True Blue
by W.H.G. Kingston
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"Oh, you were always poetical and warm-hearted and good and enthusiastic, Henry," said Lady Elmore, pressing him to her heart. "Do as you think best, and I have no doubt our young sailor will turn out a shining character."


It had been arranged that True Blue should visit Paul Pringle and his other friends at Emsworth before returning to his ship. The day for his leaving London was fixed. He had seen all the sights and been several times to the play; and though he thought it all very amusing, he was, in truth, beginning to get somewhat tired of the sort of life. As to Lady Elmore and her daughters, he thought them, as he said, next door to angels, and would have gone through fire and water to serve them.

One morning he awoke just as the footman walked in with a jug of hot water, and, leaving it on the washhand stand, retired without saying a word. Sir Henry had directed that he should be waited on exactly as he was himself. True Blue jumped out of bed; but when he came to put on his clothes, they had disappeared. In their stead there was a midshipman's uniform suit, dirk, and hat, and cockade complete, while a chest stood open, containing shirts, and socks, and shoes, and a quadrant, and books—indeed, a most perfect outfit.

"There's a mistake," he said to himself. "They have been and brought Sir Henry's traps in here, and John has carried off my clothes, and forgot to bring them back. I never do like ringing the bell, it seems so fine-gentleman-like. Still, if he doesn't come, it will be the only way to get to him." While waiting, he was looking about, when his eye fell on a paper on the dressing-table. His own name was on it. It was a document from the Admiralty, directing Mr Billy True Blue Freeborn, midshipman of H.M. frigate Ruby, to go down and join her in a week's time. He rubbed his eyes—he read the paper over and over again; he shook himself, for he thought that he must be still in bed and asleep, and then he very nearly burst into tears.

"No, no!" he exclaimed passionately; "it's what I don't want to be. I can't be and won't be. I'll not go and be above Paul, and Abel, and Peter, and Tom, which I should be if I was on the quarterdeck: I shouldn't be one of them any longer. I couldn't mess with them and talk with them, as I have always done. I know my place; I like Sir Henry and many of the other young gentlemen very much, and even Mr Nott, though he does play curious pranks now and then; but I never wished to be one of them, and what's more, I won't, and so my mind is made up."

Just then he saw another document on the table. It was a letter addressed to him. He opened it and found that it came from Paul Pringle. It began:

"Dear Godson,—That you must always be to me. Who should come to see me first, as I left the hospital, but our Captain—bless him! He tells me there is talk of putting you on the quarterdeck. Now, that's what I never wished for you, any more than your own father did. His last words were, 'Let him be brought up as a true British seaman.'

"That's what your other godfathers and I have done for you—as you'll allow, Billy. Well, as to the quarterdeck idea, we all met and had a talk about it. The long and the short of what we came to is, that you must do as you wish. A man may, we allow, be on the quarterdeck, and yet be a true British sailor all over. Many of our officers are such, no doubt of it, every inch of them; but whether a man is the happier or the better for being an officer, without being in the way born to it—that's the question. We wouldn't stand in your way, Billy, only we feel that we shouldn't be to each other what we were. We don't say that it ought to make a great difference, but it would. That's the conclusion we've come to. Bless you heartily, boy, we all say, whatever course you steer.—Your loving godfather, Paul Pringle."

True Blue read the epistle over several times. Though signed by Pringle, it had partly been written by Abel Bush, and partly by Peter Ogle. It contained a postscript, inviting him to come down to Emsworth, whatever the determination he might come to, as his many friends there were anxious to see him.

The mention of his old friends roused up thoughts and feelings in which, for some time past, he had not indulged. Both Peter Ogle and Abel Bush were married men, with large families. With them he felt how perfectly at home and happy he should be. One of them, too, Mary Ogle, though rather younger than himself, had always been his counsellor and friend, and had also materially assisted in giving him the amount of knowledge he possessed in reading and writing. Had it not been for her, he confessed that he would have remained a sad dunce.

After he had thought over the letter, he exclaimed, "Then again, now, if I was an officer I should have to go with the other officers wherever they went; and when the ship came into port, I should be for starting off for London, and couldn't go and stay comfortably with my old friends. No, I'm thankful to Sir Henry—I am, indeed; but I've made up my mind."

He rang the bell. When John appeared, he asked for his clothes.

"There they are, sir," said John, pointing to the midshipman's uniform.

"I see; but I want the clothes I wore yesterday, John," said True Blue.

"Master said those were for you, sir," explained John.

"I'm not going to put on those clothes, John," said True Blue quietly. "They don't suit me, and I don't suit them."

The footman was astonished.

"But they will make you an officer and a gentleman," said he earnestly.

"That's just what I don't want to be, John," answered True Blue. "They wouldn't do it, either. It isn't the clothes makes the man. You know that. Bring me back my own jacket and trousers. I know Sir Henry won't be angry with you. I'll set it all right. There's a good chap, now—do as I ask you."

John still hesitated.

"Very well," continued True Blue, "if you don't, I'll just jump into bed again, and there I'll stay. The only clothes I'll put on are my own. They were brand new only last week, and I've not done with them."

John, seeing that the young sailor was in earnest, went and brought back his clothes. True Blue was soon dressed, and considerable disappointment was expressed on the countenances of the ladies as they entered the breakfast-room, when, instead of the gay-looking midshipman they expected to see, they found him in his seaman's dress. He looked up frankly, and not in the slightest degree abashed.

"My lady," he said, "I know what you and Sir Henry intended for me, and there isn't a part of my heart that doesn't thank you; but d'ye see, my lady, I was born a true sailor, and a true sailor I wish to be. I have old friends—I can't leave them. I know what I'm fitted for, and I shouldn't be happy in a midshipman's berth. I know, too, that it was all done in great kindness; but it's a thousand limes more than I deserve. I shall always love you, my lady, and the young ladies, and Sir Henry; and if ever he gets a ship, it will be my pride to be with him and to be his coxswain. There's only one favour more I have to ask—it is that Sir Henry will set to rights the order about my having a midshipman's rating aboard the Ruby. It's a great favour, I'll allow; but it's one I don't deserve and don't want. I've made up my mind about it, and, my lady, you will let me be as I was—I was very happy, and shall not be happier as an officer."

"I think very likely not," said Lady Elmore, taking his hand. "But, Freeborn, we are all anxious to show our gratitude to you. Can you point out how it may best be done?"

"That's it, my lady!" exclaimed True Blue vehemently. "I have done nothing to speak of, and I do not wish for anything. Let me just think about you all, and how kind you've been to me, and that's all I want. If I serve with Sir Henry, I'll always be by his side, and I'll do my best to keep the Frenchmen's cutlasses off his head."

"Thanks, thanks, my boy. Your love for my son makes me take a double interest in you," said Lady Elmore warmly; and then she added, "still I wish that you would allow us somewhat to lighten the load of obligation we owe you."

As True Blue had not the slightest notion what this meant, he made no reply.

Everybody in the house was sorry to part with the frank-spoken young sailor. Even the butler and footman begged him to accept some token of remembrance; and Mrs Jellybag, the housekeeper, put him up a box containing all sorts of good things, which, she told him, he might share with his friends down at Emsworth. He reached Emsworth in the evening, and right hearty was the welcome he received from all the members of the Ogle and Bush families, though not more kind than that old Mrs Pringle and Paul bestowed on him.

The whole party assembled to tea and supper at Mrs Pringle's, and he had not been many minutes in the house before he unpacked his chest and produced his box of good things for them. He insisted on serving them out himself, and he managed to slip the largest piece of cake into Mary's plate, and somehow to give her a double allowance of jam.

Then there were a couple of pounds of tea,—a rare luxury in those days, except among the richer classes,—and some bottles of homemade wines or cordials, which served still more to cheer the hearts of the guests. The pipes were brought in and fragrant tobacco smoked, and songs were called for. Paul and Abel struck up. True Blue sang some of his best, and, as he every now and then gave Mary a sly kiss, suiting the action to the words of his songs, he never felt so happy in his life.

Supper was scarcely over when there was a rap at the door, and a well-known voice exclaiming, "What cheer, mates, what cheer?"

Billy sprang from his stool, and, lifting the latch, cried out, "Come in, Sam, come in! Hurrah! here's Sam Smatch. We were just wishing for you to help us to shake down our supper, but little thought to see you."

"Why, d'ye see, I wasn't wanted aboard, and so I got leave and just worked my way along here, playing at the publics and taking my time about it," said Sam.

"Not getting drunk, I hope, Sam?" asked Paul.

"Why, as to that, Paul, d'ye see, sometimes more liquor got into my head than went down into my heels; and so, you see, the heels was overballasted-like and kicked up a bit, just as the old Terrible used to do in a heavy sea; but as to being drunk, don't for to go and think such a thing of me, Paul,—I, who was always fit to look after the cook's coppers when no one else could have told whether they had beef and duff or round-shot boiling in them."

