We and the World, Part II. (of II.) - A Book for Boys
by Juliana Horatia Ewing
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I have seen two such cases, and I have heard of more, yarned with all their melancholy details during those night watches in which men will tell you the ins and outs of many a queer story that they "never talk about." And it has convinced me that there is no more cruel blunder than to send a boy to sea, if there is good reason to believe that he will never like it; unless it be that of withholding from its noble service those sailor lads born, in whose ears the sea-shell will murmur till they die.

It had murmured in mine, and enticed me to my fate. I thought so now that I knew the roughest of the other side of the question, just as much as when I sat comfortably on the frilled cushion of the round-backed arm-chair and read the Penny Numbers to the bee-master. Barefoot, bareheaded, cold, wet, seasick, hard worked and half-rested, would I even now exchange the life I had chosen for the life I had left?—for the desk next to the Jew-clerk, for the partnership, to be my uncle's heir, to be mayor, to be member? I asked myself the question as I stood by the steersman, and with every drive of the wheel I answered it—"No, Moses! No! No!"

It is not wise to think hard when you are working hard at mechanical work, in a blustering wind and a night watch. Fatigue and open air make you sleepy, and thinking makes you forget where you are, and if your work is mechanical you do it unconsciously, and may fall asleep over it. I dozed more than once, and woke with the horrible idea that I had lost my hold, and was not doing my work. That woke me effectually, but even then I had to look at my hands to see that they were there. I pushed, but I could not feel, my fingers were so numb with cold.

The second time I dozed and started again, I heard the captain's voice close beside us. He was bawling upwards now, to Mr. Waters on the bridge. Then he pushed me on one side and took my place at the wheel, shouting to the steersman—"I meant the Scotch lad, not that boy."

"He's strong enough, and steady too," was the reply.

They both drove the wheel in silence, and I held on by a coil of heavy rope, and sucked my fingers to warm them, and very salt they tasted. Then the captain left the wheel and turned to me again.

"Are you cold?"

"Rather, sir."

"You may go below, and see if the cook can spare you a cup of coffee."

"Thank you, sir."

"But first find Mr. Johnson, and send him here."

"Yes, sir."

Whilst the captain was talking, I began to think of Dennis O'Moore, and how he groaned, and to wonder whether it was true that he would get better, and whether it would be improper to ask the captain, who would not be likely to humbug me, if he answered at all.

"Well?" said the captain sharply, "what are you standing there like a stuck pig for?"

I saluted. "Please, sir, will he get better?"

"What the —— Oh, yes. And hi, you!"

"Yes, sir?"

"He's in the steerage. You may go and see if he wants anything, and attend on him. You may remain below at present."

"Thank you, sir."

I lost no time in finding Mr. Johnson, and I got a delicious cup of coffee and half a biscuit from the cook, who favoured me in consequence of the conscientious scouring I had bestowed upon his pans. Then mightily warmed and refreshed, I made my way to the side of the hammock I had swung for the rescued lad, and by the light of a swinging lamp saw his dark head buried in his arms.

When I said, "Do you want anything?" he lifted his face with a jerk, and looked at me.

"Not I—much obliged," he said, smiling, and still staring hard. He had teeth like the half-caste, but the resemblance stopped there.

"The captain said I might come and look after you, but if you want to go to sleep, do," said I.

"Why would I, if you'll talk to me a bit?" was his reply; and resting his head on the edge of his hammock and looking me well over, he added, "Did they pick you up as well?"

I laughed and wrung some salt water out of my sleeve.

"No. I've not been in the sea, but I've been on deck, and it's just as wet. It always is wet at sea," I added in a tone of experience.

His eyes twinkled as if I amused him. "That, indeed? And yourself, are ye—a midshipman?"

It had been taken for granted that our new hand was "a gentleman." I never doubted it, though he spoke with an accent that certainly recalled old Biddy Macartney; a sort of soft ghost of a brogue with a turn up at the end of it, as if every sentence came sliding and finished with a spring, and I did wish I could have introduced myself as a midshipman—instead of having to mutter, "No, I'm a stowaway."

He raised himself higher in his hammock.

"A stowaway? What fun! And what made ye go? Were ye up to some kind of diversion at home, and had to come out of it, eh? Or were ye bored to extinction, or what? (Country life in England is mighty dull, so they tell me.) I suppose it was French leave that ye took, as ye say you're a stowaway? I'm asking ye a heap of impertinent questions, bad manners to me!"

Which was true. But he asked them so kindly and eagerly, I could only feel that sympathy is a very pleasant thing, even when it takes the form of a catechism that is all questions, and no room for the answers. Moreover, I suspect that he rattled on partly to give me time to leave off blushing and feel at ease with him.

"I ran away because of several things," said I.

"I always did want to see the world"—("And why wouldn't ye?" my new friend hastily interpolated). "But even if I had stayed at home I don't believe I should ever have got to like being a lawyer"—("Small chance of it, I should say, the quill-driving thievery!") "It was my uncle's office"—("I ask his pardon and yours.") "Oh, you may say what you like. I never could get on with him. I don't mean that he was cruel to me in the least, though I think he behaved shabbily—"

"Faith, it's a way they have! I've an uncle myself that's a sort of first cousin of my father's, and six foot three in his stockings, without a drop of good-nature in the full length of him."

"Where is your home?" said I, for it certainly was my turn to ask questions.

"Where would it be but ould Ireland?" And after a moment's pause he added, "They call me Dennis O'Moore. What's your name, ye enterprising little stowaway?"

I told him. "And where were you going in your boat, and how did you get upset?" I asked.

He sighed. "It was the old hooker we started in, bad luck to her!"

"Is that the name of the boat you were holding on to?"

"That boat? No! We borrowed her—and now ye remind me, I wouldn't be surprised if Tim Brady was missing her by this, for I had no leisure to ask his leave at the time, and, as a rule, we take our own coracle in the hooker—"

"What is a hooker?" I interrupted, for I was resolved to know.

"What's a hooker? A hooker—what a catechetical little chatterbox ye are! A man can't get a word in edgeways—a hooker's a boat. Ours was a twenty-ton, half-decked, cutter-rigged sort of thing, built for nothing in particular, and always used for everything. It was lucky for me we took Tim Brady's boat instead of the coracle, or I'd be now where—where poor Barney is. Oh, Barney, Barney! How'll I ever get over it? Why did ye never learn to swim, so fond of the water as ye were? Why couldn't ye hold on to me when I got a good grip of ye! Barney, dear, I've a notion in my heart that ye left your hold on purpose, and threw away your own life that ye mightn't risk mine. And now I'll never know, for ye'll never be able to tell me. Tim Brady's boat would have held two as easy as one, Barney, and maybe the old hooker'd have weathered the storm with a few more repairs about her, that the squire always intended, as no one knows better than yourself! Oh, dear! oh, dear! But—Heaven forgive us!—putting off's been the ruin of the O'Moores from time out of mind. And now you're dead and gone—dead and gone! But oh, Barney, Barney, if prayers can give your soul ease, you'll not want them while Dennis O'Moore has breath to pray!"

I was beginning to discover that one of the first wonders of the world is that it contains a great many very good people, who are quite different from oneself and one's near relations. For I really was not conceited enough to disapprove of my new friend because he astonished me, though he certainly did do so. From the moment when Barney (whoever Barney might be) came into his head, everything else apparently went out of it. I am sure he quite forgot me.

For my own part I gazed at him in blank amazement. I was not used to seeing a man give way to his feelings in public, still less to seeing a man cry in company, and least of all to see a man say his prayers when he was neither getting up nor going to bed, nor at church, nor at family worship, and before a stranger too! For, as he finished his sentence he touched his curls, and then the place where his crucifix lay, and then made a rapid movement from shoulder to shoulder, and then buried his head in his hands, and lay silent, praying, I had no manner of doubt, for "Barney's" soul.

His prayers did not take him very long, and he finished with a big sigh, and lifted his head again. When his eyes met mine he blushed, and said, "I ask your pardon, Jack; I'd forgotten ye. You're a kind-hearted little soul, and I'm mighty dull company for ye."

"No, you're not," said I. "But—I'm very sorry for you. Was 'Barney' your—?" and I stopped because I really did not know what relationship to suggest that would account for the outburst I had witnessed.

"Ah! ye may well say what was he—for what wasn't he—to me, anyhow? Jack! my mother died when I was born, and never a soul but Barney brought me up, for I wouldn't let 'em. He'd come with her from her old home when she married; and when she lay dead he was let into the room to look at her pretty face once more. Times out of mind has he told me how she lay, with the black lashes on her white cheeks, and the black crucifix on her breast, that they were going to bury with her; the women howling, and me kicking up an indecent row in a cradle in the next apartment, carrying on like a Turk if the nurse came near me, and most outrageously disturbing the chamber of death. And what does Barney do, when he's said a prayer by the side of the mistress, but ask for the crucifix off her neck, that she'd worn all her girlhood? If the women howled before, they double-howled then, and would have turned him out neck and crop, but my father lifted his head from where he was lying speechless in a kind of a fit at the foot of the bed, and says he, 'Barney Barton! ye knew the sweet lady that lies there long before that too brief privilege was mine. Ye served her well, and ye've served me well for her sake; whatever ye ask for of hers in this hour ye'll get, Barney Barton. She trusted ye—and I may.' 'GOD bless ye, squire,' says Barney; and what does he do but go up to her and unloose the ribbon from her throat with his own hands. And away he went with the crucifix, past the women that couldn't get a sound out of them now, and past my father as silent as themselves, and into the room where I lay kicking up the devil's own din in my cradle. And when he held it up to me, with the light shining on the silver, and the black ribbons hanging down, never believe him if I didn't stop squalling, and stretch out my hands with a smile as sweet as sunshine. And Barney tied it round my neck, and took me into his arms. And they said he spoke never a word when they told him my mother was dead, and shed never a tear when he saw her lie, but he sobbed his heart out over me."

