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.

"All zeal."

"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."

"All zeal."

"He said my ignorance should be a little enlightened by and by."

"All zeal."

"And that he'd send a sergeant and marines to fetch me."

"All zeal."

"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

the booms.

"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

some breakfast?"

"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

there sold.

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

just emerged.

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

whistled cheerily.

"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.

Early American Heroism Explosion Of His B Majesty's Ship Amphion facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail