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Bleed the boys, thought I, what can that be for; at all events, the surgeon appears to be the proper person to perform that operation.
This last incomprehensible remark drove me off the deck, and I retreated to the cock-pit, where I found Mrs. Trotter. 'O my dear!' said she, ' 1 am glad you are come, as I wish to put your clothes in order. Have you a list of them—where is your key?' 1 replied that I had not a list, and I handed her the key, although I did not forget the caution of the midshipman; yet I considered that there could be no harm in her looking over my clothes when I was present. She unlocked my chest, and pulled everything out, and then commenced telling me what were likely to be useful and what were not.
'Now these worsted stockings,' she said, * will be very comfortable in cold weather, and in the summer time these brown cotton socks will be delightfully cool, and you have enough of each to last you till you outgrow them; but as for these fine cotton stockings they are of no use—only catch the dirt when the decks are swept, and always look untidy. I wonder how they could be so foolish as to send them; nobody wears them on board ship now-a-days. They are only fit for women—I wonder if they would fit me.' She turned her chair away, and put on one of my stockings, laughing the whole of the time. Then she turned round to me, and showed ine how nice they fitted her. 'Bless you, Mr. Simple, it's well that Trotter is in the hold, he'd be so jealous—do you know what these stockings cost? They are no use to you, and they fit me. I will speak to Trotter, and take them off your hands.' I replied that I could not think of selling them, and as they were of no use to me and fitted her, I that she would except of the dozen pair. At first she positively , but as 1 pressed her she at last consented, and I was very happy to give them to her as she was very kind to me, and I thought, with her husband, that she was a very charming woman. We had beef-steaks and onions for dinner that day, but I could not bear the smell of the onions. Mr. Trotter came down very cross, because the first lieutenant had found fault with him. He swore that he would cut the service—that he had only remained to oblige the captain, who said he would sooner part with his right arm, and that he would demand satisfaction of the first lieutenant as soon as he could obtain his discharge. Mrs. Trotter did all she could to pacify him, reminded him that he had the protection of Lord this and Sir Thomas that, who would see him righted; but in vain. The first lieutenant bad told him, he said, that he was not worth his salt, and blood only could wipe away the insult. He drank glass of grog after glass of grog, and each glass became more violent, and Mrs. Trotter drank also, I observed, a great deal more than I thought she ought to have done; but she whispered to me that she drank it that Trotter might not, as he would certainly be tipsy. I thought this very devoted on her part, but they sat so late that I went to bed and left them; he still drinking and vowing vengeance against the first lieutenant. I had not been asleep more than two or three hours when I was awakened by a great noise and quarrelling, and I discovered that Mr. Trotter was drunk and beating his wife. Very much shocked that such a charming woman should be beat and ill used, I scrambled out of my hammock to see if I could be of any assistance, but it was dark, although they scuffled as much as before. I asked the marine, who was sentry at the gun-room door above, to bring his lanthorn, and was very much shocked at his replying that I had better go to bed, and let them fight it out.
Shortly afterwards Mrs. Trotter, who had not taken off her clothes, came from behind the screen. I perceived at once that the poor woman could hardly stand; she reeled to my chest, where she sat down and cried. I pulled on my clothes as fast as 1 could, and then went up to her to console her; but she could not speak intelligibly. After attempting in vain to console her, she made me no answer, but staggered to my hammock, and after several attempts, succeeded in getting into it. I cannot say that I much liked that, but what could I do? So I finished dressing myself, and went up on the quarter-deck.
The midshipman who had the watch was the one who had cautioned me against the Trotters; he was very friendly to me. 'Well, Simple,' said he,' what brings you on deck?' I told him how ill Mr. Trotter had behaved to his wife, and how she had turned into my hammock.
'The cursed drunken old catamaran,' cried he; 'I'll go and cut her down by the head ;' but I requested he would not, as she was a lady.
'A lady,' replied he; 'yes, there's plenty of ladies of her description;' and then he informed me that she had many years ago been the mistress *if a man of fortune who kept a carriage for her ; but that he grew tired of her, and had given Trotter £300 to marry her, and that now they did nothing but get drunk together and fight with each other.
I was very much annoyed to hear all this ; but as I perceived that Mrs. Trotter was not sober, I began to think that what the midshipman said was true. 'I hope,' added he, 'that she has not had time to wheedle you out of any of your clothes,'
I told him that 1 had given her a dozen pair of stockings, and had paid Mr. Trotter three guineas for my mess. • This must be looked too,' replied he; 'I shall speak to the first lieutenant to-morrow, In the mean time, I shall get your hammock for you. Quarter Master, keep a
he would do. He went to my hammock and lowered it down at one end, so that Mrs. Trotter lay with her head on the deck in a very uncomfortable position. To my astonishment, she swore at him in a dreadful manner, but refused to turn out. He was abusing her, and shaking her in the hammock, when Mr. Trotter, who had been roused at the noise, rushed from behind the screen. 'You villain! what are you doing with my wife? 'cried be, pummelling at him as well as he could, for he was so tipsy that he could hardly stand.
