Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 2/Swanka!

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Once a Week, Series 1, Volume II (1859-1860)
Swanka! Our naval novel, after the manner of Captain ———
by Frederick Gale

Illustrated by Hablot Knight Browne

SWANKA!
OUR NAVAL NOVEL, AFTER THE MANNER OF CAPTAIN ——.

PREFACE.

In offering this story to the public, the writer craves the indulgence of his readers in their criticisms of the nautical terms. Never having been further seaward than the port of Gravesend on the one hand, and Battersea Bridge on the other, his only means of studying nautical character and acquiring naval terms has been by attending the performances at the transpontine theatres; so the defects must rest on the heads of those bold British tars who are always “shivering their timbers,” and fighting terrific combats at the minor theatres. The language has been somewhat modified to suit the times.

CHAPTER I.

I sail in the good ship “Cat-o’-nine-Tails,” under my uncle Lord Tartar.—Am blown up and blown away.

"Pitch the mainmast overboard, and splice the main-deck! Throw her up to the wind’s eye, Mr. Smith, and be hanged to you; the service is going to the deuce, and there’s not a man amongst you who knows his duty.”

“Another spar has gone, my lord,” remarked the carpenter, respectfully touching his forelock.

“Another spar!” shrieked Lord Tartar, whose voice might be heard above the howling of the hurricane. “Turn the hands up, and give them six dozen a piece, and mind the boatswain gets double allowance. Mr. Goldfinch, attend to your duty, sir, instead of standing there, gaping like a stuck pig, or by Gad I’ll put all the officers in irons, and marry the youngsters to the gunner’s daughter. I will be obeyed on board my own ship, or I’ll know the reason why, by Gad!”

“Sail on the lee bow!” cried the man in the foretop.

“What colours does she carry?”

“French, my lord; and she’s making signals of distress. She’s within two hundred yards of us now.”

“Pipe all hands for action!” roared old Tartar. “I don’t care the turn of a marling-spike for all the signals of distress; but, by Gad, we’ll send a broadside into her, as sure as I’m a peer!”

“I don’t think the ship will bear a broadside now,” observed the first lieutenant: “the hurricane is at its height, my lord, and she’s pitching heavily; a broadside will send her over.”

“And serve her right, too, sir!” replied his lordship; “who the deuce asked your advice, I should like to know. This is the worst ship in the service, by Gad! and the worst officered, and the worst manned; and if she goes to the bottom it serves the country right, by Gad, for sending such a lot of land-lubbers aboard. Are your guns ready, Mr. Trigger?”

“Aye, aye, sir,” answered the gunner, determined to do his duty.”

“Then fire, and be hanged to you, you ugly son of a soap-boiler!”

The wind was blowing a hurricane, and the waves were mountains high; and, in addition to the raging of the sea, the sky was so black that we could hardly see our enemy across the short space which intervened between us. The Cat’-o-nine-Tails was fairly buried in the water from the recoil of the broadside, but rose again like a cork.

’Bout ship, and give her another broadside!” screamed old Tartar.

“I beg respectfully to intimate to you, my lord,” said the first lieutenant, stepping forward, “that the enemy has had all her masts and upper deck carried away, and may now be considered a wreck.”

“Put him in irons!” roared the captain: “by Gad, there’s a mutiny in the ship! Does any other officer want to give me any advice, because if he does he had better say his prayers first, for I’ll shoot him as dead as a nail, by Gad! Fire, ye scoundrels, and be hanged to you.”

Another broadside was poured into the luckless ship; but, to our surprise, not a living creature appeared on her deck.

“Now, Mr. Bluejacket, you are skulking, as usual; you are a disgrace to the family, and as great a rascal as your father, who is in Hades. Take the jolly-boat, sir, and board the prize; and mind before you board that the swivel-gun and firearms are discharged into the port-holes. And, quartermaster, mind that the swivel is charged to the muzzle with broken iron and old nails, and let each of the men carry twelve revolvers and three cutlasses a-piece.”

“I don’t think it much matters, my lord,” observed the quartermaster, “what the swivel is loaded with, as the boat will founder long before we reach the prize.”

“Then go in her yourself,” was his answer, “and I shall get rid of the worst officer in the ship.”

