• TABLE OF CONTENTS
HIDE
 Front Cover
 Front Matter
 Half Title
 Frontispiece
 Title Page
 Preface
 Table of Contents
 List of Illustrations
 A midnight adventure
 A change of sex
 A walk in petticoats
 Sir Horatio Nelson
 H.M.S. Vanguard
 In search of the French
 The battle of the Nile
 Trial of a traitor
 The Leander and Genereux
 Stephen Croucher's revenge
 Beppo the bandit
 Tessa
 The Castle of Taranto
 At home again
 The battle of the Baltic
 "'Twas in Trafalgar's Bay"
 My first command
 Leonora di Brancanova
 Postscript
 Back Cover
 Spine






Title: Afloat with Nelson, or, From Nile to Trafalgar
CITATION THUMBNAILS PAGE TURNER PAGE IMAGE ZOOMABLE
Full Citation
STANDARD VIEW MARC VIEW
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00086071/00001
 Material Information
Title: Afloat with Nelson, or, From Nile to Trafalgar
Alternate Title: From Nile to Trafalgar
Physical Description: viii, 340 p., 10 leaves of plates : ill ; 19 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Eden, Charles H ( Charles Henry ), 1839-1900
MacQueen, John ( Publisher )
Colston & Coy ( Printer )
Publisher: John MacQueen
Place of Publication: London
Manufacturer: Colston & Coy
Publication Date: 1897
 Subjects
Subject: Adventure and adventurers -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Voyages and travels -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Seafaring life -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Sailors -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Nile, Battle of the, Egypt, 1798 -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Trafalgar, Battle of, 1805 -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
War -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Soldiers -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Loyalty -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Juvenile literature -- 1897   ( rbgenr )
Genre: Juvenile literature   ( rbgenr )
novel   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: England -- London
Scotland -- Edinburgh
 Notes
Statement of Responsibility: by Charles H. Eden.
General Note: Pictorial front cover and spine.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00086071
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 002391414
notis - ALZ6304
oclc - 60384279

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover 1
        Front Cover 2
    Front Matter
        Page i
    Half Title
        Page ii
    Frontispiece
        Page iii
    Title Page
        Page iv
    Preface
        Page v
        Page vi
    Table of Contents
        Page vii
        Page viii
    List of Illustrations
        Page ix
    A midnight adventure
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
    A change of sex
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 24a
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
    A walk in petticoats
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
    Sir Horatio Nelson
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
    H.M.S. Vanguard
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
        Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 86a
        Page 87
        Page 88
        Page 89
    In search of the French
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
        Page 95
        Page 96
        Page 96a
        Page 97
        Page 98
        Page 99
        Page 100
        Page 101
        Page 102
        Page 103
        Page 104
    The battle of the Nile
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
        Page 108
        Page 109
        Page 110
        Page 111
        Page 112
        Page 113
        Page 114
        Page 115
        Page 116
        Page 117
        Page 118
        Page 119
        Page 120
        Page 121
    Trial of a traitor
        Page 122
        Page 123
        Page 124
        Page 125
        Page 126
        Page 127
        Page 128
        Page 129
        Page 130
        Page 131
        Page 132
        Page 133
        Page 134
        Page 135
        Page 136
        Page 137
        Page 138
        Page 139
        Page 140
        Page 141
        Page 142
        Page 143
        Page 144
    The Leander and Genereux
        Page 145
        Page 146
        Page 147
        Page 148
        Page 149
        Page 150
        Page 151
        Page 152
        Page 153
        Page 154
        Page 155
        Page 156
        Page 157
        Page 158
        Page 159
        Page 160
        Page 161
    Stephen Croucher's revenge
        Page 162
        Page 163
        Page 164
        Page 165
        Page 166
        Page 167
        Page 168
        Page 169
        Page 170
        Page 171
        Page 172
        Page 173
        Page 174
        Page 174a
        Page 175
        Page 176
        Page 177
        Page 178
        Page 179
        Page 180
        Page 181
        Page 182
        Page 183
    Beppo the bandit
        Page 184
        Page 185
        Page 186
        Page 187
        Page 188
        Page 189
        Page 190
        Page 191
        Page 192
        Page 193
        Page 194
        Page 195
        Page 196
        Page 197
        Page 198
        Page 198a
        Page 199
        Page 200
        Page 201
        Page 202
        Page 203
        Page 204
    Tessa
        Page 205
        Page 206
        Page 207
        Page 208
        Page 209
        Page 210
        Page 211
        Page 212
        Page 213
        Page 214
        Page 215
        Page 216
        Page 217
        Page 218
        Page 219
        Page 220
        Page 220a
        Page 221
        Page 222
        Page 223
        Page 224
        Page 225
        Page 226
        Page 227
    The Castle of Taranto
        Page 228
        Page 229
        Page 230
        Page 231
        Page 232
        Page 233
        Page 234
        Page 235
        Page 236
        Page 237
        Page 238
        Page 239
        Page 240
        Page 241
        Page 242
        Page 243
        Page 244
        Page 245
        Page 246
        Page 247
        Page 248
        Page 248a
        Page 249
        Page 250
    At home again
        Page 251
        Page 252
        Page 253
        Page 254
        Page 255
        Page 256
        Page 257
        Page 258
        Page 259
        Page 260
        Page 261
        Page 262
        Page 263
        Page 264
        Page 265
        Page 266
        Page 267
        Page 268
        Page 269
    The battle of the Baltic
        Page 270
        Page 271
        Page 272
        Page 273
        Page 274
        Page 275
        Page 276
        Page 277
        Page 278
        Page 279
        Page 280
        Page 281
        Page 282
        Page 282a
        Page 283
    "'Twas in Trafalgar's Bay"
        Page 284
        Page 285
        Page 286
        Page 287
        Page 288
        Page 289
        Page 290
        Page 291
        Page 292
        Page 293
        Page 294
        Page 295
        Page 296
        Page 296a
        Page 297
        Page 298
        Page 299
        Page 300
        Page 301
    My first command
        Page 302
        Page 303
        Page 304
        Page 305
        Page 306
        Page 307
        Page 308
        Page 309
        Page 310
        Page 311
        Page 312
        Page 313
        Page 314
        Page 315
        Page 316
        Page 317
    Leonora di Brancanova
        Page 318
        Page 319
        Page 320
        Page 321
        Page 322
        Page 323
        Page 324
        Page 325
        Page 326
        Page 327
        Page 328
        Page 329
        Page 330
        Page 331
        Page 332
        Page 333
        Page 334
        Page 335
        Page 336
        Page 337
    Postscript
        Page 338
        Page 339
        Page 340
    Back Cover
        Back Cover 1
        Back Cover 2
    Spine
        Spine
Full Text























to 11


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AFLOAT WITH NELSON

























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THE BURNING OF 1,'ORIENT AT THE BATTLE OF THE NILE.


Frontispicce.









AFLOAT WITH NELSON

OR


FROM NILE TO TRAFALGAR








BY


CHARLES H. EDEN
AUTHOR OF
'GEORQE DONNINGTON,' 'QUEERt CHUMS,' ETC., ETC.





'Thou art our Admiral.'-Henry IV.






LONDON
JOHN MACQUEEN
HASTINGS HOUSE, NORFOLK ST., STRAND
1897
















PREFACE


IT is proposed to write a series, each volume
of which will deal with some British admiral;
and it is natural to begin with the greatest
of our naval heroes-Horatio Nelson. Although
the works themselves will be romances, the
fiction will be based upon facts, the events
narrated in historical sequence, and the dates
rigidly adhered to. In the present volume it
may be objected to that certain incidents in the
life of the hero are either passed over lightly
or altogether omitted, and for this I am pre-
pared to take the entire blame. A fierce light
is thrown upon the private life of all illustrious
men, and what would pass unnoticed in less
exalted individuals becomes matter of common
knowledge in them. Lord Nelson's life was not
a perfect one, but if he erred, such errors never
V







vi PREFACE

led him into neglect of the duty which he
owed to his king and his country, and it is
in this latter aspect that I have endeavoured
to portray him. The volume to follow this will
be devoted to the great Elizabethan hero, Sir
Francis Drake.
C H. E.























CONTENTS


CHAPTER I
PAGE
A MIDNIGHT ADVENTURE, 1

CHtAPTER II
A CHANGE OF SEX,. 19

CHAPTER III
A WALK IN PETTICOATS, 37

CHAPTER IV
SIR HORATIO NELSON, 48

CHAPTER V
H. M. S. VANGUARD, 69

CHAPTER VI
IN SEARCH OF THE FRENCH,. 90

CHAPTER VII
THE BATTLE OF THE NILE, 105

CHAPTER VIII
TRIAL OF A TRAITOR, 122
vii









viii CONTENTS

CHAPTER IX
PAGE
THE LEADER AND GCNAEREUX, 145

CHAPTER X
STEPHEN CROUCHER'S REVENGE, 162

CHAPTER XI
BEPPO THE BANDIT, 184

CHAPTER XII
TESSA, 205

CHAPTER XIII
THE CASTLE OF TARANTO, .228

CHAPTER XIV
AT HOME AGAIN, 251

CHAPTER XV
THE BATTLE OF THE BALTIC, 270

CHAPTER XVI
"'TWAS IN TRAFALGAR BAY," 284

CHAPTER XVII
MT FIRST COMMAND, 302

CHAPTER XVIII
LEONORA DI BRANCANOVA, 318


POSTSCRIPT, 338



















LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


THE BURNING OF L'ORIENT AT THE BATTLE OF THE
NILE, rontispiece
PAGE
"TAKE THAT," SHE CRIED, DARTING SUDDENLY ACROSS THE
ROAD, 25

THE FIGHT ON BOARD THE VANGUARD, 87

A SLIGHT FIGURE, WITH A LINE ATTACHED TO THE WAIST,
SPRANG INTO THE SEA, 97

HE MANAGED TO DROP IT AT THE RIGHT MOMENT,. 175

BEPPO RECEIVES CROUCHER AND HIS COMRADES, 198

TESSA DEFENDS THE BOYS FROM BEPPO, 221

RUSHING FORWARD, I FOUND HER CONFRONTED BY AN OLD
SHE-WOLF, WITH THREE HALF-GROWN CUBS AT HER
HEELS, 248

NELSON SPREAD THE WAX AND IMPRESSED IT CAREFULLY
WITH THE SEAL HANGING TO HIS WATCH, 283

"STEPHEN CROUCHER!" I ROARED AGAIN, 296

















Afloat with Nelson


CHAPTER I

A MIDNIGHT ADVENTURE

MY father closed the Bible with a bang, and I
had risen to my feet before the solemn "Amen"
had died away in the room. The three women-
servants, who composed our household, passed
through the door into the back premises, and
the family was alone.
My father left the table, where he had been
seated to read the evening prayers, and took
possession of a large easy-chair at the chimney-
corner. My mother seated herself in another
chair facing him, and the quick click of her
knitting-needles was heard as she resumed her
constant task. My sister Emily and I set about
the work which was expected from us nightly.
She placed a kettle of boiling water upon a trivet
attached to the grate, and then moved a small,







AFLOAT WITH NELSON


round table beside my father, on which she
placed glasses, lemons, and a basin of lump-
sugar-the latter a great luxury in the days of
which I write. Having done this, she seated
herself on a small stool drawn close to the feet
of her mother, For my part, I received the key
which my father silently handed to me, and un-
locking the private cupboard at the end of the
room, took from it two old-fashioned decanters
of cut-glass, both of which contained spirits-one
Hollands gin, the other brandy. These I carried
to the table, but my hands shook so with an
excitement which I endeavoured to conceal that
I nearly broke one of the bottles, a clumsy act
which called forth a mild rebuke from both my
parents, who prized these articles very highly.
Then I proceeded to mix a glass of punch for
each of them, in the proportion which I had
been taught was most acceptable to both-my
father's gill of brandy being exactly double my
mother's measure of Hollands. When the hot
water was added and my father stirred his grog
slowly round, a pleasant fragrance rose from the
glasses, and when he had tasted his jorum, and
pronounced it perfect, I also got a small stool
and seated myself between my father and the
fire, which crackled merrily up the chimney, fed
by billets of wreck-wood, for it was mid-winter
and the nights were very cold.







