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I did so.
“Very well. Now for the song, for there is a sort of tune to it.” Bramble then again passed the line through his hand, giving the song to each fathom, half fathom, and quarter fathom, and making me sing them after him, after which I had to repeat them by inyself. The next day he took out the marks and knots from the whole line, and, giving me a two-foot rule to remeasure it, made me put them all in again. This I had to repeat three or four times. By this plan they were fully impressed on my memory; and as for the song, he made me sing it almost every halfhour for three or four days, Bessy generally repeating, in her clear voice, from the back kitchen, or up stairs, " and a quarter seven-by the deep nine."
On the fourth day Bramble said, “Well, Tom, I think both you and Bessy may leave off singing now. You have yet to learn the most important part, which is to heave the lead ; but we must wait to get on board of a vessel for that. Observe, Tom, it's all very weil singing when you've plenty of water, and I like it, foi it sounds musical and pleasant to the ear; but in shallow water, the pilot's answer must be much shorter and quicker, as you will find out by-and-by.”
IN WEICH I GO AFLOAT, AND OBTAIN SOME KNOWLEDGE OF THS
It may be as well here to remark, that the system of pilotage is different now from what it used to be at the period of which I am writing. The Cinque Port pilots now carry vessels from the Downs to the River, and from the River to the Downs: their pilotage extends no further. Vessels seldom require pilots for the Channel, and do not take them unless they are bound to some port in the Channel with which they are unacquainted, and those pilots who ply in the Channel are termed Hoblers; but at the time I refer to, the regular pilots used to go out in their galleys to the Chaps of the Channel, and take charge of vessels all the way up; which, by the new regulations, they do not do. The arrangements for pilotage have been much improved of late years, and those employed are better qualified.
I had remained at Deal about three weeks, when an outward-bound Indiaman anchored in the Downs : her pilot came on shore, and she made the signal for another. It was Bramble's turn galley was launched, and we went on board.
The ship was bound to Plymouth, from whence she was to sail with convoy to a certain latitude. The weather was now fine and frosty, and we made sail when the tide served. As soon as we were fairly out in the Channel, Bramble went with me into the mainchains, and showed me how to heave the lead. After several attempts, in which I sometimes would hit the spare topsail yard upon which I stood, sometimes would nearly break my own head, and once contrived to throw the lead over the hammock rails in board, I succeeded in getting it round over my head ; and when I had once gained that point, I made fewer mistakes. In two days we arrived at Plymouth; and as Bramble kept me at it till my arms ached, nearly half the day, I could by that timo heave the lead pretty fairly, that is to say, without danger to myself or other people. The day after we arrived at Plymouth, we got into a pilot boat, and went out in search of employment, which we soon found, and we continued chiefly taking vessels up to Portsmouth and down to Plymouth, or clear of soundings, for some time. During this time, my practice at the lead was incessant, and I became very perfect. When I was not at tho lead, Bramble would make me stand at the binnacle and watch the compass, so that, by the time we arrived at Deal again, I was pretty competent in those two branches of my art, except that, having practised the lead mostly in deep water, I had not acquired accuracy and expedition in giving the soundings. But I learnt a great deal more of my profession; Bramblo explaining to me the sails, rigging, and names and uses of the ropes, and the various manquvres practised, all of which he would catechise me in afterwards, to ascertain if I was perfect, and had remembered what he told me. I was, therefore, under excellent tuition. Whatever port we entered, Bramble would point out the landmarks to me, state the distances from point to point, and the dangers to be avoided. These I could not so well retain perfectly, and required occasional reminding, but altogether I gave him satisfaction. It was on New Year's day, 1800, that we boarded a large homeward-bound Indiaman, which had just struck soundings. She was a thousand ton ship, with a rich cargo of tea on board, and full of passengers, besides more than one hundred invalids from the regiments out there, who had been sent home under the charge of two officers.
What a difference there appeared to me to be between the Indiaman going out and this one coming home : the first so neat and clean in her decks, and this so crowded and so weatherworn by her long voyage. What with troops in old jackets, which had once been scarlet, Lascars with their curly black hair, and dark handsome features, yellow men, sickly women, and half-caste children, with their Hindoo Ayahs, tigers, lions, turtles, cows, sheep, goats, and pigs, on the booms and main-deck, the vessel was in a strange motley of confusion.
As soon as we were put on board, the captain, officers, and passengers crowded round to inquire the
Bramble, according to pilot custom, had brought off one or two late Plymouth papers (one of which, I recollect, gave the account of the cutting out of the Hermione by Captain Hamilton); but the peoplo on board were eight months behindhand at least as regarded what had passed : they had not even heard of Sir Sydney Smith's defence of Acre against Bonaparte, or anything elso which had subsequently occurred; so that as soon as Bramble had taken charge, and put the ship's head the right course (for the wind was fair), there was no end to question and answer. And while Bramble was questioned by the captain and passengers, I was attacked by the midshipmen, or Guinea pigs, as they are called. Having a fair wind, we ran right for the Downs, where we arrived on the morning of the second day. Here the purser of the ship went on shore with his despatches, and the ship anchored to await orders, by the next post, to go up the river.
“ Tom," said Bramble, as the vessel anchored, I cannot quit the ship, but you may; so just get on shore in one of the boats, and see how little Bessy is, and poor
old Mrs. Maddox's leg; and, Tom, tako our dirty linen on shore and bring off clean.”
I was glad enough to obey his orders, for I was very anxious to see dear little Bessy again; so I dropped into a boat that was going on shore for fresh beef, taking with me two or three little presents for Bessy, out of the many which I had received when on board ; for the officers and men were very kind to me, and had given me many things, which they did not value, but which I did very much, as they were quite new to me.
The custom officers at Deal were not very particular at that time. I was not searched ; and arrived at the cottage, where I found Bessy sitting at her needle : she threw down her work and ran to me, and as I kissed her, the tears ran down her cheeks.
“ Where is father, Tom? I'm so glad to see you; but where is father? I've been so frightened, the weather has been so rough.”