« PreviousContinue »
What urged my fate it matters not—
My Soul it owns the leprous spot,
Within 1 feel that damning blot
Still I might live and be beloved—
If scorpion thoughts had lost their force
For who can smile, or seem unmoved,
And can my crimes remain untold?
Then what am I ?—Corrupt, abased,
Austere, devout as ever graced
Can truth upon this cheek be traced'
Yet there's a canker-worm within,
Which eats and wastes the heart away;
Though outward virtue hide the sin,
And pangs are felt, though closely veiled;
Though sheltered from suspicion's blast. The conscious soul is still assailed,
And shudders at the guilty past.'
Yes, look upon that picture! breathes it not
TOM CRINGLE'S LOG\
It must have been towards morning, from the damp freshness of the air that came through the open window, when I was roused by the howling of a dog, a sound which always moves me. I shook myself; but before I was thoroughly awake, it ceased; it appeared to have been close under my window, i was turning to go to sleep again, when a female, in a small suppressed voice, sung the following snatch of a vulgur PortRoyal ditty ,which I shall introduce here, merey for the purpose of laying before the reuhers, a specimen of their sable diities.
'Newfoundland dog love him muter de morest
Of all de dog ever I see;
The singer broke off suddenly, as if disturbed by the approach of some one.
'Hush, hush, you old foolish' said a man's voice, in the same lowwhispering tone ; 'you will waken de dronken sentry dere, when we shall all be put in iron. Hush, he will know my voice more better.'
It was now clear that some one wished to attract my attention; besides, I had a dreamy recollection of having heard both the male and female voices before. I listened therefore, all alive. The man began to sing in the same low tone.
'Newfoundland dog love him master de morest
Of all de dog ever 1 see;
Difference none never makee to he.
There was a pause for a minute or two.
'It no use,' the same voice continued; 'him neither no dere, or he won't bear us.'
'Stop,' said the female, ' stop; woman head good for something. I know who he shall hear.—Here, good dog, sing psalm; good dog sing psalm,' and thereupon a long loud melancholy howl rose wailing through the night air.
'If that be not my dear old dog Sneezer, it is a deuced good imitation of him,'thought I.
The woman again spoke—' Yowl leetlepiece more, good dog;' and the howl was repeated.
I was now certain. By this time I had risen, and stood at the open window; but it was too dark to see anything distinctly below. I could barely distinguish two dark figures, and what I concluded was the dog sitting on end between them. - 'Who are you ? what do you want with me?'
* Speak softly, tnassa, speak softly, or the seutry may hear us, for all de rum 1 give him.'
Here the dog recognised me, and nearly spoiled sport altogether ; indeed it might have cost us our lives, for he began to bark and frisk about, and tole;i|, violently against the end of the capstan-house, in vain endeavors to reach the window.
* Continued from p. 94.
'Down, Sneezer, down, sir; you used to be a dog of some sense; down.'
But Sneezer's joy had capsized his discretion, and the sound of my voice pronouncing his name drove hiin mad altogether, and he bounded against the end of the shed, like a battering-ram.
'Stop, man, stop,' and I held down the hight of my neckcloth, with an end in each hand. He retired, took a noble run, and in a trice hooked his forepaws in the handkerchief, and I hauled him in at the window. * Now, fsneezer, down with you, sir; down with you, or your rampaging will get all our throatscut.' He cowered at my feet, and was still as a lamb from that moment. I stepped to the window. 'Now who are you, and what do you want ?' said I.
* Ah, imissa, you no know me!'
'How the devil should I? Don't you see it is as dark as pitch?'
* Well, massa, I will tell you ;it is me, massa.'
'I make no great doubt of that; but who may you be?'
'Lord, you are de foolis person, make me talk to him,' said the female. 'Massa, neber mind he, dat stupid fellow, my husband, and surely massa now know me?'
'Now my very worthy friends, I think you want to make yourselves known tome ; and if so, pray have the goodness to tell me your names, that is, if I can in any way serve you.'
* To be sure you can, massa ; for dat purpose I come here.'
