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Sea StoriesAn Account Of Four Russian Sailors Abandoned On The Island Of East Spitzbergen
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Equality At Sea
The next morning Jack Easy would have forgotten all about his
engagement with the captain, had it not been for the waiter, who
thought that after the reception which our hero had given the first
lieutenant, it would be just as well that he should not be
disrespectful to the captain. Now Jack had not hitherto put on his
uniform, and he thought this a fitting occasion, particularly as the
waiter suggested the propriety of his appearance in it. Whether it was
from a presentiment of what he was to suffer, Jack was not at all
pleased, as most lads are, with the change in his dress. It appeared
to him that he was sacrificing his independence; however, he did not
follow his first impulse, which was to take it off again, but took his
hat, which the waiter had brushed and handed to him, and then set off
for the captain's lodgings. Captain Wilson received him as if he had
not been aware of his delay in joining his ship, or his interview with
his first lieutenant, but before breakfast was over, Jack himself
narrated the affair in a few words. Captain Wilson then entered into a
detail of the duties and rank of every person on board of the ship,
pointing out to Jack that where discipline was required it was
impossible, when duty was carried on, that more than one could
command; and that that one was the captain, who represented the king
in person, who represented the country; and that, as the orders were
transmitted from the captain through the lieutenant, and from the
lieutenant to the midshipmen, who, in their turn, communicated them to
the whole ship's company, in fact, it was the captain alone who gave
the orders, and that every one was equally obliged to obey. Indeed,
as the captain himself had to obey the orders of his superiors, the
admiral and the admiralty, all on board might be said to be
equally obliged to obey. Captain Wilson laid a strong emphasis on
the word equally, as he cautiously administered his first dose;
indeed, in the whole of his address he made use of special pleading,
which would have done credit to the bar; for at the same time that he
was explaining to Jack that he was entering a service in which
equality could never for a moment exist, if the service was to
exist, he contrived to show that all the grades were levelled, by all
being equally bound to do their duty to their country, and that, in
fact, whether a seaman obeyed his orders, or he obeyed the orders of
his superior officer, they were in reality only obeying the orders
of the country, which were administered through their channels.
Jack did not altogether like this view of the subject, and the captain
took care not to dwell too long upon it. He then entered upon other
details which he was aware would be more agreeable to Jack. He pointed
out that the articles of war were the rules by which the service was
to be guided, and that everybody, from the captain to the least boy in
the ship, was equally bound to adhere to them--that a certain
allowance of provisions and wine were allowed to each person on board,
and that this allowance was the same to all; the same to the captain
as to the boy; the same in quantity as in quality; every one equally
entitled to his allowance; that, although there were, of necessity,
various grades necessary in the service, and the captain's orders were
obliged to be passed and obeyed by all, yet still, whatever was the
grade of the officer, they were equally considered as gentlemen. In
short, Captain Wilson, who told the truth, and nothing but the truth,
without telling the whole truth, actually made Jack fancy that he had
at last found out that equality he had been seeking for in vain on
shore, when, at last, he recollected the language used by Mr.
Sawbridge the evening before, and asked the captain why that personage
had so conducted himself. Now, as the language of Mr. Sawbridge was
very much at variance with equality, Captain Wilson was not a little
puzzled. However, he first pointed out that the first lieutenant was,
at the time being, the captain, as he was the senior officer on board,
as would Jack himself be if he were the senior officer on board; and
that, as he before observed, the captain or senior officer represented
the country. That in the articles of war, everybody who absented
himself from the ship committed an error, or breach of those articles;
and if any error or breach of those articles was committed by any one
belonging to the ship, if the senior officer did not take notice of
it, he then himself committed a breach of those articles, and was
liable himself to be punished, if he could not prove that he had
noticed it; it was therefore to save himself that he was obliged to
point out the error; and if he did it in strong language, it only
proved his zeal for his country.
"Upon my honor, then," replied Jack, "there can be no doubt of his
zeal; for if the whole country had been at stake, he could not have
put himself in a greater passion."