The black's countenance and the twinkle of his eyes belied his words, but he was not the less welcome. Paul told him to sit down, and he was soon doing ample justice to the remains of the supper. Without a word the table was cleared away. Mrs Pringle and the older people retired into the wide chimney recess. Sam, taking his fiddle, mounted on a meal-tub, which stood in a corner by the old clock, and then, striking up one of his merriest tunes, he soon had all the lads and lasses capering and frisking about before him, True Blue being the most lively and active of them all. Never did his heart and heels feel so light as he bounded up and down the room with Mary by his side, sometimes grasping her hands, and sometimes whirling round and round, while both were shrieking and laughing in the exuberance of their spirits.

He felt as if a load had been taken off his mind. Once more he was among his old friends and associates, and, without confessing the fact to himself, he infinitely preferred being with them to enjoying all the luxury and refinement which Lady Elmore's house in London had afforded. So the days flew rapidly by till the party of seamen had once more to rejoin their ship.

She was bound for the Mediterranean. The first port they entered was Toulon. The town and the surrounding fortifications were held by the Royalists, aided by British, Spanish, Sardinians, and Neapolitan troops, and strong parties of seamen from the English and Spanish squadron. The Republican troops were besieging the place, vowing vengeance against their countrymen who opposed them. Lord Hood, the British Commander-in-Chief, was expecting a reinforcement of Austrian troops to defend the town. He sent some ships to convey them, but an answer was returned that they could not be spared; and the Republican army having increased rapidly in numbers and gained several posts, a council of war was held to deliberate as to the advisability of longer holding the place. The result was that Toulon must be abandoned. It was the death-knell to thousands of the inhabitants.

Several important objects had to be accomplished. The ships of war must first be carried out of the harbour, the defenders withdrawn from the batteries, the Royalist inhabitants got off, and, finally, all the French ships, magazines, and stores which could not be removed destroyed.

It was an anxious and awful period. Between forty and fifty thousand Republican troops were preparing to storm the works, which, covering a vast extent of ground, were defended by less than eleven thousand. Sir Sydney Smith had volunteered to destroy the magazines and ships.

On the 18th of December, all the troops, having been withdrawn from the forts, were concentrated in the town. Happily the weather was fine and the sea smooth. The enemy had been so severely handled that they advanced cautiously. Among those who volunteered to accompany Sir Sydney Smith was Mr Alston, one of the lieutenants of the Ruby. Mr Nott, too, was of his party, as was Abel Bush, and True Blue got leave to go also.

The Neapolitan troops, by their dastardly desertion of the fort of the Mississi, at which they were stationed, nearly disconcerted all the arrangements. Great numbers of the inhabitants had already gone on board the ships of war.

Sir Sydney Smith had with him the Swallow, a small lateen-rigged vessel, three English and three Spanish gunboats, and the Vulcan fireship, under charge of Captain Charles Hare, with a brigade of boats in attendance.

The ships had got out; the boats of the fleet were waiting to carry off the troops. Already shot and shell from the surrounding heights were beginning to fall thickly into the harbour. The galley slaves in the arsenal, 800 in number, were threatening to interfere, but were kept in check by the gunboats; the Republicans were descending the hill in numbers, and opening fire with musketry and cannon on the British and Spanish.

Night came on; the fireship, towed by the boats, entered the basin. Her well-shotted guns were pointed so as to keep the enemy in check. The Spaniards had undertaken to scuttle the Iris frigate, which contained several thousand barrels of powder, as also another powder vessel, the Montreal frigate.

Hitherto Sir Sydney Smith and his gallant companions had performed all their operations in darkness, the only light being the flashes of the cannon and muskets playing on them. At length ten o'clock struck—a single rocket ascended into the air. In an instant the fireship and all the trains leading to the different magazines and stores were ignited. The boats lay alongside the former, ready to take off the crew. There was a loud explosion—the priming had burst, and the brave Captain Hare narrowly escaped with his life. "To the boats, lads, for your lives!" he shouted.

Mr Nott and True Blue were assisting him. Not a moment was to be lost. Upwards burst the flames with terrific fury, literally scorching them as they ran along the deck to jump into the boats. Abel Bush caught True Blue, or he would have been overboard.

"Bravo, boy!" cried Abel; "you've done it well."

"Yes, we've done it; but where's the Captain?" asked True Blue, about to spring back to look for him.

Just then the Captain appeared, with his clothes almost burnt off his back. The flames of the burning ships, the storehouses and magazines, now clearly exposed to the view of the exasperated Republicans those who were engaged in the work of destruction, and showers of shot and shell soon came rattling down among them. Still the gallant seamen persevered in the work they had undertaken, when suddenly the very air seemed to be rent in two; the masts, rigging, and deck of the Iris rose upwards in a mass of flame, shattering two gunboats which happened to be close to her, and scattering her burning fragments far and wide around her among the boats. The brave fellows in the latter, heedless of the danger, dashed on to assist the crews of the gunboats. Several people in one had been killed; but the whole crew of the other, though she had been blown into the air, were picked up alive.

"That is the ship the lazy Spaniards undertook to scuttle!" exclaimed Mr Alston after they had picked up all the poor fellows they could find. "However, bear a hand; we have plenty of work before us. There are two seventy-fours. We must destroy them by some means or other."

When, however, they reached the seventy-fours, they found them full of French prisoners, who seemed inclined to protect them.

"Very well, gentlemen," shouted Sir Sydney; "it will be a painful necessity to have to burn you in the ships!"

The hint was taken, and the prisoners thankfully allowed themselves to be conveyed to the nearest point of land.

The British ran no little risk in this undertaking, for the French far outnumbered them; but no attempt at rising was made; and now the two ships, Heros and Themistocle, being cleared of their occupants, were set on fire in every direction, and were soon blazing up brightly.

In every direction similar large bonfires were lighting up the harbour and shores of Toulon, among which the British boats were incessantly plying, carrying off the remaining troops and rescuing the terrified inhabitants.

At length the work of destruction, as far as means would allow, was well-nigh accomplished, when another fearful explosion, even greater than the first, took place, close to where the tender and the boats were at the moment passing.

It was the frigate Montreal. Down came around the boats a complete avalanche of burning timbers, huge guns, masts, spars, and blocks, rattling, and crashing, and hissing into the water. The seamen, already almost exhausted with their exertions, could scarcely attempt even to escape the fiery shower. Many of the poor fellows sank down at their oars, and those in each boat believed that their comrades had been destroyed; but when they drew out of the circle of destruction and mustered once more, not one had been injured.

Although fired on by the Republicans, who had taken possession of Forts Balaguier and Aiguillette, the boats slowly pulled out to join the fleet already outside. A few only, whose crews had strength left, returned to aid the flying inhabitants. The last of the troops had been embarked under the able management of Captain Elphinstone, of the Robust, and other Captains, without the loss of a man, the Robust being the last ship to leave the harbour when the infuriated Republicans, breathing vengeance on the helpless inhabitants, rushed into the city.

The terrible intelligence reached them that even in the suburbs neither age nor sex had been spared. Husbands seized their wives or daughters, mothers their children, and, rushing from their houses, fled towards the water, where their friends had already long ago embarked. Shot and shell were remorselessly fired down on them; numbers were cut in pieces as they fled. Every step they heard behind they thought came from a pursuing foe. Many, unable to reach the boats, preferring instant death to the bayonets of their countrymen, rushed, with their infants in their arms, and perished in the waves.

Daylight approached, and with sorrowful reluctance the brave seamen had to draw off from the scene of destruction to avoid falling into the hands of the enemy.

The boat in which True Blue pulled the bow oar was one of the last to quit the harbour, and for many a day afterwards the shrieks of the hapless Toulonese, murdered by their countrymen, rang in his ears.


The frigate was soon after this sent home with dispatches; but scarcely was she clear of the Straits of Gibraltar than the wind fell, a thick fog came on, and she lay becalmed some twenty leagues off the Spanish coast. So dense was the fog, that no object could be seen a quarter of a mile off.

At length a light breeze sprang up from the westward; but though strong enough to fill her sails and send her slowly gliding over the mirror-like surface of the water, it had not the power of blowing away the mist which hung over it.

True Blue was walking the forecastle with Paul Pringle when his quick ear caught the sound of a distant bell. He touched Paul's arm as a sign not to speak, and stood listening; then almost simultaneously another and another sounded, and the ship's bell directly after struck, as if responding to them. The sounds, it was evident, came down with the wind.

"Come aft and report them, in case the officer should not have heard them."

