Mr. Midshipman Easy

Chapter Seventeen

In which our hero finds out that trigonometry is not only necessary
to navigation, but may be required in settling affairs of honour.

Frederick Marryat

AS Captain Wilson truly said, he was too busy even to hear Jack’s story that night, for they were anxious to have both vessels ready to make sail as soon as a breeze should spring up, for the Spaniards had vessels of war at Carthagena, which was not ten miles off, and had known the result of the action: it was therefore necessary to change their position as soon as possible. Mr. Sawbridge was on board the prize, which was a corvette mounting two guns more than the Harpy, and called the Cacafuogo.

She had escaped from Cadiz, run through the straits in the night, and was three miles from Carthagena when she was captured, which she certainly never would have been but for Jack’s fortunately blundering against the cape with his armed vessel, so that Captain Wilson and Mr. Sawbridge (both of whom were promoted, the first to the rank of post-captain, the second to that of commander), may be said to be indebted to Jack for their good fortune. The Harpy had lost nineteen men, killed and wounded, and the Spanish corvette forty-seven. Altogether, it was a very creditable affair.

At two o’clock in the morning, the vessels were ready, everything had been done that could be done in so short a time, and they stood under easy sail during the night for Gibraltar, the Nostra Senora del Carmen, under the charge of Jolliffe, keeping company. Jolliffe had the advantage over his shipmates, of first hearing Jack’s adventures, with which he was much astonished as well as amused—even Captain Wilson was not more happy to see Jack than was the worthy master’s mate. About nine o’clock the Harpy hove-to, and sent a boat on board for our hero and the men who had been so long with him in the prize, and then hoisted out the pinnace to fetch on board the dollars, which were of more importance. Jack, as he bade adieu to Jolliffe, took out of his pocket and presented him with the articles of war, which, as they had been so useful to him, he thought Jolliffe could not do without, and then went down the side: the men were already in the boat, casting imploring looks upon Jack, to raise feelings of compassion, and Mesty took his seat by our hero in a very sulky humour, probably because he did not like the idea of having again “to boil de kettle for de young gentlemen.” Even Jack felt a little melancholy at resigning his command, and he looked back at the green petticoat, which blew out gracefully from the mast, for Jolliffe had determined that he would not haul down the colours under which Jack had fought so gallant an action.

Jack’s narration, as may be imagined, occupied a large part of the forenoon; and, although Jack did not attempt to deny that he had seen the recall signal of Mr. Sawbridge, yet, as his account went on, the captain became so interested that at the end of it he quite forgot to point out to Jack the impropriety of not obeying orders. He gave Jack great credit for his conduct, and was also much pleased with that of Mesty. Jack took the opportunity of stating Mesty’s aversion to his present employment, and his recommendation was graciously received. Jack also succeeded in obtaining the pardon of the men, in consideration of their subsequent good behaviour; but notwithstanding this promise on the part of Captain Wilson, they were ordered to be put in irons for the present. However, Jack told Mesty, and Mesty told the men, that they would be released with a reprimand when they arrived at Gibraltar, so all that the men cared for was a fair wind.

Captain Wilson informed Jack that after his joining the admiral he had been sent to Malta with the prizes, and that, supposing the cutter to have been sunk, he had written to his father, acquainting him with his son’s death, at which our hero was much grieved, for he knew what sorrow it would occasion, particularly to his poor mother. “But,” thought Jack, “if she is unhappy for three months, she will be overjoyed for three more when she hears that I am alive, so it will be all square at the end of the six; and as soon as I arrive at Gibraltar I will write, and, as the wind is fair, that will be to-morrow or next day.”

After a long conversation Jack was graciously dismissed, Captain Wilson being satisfied from what he had heard that Jack would turn out a very good officer, and had already forgotten all about equality and the rights of man; but there Captain Wilson was mistaken—tares sown in infancy are not so soon rooted out.

Jack went on deck as soon as the captain had dismissed him, and found the captain and officers of the Spanish corvette standing aft, looking very seriously at the Nostra Senora del Carmen. When they saw our hero, who Captain Wilson had told them was the young officer who had barred their entrance into Carthagena, they turned their eyes upon him not quite so graciously as they might have done.