A MIDNIGHT ADVENTURE


After he had taken his third sip I made my
usual request, "Now, father, spin us a yarn."
"What about, Jack ? "
Oh, about smugglers," I cried; "about the
fight which took place on the beach ten years
ago, when Tom Holden shot the Preventive
Officer."
"I've told you that a dozen times, Jack. You
are too fond of listening to stories about these
lawless men. What put smuggling into your
brain to-night ?"
I turned my head away, for, despite my utmost
efforts, my face flushed crimson at the unexpected
question; but my father did not perceive it, and
I was saved from making a reply which might
have betrayed me, by his suddenly asking,
Mary, how do the kegs hold out ?"
"The last of the brandy is in the decanter,
but there are at least half-a-dozen bottles of gin
left," replied my mother. He gave a low whistle
on hearing this.
"The brandy run out, eh ? That's a bad job.
This smuggling is wild work and does mischief
to every man, woman and child, in the parish.
Instead of being honest fisher-folk, and getting
their living from the sea, they are for ever look-
ing out for Dutch or French luggers, and en-
deavouring to enrich themselves by defrauding
the King's revenue. Jack, my boy," he added,







AFLOAT WITH NELSON


"just step outside and see what the night is
like. Look to seaward, and try to make out
if there are any lights there, also notice in what
quarter the wind sits, and whether the moon is
shining, or clouded over."
I departed on my errand only too gladly, and
soon returned with the information that the sky
was overcast and very dark, and that what wind
there was came from the south-eastward.
This news seemed to give my father pleasure,
for I heard him murmur to himself, "That will
do. Did you see Stephen Croucher in the village
to-day ? he continued.
"Yes," replied my mother, with some asperity
in her gentle voice. Yes, I saw him at the door
of 'The Toothsome Herring,' talking to Bess
Wilson. I dislike that young man, John, and
I'm always sorry to see him about here. When-
ever he comes there is mischief brewing."
Yes, he's a reckless ne'er-do-weel, but a good
seaman for all that," replied my father. "There's
not a man on the coast of Norfolk that can handle
a boat better than Steve Croucher."
"It's a pity he doesn't use his knowledge to
some better purpose," rejoined my mother, drily.
"Jack, you may mix me another small glass of
punch," said my father, after a pause.
"The brandy is running low, John," observed
my mother.







A MIDNIGHT ADVENTURE 5

'I think it will hold out if the wind is in the
south-east, as Jack says it is," returned my father,
with a twinkle in his eye, and a smile at my
mother, which she returned, little Emily gazing up
into her face in mute astonishment, for this con-
.versation was Greek to her, and, for the matter of
that, should have been the same to me, but, as the
sequel will show, I was more behind the scenes
than my younger sister.
Somehow, my father's mind seemed running on
the subject of smuggling, although he could spin
us no yarn, for he said, somewhat inconsequently,
"Those fellows don't care one bit whose horses
they take out of the stable to run their contraband
goods. Do you remember, Mary, that on the
morning of last Good Friday, Farmer Easton found
his three best cart-horses covered with mud and
sweat?"
"Yes, dear; and I remarked that Mrs Easton
and her daughters wore silk dresses trimmed with
French lace during the summer," said my mother,
with a little smile.
"It is very wrong," continued my father, "and
locks are no good, for these fellows stand at
nothing, and will break open any door. Jack, my
boy, just go to the stable and give the mare a feed
of corn. Padlock the door after you, and bring
me- the key."
"Is that wise, John ?" asked my mother.






AFLOAT WITH NELSON


"It's as well to be prepared since the wind is in
the south-east, and the night gloomy," returned.
my father. "Besides, the staple is loose and will
come out at the slightest pull. They know this,"
he added, with another twinkle in his eye.
When I returned from my errand, I found my
little sister had already gone to bed, and I at once
followed her, only too glad to be released, for
during the whole evening I had fidgeted about
on my stool, and greatly feared that my excite-
ment would have been detected by the watchful
eyes of my mother. Both my parents, however,
seemed preoccupied, and my restlessness called
forth no remark.
It was just nine o'clock when I retired, for we
were early folks in those days, going to bed betimes,
and rising with the sun. The little room which I
occupied stood at the end of the passage on the
first floor, and had one window looking out on
to the garden. My proceedings on reaching this
little chamber would have puzzled an onlooker*
Instead of undressing, I went to the basket con-
taining my sea-fishing lines; selecting one of
these, I unwound some ten fathoms, then, opening
the window as noiselessly as possible, I threw the
wooden reel on to the lawn beneath, and then
nearly re-closed the sash, although leaving a gap
sufficiently wide for the line to travel freely. I
then took off my shoes, fastened the inner end of






A MIDNIGHT ADVENTURE


the line to my wrist, and, clothed as I was, jumped
into bed, and lay between the sheets with a beat-
ing heart and nerves wound up by excitement.
Through the crack in the window the outer air
rushed in cold and raw, but this I heeded not, for
an adventure lay before me, and all personal
discomforts were forgotten in pleasurable antici-
pation. For perhaps half-an-hour I lay awake,
hearing the footsteps of my parents as they
ascended the stairs, followed by the closing of
their bedroom door. Then profound silence reigned
throughout the house, and, despite my heroic
efforts to keep my eyes open, I fell asleep, which
was a, bad beginning for a watchful smuggler, but
it must be said in excuse that I was not quite
thirteen years of age.
After a couple of hours of profound slumber, I
was rudely awakened by a sharp tugging at my
wrist. Forgetful of the circumstances, it was
with difficulty that I repressed a cry of alarm, but
memory returned in time to save me from this
indignity, and I slipped quietly out of bed, having
thrice jerked at the cord in signal that I was astir.
Slowly and carefully I opened the bedroom door,
carrying my shoes in one hand, whilst feeling
along the passage wall with the other, for I
did not dare to kindle a light, and indeed had no
phosphorus to do so. I knew every inch of the
house, and must have gone as silently as a mouse,







AFLOAT WITH NELSON


yet it seemed to me that each step I took would
awaken my parents. Once a board creaked beneath
my light weight, then I stood still with a beating
heart and blanched cheek, with difficulty repressing
the inclination to retrace my steps and abandon
the adventure, for smuggling by daylight with
life and movement around is a widely different
thing from smuggling at the dead of night, and
stealing out of the house like a thief. On reaching
the head of the stairs, the tall clock in the hall
beneath burred dismally before sounding the first
stroke of midnight, making the hair on my head
bristle up with terror, as I stood motionless till
the tale was completed, and, whilst descending,
each separate stair seemed to groan dolefully, as
though anxious to proclaim my escapade to the
other inmates of the house. But when I had
gained the passage leading to the back premises,
and recognized that my movements had been
unobserved, I speedily regained courage, and,
slipping noiselessly out of the back door, I put on
my shoes and stole cautiously round to the lawn,
where Will Barrett was awaiting me.
We exchanged no word, but crept silently
towards the gate opening on to the road, through
which we passed, and it was not until the Parson-
age was left two hundred yards behind us that
I ventured to ask the question which was burning
on my lips, "Has the lugger been sighted, Will ?"







A MIDNIGHT ADVENTURE


"She hove in sight an hour before sundown
and stood to the northward after her signal had
been answered. Stephen Croucher and old Grim-
bold were whispering to my father at the bar,
and I heard Steve say, 'It is high-water shortly
after midnight, and if old Oliver has got his night-
cap on then, the boats will come ashore.' They
paid no attention to me, and did not know I under-
stood that 'Oliver' meant the moon. It is very
dark now, and the run will certainly be made
within an hour's time. We must hurry along,
Jack, and get down to the beach unperceived."
My heart beat fast on learning that the moment
for action was so close at hand, but before moving
on, I put one more question to my companion.
"Have you got the barkers with you?"
"Yes, I've got them right enough," replied Will,
with a proud sense of proprietorship. "I took
them out of father's bedroom when he was busy
with the customers this evening. Look here!'
and he produced from his pocket a pistol, which
I put my hand eagerly forth to seize.
"Not so quick, Master Jack," was the reply,
as he replaced the weapon in his pocket; "you
shall have it when we reach the beach. Some
accident might happen whilst we are scrambling
down; besides, you are rather young to be trusted
with firearms."
"I'm only six months younger than you," I






AFLOAT WITH NELSON


cried angrily, "a.nd have used a pistol often. I
know more about firearms than you do, for I am
a gentleman's son and your father is only an inn-
keeper."
"If that's your fashion of talking, my young
bantam cock, you sha'n't have it at all, and you
had better go back to your father, the parson."
"I won't go back, and I will have the pistol.
If you don't give it to me, Will Barrett, I'll take
it," and I began stripping off my coat, preparatory
to putting this rash resolve into execution, for my
blood was up, and I had no idea of being hectored
over by a lad who was my inferior in position;
but before any active steps could be taken, a
bright flash was seen to seaward, and we com-
pletely forgot our dispute at the sight of this
signal.
"Come along, Jack!" cried my companion.
"Hurry up, or we shall be too late."
We pushed through a gap in the hedge, ran
recklessly across a small stretch of turf, and slid
down the descent leading to the beach. On reach-
ing this, Will handed me the coveted pistol, which
I stuck in my belt with an air of triumph, feeling
that now I was a smuggler indeed, and fit to cope
with an army of Preventive Officers.
Come along," urged Will, and let us get into
the cave before the boat's ashore. We can stay
there until the landing begins, when all hands







A MIDNIGHT ADVENTURE


will be too busy to notice us and send us
home."
The cave of which my companion spoke stood
about a quarter of a mile north of the little quay
where the cargo would be landed, and was in no
way connected with smuggling purposes, being
used by our fishermen as a convenient place in
which to stow old nets, empty casks, and such-
like lumber. Towards this recess we speeded
swiftly and silently, keeping close under the
shadow of the cliff, which was strewn with
fragments of rock, causing each of us more than
one fall. This was a needless precaution, since
the night was so dark that no one could have
observed us had we taken the more open way
by the edge of the sea.
We reached the cavern, bruised and breathless,
and flung ourselves upon a heap of nets which
lay within the entrance, from which position we
could view the sea, and the spot at which the
lugger probably lay, had she been visible, but
the darkness was too great to allow of our
making her out. We had lain thus for perhaps
a couple of minutes, panting hard, but exchang-
ing no word, when suddenly the noise of a dis-
lodged stone came from the direction of the
village, followed by a coarse oath in a man's
gruff voice.
"It's Steve Croucher," whispered Will, hurriedly;







AFLOAT WITH NELSON


"let us hide behind the casks. He would send
us home if he saw us."
Quick as thought we dived behind the barrels,
and remained there motionless, in the hope that
the man would pass, but, to our consternation,
he paused at the mouth of the cave and gave
utterance to a long, low whistle, which he repeated
three times at regular intervals. From our hiding-
place we could make out the smuggler's form
silhouetted dimly against the murky background,
and we observed with surprise that his face was
turned towards the north, and not in the direc-
tion of the village from whence he had come.
What could be the meaning of this?
After the lapse of perhaps a minute, Steve
Croucher repeated the signal, but in a louder
tone than before, and then it seemed to our
straining ears that we detected a faint answer,
and this was confirmed when the sound of foot-
steps was heard coming over the rocks from the
northward. Stephen advanced to meet the new-
comer, and I felt my arm tightly grasped by
Will, who took advantage of the man's absence
to draw the pistol from his pocket and cock it
-a motion which I faithfully followed-whilst
he hissed into my ears the one word-" treachery."
All this occupied but a few seconds, at the
termination of which two figures could be dis-
cerned at the mouth of the cave.







A MIDNIGHT ADVENTURE


"When should my men make the attack?"
asked the new-comer, whose tone was imperious
and sharp.
"Don't speak so loud, captain," said Steve, in
low, anxious tones, "there might be someone
within ear-shot."
"That's your affair, not mine," returned the
stranger, curtly. "Answer my question."
"Best to get the landing half over before
dropping down on them. They will be too busy
removing the tubs to notice your approach until
you are close to them. I will go back and join
them, and when the right moment has arrived,
I will manage to swing a lantern from side to
side as a signal."
"You are a pretty scoundrel," we heard the
stranger mutter.
"Where are the men now, sir?" asked Steve,
hesitatingly, for the officer's contemptuous words
had reached him also.
"Close to. I hear them coming now, and they
will be here in less than a minute."
"Have you a strong force, sir ?-for these
Norfolk men are sure to show fight, and I shall
be forced to do the same to avoid suspicion."
"There are fifteen Preventive Officers and a
press-gang of twenty men from my frigate. I
hope to fill up my complement from your village,
Mr Croucher."







