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" Ay, and how she lurches too,” rejoined Thomas. By the L-d, she took in a sea amid-ships just now, that put the whole main-deck afloat, and set her a-staggering like old Smithers, when he 's a cloth or two in the wind. Egad! I've taken a bucket-full on board myself, I think.” .
“ Staggering! By the Hokey, it set more a-staggering than you, or the old Hooker either: it sent little Jem, there, confound him!-into the lee scuppers, with a good can of stiff grog he was handing to me.”
“Ah, Dick! that was a loss, faith : but it don't signify,—by Jove! I must qualify this sea-water a littlemy stomach is like an icehouse! Here, you son of a sea-cook! take these wet duds forward, and shake the water out of them, and get me a dry jacket: and here, my boy,-hand us the stuff. Come, don't be so stingy: now, up with it,—there, that's something like. 'Here's to the ship that goes,—the wind that blows;' but avast! we've enough of that already!”
“And pray what lark might you have been after, upon deck, Master Thomas ?” interrogated young Ned Connoly, as he just finished a hand at cribbage, which he had been playing with some others of the mess by the light of the purser's lantern which hung in a corner of the berth. “Havn't you enough of bad weather in your own watch?—I'll be bound you was after no good now.”
“Why, faith, I can't say much for the good, Ned;
and little more for the evil, if you will call fun out of its right name. I was talking a bit with old Gillows: he's down in the mouth, you know, about his wife, and I was spinning a yarn to rouse him up, and make him laugh; but it wouldn't do, the fool still throws up his eyes like a duck in thunder, and heaves such savage sighs! I told him to belay, for we had more wind than we knew what to do with already; but he 's too hard up just now for a joke: so I went and saw the log hove, and was just coming down, when that confounded sea struck her amid-ships, and soused me all over.”
“ And you deserved it all, Bill, for bothering a poor fellow, who has so much to vex him as old Gillows has already. But what is she going?”
“ Eleven knots, by the Hokey! and under bare poles, too,--not a rag upon her: she does spin along, to be sure."
" And how does the night look ?"
“ Devilish bad, I think,—as black in the face as a blacksmith, -can't see a ship’s length on either side for haze, and the sea rising, if anything, and like a sheet of fiery foam all around. I saw old quarter-master Sims shoving his muzzle to windward, and grinning and snuffing as if he smelt mischief.”
“ Then mischief there will be, or my name's not Ned Connoly; but let us see, I'll take a turn on deck myself, and bring you my report.” With these words he left the berth, to which he was never to return.
Ned Connoly was a jolly master's-mate, on board the good frigate D , a prime favourite with all his messmates; a chief leader in all their amusements and innocent larks (for in no others would he be concerned); the very glass and mirror in which the “young gentlemen”* of the D- did fashion their deportment;-in short, the life and soul of the starboard berth. No one could sing a song or tell a story like Connoly ;-his wit and humour were inexhaustible; and for compounding a bowl of punch, or dressing a good hot devil, when the wherewithal was to be had, or for helping to discuss such good things when made, there was not his equal in the ship.
But Ned Connoly had other and more valuable qualities. He was an excellent seaman; zealous and active in the discharge of his duty; of an open and generous disposition; a warm-hearted friend, and a dutiful, affectionate son. He was too, " the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.” That mother had daughters it is true, but this was her only boy,"her beautiful, her brave!”—the image of his gallant father, who had fallen, fighting the battles of his country,—under God, her only earthly support. Out of the wretched pittance of the pay to which he was entitled, he still contrived to save a trille, to add to her comforts; and all his little prizemoney was devoted to the same pious purpose. His
The midshipmen are usually termed, “the young gentle. men," on board a man-of-war.
exemplary conduct had not passed unobserved by his officers, and at this very time, he was among the first on the admiral's private list, to be made lieutenant as soon as possible, after arriving at his destined station ;- this hope was his comfort—that step the height of his ambition for the time. Vain hopes --- never was he doomed to reach that station! never was his fond mother again to clasp her son to her heart!
The frigate was now at every lurch rolling her gunwales under water, and dipping her main yard-arms on either side ; while ever and anon, in spite of the helm’sman's skill, heavy seas would curl over her quarters and sweep her decks : such of the watch as were not actively employed, had sought what shelter they could find from the soaking spray; and sat passing the time with tough stories, or singing rude sea songs : those on the look-out alone were to be seen at their several stations, gazing heedfully through the murky air, to guard against mischance. The officer of the watch paced the privileged platform of the quarter-deck, or occasionally held on by the capstern, as a fresh fit of rolling rendered his walk too hazardous to be continued ; now addressing a question or an order to the quarter-master, and now casting upwards a keen, inquisitive glance, to see that all was right over head, or to scan the aspect of the heavens.
Suddenly the quarter-master in the waist was startled by a piercing shriek which seemed to issue from the sea
itself ; it was almost immediately repeated, and the second time he could trace it with certainty to the mizen chains.
“Abaft there, hoay!" shouted he; "a man overboard, in the larboard mizen chains there !" and he sprang aft himself, while the look-out on the larboard quarter ran also to the point indicated; from whence the cries still echoed, when the voice of the sufferer was not quenched by the wash of a fresh sea.
“ Holloa there, keep a good heart !” “ hold on, my lad, we'll soon have hold of you !"-" whereabouts are you?”' exclaimed the men, as each strove to gain sight of the poor fellow : but it was too late — no human eye could see, no arm could reach him.
“Oh, God help me! I'm gone,” uttered the voice in half-choked accents, as the driving seas forced him from his hold.
“By heaven! it is Ned Connoly—lay hold of him, ye lubbers!” exclaimed the lieutenant.
“A boat! oh God, a boat !” shrieked the despairing lad, as he whirled past them. They were his last words - the ship was bounding forward like a race-horse in full speed. Another faint and distant cry was borne upon the blast, and sounded like a knell upon the ear of the bystanders; and they heard no more.
“ Starboard your helm ! starboard ! D-n,-hard a starboard, will ye !” shouted the lieutenant. “Bring her to the wind;-we're not to let the poor fellow go in