Charles Dickens.

The mystery of Edwin Drood, Reprinted pieces, and other stories online

. (page 63 of 103)
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who were sturdy, though small, "Bring me in
the royal rag-bag : I must snip and stitch and
cut and contrive." So these two young princes
tugged at the roj'al rag-bag, and lugged it in ;
and the Princess Alicia sat down on the floor,
with a large pair of scissors and a needle and
thread, and snipped and stitched and cut and
contrived, and made a bandage, and put it on,
and it fitted beautifully ; and so, when it w-as all
done, she saw the king her papa looking on by
the door.

" Alicia."

" Yes, papa."

" What have you been doing ? "

" Snipping, stitching, cutting, and contriving,
papa."

" Where is the magic fish bone ? "

" In my pocket, papa ! "

" I thought you had lost it ? "

" Oh no, papa ! "

" Or forgotten it ? "

•' No, indeed, papa."

After that, she ran up-stairs to the duchess,
and told her what had passed, and told her the
secret over again ; and the duchess shook her
flaxen curls, and laughed with her rosy lips.

Well ! and so another time the baby fell
under the grate. The seventeen young princes
and princesses were used to it ; for they were
almost always falling under the grate or down
the stairs ; but the baby was not used to it yet,
antl it gave him a swelled face and a black eye.
The way the poor little darling came to tumble
was, that he was out of the Princess Alicia's lap
just as she was sitting, in a great coarse apron
that quite smothered her, in front of the kitchen
fire, beginning to peel the turnii^s for the broth
for dinner ; and the way she came to be domg
that was, that the king's cook had run away
that morning with her own true love, who was a
very tall but very tipsy soldier. Then the seven-
teen young princes and jirincesses, who cried at
everything that happened, cried and roared. But
the Princess Alicia (who couldn't help crying a



THE MAGIC FISH BONE.



325



little herself) quietly called to them to be still,
on account of not throwing back the queen up-
stairs, who was fast getting well, and said,
"Hold your tongues, you wicked little monkeys,
every on« of you, while I examine baby ! "
Then she examined baby, and found that he
hadn't broken anything ; and she held cokl iron
to his poor dear eye, and smoothed his poor
dear face, and he presently fell asleep in her
arms. Then she said to the seventeen princes
and princesses, " I am afraid to let him down
yet, lest he should wake and feel pain ; be good,
and you shall all be cooks." They jumped for
joy when they heard that, and began making
themselves cooks' caps out of old newspapers.
So to one she gave the salt box, and to one she
gave the barley, and to one she gave the herbs,
and to one she gave the turnips, and to one she
gave the carrots, and to one she gave the onions,
and to one she gave the spice box, till they were
all cooks, and all running about at work, she
sitting in the middle, smothered in the great
coarse apron, nursing baby. By-and-by the
broth was done ; and the baby woke up, smiling
like an angel, and was trusted to the sedatest
princess to hold, while the other princes and
princesses were squeezed into a far-off corner to
look at the Princess Alicia turning out the sauce-
panful of broth, for fear (as they were always
getting into trouble) they should get splashed
and scalded. When the broth came tumbling
out, steaming beautifully, and smelling like a
nosegay good to eat, they clapped their hands.
That made the baby clap his hands ; and that,
and his looking as if he had a comic toothache,
made all the princes and princesses laugh. So
the Princess Alicia said, '• Laugh and be good ;
and after dinner we will make him a nest on
the floor in a corner, and he shall sit in his nest
and see a dance of eighteen cooks." That de-
lighted the young princes and princesses, and
they ate up all the broth, and washed up all the
plates and dishes, and cleared away, and pushed
the table into a corner ; and then they in their
cooks' caps, and the Princess Alicia in the
smothering coarse apron that belonged to the
cook that had run away with her own true love
that was the very tall but very tipsy soldier,
danced a dance of eighteen cooks before the
angelic baby, who forgot his swelled face and
his black eye, and crowed with joy.

And so then once more the Princess Alicia
saw King Watkins the First, her father, standing
in the doorway looking on, and he said, " What
have you been doing, Alicia ? "
" Cooking and contriving, papa."
'■'■ What else have you been doing, Alicia ? "



" Keeping the children light-hearted, papa."

" Where is the magic fish bone, Alicia ? "

" In my pocket, papa."

" I thought you had lost it ? "

" Oh no, papa ! "

"Or forgotten it?"

" No, indeed, papa."