"You may well care for him!" said I.

"Indeed I may. He kept my mother's memory green in my heart, and he taught me all ever I knew but books. He taught me to walk, and he taught me to ride, and shooting, and fishing, and such like country diversions; and strange to say, he taught me to swim, the way they learn in my mother's country, with a bundle of bull-rushes—for the old man couldn't swim a stroke himself, or he might be here now, alive and hearty, please GOD."

"Were there only you and he in the hooker?"

"That's all. It was altogether sheer madness, for the old boat was barely fit for a day's fishing in fine weather, and though Barney nearly killed himself overhauling her, and patching her sails, I doubt if he knew very well what he was after. I've been thinking, Jack, that his mind was not what it was. He was always a bit obstinate, if he got a notion into his head, but of late the squire himself couldn't turn him. When he wanted to do a thing about the place that Barney didn't approve, if he didn't give in (as he was apt to do, being easy-tempered) I can tell ye he had to do it on the sly. That was how he ordered the new ploughs that nearly broke Barney's heart, both because of being new-fangled machines, and ready money having to be paid for them. 'I'll see the ould place ruined before ye come to your own, Master Dennis,' he told me. And—Jack! that's another thing makes me think what I tell ye. He was for ever talking as if the place was coming to me, and I've two brothers older than myself, let alone my sister. But ye might as well reason with the rock of Croagh Patrick! Well, if he didn't ask my father to let him and me run round in the hooker with a load of sea-weed for Tim Brady's farm, and of course we got leave, and started as pleasant as could be; barring that if Barney'd been a year or two younger, there'd have been wigs on the green over the cold potatoes, before we got off."

"Wigs on the green over cold potatoes?" I repeated, in bewilderment.

"Tst! tst! little Saxon! I mean we'd have had a row over the provisions. It wasn't too hours' run round to Tim Brady's, and I found the old man stowing away half-a-peck of cold boiled potatoes, and big bottles of tea, and goodness knows what. 'Is it for ballast ye're using the potatoes, Barney?' says I. 'Mind your own business, Master Dennis'—(and I could see he was cross as two sticks),—'and leave the provisioning to them that understands it,' says he. 'How many meals d'ye reckon to eat between this and Tim Brady's?' I went on, just poking my fun at him, when—would ye believe it?—the old fellow fired up like a sky-rocket, and asked me if I grudged him the bit of food he ate, and Heaven knows what besides. 'Is it Dennis O'Moore you're speaking to?' says I, for I've not got the squire's easy temper, GOD forgive me! We were mighty near to a quarrel, Jack, I can tell ye, but some shadow of a notion flitting across my brain that the dear soul was not responsible entirely, stopped my tongue, and something else stopped his which I didn't know till we got to Tim Brady's, and found that all we wanted with him was to borrow his boat, and that the sea-weed business was no better than a blind; for Barney had planned it all out that we were to go down to Galway and fetch the new ploughs home in the hooker, to save the cost of the land-carriage. 'Sure it's bad enough for the squire to be soiling his hands with trumpery made by them English thieves, that's no more conscience over bothering a gentleman for money nor if he was one of themselves,' said Barney; 'sorra a halfpenny shall the railway rogues rob him of.' Ah, little stowaway, ye may guess my delight! And hadn't we glorious weather at first, and wasn't the dear old man happy and proud! I can tell ye I yelled, and I sang, and I laughed, when I felt the old hooker begin to bound on the swell when we got into the open, but not a look would Barney turn on me for minding the boat; but I could hear him chuckling to himself and muttering about the railway rogues. It wasn't much time we either of us had for talking, by and by. I steered and saw to the main sheet, and Barney did look-out and minded the foresail, Tim Brady's boat towing astern, getting such a dance as it never had before, and at last dragging upside down. We'd one thing in our favour, anyhow. There was no disputing or disturbing of our minds as to whether we'd turn back or not, for the gale was at our backs; and the old hooker was like my father's black mare—you might guide her, but she was neither to stop nor turn. How the gallant old boat held out as she did, Heaven knows! It was not till the main-sail had split into ribbons with a noise like a gun going off, and every seam was strained to leaking, and the sea came in faster than we could bale it out, that we righted Tim Brady's tub and got into her, and bade the old hooker good-bye. The boat was weather-tight enough—it was a false move of Barney's capsized her,—and I'd a good hold of her with one hand when I gripped him with the other. Oh! Barney dear! Why would ye always have your own way? Oh, why—why did ye lose your hold? Ye thought all hope was over, darling, didn't ye? Ah, if ye had but known the brave hearts that—"

I suppose it was because I was crying as well as Dennis that I did not see Mr. Johnson till he was standing by the Irish boy's hammock. I know I got a sound scolding for the state of his pulse (which the third mate seemed to understand, as he understood most things), and was dismissed with some pithy hints about cultivating common-sense and not making a fool of myself. I sneaked off, and was thankful to meet Alister and pour out my tale to him, and ask if he thought that our new friend would have brain-fever, because I had let him talk about his shipwreck.

Alister was not quite so sympathetic as I had expected. He was so much shocked about the crucifix and about Dennis praying for Barney's soul, that he could think of nothing else. He didn't seem to think that he would have fever, but he said he feared we had small reason to reckon on the prayers of the idolatrous ascending to the throne of grace. He told me a long story about the Protestant martyrs who were shut up in a dungeon under the sea, on the coast of Aberdeenshire, and it would have been very interesting if I hadn't been thinking of Dennis.

We had turned in for some sleep, and I was rolling myself in my blanket, when Alister called me—

"Jack! did ye ever read Fox's Book of Martyrs?"


"It's a gran' work, and it has some awful tales in it. When we've a bit of holiday leesure I'll tell ye some."

"Thank you, Alister."


"A very wise man believed that, if a man were permitted to make all the ballads, he need not care who should make the laws of a nation."—Fletcher of Saltoun in a letter to the Marquis of Montrose.

The weather was fair enough, and we went along very steadily and pleasantly that afternoon. I was undoubtedly getting my sea-legs, which was well for me, as they were put to the test unexpectedly. I happened to be standing near Alister (we were tarring ropes), when some orders rang out in Mr. Waters' voice, which I found had reference to something to be done to some of the sails. At last came the words "Away aloft!" which were responded to by a rush of several sailors, who ran and leaped and caught ropes and began climbing the rigging with a nimbleness and dexterity which my own small powers in that line enabled me to appreciate, as I gazed upwards after them. The next order bore unexpected and far from flattering references to me.

"Hi, there. Francis!"

"Aye, aye, sir!"

"Take that gaping booby up with you. I hear he's 'good at athletics.'"

The sailors who were rope-tarring sniggered audibly, and Alister lifted his face with a look of anxiety, that did as much as the sniggering to stimulate me not to disgrace myself.

"Kick off your shoes, and come along," said Francis. "Jump on the bulwarks and then follow me. Look aloft—that's up, ye know—never mind your feet, but keep tight hold of the ratlins—so, with your hands, and when you are up aloft, don't let one hand go till you're sure of your hold with the other."

Up we went, gripping the swaying ropes with toes and fingers, till we reached the main-top, where I was allowed to creep through the "Lubber's Hole," and Francis swung himself neatly over the outside edge of the top, and there he and I stood for a few minutes to rest.

I cannot say I derived much comfort from his favourable comments on my first attempt. I was painfully absorbed by realizing that to climb what is steady, and to climb what is swaying with every wave, are quite different things. Then, in spite of warnings, I was fascinated by the desire to look down; and when I looked I felt more uncomfortable than ever; the ship's deck was like a dancing tea-tray far below; my legs and arms began to feel very light, and my head heavy, and I did not hear what Francis was saying to me, so he pinched my arm and then repeated it.

"Come along—and if the other chaps put any larks on you, keep your eyes open, and never lose a grip by one hand somewhere. So long as you hold on to some of the ship's ropes you're bound to find your way back somehow."

"I'll try," I said.

Then through the confusion in my head I heard a screaming whistle, and a voice from beneath, and Francis pricked his ears, and then suddenly swung himself back on to the ladder of ropes by which we had climbed.

"Lucky for you, young shaver," said he. "Come along!"

I desired no more definite explanation. Francis was going down, and I willingly did the same, but when my foot touched the deck I staggered and fell. It was Mr. Johnson who picked me up by the neck of my slops, saying, as he did so, "Boatswain! The captain will give an extra lot of grog to drink Mr. O'Moore's good health."