Mr. Bluejacket, kind reader, was no other than your humble servant, and Lord Tartar was my uncle—one of the rough and tough old tars of a school which has passed away. People who didn’t know him so well as I did, were prejudiced against him on account of his brusqueness of manner; but I can answer for it, that at the bottom he was a good kind of man. Certainly he had a propensity for flogging his crew, and putting them in irons, but I must do him the justice to say, that if he put a man in irons he generally remembered to take him out again. But to return to our narrative.

The boarding party were at quarters ready to go, but the sea was so heavy that we could not get her alongside, and some delay was occasioned in getting the men in; at last she broke away, and two men and myself had not embarked.

“Jump overboard, you sons of guns, and swim to the boat,” shouted my uncle (as I shall now call him), “and Mr. Bluejacket, you remain here till the boat comes alongside.”

To hear was to obey, and the two unfortunate seamen jumped overboard and sank immediately, and were drowned before our eyes. This circumstance rather appeased my uncle, who instantly became polite and amiable.

“My dear nephew,” he said, “if you go to Davy Jones’s locker, which I rather expect you will, be good enough to present my kind compliments to your father, and tell him that I am enjoying myself comfortably in that state of life in which it has pleased Providence to place me, and as I don’t intend any son of his to inherit the title and estates, if I can help it, it is my intention to marry as soon as I get on shore—and now, good-bye, my boy, and see if you can drop into the boat rather more cleverly than those two lubbers who were drowned a minute ago.

I felt that my fate was sealed, but I managed to drop into the boat.

“Good-bye, my boys,” cried the quartermaster, rising up in the boat, “it’s all over with us—if there’s a man amongst you, you will bring that old villain to a court-martial.”

“Fire into the boat!” sung out my uncle, “there’s a mutiny amongst them, by Gad!”

“Do it yourself,” replied the gunner, crossing his arms.

“Take that, you villain,” said my uncle, firing his pistol at him. Fortunately the shot missed the gunner, but lodged in the thick part of the purser’s thigh, which perhaps was the only thing Lord Tartar did which gave pleasure to the crew.

We had not gone a hundred yards from the ship before we lost all command of the boat—she was driven furiously against the side of the prize, and instantly foundered.

I have a dim recollection of going down fathoms deep and appearing again on the surface, and my last impression was that I saw my uncle standing on the quarter-deck rubbing his hands with glee.

CHAPTER II.

I presume that Britannia ceases to rule the waves, as I am taken prisoner by a slave-owner.—Cupid laughs at my fetters, and forges fresh ones for me.

When I came to my senses, I found myself lying on a couch in a spacious half-darkened room. The couch I was lying on, and all the rest of the furniture were of solid silver, and the exquisitely polished mahogany floor was thickly inlaid with precious stones and mother-of-pearl. The sea-breeze was wafted through the window which opened down to the ground, and was fragrant with the perfumes of an orange-grove through which it rustled. Pictures of the best old masters were plentifully hung round the walls, many of which I was familiar with from having seen copies of them in our National Gallery. On rising from my couch I felt weak and languid, and on looking at myself in a mirror I found that my head had been shaved. My costume somewhat surprised me, as instead of my naval uniform I found myself attired in a pair of loose silk trousers and a velvet slashed jacket profusely ornamented with silver filagree buttons.

My first idea was to look for some one who could explain my metamorphosis, but the windows were all protected by bars, and I could find no door to the apartment. At last my eye lighted on a silver bell. No sooner had I sounded it than one of the panels of the wainscot opened, and closed as rapidly behind a black boy who entered.

“Ah, massa, you be a good sleeper, by gum; for four weeks you’ve been dozing and chattering and singing, but mostly sleeping.”

“Where am I? Whose house is this?” I eagerly asked.

“Yah! yah! yah! Walker!” grinned my sable friend, pointing significantly over his left shoulder.

Weak as I was I rushed at the nigger, and planted my foot, pretty satisfactorily, against that portion of his black carcass which could best resist a kick, and was about to repeat the dose when a second comer made his appearance in a similar manner to Pompey, which I afterwards found was the name of the boy.

“Halloa!” exclaimed the stranger. “Don’t kick poor Pompey, that’s my amusement, and Pompey gets a fair allowance without any one else’s assistance; don’t you, Pompey?”

“I believe you, massa,” said Pompey, who was rubbing the part affected much more than was necessary.

