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'0 no, Mr. Coxswain, pray don't; shove off as soon as you please, and never mind the cighteen-pence.'
The boat then shoved off, and pulled towards the ship, which lay at Spithead.
On our arrival on board, the coxswain gave a note from the captain to the first lieutenant, who was on deck. He read the note, and then looked at me, and then I overheard him say to another lieutenant, 'The service is going to the devil. As long as it was not popular, if we had not much education, we at least had a chance of natural ahilities; but now that great people send their sons for a provision into the navy, we have all the refuse of their families, as if anything was good enough to make a captain of a man-of-war, who has occasionally more responsihility on his shoulders, and is placed in situations requiring more judgment, than any other people in existence. Here's another of the fools of a family made a present of to the country—another cub for me to lick into shape. Well, I never saw the one yet I did not make something of. Where's Mr. Simple f'
• I am Mr. Simple, Sir,' replied I, very much frightened at what I had overheard.
'Now, Mr. Simple,' said the first lieutenant, ' observe, pay particular attention to what I say. The captain tells me in this note that you have been shamming stupid. Now, Sir, I am not to be taken in that way. You're something like the monkeys who won't speak, because they are afraid they will be made to work. 1 have looked attentively at your face, and I see at once that you are very clever, and if you do not prove so in a very short time, why—you had better jump overboard, that's all. Perfectly understand me. I know that you are a very clever fellow, and having told you so, don't you pretend to impose upon me, for it won't do.'
I was very much terrified at this speech, but at the same time I was pleased to hear that he thought me clever, and I determined to do all in my power to keep up such an unexpected reputation.
'Quarter-master,' said the first lieutenant, 'tell Mr. Trotter to come on deck.'
The quarter-master brought up Mr. Trotter, who apologised for being so dirty, as he was breaking casks out of the hold. He was a short thick-set man, about thirty years of age, with a nose which had a red club to it, very dirty teeth, and large black whiskers.
'Mr. Trotter, said the first lieutenant, ' here is a young gentleman who has joined the ship. Introduce him into the berth, and see his hammock slung. You must look after him a little.'
'I really have very little time to look after any of them, Sir,' replied Mr. Trotter, 'but I will do what I can. Follow me, youngster.' Accordingly I descended the ladder after him, then I went down another, and then to my surprise I was desired by him to go down a third, when ho informed me that I was in the cock-pit.
'Now, youngster,' said Mr. Trotter, seating himself upon a large chest, 'you may do as you please. The midshipmen's mess is on the deck above this, and if you like to join, why you can; but this I will tell you as a friend, that you will be thrashed all day long and fare very badly ; the weakest always goes to the wall there, but perhaps you do not mind that. Now that we are in harbor I mess here because Mrs. Trotter is on board. She is a very charming woman I can assure you, and will be here directly ; she has just gone up into the galley to look after a net of potatoes in the copper. If you like it better, I will usk her permission for you to mess with us. You will then be away from the midshipmen, who are a sad set, and will teach you nothing but w hat is immoral and improper, and you will have the advantage of being in good society, for Mrs. Trotter has kept the very best in England. 1 make you this offer because I want to oblige the first lieutenant, who appears to take an interest about you, otherwise I am not very fond of having any intrusion upon my domestic happiness.'
1 replied that I was much obliged to him for his kindness, and that if it would not put Mrs. Trotter to an inconvenience, I should be happy to accept of his offer; indeed I thought myself very fortunate in having met with such a friend. 1 had scarcely time to reply when I perceived a pair of legs, cased in black cotton stockings, on the ladder above us, and it proved that they belonged to Mrs. Trotter, who came down the ladder with a net full of smoking potatoes.
'Upon my word Mrs. Trotter, you must be conscious of having a very pretty ankle, or you would not venture to display it, as you have to Mr. Simple, a young gentleman whom 1 beg to introduce to you, and who, with your permission, will join our mess.'
'My dear Trotter, how cruel of you not to give me warning; I thought that nobody was below. 1 declare I'm so ashamed,' continued the lady simpering, and covering her face with the hand which was unemployed.
'It can't l'e helped now, my love, neither was there anything to be ashamed of. 1 trust Mr. Simple and you will be very good friends. 1 believe I mentioned his desire to join our mess.'
'I am sure I shall be very happy in his company. This is a strange place for me to live in, Mr. Simple, after the society to which I have been accustomed; but affection can make any sacrifice, and rather than lose the company of my dear Trotter, who has been unfortunate in pecuniary matters—'
'Say no more about it, my love. Domestic happiness is everything, and will enliven even the gloom of a cock-pit.'
'And yet,' continued Mrs. Trotter, ' when I think of the time when we used to live in London, and keep our carriage. Have you ever been iu London, Mr. Simpler' *
I answered that I had.
'Then, probably, you may have been acquainted with, or have heard of, the Smiths.'