AFLOAT WITH NELSON


"Hush, sir, hush!" said the traitor. "No
names, sir, even when we are quite alone. And
about the money," he continued falteringly. "A
hundred guineas was to be paid when I brought
you to the spot, and another hundred when the
job was completed."
"There's your money," said the officer, con-
temptuously, and we heard the chink of gold
as he threw a bag upon the floor of the cave,
not deigning to soil his hands by contact with
the dirty rascal. Here are the men, too,"
continued the officer, stepping out into the
open.
We could see Steve stoop to pick up the
bag, but, at this moment, there came a flash close
beside me, accompanied by a loud report-in
his agitation Will Barrett's finger had pressed
the trigger of his weapon, and the pistol exploded.
"Bolt!" cried my companion, springing to his
feet, and dashing out into the darkness. I
followed him unhesitatingly, with my weapon
at full cock, but, unfortunately, my foot was
caught in the meshes of a net hanging from
the cask behind which I had been concealed,
and I came to the ground almost at the feet
of Steve Croucher. In a moment his strong
hands had grasped me, but my right arm re-
mained free, and, in desperation, I pointed the
pistol at his head and fired, dropping the weapon







A MIDNIGHT ADVENTURE


the moment I had done so. With an oath, he
staggered back and loosened his grasp, upon
which I fled swiftly towards the quay, zig-zagging
from side to side like a snipe in its first flight,
and thus avoiding a bullet sent after me by
some person then unknown, but.whom I after-
wards discovered to be the traitor Croucher.
The distance from the cave to the quay was
about five hundred yards, and I covered the
ground more quickly than I have ever done
since, although more than once I have had a
race for life. On three several occasions I tripped
and fell, but I was a feather-weight and regained
my legs in a moment, heedless of pain or bruises
in the excitement of the wild race. I could
not see Will Barrett in front of me, but could
hear the sound of his footsteps some fifty yards
in advance, and I could also hear the tread of
the Preventive Officers and bluejackets as they
pressed forward in pursuit, for the alarm had
now been given, and the surprise, so cleverly
arranged by Steve Croucher, rendered impossible.
When about half-way on my course, a second
flash came from the lugger, and I knew that the
boats with their contraband cargo had left her
side for the shore, and to prevent this valuable
booty from falling into the hands of the excise
men became my one determination. There were
lanterns now dancing on the quay, and, as I







AFLOAT WITH NELSON


drew near, I could distinguish the form of many
men assembled to unload the boats. To warn
them of the approaching danger was of the
utmost importance, so, when within a hundred
yards of the quay -by which time I was
slightly ahead of Will Barrett-I began to shout
"Treachery Gaugers Gaugers Press-gang !
Press-gang!" at the top of my shrill voice,
which rang through the night air with wonder-
ful distinctness.
The effect was magical. In an instant every
lantern was extinguished, whilst at the same
moment a flash rose from the pier-head as a
signal of danger to the approaching boats, and
by the time I reached the spot, so lately crowded
with figures, it was absolutely deserted, and no
sound could be heard but the footsteps of the
men as they hurried away to their respective
hiding-places, more terrified at the single word
"Press-gang" than by the penalty they would
'have incurred had the Preventive Officers caught
them red-handed in their illicit occupation.
Delighted to find that our warning had pro-
duced the desired effect-for Will Barrett had
joined in the cry on catching the cue from me
-I halted for a moment to allow my companion
to come up. Together we stood listening, but
could hear no sound of pursuing footsteps,
although a voice which we recognized as that







A MIDNIGHT ADVENTURE


of the officer accosted by Steve as "captain"
was audible at some distance in our rear.
Evidently his men, unaccustomed to the ground,
finding themselves no match at running with
two swift-footed boys, had given up the chase
in despair, and the officer was probably forming
them into order before advancing to the village.
In the excitement of my flight I had thought
only of escaping from the Preventive men, and
of saving our poor fellows from the hands of
the dreaded press-gang, but a question which
my companion panted forth filled me suddenly
with unutterable horror and anguish.
"Did you kill Steve?" whispered Will, in
awestricken tones, and I fancied that he edged
a little away from me, as though shunning the
companionship of one with human blood upon
his hands.
"I don't know," was my reply, and my voice
seemed strange to myself, for a great horror
seemed to choke me and strangle all utterance.
If for a moment I had suspected Will of
standing aloof from me I was speedily reassured,
for he seized me by the hand, whispering eagerly,
"They couldn't know us, and none of our fellows
would peach if their lives depended on it. If
you shot that rascal Steve it served him right
for his treachery. Come along, Jack. Let's
hurry to my father's house. We must make a
B







18 AFLOAT WITH NELSON

clean breast of it to him, and, if the worst
comes, he can hide us."
We ran on towards "The Toothsome Herring,"
which stood at the corner of the main street
leading downward to the quay, at the door of
which stood the tall figure of Bess Wilson.
"Come in, lads!" she cried, standing aside to
let us pass. "You youngsters have saved the
whole boiling of us."
Then, when we were in the passage, she
noiselessly closed the door, which she bolted and
barred securely.















CHAPTER II


A CHANGE OF SEX

THE moment the door was closed the round form
of Joe Barrett, the landlord of "The Toothsome
Herring," emerged from the side door which
communicated with the tap-room. In a few
hurried words his son and I put him in posses-
sion of the incidents which had transpired,
adding that the Preventive men would be
hammering at the door within ten minutes.
"Where are the pistols now, Will ?" he asked
his son after a moment's reflection.
I dropped mine behind the barrel," said the lad.
"Mine fell on the floor of the cave directly I
had fired," I added.
Joe gave a low whistle. "My name is on the
butt of each of them," he murmured. "What is
to be done, Bess?"
"If Master Jack shot that villain Steve Croucher
there'll be a proper row, although it served the
sneaking loafer perfectly right. Will has done
nothing that the law can touch him for, but
Master Jack must be concealed at once."
19







AFLOAT WITH NELSON


"That's true enough, my girl; but where can
we hide him ? These gauger chaps will search
every nook and cranny in the house, and it's as
much as my license is worth if he's found here.
Never fear that I am going to desert you, sir,"
he continued, turning to me. "Your pluck has
saved us all, and Joe Barrett will stand by you
to the last-and so, for the matter of that, will
every man in Silversands."
"I have it," cried quick-witted Bess. "We must
let Mr Strutwell into the secret, and in five minutes
he'll change Master Jack so that his own mother
would not know him. You get to bed at once,
Will, and don't stir if all the gaugers in Norfolk
come into your room. Come upstairs with me,
sir," she continued, seizing me by the hand, and
hurrying me forward.
On reaching the first floor landing, she rapped
loudly at a door, and, receiving no reply, burst
abruptly into the room, dragging me after her.
Wake up, Mr Strutwell!" she cried, vigorously
shaking the shoulder of a man sleeping in the
bed. "Wake up! Here's a play-acting job for
'ee to do."
A strange, lank figure sat upright in the bed
at this abrupt summons, blinking confusedly at
the lantern which Bess held close to his eyes,
whilst she poured into his ears the service required
of him.







A CHANGE OF SEX


"Thy will is mine, thou goddess of the tap,'
cried this strange being, leaping from the bed
with such alacrity that the girl was compelled
to flee without another word.

"Wouldst thou be changed, thou varlet page,
And veil the honours of thy manly state ?
Then here's the hand shall work the transformation."

Whilst uttering this high-sounding phrase, my
queer companion was rummaging the contents of
a large chest, from the depths of which he dragged
forth sundry articles of feminine apparel, together
with a wig, adorned with long, flaxen ringlets,
which latter article he promptly clapped upon my
astonished head.

"Unrobe thee, Junius Brutus, doff thy dress
Ere yet the sleuth-hounds settle on thy track,"

and, leaving me to comply with this strangely-
worded command, he hurried from the room, and
I soon heard him in earnest conversation with
Bess Wilson. His absence, however, was of
short duration, for before I had stripped off my
breeches and hose he was in the room again.

"Haste thee, Lucilius, for the hunt is up.
Go, hide thy limbs beneath this virgin smock,"

and, with the latter words, he threw over my







AFLOAT WITH NELSON


shoulders a frilled night-gown, which completely
concealed my shirt and under-garments.

"Now, view thy image mirrored in this plane,"

he mouthed out, holding before me a looking-glass
which, to my great astonishment, reflected the
face of a pretty girl, instead of the impish features
which I had been accustomed to see there.
He looked at me critically, adjusting the wig
and arranging the flaxen curls; and then hurried
me into a room on the opposite side of the pas-
sage, in which stood a bed, and beside it a small
table with a lighted candle,-
"Get thee to rest. No dangers shall assail
Thy peaceful slumber-couch thee well and sleep,"

with which words he lifted me up and literally
tossed me into the bed with a strength for
which I should never have given his attenuated
frame credit. Raising the pillows, he propped
me up in a half-sitting position, and again dis-
posed the ringlets to the best advantage over
my neck and shoulder; but my appearance was
evidently still unsatisfactory to his artistic eye,
for he suddenly quitted the room, murmuring,-
"Too much, in love, the sun hath kissed thy cheeks."

In a minute he re-appeared carrying in his
hand a small box containing theatrical pigments







A CHANGE OF SEX


with which he proceeded to daub my face and
hands whilst muttering,-
"Let concealment, like a worm i' the bud,
Feed on her damask cheek. 'Twill do, 'twill do.
Restored to life, Clarinda fair,
Shall prove to me a daughter dear,
And I a father fond."

At the conclusion of this doggerel rhyme the
tragedian drew from the pocket of an old velvet
robe, in which he had enveloped his lean form, a
couple of medicine bottles and a wine-glass, all
of which he disposed conspicuously on the table
beside the bed, and then seated himself in an
arm-chair drawn near my pillow, from whence
he gazed at my recumbent form with an air of
exaggerated parental anxiety and affection which
would have drawn forth rapturous applause from
the audience at any theatre. This little comedy
would have amused me greatly at any other time,
but just then the deepest despair held full posses-
sion of my mind. Here was I-a boy but just
thirteen years of age-with hands already im-
brued in human blood, and compelled to evade
the fangs of the law by the contemptible method
of disguising myself. That I should be hanged
for the murder of Stephen Croucher seemed
certain, but, strange to say, this thought affected
me little. What filled my mind chiefly was the
misery which my hasty deed would bring upon







AFLOAT WITH NELSON


my parents. It was horrible to reflect upon, and
a groan burst from my lips which seemed to touch
the heart of the kindly actor, for he assumed his
natural expression whilst bending forward to
whisper words of comfort, and bid me summon
up all my courage for the approaching ordeal.
Speak no word !" he said impressively, and
with more coherence than usual. "Lie quite still,
with closed eyes. You are my sick daughter be-
side whose bedside I am watching."
The last words of the speaker were sharp and
hurried, for the sound of many feet was now
audible approaching the inn, followed immediately
by a heavy hammering at the door.
Who is there ?" I heard Bess Wilson ask, after
a pause. What good-for-nothing fellows are you
who come in the middle of the night to wake
honest folk out of their sleep ? Be off with you,
you drunken swabs! There's no more drink for
you to-night at 'The Toothsome Herring."'
"Open at once, you jade-open, in the name
of the law, or we will break the door in!" cried
a stern voice.
"Law be hanged !" yelled back the undaunted
Bess. "If there was any law in the land, the
likes of you wouldn't be about threatening an
honest maid. Be off home with you!"
At this reply, a heavy blow was dealt upon the
panel, probably by the butt-end of a musket,





























































"TAKE THAT," SHE CRIED, DARTING SUDDENLY ACROSS THE ROAD.






A CHANGE OF SEX


whereupon Bess hastily unbolted and unbarred the
door, which she flung open, and stepped forward to
the entrance, brandishing in both hands a heavy
broomstick.
Who be you? shouted the Amazon, whirling
her weapon round so effectually that the Pre-
ventive men recoiled. "Who be you? Ah!
gaugers, I see. Well, we don't want none of
your sort here, for all our liquor has paid duty.
Come at proper hours, and you shall be admitted,
but the first man that tries to cross this thres-
hold will get a broken sconce, or my name is
not Bess Wilson. Ah!" she continued, "who's
that fellow standing there with his face muffled
up? Is that you, Steve Croucher? You can't
hide yourself from me, you pitiful cur, for I
know the cut of your ugly jib too well. So
you're alive, are you.? It's a pity Master Jack
hadn't scuttled your figure-head with a bullet,
and you dared to come a-courting and a-whisper-
ing soft words to Bess Wilson. Stick close to
the gaugers, you sneak, for if any of the Silver-
sands lads get hold of your ugly carcase, they'll
keel-haul you under every boat in the fleet, and
dumbscrape the flesh off your ribs with barnacle
shells. Take that!" she cried, darting suddenly
across the road, and dealing Steve a swinging
blow over the head with her broom-stick. Take
that as a parting present from Bess Wilson."







AFLOAT WITH NELSON


A loud burst of laughter rose from the press-
gang who were drawn up close by, but had left
the work of gaining an entrance to the excise-
men. These men were already within the house,
having taken advantage of the guardian's moment-
ary withdrawal to slip through the doorway.
On hearing the laugh, Bess dropped the weapon
which she had used with such good effect, and,
addressing the bluejackets, cried, "You are honest
sailor-men and can't help the dirty work you are
ordered to do; it's different with them low gauger
chaps, who are always a-sneaking about, and a-
prying into other people's business. Come into
the tap-room, ,lads, and I'll call my master to
give you a tot of grog all round. Kindly step
into the parlour, sir," she added, curtseying to
the officer, who had stood aloof, watching the
whole scene with scarcely-suppressed amusement.
"There is nothing in 'The Toothsome Herring'
of which we have any call to be ashamed, and
all that the house affords is at the command of
you and your men."
"You are a fine specimen of a Norfolk lass,"
laughed the officer, chucking the girl under the
chin. Here's something to get yourself a pair
of earrings with," and he slipped a guinea into
her hand, whilst following her into the parlour.
Meanwhile, the gaugers, on their way upstairs,
had been stopped by Joe Barrett, who appeared in







A CHANGE OF SEX


a half-dressed condition as though just awakened
from a profound sleep.
"You are the man we are in search of," cried
the Preventive Officer. "There's been an attempt
at murder, and the deed was done with a pistol
bearing your name on the butt. How do you
explain this ?"
"I know nothing about it," replied Joe, stolidly.
"When I saw the pistols last they were hanging
up in my bedroom, and someone must have taken
them unknown to me. I can prove that I have
never left the house since noon yesterday, and,
besides, you've no right here without a warrant.
Show your authority for entering a man's dwell-
ing in the middle of the night, and, if you have
not any, I'll take the law of you as trespassers
and housebreakers."
"We intend searching the house," replied the
Preventive Officer, doggedly. "If you didn't fire
the shot, the man who did so is in your house."
"If you proceed, it is at your own peril," re-
turned Joe, still barring the way. "There's no
one in the house but a guest and his sick
daughter, and if you frighten the child to death,
you and your men must stand the consequences."
"Stand aside! Come on, lads," cried the head
gauger, pushing Joe roughly aside.
,From my bed, I had heard every word of stout
Bess Wilson's harangue, and an inexpressible sense







AFLOAT WITH NELSON


of relief and thankfulness had filled my heart, on
learning that Steve Croucher was not only alive
but, apparently, none the worse for my pistol-
shot. Thank God, I was not a murderer, and
the proportion of my offence was reduced to
comparatively nothing.
The Preventive men were already at the half-
open door of the room, and Strutwell rose to pre-
vent their entrance, stretching forth his arm for-
biddingly.
"Enter not here, rude men!" he cried in
sepulchral tones. "When sickness sleepeth, wake
it not! Wouldst kill my daughter by thy rash
intrusion?" and he pointed towards the bed in
which I lay propped up with half-closed eyes.
The gaugers were evidently thoroughly taken
aback at the spectacle presented to them, and
slunk out of the room with an air of shame and
disappointment, closely followed by the actor, who
cried after them,-

"Begone, base varlets Hasten quit the presence
Of this long-suffering and afflicted Queen.
Now sleep, my liege, the danger is o'erpast,"

he continued, closing the door behind the discom-
fited gang, and indulging in a series of grotesque
antics in the exuberance of his joy, the remem-
brance of which afterwards caused me to laugh
heartily.







