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THE CRUISE OF THE WAVE-THE ACTION WITH THE
“ O'er the glad waters of the dark blue sea,
At three o'clock next morning, about an hour and a half before daydawn, I was roused from my cot by the gruff voice of the boatswain on deck—“ All hands up anchor.”
The next moment the gunroom steward entered with a lantern, which he placed on the table Gentlemen, all hands up anchor, if you please.”
6 Botheration !” grumbled one. « Oh dear!” yawned another.
“ How merrily we live that sailors be !" sung another in a most doleful strain, and in all the bitterness of heart consequent on being roused out of a warm nest so unceremoniously. But no help for it ; so up we all got, and opening the door of my berth, I got out, and sat me down on the bench that ran along the starboard side of the table.
For the benefit of the uninitiated, let me describe a gunroom on board of a sloop of war. Everybody knows that the Captain's cabin occupies the after part of the ship; next to it, on the same deck, is the gunroom. In a corvette, such as the Firebrand, it is a room, as near as may be, twenty feet long by twelve wide, and lighted by a long scuttle, or skylight, in the deck above. On each side of this room runs a row of small chambers, seven feet long hy six feet wide, boarded off from the main saloon, or, in nautical phrase, separated from it by bulkheads, each with a door and small window opening into the same, and, generally speaking, with a small scuttle in the side of the ship towards the sea. These are the officers' sleeping apartments, in which they have each a chest of drawers and basin-stand; while overhead is suspended a cot, or hammock, kept asunder by a wooden frame, six feet long by about two broad, slung from cleats nailed to the beams above, by two lanyards fastened to rings, one at the head, and the other at the foot ; from which radiate a number of smaller cords, which are fastened to the canvass of the cot; while a small strip of canvass runs from head to foot on each side, so as to prevent the sleeper from rolling out. The dimensions of the gunroom are, as will be seen, very much circumscribed by the side berths; and when you take into account, that the centre is occupied by a long table, running the whole length of the room, flanked by a wooden bench, with a high back to it, on each side, and a large clumsy chair at the head, and another at the foot, not forgetting the sideboard at the head of the table, (full of knives, forks, spoons, tumblers, glasses, &c. &c. &c., stuck into mahogany sockets, all of which are made fast to the deck by strong cleats and staples, and bands of spunyarn, so as to prevent them fetching way, or moving, when the vessel pitches or rolls, you will understand that there is no great scope to expatiate upon, free of the table, benches, and bulkheads of the cabins. While I sat monopolizing the dull light of the lantern, and accoutring myself as decently as the hurry would admit of, I noticed the officers, in their night-gowns and night-caps, as they extricated themselves from their coops ; and picturesque-looking subjects enough there were amongst them, in all conscience. At length, that is in about ten minutes from the time we were called, we were all at stations—a gun was fired, and we weighed, and then stood out to sea, running along about four knots, with the landwind right aft. Having made an offing of three miles or so, we outran the terral, and got becalmed in the belt of smooth water between it and the sea-breeze. It was striking to see the three merchant-ships gradually draw out from the land, until we were all clustered together in a bunch, with half a gale of wind curling the blue waves within musket-shot, while all was long swell and smooth water with us. At length the breeze reached us, and we made sail with our convoy to the southward and eastward, the lumbering merchantmen crowding every inch of canvass, while we could hardly keep astern, under close-reefed topsails, foresail, jib, and spanker.
Pipe to breakfast,” said the Captain to Mr Yerk. 6 A sail a-beam of us to windward !”
“ What is she ?” sung out the skipper to the man at the masthead who had hailed.
“ A small schooner, sir; she has fired a gun, and hoisted an ensign and pennant.”
“ How is she steering ?”
sir." Very well.—Mr Yerk, make the signal for the convoy to stand on."
Then to the boatswain, Mr Catwell, have the men gone to breakfast ?”
“ No, sir, but they are just going.”
“ Then pipe belay with breakfast for a minute, will you ? All hands make sail !”
6 Crack on, Mr Yerk, and let us overhaul this small swaggerer.”
In a trice we had all sail set, and were staggering along on the larboard tack, close upon a wind. We hauled out from the merchant-ships like smoke, and presently the schooner was seen from the deck.—“ Go to breakfast now.” The crew disappeared, all to the officers, man at the helm, quartermaster at the conn, and signalman.
The first lieutenant had the book open on the drum of the capstan before him. “ Make our number," said the Captain. It was done. • What does she answer?”
The signalman answered from the fore-rigging, where he had perched himself with his glass—“She makes the signal to telegraph, sir—3, 9, 2, at the fore, sir”—and so on; which translated was simply this—“ The Wave, with despatches from the admiral.”
« Oh, ho," said Transom ; “ what is she sent for? Whenever the people have got their breakfast, tack, and stand towards her, Mr Yerk.”
The little vessel approached.— Shorten sail, Mr Yerk, and heave the ship to,” said the Captain to the first lieutenant.
Ay, ay, sir.” 6 All hands, Mr Catwell.”
Presently the boatswain's whistle rung sharp and clear, while his gruff voice, to which his mates bore any thing but mellow burdens, echoed through the ship—“ All hands shorten sail—fore and mainsails haul up-haul down the jih—in topgallant sails—now back the maintopsail.”
By heaving-to, we brought the Wave on our weather
bow. She was now within a cable's length of the corvette ; the Captain was standing on the second foremost gun, on the larboard side.
6 Mafame,"—to his steward, -“ hand me up my trumpet.” He hailed the little vessel—"Ho, the Wave, ahoy !”
Presently the responding “hillo" came down the wind to us from the officer in command of her, like an echo—“ Run under our stern and heave-to, to leeward."
Ay, ay, sir." As the Wave came to the wind, she lowered down her boat, and Mr Jigmaree, the boatswain of the dockyard in Jamaica, came on board, and, touching his hat, presented his despatches to the Captain. Presently he and the skipper retired into the cabin, and all hands were inspecting the Wave in her new character of one of his Britannic Majesty's cruisers. When I had last seen her she was a most beautiful little craft, both in hull and rigging, as ever delighted the eye of a sailor ; but the dockyard riggers and carpenters had fairly bedeviled her, at least so far as appearances went. First, they had replaced the light rail on her gunwale, hy heavy solid bulwarks four feet high, surmounted by hammock nettings, at least another foot, so that the symmetrical little vessel, that formerly floated on the foam light as a seagull, now looked like a clumsy dish-shaped Dutch dogger. Her long slender wands of masts, which used to swig about, as if there were neither shrouds nor stays to support them, were now as taught and stiff as church steeples, with four heavy shrouds of a side, and stays and back-stays, and the Devil knows what all.
6 Now," quoth Tailtackle, “ if them heave’emtaughts at the yard have not taken the speed out of the little beauty, I am a Dutchman." Timotheus, I may state in the bygoing, was not a Dutchman; he was fundamentally