Henry Sweet.

Swell life at sea; or, Fun, frigates, and yachting; a collection of nautical yarns online

. (page 9 of 32)
Online LibraryHenry SweetSwell life at sea; or, Fun, frigates, and yachting; a collection of nautical yarns → online text (page 9 of 32)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


as two figures passed in the distance, about whom stories
could be told. It was fine to see these two potentates, on
occasions like the present, when they were the " swells" of
the navy present, or at all events of the junior navy ; for
we must not forget professional rank, which, of course,
takes the pas, and has been remarked at times to supply
the place of manners, wit, birth, and all that classifies
mankind !

" Fitz-Gubin, let us come and speak to the Wyoinings,
and you ask Miss Wyoming to dance," said Roribel. It
was RoribeFs duty to see proper attention paid to these
ladies, as became a flag-lieutenant ; and an attentive, grace-
ful officer he was, performing all offices of chivalry, duly
not entangling his heart, however, as he told Fitz-Gubin,
with a sigh. " Charming girls," said that mirror of courte-
sy, with his very best sadness. " Beautiful creatures ! but
I am but a younger son, FitzrGubin." Fitz-G. smiled lan-
guidly, and thought it very good-natured of his friend to
sigh on the subject, and perhaps a little affected of him to

sigh to him And so they approached the ladies in

question. Some of the prettiest girls in Malta looked with
admiration at the two gentlemen, and envied the Wyomings.

" Do you see those two infernal idiots?" said Mr. Jigger,
of the brig " Bustard," to Mr. Wheeler, of the brig
" Racer."

"I do. That's the flag-lieutenant, the oldest one," re-
sponded Mr. Wheeler, "the other fellow's a Lord Fitz-
Gubin, or some such name."



FUN, FRIGATES, AND YACHTING. 117

" They'll promote him to lieutenant instanter, and send
him to the Royal Yacht, you'll see," said Jigger bitterly.

" Oh, of course. This is confoundedly slow," said Mr.
Wheeler, looking round savagely. " Hillo ! here's Mott-
ford of us. Who asked you here, Mottford ?"

" Who do you suppose ? Bulder, of course. My father
banks with his brother ; and they always ask me to two
balls and a dinner every year."

" Is there any brandy in th6 refreshment room ?" inquired
Mr. Jigger, with a business-like air.

" I fear not," Wheeler answered. " Gad, I'd rather have
a quiet tumbler at Mula's, than go to any evening party in
Christendom."

"Why did you come, then?" said a mild young gentle-
man of their acquaintance, who affected "society."

" Because Kiddleton wouldn't have given me leave to
come on shore, except to come here ; and if I hadn't come,
there's Weavel, our purser, in the rooms, and he would
have told Kiddleton. Now do you see ?" The mild young
gentleman was silenced.

" You have heard of the general order, of course," Jigger
said. " It was sent out this afternoon, and gives one hun-
dred and fifty-five reasons why putting a Maltese on the
fair-way buoy is at variance with sound discipline."

" I wish they had kept the fellow on the buoy till eight
o'clock, and then we would all have seen him," Wheeler
remarked. " Is there going to be an inquiry ?"

" Goodness knows. Probably, as everybody seems to
have heard that some flag-ship fellows did it, we of the
small craft will have our leave stopped," said the sardonic
Jigger.

In the meantime Lord Fitz-Gubin had been dancing with
Miss Wyoming.

" Did you like the new buffo last night ?" she asked.



118 SWELL LIFE AT SEA; OR,

"Yes," answered Fitz-Gubin ; " but you were not there,
Miss Wyoming."

" I was."

" Strange that I should not have seen your party then,"
he observed. " I looked to see if there were any faces I
knew in the house too," said the quiet youth. Miss Wyo-
ming was silent.

