« AnteriorContinuar »
upon them, and managed to increase their allowance with scraps from our mess. Arrived in the Gabon, their situation became more critical. Our boat was not returned ; the time of our departure apo proached ; the hold was gradually filling up, and I was hourly in expectation that they would be sent on board a French schooner lying in the river ; so I resolved to preserve them from such a fate. In the course of the day I furnished them with a marlinespike, by means of which they were enabled to reinove their fetters. I then cautioned them to remain in the hold till the ship's company were asleep, when I would give them a signal, on hearing which they were to climb up the hatchway, come upon deck, and getting over the side, drop into the boat, which lay alongside, and paddle away for the right bank of the river. It may be questioned how, if I did not understand their language, I could make them comprehend my intentions ? My answer is, by the universal language of naturegesticulation. Having proceeded so far, it may be supposed I felt anxious for the success of my plan, since a failure might prove fatal to them, and produce unpleasant consequences to myself. In the evening, as usual, after leaving off work, we cleaned the decks, served the grog, and set the watch. The first watch (after the dog. watch), from eight to twelve, was the chief mate's; the second, from twelve till four, that of the carpenter. At eight, the mate went down to supper. The sailors, after walking the deck, sate down upon the main hatchway, under the lee of the long boat, and, after talking for some time, wrapped themselves in their pea-jackets, and fell asleep.
The glass in the binnacle was out for the third time, and I had struck the bell three (half-past nine), when the mate came on deck, and giving me the keys of his liquor-case, ordered me to make him a glass of grog, which I composed of more spirits than water ; he did not complain of its strength, but lighting his pipe, ordered me to read something to him. Going forward I struck the bell four (ten), and went below for a book. My collection at that time was rather select than numerous, and consisted of · Robin Hood's Garland,' “Hamilton Moore's Navigation,' an odd volume of Plays, 'Enfield's Speaker,' and 'The Life of Captain Jones.' I took the first I laid my hand upon, viz. "The wonderful, surprising, and uncommon Voyages and Adventures of Captain Jones to Patagonia ; relating his adventures to sea; his first landing, and strange combat with a mighty bear; his furious battle with his six-and-thirty men against an army of eleven kings, with their overthrow and deaths ; his strange and admirable sea-fight with six huge galleys of Spain and nine thousand soldiers : his being taken prisoner, and hard usage; his being set at liberty by the King's command, in exchange for twenty-four Spanish captains, and returns to England; a comical description of Captain Jones's ruby nose.- Part the Second. His incredible adventures and achievements by sea and land, particularly his miraculous deliverance from a wreck at sea, by the support of a dolphin ; his several desperate duels ; bis combat with Bayadar Cham, a giant of the race of Og ; his deep employments, and happy success in business of state ; all which, and more, is but the tithe of his own relations, which he continued until he grew speechless and died ; with his elegy and epitaph.' Sitting down upon the deck, I began reading by the light of the lamp in the binnacle, but had scarcely
commenced the combat with the bear, when I beheld by the moonlight a black head appear above the fore-hatchway. I left off reading. and the book almost dropped from my hand. The mate asked me what was the matter ? 1 replied the glass was out. Going forward, I gave the black a sign which he understood, and instantly disappeared. Striking the bell five, I resumed my book; but, notwithstanding the dose of grog I had administered, and the monotonous tone in which I read, it was not till the sixth bell (eleven), that the mate fell asleep, when having convinced myself that he was so, I went to the fore-hatchway, dropped a large nail (the signal), and then returned to watch the sleeping mate. The moon shone brightly, and lightened up the calm and tranquil scenery around, contrasting the dark masses of the woody shore with the liquid silver of the river; not a sound was heard but the rippling of the tide against the vessel. Again I saw the head of the young negro appear above the larboard side of the hatchway (the watch lying asleep under the long boat upon the starboard side). He cautiously assisted the old man upon deck. They crawled upon their hands and knees to the gang. way like a couple of black cats, got down the side of the vessel into the boat, cast themselves adrift, and, with nothing but a long bamboo to guide them, were rapidly carried down the river.
They dared not utter a sound; but as they left the ship, stood up, and stretched out their arms in speechless gratitude. I anxiously watched them float over the glittering tide, till they were lost in shadow, when, overcome by emotions I cannot analyse, I burst into tears.