"Then he did his duty; but depend upon it, it was not a pleasant one
to him; and I'll answer for it, when you meet him on board, he will be
as friendly with you as if nothing had happened."
"He told me that he'd soon make me know what a first lieutenant was:
what did he mean by that?" inquired Jack.
"Yes, but he said that as soon as he got on board, he'd show me the
difference between a first lieutenant and a midshipman."
"He said my ignorance should be a little enlightened by and by."
"And that he'd send a sergeant and marines to fetch me."
"That he would put my philosophy to the proof."
"All zeal, Mr. Easy. Zeal will break out in this way; but we should do
nothing in the service without it. Recollect that I hope and trust one
day to see you also a zealous officer."
Here Jack cogitated considerably, and gave no answer.
"You will, I am sure," continued Captain Wilson, "find Mr. Sawbridge
one of your best friends."
"Perhaps so," replied Jack; "but I did not much admire our first
"It will perhaps be your unpleasant duty to find as much fault
yourself; we are all equally bound to do our duty to our country. But,
Mr. Easy, I sent for you to say that we shall sail to-morrow; and, as
I shall send my things off this afternoon by the launch, you had
better send yours off also. At eight o'clock I shall go on board, and
we can both go in the same boat."
To this Jack made no sort of objection, and having paid his bill at
the Fountain, he sent his chest down to the boat by some of the crew
who came up for it, and attended the summons of the captain to embark.
By nine o'clock that evening Mr. Jack Easy was safe on board his
majesty's sloop Harpy.
When Jack arrived on board it was dark, and he did not know what to do
with himself. The captain was received by the officers on deck, who
took off their hats to salute him. The captain returned the salute,
and so did Jack very politely, after which the captain entered into
conversation with the first lieutenant, and for awhile Jack was left
to himself. It was too dark to distinguish faces, and to one who had
never been on board of a ship, too dark to move, so Jack stood where
he was, which was not far from the main bitts, but he did not stay
long; the boat had been hooked on to the quarter davits, and the
boatswain had called out:
"Set taut, my lads!"
And then, with a shrill whistle, and "Away with her!" forward came
galloping and bounding along the men with the tackles; and in the dark
Jack was upset, and half a dozen marines fell upon him; the men, who
had no idea that an officer was floored among the others, were pleased
at the joke, and continued to dance over those who were down, until
they rolled themselves out of the way. Jack, who did not understand
this, fared badly, and it was not until the calls piped belay, that he
could recover his legs, after having been trampled upon by half the
starboard watch, and the breath completely jammed out of his body.
Jack reeled to a carronade slide, when the officers, who had been
laughing at the lark as well as the men, perceived his situation--among
others, Mr. Sawbridge, the first lieutenant.
"Are you hurt, Mr. Easy?" said he, kindly.
"A little," replied Jack, catching his breath.
"You've had but a rough welcome," replied the first lieutenant, "but
at certain times on board ship, it is every man for himself and God
for us all. Harpur," continued the first lieutenant to the doctor,
"take Mr. Easy down in the gun-room with you, and I will be down
myself as soon as I can. Where is Mr. Jolliffe?"
"Here, sir," replied Mr. Jolliffe, a master's mate, coming aft from
"There's a youngster come on board with the captain. Order one of the
quartermasters to get a hammock slung."
In the meantime Jack went down into the gun-room, where a glass of
wine somewhat recovered him. He did not stay there long, nor did he
venture to talk much. As soon as his hammock was ready, Jack was glad
to go to bed--and as he was much bruised he was not disturbed the next
morning till past nine o'clock. He then dressed himself, went on deck,
found that the sloop was just clear of the Needles, that he felt very
queer, then very sick, and was conducted by a marine down below, put
into his hammock, where he remained during a gale of wind of three
days, bewildered, confused, puzzled, and every minute knocking his
head against the beams with the pitching and tossing of the sloop.
"And this is going to sea," thought Jack; "no wonder that no one
interferes with another here, or talks about a trespass; for I'm sure
any one is welcome to my share of the ocean; and if I once get on
shore again, the devil may have my portion if he chooses."