When the dance was over, the vMiss Wyomings, Roribel,
and Fitz-Gubin fell into a group. Roribel began to talk
of a pic-nic to Bosketto, which had for some tune been
meditated in the polite circles of the island. Who does not
remember the sloping valley of strawberry gardens, the de-
serted old house with yet a certain air of old feudal gen-
tility about it the stalactic cavern, with the fresh fountain
bubbling up among its carved and moist stones ? That
pic-nic was determined on.

As Roribel and Fitz-Gubin were walking together after
the party, the subject of the Maltese and the adventure of
the previous night came up in their conversation. Fitz-
Gubin was regretting that he should have been out so late,
and should have figured in the list so very conspicuously.
" You in the list I" says Roribel " you were not in the
list 1" Fitz-Gubin was astonished, and no little pleased ;
but puzzled to account for the lucky circumstance. " I
shan't complain, however," he said, with a pleased chuckle.
They speculated on the subject, and reflecting whose hands
the paper had passed through, concluded that the attentive
Cuckles had taken care of the omission, as, indeed, Cuckles
had ; and the chapter may end as it opened with a men-
tion of his honored name.



FUN, FRIGATES, AND YACHTING. 119



CHAPTER VI.

ONE fine day of that autumn, some excitement prevailed
in the squadron ; it was the day of the pic-nic. They say
that the " Sovereign's n launch was once sent on a cruise
with wine and other luxuries on board to regale a party at
St. Paul's Bay, who had made a pilgrimage to the place
where the apostle landed, to drink Moselle, and eat chicken
pie. It may be so. It may be that the ships, and ships'
boats, and flags, and men, are, every now and then, em-
ployed in the service of all kinds of agreeable men and
women, and that we are a luxurious, money-spending, tiebt-
contracting generation. " Here's a pretty fellow," exclaims
Tomkins, indignantly, " to be sneering at his old profession !
Pray, sir, have you never shown your approval of pic-nics,
or the ' Sovereign's' Madeira?" " Tomkins, I like Madeira,
and I have been a jolly fellow in my time, but I don't know
that that much affects the question at issue." Let us pro-
ceed with our sketches of swell life at sea, and make the
most of this fine day.

Squirrell, the livery-stable keeper of Strada Borni, found
his stock of animals in much request this morning. It will
be admitted that naval men ride much better than Commo-
dore Trunnion, in our day ; that in Malta we can produce
a man or two with credit at the races, though much re-
mains to be done yet, as anybody who has seen Jigger gal-
loping past the royal carriage at Naples, with his trousers
split across the knee, knows. But the constant employ-
ment of the horses of Squirrell, about this time, was im-
proving the practice of youngsters. Squirrell's horses, in
fact, exhibit every variety of peculiar disposition. "Jo-
seph " invariably backs against a stone wall ; the " Go-
yernor " is famous for his efforts to seize the horseman next



120 SWELL LIFE AT SEA; OR,

him by the leg, and so on.. By selecting them by turns,
one learns to combat different tricks. By long habit, all
these noble animals make a dead stop at the " Dairy," that
well-known way-side hostelry, where generation after gene-
ration of fellows have paused, and have consumed rum and
milk. The policemen about the gates were quite excited
this morning, as the conveyances of the party rolled by,
and after them, at a canter, with gold-laced caps glittering,
the naval men came, Fitz-Gubin and Roribel were the
best mounted men there. They were both in plain clothes,
and both indignant at Jigger, (who belonged to the party,
nobody quite knew how,) who kept shooting ahead at a
gallop, and whose trousers, escaping from the thraldom of
straps, were constantly approaching his knees. Cuckles
was not present, invariably avoiding festivities accompanied
by expense, if possible. Commander Mutter was one of
the party, being a paternal kind of man, and, from general
harmlessness, serving well as a he-duenna. The Commander
had had all his pluck taken out of him in the course of a
long and severe matrimonial training. He was just the fel-
low to be paternal among young girls and young fellows on
these occasions ; exercising a kind of restraint, yet not in
the way ; overflowing with small talk and heavy goodness ;
moderate in wine himself, but never forgetting the cork-
screw. A most useful man ! Mounted on a mule, Mutter
trotted alongside, first one carriage of the cavalcade, and
then another ; paying attention to the wives and daughters
of the influential people. How is it (as I so often remark)
that the serious and saintly party are such worshippers of
the authorities ? Yet, on these holiday occasions, Mutter
would be easy and lively with a youngster now and then,
having a certain fund of good-nature in him, which the
consciousness of rank did not altogether keep down. In-
deed, how many a worthy man is there in this world, who