Feeling assured the prisoners were beyond pursuit, I proceeded to secure myself from discovery. The glass in the binnacle was out for the last time, and softly striking the bell eight (twelve), I went below and awakened the carpenter, telling him it was his watch. He grumbled, and turning out between asleep and awake, began to dress himself. Concealing myself behind the mainmast, I saw him ascend the steerage hatchway, when seeing the mate asleep by the companion, and the watch lying under the long boat, he thought he was mistaken, or that I had deceived him, so he went below and turned in again. Presently the captain came upon deck, and looking over the side, missed the boat. He awakened the mate, and severely reproached him for suffering the boat to go adrift. The mate, to prove his vigilance, aroused the watch, and heartily abused them for going to sleep. I took care not to make my appearance till called for, when I stated, with a little prevarication, that I had turned the glass and struck the bell with regularity throughout my watch, and did not go below until I had seen the carpenter upon deck.
A seaman, sent into the hold, returned with information that the prisoners had escaped. This greatly enraged the captain, who expressed his opinion of the mate's misconduct in the most unequivo. cal terms, and hurried into the state-cabin. The mate d-d the watch for not keeping a better look-out, and flung himself into his berth. I took care to keep out of his way, and turned into my hammock. Here I soon fell asleep; but certainly did not dream that the adventure of that night would ever furnish materials for a TOUGH YARN.'
THE CHILDREN OF THE MOBILITY,
THE CHILDREN OF THE NOBILITY.
BY ALBANY POYNTZ.
Suffera nce is the badge of all their tribe'--SHAKSPEARE. Most of the fine writers of the day,-being chiefly personages who manufacture their articles like Sir Richard Blackmore his poetry, 'to the rumbling of their chariot wheels,'-are sticklers for the doctrine of compensation. When their haunch of venison proves done to a turn,-their pine-apple ripe and well-flavoured, -their claret clear,and their friend and gossip disposed to adjudge the same merit to their own arguments,-the guinea-a-liners sit down to indite their dissertations, dipping their golden pen into a silver standish to de. scribe the impartiality wherewith Providence dispenses its favours to the denizens of this little planet.
It may be so. The guinea-a-liners know best. Gout, they assure us, rarely visits the damp hovels of Ireland ; while the broad, goodhumoured face of a Yorkshire farmer's wife retains the hue and outlines of youth and beauty long after the Almacks' Dowager has grown lank and faded. It is, of course, needless to balance the account with allusions to typhus fever, or the wasted paupers of the Poor Law bastille. The chief object of fine writing is striking contrast, -moral antithesis,-light and shade. Redundance of example puzzles the reader. "Look on this picture and on that!?— Eyes right -eyes left!' is sufficiently explicit.
In disserting, therefore, upon the juvenile generations of the king. dom, let the Alpha and Omega classes suffice. All the intervening rubbish we leave to preparatory schools and a genteel mediocrity, The Mobility—the Nobility-constitute the Night and Morning of the day.
We are conscious of a tender leaning towards children. Like Burchell, in the Vicar of Wakefield, we love them as harmless little men, and are seldom without a penny whistle or a piece of gingerbread in our pocket. Children of a larger growth are too apt to conspire against the peace of mind and ease of body of these innocent Lilliputians. From the days of Herod to those of the promoters of Infant Labour, the monsters of this world have been prone to level their persecutions against those tender creatures, whom ogres used to eat, but whom Christians kill for other purposes than the table.
This is a fearful consideration! During the first dozen years of the present century, war indulged itself in the expenditure of a couple of hundred thousand human lives per annum; the three kingdoms offering up their weekly but hearty prayers for the Most High Court of Parliament, which came down so handsomely with its dust as a premium for wholesale butchery. Now that we no longer murder on so grand a scale, the wickedness of human nature finds vent in minor issues. Greenacre and Courvoisier assassinate their mistress and mas. ter, and a vast proportion of arsenic is distributed in pennyworths in va.
rious counties of the United Kingdom, to the unjustifiable homicide of her Majesty's lieges. But the said master and the mistress, and most of the people put to death by medicated tea or hasty pudding, were old enough to exercise their own fists or judgments in self-defence : and it is consequently only the unhappy infants upon whom the Mrs. Brownriggs of modern times wreak their barbarities, that really move our commiseration.
The Rabbins, who first devised the idea of a babe in bliss, as a hovering form of beauty, all face and wings, having no extremities to be exposed to the whips and stings of fate, betrayed their profound foresight. So long as a child hath anything whippable about it, chastisement will not be wanting. Your cherub is the only babe as happy as an angel.
Still, it seems hard that the privileged persecutors of these tender innocents should not show some respect to persons,
in the persons of their victims. If a certain number of children are to be tormented to death or made miserable, annually, to gratify the malignity of middle. aged persons, why concentrate their vengeance on a single class ? Why not some impartiality in the selection of the sufferers ? Why not draw lots for the objects of their cruelties, as in the case of a siege or a shipwreck, where chance is made to pick out the victims for the edge of the sword or the bars of the gridiron ?