Jack, with his usual politeness, took off his hat to the Spanish captain, and, glad to have an opportunity of sporting his Spanish, expressed the usual wish that he might live a thousand years. The Spanish captain, who had reason to wish that Jack had gone to the devil at least twenty-four hours before, was equally complimentary, and then begged to be informed what the colours were that Jack had hoisted during the action. Jack replied that they were colours to which every Spanish gentleman considered it no disgrace to surrender, although always ready to engage, and frequently at tempting to board. Upon which the Spanish captain was very much puzzled. Captain Wilson, who under stood a little Spanish, then interrupted by observing:

“By-the-bye, Mr. Easy, what colours did you hoist up? we could not make them out. I see Mr. Jolliffe still keeps them up at the peak.”

“Yes, sir,” replied Jack, rather puzzled what to call them, but at last he replied that it was the banner of equality and the rights of man.

Captain Wilson frowned, and Jack, perceiving that he was displeased, then told him the whole story, whereupon Captain Wilson laughed, and Jack then also explained, in Spanish, to the officers of the corvette, who replied that it was not the first time, and would not be the last, that men had got into a scrape through a petticoat.

The Spanish captain complimented Jack on his Spanish, which was really very good (for in two months, with nothing else in the world to do, he had made great progress), and asked him where he had learned it.

Jack replied, “At the Zaffarine Islands.”

“Zaffarine Isles,” replied the Spanish captain; “they are not inhabited.”

“Plenty of ground sharks,” replied Jack.

The Spanish captain thought our hero a very strange fellow, to fight under a green silk petticoat, and to take lessons in Spanish from the ground sharks. However, being quite as polite as Jack, he did not contradict him, but took a huge pinch of snuff, wishing from the bottom of his heart that the ground sharks had taken Jack before he had hoisted that confounded green petticoat.

However, Jack was in high favour with the captain, and all the ship’s company, with the exception of his four enemies—the master, Vigors, the boatswain, and the purser’s steward. As for Mr. Vigors, he had come to his senses again, and had put his colt in his chest until Jack should take another cruise. Little Gossett, at any insulting remark made by Vigors, pointed to the window of the berth and grinned; and the very recollection made Vigors turn pale, and awed him into silence.

In two days they arrived at Gibraltar—Mr. Sawbridge rejoined the ship—so did Mr. Jolliffe—they remained there a fortnight, during which Jack was permitted to be continually on shore—Mr. Asper accompanied him, and Jack drew a heavy bill to prove to his father that he was still alive. Mr. Sawbridge made our hero relate to him all his adventures, and was so pleased with the conduct of Mesty, that he appointed him to a situation which was particularly suited to him—that of ship’s corporal. Mr. Sawbridge knew that it was an office of trust, and provided that he could find a man fit for it, he was very indifferent about his colour. Mesty walked and strutted about, at least three inches taller than he was before. He was always clean, did his duty conscientiously, and seldom used his cane.

“I think, Mr. Easy,” said the first lieutenant, “that as you are so particularly fond of taking a cruise”—for Jack had told the whole truth—“it might be as well that you improve your navigation.”

“I do think myself, sir,” replied Jack, with great modesty, “that I am not yet quite perfect.”

“Well, then, Mr. Jolliffe will teach you; he is the most competent in this ship: the sooner you ask him the better, and if you learn it as fast as you have Spanish, it will not give you much trouble.”

Jack thought the advice good: the next day he was very busy with his friend Jolliffe, and made the important discovery that two parallel lines continued to infinity would never meet.

It must not be supposed that Captain Wilson and Mr. Sawbridge received their promotion instanter. Promotion is always attended with delay, as there is a certain routine in the service which must not be departed from. Captain Wilson had orders to return to Malta after his cruise. He therefore carried his own despatches away from England—from Malta the despatches had to be forwarded to Toulon to the admiral, and then the admiral had to send to England to the Admiralty, whose reply had to come out again. All this, with the delays arising from vessels not sailing immediately, occupied an interval of between five and six months—during which time there was no alteration in the officers and crew of his Majesty’s sloop Harpy.