This announcement was received with a cheer, and I heard the boatswain calling to "stow your cleaning-tackle, my lads, and for'ards to the break of the fo'c'sle. Them that has white ties and kid gloves can wear 'em; and them that's hout of sech articles must come as they can. Pick up that tar-pot, ye fool! Now are ye all coming and bringing your voices along with ye? Hany gentleman as 'as 'ad the misfortin' to leave his music behind will oblige the ship's company with an ex-tem-por."

"Long life to ye, bo'sun; it's a neat hand at a speech ye are, upon my conscience!" cried Dennis, over my shoulder, and then his arm was around it, shaking with laughter, as we were hurried along by the eager crowd.

"He's a wag, that old fellow, too. Come along, little Jack! You're mighty shaky on your feet, considering the festivities that we're bound for. Step it out, my boy, or I'll have to carry ye."

"Are ye coming to the fo'c'sle?" said I, being well aware that this was equivalent to a drawing-room visitor taking tea in the kitchen. "You know it's where the common sailors, and Alister and I have our meals?" I added, for his private ear.

"Thank ye for the hint. I know it's where I hope to meet the men that offered their lives for mine."

"That's true, Dennis, I know; but don't be cross. They'll be awfully pleased to see you."

"And not without reason, I can tell ye! Didn't I beard the lion in his den, the captain in his cabin, to beg for the grog? And talking of beards, of all the fiery——, upon my soul he's not safe to be near gunpowder. Jack, is he Scotch?"


"They're bad to blarney, and I did my best, I can tell you, for my own sake as well as for the men. I'm as shy with strangers as an owl by daylight, and I'll never get a thank ye out of my throat, unless we've the chance of a bit of sociability. However, at last he called to that nice fellow—third mate, isn't he?—and gave orders for the rum. 'Two-water grog, Mr. Johnson,' says he. 'Ah, captain,' I said, 'don't be throwing cold water on the entertainment; they got their share of that last night. It's only the rum that's required to complete us now.' But he's as deaf to fun as he is to blarney. Is he good to you, little stowaway?"

"Oh, very," said I. "And you should hear what the men tell about other captains. They all like this one."

"He has an air of uprightness about him; and so has that brother-in-adversity of yours, more polish to him! He must be a noble fellow, though. I can't get over his volunteering, without the most distant obligation to risk his life for me—not even a sailor. And yet he won't be friendly, do what I will. As formal as you please—that's pride, I suppose—he's Scotch too, isn't he? Blarney's no go with him. Faith, it's like trying to butter short-bread with the thermometer at zero. By Jove, there he is ahead of us. Alister, man! Not the ghost of a look will he give me. He's fine-looking, too, if his hair wasn't so insanely distracted, and his brow ridged and furrowed deep enough to plant potatoes in. What in the name of fortune's he doing to his hands?"

"He's washing them with a lump of grease," said I. "I saw Francis give it him. It's to get the tar off."

"That indeed? Alister! Alister! Have ye no eyes in the back of ye? Here's Jack and myself."

"I beg your pardon, sir," said Alister, stiffly.

"Oh, confound your sir-liness!" muttered Dennis, and added aloud, "Is that pomatum for your hair?"

Alister laughed in spite of himself.

"More like hair-dye, sir," said he, and rubbing desperately at his fingers, he added, "I can't get them decent."

"Ah, let them rest!" said Dennis. "It's painting the lily to adorn them. On ye go; and mind ye keep near to us, and we'll make a landlubber's parliament in a corner to ourselves."

My first friend had thawed, and went cheerfully ahead of us, as I was very glad to see. Dennis saw it too, but only to relapse into mischief. He held me back, as Alister strode in front, and putting out his thumb and finger, so close to a tuft of hay-coloured hair that stood cocked defiantly up on the Scotchman's crown that I was in all the agony he meant me to be for fear of detection, he chattered in my ear, "Jack, did ye ever study physiognomy, or any of the science of externals? Look at this independent tuft. Isn't the whole character of the man in it? Could mortal man force it down? Could the fingers of woman coax it? Would ye appeal to it with argument? Would hair's grease, bear's grease ——"

But his peroration was suddenly cut short by a rush from behind, one man tumbling over another on the road to the forecastle. Dennis himself was thrown against Alister, and his hand came heavily down on the stubborn lock of hair.

"It's these fellows, bad manners to them," he explained; but I think Alister suspected a joke at his expense, and putting his arms suddenly behind him, he seized Dennis by the legs and hoisted him on to his back as if he had been a child. In this fashion the hero of the occasion was carried to a place of honour, and deposited (not too gently) on the top of an inverted deck-tub, amid the cheers and laughter of all concerned.

Round another tub—a shallow oak one, tidily hooped with cooper—which served as spittoon, a solemn circle of smokers was already assembled. They disturbed themselves to salute Dennis, and to make room for others to join them, and then the enlarged circle puffed and kept silence as before. I was watching the colour come and go on the Irish boy's face, and he was making comical signs to me to show his embarrassment, when Mr. Johnson shouted for the grog-tub to be sent aft, and the boatswain summoned me to get it and follow him.

The smokers were not more silent than we, as the third mate slowly measured the rum—half a gill a head—into the grog-tub. But when this solemnity was over and he began to add the water, a very spirited dialogue ensued; Mr. Johnson (so far as I could understand it) maintaining that "two-water grog" was the rule of the ships on their line, and the boatswain pleading that this being a "special issue" was apart from general rules, and that it would be more complimentary to the "young gentleman" to have the grog a little stronger. How it ended I do not know; I know I thought my "tot" very nasty, and not improved by the reek of strong tobacco in the midst of which we drank it, to Dennis O'Moore's very good health.

When the boatswain and I got back to the forecastle, carrying the grog-tub, we found the company as we had left it, except that there was a peculiarly bland expression on every man's face as he listened to a song that the cook was singing. It was a very love-lorn, lamentable, and lengthy song, three qualities which alone would recommend it to any audience of Jack Tars, as I have since had many occasions to observe. The intense dolefulness of the ditty was not diminished by the fact that the cook had no musical ear, and having started on a note that was no note in particular, he flattened with every long-drawn lamentation till the ballad became more of a groan than a song. When the grog-tub was deposited, Dennis beckoned to the boatswain, and we made our way to his side.

"Your cook's a vocal genius, anyhow, bo'sun," said he. "But don't ye think we'd do more justice to our accomplishments, and keep in tune, if we'd an accompaniment? Have ye such a thing as a fiddle about ye?"

The boatswain was delighted. Of course there was a fiddle, and I was despatched for it. I should find it hanging on a hook at the end of the plate-rack, and if the bow was not beside it it would be upon the shelf, and there used to be a lump of resin and a spare string or two in an empty division of the spice-box. The whole kit had belonged to a former cook, a very musical nigger, who had died at sea, and bequeathed his violin to his ship. Sambo had been well liked, and there were some old hands would be well pleased to hear his fiddle once more.

It took me some little time to find everything, and when I got back to Dennis another song had begun. A young sailor I did not know was singing it, and the less said about it the better, except that it very nearly led to a row. It was by way of being a comic song, but except for one line which was rather witty as well as very nasty, there was nothing humorous about it, unless that it was funny that any one could have been indecent enough to write it, and any one else unblushing enough to sing it. I am ashamed to say I had heard some compositions of a similar type at Snuffy's, and it filled me with no particular amazement to hear a good deal of sniggering in the circle round the spittoon, though I felt miserably uncomfortable, and wondered what Mr. O'Moore would think. I had forgotten Alister.

I was not likely soon to forget his face as I saw it, the blood swelling his forehead, and the white wrath round his lips, when he gripped me by the shoulder, saying, in broader Scotch than usual, "Come awa' wi' ye, laddie! I'll no let ye stay. Come awa' oot of this accurst hole. I wonder he doesna think black burning shame of himsel' to stand up before grey-heided men and fill a callant's ears with filth like yon."

Happily just indignation had choked Alister's voice as well as his veins, and I don't think many of the company heard this too accurate summary of the situation. The boatswain did, but before he could speak, Dennis O'Moore had sprung to the ground between them, and laying the fiddle over his shoulder played a wild sort of jig that most effectually and unceremoniously drowned the rest of the song, and diverted the attention of the men.

"The fiddle's an old friend, so the bo'sun tells me," he said, nodding towards the faces that turned to him.

"Aye, aye, sir."

"Why, I'm blessed if it isn't Sambo's old thing."

"It's your honour knows how to bring the heart out of it, anyhow."

"My eyes, Pat! You should ha' heerd it at the dignity ball we went ashore for at Barbadoes. Did you ever foot the floor with a black washerwoman of eighteen stun, dressed out in muslin the colour of orange marmalade, and white kid shoes?"

"I did not, the darlin'!"

As the circle gossiped, Dennis tuned the fiddle, talking vehemently to the boatswain between whiles.

"Bo'sun! ye're not to say a word to the boy. (Sit down, Alister, I tell ye!) I ask it as a favour. He didn't mince matters, I'll allow, but it was GOD'S truth, and no less, that he spoke. Come, bo'sun, who's a better judge of manners than yourself? We'd had enough and to spare of that, (Will ye keep quiet, ye cantankerous Scotchman! Who's harming ye now? Jack, if ye move an inch, I'll break this fiddle over your head.) Bo'sun! we're perishing for our grog, are ye aware?"