FCN, FRIGATES, AND YACHTING. 121

is spoiled by the big-wig or cocked-hat power, and who, di-
vested of these symbols, would be universally respected and
popular !

The landscape which lies before you as you ride out from
Yaletta to the country if country it can be called is not
cheerful to the eye. A white or brown stony surface, inter-
sected by white or brown walls, bounding scraggy and
dreary fields, cannot be very much enlivened even by the
brightest sunshine. Your gaze wanders to the low-lying
horizon and loves the thought of the sea. Yet there are
spots of interest and attraction, both to mind and eye,
as you let your fancy and your bridle go pretty loosely, and
leave the harbor and the fortifications behind. There are
hints and gleams of the beautiful in the stony waste, as in
ordinary life. St. Antonio, with its palace and gardens, is
a little islet of joy, where the heart warms to the glitter of
the sweet and cool orange trees. A little village, quaint
but lively, is before you at one turn, with a fantastic chapel,
and gaudy and picturesque images basking in corners in the
sun ; where the gay-colored attire of the brown-skinned and
black-eyed people, is characteristic of their Eastern descent.

Or, you slacken at a rather long though not steep hill,
and the boom of the cathedral bell through the quiet air
meets you on the way. Yes ; the genius of romance is
alive still in that island. And, are you a sentimentalist, as
well as a humorist ? then pass Mr. Bulder's dinner parties
leave Roribel in the burning street .... turn into the old
building dedicated to St. John cool, venerable, and with
the thick incense-smell lingering about it, and loiter a little
over the flag-stones bearing the coat-armor of the Knights !
The " enlightened " individual (I allude to- - Bagman,
Esq., the distinguished traveller, who judges of every place
by its ability to produce cotton) will tell you stories about
their misdeeds ; when their day as an Order was over, and

6



122 SWELL LIFE AT SEA; OR,

their great purpose had spent itself : but they

pious, brave, high-hearted gentlemen in their time ; and let
us beg the distinguished Bagman to allow their ashes to
rest !

When our party drew near Citta Yecchia, the population
were all astir. Frank came out, cap in hand, from his hos-
telry, to offer his services ; the beggars (of whom Malta is
productive, and who rush into unbounded luxury if they
secure two-pence) swarmed around ; a knot of poor little
sucking priests, in black knee-breeches, and stockings, pale-
faced and meagre lads, stared from a respectful distance
tranquilly, and perhaps (poor fellows) envied the rosy and
fiery Jigger who galloped Squirrel's horse " Shampoo" up
and down the place at full speed. It was a fine sunshiny
noon. The party came to a temporary halt ; some of them
went to see the curiosities of the place the church or the
catecombs ; others lounged about where some trees afforded
a shade.

" Well," said Koribel, to a section of the party, who by
natural gravity had approached each other, " what shall we
do ? There's the catecombs, to be sure, but "

Miss Wyoming said, " they were places of great interest,
lut "

Captain Plimmer said, " Oh, highly, highly, you know.
But "

In fact, nobody liked to say what everybody felt, that
the catecombs would be a bore. Koribel thought it due to
his reputation to come brilliantly out of the difficulty.