Mr Brine was on deck and listened attentively to what True Blue had to say. "How far off were the bells?" he asked.

"Half a mile, sir," was the prompt answer.

"Large or small, should you say?"

"Large, sir," said True Blue.

"English or French? I take it that there is a difference in the sound."

"And so there is, sir," quickly replied True Blue. "I marked it when we were aboard the Ralieuse; and now, sir, you ask me, I should say they were French."

"Very clear, indeed," remarked the first lieutenant. "Go into the weather-rigging, Freeborn, and keep your eyes about you and your ears open, and report anything more you may discover."

Mr Brine then went into the cabin to consult with the Captain. The sentry was ordered, when his half-hour glass was run out, to turn it, but not to sound the bell; and the word was passed along the decks to keep the ship as quiet as possible.

It was possible that they were in the presence of a greatly superior force of the enemy. The frigate's course, however, was not altered. The breeze was freshening, and any moment the veil might be lifted from the face of the waters, and the vessels floating on it disclosed to each other. Everything on board the frigate was prepared for flight or battle; and, in spite of the probability of having to contend with a superior force, the crew showed by their remarks that they would infinitely prefer the latter to the former alternative.

The only two, probably, on board who wished to avoid a fight were Sam Smatch and Gregory Gipples, who still remained on board. Poor Gregory would gladly have followed some more pacific calling, but his poverty, and not his will, compelled him to be a sailor. Besides, he was now a big, stout, well-fed fellow, and could pull and haul as well as many seamen; and in those days the pressgang took care that once a sailor, a man should remain always a sailor. Big as he was, and inclined to bully all fresh hands, Tim Fid defied him, and never ceased playing him tricks and quizzing him.

"Gipples, my boy, they say that there are three big Frenchmen coming down upon us, and that we are to fight them all!" cried Fid, giving his messmate a dig in the ribs. "One down, t'other come on, I hope it will be; but whether we drub them or not, some of us will be losing the number of our mess."

"Oh, don't talk so, Fid!" answered Gipples, looking very yellow. "What's the use of it? We don't see the enemy."

"No, but we very soon shall," said Fid. "Just let the mist lift, and there they'll be as big as life one on each quarter, so that every shot they fire will rake us pretty nigh fore and aft. Our Captain's not a man to give in, as you well know; so we shall soon have our sticks a-rattling down about our heads, and the round-shot whizzing by us, and splinters flying about, and arms and legs and heads tumbling off. How does yours feel, Gipples? It's odd a shot has never come foul of it yet. Howsomdever, you can't expect that always to be. But never mind, old fellow. I'll tell the old people at home how you died like a true British sailor; and if you have any message to your old chums, just tell me what to say."

Thus, with an ingenious talent at tormenting, Tim Fid ran on, till, from the vivid picture he drew, poor Gipples was fairly frightened out of his senses. Tim was just then called off by the boatswain. When he came back, Gipples was nowhere to be seen. The crew had been sent quietly to their quarters without the usual beat of drum. Gipples ought to have been seated on his powder tub, but he was not. He had been seen to go forward. Fid looked anxiously for him. He did not return.

A considerable time passed. No Gipples appeared, and Fid felt sure that he must have slipped purposely overboard.

Still Fid was not as happy as usual. True Blue asked him what was the matter. He told him of his fears about Gipples. Indeed, the unguarded powder tub was strong evidence that he was right in his surmises. Another boy was ordered to take charge of the tub, and nobody but Tim thought much more about the hapless Gregory.

The wind had gradually been increasing, and at length it gained sufficient strength to sweep before it the banks of heavy mist, when the loud sharp cry of the lookouts announced five sail right astern, and some five or six miles distant. As they could be seen clearly from the deck, numerous glasses were instantly pointed at them, when they were pronounced without doubt to be enemy's ships.

They also saw the frigate, and instantly bore up in chase. Had they all been line-of-battle ships, the swift-footed little Ruby might easily have escaped from them; but two looked very like frigates, and many of that class in those days were superior in speed to the fleetest English frigates.

All sail was made on the Ruby, and she was kept due north. "We may fall in with one of our own squadrons, or we may manage to keep ahead of the enemy till night, and then I shall have no fear of them," observed the Captain as he walked the quarterdeck with his first lieutenant.

"We shall soon see how fast the Frenchmen can walk along after us," answered Mr Brine. "I hope the Ruby won't prove a sluggard on this occasion; she has shown that she can go along when in chase of an enemy."

"Even should the two frigates come up with us, we must manage to keep them at bay," said the Captain. "I know, Brine, that you will never strike as long as a hope of escape remains."

"That I will not, sir!" exclaimed the first lieutenant warmly, and Mr Brine was not the man to neglect such a pledge.

"Never fear, lads," said Paul Pringle; "the Captain carried us clear with about as great odds against us once before, and he'll do it again now if the breeze holds fair."

"But suppose it doesn't, and those thundering big Frenchmen manage to get alongside of us, what are we to do then?" asked a young seaman who had lately been impressed from a merchantman.

"What do, Dunnage?—why, fight them, man!" answered Paul briskly. "You don't suppose, do you, that we should do anything else till we have done that? We may knock away their spars, or maybe a shift of wind may come, or a gale spring up, or we may give such hard knocks that the enemy may think us a bad bargain. At all events, the first thing a man-of-war has to do is to fight."

In a short time it was seen that the two frigates took the lead, and that one of them was much ahead of the other. "All right," said Paul when he perceived this, "we shall be able to settle with one before the other comes on."

The officers, however, knew well enough, as in reality did Paul, that a vessel much inferior in size might so far cripple them and impede their progress as to allow the more powerful ships to come up. Still the Ruby was well ahead when the sun went down. As twilight rapidly deepened into the gloom of night, the spirits of all on board increased. A light was now shown at the cabin window. There was no moon, and the night became very dark. Meantime, a cask had been prepared with a bright light on the top of it. The loftier sails were handed, the cask was lowered, and at the same instant the after-ports were closed. The light was seen floating brightly and calmly astern. The helm was then put down, the yards braced up, and the frigate stood away on a bowline close-hauled to the westward.

For some hours she tore on with her hammock nettings almost in the water; but it was a race for freedom, and what Briton would not undergo any risk for that? No one, not even the idlers, thought of turning in. Dawn came at length. Eager and sharp eyes were on the lookout at the mastheads, but not a sign of the enemy was perceived. Once more the helm was put up, and the frigate stood to the north-west.

Never did a ship's company turn to at their breakfast with more hearty goodwill than did that of the Ruby. The only person missing at his mess was Gregory Gipples; and this convinced Tim Fid that he must have thrown himself overboard. True Blue and Harry Hartland, however, differed with him, and argued the point. "If he was such a coward and so afraid of shot, surely he would not deliberately go and destroy himself," said they.

Fid insisted that his great fear of being shot made him dread less the idea of drowning.

"He wasn't quite such a fool as all that," said Harry. "Here comes Sam Smatch. Let's ask him what he thinks about it."

"What do I think about it?" exclaimed Sam, after they had laid the state of the case before him. "I'll tell ye, boys. Big Gipples, him no fool. He's stowed his fat carcase away somewhere down in de hold. Let's you all and me go and look for him, and we soon rouse him up like one great rat with rope's end."

"Set a thief to catch a thief!" whispered Harry to Fid. "I thought he would know where Gipples was likely to be found."

Sam had been known on more than one occasion to stow himself snugly away during action. When discovered, he had boldly avowed the wisdom of his conduct. "For why?" he argued. "Suppose now my arm shot away, ship's company lose fiddler; for how I fiddle without arm? And suppose no fiddler, how anchor got up? how ship go to sea? and how take prize? and how dance and be merry? No, no; you men no signify—go and be shot. I berry important—take care of self."

Accordingly, Sam being the guide, the party set out with proper authority to look for the missing Gipples. They searched in every vacant space in the cable tier, and in every accessible spot in the hold, among the water-casks and more bulky stores not under lock and key; but no Gregory was forthcoming.

Fid began to fear that his forebodings would prove true. One spot, however, had to be visited, commonly called the coal-hole. It was very dark and close, and not a place that any one would willingly pass a day in.

They thought that every corner had been explored, when, just as they were retiring, Fid heard a suppressed groan. He started, and, had he been alone, he felt that he should not have liked it; but he was a brave little fellow, especially in company with others; so he stopped and listened, and called Sam, who held the lantern, to examine the spot whence the groan had proceeded.

There was a loose pile of firewood in one corner; and, on examining it, there was no doubt that it had slipped over during the night. "He or his ghost is under there," said Fid, pointing to it.

"Even if it's his ghost, it's not a pleasant place to be in!" exclaimed True Blue, setting to work to remove the logs.