The diversion was successful. The boatswain, with a few indignant mutterings, devoted himself to doling out the tots of grog, and then proposed Dennis O'Moore's health in a speech full of his own style of humour, which raised loud applause; Dennis commenting freely on the text, and filling up awkward pauses with flourishes on Sambo's fiddle. The boatswain's final suggestion that the ship's guest should return thanks by a song, instead of a sentiment, was received with acclamations, during which he sat down, after casting a mischievous glance at Dennis, who was once more blushing and fidgeting with shyness.

"Ye've taken your revenge, bo'sun," said he.

"Them that blames should do better, sir," replied the boatswain, folding his arms.

"A song! a song! Mr. O'Moore!" shouted the men.

"I only know a few old Irish songs," pleaded Dennis.

"Ould Ireland for ever!" cried Pat Shaughnessy.

"Hear! hear! Encore, Pat!" roared the men. They were still laughing. Then one or two of those nearest to us put up their hands to get silence. Sambo's fiddle was singing (as only voices and fiddles can sing) a melody to which the heads and toes of the company soon began to nod and beat:

"La, lĕ lā la la, la la la, lā lĕ la, la Lā, le lā la la, la la la, la—lĕ la la,"

hummed the boatswain. "Lor' bless me, Mr. O'Moore, I heard that afore you were born, though I'm blessed if I know where. But it's a genteel pretty thing!"

"It's all about roses and nightingales!" shouted Dennis, with comical grimaces.

"Hear! hear!" answered the oldest and hairiest-looking of the sailors, and the echoes of his approbation only died away to let the song begin. Then the notes of Sambo's fiddle also dropped off, and I heard Dennis O'Moore's beautiful voice for the first time as he gave his head one desperate toss and began:

"There's a bower of roses by Bendemeer's stream, And the nightingale sings round it all the night long. In the time of my childhood 'twas like a sweet dream To sit in the roses and hear the bird's song."

One by one the pipes were rested on the smokers' knees; they wanted their mouths to hear with. I don't think the assembled company can have looked much like exiles from flowery haunts of the nightingale, but we all shook our heads, not only in time but in sympathy, as the clear voice rose to a more passionate strain:

"That bower and its music I never forget; But oft when alone in the bloom of the year, I think—is the nightingale singing there yet? Are the roses still bright by the calm Bendemeer?"

I and the oldest and hairiest sailor were sighing like furnaces as the melody recommenced with the second verse:

"No, the roses soon withered that hung o'er the wave, But some blossoms were gathered while freshly they shone, And a dew was distilled from their flowers, that gave All the fragrance of summer when summer was gone."

If making pot-pourri after my mother's old family recipe had been the chief duty of able-bodied seamen, this could not have elicited more nods of approbation. But we listened spell-bound and immovable to the passion and pathos with which the singer poured forth the conclusion of his song:

"Thus memory draws from delight, ere it dies, An essence that breathes of it many a year; Thus bright to my soul—as 'twas then to my eyes— Is that bower on the banks of the calm Bendemeer."

And then (as somebody said) the noise we made was enough to scare the sea-gulls off the tops of the waves.

"You scored that time, Mr. O'Moore," said the boatswain. "You'd make your fortune in a music-hall, sir."

"Thank ye, bo'sun. Glad I didn't give ye your revenge, anyhow."

But the boatswain meant to strike nearer home. A ship's favourite might have hesitated to sing after Dennis, so Alister's feelings may be guessed on hearing the following speech:

"Mr. O'Moore, and comrades all. I believe I speak for all hands on this vessel, when I say that we ain't likely to forget sech an agreeable addition to a ship's company as the gentleman who has just given us a taste of the nightingale's quality" (loud cheers). "But we've been out-o'-way favoured as I may say, this voyage. We mustn't forget that there's two other little strangers aboard" (roars of laughter). "They 'olds their 'eads rather 'igh p'raps, for stowaways" ("Hear! hear!"), "but no doubt their talents bears 'em out" ("Hear, hear!" from Dennis, which found a few friendly echoes). "Anyway, as they've paid us a visit, without waiting to ask if we was at 'ome to callers, we may look to 'em to contribute to the general entertainment. Alister Auchterlay will now favour the company with a song."

The boatswain stood back and folded his arms, and fixed his eyes on the sea-line, from which attitude no appeals could move him. I was very sorry for Alister, and so was Dennis, I am sure, for he did his best to encourage him.

"Sing 'GOD save the Queen,' and I'll keep well after ye with the fiddle," he suggested. But Alister shook his head. "I know one or two Scotch tunes," Dennis added, and he began to sketch out an air or two with his fingers on the strings.

Presently Alister stopped him. "Yon's the 'Land o' the Leal'?"

"It is," said Dennis.

"Play it a bit quicker, man, and I'll try 'Scots wha hae.'"

Dennis quickened at once, and Alister stood forward. He neither fidgeted nor complained of feeling shy, but as my eyes (I was squatted cross-legged on the deck) were at the level of his knees, I could see them shaking, and pitied him none the less, that I was doubtful as to what might not be before me. Dennis had to make two or three false starts before poor Alister could get a note out of his throat, but when he had fairly broken the ice with the word "Scots!" he faltered no more.

The boatswain was cheated a second time of his malice. Alister could not sing in the least like Dennis, but he had a strong manly voice, and it had a ring that stirred one's blood, as he clenched his hands, and rolled his Rs to the rugged appeal:

"Scots, wha hae wi' Wallace bled, Scots, wham Bruce has aften led; Welcome to your gory bed, Or to victory!"

Applause didn't seem to steady his legs in the least, and he never moved his eyes from the sea, and his face only grew whiter by the time he drove all the blood to my heart with

"Wha will be a traitor knave? Wha can fill a coward's grave? Wha sae base as be a slave? Let him turn and flee!"

"GOD forbid!" cried Dennis impetuously. "Sing that verse again, me boy, and give us a chance to sing with ye!" which we did accordingly; but as Alister and Dennis were rolling Rs like the rattle of musketry on the word turn, Alister did turn, and stopped suddenly short. The captain had come up unobserved.

"Go on!" said he, waving us back to our places.

By this time the solo had become a chorus. Beautifully unconscious, for the most part, that the song was by way of stirring Scot against Saxon, its deeper patriotism had seized upon us all. Englishmen, Scotchmen, and sons of Erin, we all shouted at the top of our voices, Sambo's fiddle not being silent. And I maintain that we all felt the sentiment with our whole hearts, though I doubt if any but Alister and the captain knew and sang the precise words:

"Wha for Scotland's king and law Freedom's sword will strongly draw, Freeman stand, or freeman fa', Let him on wi' me!"


"'Tis strange—but true; for truth is always strange— Stranger than fiction."—BYRON.

"Fair laughs the morn, and soft the zephyr blows."—GRAY.

The least agreeable part of our voyage came near the end. It was when we were in the fogs off the coast of Newfoundland. The work that tired one to death was not sufficient to keep one warm; the cold mist seemed to soak through one's flesh as well as one's slops, and to cling to one's bones as it clung to the ship's gear. The deck was slippery and cold, everything, except the funnel, was sticky and cold, and the fog-horn made day and night hideous with noises like some unmusical giant trying in vain to hit the note Fa. The density of the fog varied. Sometimes we could not see each other a few feet off, at others we could see pretty well what we were about on the vessel, but could see nothing beyond.

We went very slowly, and the fog lasted unusually long. It included a Sunday, which is a blessed day to Jack at sea. No tarring, greasing, oiling, painting, scraping or scrubbing but what is positively necessary, and no yarn-spinning but that of telling travellers' tales, which seamen aptly describe as spinning yarns. I heard a great many that day which recalled the school-master's stories, and filled my head and heart with indefinable longings and impatience. More and more did it seem impossible that one could live content in one little corner of this interesting world when one has eyes to see and ears to hear, and hands for work, and legs to run away with.

Not that the tales that were told on this occasion were of an encouraging nature, for they were all about fogs and ice; but they were very interesting. One man had made this very voyage in a ship that got out of her course as it might be where we were then. She was too far to the north'ard when a fog came on, as it might be the very fog we were in at that moment, and it lasted, lifting a bit and falling again worse than ever, just the very same as it was a-doing now. Cold? He believed you this fog was cold, and you might believe him that fog was cold, but the cold of both together would not be a patch upon what it was when your bones chattered in your skin and you heard the ship's keel grinding, and said "Ice!" "He'd seen some queer faces—dead and living—in his time, but when that fog lifted and the sun shone upon walls of green ice on both sides above our head, and the captain's face as cold and as green as them with knowing all was up—"

At this point the narrator was called away, and somebody asked,

"Has any one heard him tell how it ended?"

"I did," said Pat Shaughnessy, "and it spoilt me dinner that time."

"Go on, Pat! What happened to them?"

"The lowest depths of misfortune. Sorra a soul but himself and a boy escaped by climbing to a ledge on the topmost peak of one of the icebergs just in the nick of time to see the ship cracked like a walnut between your fingers. And the worst was to come, bad luck!"