A CHANGE OF SEX


Lights had been brought into the parlour, and
refreshment provided for the officer in command,
whose name I afterwards learnt was Captain Dixon,
commanding His Majesty's frigate Mermaid. The
seamen were accommodated in the tap-room, for
all hope of capturing any of the Silversands fisher-
men, and pressing them for service afloat, came
to an end when Will and I had raised the alarm,
for the whole village might have been searched
for the next week without any able-bodied man
being found within its precincts. This was not
the first time, by many, that an attempt had been
made to surprise the fishermen, each of whom had
a hiding-place of his own, in which he would lie
quietly concealed until the press-gang had with-
drawn from the neighbourhood. Captain Dixon
was fully aware of this, and avoided irritating
the inhabitants by a fruitless search. But Mr
Nicholls, the head gauger, and his men were
too much enraged at the loss of the rich cargo
they had so confidently expected to capture, to
let matters pass as easily as the naval officer,
and the fact of my having fired at Stephen
Croucher afforded them a pretext for further
inquiries.
"Who is the nearest magistrate, and where does
he live ?" asked Nicholls of Joe Barrett, when he
and his men had searched the house from attic to
basement without discovering anything, more







AFLOAT WITH NELSON


formidable than the landlord's son, Will, who
was snoring peacefully in his bed.
"The Rev. John Brandon, at the Rectory,"
replied Joe, who was anxious to get rid of these
unwelcome intruders at any cost.
"Can you guide us there?" asked the head
gauger.
'I'll take 'ee to him," cried stout Bess Wilson,
"and much good may your visit do 'ee. Come
along!" and she marched into the dark street,
followed by the gaugers.
Arrived at the Rectory, which stood about a
quarter of a mile from the village, Mr Nicholls
knocked at the door for a good half hour before
gaining the slightest response from any of the
inmates, for it was a singular fact that my father
and all his establishment were invariably buried
in the deepest slumber on certain nights, when
the wind chanced to be in the south-east-a
breeze from that quarter appearing to exercise
a narcotic influence over all of them. But the
gaugers were persistent, and finally my father
appeared in his dressing-gown, admitting the
men to his study after learning their errand.
"You wish to obtain a warrant for the arrest
of some person unknown, accused of attempting
the life of one, Stephen Croucher," remarked my
father. "Is the man much injured? "
Nicholls hesitated. "His face is burnt with







A CHANGE OF SEX


the powder, and he will carry the marks to his
grave," he said at last.
"But he can walk, I suppose?"
Yes, your worship," assented the head gauger,
sullenly; for he saw that the magistrate was not
disposed to lend him more assistance than he
could help.
"Then why does not the aggrieved party come
and lay information in person? Has he deputed
you to do this for him ?" asked my father, sternly.
"No, your worship," faltered the man.
"Then I refuse to grant a warrant on such
insufficient evidence."
It's all a flam, your reverence," broke in Bess.
"Steve Croucher is alive and well, except for a rap
on the head I gave him with my broomstick, to
teach him manners when next he comes a-courting
Bess Wilson. My master is a-coming to your
worship in the morning for a warrant against
these gauger chaps for housebreaking and rioting
in the streets of a peaceful village like Silver-
sands. No, I won't guide you back. You can
find your own way, or, better still, get Steve
Croucher to show it to you," cried Bess, de-
risively, as the discomfited Nicholls and his
followers filed out of the room.
"It's Master Jack, sir, as singed that rascal
Steve's whiskers, and saved the whole village from
the gaugers and the press-gang," she continued,







AFLOAT WITH NELSON


after following the excisemen to the front door
and closing it behind them. The pistol was only
loaded with powder, and can only have spoilt the
fellow's beauty-if he had any to lose," she added,
with a snort of contempt.
Do you mean my boy Jack ?" asked my father,
in greatest surprise, "Why, he is asleep in his
room upstairs."
"Not a bit of it, sir. He and our Will went out
to see the cargo land-to see the moon a-shining,
I mean-and they overheard a plot to surprise our
poor fellows in bed, and press them into the navy.
Steve Croucher had turned informer, and tried to
nab Master Jack when his treachery was discovered,
but the lad-ah, he's a game 'un, parson!-flashed
one of master's pistols in his face, and the rascal
let him go. It's all a flam, sir. There ain't no
harm done to anyone; and Master Jack saved our
poor lads by giving the alarm. You won't hear
any more of them gaugers, or of Steve Croucher,
either-you take Bess Wilson's word for it, sir."
"But where is the boy now ?" asked my father,
anxiously."
"In bed, at' The Toothsome Herring,' dressed
up as a girl by Mr Strutwell, and a pretty girl he
makes, parson; I'd a-kissed and a-hugged him if
them gauger chaps had been out of the road. The
press-gang is at the house now-a nice, civil set,
as sailor-men always is. Their officer is in our







A CHANGE OF SEX


parlour, as smooth-spoken and gentle as a lamb.
I must get back, sir, for I'm wanted.
"Wait a moment and I will come with you,"
said my father, sorely perplexed at the girl's
explanation, and determined to find out for him-
self how matters stood.
Not a sign of movement was visible in the
village as my father and Bess Wilson passed
through it, nor was a light to be seen at a single
casement, although every one in the place, except-
ing the youngest children, must have been wide
awake. But at the little inn there was much
movement, and the sound of revelry, for Captain
Dixon had determined that his men should quarter
themselves there until the day broke, and had
ordered them a supper of bread and cheese and
beer. As Bess Wilson had shrewdly prophesied,
Mr Nicholls and his gang had not returned to
"The Toothsome Herring," but had departed crest-
fallen and dispirited to the place from whence
they came. After a few words with Joe Barrett,
my father was conducted upstairs and ushered
quietly into the room where I was now sleeping
profoundly, with the flaxen curls still hanging
over my face and shoulders. Having satisfied
himself of my safety-for he did not wake me,
and I only learnt later on that he had visited me
-he descended and desired his name to be sent
in to Captain Dixon.







AFLOAT WITH NELSON


A very few minutes' conversation convinced
my father that the captain of the frigate had
no greater liking for the Preventive men than
the fishermen of Silversands, and, with all a
sailor's frankness, he avowed it openly.
"My object, Mr Brandon," he said, "was to
get some good seamen for my ship, and as your
fellows have the character of being able to
outwit any press-gang, I was obliged to join
forces with the excisemen, who had learnt of
the intended run through information laid by
that rascal Croucher. Whilst the gaugers were
seizing the contraband goods, I hoped to secure
a score of your men, and so much are seamen
required just now, that I came in person instead
of entrusting the mission to one of my officers.
It is not a task that I like, and it is cruel work
for the poor fellows impressed. But His Majesty's
ships must be manned, and if sufficient volun-
teers are not forthcoming, we must make up the
remainder by force."
"Well, Captain Dixon, you are frank with
me, and I will be equally outspoken with you.
I heartily rejoice that your plan failed, and am
pleased to think that my lad was the principal
agent in thwarting it."
"Your lad?" repeated Captain Dixon. "I
don't understand."
"You are not the man to bear a grudge, I







A CHANGE OF SEX


can see," said my father, looking into the officer's
good-natured face, "so I may tell you at once
that it was my son Jack who overheard the
conversation between you and Stephen Croucher,
and managed to give the alarm after singeing
the rascal's whiskers with a pistol, which I have
yet to learn how he became possessed of."
The officer burst into a hearty laugh. "You
are all tarred with one brush at Silversands-
parson and all-and neither the excise nor the
press-gang can make anything of you."
"I only do my duty by my parishioners when
I try to save them, and you do yours, sir, when
you try to impress them," replied my father,
simply.
"True enough," said the officer. "Your lad's
presence in the cave has lost King George a
handful of good seamen, but it cannot be helped.
You do not wish any particulars to be known,
of course, and as you have shown confidence in
me, your secret shall be respected. But I cannot
answer for the Preventive men, who are very
angry at being baulked of their booty, and who
will sift the matter to the bottom. There were
two lads in the cave, and, if you will take my
advice, Mr Brandon, I should get them both
out of Silversands as soon as possible. If there
was a vacancy on board my frigate, I would
offer to take your son with me and put him







36 AFLOAT WITH NELSON

on the quarter-deck, for he must be a smart
lad with his head screwed on the right way,
but my complement of officers is filled up, and
I cannot do as I should have liked."
My father thanked the kind-hearted sailor,
and after some further conversation, which need
not be here recorded, they parted, never to meet
again, for we learnt in the following year, with
deep regret, that Captain Dixon had been killed
in action.















CHAPTER III


A WALK IN PETTICOATS

IT was ten o'clock before I awoke and stared
about me with much surprise and a little alarm
at the strange apartment in which I found
myself, but the sight of Mr Strutwell sitting
at the window in the quaint attire which he
habitually wore, recalled like a flash every
incident of the midnight adventure, and after
staring wonderingly at my whitened hands,
I put them to my head, which I found to be
still enveloped in the flaxen ringlets.
On observing that I was awake, the actor
advanced to the bed and said pleasantly,-

"We are awake As serpent casts its skin,
So banished slumber flies our rested limbs.
Wouldst eat ? Wouldst drink ? Here,
Goddess of the spigot,
Purvey refreshments for this weakling girl."

The last two lines were bawled down the stairs
at the full pitch of Strutwell's voice, and although
it is abundantly certain that Bess Wilson under-
stood no single word of the jargon in which he
37







AFLOAT WITH NELSON


couched his demand, she had become sufficiently
accustomed to this strange being to guess his
meaning, for when she appeared a tray was in
her hands, from which issued the appetising
odour of a rasher of bacon.
"What am I to do, Bess? Am I to get up?"
I cried, delighted to see the comely face of the
stalwart wench.
"Lawks, what a pretty girl you be! If I was
a lad, I'd-have a lass just the likes of you," and
she kissed my cheek, which annoyed me, for,
boy-like, I resented all outward demonstrations
of affection.
"Fall to, and eat up your breakfast, then
Mr Strutwell will take 'ee up to the Rectory,
and you'll be dressed in girl's clothes, so, Lord's
sake! look prim and demure like a proper maid
Master Jack. Parson was down here an hour
agone and left word what you was to do."
"Why mayn't I wear my own clothes?" I
asked angrily, for the idea of masquerading
through the streets of Silversands in feminine
attire was hateful to me.

"Night-hawks are abroad. A ruffian band
Infests our streets and devastates the land,"

broke in Strutwell, striking an attitude and
scowling horribly, whilst pointing with his fore-
finger in the direction of the street beneath.