This was soon accomplished; and there, sure enough, black as a sweep from the coal dust, and bruised with the logs, lay not the ghost of Gipples, but Gipples himself, terribly frightened with the idea that he was looked-for only that he might be drawn forth to be punished.

"Oh, lagged—lagged!" he exclaimed bitterly. "I'll not do it again— indeed I won't, your worship. Just let me off this once. Oh do!"

"What's the fellow singing out about?" exclaimed Sam. "Just you come out. No one's going to hurt you. Just wash yourself and come and have some breakfast. You look pretty near dead already."

The truth was that the poor wretch was already out of his wits with fright, starvation, and sleepiness, and had a very confused idea of where he was or what had happened.

Sam Smatch now acted the part of a good Samaritan towards him. He got him up on the lower-deck, and then went and called the doctor, and said that he had found him bruised all over and apparently out of his wits. The doctor ordered him to be put into a hammock in the sick-bay.

Sam, however, first got him washed and cleaned, and gave him some food, which considerably revived him. After this, when Gipples came to himself, Sam administered a severe lecture to him for his cowardice.

"But you, Sam—you're afraid, I'm sure, Sam," whimpered the culprit.

"No, I not afraid," he answered indignantly; "but why for I go lose my head or arm, when I get noding for it? I am paid to play the fiddle and help the cook. I do my duty and keep out of harm's way. You, Gipples, are paid to be shot—you must stay where the shot comes, or you not do your duty. There all de difference."

"Then I'll try and get a rating where I needn't stop and be shot!" cried Gipples, as if a bright idea had seized him. "If I can't, I'll cut and run. I can't stand it—that I can't."

Had not the doctor reported the boy Gipples as having met with an accident, he would have been severely flogged for not having been at his quarters. As it was, he escaped without further punishment; but he got the name from his messmates of "Gregory Coal-hole."

The ship without further adventure reached Portsmouth. At this time, in spite of the destruction of so many ships and magazines at Toulon, the French Republic was preparing an armament so great that she hoped to be able at once to crush with it the fleets of Old England. The British Government, however, had not been idle; and a superb fleet of thirty-four line-of-battle ships, and numerous frigates, under Lord Howe, lay at Portsmouth ready to sail to meet the enemy.

Besides fighting, the Admiral had, however, two important objects in view. One was to intercept a convoy of some three hundred and fifty merchant vessels coming from the ports of the United States, laden with provisions and the produce of the West India Islands for the supply of the people of France, who were threatened with starvation for the want of them; the other object was to see the British East and West India and Newfoundland convoys clear of the Channel, where they might be intercepted by French cruisers.

The Ruby was attached to Lord Howe's squadron. It was a magnificent sight, when, on the morning of the 2nd of May 1794, a fleet of one hundred and forty-eight sail collected at Saint Helen's, of which forty-nine were ships of war, weighed by signal, and with the wind at north-east, stood out from that well-known anchorage at the east end of the Isle of Wight, from which they were clear by noon. The weather was fine, the crews were in good discipline, the ships kept well together, and the men doubted not that they were able to fight and to conquer any foe they might encounter.

Never had Paul Pringle felt more proud of his country and his profession, as, walking the deck of the frigate, with True Blue at his side, he looked out at the numerous magnificent ships which glided proudly over the blue ocean.

"Look there, Billy—look there, my boy! Isn't that a sight to make a sailor's heart swell high with pride?" he exclaimed as he swept his arm round the horizon.

"It does, godfather—it does!" answered True Blue warmly. "And if I hadn't loved the sea and the life of a sailor better than anything else, I should have loved it now, I think."

"Right, boy—right!" exclaimed Paul. "It's the calling for a man— there's no doubt on't. Look there now at Earl Howe's ship, the Queen Charlotte, called after our own good Queen, with her hundred guns; and then the Royal George, with Admiral Sir Alexander Hood's flag, and the Royal Sovereign, which carries that of Admiral Graves, each with their hundred bulldogs; and the Barfleur, and the Impregnable. And the Queen, and the Glory, each of them not much smaller; and the Gibraltar, and the Caesar, of eighty guns each. And then look at that hoop of seventy-fours. There's the Billy Ruffian, and the Tremendous, and the Ramillies, and the Audacious, and the Leviathan, and Majestic, and the Orion, and Marlborough, and Brunswick, and Culloden—they'll make a noise in the world some day, and perhaps before long too."

"That's it, Paul," said True Blue, looking up at his godfather's face. "I like our ship, as you know right well, and every timber and plank in her; but I should like to be aboard one of those seventy-fours when the day of battle comes. We aboard the frigates shall see what is going on, but the fine fellows belonging to them will have the real work."

Paul glanced down approvingly at True Blue. "Never mind that, boy," he answered. "We have had our turn while the line-of-battle ships were in harbour doing nothing, and we shall have it again, no fear of that. Besides, d'ye see, the enemy have frigates, and we may pick out one of them to lay aboard; or what do you say when the Frenchmen take to flight, we may then go in chase of some of their ships, and, big as they are, make them haul down their colours."

"Ay, that's some consolation," answered True Blue. "Still, it is not like being in the middle of the fight—that you'll allow, godfather."

"No, True Blue, it is not, boy; but in the middle of the fight you see nothing often—only your own gun and the side of the enemy at which you are firing away," remarked Paul. "Now aboard a frigate we are outside of all, and can see all the movements of our ships as well as those of the enemy; and as to fighting, a frigate with a smart Captain gets twice as much of that as any line-of-battle ship; except, perhaps, three or four favourites of fortune, which somehow seem to be in at everything. Look now, there's Lord Howe signalling away, and Admiral Montague answering him."

The fleet was now off the Lizard. The signal was made for the different convoys to part company, and for Admiral Montague, with six seventy-fours and two frigates, to protect them as far as the latitude of Cape Finisterre. Away sailed the rich argosies, many of the Indiamen worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, and almost as large as the line-of-battle ships themselves. Extending far as the eye could reach, they covered the glittering ocean with their white canvas and shining hulls, their flags streaming out gaily to the breeze.

Lord Howe, with the remainder of the men-of-war, steered for Ushant, and, arriving there, sent some frigates to look into Brest, to ascertain if the French fleet was there. The frigates returned with the report that it was in the harbour, a large number of ships having been clearly seen. Lord Howe calculating the time that the expected convoy from America would probably arrive, steered straight on a course to intercept them. The line-of-battle ships had of necessity to keep together, in case of encountering an enemy's squadron; but the frigates were scattered far and wide; and True Blue had no reason to complain of want of employment, as night and day a sharp lookout was kept for a strange sail.

None, however, was seen, and once more the fleet returned to the neighbourhood of Brest. Two frigates, with two line-of-battle ships to support them, were now ordered to look once more into Brest harbour. On going in, they met with an American merchantman coming out, and, on a boat from the Leviathan boarding her, the master informed the officer in command that the French fleet had sailed some days before. This report was found to be correct, and the same evening the reconnoitring detachment rejoined the fleet.

Without loss of time, Lord Howe sailed in search of the French fleet. This consisted of some twenty-five ships of the line, and sixteen frigates or corvettes under the command of Admiral Villaret-Joyeuse, in the Montague, of 120 guns; besides this ship, considered so enormous in those days, there were three of 110 guns, and four eighty-gun ships, all the rest being seventy-fours. The first object of this fleet was to protect the expected convoy of provision ships, while that of the English was to capture it. The French Admiral steered, therefore, a direct course to the point where he hoped to intercept the convoy. His ships, indeed, passed so close to those of the British during a thick fog that they heard the usual fog-signals of the latter, such as the ringing of bells and beating of drums; but as their object was not then to fight, they did their best not to be discovered, and on the following morning, when the fog cleared, they were out of sight of each other.

Lord Howe had, however, determined to overtake and bring the Frenchmen to action; and as the ocean at that time was covered with vessels of all nations, playing somewhat a puss-in-the-corner game as they ran from port to port, he had every reason to expect that he would obtain the required information as to their movements.

On the evening of the 19th of May a frigate appeared, despatched by Admiral Montague, saying that, while cruising in the latitude of Cape Ortegal, he had captured a French twenty-gun ship and a corvette, with ten British sail of the Newfoundland convoy which they had taken; that, from the information he obtained from the prisoners, he found that the squadron protecting the American merchant fleet now consisted of nine line-of-battle ships and several frigates, and requesting, therefore, reinforcements. He was then, he stated, about to proceed along the same meridian of longitude to the latitude of 45 degrees 47 minutes north, in which, according to the information of the prisoners, the Rochefort squadron had been directed to cruise.

On learning this, Lord Howe, believing that Admiral Montague's squadron was in danger of being overpowered by Villaret, made all sail to his rescue.

