Mr. Midshipman Easy

Chapter Twenty-three

Jack goes on another cruise—love and diplomacy—
Jack proves himself too clever for three, and upsets all
the arrangements of the high contracting powers.

frederick marryat

A few days after the arrival of the Harpy at Port Mahon, a Cutter came in with despatches from the admiral. Captain Wilson found that he was posted into the Aurora frigate, in which a vacancy had been made by the result of our hero’s transgressions.

Mr Sawbridge was raised to the rank of commander, and appointed to the command of the Harpy. The admiral informed Captain Wilson that he must detain the Aurora until the arrival of another frigate, hourly expected, and then she would be sent down to Mahon for him to take the command of her. Further, he intimated that a supply of live bullocks would be very agreeable, and begged that he would send to Tetuan immediately.

Captain Wilson had lost so many officers that he knew not whom to send: indeed, now he was no longer in command of the Harpy, and there was but one lieutenant, and no master or master’s mate. Gascoigne and Jack were the only two serviceable midshipmen, and he was afraid to trust them on any expedition in which expedition was required.

“What shall we do, Sawbridge? shall we send Easy or Gascoigne, or both, or neither?—for if the bullocks are not forthcoming, the admiral will not let them off as we do.”

“We must send somebody, Wilson,” replied Captain Sawbridge, “and it is the custom to send two officers, as one receives the bullocks on board, while the other attends to the embarkation.”

“Well, then send both, Sawbridge, but lecture them well first.”

“I don’t think they can get into any mischief there,” replied Sawbridge; “and it’s such a hole that they will be glad to get away from it.”

Easy and Gascoigne were summoned, listened very respectfully to all Captain Sawbridge said, promised to conduct themselves with the utmost propriety, received a letter to the vice-consul, and were sent with their hammocks and chests in the cabin on board the Eliza Ann, brig, of two hundred and sixteen tons, chartered by government—the master and crew of which were all busy forward heaving up their anchors.

The master of the transport came aft to receive them: he was a short red-haired young man, with hands as broad as the flappers of a turtle; he was broad-faced, broad-shouldered, well-freckled, pug-nosed; but if not very handsome he was remarkably good-humoured. As soon as the chests and hammocks were on the deck, he told them that when he could get the anchor up and make sail, he would give them some bottled porter. Jack proposed that he should get the porter up, and they would drink it while he got the anchor up, as it would save time.

“It may save time mayhap, but it won’t save porter,” replied the master; “however, you shall have it.”

He called the boy, ordered him to bring up the porter, and then went forward. Jack made the boy bring up two chairs, put the porter on the companion hatch, and he and Gascoigne sat down. The anchor was weighed, and the transport ran out under her fore-topsail, as they were light-handed, and had to secure the anchor. The transport passed within ten yards of the Harpy, and Captain Sawbridge, when he perceived the two midshipmen taking it so very easy, sitting in their chairs with their legs crossed, arms folded, and their porter before them, had a very great mind to order the transport to heave-to, but he could spare no other officer, so he walked away, saying to himself, “There’ll be another yarn for the Governor, or I’m mistaken.”

As soon as sail was made on the transport, the master, whose name was Hogg, came up to our hero, and asked him how he found the porter. Jack declared that he never could venture an opinion upon the first bottle—”So, Captain Hogg, we’ll trouble you for a second”—after which they troubled him for a third—begged for a fourth—must drink his health in a fifth, and finally, pointed out the propriety of making up the half-dozen. By this time they found themselves rather light-headed, so, desiring Captain Hogg to keep a sharp lookout, and not to call them on any account whatever, they retired to their hammocks.

The next morning they awoke late; the breeze was fresh and fair: they requested Captain Hogg not to consider the expense, as they would pay for all they ate and drank, and all he did, into the bargain, and promised him a fit-out when they got to Tetuan.