A WALK IN PETTICOATS


"That chap's tongue runs like a cherry-
clapper, and his arms is always a-going like the
sails of a Lincolnshire windmill," said out-
spoken Bess. "Don't 'ee take any notice of
him, dearie. What he means is that them
gauger chaps are likely to be about soon, and
if they sniff out that you slept here last night,
they'd smell a rat. Eat up your breakfast,
Master Jack, and then Mr Strutwell will help
'ee to dress, and a winsome little maid you'll
make."
I writhed at the last remark, but there was
no use in protesting, so I made the best of it
and fell to upon the rasher with considerable
vigour, after which I felt greatly refreshed, and
submitted to the actor's ministrations with an
outward show of resignation.
In a short time he had completed his work,
and was, apparently, quite satisfied with the
transformation he had effected, for he led me
downstairs, and then, mounting me on the table
in the parlour, bade me look at myself in the
mirror above the mantelpiece. There I beheld
a pale, girlish face framed in a mass of ringlets,
and the blush of shame which mounted to my
cheek at this sight would have been apparent
but for the mask of paint with which my face
was covered. As it was, in my hurry to get
rid of the hateful spectacle, I leapt down from







AFLOAT WITH NELSON


the table with unbecoming agility, and begged
the actor to end the farce by taking me home
at once.
Poor Mr Strutwell! This was no comedy to
him, but a tragic proceeding which his cracked
brain invested with the deepest interest. Bess
would have called Will down to see me, but
this I stoutly refused to allow, knowing the
sense of the ridiculous possessed by that
youngster, and not feeling disposed to be a butt
for his jeers in the days to come. So, after
many solemn warnings from the actor as to my
gait and the deportment I should assume,
together with a final kiss from Bess Wilson, we
sallied forth, my hands, for the first time in my
life, being encased in gloves, the fingers of which
were considerably too long.
Even at the hour when I write this, my cheek
grows red at the memory of that walk. If poor
Strutwell had only gone on his way quietly I
should have walked beside him in the same
fashion, but the overpowering sense of responsi-
bility with which he imagined himself to be
invested led to a thousand grotesque vagaries
on his part. Luckily the street through which
we had to pass was almost deserted, for the men
were all in hiding, and the few faces at the
windows were those of women and children.
Apparently my companion considered this most







A WALK IN PETTICOATS


natural circumstance as part of a deep-laid con-
spiracy, to frustrate which his utmost vigilance
must be brought into play. Scarcely had we
left the inn twenty yards behind us than he
suddenly stopped, ordered me in a tragic whisper,
which could be heard for fifty yards around, to
remain where I was, and then started off on
tip-toe with a finger laid mysteriously across his
lips, to peep stealthily round the corner of an
adjoining alley. Finding no hidden danger to
exist, he stalked back with head erect, and an
expression of triumph on his face, to seize me by
the hand and lead me forward until his crazy
brain imagined another phantom peril, when the
same ceremony was gone through with variations
which it would be tedious to recount.
As we proceeded, he mouthed out,-
"Her watchful scouts had cleared the way,
No lurking foe in ambush lay,
The maid pursued her reckless flight
Past torrent, vale, and rock-crowned height."
And tears of rage and mortification rose to my
eyes, as I heard bursts of ill-suppressed merriment
from the neighboring windows, whilst the children
gathered on the doorsteps stared in speechless
amazement.
These ill-timed stoppages, besides drawing upon
us unnecessary attention, caused considerable delay,
and we had barely made our way half the length







AFLOAT WITH NELSON


of the street when the actor hurried back from one
of his reconnaissances, with a grave face and less
theatrical contortion than usual. He had evidently
seen something which caused him alarm, but this
did not prevent him from whispering to me,-
On, stricken maid, in search of rest
Find shelter on thy sire's fond breast,
The hateful crew are close at hand,
Now must thy father by thee stand.
Feign weakness, and lean on me for support," he
added hurriedly, in a low tone, quite unlike his
former rambling utterances, for the presence of
real danger had brought back the poor fellow's
scattered senses.
He passed his left arm round my waist, whilst
I leant my head listlessly upon his shoulder, and
scarcely had we adopted this position when Mr
Nicholls, followed by four gaugers, turned suddenly
out of a side street in front of us. Strutwell
played his part well, and we went slowly forward
as though unconscious of their presence. No
suspicion that I was other than I seemed entered
into the minds of the Preventive men, but their
leader thought fit to vent his ill-humour by dis-
paraging remarks and a coarse jest.
"Halt, men !" cried Nicholls. "Halt, and stand
aside whilst these vagabond mummers pass."
I could feel the arm which encircled me twitch-
ing nervously at the insult, but with the skill of







A WALK IN PETTICOATS


his craft, Strutwell allowed no sign of resentment
to appear in his face, merely bending his head
over mine and whispering a few words of en-
couragement.
From the deserted appearance of the street, the
intruders evidently thought that they could do
much as they pleased in Silversands, particularly
with the press-gang in the village, for they re-
mained unaware that Captain Dixon and his
seamen had departed after an early breakfast.
This consciousness of security led to a fresh
insult, and, when we were abreast of the gaugers,
their leader took off his cap with mock humility,
saying to his men, "Uncover, lads! salute the
player and his whey-faced trull," and he showed
them the example by making us a low, derisive
bow.
This was more than my companion could stand,
for he was of gentle birth although in straitened
circumstances, and I felt the muscles of his arm
harden as he suddenly lifted me over the thres-
hold of the nearest cottage, then with a bound he
was across the street, his left arm shot out a clean
blow straight from the hip, followed by a dull,
smashing sound, and Mr Nicholls, the chief Pre-
ventive Officer, lay prostrate in the kennel,
engaged in staunching the blood which flowed
from his mouth and nose.
His followers rushed upon Strutwell, who, with







AFLOAT WITH NELSON


his back planted against a wall, fought like a lion
at bay; but he was not to continue the combat
long unaided, for assistance speedily came to
hand. For the last few hours a feeling of sup-
pressed wrath had burned in the breasts of the
Silversands fishing-folk. By the treachery of
Stephen Croucher and the consequent failure to
run the contraband cargo, the men had lost money
and the women the silks and other frippery which
formed their share on such occasions. In addition,
the men had narrowly escaped the clutches of
the press-gang-the worst fate which could befall
them-so it needed but a spark to cause a con-
flagration, and Strutwell's prompt action had this
effect. It would have been better for the gaugers
to have stirred up a nest of hornets than to have
provoked the villagers in their present mood.
From every door in the street, stout-limbed fisher-
women hurried forth, armed with broomsticks,
mops and rolling-pins, and fell upon the Preventive
men, who would gladly have cut and run when
they found their shouts for help unanswered by
the seamen of the press-gang, but were quite un-
able to break through the hostile throng surround-
ing them. In less than a minute the struggle was
over. Strutwell had disposed of one of his foes,
two others lay on the ground beside their leader,
the fourth was a prisoner in the hands of a
huge woman, whose gruff voice showed that the







A WALK IN PETTICOATS


short petticoats were worn by one of the sterner
sex. This individual had seized the first weapon
which presented itself-a battered old frying-pan
-and had brought this homely utensil down
with such force on the skull of the gauger that
the bottom gave way, and the fellow found him-
self fitted with an iron collar, by the handle of
which his captor dragged him along triumphantly,
crying out, "Shoulder the others and come along
wi' me, lasses. We'll give 'em a drink of salt
water at the pier-head, to wash the spirits out
of their constitooshuns. Then we'll tar and
feather 'em, and send 'em home, like the cowardly
chickens they be." A roar of laughter followed
the suggestion. The fallen men were hoisted up
and borne away by the infuriated women, and
serious mischief would certainly have followed
had not my father appeared upon the scene, and
used his influence to divert his flock from the
pastime they meditated. He could not, however,
save them from a good ducking, after receiving
which the unhappy creatures were led triumph-
antly to the outskirts of the village and allowed
to depart, followed by many threats of what
would befall them if they again thought fit to
honour Silversands with a visit.
Whilst the ducking process was going on,
Strutwell took me from the cottage in which
he had placed me for safety, and we resumed







AFLOAT WITH NELSON


our walk to the Rectory, but this time at a
smart pace and without halting, although occa-
sionally my strange companion brandished his
fists, and I could hear him muttering to him-
self,-
"'Zounds, show me what thou'lt do :
Woul't weep? woul't fight? woul't fast? woul't tear thy
self ?
Woul't drink up Esil ? eat a crocodile ?
I'll do't."

Poor Strutwell! the class to which he belonged
is now extinct as the dodo. Dicing and ex-
travagance had brought him down from a good
position to the rdle of a strolling player. This
doubtless preyed upon his mind, and as will
be guessed he was already half insane at the
time of which I write. I heard afterwards
that he died in a madhouse, a raving lunatic;
but after he had handed me to my mother at
the Rectory I saw him no more, neither will
he re-appear again in these pages. So ended
my attempt to turn myself into a smuggler,
and I may here say that the action of the
Silversands women in maltreating gaugers brought
with it no serious result. The men themselves
were little disposed to own that they had been
beaten by a parcel of petticoats, and, beyond
the ducking and a few bruises, they were little
the worse for the encounter. Mr Nicholls had







A WALK IN PETTICOATS


overstepped his duty in searching "The Tooth-
some Herring" without a warrant, and although
the actor had handled him pretty severely, he
felt that discretion was the better part of valour,
and let the matter drop. This resolve, however,
was not known at the time, and my parents, after
anxious consultation, determined to follow Captain
Dixon's advice, and get me away, for some time
at least, from the scene of my escapade.
It is difficult to say whether I was regarded
at the Rectory as a hero or a scapegrace. The
servants, who all belonged to the village, evidently
looked upon me in the former light, and I imagine
that my mother was of the same way of thinking,
but my father, whatever his private opinion may
have been, manifested his sense of my conduct
by giving me a sound thrashing the moment he
returned home; in fact, I had hardly resumed
the dignity of a boy's apparel before I was
compelled to let down my small-clothes for this
ignominious purpose. I need say no more on this
painful subject. At that time the rod was the
order of the day, and I daresay a sound whipping
did me a great deal of good.















CHAPTER IV


SIR HORATIO NELSON

DURING the afternoon, I observed that my small
wardrobe was being put in order and generally
overhauled by the maids. This at once aroused
my suspicions, and made me sure that my early
removal was meditated. Neither the girls to
whom I applied for information, nor my little
sister Emily, could tell me anything, so I was
driven at length to take my courage in both
hands, as the French say, and apply to my
mother.
"You are to go to school at Burnham. Your
father will drive you there to-morrow."
"May I run down and tell Will Barrett?" I
asked, when I had recovered composure, for I
must confess that my courage sank at the first
thought of leaving home, since, up to this time,
my father had been my only tutor.
My mother hesitated, but ultimately gave me
leave, and I ran out of the house at top speed
on my way to the village, but my progress was
even more halting than it had been in the fore-
48







SIR HORATIO NELSON


noon, for the fisher-folk insisted that I had saved
them from the terrors of the press-gang, and I
had to submit to many kindly greetings and
much praise, which would have pleased my
vanity had it not been that all the women and
girls lifted me up and kissed me, and to be
treated in this familiar fashion in the open street
did not at all accord with my idea of the respect
due to a hero.
I found that Will Barrett had undergone the
same discipline at the hands of his parent as
myself, so neither had the advantage of the other
on this score, and we were able to mingle our
sorrows on this tender subject.
"I shall run away and go to sea," said Will
"Captain Dixon's frigate is at Harwich, and wants
men."
But you are not a man," I said innocently;
"you are only a little boy."
"I'm man enough to thrash you," cried Will,
indignantly.
"Six of you might, but no two of you could,"
I retorted angrily, using the words which I had
heard dropped during a quarrel between two
fishermen on the quay.
"We'll see," said Will, and at it we went,
until Bess Wilson, attracted by the scuffling,
rushed up and cuffed both our heads soundly.
There was nothing unusual in this sudden







AFLOAT WITH NELSON


quarrel; good friends as we were, I do not think
that we were ever two hours in each other's
company without a fight. The prize-ring was in
the height of its glory in those days, and the
art of self-defence was considered a necessary
accomplishment for every Englishman, whatever
his degree. We youngsters followed suit, of
course, but no animosity was ever borne when
the matter had been fairly settled, and victory
had declared itself for one side or the other. It
is the fashion now to call this rough-and-ready
method of settling disputes brutal. With this
I cannot agree. A good fight showed what lads
were made of, whilst it taught them to be manly
and self-reliant.
Forced by Bess's strong arm to keep the peace,
we had no alternative but to relapse into con-
fidences.
"If you run away to sea, I'll go too," I said
doggedly.
"But you are going to school at Burnham."
I don't care; I can run away from Burnham
as easily as from the Rectory here," I replied
undauntedly. "Or we could go together, if you
will wait until my holidays come." So it was
agreed, and we parted.
That evening I mixed my father's grog for the
last time for many a long day, and I observed
that the brandy in the decanter had not been







SIR HORATIO NELSON


replenished, although the wind continued to sit
in the south-east. Poor little Emily cried bitterly
when we parted for the night, for my father
and I were to make an early start, and I should
not see her in the morning. Under the impression
that bold smugglers were never known to weep,
I restrained my tears until I reached my bed-
room, then, with no one to look on, they flowed
unrestrainedly.
When I descended at daybreak, both my parents
were already at breakfast, and the greeting which
I received from each was as affectionate as ever.
If I had done wrong I had been punished, and
there it ended in a manner which, to my mind,
is a great deal better than brooding over little
peccadilloes and keeping up an estrangement for
several days.
The mare and gig were brought round to the
front door, and I mounted, after having been
kissed by my mother and all the maids. When
was this hateful kissing to end ? I wondered. My
little box was stowed away, my father took the
reins, and we were off.
"Give my kind regards to Mr Nelson, John,"
cried out my mother; "and compliment him on
his son's achievements."
The mare stepped out well, and we bowled
rapidly over the long, level road. I remember
that we passed several sheets of half-frozen water,







AFLOAT WITH NELSON


on which a large number of wildfowl were con-
gregated, whilst a strange cry overhead caused me
to look up, when I saw a great flight of swans
winging their way inland with outstretched necks
and a loud, rustling sound as their pinions beat
the air.
By one o'clock we had reached the little village
of Burnham Thorpe, and pulled the mare up at
the door of the Rectory, an unpretentious house,
little more than a large cottage in size.
Before his appointment to the living of Silver-
sands, my father had been curate at the little
town of Burnham, and had often assisted the
Rector of Burnham Thorpe in his duties, for Mr
Nelson's health was far from good. In this
manner an intimacy amounting to friendship
had sprung up between the two families, more
particularly with Mr Nelson's sons, William and
Horatio. The latter had been then a captain in
the Royal Navy, an obscure and unknown officer,
waiting for employment afloat; now he was
Rear-Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson, K.C.B., the most
promising officer in His Majesty's Service, the hero
of St Vincent and Teneriffe, with a name known
throughout the length and breadth of England.
"What good wind blows you here, John Bran-
don ?" asked the old rector, when we had been
ushered into his study and were warming our-
selves at the fire.