The king then sighed so heavily, and seemed
so low-spirited, and sat down so miserably,
leaning his head upon his hand, and his elbow
upon the kitchen table pushed away in the
corner, that the seventeen princes and princesses
crept softly out of the kitchen, and left him alone
with the Princess Alicia and the angelic baby.
, "What is the matter, papa?"

" I am dreadfully poor, my child."

" Have you no money at all, papa ? "

" None, my child."

" Is there no way of getting any, papa ? "

" No way," said the king. " I have tried
very hard, and I have tried all ways."

When she heard those last words, the Princess
Alicia began to put her hand into the pocket
where she kept the magic fish bone.

" Papa," said she, " when we have tried very
hard, and tried all ways, we must have done our
very, very best?"

" No doubt, Alicia."

" When we have done our very, very best,
papa, and that is not enough, then I think the right
time must have come for asking help of others."
This was the very secret connected with the
magic fish bone, which she had found out for
herself from the good Fairy Grandmarina's
words, and which she had so often whispered to
her beautiful and fashionable friend, the duchess.

So she took out of her pocket the magic fish
bone, that had been dried and rubbed and
polished till it shone like mother-of-pearl ; and
she gave it one little kiss, and wished it was
quarter-day. And immediately it was quarter-
day ; and the king's quarter's salary came rattling
down the chimney, and bounced into the middle
of the floor.

But this was not half of what happened, — no,
not a quarter; for immediately afterwards the
good Fairy Grandmarina came riding in, in a
carriage and four (peacocks), with Mr. Pickles's
boy up behind, dressed in silver and gold, with
a cocked-hat, powdered hair, pink silk stockings,
a jewelled cane, and a nosegay. Down jumped
Mr. Pickles's boy, with his cocked-hat in his
hand, and wonderfully polite (being entirely
changed by enchantment), and handed Grand-
marina out ; and there she stood, in her rich
shot-silk smelling of dried lavender, fanning her-
self with a sparkling fixn.



y,26



HOLIDA y ROMANCE.



"Alicia, my dear," said this charming old
fairy, " how do you do ? I hope I see you
jjietty well ? Give me a kiss."

'I he Princess Alicia embraced her ; and then
Grandmarina turned to the king, and said rather
sharply, "Are you good?"

The king said he hoped so.

" 1 suppose you know the reason no7v why my
god-daughter here," kissing the princess again,
•'did not apply to the fish bone sooner?" said
the fairy.

The king made a shy bow.

" Ah ! but you didn't tJien ? " said the fairy.

The king made a shyer bow.

" Any more reasons to ask for ? " said the fairy.

The king said. No, and he was very sorry.

" Be good, then," said the fairy, " and live
happy ever afterwards."

Then Grandmarina waved her fan, and the
queen came in most splendidly dressed ; and the
seventeen young princes and princesses, no
longer grown out of their clothes, came in, newly
fitted out from top to toe, with tucks in every-
thing to admit of its being let out. After that,
the lairy tapped the Princess Alicia with her fan ;
and the smothering coarse apron flew away, and
sheappeared exquisitely dressed, likea littlebride,
with a wreath of orange flowers and a silver veil.
After that, the kitchen dresser changed of itself
into a wardrobe, made of beautiful woods and
gold and looking-glass, which was full of dresses
of all sorts, all for her and all exactly fitting her.
After that, the angelic baby came in, running
alone, with his face and eye not a bit the worse,
but much the better. Then Grandmarina begged
to be introduced to the duchess ; and, when the
duchess was brought down, many compliments
passed between them.

A little -whispering took place between the
fairy and the duchess ; and then the fairy said
out aloud, " Yes, I thought she would have told
you." Grandmarina then turned to the king
and queen, and said, " We are going in search
of Prince Certainpersonio. The pleasure of
your company is requested at church in half an
hour precisely." So she and the Princess Alicia
got into the carriage ; and Mr. Pickles's boy
handed in the duchess, who sat by herself on the
opposite seat ; and then Mr. Pickles's boy put
up the steps and got up behind, and the pea-
cocks flew away with their tails behind.

Prince Certainpersonio was sitting by himself,
eating barley-sugar, and waiting to be ninety.
When he saw the peacocks, followed by the
carriage, coming in at the window, it imme-
diately occurred to him that something uncom-
mon was going to happen.



" Prince," said Grandmarina, " I bring you
your bride."

The moment the fairy said those words.
Prince Certainpersonio's face left off being
sticky, and his jacket and corduroys changed to
peach-bloom velvet, and his hair curled, and a
cap and feather flew in like a bird and settled on
his head. He got into the carriage by the fairy's
invitation ; and there he renewed his acquaint-
ance with the duchess, whom he had seen before.