"What? Go on, Paddy! What did he and the boy do?"

"They just eat each other," faltered Pat. "But, Heaven be praised! a whaler fetched off the survivor. It was then that he got the bad fever though, so maybe he dreamt the worst."

I felt great sympathy with Pat's evident disrelish for this tale, but the oldest and hairiest sailor seemed hardly to regard it as worth calling an adventure. If you wanted to see ice that was ice, you should try the coast of Greenland, he said. "Hartic Hexploration for choice, but seals or blubber took you pretty far up. He remembered the Christmas he lost them two." (And cocking one leg over the other, he drew a worsted sock from his foot, and displayed the fact that his great toe and the one next to it were gone.) "They lost more than toes that time too. You might believe it gave you a lonelyish kind of feel when there was no more to be done for the ship but get as much firewood out of her timber as you could, and all you had in the way of a home was huts on an ice-floe, and a white fox, with a black tip to its tail, for a pet. It wouldn't have lasted long, except for discipline," we young 'uns might take notice. "Pleasure's all very well ashore, where a man may go his own way a long time, and show his nasty temper at home, and there's other folks about him doing double duty to make up for it and keep things together; but when you come to a handful of men cast adrift to make a world for themselves, as one may say, Lord bless you! there's nothing's any good then but making every man do as he's bid and be content with what he gets—and clearing him out if he won't. It was a hard winter at that. But regularity pulled us through. Reg'lar work, reg'lar ways, reg'lar rations and reg'lar lime-juice, as long as it lasted. And not half a bad Christmas we didn't have neither, and poor Sal's Christmas-tree was the best part of it. 'What sort of a Christmas-tree, and why Sal's?' Well, the carpenter put it up, and an uncommon neat thing he made too, of pinewood and birch-broom, and some of the men hung it over with paper chains. And then the carpenter opened the bundle Sal made him take his oath he wouldn't open till Christmas, whatever came, and I'm blest if there wasn't a pair of brand-new socks for every soul of the ship's crew. Not that we were so badly off for socks, but washing 'em reg'lar, and never being able to get 'em really dry, and putting 'em on again like stones, was a mighty different thing to getting all our feet into something dry and warm. 'Who was Sal?' Well, poor Sal was a rum 'un, but she's dead. It's a queer thing, we only lost one hand, and that was the carpenter, and he died the same day poor Sal was murdered down Bermondsey way. It's a queer world, this, no matter where you're cruising! But there's one thing you'll learn if you live as long as me; a woman's heart and the ocean deep's much about the same. You can't reckon on 'em, and GOD A'mighty, as made 'em, alone knows the depths of 'em; but as our doctor used to say (and he was always fetching things out and putting 'em into bottles), it's the rough weather brings the best of it up."

This was not a cheerful story, but it was soon driven out of our heads by others. Fog was the prevailing topic; yarns of the fogs of the northern seas being varied by "red fogs" off the Cape de Verd Islands; and not the least dismal of the narratives was told by Alister Auchterlay, of a fog on Ben Nevis, in which his own grandmother's uncle perished, chiefly, as it appeared, in consequence of a constitutional objection to taking advice, or to "going back upon his word," when he had made up his mind to do something or to go somewhere. And this drew from the boatswain the sad fate of a comrade of his, who had sailed twice round the world, been ship-wrecked four times, in three collisions, and twice aboard ships that took fire, had Yellow Jack in the West Indies, and sunstroke at the Cape, lost a middle finger from frost-bite in the north of China, and one eye in a bit of a row at San Francisco, and came safe home after it all, and married a snug widow in a pork-shop at Wapping Old Stairs, and got out of his course steering home through a London fog on Guy Fawkes Day, and walked straight into the river, and was found at low tide next morning with a quid of tobacco in his cheek, and nothing missing about him but his glass eye, which shows, as the boatswain said, that "Fogs is fogs anywhere, and a nasty thing too."

It was towards dark, when we had been fourteen days at sea, that our own fog suddenly lifted, and the good news flew from mouth to mouth that we might be "in about midnight." But the fog came down again, and I do not think that the whole fourteen days put together felt so long as the hours of that one night through which the fog-horn blew, and we longed for day.

I was leaning against the bulwarks at eight o'clock the next morning. White mist was all around us, a sea with no horizon. Suddenly, like the curtain of a theatre, the mist rose. Gradually the horizon-line appeared, then a line of low coast, which, muddy-looking as it was, made one's heart beat thick and fast. Then lines of dark wood; then the shore was dotted with grey huts; then the sun came out, the breeze was soft and mild, and the air became strangely scented, and redolent of pine forests. Nearer the coast took more shape, though it was still low, rather bare and dotted with brushwood and grey stones low down, and always crowned with pines. Then habitations began to sparkle along the shore. Red roofs, cardboard-looking churches, little white wooden houses, and stiffish trees mixed everywhere. And the pine odour on the breeze was sweeter and sweeter with every breath one drew.

Suddenly I found Alister's arm round my shoulder.

"Isn't it glorious?" I exclaimed.

"Aye, aye," he said, and then, as if afraid he had not said enough, he added with an effort: "The toun's built almost entirely of wood, I'm told, with a population of close on 30,000 inhabitants."

"What a fellow you are!" I groaned: "Alister, aren't you glad we're safe here? Are you ever pleased about anything?"

He didn't speak, and I turned in his arm to look up at his face. His eyes, which always remind me of the sea, were looking away over it, but he brought them back to meet mine, and pressed my shoulder.

"It is bonnie," he said, "verra bonnie. But eh, man! if strange land shines like yon, hoo'll oor ain shores look whenever we win Home?"


"One, two, three, and away!"

We three were fast friends when our voyage ended, and in planning our future we planned to stick together, "Like the three leaves of the shamrock," as Dennis O'Moore said.

The captain would have kept Alister as one of his crew, but the Scotch lad had definite plans for looking up a cousin on this side of the Atlantic, and pushing his fortunes by the help of his relative, so he did not care to make the return voyage. The captain did not offer the berth to me, but he was very kind, and returned my money, and gave us a written paper testifying to our good conduct and capabilities. He also gave Alister his address, and he and the other officers collected a small sum of money for him as a parting gift.

That afternoon we three crossed the harbour, and went for a walk in the pine-woods. How I longed for Charlie! I would have given anything if he could have been there, warmed through by the hot sun, refreshed by the smell of pines, resting his poor back in the deep moss, and getting excited over the strange flowers that grew wild all round our feet. One never forgets the first time one sees unknown flowers growing wild; and though we were not botanical, like Charlie, we had made ourselves very hot with gathering nosegays by the time that Dennis summoned us to sit down and talk seriously over our affairs. Our place of council was by the side of a lake, which reflected a sky more blue than I had ever seen. It stretched out of sight, and all about it were pines—pines. It was very lovely, and very hot, and very sweet, and the little black flies which swarmed about took tiny bits out of our cheek, and left the blood trickling down, so cleverly, that one did not feel it—till afterwards. We did feel the mosquitoes, and fought with them as well as we could, whilst Dennis O'Moore, defending his own face with a big bunch of jack-in-pulpits striped like tabby cats, explained his plans as follows:

Of course we had no notion of going home awhile. Alister and I had come away on purpose; and for his own part it had always been the longing of his soul to see the world. Times out of mind when he and Barney were on board one of these emigrant ships, that had put into the bay, GOD-speeding an old tenant or acquaintance with good wishes and whisky and what not, he had been more than half inclined to give old Barney and the hooker the slip, and take his luck with the outward bound. And now he was here, and no blame for it, why would he hurry home? The race of the O'Moores was not likely to become extinct for the loss of him, at the worst; and the Squire wouldn't grudge him a few months' diversion and a peep at the wide world. Far from it; he'd send him some money, and why not? He (Dennis) was a bit of a favourite for his mother's sake, and the Squire had a fine heart. The real difficulty was that it would be at least a month before the Squire could get a letter and Dennis could get his money; but if we couldn't keep our heads above water for a month we'd small chance of pushing our way in the world.

It is needless to say that I was willing to fall in with Dennis O'Moore's plans, being only too thankful for such companions in my wanderings. I said so, and added that what little money I had was to be regarded as a common purse so long as it lasted.

When Alister was appealed to, he cast in his lot with no less willingness, but it seemed that he must first look up a relation of his mother's, who lived in Halifax, and to whom his mother had given him a letter of introduction. Alister had never told us his history, and of course we had not asked for it; but on this occasion some of it crept out. His father had been the minister of a country parish in Scotland, but he had died young, and Alister had been reared in poverty. Dennis and I gathered that he had well-to-do relatives on his father's side, but, as Dennis said, "more kinship than kindness about them." "Though I wouldn't wonder if the widow herself had a touch of stiff-neckedness in her," he added.

However that might be, Alister held with his mother, of course, and he said little enough about his paternal relations, except one, whom he described as "a guid man, and verra canny, but hard on the failings of the young." What youthful failings in our comrade had helped to snap the ties of home we did not know, but we knew enough of Alister by this time to feel sure they could not have been very unpardonable.

It was not difficult to see that it was under the sting of this man's reproaches that the lad had taken his fate into his own hands.