“Then get out,” laughingly replied his master, administering another kick: “there, you were shuffling a moment ago, so there’s something real for you to rub in.—Well,” turning to me, “and how is Mr. Bluejacket?”

I looked hard at the inquirer: he was a handsome, middle-aged man, and bore the stamp of Spanish blood in his face, which was finely chiselled—a profusion of black ringlets fell over his shoulders, and a restless eye and long drooping moustache gave somewhat of a fierce look to a countenance which I could not read.

“I feel as if I had been very ill,” I replied; “but how did you know my name?”

“Your affectionate mamma had cautiously marked your linen,” he answered, laughing, “in the first place, and, secondly, we have met before—now guess who I am?”

“You cannot be Don Skittleballos, the great anti-slavery agitator?”

“The same, my dear fellow; and now you will remember our meeting at the Duchess of Bijou’s, in Belgrave Square, at the breakfast given to Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe.”

The whole circumstance flashed across my mind like lightning. “But how came I here, and where are my companions?”

“You came here on a spar which drifted ashore, and, believe me, you have had a narrower escape from fever than from drowning; your companions were picked up by one of my cruisers, and a good pick up it was, I can tell you. They are all safe, and doing their duty in that station of life to which it has pleased Providence, or the chances of war, to call them.”

“But where are they?” I hurriedly asked.

“That is a secret,” he answered; “be content to know that you are safe, and will be well treated. You must pardon this necessary restraint, as you are my prisoner; if you try to escape, I rather imagine you will come to grief: if you are contented to stay where you are, in a few months you will be put on board an English ship. I wish well towards you, but if you do not attend to my injunctions, why the fault will be yours. You can go anywhere you please about the garden or grounds, but take my advice and don’t try to go beyond them, for there are some queer fellows in my establishment, who, you will find, are rather more active than your London flunkeys. We dine in an hour’s time, and a mouthful of air will give you an appetite.”

I wanted no second bidding to get an instalment of my liberty, at any rate, and went out into the garden. The rarest tropical plants were planted outside the deep verandahs, and long feathery palm-trees waved lazily in the breeze. The end of the garden terrace abutted on a lofty cliff, and the blue tropical sky was reflected in the boundless ocean which lay beneath. A magnificent schooner, evidently of English build, was at anchor a few hundred yards from the shore, with which exception not a trace of shipping was to be seen.

As I was returning towards the house, the sound of singing attracted my attention. The voice of the singer was low and soft, and there was a plaintive tone in the music which brought tears to my eyes. I crept quietly up to the window from which the music proceeded, and beheld one of the most beautiful creatures that mortal eyes ever lighted on. Her fair auburn hair fell over a snowy neck and shoulders; her features were oval and regular, but there was an expression of melancholy in the face which was sad to contemplate. I hesitated for a moment whether to go in or not; but modesty was never a failing of the Bluejacket family, so I boldly entered the apartment. She did not see me at first, so I had an opportunity of contemplating her appearance. She was dressed in a loose robe of white satin slashed with gold, which extended as far as the knee, and wore—what shall I call them? “pants,” no, that’s a Yankee word; “bags,” no, that’s vulgar—I am afraid, therefore, I must say trousers, after the Turkish fashion, which fell over a pair of embroidered slippers which encased two fairy-like feet. She started and blushed at my approach.

“Sing! O, pray sing for ever!” I exclaimed, in a rhapsody.

“I cannot sing for ever,” she replied: “angels may do that, but it is not in my power.”

“You are an angel already,” I cried.

She smiled and bowed slightly at the compliment, and, snatching up her banjo, she struck up the touching air of “Hoop-de-doo-dum-doo.” Seizing a set of bones which Pompey had left in the room, I accompanied her in her song. My thoughts were recalled to home by the old melody; and when it was finished I put my face in my hands and burst into tears.

“Where did you learn that beautiful song?” I inquired, as soon as my voice returned.

“In Whitechapel!” she answered with much emotion. “Can you keep a secret?”

“I can, I can!” I said.

At this moment Don Skittleballos entered the room. He started, and frowned at me.