On the 21st, however, the lookout gave notice of a strange fleet in sight. Chase was made, and ten out of fifteen sail of merchantmen—part of the Lisbon convoy captured by the Brest fleet—were retaken.

The vessels were burnt, as Lord Howe could not weaken his crews by sending them into port. From the prize crews taken in them, he learned that the French had prepared red-hot shot, and that the officers had determined to engage at close quarters. At the first piece of information the British seamen were inclined to laugh; and as to the second, though inclined to doubt it, they only hoped it might be true.

No sooner was the information received that the French fleet was so near, than Lord Howe abandoned his intention of joining Admiral Montague, whom he considered in safety, and stretched away to the northward and westward in daily expectation of coming up with the enemy.

All the information he gleaned confirmed Lord Howe in the opinion that he was but a short distance from the enemy. The morning of the 28th of May found the British fleet, with a strong wind at south by west and a heavy sea, formed in order of sailing, with the lookout frigates stationed around them. The Ruby was to windward, about one hundred and forty leagues west of Ushant, and True Blue was one of the lookouts. Great was his delight when at 6:30 a.m., he discovered a sail to the south-south-east, and scarcely had he hailed the deck with the information than he made out a strange fleet directly to windward.

"Hurrah! there is the enemy!" was the general cry throughout the British fleet.

Intense was the interest on board every English ship. In about two hours the French were seen bearing down in somewhat loose order; but when about ten miles off, they hauled their wind and began to form in order of battle.

The frigates were now for safety recalled, and the main body continued in the order of sailing, except the Bellerophon, Leviathan, Marlborough, Audacious, Russell, and Thunderer, which were a considerable distance in advance to windward, and were coming fast up with the enemy's rear. The ever-exciting signal of the whole fleet to chase and prepare for action was now thrown out from the Queen Charlotte. Every sail the ships could carry was immediately set, and away the whole fleet plunged through the rolling, tumbling sea in chase of the flying enemy. It was not, however, till towards the evening that Admiral Pasley, in the Bellerophon, closed with the rear ship of the enemy's line, a three-decker, on which he commenced a firm and resolute attack, supported occasionally by the ships in his division. The Bellerophon being soon disabled, fell to leeward; and just then the Audacious came up, and for two hours most gallantly engaged the Frenchman, which proved to be the Revolutionnaire of 110 guns. The enemy's mizen-mast falling overboard, and her lower yards and main-topsail-yard having been shot away, she fell athwart hawse of the Audacious. Getting clear, however, she put before the wind; nor was it in the power of the latter, from her own crippled condition, to follow her.

Still the French, though having the weather-gage, and therefore having it entirely in their power to engage, avoided an action. By the persevering efforts of some of the weathermost ships of the British, several of their ships most to leeward were compelled to fight. One of them indeed struck; but, a consort coming up and pouring a broadside into her as a gentle reminder of her duty she again hoisted her colours. The frigates meantime were hovering about, ready to obey any orders they might receive, their Captains and officers, as well as their crews, naturally severely criticising the movements of the two fleets, and jealous that they themselves were not permitted to take part in the now active work going on.

"That's always like them, Abel, isn't it?" exclaimed Paul Pringle as he watched the main body of the French fleet still keeping aloof. "It puts me just in mind of what they used to do in the West Indies. When they numbered twice as strong as we did, they would come down boldly enough; but when we showed our teeth and barked, they'd be about again, thinking that they would wait for a better opportunity."

"Ay, Paul, I mind it well. Even Billy here minds it, too, though he was a little chap then," answered Abel, placing his hand on the lad's shoulder. "And, True Blue, what's more, do you tell it to your children's children. Never mind how big may be the ships of the enemy, or how many guns they may carry, let British seamen when they meet them, as we do nowadays, feel sure that they will conquer, and I am very sure that conquer they will; ay, however the Frenchmen may bluster and boast of their mountain ships, just as the French Admiral does now."

"That's it, mate," chimed in Peter Ogle. "That's the way. Go at them. Show them that you know you are going to thrash them—stick to it. Never mind if you are getting the worst; be sure you'll be getting the better before long, and, as Abel was a-saying, so you will in the end."

"Right, right!" said Abel impressively. "Suppose now they were for to go for to cover up their ships with padding, or thick coats of wood or iron, just as men once had to do their bodies, I've heard tell, when they went to battle,—not that in the matter of ships it could be done on course, ha! ha! ha! but we never knows what vagaries the Monsieurs may try. Well, what should we do? Stand and play at long bowls with them? No, I should think not; but go at them, run them down, or lay them alongside just as we do now, and give them the taste of our cutlasses. They'll never stand them as long as there's muscle and bone in an Englishman's arm."

"Never did you say a truer word, Abel!" exclaimed Paul. "And mind you remember it, True Blue. But I say, mates, what's the Caesar about there? I've been watching her for some hours, and there she is still under treble-reefed topsails; and, instead of boldly standing up along the French line, she has been edging away, and now she's been and tacked as if she was afraid of the enemy. What can she be about? He's making the Frenchmen fancy that there is a British officer in this fleet who fears them. Oh, boys, for my part I would sooner be the cook than the Captain of that ship! But don't let's look at him; it makes my heart turn sick. Look instead at our brave old Admiral! He is a fine fellow. See, see! he has tacked. He doesn't care a rap for the Frenchman's fire. The Queen Charlotte must be getting it pretty warmly, though. There, he's standing right down, and he's going to break the French line. There's a broadside the old lady has poured into the quarter of one of those rear French ships. Now he luffs up right under her stern, and has repeated the dose. The Frenchman will not forget it in a hurry. There go the Billy Ruffian and the Leviathan. They'll cut off a couple of Frenchmen if they manage well. Hurrah! That's the way to go about the work. It cannot be long before our fine old chief makes the Frenchmen fight, whether they will or not."

Several other ships, besides those observed by Paul Pringle and True Blue, were hotly engaged during the course of that 29th of May, and lost a considerable number of officers and men.


On the first of June 1794, the British fleet was steering to the westward with a moderate breeze, south by west, and a tolerably smooth sea. All night Lord Howe had carried a press of sail to keep up with the French fleet, which he rightly conjectured would be doing the same; and as he eagerly looked forth at early dawn, great was his satisfaction to descry them, about six miles off, on the starboard or lee bow of his fleet, still steering in line of battle on the larboard tack. His great fear had been that the French Admiral would weather on him and escape; now he felt sure that he had him.

At about 5 a.m. the ships of the British fleet bore up, steering first to the north-west, then to the north; and then again, having closed with the Frenchmen, they hauled their wind once more, and the Admiral, knowing that their crews had heavy work before them, ordered them to heave-to and to pipe to breakfast.

The frigates, the Ruby among them, and the smaller vessels brought up the rear. Exactly at twelve minutes past 8 a.m., Lord Howe made the looked-for signal for the fleet to fill and bear down on the enemy; then came one for each ship to steer for and independently engage the ship opposed to her in the enemy's line.

The British line was to windward, and Lord Howe wished that each ship should cut through the enemy's line astern of her proper opponent, and engage her to leeward.

Soon after 9 a.m. the French ships opened their fire on the advancing British line, which was warmly returned. The gallant old English Admiral set an example of bravery by steering for the stern of the largest French ship, the Montague, and passed between her and the Jacobin, almost running aboard the latter.

So energetically did the men labour at their guns, and so tremendous was the fire that they poured into both their opponents, that in less than an hour the Montague had her stern-frame and starboard quarter shattered to pieces, and a hundred killed and two hundred wounded. In this condition she was still able to make sail, which she did, as did also the Jacobin, the Queen Charlotte being too much disabled in her masts and rigging to follow.

Most of the other British ships were in the meantime hotly engaging those of the enemy. The Queen especially received a tremendous fire from several ships, and became so crippled that the Montague, after she had got clear of the Queen Charlotte, followed by several other ships, bore down to surround her.

Lord Howe, however, having once more made sail on his ship, wore round, followed by several other ships, to her rescue. The Montague, though she had suffered so much in her hull and had lost so many men, had her masts and rigging entire; and this enabled her to make sail ahead, followed by other ships which had in the same way escaped with their rigging uninjured. Twelve French ships, however, were by half-past eleven almost totally dismasted, while eleven of the British were in little better condition; but then the Frenchmen had suffered in addition far more severely in their hulls.

The proceedings of the line-of-battle ships had been viewed at a distance by the eager crew of the Ruby. As one ship after the other was dismasted, their enthusiasm knew no bounds.

"Oh, Paul, I wish I was there!" cried True Blue vehemently. "There!— there!—another Frenchman is getting it! Down comes her foremast!— see!—her mainmast and mizen-mast follow! Oh, what a crash there must be! That's the eighth Frenchman without a lower mast standing. Hurrah! we shall have them all!"

