Page images
PDF
EPUB

is is an interesting production

THE FIFTH READERS . the school rooms. this doele

r 896, ele va a in intendencies. | VI.—THE VINDICTIVE MATE.

J. S. SLEEPER. 1. It often happens that a crew, composed wholly or in part of old sailors, will, at the commencement of a voyage, make an experiment on the temper and character of the officers. When this is the case, the first night after leaving port will decide the question whether the officers or the men will have command of the ship. If the officers are not firm and peremptory ; if they are deficient in nerve, and fail to rebuke, in a prompt and decided manner, aught bordering on insolence or insubordination in the outset, farewell to discipline, to good order and harmony, for the remainder of the passage.

2. Captain Bacon was a man of slight figure, gentlemanly exterior, and pleasant countenance. Although his appearance commanded respect, it was not calculated to inspire awe ; and few would have supposed that beneath his quiet physiognomy and benevolent cast of features, were concealed a fund of energy and determination of character which could carry him safely through difficulty and danger.

3. Mr. Bachelder, the second mate, was a young man of intelligence, familiar with his duties, and blessed with kind and generous feelings. Unlike Smith, he was neither a blackguard nor a bully. After some little consultation among the old sailors who composed the starboard watch, it was thought advisable to begin with him, and ascertain if there was any grit in his composition.

4. It was about six bells-eleven o'clock at night—when, the wind hauling to the north-west, Mr. Bachelder called out, “Forward there ! lay aft and take a pull of the weatherbraces.”

5. One of the men, a smart, active fellow, who went by the name of Jack Robinson, who had been an unsuccessful candidate for the office of boatswain, replied in a loud and distinct tone, “Ay, ay.”

6. This was agreed on as the test. I knew the crisis had come, and awaited with painful anxiety the result.

Mr. Bachelder rushed forward into the midst of the group near the end of the windlass.

“Who said 'Ay, ay’?” he inquired in an angry tone. “I did,” replied Robinson.

You did !.Don't you know how to reply to an officer in a proper manner ?”

“How should I reply?” said Robinson, doggedly.

7. “Say “Ay, ay, sir,' when you reply to me,” cried Bachelder, in a tone of thunder—at the same time seizing him by the collar and giving him a shake-"and," continued he, “ don't undertake to cut any of your shines here, my lad ! If you do, you will be glad to die the death of a miserable dog. Lay aft, men, and round in the weather braces!”

8. “Ay, ay, sir! Ay, ay, sir !” was the respectful response from every side.

The yards were trimmed to the breeze, and when the watch gathered again on the forecastle, it was unanimously voted that it would not do !

9. Notwithstanding the decided result of the experiment with the second mate, one of the men belonging to the larboard watch, named Allen, determined to try conclusions with the captain and chief mate, and ascertain how far they would allow the strict rules of discipline on shipboard to be infringed. Allen was a powerful fellow, of huge proportions, and tolerably good features, which, however, were overshadowed by a truculent expression. Although of a daring disposition, and unused to subordination, having served for several years in ships engaged in the African slave-trade, the nursery of pirates and desperadoes, he showed but little wisdom in trying the patience of Smith.

10. On the second night after leaving port, the ship being under double-reefed topsails, the watch was summoned aft to execute some duty. The captain was on deck, and casually remarked to the mate, “It blows hard, Mr. Smith ; we may have a regular gale before morning!” · 11. Allen was at that moment passing along to windward of the captain and mate. He stopped, and before Smith could reply, said in a tone of insolent familiarity, “ Yes, it blows hard, and will blow harder yet! Well, who cares? Let it blow and be hanged ! ”

12. Captain Bacon seemed utterly astonished at the impudence of the man ; but Smith, who was equally prompt and energetic on all occasions, and who divined the object that Allen had in view, in lieu of a civil rejoinder dealt him a blow on the left temple, which sent him with violence against the bulwarks. Allen recovered himself, however, and sprang on the mate like a tiger, clasped him in his sinewy embrace, and called upon his watchmates for assistance.

13. As Smith and Allen were both powerful men, it is uncertain what would have been the result had Smith fought the battle single-handed. The men looked on, waiting the result, but without daring to interfere. Not so the captain. When he saw Allen attack the mate he seized a belaying pin, that was loose in the fife-rail, and watching his opportunity, gave the refractory sailor two or three smart raps over the head and face, which embarrassed him amazingly, caused him to release his grasp on the mate, and felled him to the deck!

