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MARINE MEMORANDA. No. III.
BY A SUBMARINE.
THE sameness of a voyage while out of sight of land has been much spoken of by travellers, and, we think, unfairly abused. Now, commend me to a sameness of fair weather and fair winds; even the sameness of a good mess is not to be despised. Let those who want a change have the agrémens of their voyages interspersed with storm, and blast, and salt junk to their hearts' content: a taste of a gale of wind in the Bay of Biscay, and five days of contrary winds off Cape St. Vincent, have afforded me more than enough of change during the last three weeks. Now the far-famed Pillars of Hercules are before us, and with a favouring and gentle breeze we are entering the Mediterranean. Cape Trafalgar is on our larboard, Tangier on our starboard bow: we look back on the Barbary coast, stretching away to the south-west, in ever-changing undulation as our ship proceeds on her course, until mountain appears rising over mountain, the whole terminating in a branch of the Atlas range, far, far away, where the clouds of heaven bend down to greet the giants of the earth. The moon rises over the rocky fastnesses of Gibraltar, but dimmed by distance, and lost in the deep shadows of its mighty crags, we gaze on the wondrous pile as on a mystery we are as yet forbidden to penetrate. The breeze freshens,we hug the African coast,-the noble ship feels the strong current. Ceuta is neared-is passed—and we are in the Mediterranean. There was a report in the cockpit that we were to touch at Ape's Hill (Ceuta) for powder-monkeys.' This rumour has proved incorrect, and the sagacious inhabitants of that rock are not to be pressed into the service, but to be left to the prosecution of their civil engineering, in tunnelling from the shores of Africa to those of Europe.
Being now fairly launched in the Mediterranean, it is much to be regretted that the prosecution of our voyage to the shores of Syria, touching only at Malta, prevents our looking in upon the French at Algiers. Great guns and small arms! what preparations we are making to do credit to any experimental war it may please the kings of the earth to get up for the trial of sundry new inventions, calculated to make fighting a pastime not lightly to be provoked, and to prove protocols to be the most expedient of projectiles. The shores of Sardinia are before us; a fertile land, inhabited by a race unworthy of the rich soil that bears them, half cultivated as it is by a people more than half savages. Already we see the shores of Sicily lying, as every schoolboy knows, at the foot of Europe, and rarely have its destinies been kicked about. Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Saracens, Normans, French, Germans, and Spaniards, have all had a slap at it; but we do not pretend to be historians, except of our own voyage, and even of that in mere 'memoranda.'
We are now fast approaching the 'Skerki rocks,' or, as sailors call them, the Squirks." On this dangerous reef the Athenian frigate was lost in the early part of the present century, and but few of her crew were saved to tell the story of her captain's rashness, redeemedif a fault involving the lives of hundreds could be redeemed-by the firmness with which he determined on sharing the fate he had brought on others. The moon is rising over the waters, and the decks of the Howe lie bleaching in her rays, emulating the spreading sails in white
ness as they swell to the gentle breeze. The watch collect in groups to sleep, or while away the time with merry jests, or steadier talk, in which Jack fights or sails his favourite ship, as no other ship was ever sailed or fought before. Let us leave the officer of the watch, treading the weather-side of the quarter-deck in solitary state; the mate and middies in their hurried walk and busy chat to leeward; the careful quarter-master conning the ship; the strong helmsmen at the wheel; and, directed by a low murmuring hum of voices, subdued out of respect to their close neighbourhood to the quarter-deck, go in search of 'a yarn.'