"Not quite so sure of that, boy," observed Peter Ogle, who had come upon the forecastle. "Two of our own ships, you see, are no better off; and several have lost their topmasts and topgallant-masts. Still they are right bravely doing their duty. I've never seen warmer work in my day. Have you, Paul?"

"No. With Lord Rodney we have had hot work enough; but the Frenchmen didn't fight as well as they do to-day, I must say that for them," observed Paul. "See now that Admiral of theirs; he is bearing down once more to help some of his disabled ships. See, his division seems to have four or five of them under their lee; but there are a good many more left to our share."

"Hurrah!" cried True Blue, who had been watching an action briskly carried on in another direction. "There's one more Frenchman will be ours before long. That's a tremendous drubbing the Brunswick has given her."

No ship's company displayed more determined gallantry during that eventful day than did the Brunswick, commanded by the brave Captain Harvey. Being prevented from passing between the Achille and Vengeur, in consequence of the latter shooting ahead and filling up the intervening space, she ran foul of the Vengeur, her own starboard anchors hooking on the Frenchman's larboard foreshrouds and fore-channels.

"Shall we cut away the anchor, sir?" inquired the master, Mr Stewart, of the Captain.

"No, no. We have got her, and we will keep her," replied Captain Harvey.

The two ships on this swung close to each other, and, paying off before the wind with their heads to the northward, with their yards squared, and with a considerable way on them, they speedily ran out of the line, commencing a furious engagement. The British crew, unable to open the eight lower-deck starboard ports from the third abaft, blew them off. The Vengeur's musketry, meantime, and her poop carronades, soon played havoc on the Brunswick's quarterdeck, killing several officers and men, and wounding others, among whom was Captain Harvey, three of his fingers being torn away by a musket-shot, though he refused to leave the deck.

For an hour and a half the gallant Brunswick carried on the desperate strife, the courage of her opponent's crew being equal to that of her own, when, at about 11 a.m., a French ship was discovered through the smoke, with her foremast only standing, bearing down on her larboard quarter, with her gangways and rigging crowded with men, prepared, it was evident, to board her, for the purpose of releasing the Vengeur. Instead of trembling at finding the number of their enemies doubled, the British seamen cheered, and the men stationed at the five aftermost lower-deck guns on the starboard side were turned over to those on the larboard side, on which the fresh enemy appeared. A double-headed shot was added to each of these guns, already loaded with a 32-pounder. The main and upper deck guns were already manned.

"Now, my lads," cried the officer, "fire high, and knock away her remaining mast!"

The stranger, which was the Achille, had now got within musket-shot, and wonderfully surprised were her crew at the hot fire with which they were received. Round after round from the after-guns were discharged in rapid succession, till, in a few minutes, down came the Frenchman's foremast, falling on the starboard side, where the wreck of the main and mizen-masts already lay, and preventing him making the slightest resistance. A few more rounds were given. They were not returned, and down came the Frenchman's colours, which had been hoisted on one of her remaining stumps. The Brunswick, however, was utterly unable to take possession, not having a boat that would swim, and being still hotly engaged with her opponent on the opposite side.

When the Frenchmen discovered this, they once more rehoisted their colours, and, setting a spritsail on the bowsprit, endeavoured to make off. The Brunswick, as they did so, gave them a parting dose; but it had not the effect of making them once more lower their colours. All this time, the crews stationed at the Brunswick's lower and main deck guns were heroically labouring away. Profiting by the rolling of the Vengeur, they frequently drove home the quoins and depressed the muzzles of the guns, which were loaded with two round-shot, and then before the next discharge withdrew the quoins and pointed the muzzles upwards, thus alternately firing into her opponent's bottom and ripping up her decks. While, however, they were hurling destruction into the side of the enemy below, the French musketry was sweeping the quarterdeck, forecastle, and poop, whence, in consequence, it was scarcely possible to work the guns. Several times, also, she had been on fire from the wadding which came blazing on board.

The brave Captain Harvey, on passing along the deck, was knocked down by a splinter; but, though seriously injured, he was quickly on his legs again encouraging his men. Soon afterwards, however, the crown of a double-headed shot, which had split, struck his right arm and shattered it to fragments. He fell into the arms of some of those standing round.

"Stay a moment before you take me below!" he exclaimed, believing that he was mortally wounded. "Persevere, my brave lads, in your duty. Continue the action with spirit, for the honour of our King and country; and remember my last word, 'The colours of the Brunswick shall never be struck!'"

Hearty shouts answered this heroic address, and the crew set to work with renewed energy to compel their opponents to succumb. Never, perhaps, however, were two braver men than the Captains of the Brunswick and Vengeur opposed to each other, and their spirits undoubtedly animated their crews. If the British had resolved to conquer, the French had determined not to yield as long as their ship remained afloat.

Still it appeared doubtful which would come off the victor. At this crisis, for an instant, as the smoke cleared off, another line-of-battle ship was seen approaching the Brunswick. If a Frenchman, all on board saw it would go hard with her. Still they determined not to disappoint their Captain's hopes, and to go down with their colours flying rather than strike.

The command had now devolved on Lieutenant Cracraft. For three hours the two ships had been locked in their fiery embrace, pounding away at each other with the most desperate fury, when, near 1 p.m., the Vengeur, tearing away the three anchors from the Brunswick's bow, rolled herself clear, and the two well-matched combatants separated.

The newcomer was seen to be the Ramillies, with her masts and spars still uninjured. Having, indeed, had but two seamen killed and seven wounded, she was quite a fresh ship. She, however, waited for the French ship to settle farther from the Brunswick, in order to have room to fire at her without injuring the latter. The brave crew of the Brunswick were, however, not idle even yet, and continued their fire so well-directed that they split the Vengeur's rudder and shattered her stern-post, besides making a large hole in her counter, through which they could see the water rushing furiously.

At this spot the Ramillies, now only forty yards distant, pointed her guns, and the Brunswick, still firing, in a few minutes reduced the brave Vengeur to a sinking state. Just then, it being seen from the Ramillies that the Achille was endeavouring to make her escape, all sail was made on her, and away she stood from the two exhausted combatants in chase of the fugitive, which she ultimately secured without opposition. Soon after 1 p.m., the two gallant opponents ceased firing at each other, and at the same time a Union-Jack was displayed over the quarter of the Frenchman as a token of submission and a desire to be relieved.

Not a boat, however, could be sent from the Brunswick, and in a few minutes her mizen-mast went by the board and made her still less able to render assistance. It made the hearts of the brave crew of the Brunswick bleed to think of the sad fate which awaited their late enemies, and which no exertion they had the power of making could avert.

Mr Cracraft now considered what was best to be done. The French Admiral Villaret was leading a fresh line on the starboard tack, to recover as many as he could of his dismasted ships; and the difficulty of the Brunswick was to rejoin her own fleet, without passing dangerously near that of the French, the loss of the mizen-mast and the wounded state of the other masts rendering it impossible to haul on a wind as was necessary. Accordingly, the head of the Brunswick was put to the northward for the purpose of making the best of her way into port, while all possible sail was made on her.

Sad was her state. Her mizen-mast was gone, and her two other masts and bowsprit were desperately wounded; her yards were shattered; all her running and most of her standing rigging was shot away, and her sails were in shreds and tatters. Twenty-three guns lay dismounted; her starboard quarter gallery had been carried away, and her best bower anchor with the starboard cathead was towing under her stem. Her brave Captain was mortally wounded, and she had three officers, eleven marines, and thirty seamen killed, and three officers, nineteen marines and ninety-one seamen wounded. The survivors immediately began to fish the masts, repair the damaged rigging, and to secure the lower-deck ports, through which the water was rushing at every roll. Her adventures were not over, though; for at 3 p.m., on her homeward course, she fell in with the Jemappes, wholly dismasted, and moved only by means of her spritsails. The Brunswick, which had received, early in the day, considerable annoyance from her, luffed up under her lee for the purpose of capturing her; but her crew displayed the Union-Jack over her quarter, and hailed that she had struck to the English Admiral, at the same time pointing at the Queen, then some distance to the south. The assertion being credited, the Brunswick stood on, and happily reached Plymouth Sound in safety, where, on the 30th, her brave Captain, John Harvey, died.

Her gallant opponent, meantime, the Vengeur, soon after they parted, lost her wounded fore and main masts, the latter in its fall carrying away the head of the mizen-mast. Thus reduced to a complete wreck, she rolled her ports deeply in the water, and the lids of those on the larboard side having been torn or knocked off in her late engagement, she filled faster than ever. Hopeless seemed the fate of all on board. Her officers scarcely expected that she could float many hours, or indeed minutes, longer.