Above all, why must it be the offspring of the highest personages in the realm who are selected for torture? Is it because their ancestors bled for us at Agincourt, or wasted their breath for us in the House of Peers, that the custom of the country condemns them, from the moment they draw breath, to slow torture ? Is it in gratitude for the activity of our nobles in foreign conquest or national legislation, that we have created a race of martyrs, such as we see presented in the books of Buds and Blossoms,' purporting to exhibit children as they are in the nurseries and school-rooms of the aristocracy of Great Bri. tain ?
Hapless innocents !-Could we but hope to prove the Wilberforce or Clarkson predestined to accomplish the abolition of this bitter slavery, we should rest our head upon the lap of earth at some very distant period, satisfied that we had followed in the footsteps of Martin Luther.
The first happiness of a child is freedom of action,-to have ample space and verge enough for kicking and screaming. As regards its powers of gratifying the eyes of others, a young child, we conceive, cannot be too simply apparelled. Its garments should be warm in winter, light in summer, capable of easy adjustment, and frequent renovation. As five minutes suffice to make the cleanest child as dirty as a chimney-sweep, five minutes ought to suffice to make it completely clean again. To insure this, silk ought never to figure in its attire. All should be amenable to the purification of soap and water. Its own fair bright face, its truthful eyes, and dimpled mouth, are a sufficient adornment.
But though advocates for freedom of action, we cannot forget the irrational cruelty which exposes the little naked arms of a new-born infant to the nipping of a bitter winter's day, its sleeves tied up with satin ribands, to gratify the vanity of the authors of its days at the risk of its life, for the display of two little flaccid unformed arms, most unmeet to wrestle with the wintry blast. An infant's
cheek, too, tenderer than a rose-leaf, ought to be approached only by objects soft and susceptible as itself,—its mother's bosom, or swans' down, or the simplest covering. Instead of this, the wantonness of our folly places upon its head a finely-embroidered cap, with half-a-dozen borders of stiff and well-crimped lace, on which, when it lies down to sleep, it must experience the torments of Regulus. To render the poor little creature as ridiculous as it is wretched, this foolscap is surmounted by a cockade of lace or riband, without grace or symme. try, resembling those with which we decorate our coach-horses; and lest when we permit the babe to take the air, it should indulge a hope to be rid of this strange incumbrance, we place over the cap a huge hat à la Henri Quatre, with another cockade, and a plume of feathers; -crushing the little unformed features by the preponderance of the Otranto-like machine, and giving its poor little feeble neck, scarcely capable of self-support, a weight to carry well calculated to inure its patience to the future burthens of life ! Of the first steps of these innocent martyrs it cannot be said that
Ce n'est que le premier pas qui coute. To entitle them to walk, their little feet are encased in shapely shoes of morocco, such as would have insured corns to the Venus de Medicis, or Apollo Belvidere. The child's waist is at the same time encircled by a prodigious sash, with bows and ends large enough for the effigy of Queen Anne in St. Paul's churchyard ; and its robe or tunic be-frilled, be-flounced, be.cuffed, be-garnished, be Mechlined, be Valencienned, till the exhortation be not puffed up!' seems prematurely in request.
• Mind your frock, Master Arthur !'-'Lady Jane ! take care of your beautiful lace !'— Lord Alfred, I wont have you play with that 'ere nasty dog, a-jumping on your velvet dress!—are the constant outcries of the authorities. The Lady Janes and Lord'Alfreds inust not walk in the sun for fear of their complexions ; must not roll on the grass or in the hay, or romp or ride, or run, or do anything that tends to the development of their little frames, or the fortification of their constitutions. If they escape infanticide at the hands of the headnurse, who leaves them naked upon her lap, with the thermometer be. low freezing-point in order to go through her routine of ablutions,-if they survive to be squeezed into the tight shoes, and screwed into the stays and curl-papers,-if they defy the united efforts of nurses, apothecaries, baby-linen warehouses, and governesses, to reduce them to feebleness, peevishness, and despair, the British constitution is richly deserving all the laudations bestowed upon it in this and all other countries.
We must again assert it to be an act of partiality on the part of the Fates, that, as some children are born with a silver spoon in their mouths, and some with a wooden ladle, the silver spoon should be made to convey only decoction of rhubarb, or senna-tea, and the ladle pure spring water.
The children of the mobility sprawl unmolested, squall unmolested. No impulse of theirs is checked by the close-fitting of their ragged garments. They enjoy free exercise of limb and lungs. No one excoriates their epidermis with much scrubbing, or brings on catarrhs by the prolongation of their toilet. Their lives, like their garments, sit easy, They may play with the cat-they may make dirt pies—they may make