What with this promise and calling him captain, our hero and Gascoigne won the master’s heart, and being a very good-tempered fellow, they did what they pleased. Jack also tossed a doubloon to the men for them to drink on their arrival, and all the men of the transport were in a transport, at Jack’s coming to “reign over them.” It must be acknowledged that Jack’s reign was, for the most part of it, “happy and glorious.” At last they arrived at Tetuan, and our Pylades and Orestes went on shore to call upon the vice-consul, accompanied by Captain Hogg. They produced their credentials and demanded bullocks. The vice-consul was a very young man, short and thin, and light-haired; his father had held the situation before him, and he had been appointed his successor because nobody else had thought the situation worth applying for. Nevertheless Mr Hicks was impressed with the immense responsibility of his office. It was, however, a place of some little emolument at this moment, and Mr Hicks had plenty on his hands besides his sister, who, being the only English lady there, set the fashion of the place, and usurped all the attention of the gentlemen mariners who occasionally came for bullocks. But Miss Hicks knew her own importance, and had successively refused three midshipmen, one master’s mate, and an acting purser. African bullocks were plentiful at Tetuan, but English ladies were scarce; moreover, she had a pretty little fortune of her own, to wit, three hundred dollars in a canvas bag, left her by her father, and entirely at her own disposal. Miss Hicks was very like her brother, except that she was more dumpling in her figure, with flaxen hair; her features were rather pretty, and her skin very fair. As soon as the preliminaries had been entered into, and arrangements made in a small room with bare walls, which Mr Hicks denominated his office, they were asked to walk into the parlour to be introduced to the vice-consul’s sister. Miss Hicks tossed her head at the two midshipmen, but smiled most graciously at Captain Hogg. She knew the relative ranks of midshipman and captain. After a short time she requested the honour of Captain Hogg’s company to dinner, and begged that he would bring his midshipmen with him, at which Jack and Gascoigne looked at each other and burst out in a laugh, and Miss Hicks was very near rescinding the latter part of her invitation. As soon as they were out of the house, they told the captain to go on board and get all ready whilst they walked round the town. Having peeped into every part of it, and stared at Arabs, Moors, and Jews, till they were tired, they proceeded to the landing-place, where they met the captain, who informed them that he had done nothing, because the men were all drunk with Jack’s doubloon. Jack replied that a doubloon would not last for ever, and that the sooner they drank it out the better. They then returned to the vice-consul’s, whom they requested to procure for them fifty dozen of fowls, twenty sheep, and a great many other articles, which might be obtained at the place; for, as Jack said, they would live well going up to Toulon, and if there were any of the stock left, they would give them to the admiral, for Jack had taken the precaution to put his father’s philosophy once more to the proof, before he quitted Mahon. As Jack gave such a liberal order, and the vice-consul cheated him out of at least one-third of what he paid, Mr Hicks thought he could do no less than offer beds to our midshipmen as well as to Captain Hogg; so, as soon as dinner was over, they ordered Captain Hogg to go on board and bring their things on shore, which he did. As the time usual for transports remaining at Tetuan before they could be completed with bullocks was three weeks, our midshipmen decided upon staying at least so long if they could find anything to do, or if they could not, doing nothing was infinitely preferable to doing duty. So they took up their quarters at the vice-consul’s, sending for porter and other things which were not to be had but from the transport; and Jack, to prove that he was not a swindler, as Captain Tartar had called him, gave Captain Hogg a hundred dollars on account, for Captain Hogg had a large stock of porter and English luxuries, which he had brought out as a venture, and of which he had still a considerable portion left. As, therefore, our midshipmen not only were cheated by the vice-consul, but they also supplied his table, Mr Hicks was very hospitable, and everything was at their service except Miss Julia, who turned up her nose at a midshipman, even upon full pay; but she made great advances to the captain, who, on his part, was desperately in love: so the mate and the men made all ready for the bullocks, Jack and Gascoigne made themselves comfortable, and Captain Hogg made love, and thus passed the first week.

The chamber of Easy and Gascoigne was at the top of the house, and finding it excessively warm, Gascoigne had forced his way up to the flat roof above (for the houses are all built in that way in most Mahomedan countries, to enable the occupants to enjoy the cool of the evening, and sometimes to sleep there). Those roofs, where houses are built next to each other, are divided by a wall of several feet, to insure that privacy which the Mahomedan customs demand.

Gascoigne had not been long up there before he heard the voice of a female, singing a plaintive air in a low tone, on the other side of the wall. Gascoigne sang well himself, and having a very fine ear, he was pleased with the correctness of the notes, although he had never heard the air before. He leaned against the wall, smoked his cigar, and listened. It was repeated again and again at intervals; Gascoigne soon caught the notes, which sounded so clear and pure in the silence of the night.