There had, however, been one alteration; the gunner, Mr. Minus, who had charge of the first cutter in the night action in which our hero was separated from his ship, carelessly loading his musket, had found himself minus his right hand, which, upon the musket going off as he rammed down, had gone off too. He was invalided and sent home during Jack’s absence, and another had been appointed, whose name was Tallboys. Mr. Tallboys was a stout dumpy man, with red face, and still redder hands; he had red hair and red whiskers, and he had read a good deal—for Mr. Tallboys considered that the gunner was the most important personage in the ship. He had once been a captain’s clerk, and having distinguished himself very much in cutting-out service, had applied for and received his warrant as a gunner. He had studied the Art of Gunnery, a part of which he understood, but the remainder was above his comprehension: he continued, however, to read it as before, thinking that by constant reading he should understand it at last. He had gone through the work from the title-page to the finis at least forty times, and had just commenced it over again. He never came on deck without the gunner’s vade mecum in his pocket, with his hand always upon it to refer to it in a moment.

But Mr. Tallboys had, as we observed before, a great idea of the importance of a gunner, and, among other qualifications, he considered it absolutely necessary that he should be a navigator. He had at least ten instances to bring forward of bloody actions, in which the captain and all the commissioned officers had been killed or wounded, and the command of the ship had devolved upon the gunner.

“Now, sir,” would he say, “if the gunner is no navigator, he is not fit to take charge of his Majesty’s ships. The boatswain and carpenter are merely practical men; but the gunner, sir, is, or ought to be, scientific. Gunnery, sir, is a science—we have our own disparts and our lines of sight—our windage and our parabolas and projectile forces—and our point blank, and our reduction of powder upon a graduated scale. Now, sir, there’s no excuse for a gunner not being a navigator; for knowing his duty as a gunner, he has the same mathematical tools to work with.” Upon this principle Mr. Tallboys had added John Hamilton Moore to his library, and had advanced about as far into navigation as he had in gunnery, that is, to the threshold, where he stuck fast, with all his mathematical tools, which he did not know how to use. To do him justice, he studied for two or three hours everyday, and it was not his fault if he did not advance—but his head was confused with technical terms; he mixed all up together, and disparts, sines and cosines, parabolas, tangents, windage, seconds, lines of sight, logarithms, projectiles and traverse sailing, quadrature and Gunter’s scales, were all crowded together, in a brain which had not capacity to receive the rule of three. “Too much learning,” said Festus to the apostle, “hath made thee mad.” Mr. Tallboys had not wit enough to go mad, but his learning lay like lead upon his brain: the more he read, the less he understood, at the same time that he became more satisfied with his supposed acquirements, and could not speak but in “mathematical parables.”

“I understand, Mr. Easy,” said the gunner to him one day, after they had sailed for Malta, “that you have entered into the science of navigation—at your age it was high time.”

“Yes,” replied Jack, “I can raise a perpendicular, at all events, and box the compass.”

“Yes, but you have not yet arrived at the dispart of the compass.”

“Not come to that yet,” replied Jack.

“Are you aware that a ship sailing describes a parabola round the globe?”

“Not come to that yet,” replied Jack.

“And that any propelled body striking against another flies off at a tangent?”

“Very likely,” replied Jack, “that is a sine that he don’t like it.”

“You have not yet entered into acute trigonometry?”

“Not come to that yet,” replied Jack.

“That will require very sharp attention.”

“I should think so,” replied Jack.

“You will then find out how your parallels of longitude and latitude meet.”

“Two parallel lines, if continued to infinity, will never meet,” replied Jack.

“I beg your pardon,” said the gunner.

“I beg yours,” said Jack.

Whereupon Mr. Tallboys brought up a small map of the world, and showed Jack that all the parallels of latitude met at a point at the top and bottom.

“Parallel lines never meet,” replied Jack, producing Hamilton Moore.

Whereupon Jack and the gunner argued the point, until it was agreed to refer the case to Mr. Jolliffe, who asserted, with a smile, that those lines were parallels and not parallels.

As both were right, both were satisfied.

It was fortunate that Jack would argue in this instance: had he believed all the confused assertions of the gunner, he would have been as puzzled as the gunner himself. They never met without an argument and a reference, and as Jack was put right in the end, he only learned the faster. By the time that he did know something about navigation he discovered that his antagonist knew nothing. Before they arrived at Malta Jack could fudge a day’s work.

