Page images

Groggs. How Ashmore came to ask him on board I scarcely know. It could scarcely have been for his companionable qualities, nor for his general knowledge and information, for I have seldom met a more simple-minded creature; one who had seen less of the world, or knew less of its wicked ways. It was his first trip to sea, and he afforded us no little amusement, by his surprise at everything he beheld and everything which occurred. He had a tolerably strong inside; so, as we had fine weather, he, fortunately for us and for himself, was seldom sea-sick. Our friend Groggs was a native of an inland county, from which he had never before stirred, when, having come into some little property, he was seized with a strong desire to see the world. He had been reading some book or other which had given him most extraordinary principles; and one of his ideas was, that people should marry others of a different nation, as the nearest way of rapidly bringing about the Millenium. He informed us that he should early put his principles into practice, and that, should he find some damsel to suit his taste in France, he should, without fail, wed her. We bantered him unmercifully on the subject; but, as is the case with many other people with one idea, that was not easily knocked out of his head.

Ashmore, having fallen in with him on a visit to his part of the country, invited him, should he ever come to the sea-side, to visit the Ripple. By a wonderful chance, Groggs did find his way on board the yacht, as she one day had gone up to Southampton, and once on board, finding himself very comfortable, he exhibited no inclination to leave her. He therein showed his taste; and Ashmore, though at first he would have dispensed with his company, at last got accustomed to him, and would have been almost sorry to part with him.

So much for Groggs. Of myself, the last of the quartette, it becomes me not to speak; so the world must remain in ignorance of what manner of man I am.

We lay at anchor off Cowes-that place far-famed for yachts and yachting adventures. Several other vessels lay there also, mostly schooners a rig which has lately much come into fashion.

I began the chapter with a question; it has not yet been answered. "What shall we do next?" said Porpoise, repeating Ashmore's question; "why, I vote we go on deck and smoke a cigar.'

[ocr errors]

We had not time to execute the important proposal, before the steward put his head into the cabin, and announced a boat alongside.

"Who is it?" asked Ashmore.

"Mr. O'Wiggins, of the Popple schooner, sir," answered the steward. "She brought up while you were at dinner, sir.'

"Oh, ask him down below," said our host, throwing himself back in his chair with a resigned look, which said, more than words, "What a bore!"

Before the steward could reach the deck, O'Wiggins was heard descending the companion-ladder. He was a tall, broadly-built man, with a strongly-marked Hibernian countenance. Ashmore did not think it necessary to rise to receive his guest, but O'Wiggins, no way disconcerted, threw himself into a vacant chair.

"Ah, Ashmore, my boy! faith, I'm glad to find any one I know in this dull place," he exclaimed, stretching out his legs, and glancing

round at the rest of us, as he helped himself from a decanter towards which Ashmore pointed.

"We are not likely to be here long, but we are undecided what next to do," returned Ashmore.

"Och, then, I'll tell you what to do, my boy," said O'Wiggins. "Just look in at the regattas to the westward, and then run over to Cherbourg. I've just come across from there, and all the world of France is talking of the grand naval review they are to have of a fleet, in comparison to which that of perfidious Albion is as a collection of Newcastle colliers. There'll be rare fun of one sort or another, depend on it; and, for my part, I wouldn't miss it on any account. What say your friends to the idea? I haven't had the pleasure of meeting them before, I think?"

"I beg your pardon," said Ashmore, "I forgot to introduce them." And he did so in due form; at which O'Wiggins seemed mightily pleased, and directly afterwards began addressing us familiarly by our patronimics, as if we were old friends. In fact, in a wonderfully short space of time he made himself perfectly at home. The proposal of the Cherbourg expedition pleased us all; and it was finally agreed that we would go there. We could not help being amused with Ŏ’Wiggins, in spite of the cool impudence of his manner. He told some capital stories, in which he always played a prominent part; and though we might have found some difficulty in believing them, they were not on that account the less entertaining. Meantime coffee and cigars made their appearance. O'Wiggins showed a determination to smoke below, and Ashmore could not insist on his going on deck; so we sat and sat on; Porpoise enjoying the fun, and Groggs listening with open eyes at all the wonders narrated by our Irish visitor, for whom he had evidently conceived a vast amount of admiration. At a late hour O'Wiggins looked at his watch, and finding that his boat was alongside, he at length took his departure.


The Ripple sails-Plymouth Sound-England's Bulwarks-The Albion-The Regatta-Jack Mizzen and the Fun-Her Fair Crew-Naval Heroes and Nautical Heroines.