"I'm not blaming him," said Alister in impartial tones; and then he added, with a flash of his eyes, "but I'll no be indebted to him!"

We had returned to the town, and were strolling up the shady side of one of the clean wooden streets, when a strange figure came down it with a swinging gait, at a leisurely pace. She (for, after a moment's hesitation, we decided that it was a woman) was of gipsy colouring, but not of gipsy beauty. Her black hair was in a loose knot on her back, she wore a curious skull-cap of black cloth embroidered with beads, a short cloth skirt, a pair of old trousers tucked into leather socks, a small blanket with striped ends folded cunningly over her shoulders, and on her breast a gold cross about twice as large as the one concealed beneath the Irish boy's shirt. And I looked at her with a curious feeling that my dreams were coming true. Dark—high-cheeked—a blanket—and (unless the eyes with which I gazed almost reverentially at the dirty leather socks deceived me) moccasins—she was, she must be, a squaw!

Probably Dennis had come to the same conclusion, when, waving the tabby-coloured arums he said, "I'll ask her what these are," and gaily advanced to carry out his purpose.

"Ye're daft," said Alister, getting red.

"It's a North American Indian!" said I.

"It's a woman, anyhow!" retorted Dennis over his shoulder, with a twinkle of his eyelashes that drew from Alister in his broadest accent, "The lad's a pairrfect libberrteen!" an expression which he afterwards retracted and apologized for at considerable length.

Within a few feet of the squaw Dennis lifted the broad-brimmed hat which I had bought for him directly we landed, and then advancing with a winning smile, he asked the name of the flowers in very good Irish. The squaw smiled too; she touched the flowers, and nodded and said something in a soft, rapid and unknown tongue, which only made Dennis shake his head and smile again, on which she spoke in a language still dark to Alister and me, but not so to Dennis, who, to our amazement, replied in the same, and a dialogue so spirited ensued, that they both seemed to be talking at once. Alister's face was a study when Dennis put out his hand towards the squaw's gold cross, and all but touched it, and then (both chattering faster than ever) unbuttoned his throat and drew out his crucifix to show her. His last act was to give her half the tabby-striped arums as they parted. Then he lifted the broad hat once more and stood bareheaded, as the squaw came slowly down the wooden causeway, not without one glance at us as she passed. But at the bottom of the street she turned round to look at Dennis. His hat was still in his hand, and he swung it round his head, crying, "A Dieu, Madame!"

"A Dieu!" said the squaw, and she held up the tabby-striped arums. Very mingled feelings seemed to have been working in Alister's mind, but his respect for the fruits of education was stronger even than his sense of propriety. He forgot to scold Dennis for his unseemly familiarity with a stranger, he was so anxious to know in what language he had been speaking.

"French," said Dennis. "There seems to be a French mission somewhere near here. She's a good Catholic too, but she has a mighty queer accent, and awful feet!"

"It's a grand thing to speak with other tongues!" said Alister.

"If ye want to learn French, I'll teach ye all I can," said Dennis. "Sh—sh! No kindness whatever. I wish we mayn't have idle time for any amount of philology!"

At the top of the hill we parted for a time, and went our ways. Alister to look up his relation, I to buy stationery and stamps for our letters home, and Dennis to convert his gold ring into the currency of the colony. We would not let him pawn his watch, which he was most anxious to do, though Alister and I pointed out how invaluable it might prove to us (it was a good hunting-watch, and had been little damaged by the sea), because, as he said, "he would feel as if he was doing something, anyhow."

Alister and I were the last to part, and as we did so, having been talking about Dennis O'Moore, I said, "I knew it was French when I got nearer, but I never learnt French, though my mother began to teach me once. You don't really think you'll learn it from him, do you?"

"With perseverance," replied Alister, simply.

"What good will French be to you?" I asked.

"Knowledge is a light burden, and it may carry ye yet," was Alister's reply.

When we met again, Dennis was jingling some money in his pocket, which was added to the common fund of which the miser's legacy had formed the base. I had got paper and stamps, and information as to mails, and some more information which was postponed till we found out what was amiss with the Scotch leaf of our shamrock. For there were deep furrows on Alister's brow, but far deeper was the despondency of his soul. He was in the lowest possible spirits, and with a Scotchman that is low indeed. He had made out his way to his cousin's place of business, and had heard a very satisfactory report of the commercial success, but—the cousin had gone "to the States."

Alister felt himself very much ill-used by fate, and I believe Dennis felt himself very much ill-used by Alister, that evening, but I maintain that I alone was the person really to be pitied, because I had to keep matters smooth between the two. The gloom into which Alister relapsed, his prophecies, prognostications, warnings, raven-like croakings, parallel instances, general reflections and personal applications, as well as his obstinate notion that he would be "a burden and a curse" to "the two of us," and that it would have been small wonder had the sailors cast him forth into the Atlantic, like the Prophet Jonah, as being certain to draw ill-luck on his companions, were trying enough; but it was no joke that misfortune had precisely the opposite effect upon Dennis. If there was a bit of chaff left unchaffed in all Ireland, from Malin Head to Barley Cove, I believe it came into Dennis's head on this inappropriate occasion, and he forthwith discharged it at Alister's. To put some natures into a desperate situation seems like putting tartaric acid into soda and water—they sparkle up and froth. It certainly was so with Dennis O'Moore; and if Alister could hardly have been more raven-like upon the crack of doom, the levity of Dennis would, in our present circumstances, have been discreditable to a paroquet.

For it was no light matter to have lost our one hope of a friend in this strange land; and yet this was practically what it meant, when we knew that Alister Auchterlay's cousin had gone to the States. But the idea of kinship at last suggested something more sensible than jokes to Dennis O'Moore.

"Why, I've a cousin of my own in Demerara, and I'd forgotten him entirely!" he suddenly announced.

"You haven't a cousin in New York, have you?" I asked, and I proceeded to explain, that having done my business, I had been drawn back to the harbour by all the attractions shipping has for me, and had there been accosted by the mate of a coasting-vessel bound for New York with salt fish, who was in want of hands both to load and man her. The Water-Lily had been pointed out to me from a distance, and we might go and see her to-morrow morning if we liked. With the prospect of living for at least a month on our slender stocking, the idea of immediate employment was very welcome, to say nothing of the attraction of further adventures. Alister began to cheer up, and Dennis to sober down. We wrote home, and posted our letters, after which we secured a decent sleeping-room and a good meal of broiled salmon, saffron-coloured cakes, and hot coffee, for a very reasonable sum; but, moderate as it was, it confirmed us in the conviction that we could not afford to eat the bread of idleness.

Next day we were early at the wharf. The Water-Lily was by no means so white as she was named, and the smell of the salt fish was abominable. But we knew we could not pick and choose when we wanted employment, and wanted to be together; and to this latter point we had nailed our colours. With Alister and me the mate came to terms at once, but for a time he made difficulties about Dennis. We "stowaways" had had so much dirty work to do in all weathers for the past fortnight, that we looked sailor-like enough, I dare say; and as it had honestly been our endeavour to learn all we could, and shirk nothing, and as the captain's paper spoke well of us, I think the mate got a very good bargain—for we were green enough to take lower wages than the customary rate on the strength of a long string of special reasons which he made us swallow. This probably helped towards his giving in about Dennis. The matter about Dennis was that he looked too much of the fine gentleman still, though his homespun suit had seen salt water, and was far from innocent of tar and grease, for he had turned his hand to plenty of rough work during the voyage, partly out of good-nature, and partly to learn all he could get the sailors to teach him. However, his coaxing tongue clinched the bargain at last; indeed the mate seemed a good deal struck by the idea that he would find it "mighty convenient" to have a man on board who was a good scholar and could help him to keep the log. So we signed articles, and went to our duty.

The Water-Lily was loaded, and we sailed in her, and we got to New York. But of all the ill-found tubs that ever put to sea, I should think she might have taken the first prize. We were overhauling her rotten rigging, taking off, putting on, and mending chafing gear every bit of our time, Sunday included. The carpenter used horrible language, but for his vexation I could have forgiven him if he had expressed it more decently, for he never had a moment's rest by day; and though a ship's carpenter is exempt from watches and allowed to sleep at night as a rule, I doubt if he had two nights' rest between Halifax and New York.

As Dennis put it, there was "any amount of chicanery about the whole affair." Some of our pay was "set against" supplying "duds" for Dennis to do dirty work in; Alister was employed as sail-maker, and then, like the carpenter, was cheated of his rest. As to food, we were nearly starved, and should have fared even worse than we did, but that the black cook was friendly towards us.

"Dis Water-Lily ob ours a leetle ober-blown, Dennis, I'm tinking," said Alfonso, showing all his white teeth. "Hope she not fall to pieces dis voyage."

"Hope not, Alfonso. She hasn't lost her scent, anyhow!" At which allusion to our unsavoury cargo Alfonso yelled with laughter.

For our favour with the cook (and it means hot coffee, dry socks, and other little comforts being in favour with the cook) we had chiefly to thank Dennis. Our coal-black comrade loved jokes much, but his own dignity just a little more; and the instinctive courtesy which was as natural to Dennis as the flow of his fun, made him particularly acceptable to Alfonso.