'I replied that the only people I knew there, were a Mr. and Mrs. Handvcock.'
'Well, if I had known that you were in London, I should have been very glad to have given you a letter of introduction to the Smiths. They are quite the topping people of the place.'
'But, my dear,' interrupted Mr. Trotter, 'is it not time to look after your dinner V
'Yes; I am going forward for it now. We have skewer pieces today. Mr. Simple, will you excuse ine ?'—and then, with a great deal of flirtation and laughing about her ancles, and requesting me as a favor to turn my face away, Mrs. Trotter ascended the ladder.
As the reader may wish to know what sort of looking personage she was, I will take the opportunity to describe her. Her figure was very good, and at one period of her life I thought her face must have boon very handsome; at the time I was introduced to her, it showed the ravages of time or hardship very distinctly ; in short, she might be termed a faded beauty, flaunting in her dress, and not very clean in her person.
* Charming woman, Mrs. Trotter, is she not Mr. Simple ?' said the master's mate, to which of course I immediately acquiesced. 'Now, Mr. Simple,' continued he, * there are a few arrangements which I had better mention while Mrs. Trotter is away, for she would be shocked at our talking about such things. Of course the style of living which we indulge in is rather expensive. Mrs. Trotter cannot dispense with her tea, and her other little comforts. At the same time I must put you to no extra expense, I had rather be out of pocket myself, I propose that during the time you mess with us, you shall only pay one guinea per week, and as for entrance money, why I think I must not charge you more than a couple of guineas. Have you any money?'
'Yes,' I replied, ' I have three guineas and a half left.'
'Well, then, give me the three guineas, and the half-guinea you can reserve for pocket money. 5fou must write to your friends immediately for a further supply.'
I handed him the money, which he put in his pocket. 'Your chest,' continued he, ' you shall bring down here, for Mrs. Trotter will, I am sure, if I request it, not only keep it in order for you, but see that your clothes are properly mended. She is a charming woman, Mrs. Trotter, and very fond of young gentlemen. How old are you?'
I replied that I was fifteen.
* No more ! well, I am glad of that, for Mrs. Trotter is very particular after a certain age. I should recommend you on no account to associate with the other midshipmen. They are very angry with me, because I would not permit Mrs. Trotter to join their mess, and they arc sad story tellers.'
* That they certainly are,' replied I, but here wo were interrupted by Mrs. Trotter coming down with a piece of stick in her hand upon which were skewered about a dozen small pieces of beef and pork, which she first laid on a plate, and then begun to lay the clolh, and prepare for dinner.
'Mr. Simple is only fifteen, my dear,' observed Mr. Trotter.
'Dear me,' replied Mrs. Trotter, ' why how tall he is ! He is quite as tall, for his age, as young Lord Foutvetown, whom you used to take out with you in the chay. Do you know Lord Foutvetown, Mr. Simple?'
'No, I do not, ma'am, replied I, but, wishing to let them know that I was well connected, I continued, ' but I dare say that my grandfather, Lord Privilege, does.'
'God bless me, is Lord Privilege your grandfather ? Well, I thought I saw a likeness somewhere. Don't you recollect Lord Privilege, my dear Trotter, that we met at Lady Scamp's—an elderly person! It's very ungrateful of you not to recollect him, for he sent you a very fine haunch of venison.'
'Privilege, bless me, yes. O yes ! an old gentleman, is he not?' said Mr. Trotter appealing to me.
'Yes, Sir,' replied I, quite delighted to find myself among those who were acquainted with my family.
'Well, then, Mr. Simple,' said Mrs. Trotter, 'since we have the pleasure of being acquainted with your family, I shall now take you under my own charge, and I shall be so fond of vou, that Trotter shall become quite jealous,' added she laughing. 'We have a poor dinner today, for the bum-boat woman disappointed me. I particularly requested her to bring me off a leg of lamb, but she says that there was none in the market. It is rather early for it, that's true, but Trotter is very nice in his eating. Now let us sit down to dinner.'
I felt very sick indeed, and could eat nothing. Our dinner consisted of the pieces of beef and pork, the potatoes, and a baked pudding in a tin dish. Mr. Trotter went up to serve the spirits out to the ship's company, and returned with a bottle of rum.
'Have you got Mr. Simple's allowance, my love 1' inquired Mrs. Trotter.
'Yes, he is victualled to-day, as he came on board before twelve o'clock. Do you drink spirits, Mr. Simple?'
'No, I thank you,' replied I, for I remembered the captain's injunction.
'Taking as I do such an interest in your welfare, I must earnestly, recommend you to abstain from that,' said Mr. Trotter. 'It is a very bad hahit, and once acquired not easy to be left off. I am obliged to drink them that I may not check the perspiration after working in the hold; I have, (nevertheless, a natural abhorrence of them, but my champaign and claret days are gone bye, and I must submit to circumstances.'