WE were present at most of the regattas to the westward, but as they differed but little from their predecessors for many years past, I need not describe them. No place equals Plymouth for a regatta, either on account of the beauty of the surrounding scenery, or in affording a good view of the course from the shore. By-the-by, it was some little satisfac tion to look at the two new forts run up on either side of the entrance to the harbour, as well as at the one with tremendously heavy metal between the citadel and Devonport, not to speak of the screw guard-ships, which may steam out and take up a position wherever required. I can never forget the superb appearance of that mammoth of two-deckers, the Albion, with her ninety guns and a tonnage greater than most threedeckers. It is said that she could not fight her lower-deck guns in a heavy sea; but one is so accustomed to hear the ignorant or unjust

abuse, and the falsehood levied at her talented builder, that one may be excused from crediting such an assertion. She is acknowledged to be fast; and, from looking at her, I should say that she has all the qualifications of a fighting ship, and a great power of stowage. What more can be required? If she is not perfect, it is what must be said of all human fabrics. If Sir William Symonds had never done more than get rid of those sea-coffins, the ten-gun brigs, and introduce a class of small craft superior to any before known in the service, the navy would have cause to be deeply indebted to him. He has enemies; but in the service I have generally found officers willing and anxious to acknowledge his merits.

There is no little satisfaction in cruising about Plymouth Sound. I suspect that now our neighbours would not be so ready to attempt to surprise the place and to burn its arsenal, as they one fine night thought of doing some few years back. People in general are so accustomed to believe our sacred coasts impregnable, that they could not comprehend that such an enterprise was possible. Yet I can assure my readers that not only was it possible, practicable, in contemplation, and that every preparation was made, but that we were perfectly helpless, and that they would indubitably have succeeded in doing all they intended. Neither Plymouth nor Portsmouth were half fortified; and such fortifications as existed were not half garrisoned, while we could not have collected a fleet sufficient to have defended either one or the other. Providentially the differences were adjusted in time, and the French had not the excuse of inflicting that long-enduring vengeance which they have a not unnatural desire to gratify. When they have thrashed us once, and not till then, shall we be cordial friends; and, though electric wires and railroads keep up a constant communication, may that day be long distant! We had brought up just inside Drake's Island, which, as all who know Plymouth are aware, is at the entrance of Hamoaze. We were just getting under weigh, and were all on deck, when a cutter yacht passed us, standing out of the harbour. Our glasses were levelled at her to see who she carried, for bonnet-ribbons and shawls were fluttering in the breeze.

"What cutter is that?" asked Porpoise. “There's a remarkably pretty girl on board of her."

"That must be-yes, I'm certain of it-that must be the Fun; and, by Jove, there's jolly Tom Mizzen himself at the helm!" ejaculated Ashmore, with for him unusual animation.

He waved his cap as the rest of us did, for Porpoise and I knew Mizzen. Mizzen waved his in return, and shouted out:

"Come and take a cruise with us. We'll expect you on board to lunch."

"Ay, ay!" shouted Ashmore, for there was no time for a longer answer before the yacht shot by us.

We had soon sail made on the Ripple, and were standing after the Fun towards the westernmost and broadest entrance to the Sound. It was a lovely day, without a cloud in the sky, and a fine steady breeze; such a day as, from its rarity, one knows how to value in England. Yachts of all sizes and many rigs were cruising about in the Sound. Largest of all was the Brilliant, a three-masted square topsail schooner, of nearly 400 tons, belonging to Mr. Ackers, the highly esteemed Com

modore of the Royal Victoria Yacht Club; and as for the smallest, there were some with the burgee of a club flying of scarcely ten tons. We, meantime, were standing after the Fun. Her owner, Tom Mizzen, had once been in the navy; but before he had risen above the exalted rank of a midshipman he had come into a moderate independence, which enabled him to keep a yacht and a hunter, and not being of an aspiring disposition, he had quitted the service, with the intention of living on shore and enjoying himself. He, after a few years, however, got tired of doing nothing, so he got a yacht and went afloat, and, as he used to say,

"Fool that I am, I have to pay for sailing about in a small craft, not knowing where to go or what to do; when, if I had stuck to the service, I might have got paid for sailing in a large ship, and have been told where to go and what to do. Never leave a profession in a huff; you'll repent it once, and that will be to the end of your days, if you do."