But at Malta Jack got into another scrape. Although Mr. Smallsole could not injure him, he was still Jack’s enemy; the more so as Jack had become very popular: Vigors also submitted, planning revenge; but the parties in this instance were the boatswain and purser’s steward. Jack still continued his forecastle conversation with Mesty; and the boatswain and purser’s steward, probably from their respective ill-will towards our hero, had become great allies. Mr. Easthupp now put on his best jacket to walk the dog-watches with Mr. Biggs, and they took every opportunity to talk at our hero.

“It’s my peculiar hopinion,” said Mr. Easthupp, one evening, pulling at the frill of his shirt, “that a gentleman should behave as a gentleman, and that if a gentleman professes hopinions of hequality and such liberal sentiments, that he is bound as a gentlemen to hact up to them.”

“Very true, Mr. Easthupp; he is bound to act up to them; and not because a person, who was a gentleman as well as himself, happens not to be on the quarter-deck, to insult him because he only has perfessed opinions like his own.”

Hereupon Mr. Biggs struck his rattan against the funnel, and looked at our hero.

“Yes,” continued the purser’s steward, “I should like to see the fellow who would have done so on shore however, the time will come when I can hagain pull on my plain coat, and then the insult shall be vashed out in blood, Mr. Biggs.”

“And I’ll be cursed if I don’t some day teach a lesson to the blackguard who stole my trousers.”

“Vas hall your money right, Mr. Biggs?” inquired the purser’s steward.

“I didn’t count,” replied the boatswain magnificently.

“No—gentlemen are above that,” replied Easthupp; “but there are many light-fingered gentry habout. The quantity of vatches and harticles of value vich were lost ven I valked Bond Street in former times is incredible.”

“I can say this, at all events,” replied the boatswain, “that I should be always ready to give satisfaction to any person beneath me in rank, after I had insulted him. I don’t stand upon my rank, although I don’t talk about equality, damme—no, nor consort with niggers.” All this was too plain for our hero not to understand, so Jack walked up to the boatswain, and taking his hat off, with the utmost politeness, said to him:

“If I mistake not, Mr. Biggs, your conversation refers to me.”

“Very likely it does,” replied the boatswain. “Listeners hear no good of themselves.”

“It appears that gentlemen can’t converse without being vatched,” continued Mr. Easthupp, pulling up his shirt-collar.

“It is not the first time that you have thought proper to make very offensive remarks, Mr. Biggs; and as you appear to consider yourself ill-treated in the affair of the trousers, for I tell you at once, that it was I who brought them on board, I can only say,” continued our hero, with a very polite bow, “that I shall be most happy to give you satisfaction.”

“I am your superior officer, Mr. Easy,” replied the boatswain.

“Yes, by the rules of the service; but you just now asserted that you would waive your rank—indeed, I dispute it on this occasion; I am on the quarter-deck, and you are not.”

“This is the gentleman whom you have insulted, Mr. Easy,” replied the boatswain, pointing to the purser’s steward.

“Yes, Mr. Heasy, quite as good a gentleman as yourself, although I av ad misfortune—I ham of as hold a family as hany in the country,” replied Mr. Easthupp, now backed by the boatswain; “many the year did I valk Bond Street, and I ave as good blood in my weins as you, Mr. Heasy, halthough I have been misfortunate—I’ve had hadmirals in my family.”

“You have grossly insulted this gentleman,” said Mr. Biggs, in continuation; “and notwithstanding all your talk of equality, you are afraid to give him satisfaction—you shelter yourself under your quarter-deck.”

“Mr. Biggs,” replied our hero, who was now very wroth, “I shall go on shore directly we arrive at Malta. Let you, and this fellow, put on plain clothes, and I will meet you both—and then I’ll show you whether I am afraid to give satisfaction.”

“One at a time,” said the boatswain.

“No, sir, not one at a time, but both at the same time—I will fight both or none. If you are my superior officer, you must descend,” replied Jack, with an ironical sneer, “to meet me, or I will not descend to meet that fellow, whom I believe to have been little better than a pickpocket.”

This accidental hit of Jack’s made the purser’s steward turn pale as a sheet, and then equally red. He raved and foamed amazingly, although he could not meet Jack’s indignant look, who then turned round again.

“Now, Mr. Biggs, is this to be understood, or do you shelter yourself under your forecastle?”