I thought the midshipman able to take care of himself, and did not wish to interfere; so I remained above, looking on—the sentry standing by me with his lanthorn over the coomhings of the hatchway, to give light to the midshipman, and to witness the fray. Mr. Trotter was soon knocked down, when all of a sudden Mrs. Trotter jumped up from the hammock, and caught the midshipman by the hair, and pulled at him. Then the sentry thought right to interfere; he called out for the master-at-arms, and went down himself to help the midshipman, who was faring badly between the two. But Mrs. Trotter snatched the lanthorn out of his hand and smashed it all to pieces, and then we were all left in darkness, and I could not see what took place, although the scuffling continued. Such was the posture of affairs when the master-at-arms came down with his light. The midshipman and sentry came up the ladder, and Mr. and Mrs. Trotter were beating each other. To this, none
followed him, to see what of them paid any attention, saying, as the sentry had said before, * Let them tight it out.'
After they had fought some time, they retired behind the screen, and I followed the advice of the midshipman, and got into my hammock, which the master-at-arms hung up again for me. I heard Mr. and Mrs. Trotter both crying and kissing each other. 'Cruel, cruel, Mr. Trotter,' said she, blubbering.
'My life, my love, I was so jealous,' replied he.
'D n and blast your jealousy,' replied the lady; 'I've two nice
black eyes for the galley to-morrow.' In about an hour of kissing and scolding, they both fell asleep again.
The next morning before breakfast, the midshipman reported to the first lieutenant, the conduct of Mr. Trotter and his wife. I was sent for. and obliged to acknowledge that it was all true. He sent for Mr. Trotter, who replied that he was not well, and could not come on deck. Upon which, the first lieutenant ordered the serjeant of marines to bring him up directly. Mr. Trotter made his appearance, with one eye closed, and his face very much scratched.
'Did not I desire you, Sir,' said the first lieutenant, 'to introduce this young gentleman into the midshipmen's berth? instead of which, you have introduced him to that disgraceful wife of yours, and have swindled him out of his property. I order you immediately to return the three guineas which you received as mess-money, and also that your wife give back the stockings which she cajoled him out of.'
But then I interposed, and told the first lieutenant that the stockings had been a free gift on my part; and that, although I had been very foolish, yet that I considered that I could not in honor demand them back again.
'Well, youngster,' replied the first lieutenant; 'perhaps your ideas are correct, and if you wish it, I will not enforce that part of my order; but,' continued he to Mr. Trotter, 'I desire, Sir, that your wife leaves the ship immediately; and I trust, that when I have reported your conduct to the captain, that he will serve you in the same manner. In the meantime, you will consider yourself under an arrest for drunkenness.'
The captain came on board about twelve o'clock, and ordered the discharge of Mr. Trotter to be" made out, as soon as the first lieutenant had reported what had occurred. He then sent for all the midshipmen on the quarter-deck.
'Gentlemen,' said the captain to them, with a stern countenance, 'I feel very much indebted to some of you for the character which you have been pleased to give of me to Mr. Simple. I must now request that you will answer a few questions which I am about to put iu his presence. Did I ever flog the whole starboard wateh, because the ship would only sail nine knots on a bowling?'
'No, Sir, no !' replied they all, very much frightened.
'Did I ever give a midshipman four dozen for not having his weekly accounts pipeclayed, or another five dozen for wearing a scarlet watch ribbon?'
'No, Sir,' replied they altogether.
'Did any midshipman ever die on his chest from fatigue?' They again replied in the negative.
'Then, gentlemen, you will oblige me by stating which of you thought proper to assert these falsehoods in a public coffee-room ; and further, which of you obliged this youngster to risk his life in a duel?'
They were all silent.
'Will you answer me, gentlemen?'
'With respect to the duel, Sir,' replied the midshipman who had fought me, ' I heard say that the pistols were" only charged with powder. It was a joke.'
'Well, Sir, we'll allow that the duel was only a joke, (and I hope and trust that your report is correct; ) is the reputation of your captain only a joke allow me to ask? 1 request to know who of you dared to propagate such injurious slander? (Here there was a dead pause.) Well then, gentlemen, since you will not confess yourselves, I must refer to my authority. Mr. Simple, have the goodness to point out the person or persons who gave you the information.'
But I thought this would not be fair; and as they had all treated me very kindly after the duel, I resolved not to tell, so I answered, • If you please, Sir, I consider that I told you all that in confidence.'
'Confidence, Sir,' replied the captain ; 'who ever heard of confidence between a post captain and a midshipman?'