Such was Tom Mizzen. He was a jolly, good-natured fellow. He sang a good song, told a good story, and everybody liked him. He had seven ladies on board, two of whom we judged to be chaperons'; the other five were young, and if not pretty, were full of smiles and laughter. The Fun was much smaller than the Ripple, so we easily kept way with her, and ran round the Eddystone and hove to, while the racing vessels came round also. We four bachelors then went on board the Fun, and were welcomed not only by her owner, but by the many bright eyes she contained. There were already four or five gentlemen on board, but they had not done much to make themselves agreeable, so nearly all the work had fallen on Mizzen. We gladly came to his assistance; poor Groggs, also, afforded them much amusement, but it was at his own expense (not the first person in a like position), unknown to himself. They were all talking about Cherbourg, and had insisted on Mizzen's taking them over there. He, of course, was delighted. The main-cabin was to be devoted to them. Fortunately, however, one chaperon and two damsels could not go, so the rest might continue to rough it for a few nights. We had a large luncheon and much small talk. I mustn't describe the ladies, lest they should be offended. If I was to say that one of the chaperons was fat, and another tall, all the fat and tall elderly ladies on the water that day would consider I intended to represent them. However, there can be no risk in saying that the eldest dame was Mrs. Mizzen, an aunt of the owner of the Fun, and chaperon-general to the party. The very pretty girl was Laura Mizzen, her daughter, and the other married lady was Mrs. Rullock, wife of Commander Rullock, R.N., and who had also two unmarried daughters under her wing. Of the other young ladies, one was Fanny Farlie, a rival in beauty, certainly, of Laura Mizzen-it was difficult to say which was the prettiest-and another was her cousin, Susan Simms, who read novels, played on the piano, was devoted to the polka, and kept tame rabbits. It was perceptible to us, before we had been long on board, that Mizzen affected Fanny, while Miss Mizzen at once, with some effect, set her cap at Ashmore. She did not intend to do so, but she could not help it. She was not thinking of his fortune nor of his position, nor did she wish to become mistress of the Ripple. Of the gentlemen, one was in the Marines, Lieutenant Pipes, an old messmate of Mizzen's, and Mr. Simon Simms, the brother of Susan, who had an office in the dockyard, smoked cigars, and was very nautical in

his propensities. There was a fat old gentlemen and a thin Major Clay, of a foot regiment; but I have not space to describe all the party. They will re-appear in their proper places. We ate and drank, and were very merry, and sailed about all day, most of us hoping to meet again at Cherbourg.


Yacht Squadrons on a Cruise-O'Wiggins's Popple-Arrival in Cherbourg-The Peace Congress and the French Channel Fleet-Reflections and Suggestions to Presidents Cobden and Burritt.


A CROWD of yachts might have been seen one fine morning becalmed outside the Needles. We were among them. We had sailed from Cowes the previous evening, but had been unable to get further, from the light: winds and calms which had prevailed. At last a breeze from the northward sprung up, and we went gaily along. It was a beautiful sight, and no one could fail to be in good spirits as we spoke the various vessels on board which we had acquaintance. The Popple was among them, but having started first, was ahead till we came up with her, much to her owner's disgust. O'Wiggins entertained the idea. (very common not only to yachtsmen, but to masters of vessels and seamen in general, and a very happy one it is) that his vessel was the fastest, the most beautiful, and the best sea-boat going. “Ah, Ashmore,, old fellow, how are you?" he hailed. "You've brought a nice breeze with you. up We haven't had a breath of it till this minute; we shall now stand on in company." As he spoke,, we observed his master trimming sails with the greatest care, for he saw that we were already shooting past him at a great rate. We laughed, for we knew that the Popple was a regular slow coach, as slow as she was ugly. She had once, I believe, been a cutter of the old build, with a high bow, and she was then lengthened, and had a new stern stuck on to her, and was rigged as a schooner. As a cutter she had been considered fast, but her new canvas was too much for her, and she could not manage to wag with it. Her copper was painted of a bright red, and she had altogether a very peculiar and unmistakable appearance. We saw O'Wiggins walking his deck with very impatient gestures as we shot past him. He could not make it out; something must be the matter with the Popple; she was out of trim; it was the master's fault, but what was wrong was more than he could discover. His philosophy, if he had any, was sorely tried as yacht after yacht passed him, and more than all, when every one on board laughed at him. The fact was, that poor O'Wiggins had done so many things to make himself ridiculous, that every one considered him a fair subject to exercise their merriment on. It was night before we made the lights on the French coast. First the Barfleur lights and Cape La Hogue to the south were seen, then those of Pilee, and Querqueville, and lastly the breakwater and harbour lights, and we soon after ran in by the south entrance, and anchored among the crowd of vessels of all sizes already in the harbour. One by one the yachts came, and last, though not least, the Popple appeared, and brought up near us. O'Wiggins instantly came on board to explain why the Popple had not got in first, but all we could make out was, that she had not sailed as fast as she could because she had not. We did not go on shore that night.

« PreviousContinue »