“I’m no dodger,” replied the boatswain, “and we will settle the affair at Malta.”

At which reply Jack returned to Mesty.

“Massa Easy, I look at um face, dat feller, Eastop, he no like it. I go shore wid you, see fair play, anyhow—suppose I can?”

Mr. Biggs having declared that he would fight, of course had to look out for a second, and he fixed upon Mr. Tallboys, the gunner, and requested him to be his friend. Mr. Tallboys, who had been latterly very much annoyed by Jack’s victories over him in the science of navigation, and therefore felt ill-will towards him, consented; but he was very much puzzled how to arrange that three were to fight at the same time, for he had no idea of there being two duels; so he went to his cabin and commenced reading. Jack, on the other hand, dared not say a word to Jolliffe on the subject: indeed, there was no one in the ship to whom he could confide but Gascoigne: he therefore went to him, and although Gascoigne thought it was excessively infra dig of Jack to meet even the boatswain, as the challenge had been given there was no retracting: he therefore consented, like all midshipmen, anticipating fun, and quite thoughtless of the consequences.

The second day after they had been anchored in Vallette harbour, the boatswain and gunner, Jack and Gascoigne, obtained permission to go on shore. Mr. Easthupp, the purser’s steward, dressed in his best blue coat with brass buttons and velvet collar, the very one in which he had been taken up when he had been vowing and protesting that he was a gentleman, at the very time that his hand was abstracting a pocket book, went up on the quarter-deck, and requested the same indulgence, but Mr. Sawbridge refused, as he required him to return staves and hoops at the cooperage. Mesty also, much to his mortification, was not to be spared.

This was awkward, but it was got over by proposing that the meeting should take place behind the cooperage at a certain hour, on which Mr. Easthupp might slip out and borrow a portion of the time appropriated to his duty, to heal the breach in his wounded honour. So the parties all went on shore, and put up at one of the small inns to make the necessary arrangements.

Mr. Tallboys then addressed Mr. Gascoigne, taking him apart while the boatswain amused himself with a glass of grog, and our hero sat outside teasing a monkey.

“Mr. Gascoigne,” said the gunner, “I have been very much puzzled how this duel should be fought, but I have at last found it out. You see that there are three parties to fight; had there been two or four there would have been no difficulty, as the right line or square might guide us in that instance; but we must arrange it upon the triangle in this.”

Gascoigne stared; he could not imagine what was coming.

“Are you aware, Mr. Gascoigne, of the properties of an equilateral triangle?”

“Yes,” replied the midshipman, “that it has three equal sides—but what the devil has that to do with the duel?”

“Everything, Mr. Gascoigne,” replied the gunner; “it has resolved the great difficulty: indeed, the duel between three can only be fought upon that principle. You observe,” said the gunner, taking a piece of chalk out of his pocket, and making a triangle on the table, “in this figure we have three points, each equidistant from each other; and we have three combatants—so that placing one at each point, it is all fair play for the three: Mr. Easy, for instance, stands here, the boatswain here, and the purser’s steward at the third corner. Now, if the distance is fairly measured, it will be all right.”

“But then,” replied Gascoigne, delighted at the idea, “how are they to fire?”

“It certainly is not of much consequence,” replied the gunner, “but still, as sailors, it appears to me that they should fire with the sun; that is, Mr. Easy fires at Mr. Biggs, Mr. Biggs fires at Mr. Easthupp, and Mr. Easthupp fires at Mr. Easy, so that you perceive that each party has his shot at one, and at the same time receives the fire of another.”

Gascoigne was in ecstasies at the novelty of the proceeding, the more so as he perceived that Easy obtained every advantage by the arrangement.

“Upon my word, Mr. Tallboys, I give you great credit; you have a profound mathematical head, and I am delighted with your arrangement. Of course, in these affairs, the principals are bound to comply with the arrangements of the seconds, and I shall insist upon Mr. Easy consenting to your excellent and scientific proposal.”

Gascoigne went out, and pulling Jack away from the monkey, told him what the gunner had proposed, at which Jack laughed heartily.

The gunner also explained it to the boatswain, who did not very well comprehend, but replied:

“I dare say it’s all right—shot for shot, and damn all favours.”