“I had hoped,” he said, “to have had the pleasure of introducing you to the Princess Swanka; but I see that you have introduced yourselves. Come, dinner is ready. Stay,” he said, “I may as well introduce you formally, for fear of accidents. Mr. Bluejacket, allow me to introduce you to La Principessa Swanka—my fiancée. We shall be married the day after to-morrow, and you can act as my best man.”

The princess looked imploringly at me; and I fancied I read her thoughts. “Is it too late?” I whispered to her, as I handed her into the drawing-room.

“Faint heart never won fair woman,” she replied, tremulously. “I am an Englishwoman: save me, dear Mr. Bluejacket!”

I inwardly vowed to do so, or die; and my fate for death or love was sealed.

CHAPTER III.

A grand dinner off borrowed plate.—The Don opens his heart.—A conspiracy.

The dinner was served in the most luxurious style. Plate, both gold and silver, covered the table, and a tribe of black servants attended on us. As I was leisurely eating my soup with what appetite I had, under the double influence of sickness and love, I was startled to observe the crest of the Duchess of Bijou on my spoon; and, on looking round the table, I saw the same heraldic device on the pieces of plate. The Don’s quick eye caught mine.

“You are looking at the crests on the plate. They are a few trifles from the Duchess of Bijou when I was in London. Most of my plate consists of reminiscences of old friends.”

I couldn’t unravel this strange riddle, as I knew the duchess was not in the habit of giving away her plate. As soon as dinner was over, the princess left us, and wine was brought. The Don warmed into confidence, and finding me not very conversational, said:

“Bluejacket, you are puzzled to know who and what I am, and I don’t mind telling you; as if you try to get away before I give you leave, you won’t live to tell the tale, and you may tell it to whom you please after you are at liberty, for I shall be far from here soon after your departure. I am the Don Whiskerando Skittleballos who created such a sensation in London two years ago. My father was a Spaniard, and my mother was an Englishwoman: the former was hung for piracy, and the latter died of his ill treatment. My sole object in visiting England was to get a clipper schooner built at Southampton, you saw her lying off the cliffs, and a good sailor she is, and she has shown her heels to a pretty many of your cruisers. By the bye, that ship which you riddled, and tried to take, was only an old hulk which we turned adrift, just to deceive your squadron, and this dodge paid pretty well, as old Tartar must have blazed half his powder into her. I was on board my schooner at the time, taking advantage of the darkness of the weather to run a cargo of niggers—don’t start, my calling is apostolic, and I am a fisher of men—which accounts for your being picked up. To return to my story: as I was acquainted with the interior of many English gaols, I thought I might as well see the inside of some of your great mansions; so, money being plentiful, and all trace of my antecedents wiped out, I went to Mivart’s. The ‘Morning Post’ announced ‘the arrival of Don Whiskerando Skittleballos, who had visited England for the purpose of having a yacht built for the Brazilian Club, of which he is commodore.’ As you may suppose, hundreds of cards were left for me, and I was made a Lion. The whim pleased me, and I felt half inclined to lead what you call an honest life; i. e., live as hard as you can without being particular about paying your bills. I announced myself as an anti-slavery man, and was dragged to Exeter Hall meetings. By the way, the Duchess of Bijou’s breakfast bored me; and men of my profession never being idle, I took the liberty of pocketing a few spoons and salt-cellars—here is one of them, try some salt out of it with your nuts. My yacht being built, I sent for my own crew; and the people in Cowes Roads were delighted at the way in which a native crew handled the craft. Some of your heavy dragoons and fresh-water men were very knowing on the subject, and I humoured them into the belief that they were right, although they knew nothing about it. I was made an honorary member of the Yacht Club, and started, as announced in the ‘Morning Post,’ for the coast of Africa. Thither I went, without any suspicion, shipped a cargo of niggers, and landed them safe in Cuba. Now,” he added, “I think I have been pretty candid; and you may warn your English friends on your return, that when they make Lions of unknown foreigners, to keep an eye to their spoons.”

“But why have you taken such care of me?” I could not help asking.

“Because,” he answered, “you are a peer’s nephew, and will be a peer some day, and if you don’t turn up there will be the deuce to pay. I remember when I was in London, a bishop was a passenger in a railway train when an accident occurred, and there was more row about that bishop than all the rest of the passengers, so I took a leaf out of the English book in treating you well. However, I am rewarded, for I think you will be an agreeable companion. Let me only give you one more caution, don’t be too polite to La Principessa, or you may find too much sugar in your grog some odd morning, as I cannot stand a rival.”