None of her own consorts could come to her assistance. Her boats were knocked to pieces; there was no time to construct a raft, and the sea was too rough to launch one. Her decks were covered with the dead and dying; her cockpit full of desperately wounded men, not less than two hundred in all. Discipline was at end. Many broke into the spirit-room. Many burst forth into wild Republican songs, and insisted on the tricoloured flag being again hoisted.

Their brave Captain looked on with grief and pain at what was going forward, and did his utmost to restore order. He had a young son with him—a gallant little fellow, who had stood unharmed by his side during the hottest of the fight; and was he now thus to perish? Could he save the boy? There seemed no hope.

Captain Garland had been aloft all day with his glass, as had also several of his officers, eagerly watching the proceedings of the two fleets. Never for a moment did he doubt on which side victory would drop her wreath of laurel; still his heart beat with an anxiety unusual for him. He had remarked the two ships remaining hotly engaged, yardarm to yardarm out of the line, and he had never lost sight of them altogether. What their condition would be after so desperate and lengthened an encounter he justly surmised, and he at length bore down to aid a friend in capturing an enemy, or to succour one or the other.

The Ruby had more than one ship to contend with on her way, and her boats were summoned by signal to take possession of a prize; so that the evening was drawing on when she, with another ship, and the Rattler cutter, got down to the sinking Frenchman.

Evidently, from the depth of the shattered seventy-four in the water, and the slow way in which she rolled, she had but a short time longer to float. The guns were secured, and every boat that could swim was instantly lowered from the sides of the British ships. The gallant seamen showed themselves as eager to save life as they had been to destroy it.

"Jump, jump, Jean Crapaud!—jump, jump, friends!" they shouted as they got alongside. "We'll catch you, never fear," they added, holding out their arms.

Numbers of Frenchmen, begrimed with powder and covered with blood, threw themselves headlong into the boats, and had it not been for the English seamen, would have been severely injured. Some refused to come, and looked through the ports, shouting, "Vive la Nation!", "Vive la Republique!"

"Poor fools!" cried Paul Pringle sadly; "they'll soon be singing a different tune when the water is closing over their heads. That will bring them too late to their senses."

The boats, as fast as their eager crews could urge them, went backwards and forwards between the sinking Frenchman and the English ships. Some hundreds had been taken off; but still the wounded and many of the drunken remained.

Sir Henry Elmore commanded one of the boats, and True Blue was in her. In one of her early trips an officer appeared at one of the ports, dragging forward a young midshipman.

"Monsieur," he said, hearing Sir Henry speak French, "I beg that you will take this brave boy in your boat. He wishes to be one of the last to leave the ship, and, as you see, we know not how soon she may go down, and he may be lost. He is our Captain's son, and where his father is I cannot say."

"Gladly—willingly," answered Sir Henry. "And you, my friend, come with the boy."

The lad showed signs of resistance; but True Blue sprang up into the port, aided by a boathook which he held, and, taking the lad round the waist, leaped with him into the boat. The officer refused to come, saying that he had duties to which he must attend; and the boat being now full, Sir Henry had to return to the frigate.

On hastening back to the ship, the officer again appeared. "I will accompany you now," he said, leaping in and taking his seat in the sternsheets. "But I have been searching in vain for our brave Captain Renaudin. What can have, become of him I do not know. If he is lost, it will break that poor boy's heart, they were so wrapped up in each other."

The boat, as he spoke, was rapidly filling with French seamen.

"Shove off! shove off!" cried Sir Henry energetically.

It was time, indeed. There was a general rush from all the decks and ports of the hapless Vengeur. Some threw themselves into the water, some headlong into the boats; others danced away, shouting as before; while one, more drunken or frantic than the rest, waved over her counter the tricoloured flag under which the ship had been so gallantly fought.

The boats shoved off and pulled away as fast as they could move; there was danger in delay. The men pulled for their lives. The ship gave a heavy lurch, the madmen shouted louder than ever; and then every voice was silent, and down she went like some huge monster beneath the waves, which speedily closed over the spot where she had been, not a human being floating upwards alive from her vast hull, now the tomb of nearly a third of her crew.

There were many other desperate encounters that day, but none so gallantly fought out to the death as that between the Brunswick and the Vengeur. Six line-of-battle ships were secured as prizes. The total loss of the French in killed, wounded, and prisoners was not less than 7000 men, of whom fully 3000 were killed.

The whole loss of the English on the 1st of June, and on the previous days, was 290 killed and 858 wounded. The French having suffered more in their hulls than in their masts and rigging, were able to manoeuvre better than the English; and Admiral Villaret, being content with having secured four of his ships, made no attempt to renew the battle, but under all the sail he could set, with the dismasted ships in tow, stood away to the northward, and by 6 p.m. was completely out of sight, a single frigate only remaining astern to reconnoitre.

Thus ended this celebrated sea-fight, chronicled in the naval annals of England as the glorious First—1st of June. Its immediate results were in themselves not important; but it showed Englishmen what they were ready enough to believe, that they could thrash the Frenchmen as in days of yore; and it taught the French to dread the dogged resolution and stern courage of the English, and to be prepared to suffer defeat whenever they should meet on equal terms.

The news of the victory reached London on the 10th. So important was it considered, that Lord Chatham carried the account of it to the opera, and just after the second act it was made known to the house. A burst of transport interrupted the opera, and never was any scene of emotion so rapturous as the audience exhibited when the band struck up "Rule Britannia!" The same enthusiasm welcomed the news at the other theatres. The event was celebrated throughout the night by the ringing of bells and firing of cannon, and the next day at noon by the firing of the Park and Tower guns. For three successive evenings also the whole metropolis was illuminated.

A few days afterwards, the King himself, with the Queen and Royal Family, went to Portsmouth to visit the fleet. Lord Howe's flag was shifted to a frigate, and the royal standard was hoisted on board the Queen Charlotte. The whole garrison was under arms, and the concourse of people was immense. The King, with his own hand, carried a valuable diamond-hilted sword from the Commissioner's house down to the boat. As soon as His Majesty arrived on board the Queen Charlotte, with numbers of his ministers and nobles, and the officers of the fleet standing round on the quarterdeck, he presented the sword to Lord Howe, as a mark of his satisfaction and entire approbation of his conduct.

As their Majesties' barges passed, the crews cheered, the ships saluted, the bands played martial symphonies, and every sign of a general enthusiasm was exhibited.

The next day, the King gave audience to the officers of Lord Howe's fleet, and to the officers of the army and navy generally; and after their Majesties had dined at the Commissioner's house, they proceeded up the harbour to view the six French prizes which lay there at their moorings.

The primary object for which the fleet had put to sea was not accomplished; the great American convoy was not fallen in with, nor did Admiral Montague succeed in intercepting it, though he himself met Admiral Villaret's defeated Squadron, and might, had the French shown more courage, have been overpowered by it. He avoided an engagement and returned into port; and a day or two afterwards, the expected convoy appeared off the French coast, and gained a harbour in safety.

The Ruby had arrived with the rest of the fleet at Spithead. The seamen treated their prisoners with the greatest kindness and humanity; and even Paul Pringle declared that the Jean Crapauds were not after all such bad fellows, if you got them by themselves to talk to quietly.

Young Renaudin, the son of the brave Captain of the Vengeur, during their ten days' passage home, became a great pet among the officers and midshipmen. Still his spirits were very low, and he was very despondent, believing that his father was lost to him for ever. He had especially attached himself to Sir Henry Elmore and Johnny Nott, who, remembering their own preservation from foundering, had a fellow-feeling for him, and more especially looked after all his wants, while True Blue was appointed to attend on him.

The day after their arrival, Sir Henry got leave to go on shore and take their young prisoner, as well as Nott and True Blue, with him. Scarcely had they touched the point, than the boy sprang from the boat, and, breathless with excitement, rushed into the arms of a gentleman who had just landed with some English officers.

"Mon pere! mon pere!" exclaimed the boy.

"Mon fils! mon fils!" cried the gentleman, enclosing him in his arms and bursting into tears.

It was the gallant Captain of the Vengeur.

"Next to winning the battle, I would sooner have seen that meeting between the brave French Captain and his son than anything else I know of!" exclaimed True Blue as he recounted the adventure to Tim Fid, Harry Hartland, and other messmates on board the Ruby.


A considerable time had passed after that celebrated 1st of June, and the French had learned to suspect who were to be the masters at sea, whatever they might have thought of their own powers on shore, when a fine new corvette of eighteen guns, the Gannet, was standing across the British Channel on a cruise. Her master and commander was Captain Brine, long first lieutenant of the Ruby. Her first lieutenant was a very gallant officer, Mr Digby; and her second was Sir Henry Elmore, who was glad to go to sea again with his old friend Captain Brine. She had a boatswain, who had not long received his warrant for that rank, Paul Pringle by name; her gunner was Peter Ogle, and her carpenter Abel Bush; while one of her youngest though most active A.B.s was Billy True Blue Freeborn. She had a black cook too. He was not a very good one; but he played the fiddle, and that was considered to make amends for his want of skill.