At last they ceased, and having waited another half-hour in vain, our midshipman returned to his bed, humming the air which had so pleased his ear. It haunted him during his sleep, and rang in his ears when he awoke, as it is well known any new air that pleases us will do. Before breakfast was ready, Gascoigne had put English words to it, and sang them over and over again. He inquired of the vice-consul who lived in the next house, and was answered, that it was an old Moor, who was reported to be wealthy, and to have a daughter, whom many of the people had asked in marriage, but whether for her wealth or for her beauty he could not tell; he had, however, heard that she was very handsome. Gascoigne made no further inquiries, but went out with Jack and Captain Hogg, and on board to see the water got in for the bullocks.

“Where did you pick up that air, Gascoigne? it is very pretty, but I never heard you sing it before.”

Gascoigne told him, and also what he had heard from Mr Hicks.

“I’m determined, Jack, to see that girl if I can. Hicks can talk Arabic fast enough; just ask him the Arabic for these words—‘Don’t be afraid—I love you—I cannot speak your tongue,’—and put them down on paper as they are pronounced.”

Jack rallied Gascoigne upon his fancy, which could end in nothing.

“Perhaps not,” replied Gascoigne; “and I should have cared nothing about it, if she had not sung so well. I really believe the way to my heart is through my ear;—however, I shall try to-night, and soon find if she has the feeling which I think she has. Now let us go back: I’m tired of looking at women in garments up to their eyes, and men in dirt up to their foreheads.”

As they entered the house they heard an altercation between Mr and Miss Hicks.

“I shall never give my consent, Julia; one of those midshipmen you turn your nose up at is worth a dozen Hoggs.”

“Now, if we only knew the price of a hog in this country,” observed Easy, “we should be able to calculate our exact value, Ned.”

“A hog, being an unclean animal, is not—”

“Hush,” said Jack.

“Mr Hicks,” replied Miss Julia, “I am mistress of myself and my fortune, and I shall do as I please.”

“Depend upon it, you shall not, Julia. I consider it my duty to prevent you from making an improper match; and, as his Majesty’s representative here, I cannot allow you to marry this young man.”

“Mercy on us!” said Gascoigne, “his Majesty’s representative!”

“I shall not ask your consent,” replied the lady.

“Yes, but you shall not marry without my consent. I have, as you know, Julia, from my situation here, as one of his Majesty’s corps diplomatick, great power, and I shall forbid the banns; in fact, it is only I who can marry you.”

“Then I’ll marry elsewhere.”

“And what will you do on board of the transport until you are able to be married?”

“I shall do as I think proper,” replied the lady; “and I’ll thank you for none of your indelicate insinuations.” So saying, the lady bounced out of the room into her own, and our midshipmen then made a noise in the passage, to intimate that they had come in. They found Mr Hicks looking very red and vice-consular indeed, but he recovered himself; and Captain Hogg making his appearance, they went to dinner; but Miss Julia would not make her appearance, and Mr Hicks was barely civil to the captain, but he was soon afterwards called out, and our midshipmen went into the office to enable the two lovers to meet. They were heard then talking together, and after a time they said less, and their language was more tender.

“Let us see what’s going on, Jack,” said Gascoigne; and they walked softly, so as to perceive the two lovers, who were too busy to be on the lookout.

Captain Hogg was requesting a lock of his mistress’s hair. The plump Julia could deny him nothing; she let fall her flaxen tresses, and taking out the scissors cut off a thick bunch from her hair behind, which she presented to the captain: it was at least a foot and a half long and an inch in circumference. The Captain took it in his immense hand, and thrust it into his coat pocket behind, but one thrust down to the bottom would not get it in, so he thrust again and again, until it was all coiled away like a cable in a tier.

“That’s a liberal girl,” whispered Jack; “she gives by wholesale what it will take some time to retail. But here comes Mr Hicks, let’s give them warning; I like Hogg and as she fancies pork, she shall have it, if I can contrive to help them.”

That night Gascoigne went again on the roof, and after waiting some time, heard the same air repeated: he waited until it was concluded, and then, in a very low tone, sang it himself to the words he had arranged for it. For some time all was silent, and then the singing recommenced, but it was not to the same air. Gascoigne waited until the new air had been repeated several times, and then giving full scope to his fine tenor voice, sang the first air again. It echoed through the silence of the night air, and then he waited, but in vain; the soft voice of the female was heard no more, and Gascoigne retired to rest.