And for the rest, we came to feel that if we could keep the Water-Lily afloat to the end of her voyage, most other considerations were minor ones.


"May it please GOD not to make our friends so happy as to forget us!"—Old Proverb.

The Water-Lily was re-christened by Dennis, with many flourishes of speech and a deck tub of salt water long before we reached our journey's end. The Slut, as we now privately called her, defied all our efforts to make her look creditable for New York harbour, but we were glad enough to get her there at all.

We made the lights of Barnegat at about six o'clock one fine morning, took a pilot on board at Sandy Hook, and the Slut being by this time as ship-shape as we could get her, we cleaned ourselves to somewhat better purpose, put on our shore-togs, and were at leisure to enjoy one of the most charming sensations in the world, that of making one's way into a beautiful harbour on a beautiful morning. The fresh breeze that favoured us, the sunshine that—helped by the enchantment of distance—made warehouses look like public buildings, and stone houses like marble palaces, a softening hue of morning mist still clinging about the heights of Brooklyn and over the distant stretch of the Hudson river islands, the sparkling waves and dancing craft in the bay, and all the dear familiar maze of spars and rigging in the docks; it is wonderful how such sights, and the knowledge that you are close to the haven where you would be, charm away the sore memories of the voyage past, and incline you to feel that it hasn't been such a bad cruise after all.

"Poor ole Water-Lily!" sighed Alfonso, under the influence of this feeling, "you and me's called her a heap o' bad names, Dennis; I 'spects we has to have our grumbles, Dennis. Dat's 'bout whar 'tis."

"She's weathered the storm and got into port, anyhow," said Dennis, "and I suppose you think the best can do no more. Eh?"

"Jes' so, Dennis."

Alfonso was not far wrong on the subject of grumbling. It is one of a sailor's few luxuries and privileges, and acts as safety-valve for heats of just and unjust indignation, which might otherwise come to dangerous explosion. We three had really learned no mean amount of rough-and-ready seamanship by this time, and we had certainly practised the art of grumbling as well. That "of all the dirty ill-found tubs," the Slut was the worst we had ever known, our limited experience had made us safe in declaring, and we had also been voluble about the undue length of time during which we had been "humbugging about" between Halifax and New York. But these by-gones we now willingly allowed to be by-gones, especially as we had had duff-pudding the day before, though it was not Sunday—(Oh, Crayshaw's! that I should have lived to find duff-pudding a treat—but it is a pleasant change from salt meat),—and as the captain had promised some repairs to the ship before we returned to Halifax.

We were not long in discovering that the promise was a safe one, for he did not mean to return to Halifax at all. Gradually it leaked out, that when the salt fish was disposed of we were not going to take in ballast and go back, as we had thought, but to stow away a "general cargo" of cheap manufactured articles (chiefly hardware, toys, trumpery pictures, and looking-glasses) and proceed with them on a trading voyage "down south."—"West Indies," said the carpenter. "Bermuda for certain," was another opinion; but Alfonso smiled and said, "Demerara."

"Cap'n berry poor sailor, but berry good trader," he informed us in confidence. "Sell 'm stinking fish and buy gimcracks cheap; sell gimcracks dear to Portugee store in Georgetown, take in sugar—berry good sugar, Demerara sugar—and come back to New York."

Alfonso had made the voyage before on these principles, and was all the more willing to believe that this was to be the programme, because he was—at such uncertain intervals as his fate ordained—courting a young lady of colour in Georgetown, Demerara. I don't think Dennis O'Moore could help sympathizing with people, and as a result of this good-natured weakness, he heard a great deal about that young lady of colour, and her genteel clothes, and how she played the piano, and belonged to the Baptist congregation.

"I've a cousin myself in Demerara, Alfonso," said Dennis.

"Hope she'm kind to you, Dennis. Hope you can trust her, 'specially if the members walks home with her after meeting." And Alfonso sighed.

But jokes were far too precious on board the Slut for Dennis to spoil this one by explaining that his cousin was a middle-aged gentleman in partnership with the owner of a sugar estate.

As we had sailed on the understanding that the Water-Lily was bound to New York and back again to Halifax, of course we made a fuss and protested at the change. But we had not really much practical choice in the matter, whatever our strict rights were, and on the whole we found it would be to our advantage to go through with it, especially as we did secure a better understanding about our wages, and the captain promised us more rest on Sundays. On one point we still felt anxious—our home letters; so Dennis wrote to the post-master at Halifax, and arranged for them to be forwarded to us at the post-office, Georgetown, Demerara. For Alfonso was right, we were bound for British Guiana, it being however understood that we three were not under obligation to make the return voyage in the Water-Lily.

An odd incident occurred during our brief stay in New York. It was after the interview in which we came to terms with the captain, and he had given us leave for three hours ashore. You can't see very much of a city when you have no money to spend in it; but we had walked about till we were very hungry, and yet more thirsty, for it was hot, when we all three caught sight of a small shop (or store, as Americans would call it), and we all spoke at once.

"Cooling drinks!" exclaimed Dennis.

"There's cakes yonder," said Alister.

"Michael Macartney," muttered I, for that was the name over the door.

We went in as a customer came out, followed by Michael Macartney's parting words in a rich brogue that might have been old Biddy's own. I took a good look at him, which he returned with a civil comment on the heat, and an inquiry as to what I would take, which Dennis, in the thirstiness of his throat, answered for me, leaving me a few moments more of observation. I made a mental calculation, and decided that the man's age would fit Micky, and in the indescribableness of the colour of his clothes and his complexion he was undoubtedly like Biddy, but if they had been born in different worlds the expression of his eyes could not have been more different. I had the clearest remembrance of hers. One does not so often look into the eyes of a stranger and see genuine feeling that one should forget it. For the rest of him, I was glad that Biddy had allowed that there was no similarity "betwixt us." He had a low forehead, a broad nose, a very wide mouth, full of very large teeth, and the humorous twinkle in his eye did not atone for the complete absence of that steady light of honest tenderness which shone from Biddy's as freely and fearlessly as the sun shines. He served Dennis and Alister and turned to me.

"Have you a mother in Liverpool?" I asked, before he had time to ask me which "pop" I wanted.

As I have said, his mouth was big, but I was almost aghast at the size to which it opened, before he was able to say, "Murther and ages! Was ye there lately? Did ye know her?"

"Yes; I know her."

"And why would ye be standing there with the cold pop, when there's something better within? Come in, me boy. So you're acquainted with my mother? And how was she?"

"No, thank you, I don't drink spirits. Yes; your mother was well when I saw her."

"GOD be praised! It's a mighty long time since I seen the ould craythur."

"Fifteen years," said I.

I looked at Mr. Macartney as I said it, but he had evasive eyes, and they wandered to the doorway. No customers appeared, however, and he looked back to Dennis and Alister, but they had both folded their arms, and were watching us in silence.

"Murther and ages!" he repeated, "it doesn't feel the half of it."

"I fancy it seems longer, if anything, to her. But she has been on the look-out for you every day, you see. You've a good business, Mr. Macartney, so I dare say you're a ready reckoner. Fifteen times three hundred and sixty-five? Five thousand four hundred and seventy-five, isn't it?"

"It's a fine scholar for a sailor-boy that ye are!" said Micky; and there was a touch of mischief in his eye and voice which showed that he was losing his temper. I suppose Dennis heard it, too, for he took one bound to my side in a way that almost made me laugh to feel how ready he was for a row. But I knew that, after all, I had no right over the man's private affairs, warm as was my zeal for old Biddy.

"And you think I might mind my business and leave you to yours, Mr. Macartney?" I said. "But you see your mother was very kind to me, very kind indeed; and when I left Liverpool I promised her if ever I came across you, you should hear of her, and she should hear of you."

"And why not?" he answered in mollified tones. "It's mighty good-natured in ye too. But come in, all the three of ye, and have somethin' to eat and drink for the sake of the old country."

We followed him into a back parlour, where there were several wooden rocking-chairs, and a strong smell of stale tobacco. Here he busied himself in producing cold meat, a squash pie, and a bottle of whisky, and was as voluble as civil about every subject except the one I wished to talk of. But the memory of his mother was strong upon me, and I had no intention of letting it slide.

"I'm so glad to have found you," I said. "I am sure you can't have known what a trouble it has been to your mother never to have heard from you all these years."

"Arrah! And why should she bother herself over me?" he answered impatiently. "Sure I never was anything but a trouble to her, worse luck!" And before I could speak again, he went on. "But make your mind aisy, I'll be writing to her. Many's the time that I've all but indited the letter, but I'll do it now. Upon me conscience, ye may dipind upon me."

Could I depend upon his shambling conscience? Every instinct of an honest man about me answered, No. As he had done for fifteen years past, so he would do for fifteen years to come. As long as he was comfortable himself, his mother would never get a line out of him. Perhaps his voice recalled hers, but I almost fancied I could hear her as I sat there.—"I ax your pardon, darlin'. It was my own Micky that was on my mind."

"Look here, Mr. Macartney," said I; "I want you to do me a favour. I owe your mother a good turn, and it'll ease my mind to repay it. Sit down whilst we're enjoying your hospitality, and just write her a line, and let me have the pleasure of finding a stamp and putting it in the post with my own hands."