" Well, we've all seen catecombs, somewhere ; and really,
because previous generations chose to bury themselves m
such a style, I do not see that we should bury ourselves
too ! I confess," continued Koribel, with rather a wicked
smile levelled at Commander Mutter, " I confess that I am.
a cheerful Christian"



FUN, FRIGATES, AND YACHTING. 123

So that notion was lightly disposed of ; and for the present
they moved into a garden, where seats were placed under
an awning for them. Meanwhile, the attendants were
defiling along towards the Bosketto, with the preparations
for lunch ; and in their rear trotted on his pony, jolly little
Lieutenant Bulbous, bent on seeing that the wine was pro-
perly put in a cool place, and everything in train. His
sunny red face shone as he jogged along. He had not come
to see anything, or to enjoy anybody's company, but simply
to lunch with an appetite, which indeed, is, after all, the
vital part of a pic-nic. Roribel directed attention to the
retreating figure of Bulbous, and hoped that young Jig-
ger would not get loose among the bottles too early in the
day ; and was otherwise very lively.

An hour's pause, and they proceeded on their journey to
Bosketto. The old country house above mentioned, with
its yellow old walls, looked empty and forlorn as usual.
Some faint and seedy vestige of what was once ga.y paint-
ing adorns rooms which were once rooms of banquet ; a few
words of Latin straggling across the door by which you
enter, invite you to festivity. Do the ghosts accept that
old-fashioned invitation in the lonely moonlight nights there,
and make merry with each other ? One could fancy so.
Altogether, it is a dreary, empty, seedy, picturesque old
den. It stands there as poverty-stricken in its pride as a
poor old Jacobite Scotch peer of the last age. Curiosity
made Roribel and some others look in, and they gazed
silently about the rooms. Adeline Wyoming, whose pen-
sive love of aristocratic memories we have remarked, be-
wailed the desolation, and thought Fitz-Gubin must feel
quite a brotherly interest in the place.

" How interesting 1" said Adeline.

" Yes 1" said Fitz-Gubin, in his happy indifference ; " but
very small. In shire we have ruins enough, There are,



124 SWELL LIFE AT SEA; OR,

really I forget how many, old castles within some miles of
us. We do what we can to preserve them prevent people
carrying off the stones, and all that."

" What wickedness," said Adeline, " of them to think of
such a thing ! But I think the English respect old ruins,
and old old families."

"They ought," Fitz-Gubin said; "if they don't, why,
what guarantee have we for preserving for anything, in
fact ?"

"Very true," said Roribel, wishing to persuade Fitz-
Gubin he had made an intelligent observation ; but flat-
tery was not very potent with that swell ! And why ?
Because he thought so well of himself that your opinion
could add nothing to it !

"Is there anything more to see ?" inquired Miss Wyo-
ming

"Why, there's the wall outside, but that's modern; in
fact, a few years' old," said Roribel, pointing to a stone
wall in the neighborhood. This flash of pleasantry made
everybody titter ; and they left the melancholy old house
and proceeded to the garden.

" Lord Fitz-Gubin is very silent to-day," whispered Miss
Wyoming to Roribel.

" I don't know that he is ever very lively," replied Rori-
bel drily. But looking at him again, he observed that he
was abstracted more than usual. His arm hung loose, so
-that Adeline could scarcely hold it properly.

" Can it be," said Roribel to Miss Wyoming, " that he
is in love ?"

Miss Wyoming looked very grave. Roribel was puzzled.
" She cannot," thought he, " possibly imagine that that is a
marrying man." Miss Wyoming was not such a fool, but,
indeed, knew both Fitz-Gubin and Roribel better than they
supposed. Roribel was much the more lively and genial of



FUN, FRIGATES, AND YACHTING. 125

the two men, bnt in heart, probably, they were on a par
just as a pound of feathers is as heavy as a pound of lead.
Mrs. Plimmer, who was presiding in the capacity of mater-
nal guardian on this occasion, knew the truth, likewise an
experienced dame, who had that acquaintance with match-
making which is nowhere attained in such perfection as in
garrison society.

