Obrazy na stronie


the very head of my bed; the work of destruction, or at least, of pillage, was about to commence, when nature assumed the mastery. I sprung from my couch, seized the leader and called out murder, when I was arrested by the powerful arm of my own valet, exclaiming, Mon Dieu, monsieur, que fais tu? nous allons nous coucher.'

«« Villain,'I exclaimed, ‘you were about to murder and plunder us in company with this horde of robbers. Where, sir, where, are the beds to which you were going? I added with a sneer, which however, was somewhat modified as I observed that the whole band looked not only frightened, but most peaceable. Again the valet requested that I would return to bed, and that all should be immediately explained. this time my companions were awake, and although somewhat startled at first, they were inore readily pacified by the multiplied apologies and explanations of our host, who, at last, convinced even me that no harm was intended ; that he and his farm labourers, together with some weather-bound peasants, had waited in the kitchen until they thought that we were asleep, before retiring to rest in a large loft over our room, which could only be attained by a small ladder and a trap-door near the head of my bed ; that he had preceded the others with a light to ascertain that their passage through the room would not disturb us, and that their stealthy and noiseless steps had been caused by the same desire not to annoy us.

“ It was evident that the tale was true, and it was

with a feeling something akin to shame that I saw them ascend the ladder one by one. My nerves, however, were a good deal shaken, and though thoroughly convinced of the honesty of the peasants above, it was some hours before I could compose myself to sleep, and even then I dreamed of strife and murderous bloodshed. The old proverb says, “you may as well kill a man ás frighten him to death. I certainly experienced that night all the horrors of being in the hands of a fierce banditti, save only the actual infliction of the blow which I expected was to terminate my

existence. All circumstances considered, too, I do not see that my alarm was of a cowardly nature.” To this we unanimously assented.

“ And they didn't cut your throats then arter all ?” exclaimed old Tom, who had been so absorbed by the interest of the tale as hardly to comprehend the explanation; "well I'm blessed if ever I heard tell o' such a thing as that; why if it har'n't a made my throat as dry and as husky as ever was a caboose chimney. I say, master, no offence I hope, but I should like another drop o' grog just to clear the pipes, and to drink your honour's health.”

A good stiff glass being handed to each of our guests, Tom pursued—“ Long life to your honour, and I hope you'll never fall in with any real thieves to cut your throat. To tell you the truth, I'm half inclined to think now that them 'ere chaps warn't above half honest, and that if you hadn't a been awake they'd may be have cut the throats of you all, or, at least, ransacked your pockets and carried off the shot.”

My friend assured him that he was perfectly satisfied of the honesty of the mountaineers.

“Ah, well,” said he of the sea, “I don't know, but I've been so comflustered a-hearing you tell about it, that I never can think but what there was some mischief in the wind if one could but get at the truth on't, but that, in coorse, you never can ; what do you think on't, Bill ?"

Why, as to the matter o’that,” said Bill, "if the gemman's satisfied I harn't no right to complain, nor you neither, Tom; and may be arter all it was all a mistake o' both sides, as happened once when I was a sailing in an Ingyman during war time.”

We pricked up our ears and begged to hear how

that was.

Why,” replied Bill, “its no great story to tell, but there war' a many on us thought summut on it whilst it war' a going on; its a many years now, but I mind it as if it war' but last week. Oh lor, oh lor, it warn't likely as I'd forget it; I never seed such a go in my life,” and then the old fellow chuckled and laughed again in the height of enjoyment.

· Well, heave a-head mate,” said his companion, and let's have the rights on't, and may be we'll laugh too.

I don't think I've heerd you spin that yarn, though I've beerd you spin a-many."

“Well I dare say you mightn't, for it's only this yemman's yarn as has made me think on't now. Well, you see, gemmen, the thing happened o' this fashion. In the war time you've heerd tell that the greatest number o'marchant ships made their passage out and home in fleets under charge of some o' the king's ships that the enemy mighin't nab 'em; and again, others of the marchant sarvice was what we calls running ships, and made their passages as they best might singly. By that means they sailed when they pleased, and as they pleased, and so had the best o' the markets at home and abroad; but then, in coorse, they run'd a precious sight more risk o' being overhauled by the French privateers. Some on 'em, you must understand, depended altogether upon their heels, whilst others had teeth to bite, that is, guns and extra hands to work 'em, and carried letters of marque, that is, license to make war, and take and make prizes of vessels belonging to the enemy.

Well it did so happen one time I was shipped aboard one of these 'ere vessels o' marque, and a fine craft she war' as ever walked under canvass, a regular fast un ; wet she war', and no mistake, but then a vessel can't well be very fast and very dry, 'specially with a large spread o'canvass on a wind; bless you, she must go through the crest o'the waves and there's an end on't. Well, this 'ere craft was a uncommon rakish looking thing, and she was painted all the world over like one o' your sloops o' war. She was chock full o' sugar, and moreover, we'd a-got a sight of passengers aboard, men, women, and children, for she'd made two or three uncommon lucky passages ye see, and was quite a favourite. Well, now just you look here; in them 'ere days the skippers hadn't a com'd to find out the short cut across the Atlantic, but went in a regular way round about handy the banks of Newfoundland ; 'cause why? they'd a notion that if it war' the longest by knots, it war’ the shortest by time, by reason o' the winds a being more favourable in that course : they knows better now; hows'ever, in them days, as I was a saying, that was the course o' the homeward-bound ships from the Ingies. So you see, gemmen, (and I takes the liberty at the same time to drink all your very good healths once more), in coorse it warn't to be wondered at that we fell in with a thick fog, such as you seldom see any where else ; well, sure enough there we war' a peering and a peering through this darkness visible, for two mortal days, and never a seeing half a cable’s length off, and more oftener losing sight o' the bowsprit of our own ship. Sorrowful work that is I can tell you at the best o' times, but more particklerly in war, when you're in a hurry to make a passage out of the way o' the enemy's cruisers and privateers. Well, on the arternoon of the second day a bit o' a breeze sprung up, and little by little the tog rolls away and we begins to rub up our eyes and see if we could use 'em or no arter lying by so long. Whengh,' says the second mate, a sharp young chap, as was standing by the binnacle, 'what d’ye call that?' says he to the man at the wheel. “I don't see nothing,' says t'other.

Well, I think I do,'says the mate, and with that he takes the glass from the binnacle and off he goes into the main-top. Well, in less than a minute down he comes, and never says nothing to nobody, but walks very quietly down the companion to the captain as was

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