This continued for three or four nights, Gascoigne singing the same airs the ensuing night that he had heard the preceding, until at last it appeared that the female had no longer any fear, but changed the airs so as to be amused with the repetition of them next evening. On the fifth night she sang the first air, and our midshipman responding, she then sang another, until she had sung them all, waiting each time for the response. The wall was not more than eight feet high, and Gascoigne now determined, with the assistance of Jack, to have a sight of his unknown songstress. He asked Captain Hogg to bring on shore some inch line, and he contrived to make a ladder with three or four poles which were upstairs, used for drying linen. He fixed them against the wall without noise, all ready for the evening. It was a beautiful clear moonlight night, when he went up, accompanied by Jack. The air was again sung, and repeated by. Gascoigne, who then softly mounted the ladder, held by Jack, and raised his head above the wall; he perceived a young Moorish girl, splendidly dressed, half lying on an ottoman, with her eyes fixed upon the moon, whose rays enabled him to observe that she was indeed beautiful. She appeared lost in contemplation; and Gascoigne would have given the world to have divined her thoughts. Satisfied with what he had seen, he descended, and singing one of the airs, he then repeated the words, “Do not be afraid—I love you—I cannot speak your language.” He then sang another of the airs, and after he had finished he again repeated the words in Arabic; but there was no reply. He sang the third air, and again repeated the words, when, to his delight, he heard an answer in Lingua Franca.

“Can you speak in this tongue?”

“Yes,” replied Gascoigne, “I can, Allah be praised. Be not afraid—I love you.”

“I know you not; who are you? you are not of my people.”

“No, but I will be anything that you wish. I am a Frank, and an English officer.”

At this reply of Gascoigne there was a pause.

“Am I then despised?” said Gascoigne.

“No, not despised, but you are not of my people or of my land; speak no more, or you will be heard.”

“I obey,” replied Gascoigne, “since you wish it, but I shall pine till to-morrow’s moon. I go to dream of you. Allah protect you!”

“How amazingly poetical you were in your language, Ned,” said Easy, when they went into their room.

“To be sure, Jack, I’ve read the Arabian Nights. You never saw such eyes in your life: what a houri she is!”

“Is she as handsome as Agnes, Ned?”

“Twice as handsome by moonlight.”

“That’s all moonshine, and so will be your courting, for it will come to nothing.”

“Not if I can help it.”

“Why, Gascoigne, what would you do with a wife?”

“Just exactly what you would do, Jack.”

“I mean, my dear Ned, can you afford to marry?”

“Not while the old governor lives, but I know he has some money in the funds. He told me one day that I could not expect more than three thousand pounds. You know I have sisters.”

“And before you come into that you’ll have three thousand children.”

“That’s a large family, Jack,” replied Gascoigne, bursting out into laughter, in which our hero joined.

“Well, you know I only wanted to argue the point with you.”

“I know that, Jack; but I think we’re counting our chickens before they are hatched, which is foolish.”

“In every other case except when we venture upon matrimony.”

“Why, Jack, you’re becoming quite sensible.”

“My wisdom is for my friends, my folly for myself. Good-night.”

But Jack did not go to sleep. “I must not allow Gascoigne to do such a foolish thing,” thought he—”marry a dark girl on midshipman’s pay, if he succeeds—get his throat cut if he does not.” As Jack said, his wisdom was for his friends, and he was so generous that he reserved none for his own occasions.

Miss Julia Hicks, as we before observed, set the fashions at Tetuan, and her style of dress was not unbecoming. The Moorish women wore large veils, or they may be called what you will, for their head-dresses descend to their heels at times, and cover the whole body, leaving an eye to peep with, and hiding everything else. Now Miss Julia found this much more convenient than the bonnet, as she might walk out in the heat of the sun without burning her fair skin, and stare at everybody and everything without being stared at in return. She therefore never went out without one of these overalls, composed of several yards of fine muslin. Her dress in the house was usually of coloured sarcenet, for a small vessel came into the port one day during her father’s lifetime, unloaded a great quantity of bales of goods with English marks; and as the vessel had gone out in ballast, there was a surmise on his part by what means they came into the captain’s possession. He therefore cited the captain up to the Governor, but the affair was amicably arranged by the vice-consul receiving about one quarter of the cargo in bales of silks and muslins. Miss Hicks had therefore all her dresses of blue, green, and yellow sarcenet, which, with the white muslin overall, made her as conspicuous as the only Frankish lady in the town had a right to be, and there was not a dog which barked in Tetuan which did not know the sister of the vice-consul, although few had seen her face.