The day of strawberries was over ; but the pool of fresh-
est water in the stalactic cavern was as cool as ever, gleam-
ing calm and cool in the centre of the fretted stone-work
fluted, graven into fantastic forms with fairy icicles of rock,
adorned and pointed speaking of immeasurable time and
eternal moisture. Here the summer sun never saw his face
reflected ; here, like Diana's nymphs bathing, the pleasant
claret bottles kept their fine natures most beautifully cool.
There was not a drop of romantic blood in the old carcase
of Lieutenant Bulbous, yet had he here achieved a spectacle
of poetry !

The lunch proceeded in due time. Pop goes a champagne
bottle ; maddened by the confinement in such weather, the
eager wine leaped out to meet the summer and the air, foam-
ed triumphantly into a glass, and died happily, meeting the
lips of pretty Rosa Plimmer ! Not a cloud was in the
Mediterranean heaven. The almond tree revelled in the
heat.

" I miss one face," said Roribel, with tenderness. "I miss
Captain Pappleton ! Let us drink his health."

" Poor Captain Pappleton !" said Adeline ; "he would
have been happy here I"

" He mixed salad better than any man in Europe P said
Roribel, with a gush of fondness. " Ladies and Gentlemen !
Captain Pappleton has recently had a slight accident
Let us wish him an honorable acquittal !"

Roribel drank. The company joined.



126 SWELL LIFE AT SEA; OR,

" After all," said Roribel, overflowing with brotherly
kindness, " after all, Miss Wyoming, it is my opinion, as a
professional man, that the unhappy loss of the ' Bloater'
will all prove to be the fault of I don't wish to impeach
anybody Bluffett, the master !''

In this cheerful manner the lunch opened. Jigger drank
any health, anybody proposed ; " health, sir : the devil's
health in this wine !" said Jigger. " Silence, youngster,"
said Bulbous, who overheard him. Fitz-Gubin was at that
moment observed to look round in a bland and brotherly
manner ; and presently he said, " Oblige me by preparing
your glasses, I ana about to give you a toast. Ladies and
Gentlemen! (" what a great manner," thought Adeline;

"d d puppy," thought Jigger,) the distinguished officer

whose flag we have the honor to serve under, ("I ought to
have proposed this," thought Captain Plimmer, with some
pique,) deserves the homage of our attention to-day. Him-
self one of the greatest men whom our naval history has
produced, and represented here to-day (Fitz-Gubin threw
into his voice a touch of gallantry) by the lustre of beauty,
he commands our reverence, and enchants our hearts. I
propose, with all the honors, our Commander-in-Chief !"
(Great enthusiasm.) Of course, the health was most cor-
dially responded to. Mr. Thimbleston, Ensign of the th,
observing, however, to a neighbor, that " the army ought
to have taken precedence ; by Jove, sir, why the deuce
didn't the army take precedence ?" and so forth.

By degrees, people strolled away from the luuching-
ground, and lounged about in the gardens, and chatted.
Adeline Wyoming went again to look at the old country-
house ; and as she returned, she passed quickly down the
garden walk, and she put her arm through her elder sister's
and drew her away till they were quite by themselves.



FUN, FRIGATES, AND YACHTING. 127

" What's the matter, Adeline ?" said Miss Wyoming,
" you look quite frightened. What is it, dear ?"

" I have been in that old house again, and in the room
where we were "

" You saw a ghost, you silly thing 1" interrupted Miss
Wyoming.

" No/' Adeline said, " but I have found this."

And she drew out a small ornament. It was a thin
chain of very fine gold, and suspended to it was a locket,
on which was engraved the word " Marie," The two girls
paused, and kept dead silence a moment. Then Miss
Wyoming (who had turned quite pale) said, "Run and put
it back, you foolish child, why did you touch it ?"

"I was so surprised, I I did not know what I was
doing." The tears came to the girl's eyes.