SIR HORATIO NELSON


"I am taking this youngster to school at Burn-
ham," replied my father, "and seized the oppor-
tunity of calling to see you and to congratulate
you upon Sir Horatio's brilliant achievements."
As he spoke the door opened, and a slight
figure in undress naval uniform advanced into the
room, holding out his left hand-the right sleeve
was empty and looped up to the breast of the
coat- saying, "Always plain Horatio with you,
John Brandon."
My father grasped the extended hand in speech-
less astonishment. "I knew you were in Eng-
land," he said at last, "but never dreamt it
would be my good luck to find you here. The
papers said that you were at Bath recovering
from your wound. Let me first offer you my
heartiest congratulations, and then inquire after
your health."
My father's speech at the beginning was falter-
ing and awkward, for he was evidently em-
barrassed at this unexpected meeting with one
who, although an old friend, had no claim to
greatness in the days of their intimacy. The
parson was four years the senior of the sailor
in age, but whilst one had remained an obscure
country clergyman, the other had leapt at a
bound into fame and position. The Admiral's
quick sympathy understood the situation at a
glance, and, with the marvellous tact which never







AFLOAT WITH NELSON


failed him, le put an end to my father's awkward-
ness by advancing to me and laying his hand
kindly upon my head.
"Surely you don't forget your shooting-com-
panion, little Jack?" he asked, sinking into an
arm-chair and drawing me between his knees.
"Do you remember how you crawled out on
that mud-flat to bring back the ducks I had
shot when the old retriever turned sulky and
went home? I shall never handle a gun again
now, for the Dons have robbed me of a fin," and
he shook his empty sleeve laughingly.
I stared up into the clean-shaven, kindly face
in mute admiration, and with a thrill of pride
and delight that the great sailor should not only
remember me, but even the little circumstance
that had happened when I last saw him, four
years before. What I answered, or what I did,
I cannot recall. I do not think that I spoke
at all, but stood with my eyes riveted on the
man who was the hero of our Silversands fisher-
men, and of whose daring genius they were
never tired of talking. Perhaps this speech-
less tribute was the best form in which my
admiration could have shown itself, but sud-
denly there rushed across my mind a story
which I had heard upon the quay at Silver-
sands, and I asked impulsively, "What did you
do with the bundle of swords ?"







SIR HORATIO NELSON


"Do you mean the swords I took on board the
San Josef?" laughed the Admiral. "Has that
story reached you here in quiet Norfolk, John?"
he added, turning to my father. "Well, Jack, I
think I can gratify your curiosity, for I have
one of them here with me now."
"May I see it?" I cried, with all a boy's
pertinacious eagerness.
Nelson left the room, to return immediately with
the coveted weapon, which he laid in my hands,
saying, "That sword belonged to a brave man
youngster, who died for his king and his
country," and there was a touch of sadness in
his voice as he spoke. "I have brought it here
to present it to the city of Norwich. It was
worn by the Spanish Admiral."
S" You will dine with us, of course," broke in Mr
Nelson. "Dinner will be ready in a few minutes."
"Then we can have a yarn over the old days,
John," said the Admiral, "and Jack and I can
renew our friendship."
I saw my father lay his hand upon the sailor's
shoulder, and heard him whisper, "Greatness has
not spoiled you, Horatio. I thank God that I
have such a friend, and that England has such
an Admiral."
After dinner my father related my midnight
adventure at Silversands, and the precautions
which he was compelled to take by withdrawing







AFLOAT WITH NELSON


me from the place until all fear of inquiry had
died away. The Admiral seemed to take a deep
interest in the whole of that night's proceedings,
applying to me for information, and asking such
questions as showed that the subject was occupy-
ing his entire attention.
Who is this fellow, Stephen Croucher?" he
asked.
"His is a curious story," replied my father.
"Stephen is the son of an old man now living
in my parish, who was once a University man
and a Fellow of his College. He entertained queer
notions, was lax in his morality, and took to the
bottle, finally losing his position by marrying im-
properly and much beneath him. He and his wife
came to live near Silversands, and Stephen was
their only child. Poor old Croucher sank lower
and lower under the woman's harsh rule and
sharp tongue, until he became a habitual
drunkard. About ten years ago she died. Then
matters mended a little, and the old student found
time to give young Steve a good education. He
proved a clever lad, endowed with a marvellous
gift for the acquirement of languages, and I am
told that he speaks both French and Italian per-
fectly. This acquirement caused him to be sought
out by some of our smugglers as a means of
communication with the French, and I know the
young fellow went to St Malo and became quite






SIR HORATIO NELSON


as much at home under the tricolour as under
the Union Jack. He showed a disposition to run
crooked from his earliest boyhood, taking after
his mother, and resembling his father in nothing
but his aptitude for learning. He is a good and
daring seaman, and in one particular he differs
entirely from his father-he never drinks. This
extraordinary self -restraint in a man of his
position has secured him great ascendency over
his companions; but all that is gone now, for he
will never dare to show his face in Silversands
again to his dying day, and if any of our men
fall across him there will be bad work. I pity
the old man, who clung to his unworthy son and
will miss him terribly. For my part, as parson
of the parish, I am remarkably glad that such a
young scoundrel is out of it."
"Yes, John, I don't think that men who give
information to the Excise are likely to be in much
favour at Silversands," said the Admiral, glancing
at my father with an amused twinkle in his eye;
"but come out and take a turn with me in the
garden."
They arose and went out, leaving me alone
with the old rector, who took no notice of me
whatever, being apparently occupied with his
own thoughts. He was a gentle, narrow-minded,
well-meaning country parson of the old style, and
I well remember as a child what it meant to sit







AFLOAT WITH NELSON


through one of his sermons, which commonly
occupied from sixty to eighty minutes. His figure
was frail and his health feeble, and both these
qualities he transmitted to his son; but by no other
means could the relationship in which they stood
to one another be guessed at. The sympathy,
vivacity, and genius, for which the great sailor
was remarkable, must have come to him from
his mother.
Presently the Admiral and my father returned,
and I observed a look of great satisfaction on the
face of the latter. Sir Horatio called me to him
and said abruptly, "Well, Jack, how should you
like to thrash the Dons, and take a sword such as
I showed you before dinner? Should you like it
better than going to school?"
With you, sir ?" I asked, trembling with eager-
ness. "May I go to sea with you ? Oh! I should
love it."
"John," he asked, turning to my father, "are
you prepared to spare this youngster? If you
and his mother like to trust him to me, I'll do my
best to forward his interest and to turn him out a
good sailor and a good officer, and I will see that
he does not forget the precepts he learnt under
his father's roof, as I have ever remembered those
taught me in this very room," and he looked
affectionately at the old rector as he spoke.
I now know that Sir Horatio had made this






SIR HORATIO NELSON


most generous offer to my father when he drew
him aside into the garden, but had bargained that
his friend's parental authority was not to be em-
ployed in forming my decision. I am an old man
now, and have passed through a career as chequered
and hard as falls to the lot of most sailors, yet the
memory of the moment when that brilliant offer
for protection and patronage was made to me, a
youngster of twelve years old, by the greatest
sailor the world has ever known, will never be
obliterated from my mind. The tears of joy that
sprang up into my eyes nearly blinded me, and
all speech was choked by the intensity of my
emotion. There could be no mistake as to my
wishes, and I think that the generous-hearted
Admiral was pleased at my attitude, for he con-
tinued, "That is agreed then, Jack. You shall
return with me to London, where your outfit shall
be got ready, and then you shall go down to my
flag-ship, the Vanguard, at Portsmouth. Why,
what is it now ?" he added, for he saw that I was
struggling with some request.
"Please, sir, may Will Barrett come too?" I
faltered, more than half afraid of my own audacity,
but mindful of my promise to my friend.
My father, I saw, was annoyed at my request,
but the Admiral put us at once at our ease by
laughing, "You are quite right to stick to your
chum, youngster. If your young friend's father







AFLOAT WITH NELSON


likes to send the boy to Portsmouth, he shall be
received on board, and it will depend on his own
good conduct whether he ever exchanges the
forecastle for the quarter-deck.
Sir Horatio was returning to town in three
days' time, and it was arranged that I should be
an inmate of the Rectory until his departure.
My father also accepted Mr Nelson's invitation
to remain there until the following morning, when
his duties would necessitate his return to Silver-
sands. I was permitted to stay with my elders
during the evening, and listened, open-mouthed, to
the answers given by the Admiral to my father's
questions concerning his recent exploits. As re-
gards his own personal share in the victory of
Cape St Vincent the great sailor was modestly
silent, but he described the action in terms which
even I could understand, more particularly as he
illustrated the positions of the opposing fleets,
and of the several ships, by placing fragments of
biscuit on the table; and I hold it as one of the
greatest events in my life to have been permitted
to hear the account of the fight from the lips of
the man who contributed so largely towards that
glorious victory.
"We had been cruising for some time off the
coast of Spain in the hope of falling in with the
Spanish fleet, which we knew would make an
attempt to gain Cadiz. Our force consisted of







SIR HORATIO NELSON


fifteen ships of the line-six of which were three-
deckers -with several frigates and small craft. I
flew my broad pennant on board the Captain,
with as fine a crew as ever trod a plank, and also
a small detachment of the 69th Regiment. It was
weary work waiting for the Dons, and all hands
prayed for their speedy appearance.
A thick fog hung over the sea on the morning
of the 14th February-St Valentine's Day-and
we could only tell the positions of the ships
nearest to us by the sound of their bells struck
at intervals. About ten o'clock the fog lifted,
and there, within a few leagues of us, to the
southward, lay the Spanish fleet in two divisions,
numbering twenty-seven sail of the line, most of
them far superior in size to any ships in our
fleet.
"It would have done your heart good, John,
to have heard the cheer that rose from our fellows
as they caught sight of these great lumbering
arks, rolling from side to side in the Atlantic
swell, and huddled together so confusedly that
the two divisions were almost one, and the cheers
were redoubled when, from the Victory, carrying
Sir John Jervis's flag, the signal was given to form
line ahead-that is to say, in single file, one ship
following immediately in the wake of the other,"
and he arranged a row of biscuits on the table
to make the formation clear to us.







AFLOAT WITH NELSON


"The wind was from the westward and so fair
for the Dons to run into Cadiz. Our ships fell
into line according to the position they occupied
when the signal was made, and thus it chanced
that the Captain was the last but two, whilst
the Culloden, under my dear friend Troubridge,
took the lead.
"As we bore down upon them, the Spaniards
made a clumsy attempt to form line of battle,
but with very ill effect, and the Culloden was
down upon the leading ships of their lee division
-if such it can be called-before they were any-
thing like in order. The enemy opened fire upon
Troubridge as he approached, and it seemed to
us as if he would fall on board of the nearest
Spaniard, so closely did he approach her, but
when a collision seemed inevitable he put his
helm down, and as the Culloden shot up into
the wind, she gave the Don the whole of her
double-shotted larboard broadside and then stood
to the northward. It was a pretty sight to
witness, but there are sure to be hard knocks
wherever Troubridge finds himself.
The ship following the Culloden stood on and
delivered her broadside in a similar manner. Then
the Victory signalled that the line was to tack
in succession, that is to say that each ship was
to stand on until she had reached the point where
the Culloden went about and then follow her







SIR HORATIO NELSON


example, by which means, as you will easily
understand, our line would remain unbroken.
"The Dons evidently saw Sir John's intention,
and also that this manoeuvre, if persevered in, would
afford them an opportunity of passing astern of
the last ship of our line and making a run of it
with a fair wind for Cadiz, and this they at once
attempted to do. I saw that they would slip out
of our clutches unless something was done imme-
diately to stop them; indeed, the leading Spaniards
were already on the lee quarter of the Excellent,
the last ship in our line. There was no time to
signal and ask for permission, so, acting on my
own responsibility, I wore the Captain out of the
line and headed her straight for the Spanish
Admiral's flagship, a huge four-decker carrying
one hundred and thirty-six guns, named the
Santissima Trinidad.
"Then we fell to work, hammer and tongs, and
at one time I had the fire of nine ships upon
me, but I cared nothing about what happened
to me so that I stopped their escape; and
Troubridge in the jolly old Culloden soon came
to. my assistance, for Sir John had recognized
my object and had signalled the Excellent and
other ships to support me. I can tell you, John,
that it was a brave sight to watch the way our
fellows handled their guns. The huge four-decker
towered high above the little Captain, and every