Now it occurred to Jack, as Gascoigne was determined to carry on his amour, that in case of surprise it would be as well if he dressed himself as Miss Hicks. He proposed it to Gascoigne the next morning, who approved of the idea, and in the course of the day, when Miss Hicks was busy with Captain Hogg, he contrived to abstract one of her dresses and muslin overalls—which he could do in safety, as there were plenty of them, for Miss Hicks was not troubled with mantua-maker’s bills.

When Gascoigne went up on the roof the ensuing night, he put on the apparel of Miss Hicks, and looked very like her as far as figure went, although a little taller. He waited for the Moorish girl to sing, but she did not—so he crept up the ladder and looked over the wall—when he observed that she was reclining, as before, in deep thought. His head covered with the muslin caught her eye, and she gave a faint scream.

“Fear not, lady,” said Gascoigne, “it is not the first time that I have beheld that sweet face. I sigh for a companion. What would I not give to be sitting by your side? I am not of your creed, ’tis true—but does it therefore follow that we should not love each other?”

The Moorish girl was about to reply, when Gascoigne received an answer from a quarter whence he little expected it. It was from the Moor himself, who, hearing his daughter scream, had come swiftly up to the roof.

“Does the Frankish lily wish to mingle her perfumes with the dark violet?” said he, for he had often seen the sister of the vice-consul, and he imagined it was she who had come on the roof and ascended the wall to speak with his daughter.

Gascoigne had presence of mind to avail himself of this fortunate mistake.

“I am alone, worthy Moor,” replied he, pulling the muslin more over his face, “and I pine for a companion. I have been charmed by the nightingale on the roof of your dwelling; but I thought not to meet the face of a man, when I took courage to climb this ladder.”

“If the Frankish lily will have courage to descend, she can sit by the side of the dark violet.”

Gascoigne thought it advisable to make no reply.

“Fear not,” said the old Moor; “what is an old man but a woman?” and the Moor brought a ladder, which he placed against the wall.

After a pause, Gascoigne said, “It is my fate;” and he then descended, and was led by the Moor to the mattress upon which his daughter reclined. The Moor then took his seat near them, and they entered into conversation. Gascoigne knew quite enough of the vice-consul and his sister to play his part—and he thought proper to tell the Moor that her brother wished to give her as wife to the captain of the ship, whom she abhorred, and would take her to a cold and foggy climate; that she had been born here, and wished to live and die here, and would prefer passing her life in his women’s apartments, to leaving this country. At which Abdel Faza, for such was his name, felt very amorous; he put his hand to his forehead, salaamed, and told Gascoigne that his zenana, and all that were in it, were hers, as well as his house and himself. After an hour’s conversation, in which Azar, his daughter, did not join, the old Moor asked Gascoigne to descend into the women’s apartment; and observing his daughter’s silence, said to her:

“Azar, you are angry that this Frankish houri should come to the apartments of which you have hitherto been sole mistress. Fear not, you will soon be another’s, for Osman Ali has asked thee for his wife, and I have listened to his request.”

Now Osman Ali was as old as her father, and Azar hated him. She offered her hand tremblingly, and led Gascoigne into the zenana. The Moor attended them to the threshold, bowed, and left them.

That Gascoigne had time to press his suit, and that he did not lose such a golden opportunity, may easily be imagined, and her father’s communication relative to Osman Ali very much assisted our midshipman’s cause.

He left the zenana, like most midshipmen, in love, that is, a little above quicksilver boiling heat. Jack, who had remained in a state of some suspense all this time, was not sorry to hear voices in an amicable tone, and in a few minutes afterwards he perceived that Gascoigne was ascending the ladder. It occurred to our hero that it was perhaps advisable that he should not be seen, as the Moor, in his gallantry, might come up the ladder with the supposed lady. He was right, for Abdel Faza not only followed her up the ladder on his side, but assisted her to descend on the other, and with great ceremony took his leave.