The parties then repaired to the spot with two pairs of ship’s pistols, which Mr. Tallboys had smuggled on shore; and, as soon as they were on the ground, the gunner called Mr. Easthupp out of the cooperage. In the meantime, Gascoigne had been measuring an equilateral triangle of twelve paces—and marked it out. Mr. Tallboys, on his return with the purser’s steward, went over the ground, and finding that it was “equal angles subtended by equal sides,” declared that it was all right. Easy took his station, the boatswain was put into his, and Mr. Easthupp, who was quite in a mystery, was led by the gunner to the third position.

“But, Mr. Tallboys,” said the purser’s steward, “I don’t understand this. Mr. Easy will first fight Mr. Biggs, will he not?”

“No,” replied the gunner, “this is a duel of three. You will fire at Mr. Easy, Mr. Easy will fire at Mr. Biggs, and Mr. Biggs will fire at you. It is all arranged, Mr. Easthupp.”

“But,” said Mr. Easthupp, “I do not understand it. Why is Mr. Biggs to fire at me? I have no quarrel with Mr. Biggs.”

“Because Mr. Easy fires at Mr. Biggs, and Mr. Biggs must have his shot as well.”

“If you have ever been in the company of gentlemen, Mr. Easthupp,” observed Gascoigne, “you must know something about duelling.”

“Yes, yes, I’ve kept the best company, Mr. Gascoigne, and I can give a gentleman satisfaction; but—“

“Then, sir, if that is the case, you must know that your honour is in the hands of your second, and that no gentleman appeals.”

“Yes, yes, I know that, Mr. Gascoigne; but still I’ve no quarrel with Mr. Biggs, and therefore, Mr. Biggs, of course you will not aim at me.”

“Why, you don’t think that I’m going to be fired at for nothing,” replied the boatswain; “no, no, I’ll have my shot anyhow.”

“But at your friend, Mr. Biggs?”

“All the same, I shall fire at somebody; shot for shot, and hit the luckiest.”

“Vel, gentlemen, I purtest against these proceedings,” replied Mr. Easthupp; “I came here to have satisfaction from Mr. Easy, and not to be fired at by Mr. Biggs.”

“Don’t you have satisfaction when you fire at Mr. Easy,” replied the gunner; “what more would you have?”

“I purtest against Mr. Biggs firing at me.”

“So you would have a shot without receiving one,” cried Gascoigne: “the fact is, that this fellow’s a confounded coward, and ought to be kicked into the cooperage again.”

At this affront Mr. Easthupp rallied, and accepted the pistol offered by the gunner.

“You ear those words, Mr. Biggs; pretty language to use to a gentleman. You shall ear from me, sir, as soon as the ship is paid off. I purtest no longer, Mr. Tallboys; death before dishonour. I’m a gentleman, damme!”

At all events, the swell was not a very courageous gentleman, for he trembled most exceedingly as he pointed his pistol.

The gunner gave the word, as if he were exercising the great guns on board ship.

“Cock your locks!”—“Take good aim at the object!”—“Fire!”—“Stop your vents!”

The only one of the combatants who appeared to comply with the latter supplementary order was Mr. Easthupp, who clapped his hand to his trousers behind, gave a loud yell, and then dropped down: the bullet having passed clean through his seat of honour, from his having presented his broadside as a target to the boatswain as he faced towards our hero. Jack’s shot had also taken effect, having passed through both the boatswain’s cheeks, without further mischief than extracting two of his best upper double teeth, and forcing through the hole of the farther cheek the boatswain’s own quid of tobacco. As for Mr. Easthupp’s ball, as he was very unsettled, and shut his eyes before he fired, it had gone the Lord knows where.

The purser’s steward lay on the ground and screamed—the boatswain spit his double teeth and two or three mouthfuls of blood out, and then threw down his pistols in a rage.

“A pretty business, by God,” sputtered he; “he’s put my pipe out. How the devil am I to pipe to dinner when I’m ordered, all my wind ’scaping through the cheeks?”

In the meantime, the others had gone to the assistance of the purser’s steward, who continued his vociferations. They examined him, and considered a wound in that part not to be dangerous.

“Hold your confounded bawling,” cried the gunner, “or you’ll have the guard down here: you’re not hurt.”

“Han’t hi?” roared the steward. “Oh, let me die, let me die; don’t move me!”