In the church were the prince's relations and
friends, and the Princess Alicia's relations and
friends, and the seventeen princes and prin-
cesses, and the baby, and a crowd of the neigh-
bours. The marriage was beautiful beyond
expression. The duchess was bridesmaid, and
beheld the ceremony from the pulpit, where she
was supported by the cushion of the desk.

Grandmarina gave a magnificent wedding
feast afterwards, in which there was everything
and more to eat, and everything and more to
drink. The wedding-cake was delicately orna-
mented with white satin ribbons, frosted silver,
and white lilies, and was forty-two yards round.

When Grandmarina had drunk her love to
the young couple, and Prince Certainpersonio
had made a speech, and everybody had cried,
Hip, hip, hip, hurrah ! Grandmarina announced
to the king and queen that in future there would
be eight quarter-days in every year, except in
leap-year, when there would be ten. She then
turned to Certainpersonio and Alicia, and said,
" My dears, you will have thirty-five children,
and they will all be good and beautiful. Seven-
teen of your children will be boys, and eighteen
will be girls. The hair of the whole of your
children will curl naturally. They will never
have the measles, and will have recovered from
the hooping-cough before being born."

On hearing such good news, everybody cried
out, " Hip, hip, hip, hurrah ! " again.

" It only remains," said Grandmarina in con-
clusion, " to make an end of the fish bone."

So she took it from the hand of the Princess
Alicia, and it instantly flew down the throat of
the dreadful litde snapping pug-dog, next door,
and choked him, and he expired in convulsions.



PART III.

ROMANCE. FROM THE PEN OF LIEUT.-COL. ROBIN
REDFORTH.*

THE subject of our present narrative would
appear to have devoted himself to the
pirate profession at a comparatively early age.
* A"ed nine.



A MUTINY.



327



We find him in command of a splendid schooner
of one hundred guns loaded to the muzzle, ere
yet he had had a party in honour of his tenth
birthday.

It seems that our hero, considering himself
spited by a Latin-grammar master, demanded
the satisfaction due from one man of honour to
another. Not getting it, he j)rivately withdrew
his haughty spirit from such low company,
bought a second-hand pocket pistol, folded up
some sandwiches in a paper bag, made a bottle
of Spanish-liquorice water, and entered on a
career of valour.

It were tedious to follow Boldheart (for such
was his name) through the commencing stages
of his story. Suffice it that we find him bearing
the rank of Capt. Boldheart, reclining in full
uniform on a crimson hearth-rug spread out
upon the quarter-deck of his schooner " The
Beauty," in the China seas. It was a lovely
evening ; and, as his crew lay grouped about
him, he favoured them with the following
melody :

" O landsmen are folly !
O pirates are jolly !
O diddleum Dolly,

Di!
Chorus. — Heave yc."

The soothing effect of these animated sounds
floating over the waters, as the common sailors
united their rough voices to take up the rich
tones of Boldheart, may be more easily con-
ceived than described.

It was under these circumstances that the
look-out at the masthead gave the word,
''Whales!"

All was now activity.

"Where away?" cried Capt. Boldheart, start-
ing up.

" On the larboard bow, sir," replied the fel-
low at the masthead, touching his hat. For
such was the height of discipline on board of
•'The Beauty," that, even at that height, he
was obliged to mind it, or be shot through the
head.

" This adventure belongs to me," said Bold-
heart. '■ Boy, my harpoon. Let no man fol-
low;'" and, leaping alone into his boat, the
captain rowed with admirable dexterity in the
direction of the monster.

All was now excitement.

" He nears him ! " said an elderly seaman,
following the captain through his spy-glass.

" He strikes him ! " said another seaman, a
mere stripling, but also with a spy-glass.

" He tows him towards us ! " said another



seaman, a man in the full vigour of life, but
also with a spy-glass.

In fact, the captain was seen approaching,
with the huge bulk following. We will not
dwell on the deafening cries of " Boldheart !
Boldheart !" with which he was received, when,
carelessly leaping on the quarter-deck, he pre-
sented his prize to his men. They afterwards
made two thousand four hundred and seventeen
pound ten and sixpence by it.

Ordering the sails to be braced up, the cap-
tain now stood W.N.W. "The Beauty" flew
rather than floated over the dark blue waters.
Nothing particular occurred for a fortnight,
except taking, with considerable slaughter, four
Spanish galleons, and a snow from South
America, all richly laden. Inaction began to
tell upon the spirits of the men. Capt. Bold-
heart called all hands aft, and said, " My lads,
I hear there are discontented ones among ye.
Let any such stand forth."