Gascoigne hastened to Jack, who had been peeping, and gave him a detail of what had passed, describing Azar as the most beautiful, fascinating, and fond creature that ever was created. After half an hour’s relation he stopped short, because he discovered that Jack was fast asleep.

The visits of Gascoigne were repeated every night; old Abdel Faza became every time more gallant, and our midshipman was under the necessity of assuming a virtue if he had it not. He pretended to be very modest.

In the meantime Captain Hogg continued his attentions to the real Miss Hicks; the mate proceeded to get the bullocks on board, and as more than three weeks had already passed away, it was time to think of departing for Toulon; but Captain Hogg was too much in love, and as for Gascoigne, he intended, like all midshipmen in love, to give up the service. Jack reasoned with the Captain, who appeared to listen to reason, because Miss Hicks had agreed to follow his fortunes, and crown his transports in the transport Mary Ann. He therefore proposed that they should get away as fast as they could, and as soon as they had weighed the anchor, he would come on shore, take off Miss Hicks, and make all sail for Toulon.

Jack might have suffered this; the difficulty was with Gascoigne, who would not hear of going away without his lovely Azar. At last Jack planned a scheme, which he thought would succeed, and which would be a good joke to tell the Governor. He therefore appeared to consent to Gascoigne’s carrying off his little Moor, and they canvassed how it was to be managed. Jack then told Gascoigne that he had hit upon a plan which would succeed. “I find,” said he, “from Captain Hogg, that he has an intention of carrying off Miss Hicks, and when I sounded him as to his having a lady with him, he objected to it immediately, saying, that he must have all the cabin to himself and his intended. Now, in the first place, I have no notion of giving up the cabin to Miss Hicks or Mrs Hogg. It will be very uncomfortable to be shut out because he wishes to make love; I therefore am determined that he shall not take off Miss Hicks. He has proposed to me that he shall go on board, and get the brig under way, leaving me with a boat on shore to sign the vouchers, and that Miss Hicks shall slip into the boat when I go off at dusk. Now I will not bring off Miss Hicks; if he wants to marry her, let him do it when I am not on board. I have paid for everything, and I consider the cabin as mine.”

“Look you, Ned, if you wish to carry off your little Moor, there is but one way, and that is a very simple one; leave her a dress of Miss Hicks’s when you go there to-morrow night, and tell her to slip down at dusk, and come out of the house: all the danger will be in her own house, for as soon as she is out she will be supposed to be the vice-consul’s sister, and will not be observed or questioned. I will look out for and bring her on board instead of Miss Hicks. Hogg will have the brig under way, and will be too happy to make all sail, and she shall lock the cabin inside, so that the mistake shall not be discovered till the next morning, and we shall have a good laugh at Captain Hogg.”

Gascoigne pronounced that Jack’s scheme was capital, and agreed to it, thanking him and declaring that he was the best friend that he ever had. “So I will be,” thought Jack, “but you will not acknowledge it at first.” Jack then went to Captain Hogg, and appeared to enter warmly into his views, but told him that Hicks suspected what was going on, and had told him so, at the same time declaring that he would not lose sight of his sister until after Hogg was on board.

“Now,” says Jack, “you know you cannot do the thing by main force; so the best plan will be for you to go on board and get under way, leaving me to bring off Miss Hicks, when her brother will imagine all danger to be over.”

“Many thanks, Mr Easy,” replied Captain Hogg; “it will be capital, and I’ll arrange it all with my Julia. How very kind of you!”

“But, Hogg, will you promise me secrecy?”

“Yes,” replied the captain.

“That Gascoigne is a very silly fellow, and wants to run away with a girl he has made acquaintance with here; and what do you think he has proposed? that after the ship was under way, I should carry her off in the boat; and he has borrowed one of the dresses of Miss Hicks, that it may appear to be her. I have agreed to it, but as I am determined that he shall not commit such a folly, I shall bring off Miss Hicks instead; and observe, Hogg, he is that sort of wild fellow, that if he was to find that I had cheated him, he would immediately go on shore and be left behind; therefore we must hand Miss Hicks down in the cabin, and she will lock the door all night, so that he may not observe the trick till the next morning, and then we shall have a fine laugh at him.”

