Page:Once a Week, Series 1, Volume II Dec 1859 to June 1860.pdf/135

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122

ONCE A WEEK.

[February 4, 1860.


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