After some murmuring, in which the expres-
sions, " Ay, ay, sir ! " " Union Jack," " Avast,"
" Starboard," " Port," " Bowsprit," and similar
indications of a mutinous under-current, though
subdued, were audible. Bill Boozey, captain oi
the foretop, came out from the rest. His form
was that of a giant, but he quailed under the
captain's eye.

" What are your wrongs ?" said the captain.

" Why, d'ye see, Capt. Boldheart," replied the
towering mariner, " I've sailed, man and boy.
for many a year, but I never yet knowed the
milk served out for the ship's company's teas to
be so sour as 'tis aboard this craft."

At this moment the thrilling cry, " Man over-
board ! " announced to the astonished crew that
Boozey, in stepping back, as the captain (in
mere thoughtfulness) laid his hand upon the
faithful pocket pistol which he wore in his belt,
had lost his balance, and was struggling with
the foaming tide.

All was now stupefaction.

But with Capt. Boldheart, to throw off his
uniform coat, regardless of the various rich
orders with which it was decorated, and to
plunge into the sea after the drowning giant,
was the work of a moment. Maddening was
the excitement when boats were lowered ; in-
tense the joy when the captain was seen holding
up the drowning man with his teeth ; deafening
the cheering when l)oth were restored to the
main-deck of "The Beauty." And, from the
instant of his changing his wet clothes for dry
ones, Capt. Boldheart had no such devoted
though humble friend as William Boozey.

Boldheart now pointed to the horizon, and



320



HO LI DA Y ROMANCE.



called the attention of his crew to the taper
spars of a ship lying snug in harbour under the
guns of a fort.

*' She shall be ours at sunrise," said he.
** Serve out a double allowance of grog, and
prepare for action."

AH was now preparation.

When morning dawned, after a sleepless
night, it was seen that the stranger was crowd-
ing on all sail to come out of the harbour and
oft'er battle. As the two ships came nearer to
each other, the stranger fired a gun and hoisted
Roman colours. Boldhcart then perceived her
to be the Latin-grammar master's bark. Such
indeed she was, and had been tacking about the
world in unavailing pursuit, from the time of his
first taking to a roving life.

Boldheart now addressed his men, promising
to blow them up if he should feel convinced that
their reputation required it, and giving orders
that the Latin-grammar master should be taken
alive. He then dismissed them to their quar-
ters, and the fight began with a broadside from
" The Beauty." She then veered around, and
poured in another. " The Scorpion " (so was
the bark of the Latin-grammar master appropri-
ately called) was not slow to return her fire ;
and a terrific cannonading ensued, in which the
guns of "The Beauty" did tremendous execution.

The Latin-grammar master was seen upon the
poop, in the midst of the smoke and fire, encou-
raging his men. To do him justice, he was no
craven, though his white hat, his short grey
trousers, and his long snuft-coloured surtout
reaching to his heels (the selfsame coat in which
he had spited Boldheart), contrasted most un-
favourably with the brilliant uniform of the
latter. At this moment, Boldheart, seizing a
pike and putting himself at the head of his men,
gave the word to board.

A desperate conflict ensued in the hammock-
nettings, — or somewhere in about that direction,
— until the Latin-grammar master, having all
his masts gone, his hull and rigging shot through,
and seeing Boldheart slashing a path towards
him, hauled down his flag himself, gave up his
sword to Boldheart, and asked for quarter.
Scarce had he been put into the captain's boat,
ere " The Scorpion " went down with all on
board.

On Capt. Boldhcart's now assembling his
men, a circumstance occurred. He found it
necessary with one blow of his cutlass to kill
the cook, who, having lost his brother in the
late action, was making at the Latin-grammar
master in an infuriatetl state, intent on his
destruction with a carving-knife.



Capt. Boldheart then turned to the Latin-
grammar master, severely reproaching him with
his perfidy, and put it to his crew what they
considered that a master who spited a boy
deserved.

They answered with one voice, " Death,"

" It may be so," said the captain ; " but it
shall never be said that Boldheart stained his
hour of triumph with the blood of his enemy.
Prepare the cutter."

The cutter was immediately prepared.

" Without taking your life," said the captain,
'' I must yet for ever deprive you of the power
of spiting other boys. I shall turn you adrift in
this boat. You will find in her two oars, a com-
pass, a bottle of rum, a small cask of water, a
piece of pork, a bag of biscuit, and my Latin
grammar. Go ! and spite the natives, if you
can find any."