"For why," he used to remark, "if my duff hard, I fiddle much; you dance de more, and den de duff go down—what more you want?"

True Blue's three godfathers had resolved to become warrant-officers if they could, and all had studied hard to pass their examinations, which they did in a very satisfactory way.

Their example was not lost upon True Blue. "I have never been sorry that I am not on the quarterdeck," said he one day to Paul. "But, godfather, I shall be if I cannot become a boatswain. That's what I am fitted for, and that's what my father would have wished me to be, I'm sure."

"That he would, Billy," answered Paul. "You see a boatswain's an officer and wears a uniform; and he's a seaman, too, so to speak, and that's what your father wished you to be; and I'll tell you what, godson, if some of these days, when you're old enough, you becomes a boatswain, and when the war's over you goes on shore and marries Mary Ogle, so that you'll have a home of your own when I am under hatches, that's all I wishes for you. It's the happiest lot for any man—a good wife, a snug little cottage, a garden to dig in, with a summer-house to smoke your pipe in, and maybe a berth in the dockyard, just to keep you employed and your legs going, is all a man like you or me can want for, and that is what I hope you may get."

Some young men would have turned the matter off with a laugh, but True Blue replied, "Ay, godfather, there isn't such a girl between the North Foreland and the Land's End so good and so pretty to my mind as Mary Ogle; and that I'll maintain, let others say what they will."

"True, boy, true!" cried Paul, slapping him affectionately on the shoulder. "You are right about Mary; and when a lad does like a girl, it's pleasant to see that he really does like her right heartily and honestly, and isn't ashamed of saying so."

The Gannet had altogether a picked crew, and Captain Brine was on the lookout to give them every opportunity of distinguishing themselves. There were, to be sure, some not quite equal to the rest. Tim Fid and Harry Hartland had joined with True Blue, and poor Gregory Gipples had managed still to hang on in the service, though, as his messmates observed, he was more suited to sweep the decks than to set the Thames on fire.

As yet the saucy little Gannet, as her crew delighted to call her, had done nothing particularly to boast of, except capturing and burning a few chasse-marees, looking into various holes and corners of the French coast, exchanging shots with small batteries here and there, and keeping the French coastguard in a very lively and active condition, never knowing when they might receive a nine-pound round-shot in the middle of one of their lookout towers, or be otherwise disturbed in their nocturnal slumbers.

Captain Brine was up the coast and down the coast in every direction; and if he could manage to appear at a point where the wind was least likely to allow him to be, by dint of slashing at it in the offing against a head wind, or by creeping in shore with short tacks, he was always more pleased and satisfied, and so were his crew.

The wind was north-east, the ship's head was south; it was in the month of March, and the weather not over balmy.

"A sail on the weather bow!" cried the lookout from the masthead.

"What is she like?" asked the second lieutenant, who had charge of the deck.

"She looms large, sir," was the answer.

The information was notified to the Captain, who was on deck in an instant.

Whether the stranger was friend or foe was the next question to be ascertained. Doubts were expressed as to that point both fore and aft. She was a frigate, that was very certain; still, without trying her with the private signal, Captain Brine did not like to haul his wind and make sail away from her. The nearer she drew, the more French she looked. Eighteen guns to thirty-eight or forty, which probably the stranger carried, was a greater disproportion than even the gallant Brine was inclined to encounter. All hands stood ready to make sail at an instant's notice.

At length the two ships drew almost near enough to exchange signals. "That ship is French, depend on it, sir!" exclaimed the first lieutenant to the Captain.

"I am not quite so certain of that, Digby," answered Captain Brine. "But if she is not an enemy, she is the Diamond frigate, commanded by Sir Sydney Smith. He has a wonderful knack of disguising his ship. I have known him to deceive the French themselves, and quietly to sail under a battery, look into a port, and be out again before he was suspected. He delights in such sort of work, and is not over bashful in describing afterwards what he has done. We shall soon, however, ascertain the truth. Try the stranger now with our private signals."

The flags were run up, and in a short time Sir Henry exclaimed, "You are right, sir! She replies, and makes the Diamond's number. There is another signal now. Sir Sydney orders us to close with him."

"I felt almost certain that it was the Diamond," said the Captain. "Well, gentlemen, I have no doubt that we shall soon have some work to do."

As soon as the corvette got within a short distance of the frigate, she hove to; and a boat being lowered, Captain Brine went on board to pay his respects to his superior officer. He, however, speedily returned.

"Sir Sydney proposes a cruise round the French coast together, which accords with our instructions," he said, addressing his two lieutenants, and the news soon spread through the ship.

Away the frigate and corvette sailed together, and soon fell in with a large lugger, to which they gave chase; but she turned out to be the Aristocrat, a hired vessel, fitted out by Government, and commanded by Lieutenant Gossett. Sir Sydney rubbed his hands.

"We could not be better off!" he exclaimed. "The Lion, Wolf, and Jackal all hunting in company."

Not many days had passed before a fleet of vessels was espied under the land, and evidently French. One was made out to be a corvette, and the others brigs, schooners, and luggers, which she was apparently convoying. Chase was instantly given, and the strangers made all sail to escape.

Away they went, close in with the shore, just as a herd of oxen run along a hedge looking for an opening into which to escape. At length the water shoaled so much that the frigate had to haul off. The corvette stood on a little longer, and had to do the same; while the lugger, running on still farther, signalled that all the enemy had run into a harbour under some high land which appeared to be surmounted with batteries.

Sir Sydney on this called the other two vessels near to him, and informed their commanders that he knew the place, and that he intended surveying the entrance, which he believed was deep enough for the frigate herself. The frigate and her consorts then stood off till the approach of evening, as if giving up the pursuit. As soon, however as it was dark, they once more approached the land.

All the night Sir Sydney and his lieutenants, and Captain Brine and his, were busily sounding the channel; but before daybreak the little squadron was too far from the land to seen from it. A favourable breeze carried them back, and without hesitating, they stood boldly on towards the mouth of the port. The entrance to it was guarded by two batteries one beyond the other, on the left hand, and by several guns posted on a commanding point which it was necessary to round before the harbour could be entered. For the forts Sir Sydney was prepared, as he knew of their existence; and he had directed four of his own boats, with three from the corvette and one from the lugger, to attack and carry them in succession.

Mr Digby, from a wound in his right arm, which prevented him from using it, was unable to go; and so Sir Henry Elmore had command of the Gannet's boats, and True Blue went in his boat as his coxswain, Mr Nott, now a mate, accompanying him. Paul Pringle, the boatswain, had command of another boat, and a mate and midshipman of the Gannet had charge of the other two. The whole expedition was under the command of the first lieutenant of the frigate, who was accompanied by a lieutenant and the marines of the two ships. As soon as the frigate and corvette got within range of the guns on the point, the latter opened a hot fire on them; but so well did the ships ply theirs in return as they passed that the gunners were speedily driven from them.

On rounding the point, however, the vessels became exposed to a severe fire from the two batteries. A considerable tide was running out, and Sir Sydney saw, as he expected, that the ships might suffer a severe loss before they could be passed, unless the batteries could be silenced. The order was therefore given for the boats to be lowered, and instantly to shove off. Away they dashed with loud cheers. The French troops, not expecting such a mode of attack, hurried down from their batteries to oppose them on the beach. This was just what Sir Sydney wished, as it enabled the ships to creep up without being fired at.

The boats, as they advanced, were so warmly received by the troops on the beach that they could not effect a landing at the spot proposed. True Blue's quick eye, however, observed what he thought looked like a landing-place, close under the nearest fort. He pointed it out to Sir Henry, who, calling the boats nearest to him to follow, dashed on towards it. The first lieutenant of the Diamond meantime so entirely kept the troops on the beach employed, that no one saw what was occurring.

In another minute Sir Henry and his followers were on shore. True Blue was next to him, carrying the flag. A rocky height, almost a precipice, had to be climbed to reach the fort. Up they all went at once, like goats, making violent springs, or climbing up with hands and knees. True Blue was one of the first, helping up Sir Henry, whose strength was often not equal to his spirit.

When the English were half way up, the French caught sight of them, and now the whole body hurried along the road to regain the fort. It was a desperate race between the two parties. The English had a short but rugged height to scale, the French a longer but smoother path to traverse. The frigate's boats however, by a well-directed fire, assisted to impede their progress, and to thin their numbers as they went. On sprang the daring seamen. True Blue was the first over the parapet and into the fort. Sir Henry followed close to him. The French were almost at the gate, which was left open.

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