'Mv poor Trotter !' said the lady.
'Well,' continued he, 'it's a poor heart that never rejoiceth.' He theu poured out half a tumbler of rum, and filled the glass up with water.
'My love, will you taste it?'
'Now, Trotter, you know that I never touch it, except when the water is so bad that I must have the taste taken away. How is the water to-day?'
'As usual, my dear, not drinkable.' After much persuasion, Mrs. Trotter agreed to sip a little out of his glass. I thought that she took it pretty often considering that she did not like it, but I felt so unwell that I was obliged to go on the main deck. There I was met by a midshipman whom I had not seen before. He looked very earnestly in my face, and then asked my name. 'Simple,' said he; 'what, are you the son of old Simple?'
'Yes Sir,' replied I, astonished that so many should know my family. 'Well, I thought so by the likeness. And how is your father?' 'Very well, I thank you, Sir.'
'When you write to him, make my compliments, and tell him that I desired to be particularly remembered to him ;' and he walked forward, but as he forgot to mention his own name, I could not do it.
I went to bed very tired; Mr. Trotter had my hammock hung up in the cock-pit,.separated by a canvass screen from the cot in which he slept with his wife. I thought this very odd, but they told me it was the general custom on board ship, although Mrs. Trotter's delicacy was very much shocked by it. I was very sick, but Mrs. Trotter was very kind. When I was in bed she kissed me and wished me good night, and very soon afterwards I fell fast asleep.
I awoke the next morning at day-light with a noise over my head which sounded like thunder; I found it proceeded from holystoning and washing down the main deck. 1 was very much refreshed, nevertheless, and did not feel the least sick or giddy. Mr. Trotter, who had been up at four o'clock, came down and directed one of the marines to l'etch me some water. I washed myself on my chest, and then went on the main deck, which they were swabhing dry. Standing by the sentry at the cahin door, I lnet one of the midshipmen with whom I had been in company at the ' Blue Posts.'
'So, Master Simple, old Trotter and his faggot of a wife have got hold of you—have they?' said he. I replied,' that I did not know the meaning of faggot, but that I considered Mrs. Trotter a very charming woman.' At which he burst into a loud laugh. 'Well,' said he, ' I'll just give you a caution. Take care, or they'll make a clean sweep. Has Mrs. Trotter shown you her ancle yet?' 'Yes,' I replied, 'and a very pretty one it is.'
'Ah! she's at her old tricks. You had much better have joined our mess at once. You're not the first greenhorn that they have plucked. Well,' said he, as he walked away, 'keep the key of your own chest— that's all.'
But as Mr. Trotter had warned me that the midshipmen would abuse them, I paid very little attention to what ho said. When he left me 1 went on the quarter-deck. All the sailors were busy at work, and the first lieutenant cried out to the gunner, ' Now, Mr. Dispart, if you are ready we'll breech these guns.'
'Now, my lads,' said the first lieutenant, 'wo must slue (the part that breeches cover) more forward.' As 1 never heard of a gun having breeches, I was very curious to see what was going on, and went up close to the first lieutenant, who said to me, 'Youngster, hand me that monkey's tail.' I saw nothing like a monkey's tail, but I was so frightened that I snatched up the first thing which 1 saw, which was a short bar of iron, and it so happened that it was the very article which he wanted. When 1 gave it to him, the first lieutenant looked at me, and said, 'So you know what a monkey's tail is already, do you? Now don't you ever sham stupid after that.'
Thought I to myself, I'm very lucky, but if that's a monkey's tail it's a very stiff one!
I resolved to learn the names of everything as fast as I could, that I might be prepared, so I listened attentively to what was said; but I soon became quite confused, and despaired of remembering anything.
'How is this to be finished off, Sir?' inquired a sailor of the boatswain.
'Why, I beg leave to hint to you, Sir, in the most delicate manner in the world,' replied the boatswain, 'that it must be with adouble-wali— and be d d to you—don't you know that yet? Captain of the foretop,' said he, ' up on your horses, and take your stirrups up three inches.' —' Aye, aye, Sir.' (I looked and looked, but I could see no horses.)
'Mr. Chucks,' said the first lieutenant to the boatswain, ' what blocks have we below—not on charge?'
'Let me see, Sir, I've one sister, t'other we split in half the other day, and 1 thinks 1 have a couple of monkeys down in the store-room. I say, you Smith, pass that brace through the bull's eye, and take the sheepshank out before you come down.'
And then he asked the first lieutenant whether something should not be fitted with a mouse or only a turk's-head—told him the goose-neck must be spread out by the armorer as soon as the forge was up. In short, what with dead-eyes and shrouds, eats and cat-blocks, dolphins and dolphin-strikers, whips and puddings, 1 was so puzzled with what 1 heard that I was about to leave the deck in absolute despair.
'And, Mr. Chucks, recollect this afternoon that you bleed all the buoys.'