Deeply conscious of this bitter sarcasm, the
unhappy wretch was put into the cutter, and
was soon left far behind. He made no effort to
row, but was seen lying on his back with his
legs up, when last made out by the ship's tele-
scopes.

A stift' breeze now beginning to blow, Capt.
Boldheart gave orders to keep her S.S.W., eas-
ing her a little during the night by falling off a
point or two W. by W., or even by W.S., if she
complained much. He then retired for the
night, having, in truth, much need of repose.
\\\ addition to the fatigues he had undergone,
this brave officer had received sixteen wounds
in the engagement, but had not mentioned it.

In the morning a white squall came on, and
was succeeded by other squalls of various
colours. It thundered and lightened heavily
for six weeks. Hurricanes then set in for two
months. Water-spouts and tornadoes followed.
The oldest sailor on board — and he was a very
old one — had never seen such weather. " The
Beauty" lost all idea where she was, and the
carpenter reported six feet two of water in the
hold. Everybody fell senseless at the pumps
every day.

Pro\-isions now ran very low. Our hero put
the crew on short allowance, and put himself on
shorter allowance than any man in the ship.
But his spirit kept him fat. In this extremity,
the gratitude of Boozey, the captain of the fore-
top, whom our readers may remember, was truly
affecting. The loving though lowly William
repeatedly requested to be killed, and preserved
for the captain's table.

We now approach a change of affairs.

One day during a gleam of sunshine, and
when the weather had moderated, the man at



A NATIVE FEAST INTERRUPTED.



329



the masthead — too weak now to touch his hat,
besides its having been blown away — called out :

" Savages ! "

All was now expectation.

Presently fifteen hundred canoes, each paa-
dled by twenty savages, were seen advancing in
excellent order. They were of a light green
colour (the savages were), and sang, with great
energy, the following strain :

♦' Choo a choo a choo tooth.
Muntch, muntch. Nycey !
Choo a clioo a choo tooth.
Muntch, muntch. Nycey!"

As the shades of night were by this time closing
in, these expressions were supposed to embody
this simple people's views of the evening hymn.
But it too soon appeared that the song was a
translation of " For what we are going to re-
ceive,' &c.

The chief, imposingly decorated with feathers
of lively colours, and having the majestic ap-
pearance of a fighting parrot, no sooner under-
stood (he understood English perfectly) that the
ship was " The Beauty," Capt. Boldheart, than
he fell upon his face on the deck, and could not
be persuaded to rise until the captain had lifted
him up, and told him he wouldn't hurt him.
All the rest of the savages also fell on their
faces with marks of terror, and had also to be
lilted up one by one. Thus tlie fame of the
great Boldheart had gone before him, even
among these children of Nature.

Turtles and oysters were now produced in
astonishing numbers ; and on these and yams
the people made a hearty meal. After dinner
the chief told Capt. Boldheart that there was
better feeding up at the village, and that he
would be glad to take him and his officers there.
Apprehensive of treachery, Boldheart ordered
his boat's crew to attend him completely armed.
And well were it for other commanders if their
precautions But let us not anticipate.

When the canoes arrived at the beach, the
darkness of the night was illumined by the
light of an immense fire. Ordering his boat's
crew (with the intrepid though illiterate William
at their head) to keep close and be upon their
guard, Boldheart bravely went on, arm-in-arm
with the chief

But how to depict the captain's surprise when
he found a ring of savages singing in chorus that
barbarous translation of " For what we are going
to receive," &c., which has been given above,
and dancing hand-in-hand round the Latin-
grammar master, in a hamper with his head
shaved, while two savages floured him, before
putting him to the fire to be cooked !



Boldheart now took counsel with his officers
on the course to be adopted. In the meantime,
the miserable captive never ceased begging par-
don and imploring to be delivered. On the
generous Boldheart's proposal, it was at length
resolved that he should not be cooked, but should
be allowed to remain raw, on two conditions,
namely :

1. That he should never, under any circum-
stances, presume to teach any boy anything any
more.

2. That, if taken back to England, he should
pass his life in travelling to find out boys who
wanted their exercises done, and should do their
exercises for those boys for nothing, and never
say'a word about it.

Drawing the sword from its sheath. Bold-
heart swore him to these conditions on its
shining blade. The prisoner wept bitterly, and
appeared acutely to feel the errors of his past
career.

The captain then ordered his boat's crew to



Online LibraryCharles DickensThe mystery of Edwin Drood, Reprinted pieces, and other stories → online text (page 63 of 103)