenchman, if I heard right; and as the war is now of two years' standing, I suppose you've had a rap or two at Mounseer.”

Xpect I have," replied my father. “Well, old chap, I'll just wet my whistle, and then I'll tell you all about it,-and it won't take long neither. The boats were ordered away

[ocr errors]

we were

“Of what ship, messmate ?"

" Very true, I began in the middle. Well, it was in the ship I now belongs to, the Oudacious with the squadron off Ferrol ;-signal made to chase south-east-clapt every stitch on her after two gunboats, who were running down in-shore. Light winds -got well in for the land, and then it fell calm. Gunboats four miles off, using their sweeps--out boats in chase, -I was coxswain of the first pinnace,-a devilish fast boat, messmate, I can tell you, with a smart brass gun,-pulled two feet to their one, and came up with them hand-over-hand- both cutters and the other pinnace well up with us—the old launch half a mile astern. Now you see, sir, I've got the picture for you, havn't I?"

“Just exactly," replied old Ben.

“Well, then, it was a long pull; and that reminds me that I'll have a long pull now, so hand me the porter, messmate.” My father took a tremendous long pull at the powter, and then handing it to Ben, he recommenced.

“We were soon within gun-shot; and they turned their heads towards us, and blazed away: very pretty shot they fired, for they cut away three of our starboard oars before we were near enough to return the fire with our small gun. However, the second pinnace and cutters came up, and shared the shot with us; and at last the old fat launch came grunting along, for all the world like an old boar, pitching into them round and grape. Now the first licutenant was in the launch, and, of course, commanded, and he ordered the boats to separate more, which was very right, as it divided


the shot; and then he passed the word that when he sounded the bugle, we were all to pull to the headmost gun-boat and board her. D'ye understand, messmate ?"

“Perfectly,” replied Ben, taking his pipe out to reply.

“ Well, then, just hand me the pot.” My father drained it this time, and told me to go for another.

“ Then I shall lose the story,” replied I.

“No, boy, you won't,” replied Ben ; “I'll answer for it your father will heave-to till you come back.”

“So I will, Jack," replied my father; and having with every expedition exccuted my task, my father then continued

"Well, there we all were, waiting for the bugle, each boat creeping on a little every moment, so as to have a fair start, as they do in a race; when at last the signal was given, and away we all went like smoke, with our oars bending double. The first pinnace reached the gun-boat first; then the cutters banged alongside of her,-all three of us to windward,—while the second pinnace and launch took her to leeward. There's not much climbing in getting on board of a gun-boat; indeed, we were at it before we were out of the boat, for the Frenchmen had pikes as long as the spankerDoom; but we soon got inside of their points, and camo to close work. They stood a good tussle, I will say that, and so they always do; we may laugh at 'em, and call 'em Johnny Crapows, but they are a right brave nation, if they ar'n't good seamen; but that I reckons the fault of their lingo, for it's too noisy to carry on duty well with, and so they never will be sailors till they larn English."

[ocr errors]

“I never heard them carry on duty in French," said Ben; "it quite beats my comprehension how they can llo it at all."

Well, I have,” replied my father; "and every word they use is as long as the main-top bowling; and the mast is over the side before they can get them out. Why, would


believe it? I once asked one of those fellows what he called the fore-mast in his language; and what d'ye think he said? Why, I'm blowed if he didn't call it a • Mar-darty-marng' (and that's the only bit of French I know); but how is it possible to work a ship in such gibberisii ?"

“Quite un possible," replied Ben.

“ Well, as I've yawed a little out of my course, suppose we have another swig before I takes a fresh departure ?”

After they had both drank, my father proceeded

“Well, messmate, I was on the gunnel as soon as the others; and a sword came down upon me liko a flash of lightning. I had just time to lift my cutlass, and save my head; and then I found that it was the sword of the French lie tenant who commanded the gun-boat. He was a tall, clean-built chap, with curls hanging down like a poodle dog's-every curl not thicker than a rope yarn, and mayhap a thousand of thcm,--and he quite foamed at the mouth (that's another fault in these Frenchmen,--they don't take things coolly, but puts themselves in a passion about nothing): so thinks 1 to myself, it won't do for you to go on chopping at that rate; for when I fended off, ho made my whole hand tingle with the force of his blow; so I darts at him, and drives the hilt of my cutlass


right into his mouth; and he fell, and his own men trod him under foot; and on we went, hammer and tongs. By this time the boarding of the launch and pinnace to leeward, for they could not get up as soon as we did, created a divarsion, and bothered the Frenchmen, who hardly knew which way to turn: however, there were more of our men on the other side, they most on 'em faced about; and the French officer was then able to get on his knees again; and while I was busy, and did not see him, he just give me this cut across the figurehead, which don't add to my beauty any how. Well, it was cut for cut, messmate ; I just took one look at the beggar, and I drove my cutlass into his skull, just as he was rising up; and he never rose again.—That's my story."

“I suppose you took the craft ?"

“ Yes; and her consort too. But many lost the number of their mess; and I lost all my beauty.–Just hand me the 'baccy, messmate; and, Jack, go for the next pot of beer.”

I found them both smoking in silence when I returned; but, after a few minutes, my father said, “ Messmate, as I have told you how I got this chalk, suppose you tell me in return how you got that nose of yours fixed so hard a starboard ? That's fair play.”

“Exactly so," replied Ben. “Why, d’ye see ? I sarved most of my early life in the whaling line. I was three voyages to the north ; but taking the black whale counts for nothing ; you must go south arter tho sparmacitty, if you wish to see sport." ” “I

never was in that line,” replied my father ; "but I've heard fellows spin the devil's own yarns about it."


« AnteriorContinuar »