14. The mate then took a stout rope's end and threshed him until he roared for mercy. The fellow was terribly punished, and staggered forward, followed by a volley of threats and anathemas.

15. But the matter did not end here. At twelve o'clock Allen went below, and was loud in his complaints of the barbarous manner in which he had been treated. He swore revenge, and said he would lay a plan to get the mate into the forecastle and then square all accounts. Robinson and another of the starboard watch, having no idea that Smith could be enticed below, approved of the suggestion, and intimated that they would lend him a hand if necessary. They did not know Smith !

16. When the watch was called at four o'clock, Allen did not make his appearance. In about half an hour the voice of Smith was heard at the forecastle ordering him on deck.

17. “Ay, ay, sir," said Allen, “I am coming directly.” .

“ You had better do so," said the mate, “ if you know when you are well off.”

Ay, ay, sir !"
18. Allen was sitting on a chest, dressed, but did not

move. I was lying in my berth attentive to these proceedings, as, I believe, were all my watchmates. In about a quarter of an hour Smith took another look down the scuttle, and bellowed out, “ Allen, are you coming on deck or not ?"

19. “Ay, ay, sir, directly!”

“If I have to go down after you, my good fellow, it will be worse for you, that's all.”

20. Allen remained sitting on the chest. Day began to break. Smith was again heard at the entrance of the forecastle. His patience, of which he had not a large stock, was exhausted.

21. “Come on deck, this instant, you lazy, lounging, bigshouldered renegade! Will you let other people do your work? Show your broken head and your lovely battered features on deck at once—in the twinkling of a handspike. I want to see how you look, after your frolic!"

22. “Ay, ay, sir! I'm coming right up."

“You lie, you rascal. You don't mean to come. But I'll soon settle the question whether you are to have your way in this ship or I am to have mine!"

23. Saying this, Smith descended the steps which led into the habitation of the sailors. In doing this, under the peculiar circumstances, he gave a striking proof of his fearless character. He had reason to anticipate a desperate resistance from Allen, while some of the sailors might also be ready to take part with their shipmate, if they saw him overmatched; and in that dark and close apartment, where no features could be clearly distinguished, he would be likely to receive exceedingly rough treatment.

24. Smith, however, was a man who seldom calculated consequences in cases of this kind. He may have been armed, but he made no display of other weapons than' his brawny fist. He seized Allen by the collar with a vigorous grasp. “You scoundrel,” said he, “what do you mean by this conduct? Go on deck, and attend to your duty! On deck, I say! Up with you at once !"

25. Allen at first held back, hoping that some of his shipmates would come to his aid, as they partly promised; but not a man stirred, greatly to his disappointment and disgust.

They, doubtless, felt it might be unsafe to engage in the quarrels of others; and Allen, after receiving a few gentle reminders from the mate, in the shape of clips on the side of his head, and punches among the short ribs, preceded the mate on deck. He was conquered.

26. The weather was cold and cheerless; the wind was blowing heavy; the rain was falling fast; and Allen, who had few clothes, was thinly clad; but he was sent aloft in an exposed situation, and kept there through the greater part of the day. His battered head, his cut face, his swollen features, and his gory locks, told the tale of his punishment. Smith had no magnanimity in his composition. He cherished a grudge against that man to the end of the passage, and lost no opportunity to indulge his hatred and vindictiveness..

27. “Never mind,” said Allen, one day, when sent on some useless mission in the vicinity of the knight-heads, while the ship was plunging violently, and sending cataracts of salt-water over the bowsprit at every dive; "never mind, it will be only for a single passage.”.

28. “I know that,” said Smith, with an oath ; " and I will take good care to work you up'well during the passage.” And he was as good as his word.

Ping viole

lll be on over the

wain” of i by the expressing. What is

the

QUESTIONS.-3. What is meant by “starboard watch”? 4. What is meant by “six bells "? by “the wind hauling to the north-west”? by “weather-braces”? 5. What is the “boatswain" of a ship? the “mate”? the “captain”? 8. What is meant by the expression “ the yards were trimmed "? by the word “watch”? 9. What is meant by the expression “overshadowed by a truculent expression "? What sort of business was the “ African slave-trade"? 10. Meaning of “ double-reefed topsails "? 13. What is “a belaying pin”? “fife-rail”? 15. What about Smith did not the men "know"? Was he afraid to go into the forecastle? How ought this piece to be read?

1,"watch Pression to

« PreviousContinue »