Well! I thought, I am in a pretty fix. Here I am the guest of a man who treats me well, and tells me quietly that I shall be poisoned if I make any overtures to the angel whom I intend to marry, and coolly hints at my coming short home if I go out of bounds, or seek after my companions.

Being an invalid, I pleaded fatigue early in the evening, and went to bed, but sleep would not come to me. I tossed about in my bed in a fever of excitement.

“Bother the pillow!” I inwardly exclaimed, as I pitched it across the room, and once more laid down my fevered head—it came in contact with something hard—on looking I found it was a coil of rope. I struck a light for the purpose of examining it; to my surprise, I discovered that it was a silken rope ladder, a note was tied to it on which was written—

When you hear me singing ‘Hoop-de-doo-dum-doo,’ let yourself down, and lie hid in the orange grove, and wait for my coming.—S.

I lay on the bed counting the minutes. The Princess was playing and singing to the Don, the fumes of whose cigar stole in at the window. I thought the signal would never come, when at last I heard the long wished-for sound. Without another moment’s consideration I followed the instructions contained in the note, and reached my hiding-place safely.

CHAPTER IV.

La Principessa’s story.—A scheme for our escape, and its result.

I had hardly been five minutes in my place of concealment, before I heard a footstep in the garden, and the Princess walked leisurely by the spot where I was lying, in company with the Don. My heart beat violently, as the least rustling of the leaves would have betrayed me.

“My dear Don, do have the yacht ready against our wedding-day, as I long for a cruise amongst these beautiful islands,” I heard her say.

“I will go now, and give the necessary orders,” answered the Don, “if that will please you.”

“Well,” she answered, “it is a beautiful night, and I should like to go with you, if it was not for my cold, and I should be sorry not to be well on my wedding-day.”

“So should I, too, dear Princess,” he answered: “so go to bed, and soft be your slumbers. I will go to the yacht and sleep on board of her.” So saying, he proceeded down the cliff, and hailed for a boat.

Well, I thought, you are a romantic scoundrel for a gentleman who steals spoons and kidnaps niggers.

No sooner had his footsteps died away, than La Principessa, who talked to him over the cliff as long as he was within hearing, came tripping back to me.

“Oh! my dear Mr. Bluejacket,” she exclaimed, “I thought I should have died with fright, just now—but all’s well that ends well. The Don would have shot you in a moment, if he had stumbled across you; but this is real luck getting rid of him, as we are safe till day-break. Now I have a plan for your escape.”

“Not without you,” I replied.

“That is as you wish, Mr. Bluejacket.”

“Will you stick to me, if I get you away?”

“Close as wax,” she replied; and we sealed the bargain after a fashion common to most civilised nations.

“Look here,” she said, “the Don is gone for to- night, but we had better do nothing till to-morrow, as we must secure the schooner. Your men are all slaves in a plantation two miles from this. That scoundrel makes them not only work but sleep fettered together. I can get the key to their manacles now, and also the key of the armoury, and you must do the rest; their hut is exactly two miles from this, straight up the mountain, you can see the light now. The only thing which you must do to-night is to take all the arms out, and hide them in the garden. I will help you, and if any of the servants interfere, stab them; our liberty is as valuable as their lives.”

“But who are you?” I asked.

“I am an Englishwoman,” she replied; “and no more a Princess than you are. My name is Figgs, and my father is a grocer in High Street, Whitechapel.”

“But how came you here?”

“By a Whitechapel and Blackwall omnibus,” she innocently answered, “as far as the docks, and from Blackwall in a West India ship. I was going to Jamaica to marry my cousin, who is doing very well out there, accompanied by my maiden aunt; who, by-the-bye, was the plague of my life. The ship was taken by the Don’s schooner, and the crew escaped, leaving my aunt and me behind. Well, do you know (I can’t help laughing), the Don traded my aunt to a Yankee, who wanted a governess, for two bullocks and a bale of tobacco, and brought me on here, and as you know, intended to marry me.”

“Never!” I remarked, resealing our contract. “But how about the cousin?”

“Oh! I’ll throw him over, of course; it is the fashion to do so in high life, and I am a Princess here, you know,” she added smiling; “but now to business.”