'No, Sir,' replied I, * not between a post captain and a midshipman, but between two gentlemen.'
The first lieutenant, who stood by the captain, put his hand before his face to hide a laugh. 'He may be a fool, Sir,' observed he to the captain, aside, ' but I can assure you he is a very straight-forward one.'
The captain hit his lip, and then turning to the midshipmen, said, 'You may thank Mr. Simple, gentlemen, that I do not press this matter further. I do believe that you were not serious when you calumniated me ; but recollect that what is said in joke is too often repeated in earnest. I trust that Mr. Simple's conduct will have its effect, and that you leave off practising upon him who has saved you from a very severe punish* ment.'
When the midshipmen went down below, they all shook hands with me, and said that I was a good fellow for not peaching; but as for the advice of the captain that they should not practise upon me, as he termed it, they forgot that, for they commenced again immediately, and never left off until they found that I was not to be deceived any longer.
I had not been ten minutes in the berth, before they began their remarks upon me. One said that 1 looked like a hardy fellow, and asked me whether I could not bear a great deal of sleep.
I replied 'that I could I dare say, if it was necessary for the good of the service;' at which they laughed, and 1 supposed that I had said a good thing.'
* Why here's Tomkins,' said the midshipman; 'he'll show you how to perform that part of your duty. He inherits it from his father, who was a marine officer. He can snore for fourteen hours on a stretch without once turning round in his hammock, and finish his nap on his chest during the whole of the day, except meal times.'
But Tomkins defended himself, by saying, that 'some people were very quick in doing things, and others were very slow; that he was one of the slow ones, and that he did not in reality obtain more refreshment from his long naps than other people did in short ones, because he slept much slower than they did.'
This ingenious argument was, however, overruled nem. con., as it was proved that he ate pudding faster than any one in the mess.
The postman came on board with the letters, and put his head into the midshipman's berth. I was very anxious to have one from home, but 1 was disappointed. Some had letters and some had not. Those who had not, declared that their parents were very undutiful, and that they would cut them off with a shilling; and those who had letters, after they had read them, offered them for sale to the others, usually at half price. I could not, imagine why they sold, or why the others bought them: but they did do so ; and one that was full of good advice was sold three times; from which circumstance I was inclined to form a better opinion of the morals of my companions. The lowest priced letters sold were those written by sisters. I was offered one for a penny, but I declined buying, as I had plenty of sisters of my own. Directly I made that observation, they immediately inquired all their names and ages, and whether they were pretty or not. When I had informed them, they quarrelled to whom they should belong. One would have Lucy and another took Mary, but there was a great dispute about Ellen, as I had said that she was the prettiest of the whole. At last they agreed to put her up to auction, and she was knocked down to a master's mate of the name of O'Brien, who hid seveuteen shillings and a bottle of rum. They requested that I would write home to give their love to my sisters, and tell them how they had been disposed of, which I thought very strange ; but I ought to have been flattered at the price hid for Ellen, as I repeatedly have since been witness to a very pretty sister being sold for a glass of grog.
I mentioned the reason why I was so anxious for a letter, viz. because I wanted to buy my dirk aud cocked hat; upon which they told me that there was no occasion for my spending my money, as by the regulations of the service, the purser's steward served them out to all the officers who applied for them. As I knew where the purser's steward's room was, having seen it when down in the cock-pit with the Trotters, I went down immediately. 'Mr. Purser's steward,' says I, ' let me have a cocked hat and dirk immediately.'
'Very good, Sir,' replied he, and he wrote an order upon a slip of paper which he handed to me. 'There is the order for it, Sir; but the cocked hats are kept up in the chest in the main-top; and as for the dirk you must apply to the butcher, who has them under his charge.'
I went up with the order, and thought I would first apply for the dirk; so I inquired for the butcher, whom I found sitting in the sheep pen with the sheep, mending his trowsers. In reply to my demand, he told me that he had not the key of the store-room, which was under the charge of one of the corporals of marines.
I inquired who, and he said Cheeks * the marine.
I went everywhere about the ship, inquiring for Cheeks the marine, but could not find him. Some said that they believed he was in the foretop, standing sentry over the wind, that it might not change ; others, that he was in the galley, to prevent the midshipmen from soaking their hiscuit in the captain's dripping-pan. At last I inquired of some of the women who were standing between the guns on the main-deck, and one of them answered that it was no use looking for him among them as they all had husbands, and Checks was a widow's man.]
As I could not find the marine, I thought I might as well go for my cocked hat, and get my dirk afterwards. I did not much like going up the rigging, because I was afraid of turning giddy, and if I fell overboard,
* This celebrated personage is the prototype of Mr. Nobody on board of a manof-war.
t Widow's men are imaginary sailors, borne on the books, and receiving pay and prize-money, which is appropriated to Greenwich hospital.