" Give it me," her sister said. It needed no long thought
to tell her who had lost it ; and like a glimpse through the
dark, she saw now something of Fitz-Gubin's character.
The mystery of iniquity which underlies our social life, and
which we ignore so determinedly, docs now and then cast a
shadow, where only the sunshine of purity should be.
Hints and chills (like those thrills of cold which we feel
and cannot account for) tremble through the frame of soci-
ety in its garb of safety, and refinement, and purity ; tell-
ing of something unhealthy and unholy in the air.

Miss Wyoming moved quickly up the garden. Adeline
remained behind ; she had allowed herself to fancy Fitz-
Gubin was one who could be loved, goodness knows why ;
don't we see that a bird will sit on a stone, if it be only
decently like an egg ? and don't women give their heart-
warmth away, in this unprofitable manner, constantly?
The eldest, I say, moved quickly up the garden. She
would put the locket in the room again, and Fitz-Gubin
would be sure to seek it there if he missed it ; and then



128 SWELL LIFE AT SEA; OK,

why she would try and not think of it any more ; or she
would save the poor little girl from She was full of anx-
iety and painful feeling when she approached the house, but
her heart grew cold as she saw Fitz-Gubin enter it before
her. He had gone, plainly enough, to look for the lost
locket ; she felt frightened to think that he might come out
and meet her.

In the meantime, the party were growing dull, and begin-
ning to think of moving. Roribel was on the move, and
crying " to horse," with his accustomed liveliness. He
walked up the garden-path, and the whole group broke up
and spread themselves out into knots. Roribel reached the
head of the garden just as Fitz-Gubin came out of the
house with a shade of annoyance on his brow. Miss
Wyoming was turning the other way to rejoin her sisters.

"To horse 1" says Roribel. "Why, Fitz-Gubin, what's
the matter V 9

" Oh, nothing ; Fve been in that old house again, that's
all."

" Well, did you meet the ghosts of your ancestors, or
what ? By Jove, I know people in very good society, who
would be startled if they could see their ancestors," said
Roribel. They approached each other nearer ; Miss Wy-
oming had meanwhile moved quite away.

" But, hillo I" said Roribel again, stooping suddenly to
the ground, and picking up something, " what's this ? a
chain and a locket with ' Marie' on it ; treasure-trove, by
Jove !"

Fitz-Gubin started. " Give it to me, Roribel 1"

Roribel was in his most champagne mood.

" Marie ! eh," cried he, holding it behind him, to prevent
Fitz-Gubin seizing it, " we must exhibit this."

"Roribel, don't be a fool," said Fitz-Gubin, angrily, and
very much frightened that the Wyomings would see it.



FUN, FRIGATES, AND YACHTING. 129

Roribel gave the locket to him, seeing him so serious.
Fitz-Gubin was delighted to recover it ; thought he must
have dropped it coming down the garden, &c.

But the journey home was one of the dullest ever known.
When one is carrying on any wickedness, one is unusually
suspicious, and the manner of the two Wyomings suffi-
ciently disturbed Fitz-Gubin. He suspected Miss Wyo-
ming had seen the locket lying on the ground ; he well knew
how it would startle her, and in conjunction with previous
circumstances, it would alarm and shock her. He cursed
his carelessness as he went on board, and reproached him-
self for being a "fool," yet never suspected that he was
anything worse.



CHAPTER VII.

IT is twilight time, and the bells of Malta are jingling
away as if they wished to welcome the night in enthusiasti-
cally. English Malta is going to dinner. Malta proper
has dined long since, and is airing or resting itself, and
happy in the enjoyment of a breeze which is cool from
leagues of blue sea. Malta proper is right to dine early.
For delicious above all of Nature's delights is twilight in
the South. Nature's highest function is to pacify the spirit
and elevate the heart of man. In warm climates you feel
more a part of nature than elsewhere. Hence from these
climates come Pantheistic religions ; in the North you have
" frost-giants" and the like hard impersonations of nature,
which is severe there, and has to be fought against. The



Online LibraryHenry SweetSwell life at sea; or, Fun, frigates, and yachting; a collection of nautical yarns → online text (page 9 of 32)