Why, d'ye see,' says Tom Moody, an old quarter-master, to a knot of listeners lying on the starboard grating, just before the main-mast, the reason why we hauled up for Maritimo, to my mind is, that the admiral don't like to take these here large barkies inside the Squirks. They're a nasty reef of rocks them Squirks; they're like a skipper who's got a spice of the devil in him, that he doesn't always show; so the sea don't always break over the Squirks, but there they are. stand clear, my hearties!-that's all. Mayhap you don't know the Squirks, mayhap you may; but that argufies nothing. We arn't all on us bound to pass the Trinity Board for North-sea pilots; and, for the matter of that, little help 'twould be, for the bearings and distance of the Squirks lying here on our starboard bow. But, as I was saying, for I seem to be in for a yarn,-the Squirks arn't no soft tack to grind your keel upon, with the wind blowing hard from the nor'-west, as Captain Rainsford found to his cost, in the A-thin-un (Athenian) frigate, some five-and-thirty years back. Now why they called her the A-thin-un I never could well make out; for she had as broad a beam and as full a quarter as Sal Slum's, and no one ever called her a thin un. Well, d'ye see, the frigate had been sent to diskiver them rocks, which had been reported to be somewhere between the coasts of Sardinia and Africa; and the skipper, somehow, he never could have took his soundings in the right place,-like our black cook, when he bobbed in the coppers for the dog's-body (peas-pudding), which Barney the marine had stolen: and the signification of this was, that he made up his mind that there warn't no squirk rocks at all. Well, Captain Rainsford reports to the Admiral on the station what's what, according to his notion; and arter a bit, the A-thin-un she goes home, and is ordered out again with some sogers to Malta: they make a troop-ship of her, just the same as they does with the men-awar now, though it warn't the custom of the service then, and I'll be blessed if I know why it should be ever, making a lobster-smack of a man-a-war! but that has nothing to do with my story, 'cept that if the sogers hadn't been aboard in that unregular manner-they are all well enough in their transports-why then we might have had better luck. Well, arter we left Gib. on our way out, the skipper, he makes up his mind to steer right for the Squirks, spite of what the master says; "For," says he, "there arn't no Squirks at all;" and such a quick passage as we had never was made afore or since. On the third night, in the first watch, just about where them rocks lies, as the skipper was taking a glass of grog with the Gin'ral of the sogers-it warn't a kurnel, nor a major, but a gin'ral they'd got to command 'em, somehow; "Well," says the skipper, "Gin'ral," says he, laughing as he put his hand on the chart, "if there be the Squirks anywhere, which I deny, we are at this moment close aboard of them."
'The Captain's steward told me the story, as I tell you. I was but a youngster at the time in the ship, and sarved in the mizentop. Well, he said, that just at this moment the ship struck; she was then going a matter of eleven knots off the reel; but it was no touch and go, which is very good steering. Then she rose on the wave, and once more she struck; but before this the Cap'en was on deck, looking pale in the light of the moon, as thof he'd seed his own ghost; but giving his orders, like a brave man, and a good officer, as he was, though a little obstinate about them 'ere Squirks. It was six feet water in the hold, slap oh! "Man the pumps, and hoist out the boats :" but, somehow, all on us warn't so cool as the skipper, who gave his orders to men who wouldn't mind them, for fear had mastered all hands, though they loved the skipper, and not a man but what would have risked his life for him, as you shall see. Well, we felt the ship was settling fast, while the sea was making a clear breach over her, and I, as well as others, was a-overhauling my account aloft, and seeing what a settling I had there to pay ; and many a man prayed then, even while his hand was of the smartest to save the ship, that never prayed before, and mayhap, for the matter of that, never prayed since, more's the pity; but I arn't no Methody parson, so let that go. Well, before we could get out a boat, the sea did it for us, so far as consarns the launch; the rest went to pieces where they were; she saved my life; but that's neither here nor there, thof I'm glad it's here, for it's as well to live as long as one can, till our time comes. In a few minutes there was a matter of more than sixty