Captain Wilson and Mr. Sawbridge had both allowed Jack more leisure
than most midshipmen, during his illness. By the time the gale was
over the sloop was off Cape Finisterre. The next morning the sea was
nearly down, and there was but a slight breeze on the waters. The
comparative quiet of the night before had very much recovered our
hero, and when the hammocks were piped up, he was accosted by Mr.
Jolliffe, the master's mate, who asked "whether he intended to rouse a
bit, or whether he intended to sail to Gibraltar between his
Jack, who felt himself quite another person, turned out of his hammock
and dressed himself. A marine had, by the captain's orders, attended
Jack during his illness, and this man came to his assistance, opened
his chest, and brought him all which he required, or Jack would have
been in a sad dilemma.
Jack then inquired where he was to go, for he had not yet been in the
midshipman's berth, although five days on board. The marine pointed it
out to him, and Jack, who felt excessively hungry, crawled over and
between chests, until he found himself fairly in a hole infinitely
inferior to the dog-kennels which received his father's pointers.
"I'd not only give up the ocean," thought Jack, "and my share of it,
but also my share of the Harpy, unto any one who fancies it. Equality
enough here! for every one appears equally miserably off."
As he thus gave vent to his thoughts he perceived that there was
another person in the berth--Mr. Jolliffe, the master's mate, who had
fixed his eye upon Jack, and to whom Jack returned the compliment. The
first thing that Jack observed was, that Mr. Jolliffe was very deeply
pockmarked, and that he had but one eye, and that was a piercer; it
appeared like a little ball of fire, and as if it reflected more light
from the solitary candle than the candle gave.
"I don't like your looks," thought Jack; "we shall never be friends."
But here Jack fell into the common error of judging by appearances, as
will be proved hereafter.
"I'm glad to see you up again, youngster," said Jolliffe; "you've been
on your beam ends longer than usual, but those who are strongest
suffer most--you made your mind up but late to come to sea. However,
they say, 'Better late than never.'"
"I feel very much inclined to argue the truth of that saying," replied
Jack; "but it's no use just now. I'm terribly hungry--when shall I get
"To-morrow morning at half-past eight," replied Mr. Jolliffe.
"Breakfast for to-day has been over these two hours."
"But must I then go without?"
"No, I do not say that, as we must make allowances for your illness;
but it will not be breakfast."
"Call it what you please," replied Jack, "only pray desire the
servants to give me something to eat. Dry toast or muffins--anything
will do, but I should prefer coffee."
"You forget that you are off Finisterre, in a midshipman's berth;
coffee we have none--muffins we never see--dry toast cannot be made, as
we have no soft bread; but a cup of tea, and ship's biscuit and
butter, I can desire the steward to get ready for you."
"Well, then," replied Jack, "I will thank you to procure me that."
"Marine," cried Jolliffe, "call Mesty."
"Pass the word for Mesty," cried the marine--and the two syllables were
handed forward until lost in the forepart of the vessel.
The person so named must be introduced to the reader. He was a curious
anomaly--a black man who had been brought to America as a slave, and
He was a very tall, spare-built, yet muscular form, and had a face by
no means common with his race. His head was long and narrow, high
cheek-bones from whence his face descended down to almost a point at
the chin; his nose was very small, but it was straight, and almost
Roman; his mouth also was unusually small, and his lips thin for an
African; his teeth very white, and filed to sharp points. He claimed
the rank of prince in his own country, with what truth could not of
course be substantiated. His master had settled at New York, and there
Mesty had learned English, if it could be so called: the fact is, that
all the emigrant laborers at New York being Irishmen, he had learned
English with the strong brogue and peculiar phraseology of the sister
kingdom, dashed with a little Yankeeism.