The woman hooked the word out of his mouth. 'Yes, massa, you must know me is Nancy, and dat old stupid is my husband, Peter Mangrove, him who'
Here Peter chimed in—' Yes, massa, Peter Mangrove is de person you have de honor to address, and—' here he lowered his voice still more, although the whole dialogue from the commencement had been conducted in no higher tone than a loud whisper. 'We have secured oue hig large canoe, neer de mout of disdain hole, which, wid your help, I think we shall he able to launch troo de surf; and once in smoot.water, den no fear but wc shall run down de coast safely before de wind till we reach St. Jago.'
My heart jumped against my ribs. Here's an unexpected chance, thought 1. 'But, Peter, how, in the name of mumbo jumbo, came you here'?'
'Why, Massa, you do forget a leetle, dat I am a Creole negro, and not a naked tatoed African, whose exploits, dat is de wonderful ting him never do in him's own country, hirn get embroidered and pinked in gunpowder on him breach; beside, I am christian gentleman like yourself; so dam mumbo jumbo, Massa Cringle.'
I saw where 1 had erred. 'So say 1, Peter, dam mumbo jumbo particularly; but how came you here, man ? tell me that.'
'Why, massa, I was out in de Pilot-boat schooner, wid my wife here, and five more hands, waiting for de outward bound, tinking no harm, when dem piratical rascal catch we, and carry us off. Yankee privateer bad enough; but who ever hear of pilot being carry off? blasphemy dat, carry off pilot! Who ever dream of such a ting r every shivilised peoples respect pilot—carry off pilot !—oh Lord—' and he groaned in spirit for several seconds.
'And the dog?' inquired I.
'Oh, massa, 1 could not leave him at home ; and since you was good enough to board him wid us, he has messed wid us, and slept wid us; and when we started last, although he showed some dislike at going on board, I bad only to say, Sneezer, we go look for you master; and he made such a bound, dat he capsize my old woman dere, heel over head; oh dear, what display, Nancy, you was exhihit!'
• Hold your tongue, Peter ; you hab no decency, you old willain.'
'Well, but, Peter, speak out; when aru we to make the attempt? where arc the rest of your crew?' t
'Oh dear t oh dear ! dat is de worstest; oh dear !' and he began to cry and sob like the veriest child. 'Oh, massa'—after he bad somewhat recovered himself;—'Oh, massa, dese people devils. Why, de make all de oder on board walk de plank, wid two ten pound shot, one at each foot. Oh, if you had seen de clear shining blue skin, as de became beetle and leetle, and more leetler, down far in de clear green sea! Oh dear I oh dear! Only to link dat each wavering black spot was fellowcreature like one-self, wid de heart's blood warm in his bosom at de very instant of time we lost sight of him forever!'
'God bless me,' said 1 ; 'and how did you escape, and the black dog. and the black—ahem—beg pardon—your wife I mean ; how were you spared?'
'Ah, massa ! I can't say ; but bad as de were, de seemed to have a liking for brute beasts, so dem save Sneezer, and my wife, and myshef; , we were de only quadrupeds saved out of de whole crew—Oh dear! Oh dear''
'Well, well; I know enough now. I will spare you the pains of any farther recital, Peter; so tell me what I am to do.'
'Stop, massa, till I see if de sentry be still sound. I know de fellow, he was one on dem; let me see '—and I heard him through the loose flooring boards walk to the foot of the trap ladder leading up to my berth.' The soliloquy that followed was very curious of its kind. The Negro had excited himself by a recapitulation of the cruelties exercised on his unfortunate shipmates, and the unwarrantable caption of himself and rib, a deed that in the nautical calendar would rank in atrocity with the murder of a herald or the beurer of a flag of truce. He kept murmuring to himself, as he groped about in the durk for the sentry—' Catch pilot! who ever hear of such a ting? I suppose dem would have pull down lighthouse, if dere had been any for pull.—Where is dis sentry rascal? him surely no sober yet?'
The sentry had fallen asleep as he leant back on the ladder, and had gradually slid down into a sitting position, with his head leaning against one of the steps, as he reclined with his back towards it, thus exposing his throat and neck to the groping paw of the black pilot.