“Nonsense,” cried the gunner, “you must get up and walk down to the boat; if you don’t we’ll leave you—hold your tongue, confound you. You won’t? then I’ll give you something to halloo for.”

Whereupon Mr. Tallboys commenced cuffing the poor wretch right and left, who received so many swinging boxes of the ear, that he was soon reduced to merely pitiful plaints of “Oh, dear!—such inhumanity—I purtest—oh, dear! must I get up? I can’t, indeed.”

“I do not think he can move, Mr. Tallboys,” said Gascoigne; “I should think the best plan would be to call up two of the men from the cooperage, and let them take him at once to the hospital.”

The gunner went down to the cooperage to call the men. Mr. Biggs, who had bound up his face as if he had a toothache for the bleeding had been very slight, came up to the purser’s steward.

“What the hell are you making such a howling about? Look at me, with two shot-holes through my figure-head, while you have only got one in your stern: I wish I could change with you, by heavens, for I could use my whistle then—now if I attempt to pipe, there will be such a wasteful expenditure of his Majesty’s stores of wind, that I never shall get out a note. A wicked shot of yours, Mr. Easy.”

“I really am very sorry,” replied Jack, with a polite bow, “and I beg to offer my best apology.”

During this conversation, the purser’s steward felt very faint, and thought he was going to die.

“Oh, dear! oh, dear! what a fool I was; I never was a gentleman—only a swell: I shall die; I never will pick a pocket again—never—never—God forgive me!”

“Why, confound the fellow,” cried Gascoigne, “so you were a pickpocket, were you?”

“I never will again,” replied the fellow, in a faint voice: “Hi’ll hamend and lead a good life—a drop of water—oh! lagged at last!”

Then the poor wretch fainted away: and Tallboys coming up with the men, he was taken on their shoulders and walked off to the hospital, attended by the gunner and also the boatswain, who thought he might as well have a little medical advice before he went on board.

“Well, Easy,” said Gascoigne, collecting the pistols and tying them up in his handkerchief, “I’ll be shot, but we’re in a pretty scrape; there’s no hushing this up. I’ll be hanged if I care, it’s the best piece of fun I ever met with.” And at the remembrance of it Gascoigne laughed till the tears ran down his cheeks. Jack’s mirth was not quite so excessive, as he was afraid that the purser’s steward was severely hurt, and expressed his fears.

“At all events, you did not hit him,” replied Gascoigne; “all you have to answer for is the boatswains’s mug—I think you’ve stopped his jaw for the future.”

“I’m afraid that our leave will be stopped for the future,” replied Jack.

“That we may take our oaths of,” replied Gascoigne.

“Then look you, Ned,” said Easy; “I’ve lots of dollars; we may as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb, as the saying is; I vote that we do not go on board.”

“Sawbridge will send and fetch us,” replied Ned; “but he must find us first.”

“That won’t take long, for the soldiers will soon have our description and rout us out—we shall be pinned in a couple of days.”

“Confound it, and they say that the ship is to be hove down, and that we shall be here six weeks at least, cooped up on board in a broiling sun, and nothing to do but to watch the pilot fish playing round the rudder, and munch bad apricots. I won’t go on board; look ye, Jack,” said Gascoigne, “have you plenty of money?”

“I have twenty doubloons, besides dollars,” replied Jack.

“Well, then we will pretend to be so much alarmed at the result of this duel, that we dare not show ourselves, lest we should be hung. I will write a note, and send it to Jolliffe, to say that we have hid ourselves until the affair is blown over, and beg him to intercede with the captain and first lieutenant. I will tell him all the particulars, and refer to the gunner for the truth of it; and then I know that, although we should be punished, they will only laugh; but I will pretend that Easthupp is killed, and we are frightened out of our lives. That will be it; and then let’s get on board one of the speronares which come with fruit from Sicily, sail in the night for Palermo, and then we’ll have a cruise for a fortnight, and when the money is all gone we’ll come back.”

“That’s a capital idea, Ned, and the sooner we do it the better. I will write to the captain, begging him to get me off from being hung, and telling him where we have fled to, and that letter shall be given after we have sailed.”

They were two very nice lads—our hero and Gascoigne.

Mr. Midshipman Easy - Contents    |     Chapter Eighteen

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