We set quietly to work, and secured all the arms and ammunition, and hid them in a cavity of some rocks near the house. The key of the sailors’ fetters was given into my keeping, and the only thing which remained to be done, was to abide the result of to-morrow’s enterprise.

Swanka (OAW).png

The Don returned in the morning in high feather. We chatted and talked merrily all day on his approaching marriage, and I led him on after dinner till he was three parts intoxicated. I insisted on having another bottle, and La Principessa, who entered the room, seconded me, and rallied him cheerfully on the propriety of making merry before his marriage. My first object was gained, as I had stupified him with drink just as the night set in. “Let us carry your master up to bed, Pompey,” I said, “and I will sit by him.” We laid him on the bed, and he snored heavily. I signalled to La Principessa, who was outside, to come in, and having taken the precaution to tie his hands and feet, I left her sitting by him, with a loaded revolver, with instructions to blow his brains out if he threatened to make a noise.

I obtained the keys of all the gates, and flew rather than ran to the hut where my poor comrades were. At my appearance they thought I was a ghost, but two bottles of rum which I produced assured them that I was a friendly spirit at any rate. Their shackles were soon undone, and the whole party arrived safely at the spot where the stand of arms was hidden.

Leaving the majority of the party outside the house to secure the servants, the quartermaster, the boatswain, two seamen, and myself, well armed, entered. We went at once to the Don’s room. We found him wide awake foaming at the mouth with rage, and his guardian angel holding the pistol to his head.

“So you wish to be married, do you,” said the boatswain, squirting a shower of tobacco juice into the Don’s eye, “so you shall be in a moment,” and he pulled down one of the silk bell-ropes, and unravelling it, constructed a very artistic “cat.”

I tried to save the Don, but in vain.

“We will obey all your orders, Mr. Bluejacket, except in this instance. You have been well treated, but we have had monkey’s allowance, and so shall he. If this young lady will retire we will make a spread-eagle of him in a moment. Pipe all hands for punishment!” roared the brawny seaman.

All the sailors entered into the joke heartily, and the Don received as fair a six dozen as any man ever had in this world.

I was quite exhausted by the fatigue and excitement of the last two days, and took some rest, which was much disturbed by the groaning of the Don after his punishment and the carousal of the sailors down below, who made the most of the delicacies provided for the wedding breakfast.

CHAPTER THE LAST.

We capture the schooner.—Arrive at Plymouth.—I find that I have a handle to my name.—The Don gives us the slip.—I am married.

The next morning we held a council of war as to the means of taking the schooner. There were a dozen men on board her, and the small boat would not carry more than four or five of us, and we knew the rascals would sink our boat and go off with the schooner if they suspected treachery.

“The Don must hail the schooner,” remarked the boatswain, who spoke last. “I’ll manage. Look here, my dear,” he said to him, “just you put that cloak on, and walk down to the edge of the cliff, and if you don’t do what I tell you, over you go.” The unhappy man rose and obeyed. “Cry, ship ahoy! now.”

“Ship ahoy!” he cried in the most desponding voice.

“Speak up cheerfully,” said the boatswain, giving him a lively prod with a dagger in the leg, “or you’ll get another six dozen.”

“Ship ahoy!” cried the poor Don as cheerfully as if he was going to his wedding.

“Shout, ‘All hands ashore for my wedding.’

“He obeyed mechanically, and in a few minutes the pirates’ crew, dressed in their best, pulled to the landing-place with a will. Our men being well armed, the pirates were secured in an instant, and the island and the ship were ours.

“And now for Old England!” we all cried.

“But what shall we do with these fellows?” I asked.

“Why, Mr. Bluejacket,” replied the boatswain, “my impression is that we had better at the last moment let the niggers loose, and they will turn the tables on these scoundrels.”

The advice was too good not to be followed. We gutted the Don’s house of all which was valuable, and as the yacht was well victualled we had nothing to do but to go. We prepared the state-cabin for the Princess Swanka, as I still called her, and after we were all embarked, we gave the keys of the niggers’ huts to Pompey, whom we sent ashore in the dingy, and we bade farewell to Pirates’ Island.

The Don, heavily ironed, was brought away with us, and the Duchess of Bijou’s spoons were not forgotten.