AFLOAT WITH NELSON


shot told against the ribs of the Don, which, after
a while, hoisted an English ensign in token of
surrender, but we were too busy to take posses-
sion of her.
"You must not suppose that the Captain had
come off scathless, for I had lost a great number
in killed and wounded, my masts, rigging and
running gear were cut to pieces, and the ship
had become almost unmanageable. I had been
pounding into a two-decker called the San Nicolas
and into a three-decker called the San Josef, after
we had made a good account of the Santissima
Trinidad, and observing that these two ships had
dropped alongside of each other, I thought it best
to join them as the Captain was quite unfit to
chase; so I put my helm down and my bow fell
aboard of the two-decker's quarter, the Captain's
spritsail-yard hooking into the lanyards of her
mizzen rigging, and thus we all three lay in a
heap, grinding together in the long Atlantic swell.
"Going forward to the forecastle, I gave the
order to board, and a number of our fellows and
many of the soldiers scrambled into the mizzen
chains and quarter-gallery, a feat requiring much
agility, as the ships rolled heavily and the din
below was infernal, for our main and lower deck
guns were slamming away all the time, and the
smoke was blinding. A corporal of the 69th
Regiment broke open a quarter-gallery window







SIR HORATIO NELSON


with the butt end of his musket. He was an
Irishman, and I heard him say, 'It's knocking at
your door I am, Father Nicolas. Where's your
manners, ye would Spanish haythen ?'
"I got into the cabin through the opening, and
we found the doors locked, but the soldiers beat
down the bulkheads, and we rushed on to the
quarter-deck, where several pistols were fired at
us by the Spanish officers, though I don't think
they intended to hit us. Many of our fellows
had climbed over the bulwarks on to the poop,
and one of them shot down the Spanish brigadier,
whereupon the remainder surrendered, whilst
my friend, Captain Berry, hauled down the
prize's colours, and a strong party of my men
rushed below to drive the Spanish crew under
hatches.
"Meanwhile a brisk fire of musketry was opened
upon us from the San Josef, and there was only
one way of silencing this, so I called for more
men from the Captain, and we prepared to board
the three-decker; but before we could do so, a
Spanish officer looked over the side and said
that she surrendered. Our fellows swarmed over
her side, and with the help of a dozen friendly
arms I was soon amongst them, and then it
was, whilst standing on the quarter-deck of the
second prize, that the Spanish officers gave me
their swords, which I handed to one of my







AFLOAT WITH NELSON


bargemen, William Fearney, as I received them;
and this man, who seemed to think the whole
thing an excellent joke, tucked them under his
arm like a bundle of firewood. The Spanish
Admiral was below, dying of his wounds, but
he sent his sword up to me, and that is the
weapon which your youngster, Jack, had in his
hands just now, and I saved it for presentation
to the city of Norwich. It was a novel position,
and I do not think that anyone ever before
boarded an enemy's three-decker by making use
of a captured two-decker as a bridge. It tickled
the fancy of my men immensely; indeed, they
regarded the whole day's work as a bit of
skylarking, although it was rather grim fun to
the poor fellows lying wounded in the Captain's
cockpit, and to those who lost the number of their
mess altogether."
"And you came out of it unhurt ? asked my
father.
"I received a blow on my side, but in what
manner I could never tell," said Sir Horatio.
"And with the capture of the San Josef my
personal share in the action was over. As the
other British ships passed the Captain and her
prizes, still lying in a heap, they cheered us
heartily, and I was glad of it, for my men had
done their work nobly, and deserved this recog-
nition; but it is a mistake to think that the







SIR HORATIO NELSON


Captain took the two Spaniards single-handed,
for both of them were virtually knocked out of
time when we boarded. Our chief merit lay in
stopping the escape of the bulk of the Spanish
fleet into Cadiz, and holding them in play until
the English ships could come up. As it was,
several of the disabled Dons managed to crawl
into port, amongst them the huge Santissima
Trinidad, which had struck, but in the hurry
had not been taken possession of.
"Politically, it was a great victory, for it
prevented the junction of the Spanish fleet with
the French; but although the enemy's ships were
of great size, and they were numerically superior
to us, their crews were inexperienced and the
discipline very lax."
"I understand the action perfectly now," said
my father, "and can appreciate the great share
you had in bringing it to a final issue, although
I know that you'll not allow me to pay you
compliments to your face."
"But you must hear about Teneriffe as well,
John," and a shade passed over the Admiral's face
as, unconsciously, he glanced down at his empty
sleeve. "The attempt to capture Santa Cruz,"
he said, "was a failure, but I shall always hold
that I was fully justified in making the attack.
Wind, weather, and the darkness of the night,
all combined to make our task as difficult as







AFLOAT WITH NELSON


possible. If we were unsuccessful, the enter-
prise cast no reflection on British courage. The
Dons claim it as a victory, I suppose, although
gallant Troubridge brought his men off with
all the honours of war. They gave me some-
thing to remember that night by to the last
hour of my life."
"Does the wounded arm still cause you great
pain?" asked my father, forbearing to seek
further information regarding the Santa Cruz
disaster.
"Not now," replied the Admiral. "Up to a
couple of months ago the agony was at times
excruciating, for the nerve had been tied in with
an artery, and it was feared that a second
amputation would be necessary, but the nerve
freed itself and then the pain ceased. But I
have talked quite enough about myself, John,
and it is time our young friend Jack went to
roost."
I went to bed but not to sleep, for the glamour
of the great sailor's personality had entered into
my soul, and, without being able to express it
to myself, I could understand already why both
officers and men would follow to the death such
a leader as Horatio Nelson.















CHAPTER V


H.M.S. VANGUARD

I AWOKE in the morning with a joyous feeling
at my heart, but this was soon damped when,
after breakfast, the mare and gig were brought
round to the front door to bear my father back
to Silversands. It is all very well to say that
as a matter of course the young birds must leave
the nest when they are fully feathered and pre-
pared to take care of themselves. To embrace a
career and launch forth into the ocean of life is
very fascinating in the abstract, but when it
comes to actually saying good-bye, and breaking
with all the old associations, it becomes a different
matter, more particularly for a youngster just
thirteen years of age; so when my father em-
braced me, and, in a choking voice, prayed God
to bless me and keep me firm in the duty that
I owed to my king and my country, I fell
a-sobbing as if my heart would break, and for
one moment I think I should have been glad to
creep into the gig beside the parent who had
ever been so indulgent to me and be carried back
69







AFLOAT WITH NELSON


to my mother and the Rectory I loved so well.
Even the purse containing five golden guineas
which was slipped into my hand failed to console
me, and I wandered to the garden gate from
whence I watched the retreating gig until it was
lost to sight in the distance. Then I felt a hand
on my shoulder, and the Admiral's kindly voice
said, "This is what we all of us must go through,
Jack. Don't mind your tears, my lad; no brave
man need be ashamed of shedding them when he
leaves his home and those he loves."
Three days later Sir Horatio left Burnham
Thorpe for London. I was not witness to the
leave-taking between the old rector and his son,
but when we entered the post-chaise the latter
was visibly affected, and spoke no word during
the whole of the first stage. My own grief had
already passed away, to be succeeded by a joyful
expectation of all the good things that the future
held in store for me, and the rapid motion of
the vehicle, with the new objects that met my
eye, filled me with wild excitement. Hitherto
I had never been in any conveyance more im-
posing than my father's gig, and to be whirled
over the frosty road by a pair of quick-stepping
horses, with a smart post-boy to guide them, was
in itself a delight. At each inn where we changed
horses, or stopped for refreshment, there occurred
a scene which filled me with pride. The Admiral







H.M.S. VANGUARD


had given orders that his name was not to be
made known, but the precaution was useless, for
that slight figure with the looped-up sleeve could
never be disguised. People thronged the carriage
or besieged the portals of the inn, and, when the
hero appeared, loud huzzas were raised; mothers
lifted their children aloft that they might see the
great sailor, and many a heartfelt God bless you,
sir!" arose from the crowd. The Admiral received
this spontaneous recognition of his popularity with
kindly smiles and a gentle dignity which .never
deserted him, and I think the enthusiasm of the
people gratified him, for it showed that they
appreciated the great share he bore in the victory
off Cape St Vincent which the Government and
Admiralty had only ungraciously and grudgingly
acknowledged. This, of course, I only learnt
later on, for I never heard one murmur pass the
lips of the Admiral himself, although he must
have felt deeply the slight conveyed by the
omission of his name in the despatches sent home
after the eventful 14th February. It has now
been ascertained that professional jealousy led to
this extraordinary and unwarrantable oversight.
On' reaching London, we drove straight to
Conduit Street, where Lady Nelson had secured
apartments, and was herself awaiting the arrival
of her husband. Her ladyship was pleased to
receive me very graciously, and behaved towards







AFLOAT WITH NELSON


me with a motherly kindness which quite won
my heart. She was good enough to superintend
the purchase of my outfit, and before I had
been two days in the house she had drawn
from me all the particulars of my smuggling
escapade, together with such fragments of poor
Strutwell's disjointed utterances .as I could
remember. These seemed to amuse her vastly,
and whenever she wished to make merry at my
expense she would call me "Clarinda," and bid
me come and be kissed-an offer which invariably
led to some petulant reply on my part, and an
assertion of my own dignity, which must have
been very grotesque in such a little jackanapes.
These are small things to chronicle, but it
would be sheer ingratitude on my part were I
to leave unmentioned this sweet woman who
was my protector and benefactress in those
early days, and whose affectionate friendship
has been of life-long duration.
Under her direction I was taken to see some of
the sights of London-notably St Paul's Cathe-
dral, the Royal Exchange, with its menagerie
of wild beasts, the great Monument, and the
Tower of London.
When I visited the latter place, I wore, for
the first time, my midshipman's uniform, and
my delight when the Beef-eaters and sentries
accorded me a salute may be imagined, and







H.M.S. VANGUARD


certainly served to impress the whole scene
vividly on my memory.
My outfit being completed, there was nothing
further to detain me in London, so the Admiral
procured me a passage to Portsmouth in a
Government tender which lay in the stream off
Tower Hill, and with my arrival on board
this abominable little craft my sea-life may
be said to have fairly begun.
It took the Phantom eleven days to make
the passage to Portsmouth, for she sailed very
slowly, was deeply laden, and a strong westerly
gale was blowing, which kept us at anchor in
the Downs for nearly a week. The little vessel
was crowded with supernumeraries, many of
them pressed men, who sought occasion to desert
on the first opportunity, so that the master of
the tender anchored her as far from the shore
as possible, which caused the. vessel to pitch
and roll horribly in the short, chopping sea.
The accommodation was quite insufficient for the
number of hands she had on board, and during
the whole time that I was cooped up in this
miserable little craft I never once took my
clothes off, and scarcely got a decent meal. It
was a rough experience for a youngster fresh
from the comforts of home, and rubbed much
of the gilt off the gingerbread of a sailor's life,
whilst taking the gloss out of my brand-new







AFLOAT WITH NELSON


uniform; but it had the good effect of curing
me of sea-sickness-though that malady visited
me lightly, as I was accustomed to knocking
about in our fishing-boats at Silversands.
When the Phantom ultimately reached Ports-
mouth, I placed myself and my chest in a
waterman's wherry, and ordered the man to
pull me to the Vanguard.
"Ah! she's alongside the dockyard, and her
crew are hulked on board the Centurion. I
had better take your traps there, sir."
To the old hulk we accordingly went, and
I mounted her side with some trepidation, for
it was the first time that I had ever set foot
on board a King's ship.
"Hullo, youngster! Come on board to join? "
cried a lieutenant, advancing towards me as I
stood confused and irresolute. "Well, go below
until your chest is struck down, and then go to
the Vanguard in the first boat that leaves the
hulk. You look half-starved," he added kindly;
"tell the gun-room steward to give you some
grub before you come on deck. Another nut
for the Devil to crack," I heard him say to an
officer who was standing by as I descended
the hatchway.
I found the gun-room deserted, for all hands
were on board the Vanguard; but a cabin-boy
ferreted out some cold meat and biscuit, which






H.M.S. VANGUARD


I had difficulty in swallowing, for all around
me seemed so strange and lonely. I had expected
to meet youngsters of my own age, to be ques-
tioned, perhaps to be bullied, and the desolation
of this empty place weighed heavily on my
spirits; so, having made a pretence of eating,
I went on deck where the officer to whom I
had first spoken ordered me into a boat which
was then going to the ship.
The Vanguard was lying with her larboard
side alongside the Camber, with her lower masts
and bowsprit already in, and the men were turn-
ing in the dead-eyes of the lower rigging as we
came alongside. A deafening noise struck my
ears as I stepped over the gangway, for the
caulkers were at work on the upper deck, and
the din they made with their mallets and irons
was deafening. In a timid voice I asked one
of the seamen for the first lieutenant, and was
pointed out an officer standing on the poop and
bawling out orders to a party of men on the
wharf. Picking my way through the caulkers
I mounted the poop ladder and stood beside this
gentleman for fully ten minutes before he seemed
to be aware of my presence, during the whole
of which time he was issuing orders and giving
directions in a stentorian voice, and employing a
nautical jargon quite incomprehensible to me at
that time.