'Ah—here him is, snoring heavy as my Nancy—well, dronk still; no fear of him overhearing we—nice position him lie in—quite convenient —could cut his troat now—slice him like a pumpkiu-^de devil is surely busy wid me, Peter. 1 find de very clasp-knife in my starboard pocket beginning to open of himself.'
I tapped on the floor with my foot.
'Ah, tank you, Massa Tom—de dpvil nearly get we all in a scrape just now. However, 1 see him is quite sound—de sentry dat is, for de oder never sleep, you know.' He had again come under the window. • Now, Lieutenant, in two word, to-morrow night at two bells, in de n.iddie watch, I will be here, and we shall make a start of it; will you venture, sir."
'W'ill I?—to be sure I will; but why not now, Peter? why not now?' * Ah, massa, you no smell de day-light; near day-break already, sir. Can't make try dis night, but to-morrow night I shall be here punctual.'
'Very well, but the dog, man? if he be found in my quarters, we shall be blown, and 1 scarcely think he will leave me.'
'Garamighty! true enough, massa: what is to be done? De people know de dog was catch wid me, and if he be found wid you, den dey will sospect we communication togidder. What is to be done?'
1 was myself not a little perplexed, when Nancy whispered, ' de dog have more sense den many Christian person. Tell him he must go wid us dis one night, no tell him di$ night, else him won't; say dis one night, and dat if him don't, we shall all be tleaded 3 try him, massa.'
I had benefited by more extraordinary hints before now, although, well as I knew the sagacity of the poor brute, I could not venture to hope it would come up to the expectations of Mrs. Mangrove. 'But I'll try.— Here, Sneezer, here, my hoy ; you must go home with Peter to-night, or we shall all get into a deuced mess; so here, my boy, here is the hight of the handkerchief again, so through the window you must go ; come, Sneezer, come.'
To my great joy and surprise, the poor dumb beast rose from where he had coiled himself at my feet, and after having actually embraced me, by putting his forepaws on my shoulders, as he stood on his hind legs, and licked my face from ear to ear, uttering a low, fondling, nuzzling sort of whine, like a nurse caressing a child, he at once leapt on the window sill, put his forepaws through the handkerchief, and was dropped to the ground again. I could immediately perceive the two dark figures of the pilot and his wife, followed by the dog, glide away as noiselessly as if they had been spirits of the night, until they were lost under the shade of the thick jungle.
I turned in, and—what will not youth and fatigue do?—I fell once more fast to sleep, and never opened my eyes until Obed shook me in my cot about eight o'clock in the morning.
'Good morning, Lieutenant, I have sent up your breakfast, but you don't seem inclined to eat it.'
'Don't you believe it, my dear Obed. I have been sound asleep till this moment; only stop till I have slipped on my—those shoes, if you please—thank you. Waistcoat—that will do. Now—coffee, fish, yams, and plantains, and hiscuit, white as snow, and short as—and eggs—and —zounds! claret to finish with ?—Why, Obed, you surely don't desire that I should enjoy all these delicacies in solitary blessedness?'
'Why, I intend to breakfast with you, if my society be not disagreeable.''
'Disagreeable? Not in the least, quite the contrary. That black grouper looks remarkably beautiful. Another piece of yam, if you please. —Shall I fill you a cup of coffee, Obed? For my own part, I always stow the ground tier of my cargo dry, and then take a topdressing. Write this down as an approved axiom with all thorough breakfasteaters. Why, man, you are off your feed ; what are you turning up your ear for, in that incomprehensible fashion, like a duck in thunder? A little of the claret—thank you. The very best butter I have ever eaten out of Ireland—now, some of that Avocado pear—and as for hiscuit, Leman never eanre up to it. I say, man,—hillo, where are you ?—rouse ye out of your brown study, man.'
'Did you hear that, Mr. Cringle?'
'Hear what ?—I heard nothing,' rejoined I; 'but hand me over that land crab,—Thank you, and you may send the spawl of that creeping