Under pain of instant death, the Don furnished us with his chart, and we found, not much to our surprise, that the Admiralty charts of these seas were totally wrong. I promised the Don his life if we arrived safe in England.

“But what will you do with me?” asked the fallen hero.

“Why, I shall take you to London, and charge you with stealing the spoons,—first, on account of the dirtiness of the transaction, and secondly, as a warning to lion-hunters in Belgravia.”

“Oh, Mr. Bluejacket,” he whined, “I treated you like a gentleman!”

“Yes,” I answered. “Why? Because I was heir to a peerage.”

“But I learnt those manners in Mayfair,” he replied.

This answer somewhat staggered me.

We had a good run, and made Plymouth in twenty-eight days. I at once went ashore and reported myself to the admiral.

“Gracious me, Mr. Bluejacket, are you risen from the dead?—or rather I should address you Lord Tartar.”

“Lord what?” I asked.

“Lord Tartar, to be sure. Your uncle died at sea; and, to tell you the truth, I think he died at the right time, as that affair with the abandoned hulk would have cashiered him. He had a fever, after a paroxysm of passion, and he said that the surgeon was a fool, and the assistant-surgeon was an ass; he refused all treatment, and lay and swore at the fever till he got the worst of it. But come in to luncheon,” he added, “my wife and daughters will be delighted to see you.”

I accepted his offer, and after luncheon told my story, to their great astonishment. The young ladies were much interested about the Don, and wanted to know if he resembled Lord Byron’s Corsair, and the prettiest of them threw up her eyes and said,

He left the Corsair’s name to other times,
Link’d with one virtue and a thousand crimes.”

“I am afraid, my dear ladies,” I remarked, “I have extinguished his only virtues, by robbing him of his intended; and as one of his crimes was stealing spoons, he was a petty larceny hero.”

The civilities and attentions of the admiral’s wife and daughters somewhat died away when they found that I had brought my fiancée with me. However, they could not resist making the acquaintance of a Princess, and Kitty Figgs made a great furore amongst the naval circles at Plymouth. She put off her female piratical dress, and appeared in a blue moire antique skirt without any crinoline or hoops, and a tight jacket with silver buttons.

Before she had worn this for a couple of days, the “La Principessa” costume was to be seen in all the windows in Plymouth, and all the ladies discarded their hoops, to a woman.

Our story now comes near its end. I married the Princess, as I still call her, at Plymouth, and a Royal salute was fired in her honour as we came out of church. I paid off the yacht and sent her to Cowes, where she now is, though an attempt was made to seize her by the builders of her, who had never been paid.

On arriving in London I found a case going on in the House of Lords, which was costing, as I was informed, some hundreds a day in fees, about the Tartar Peerage, which was supposed to be extinct. I settled the question by taking my seat, accompanied by the Duke of Bijou and His Royal Highness * * *; and as there was no estate out of which to pay the expenses (for the estate was mine and I was alive), all the claimants, whose liabilities were enormous, went through the Bankruptcy Court, and the lawyers were never paid at all.

The Don was never tried for stealing the spoons. There was something high-minded about the man which made him shudder at the thought of stand­ing in the dock of the Old Bailey on such a charge.

“I could,” he said, “have well borne being an interesting criminal, with half Mayfair and Belgravia for spectators, on the charge of piracy and murder—but for stealing spoons!—bah! the idea chokes me.”

During the voyage home, he became low and desponding, and we took all precaution to prevent his making away with himself, but in vain. He had contrived to secrete about him an extra large box of “Professor Allaway’s Pills as prepared for the Colonies,” and one morning he was found dead in his bed with the empty box by his side.

The niggers took possession of the island, and established the slave trade with all its horrors, repaying the ill-treatment which they received on the unfortunate pirates.

The Princess makes me an excellent wife. Her relations tried hard to penetrate into Belgravian society without much success. I am happy and contented; our eldest child, a girl, was christened “Swanka,” and we don’t quite forget old times, as at a grand state ball at B—— P——, Kitty appeared in her pirate dress. We procured the release of Kitty’s aunt, who married a black missionary.

So ends the story of Tom Bluejacket, late second lieutenant on board H.M. ship “Cat-o'nine-Tails,” now The Right Hon. the Lord Tartar, who bids you farewell!

F. S. Gale.