We argued the point for some time, but Micky found the writing materials at last, and sat down to write. As he proceeded he seemed to become more reconciled to the task; though he was obviously no great scribe, and followed the sentiments he was expressing with curious contortions of his countenance which it was most funny to behold. By and by I was glad to see a tear or two drop on to the paper, though I was sorry that he wiped them up with his third finger, and wrote over the place before it had time to dry.

"Murther and ages! But it's mighty pleased that she'll be," said Mr. Macartney when he had finished. He looked mighty pleased with himself, and he held the letter out to me.

"Do you mean me to read it?" I asked.

"I did. And ye can let your friends hear too."

I read it aloud, wondering as I read. If pen and ink spoke the truth, Biddy's own Micky's heart was broke entirely with the parting from his mother. Sorra a bit of taste had there been in his food, or a drop of natural rest had he enjoyed for the last fifteen years. "Five thousand four hundred and seventy-five days—no less." (When I reached this skilful adoption of my calculations, I involuntarily looked up. There sat Mr. Macartney in his rocking-chair. He was just lighting a short pipe, but he paused in the operation to acknowledge what he evidently believed to be my look of admiration with a nod and a wink. I read on.) Times were cruel bad out there for a poor boy that lived by his industry, but thank GOD he'd been spared the worst pangs of starvation (I glanced round the pop-shop, but, as Micky himself would have said, No matther!); and didn't it lighten his heart to hear of his dear mother sitting content and comfortable at her own coffee-stall. It was murderously hot in these parts, and New York—bad luck to it—was a mighty different place from the dear old Ballywhack where he was born. Would they ever see old Ireland again? (Here a big blot betrayed how much Mr. Macartney had been moved by his own eloquence.) The rest of the letter was rich with phrases both of piety and affection. How much of the whole composition was conscious humbug, and whether any of it was genuine feeling, I have as little idea now as I had then. The shallows of the human heart are at least as difficult to sound as its depths, and Micky Macartney's was quite beyond me. One thing about the letter was true enough. As he said, it would "plaze the ould craythur intirely."

By the time I had addressed it, "Mrs. Biddy Macartney, coffee-seller," to the care of the Dockgate-keeper, we had not much spare time left in which to stamp and post it, so we took leave of the owner of the pop-shop. He was now very unwilling to let us go. He did not ask another question about his mother, but he was consumed with trivial curiosity about us. Once again he alluded to Biddy. We were standing outside, and his eye fell upon the row of shining pop-taps—

"Wouldn't she be the proud woman now, av she could see me!" he cried.

"Why don't you get her out to live with you?" I asked.

He shook his head, "I'm a married man, Mr. —— bad luck to me, I've forgotten your name now!"

"I didn't trouble you with it. Well, I hope you'll go and see her before she dies."

But when I came to think of it, I did not feel sure if that was what I wished. Not being a woman, how could I balance the choice of pain? How could I tell if it were better for her to be disappointed with every ship and every tide, still having faith in her own Micky, and hope of his coming, or for the tide and the ship to bring him with all his meanness upon the head she loved, a huge disappointment, once for all!


"Roose the fair day at e'en." Scotch Proverb.

After leaving New York, we no longer hugged the coast. We stood right off, and to my great delight, I found we were going to put in at Bermuda for repairs. I never knew, but I always fancy that these were done cheaper there than at New York. Or it may merely have been because when we had been at sea two days the wretched Slut leaked so that, though we were pumping day and night, till we were nearly worn out, we couldn't keep the wet from the gimcrack cargo.

Fortunately for us the weather was absolutely lovely, and though it was hot by day, we wore uncommonly little clothing, and "carried our change of air with us," as Dennis said.

As to the nights, I never can forget the ideal beauty of the last three before we reached Bermuda. I had had no conception of what starlight can be and what stars can look like. These hanging lamps of the vast heavens seemed so strangely different from the stars that "twinkle, twinkle," as the nursery book has it, through our misty skies at home. We were, in short, approaching the tropics. Very beautiful were the strange constellations of the midnight sky, the magic loveliness of the moonlight, and the phosphorescence of the warm waves, whilst the last exquisite touch of delight was given by the balmy air. By day the heat (especially as we had to work so hard in it) made one's enjoyment less luxurious, but if my love for the sea had known no touch of disappointment on the cold swell of the northern Atlantic, it would have needed very dire discomfort to spoil the pleasure of living on these ever-varying blue waters, flecked with white foam and foam-like birds, through the clearness of which we now and then got a peep of a peacock-green dolphin, changing his colour with every leap and gambol, as if he were himself a wave.

Of living things (and, for that matter, of ships) we saw far less than I expected, though it was more than a fortnight from the time of our leaving Sandy Hook to the night we lay off to the east of the Bermudas—the warm lights from human habitations twinkling among the islands, and the cold light of the moon making the surf and coral reefs doubly clear against the dark waters—waiting, but scarcely wishing, for the day.

As I have said, Alfonso was very black, and Alfonso was very dignified. But his blackness, compared with the blackness of the pilot who came off at St. George's Island, and piloted us through the Narrows, was as that of a kid shoe to a boot that has been polished by blacking. As to dignity, no comparison can be made. The dignity of that nigger pilot exceeded anything, regal, municipal, or even parochial, that I have ever seen. As he came up the ship's side, Dennis was looking over it, and when the pilot stood on deck Dennis fled abruptly, and Alister declares it took two buckets of water to recover him from the fit of hysterics in which he found him rolling in the forecastle.

The pilot's costume bore even more reference to his dignity than to the weather. He wore a pea-coat, a tall and very shiny black hat, white trousers, and neither shoes nor socks. His feet were like flat-irons turned the wrong way, and his legs seemed to be slipped into the middle of them, like the handles of two queer-shaped hoes. His intense, magnificent importance, and the bombastic way he swaggered about the deck, were so perfectly absurd, that we three youngsters should probably have never had any feeling towards him but that of contempt, if it had not been that we were now quite enough of seamen to appreciate the skill with which he took us safely on our dangerous and intricate passage into harbour. How we ever got through the Narrows, how he picked our way amongst the reefs and islands, was a marvel. We came in so close to shore that I thought we must strike every instant, and so we should have done had there been any blundering on his part.

We went very slowly that day, as became the atmosphere and the scene, the dangers of our way, and the dignity of our guide.

"It's an ill wind that blows nobody good," said Dennis, as we hung over the side. "If it's for repairs we've put into Paradise, long life to the old tub and her rotten timbers! I wouldn't have missed this for a lady's berth in the West Indian Mail, and my passage paid!"

"Nor I."

"Nor I."

This was indeed worth having gone through a good deal to see. The channel through which we picked our way was marked out by little buoys, half white and half black, and on either side the coral was just awash. Close at hand the water was emerald green or rosy purple, according to its depth and the growths below; half-a-mile away it was deep blue against lines of dazzling surf and coral sand; and the reefs and rocks amongst whose deadly edges our hideous pilot steered for our lives, were like beds of flowers blooming under water. Red, purple, yellow, orange, pale green, dark green, in patches quite milky, and in patches a mass of all sorts of sea-weed, a gay garden on a white ground, shimmering through crystal! And down below the crabs crawled about, and the fishes shot hither and thither; and over the surface of the water, from reef to reef and island to island, the tern and sea-gulls skimmed and swooped about.

We anchored that evening, and the pilot went ashore. Lovely as the day had been, we were (for some mysterious reason) more tired at the end of it than on days when we had been working three times as hard. This, with Dennis, invariably led to mischief, and with Alister to intolerance. The phase was quite familiar to me now, and I knew it was coming on when they would talk about the pilot. That the pilot was admirably skilful in his trade, and that he was a most comical-looking specimen of humanity, were obvious facts. I quite agreed with both Alister and Dennis, but that, unfortunately, did not make them agree with each other. Not that Dennis contradicted Alister (he pretended to be afraid to do so), but he made comments that were highly aggravating. He did not attempt to deny that it was "a gran' sight to see ony man do his wark weel," or that the African negro shared with us "our common humanity and our immortal hopes," but he introduced the quite irrelevant question of whether it was not a loss to the Presbyterian Ministry that Alister had gone to sea. He warmly allowed that the pilot probably had his feelings, and added that even he had his; that the Hat tried them, but that the Feet were "altogether too many for them intirely." He received the information that the pilot's feet were "as his Creator made them," in respectful silence, and a few minutes afterwards asked me if I was aware of the "curious fact in physiology," that it took a surgical operation to get a joke through a Scotchman's brain-pan.

I was feeling all-overish and rather cross myself towards evening, and found Alister's cantankerousness and Dennis O'Moore's chaff almost equally tiresome. To make matters worse, I perceived that Dennis was now so on edge, that to catch sight of the black pilot made him really hysterical, and the distracting thing was, that either because I was done up, or because such folly is far more contagious than any amount of wisdom, I began to get quite as bad, and Alister's disgust only made me worse. I unfeignedly dreaded the approach of that black hat and those triangular feet, for they made me giggle in spite of myself, and I knew a ship's rules far too well not to know how fearful would be the result of any public exhibition of disrespect.

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