Having been told that there was no slavery in England, Mesty had
concealed himself on board an English merchant vessel and escaped. On
his arrival in England he had entered on board of a man-of-war. Having
no name, it was necessary to christen him on the ship's books, and the
first lieutenant, who had entered him, struck with his remarkable
expression of countenance, and being a German scholar, had named him
Mephistopheles Faust, from whence his Christian name had been razeed
to Mesty. Mesty in other points was an eccentric character; at one
moment, when he remembered his lineage, he was proud to excess, at
others he was grave and almost sullen--but when nothing either in daily
occurrences or in his mind ran contrary, he exhibited the drollery so
often found in his nation, with a spice of Irish humor, as if he had
caught up the latter with his Irish brogue.
Mesty was soon seen coming aft, but almost double as he crouched under
the beams, and taking large strides with his naked feet.
"By the powers, Massa Yolliffe, but it is not seasonable at all to
send for me just now, anyhow, seeing how the praters are in the copper
and so many blackguard 'palpeens all ready to change net for net, and
better themselves by the same mistake, 'dam um.'"
"Mesty, you know I never send for you myself, or allow others to do
so, unless it is necessary," replied Jolliffe; "but this poor lad has
eaten nothing since he has been on board and is very hungry--you must
get him a little tea."
"Is it tay you mane, sir? I guess, to make tay, in the first place I
must ab water, and in the next must ab room in the galley to put the
kettle on--and 'pose you wanted to burn the tip of your little finger
just now, it's not in the galley that you find a berth for it--and den
the water before seven bells. I've a notion its just impassible."
"But he must have something, Mesty."
"Never mind the tea, then," replied Jack, "I'll take some milk."
"Is it milk massa manes, and the bumboat woman on the oder side of the
"We have no milk, Mr. Easy; you forget that we are on the blue water,"
replied Jolliffe, "and I really am afraid that you'll have to wait
till dinner-time. Mesty tells the truth."
"I tell you what, Massa Yolliffe, it just seven bells, and if the
young gentleman would instead of tay try a little out of the copper,
it might keep him asy. It but a little difference, tay soup and
pay soup. Now a bowl of that, with some nuts and a flourish of
pepper, will do him good, anyhow."
"Perhaps the best thing he can take, Mesty; get it as fast as you
In a few minutes the black brought down a bowl of soup and whole peas
swimming in it, put before our hero a tin bread-basket full of small
biscuit, called midshipmen's nuts, and the pepper-caster. Jack's
visions of tea, coffee, muffins, dry toast, and milk vanished as he
perceived the mess; but he was very hungry, and he found it much
better than he expected; and he moreover found himself much the better
after he had swallowed it. It struck seven bells, and he accompanied
Mr. Jolliffe on deck.
When Jack Easy had gained the deck he found the sun shining gayly, a
soft air blowing from the shore, and the whole of the rigging and
every part of the ship loaded with the shirts, trousers, and jackets
of the seamen, which had been wetted during the heavy gale, and were
now hanging up to dry; all the wet sails were also spread on the booms
or triced up in the rigging, and the ship was slowly forging through
the blue water. The captain and first lieutenant were standing on the
gangway in converse, and the majority of the officers were with their
quadrants and sextants ascertaining the latitude at noon. The decks
were white and clean, the sweepers had just laid by their brooms, and
the men were busy coiling down the ropes. It was a scene of
cheerfulness, activity, and order, which lightened his heart after the
four days of suffering, close air, and confinement, from which he had
The captain, who perceived him, beckoned to him, asked him kindly how
he felt, the first lieutenant also smiled upon him, and many of the
officers, as well as his messmates, congratulated him upon his
The captain's steward came up to him, touched his hat, and requested
the pleasure of his company to dinner in the cabin. Jack was the
essence of politeness, took off his hat, and accepted the invitation.
Jack was standing on a rope which a seaman was coiling down; the man
touched his hat and requested he be so kind as to take his foot off.
Jack took his hat off his head in return, and his foot off the rope.
The master touched his hat and reported twelve o'clock to the first
lieutenant--the first lieutenant touched his hat and reported twelve
o'clock to the captain--the captain touched his hat and told the first
lieutenant to make it so. The officer of the watch touched his hat and
asked the captain whether they should pipe to dinner--the captain
touched his hat and said, "if you please."