AFLOAT WITH NELSON


Who are you ?" he said suddenly, looking down
at me. Oh! you are young Brandon, are you ?"
he continued, when I had meekly given my name.
"Where have you been all this time, sir? The
captain had a letter from the Admiral this morning
inquiring after you. The Service is going to the
devil when every stray youngster is to be looked
after as if he was the Archbishop of Canterbury,"
he grumbled on, but with no real unkindness in
his tone. "Foretop, there!" he shouted. "Are
you all going to sleep aloft? That starboard
after-swifter is not sitting fairly. Here, Mr
Hammond," and he called a midshipman who
was standing abaft the mizzen-mast, "this is
Mr Brandon, a new messmate for you. Take
charge of him, and see that he has a hammock
slung on board the hulk to-night. Run away
now, youngster. Main top there Do you call
yourselves tinkers or washerwomen, for I'll be
d-d if you're sailors ." and the hard-worked
officer went on with his duties without bestowing
another thought upon me. The young gentle-
man to whose care I was consigned I found to
possess two qualities which distinguished him
from any other person whom it had been my
lot to meet. Physically he was a well-made
lad about eighteen months my senior, with a
very bright, intelligent countenance, to which an
extraordinary appearance was imparted by a







H.M.S. VANGUARD


most appalling squint. When I advanced towards
him his right eye seemed fixed on the starboard
cathead, whilst his left optic took stock of the
larboard quarter-davits. In reality, he was look-
ing me full in the face, but it would be wrong
to say that I "caught his eye," for the pupils
were turned askance and only the whites pre-
sented to my gaze. The other quality was
mental. For Tommy Hammond was the proud
possessor of an imaginative faculty which rose
nearly to genius. He seemed glad to see me,
not, as I soon found out, of any predisposition
on his part towards my insignificant person, but
because my advent gave him a pretext for roam-
ing over the length and breadth of the ship, and
also because I was virgin soil upon which the
seeds of his inventive powers could be scattered
broadcast.
Having led me between decks and out of
range of the first lieutenant's watchful eye, he
proceeded to put a series of questions to me
regarding my age, members of my family, and
such-like minor details. Having satisfied his
curiosity on this score, I ventured to put a few
questions in my turn.
"Have you been long at sea?" I asked.
Long at sea!" he repeated scornfully, "I was
born at sea-was cradled on the deep, as the
poet says. My nurse was the ship's cook of the






AFLOAT WITH NELSON


Nonsuch, and my foster-mother the captain's
she-goat. I used a belaying-pin for a teething-
coral, and my infant head was pillowed on a
swab. It's no wonder that I am every inch a
sailor-the heart-yarn of a mainstay, every hair
of my head a rope-yarn, every arm a studding-
sail boom, each leg a spare top-mast-for I was
brought up on Stockholm tar."
I conceived a sudden and deep veneration for
this child of ocean, who could observe my features
and measure my credulity without my knowing
that he was looking at me.
"Have you ever been in action?" I asked
timidly.
"About forty-seven times, counting boat actions
and cutting-out expeditions. The last little affair
I was in was St Vincent, last year; people here
call it a great battle, but I didn't think much
of it."
"I heard a full account of it the other day,"
I cried eagerly. "I heard Sir Horatio describe
it to my father."
Perhaps I had some secret hope that the
mention of the great Admiral's name would raise
me in the estimation of my new friend, but this
was far from being the case.
"Oh, Nelson told you about it, did he? Then
I wouldn't mind betting that he never even
mentioned my name, never owned that he owed






H.M.S. VANGUARD


his knighthood and fame entirely to Tom
Hammond. He's an ungrateful dog, like all the
rest of them."
"What on earth do you mean?" I cried.
"Well, you've heard his garbled version of the
battle, and it is only fair that you should hear
mine, and learn how the greatest instruments
in the making of history are left entirely
unnoticed in her deceptive pages," and he drew
himself up to his full height of five feet two
inches, and endeavoured to impart a look of
unappreciated merit to his countenance.
"Let us go ashore," he said suddenly. "I can
hear the first luff on the forecastle; he won't
miss us. We'll go on to the Hard and get some
grub, and then I'll tell you the true story of the
battle of Cape St Vincent."
I was quite unaware that the proceeding
suggested by my grandiloquent companion was
a serious breach of duty, and followed him with
the utmost complacency, although it struck me
as rather curious that we should make the earlier
part of the journey by stages, dodging behind
bollards, cranes and other objects which served to
conceal our small persons; but when the sail-loft
shut the Vanguard out of view, Master Tommy
led the way with unabashed confidence, and we
passed out of the dockyard gates unquestioned.
We went to an eating-house, where my friend







AFLOAT WITH NELSON


was apparently well known, and when we had
tucked the standing part of a cold fowl under
our belts, I asked for the story.
"If there's one thing more than another that
I dislike, Brandon," said Tommy, in deprecatory
tones, "it is speaking of myself, for, as you will
have already observed, I am singularly modest
by nature. I feel that my retiring disposition
will remain my bane through life; but after all
it is a fault on the right side, for I hold vain-
glorious boasting as little less than a crime."
Having observed-by looking out of opposite
windows at the same moment-that this preamble
had sunk deeply into my soul, this modest ocean
flower continued, "I was told off to help the
signal midshipman on St Valentine's day, and
this led to my being on the poop of the Captain
during the whole of the action. My proper
station was at the after main-deck quarters, and
the meaning of the change was only known to
me-Nelson liked to have me near him in case
of an emergency arising. Jack made the signal
to form line ahead-"
"Who's Jack?" I broke in.
"Jack Jervis, of course-Lord St Vincent now
-you shouldn't interrupt, Brandon. Well, Jack
made the signal, and we obeyed it; but when I
saw that the Dons were likely to slip away in the
rear of our line, I went to the commodore, who







H.M.S. VANGUARD


was standing at the break of the poop, and seizing
an opportunity when no one could overhear us,
I said, 'Those d-d fellows will slip away under
your lee, if you don't put your helm up,
Horry.'"
"Who's Horry ?" I asked in amazement.
"You're little better than a fool, Brandon,"
said my veracious companion, in a tone of fine
contempt. "'Gad! you're right, Tommy, as you
always are,' said Nelson, glancing over the lee-
quarter where the Santissima Trinidad was
bruising through the water like an old swan
followed by a flock of geese. 'Put the helm up,
quartermaster; round in the weather-braces, Mr
Johnson. Hang asking for permission! What
Tommy Hammond says is bound to be right.
We'll bring the Dons to, Berry, and remember,
if I fall, that His Majesty knows that I acted
by the advice of my gallant young friend, Mr
Hammond here.'
"Berry, who was a volunteer on board the
Captain, looked at me with an angry frown,
which, luckily for him, Horry didn't see, or he
would have put him under arrest on the spot.
That fellow was always jealous of me, and so are
many others whom I could name, for the matter of
that, but I forgive them all-good wine needs
no bush," and Mr Hammond's expressive features
assumed an aspect of mingled magnanimity and
F






AFLOAT WITH NELSON


generosity. "I'll be bound Horry-Nelson, I mean
-didn't tell your father this, Brandon."
"No, he certainly did not," I replied.
"It is sad to see a great nature warped by
professional jealousy. Nelson means well, but he
is human, like the rest of them. I'll undertake
to say that he didn't tell you about the Spanish
Admiral's sword, either."
"No, but he showed it to me," I cried eagerly.
"And he hadn't even the grace to say how it
came into his possession," soliloquised Tommy,
in accents of pitying resignation. You'll not
find it in the despatches, Brandon, but I was the
first man on board the San Josef, and she sur-
rendered to me before a living soul from the
Captain put his foot over her side. I got through
one of her main-deck ports and went aft to the
cabin where the Spanish Admiral lay dying, sur-
rounded by a group of his officers. I advanced
with a pistol in each hand, and the circle round
the wounded officer made way for me. 'Brave
men honour those who follow the path of duty
and die for their king and their country,' I said
in purest Castilian."
Do you speak Spanish ? I asked in astonish-
ment, but he put the question aside with a majestic
wave of his hand and continued,-
"'Caballero, your last moments shall be undis-
turbed by me, but I must ask for your sword.'







H.M.S. VANGUARD


"The dying man gave me a look of unutterable
gratitude, which will haunt me through life, and
his captain, picking up the sword which lay
beside the wounded Admiral, presented the hilt
to me with a low bow and expressions of joy
that this unsullied weapon had fallen into the
hands of so noble a cavalier-truth compels me
to tell you the exact words, Brandon.
"I bowed gracefully, and leaving the grief-
stricken group, ascended to the quarter-deck
where Nelson was receiving the swords of the
other officers. I handed the Admiral's weapon to
Fearney, and silently withdrew. Nelson alone
knew of the deed that I had performed, and the
consciousness of my own merit will remain my
sole reward. By Jove! there's seven bells strik-
ing. We must get back to the ship or we shall
be missed."
*We skirmished from bollard to crane in the
same stealthy fashion as before, but without our
previous luck, for the quick eye of the first
lieutenant lighted upon us and his stern voice
rang out, "Come here, young gentlemen!"
"Where have you been?" he asked sharply
when we stood before him.
"We went to the Hard, sir, to get something
to eat," answered Hammond, truthfully and
simply.
"Then you had no business to do so without







AFLOAT WITH NELSON


asking my leave. I put this youngster under
your charge, and the first thing you do is to lead
him astray. Now mount the main-bitts and
stand there till they knock off work."
The unknown hero of Cape St Vincent and the
bosom friend of "Jack" and "Horry" departed
ruefully to take up the position assigned to
him, and as I saw the bluejackets turning their
quids and laughing in their sleeves, I could not
help reflecting the base uses to which some of
us are put from men of coarser mould failing
to appreciate our real greatness.
At sunset work ceased for the day, and the
ship's company returned to the hulk for the night.
During the evening the gun-room presented a
much less chilling aspect than on my previous
visit, for the whole of my future messmates
were there, and a babel of tongues arose from
all hands. Some of my companions were then
between thirty and forty years of age-old
masters' mates who, from want of interest at
headquarters, had been passed over and neglected
until they had grown grey-headed in an un-
grateful Service. These ill-used officers were
excellent seamen, and as their conversation was
almost entirely on nautical matters, we youngsters
were enabled to gain much professional knowledge
from listening to their yarns and arguments;
but it must be confessed that these scurvily-







H.M.S. VANGUARD


treated old sea-dogs were inveterate grumblers;
nor was it to be wondered at, for the neglect
they had undergone would have jaundiced the
temper of an archangel. Bred to the sea, they
were only happy afloat, and useless for any
employment ashore. Sometimes, when paid off,
they took a trip in a merchantman, but almost
invariably drifted back into the gun-room of a
King's ship in the hope that "a bloody war and
a sickly season" would give them their lieu-
tenant's epaulette.
I was the youngest in the mess, and my brother
midshipmen ranged from thirteen to nineteen
years of age. They were a fine, dashing set of
young men, for the flower of the navy sought
service under Admiral Nelson.
Tea was over, and most of my messmates
were seated round the long table which occupied
the greater portion of the gun-room. Half-a-
dozen tallow candles, in battered old tin candle-
sticks, gave a dim light to the cabin, and showed
the party split up into groups, the senior members
of which were each furnished with a glass of
rum and water.
I was too strange to attach myself to any
particular section, but, after a time, observing
that Tommy Hammond had gathered round him
a select party of the younger midshipmen, to whom
he was holding forth in flowery rhetoric, I drew







AFLOAT WITH NELSON


near, feeling that I had found a friend, but halted
on discovering that I, myself, was the text for
this voluble youth's oration.
"We shall have all Norfolk on board the Van-
guard soon," cried Tommy, unconscious or careless
of my proximity. "Here's another parson's son
come to cut the fat. He's a townyy' of Nelson's
There's been the devil to pay because the tender
was a fortnight at sea with His Excellency on
board. Seven special messengers were sent down
by the Admiralty, and the semaphores kept going
all along the south coast. If the Phantom hadn't
turned up this morning the Channel fleet was to
have gone to sea to-morrow at daylight in search
of her. Directly he reported himself, the first luff
sent me up to the Admiral's office with the joyful
tidings of his safe arrival, and from the top of the
Observatory I could see the mounted messenger
galloping up Portsdown Hill carrying the news to
London. I was told to get his hammock ready for
him, but it's no business of mine to day-nurse a
Yarmouth bloater. Horry can come and tuck him
up himself, and so I shall tell him directly I see
him. He ought to be down here now attending
to his duty, but he is detained in London whilst
the gun factory of Woolwich Arsenal is manu-
facturing a copper warming-pan to warm young
Brandon's hammock with. If Nelson can't bring it
himself, it's to be sent here by express waggon with
































































THE FIGHT ON BOARD THIE VANGUARD.






Page 87.







H.M.S. VANGUARD


a party of soldiers from the Tower to guard it.
His mother and his dear little sister Emily made
Nelson promise that his sheets should be well
aired and-"
"You're a liar!" I broke in, for I am hot-
tempered, and the mention of my sister's name
made me reckless. "You're a liar, now, and I
believe you've been lying to me all day."
I think Tommy was a little taken aback at
this interruption, but immediately replied by
throwing the contents of his glass of grog full
in my face, as a vindication of his dignity.
I struck him on the mouth with all my force,
and then we closed, rolling on the deck and pom-
melling at each other's heads savagely.
"Get up, you young rascals!" cried an old
master's mate, bending down and dragging us
apart. "Don't pinch and scratch like women;
stand up and have it out fairly. Here, young
Shiver-the-mizzen," he cried,. pulling me towards
him, "I'll give you my knee, and if you don't
give Tom Pepper a thrashing, I'm a Dutchman.
Strip to your waist, lad. Now, a ring and fair
play."
At it we went with tolerable coolness at first,
but fighting more wildly as our tempers rose and
the blood began to flow, but I was no match for
Tommy Hammond, who was eighteen months
older and had considerably longer reach of arm




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