souls, bluejackets, and sogers, who had managed to get into the launch, knocking about under the stern; and the cry was, among the frigate's men, that they wouldn't shove off till they'd got the Cap'en among them; and this was while we were loosing the hold of scores from the boat's gunnel,-messmates and shipmates, 'twas no odds now,the launch would take no more, and every moment we thought the ship would go down. Well, there was a singing out for the Cap'en, and he came, and looked over the taffrail, and waving his hand to us, made us understand more by his action than what we heard-for there was a yell, fore and aft, from the despairing and the drowning, enough to shake a man's hope, and to wake the dead,-that he was a-bidding us good-b'ye, and that like a brave man, and a prime seaman as he was, though wrong consarning the Squirks, he'd go down with the ship. Well, messmates, the Cap'en's steward,-who stood by him to the last, trying to over-persuade him to take his luck with us in the launch,-he's told me many a time, for arterwards he jumped out of the cabin window, and got into the launch, unbeknownst to us all. Well, he says, that when the skipper had took his leave of the men, he turns to the Gin'ral, who was by, and says he, "Gin'ral, you must save your life." The men won't take any other in the launch but me, for she's almost swamped now, and we can't expect it; but you must put on my coat, and mayhap you may pass for a sailor for once; and the skipper smiled as well as he could, to get his way with the Gin'ral; but the old soger, he was a prime 'un too. "Captain Rainsford," says he, "you consider it your duty to die with your men, and I feels obligated to do the like; them's my sentiments, unaccustomed as I am to public speaking," or something of that sort, for he spoke fine, as gentlemen landsmen does, and neither the steward nor I, d'ye see, could give his lingo rightly."I sink with my
ship, sir," said Cap'en Rainsford sternly, "as the unfortinate cause of all this here night's mischief; as the destroyer of as fine a ship and ship's company as ever went into action. You have had no hand in this here matter, and it consarns me, as a part of my duty, to try and do everything to save you. Many of your men are in the launch, and, as far as I can see, without an officer. A high sitivation waits for you at Malta. Go, Gin'ral," says he, "and when you hear any one go for to say, that Cap'en Rainsford lost his ship through his own folly, speak this good word for him, that he could have saved his life, but he wouldn't; he sank with the A-thin-un !”
Well, to make short of a long yarn, the Gin'ral did as he was told; he put on the skipper's coat, and lowered hisself into the launch. "Shove off!" was the word, before we seed who we'd got: arterwards there was a talk of heaving the soger overboard, the men were so mad that they had lost the Cap'en; but marcy perwaled, as the chaplain says, and we made for Malta. I won't tell you of the screeching there was, or, to say rightly, one long screech aboard the ship when we left her, for every one thought, somehow, that he might get in the launch, though fight hard we did against all hands. Then came another screech, louder than that 'ere,-it was when the old barky heeled over, and went down, Cap'en and crew, sogers and all. Well, messmates, my yarn is spun out; we got safe to Malta with the launch, and sorry was everybody that heard as how that the skipper warn't among us, for every one loved him. A sailor's friend was Cap'en Rainsford, and as good a seaman as ever stepped in shoeleather, though certainly it was unfortinate that he was so plaguy obstinate consarning them ere Squirks.' RICHARD JOHNS.
The Old Ledger.
EDITED AND ILLUSTRATED BY ALFRED CROWQUILL.
THE GIRL AT NO. 7.
OR twenty years I have lodged with my present landlady, Mrs. Williams, and it is very likely that I shall spend the rest of my days beneath her roof, for she is a very honest and respectable widow, and, what is more to the purpose, she understands me.
Everything goes on smoothly in consequence, and I have no care. really at home. Now, without assuming too much, I feel confident that this arises, in a great measure, from my own philosophy, for although an old bachelor, I am not easily put out' about trifles. Nay, even should a clumsy, slippery-fingered maid of all
work let my best tumbler slide from the waiter to the floor, I am unmoved-I feel for the confusion of the wench, and not only think that she is the real sufferer, but exert my eloquence to cool the rising wrath of my excellent landlady, who cannot abide waste,' and is ready to rate the girl for her stupidity.'