The midshipman received his orders, and touched his hat, which he gave
to the head boatswain's mate, who touched his hat, and then the calls
"Well," thought Jack, "politeness seems to be the order of the day,
and every one has an equal respect for the other." Jack stayed on
deck; he peeped through the ports, which were open, and looked down
into the deep blue waves; he cast his eyes aloft, and watched the tall
spars sweeping and tracing with their points, as it were, a small
portion of the clear sky, as they acted in obedience to the motion of
the vessel; he looked forward at the range of carronades which lined
the sides of the deck, and then he proceeded to climb one of the
carronades, and lean over the hammocks to gaze on the distant land.
"Young gentleman, get off those hammocks," cried the master, who was
officer of the watch, in a surly tone.
Jack looked round.
"Do you hear me, sir? I'm speaking to you," said the master again.
Jack felt very indignant, and he thought that politeness was not quite
so general as he supposed.
It happened that Captain Wilson was upon deck.
"Come here, Mr. Easy," said the captain; "it is a rule in the service,
that no one gets on the hammocks unless in case of emergency--I never
do--nor the first lieutenant--nor any of the officers or men--therefore,
upon the principle of equality, you must not do it either."
"Certainly not, sir," replied Jack, "but still I do not see why that
officer in the shining hat should be so angry, and not speak to me as
if I were a gentleman as well as himself."
"I have already explained that to you, Mr. Easy."
"Oh, yes, I recollect now, it's zeal; but this zeal appears to me to
be the only unpleasant thing in the service. It's a pity, as you said,
that the service cannot do without it."
Captain Wilson laughed, and walked away, and shortly afterward, as he
turned up and down the deck with the master, he hinted to him that he
should not speak so sharply to a lad who had committed such a trifling
error through ignorance. Now Mr. Smallsole, the master, who was a
surly sort of a personage, and did not like even a hint of
disapprobation of his conduct, although very regardless of the feeling
of others, determined to pay this off on Jack the very first
convenient opportunity. Jack dined in the cabin, and was very much
pleased to find that every one drank wine with him, and that everybody
at the captain's table appeared to be on an equality. Before the
dessert had been on the table five minutes, Jack became loquacious on
his favorite topic; all the company stared with surprise at such an
unheard-of doctrine being broached on board of a man-of-war; the
captain argued the point, so as to controvert, without too much
offending, Jack's notions, laughing the whole time that the
conversation was carried on.
It will be observed that this day may be considered as the first in
which Jack really made his appearance on board, and it also was on the
first day that Jack made known, at the captain's table, his very
peculiar notions. If the company at the captain's table, which
consisted of the second lieutenant, purser, Mr. Jolliffe, and one of
the midshipmen, were astonished at such heterodox opinions being
started in the presence of the captain, they were equally astonished
at the cool, good-humored ridicule with which they were received by
Captain Wilson. The report of Jack's boldness, and every word and
opinion that he had uttered (of course much magnified), was circulated
that evening through the whole ship; it was canvassed in the gun-room
by the officers, it was descanted upon by the midshipmen as they
walked the deck; the captain's steward held a levee abreast of the
ship's funnel, in which he narrated this new doctrine. The sergeant of
marines gave his opinion, in his berth, that it was atrocious. The
boatswain talked over the matter with the other warrant officers, till
the grog was all gone, and then dismissed it as too dry a subject; and
it was the general opinion of the ship's company that as soon as they
arrived at Gibraltar Bay, our hero would bid adieu to the service,
either by being sentenced to death by a court-martial, or by being
dismissed, and towed on shore on a grating. Others, who had more of
the wisdom of the serpent, and who had been informed by Mr. Sawbridge
that our hero was a lad who would inherit a large property, argued
differently, and considered that Captain Wilson had very good reason
for being so lenient--and among them was the second lieutenant. There
were but four who were well inclined toward Jack--to wit, the captain,
the first lieutenant, Mr. Jolliffe, the one-eyed master's mate, and
Mephistopheles, the black, who, having heard that Jack had uttered
such sentiments, loved him with all his heart and soul.
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