Captain Hogg replied it would be an excellent joke, as Gascoigne did before him.

Now it must be observed, that the water and the bullocks, and the sheep and fowls, were all on board; and Mr Hicks, having received his money from Jack, had very much altered his manner; he was barely civil, for as he had got all he could out of our hero, he was anxious to get rid of him as well as of Captain Hogg. Our hero was very indignant at this, but as it would not suit his present views, pretended not to notice it—on the contrary, he professed the warmest friendship for the vice-consul, and took an opportunity of saying that he could not return his kindness in a better way than by informing him of the plot which had been arranged. He then told him of the intended escape of his sister, and that he was the person intended to bring her off.

“Infamous, by heavens!” cried the vice-consul; “I shall write to the Foreign Office on the subject.”

“I think,” said Jack, “it will be much better to do what I shall propose, which will end in a hearty laugh, and to the confusion of Captain Hogg. Do you dress yourself in your sister’s clothes, and I will bring you off instead of her. Let him imagine that he has your sister secure; I will hand you down to the cabin, and do you lock yourself in. He cannot sail without my orders, and I will not sign the vouchers. The next morning we will open the cabin door and have a good laugh at him. Desire your boat to be off at daylight to take you on shore, and I will then make him proceed to Toulon forthwith. It will be a capital joke.”

So thought the vice-consul, as well as Gascoigne and Captain Hogg. He shook hands with Jack, and was as civil to him as before.

That night Gascoigne left one of Miss Hicks’s many dresses with Azar, who agreed to follow his fortunes, and who packed up all the jewels and money she could lay her hands upon. Poor little Child, she trembled with fear and delight. Miss Hicks smuggled, as she thought, a box of clothes on board, and in the box was her fortune of three hundred dollars. Mr Hicks laughed in his sleeve, so did Jack; and every one went to bed, with expectations that their wishes would be realised. After an early dinner, Captain Hogg and Gascoigne went on board, both squeezing Jack’s hand as if they were never to see him again, and looks of intelligence passed between all the parties.

As soon as they were out of the door the vice-consul chuckled, and Miss Hicks, who thought he chuckled at the idea of having rid himself of Captain Hogg, chuckled still more as she looked at our hero, who was her confidant, and our hero, for reasons known to the reader, chuckled more than either of them.

A little before dark, the boat was sent on shore from the brig, which was now under way, and Mr Hicks, as had been agreed, said that he should go into the office and prepare the vouchers—that is, put on his sister’s clothes. Miss Hicks immediately rose, and wishing our hero a pleasant voyage, as had been agreed, said that she should retire for the night, as she had a bad headache—she wished her brother good-night, and went into her room to wait another hour, when our hero, having shoved off the boat to deceive the vice-consul, was to return, meet her in the garden, and take her off to the brig. Our hero then went into the office and assisted the vice-consul, who took off all his own clothes and tied them up in a handkerchief, intending to resume them after he had gone into the cabin.

As soon as he was ready, Jack carried his bundle and led the supposed Miss Hicks down to the boat. They shoved off in a great hurry, and Jack took an opportunity of dropping Mr Hicks’s bundle overboard. As soon as they arrived alongside, Mr Hicks ascended, and was handed by Jack down into the Cabin: he squeezed Jack’s hand as he entered, saying in a whisper, “To-morrow morning what a laugh we shall have!” and then he locked the door. In the meantime the boat was hooked on and hoisted up, and Jack took the precaution to have the dead-lights lowered that Mr Hicks might not be able to ascertain what was going on. Gascoigne came up to our hero and squeezed his hand.

“I’m so much obliged to you, Jack. I say, tomorrow morning what a laugh we shall have!”

As soon as the boat was up, and the mainyard filled, Captain Hogg also came up to our hero, shaking him by the hand and thanking him; and he, too, concluded by saying, “I say, Mr Easy, to-morrow morning what a laugh we shall have!”

“Let those laugh who win,” thought Jack.

The wind was fair, the watch was set, the course was steered, and all went down to their hammocks, and went to sleep, waiting for to-morrow morning. Mr Hicks, also, having nothing better to do, went to sleep, and by the morning dawn, the transport Mary Ann was more than a hundred miles from the African shore.

Mr. Midshipman Easy - Contents    |     Chapter Twenty-four

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