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THE CHIMNEY CORNER., 8 April 1880
THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
MUTINY ON BOARD. The captain going below shortly afterwards, came quickly on deck again, and with consternation plainly visible in every feature, whispered to me—- “ The revolver is gone—they have stolen it. We shall have more trouble tonight. What are we to do now ?” “You are right,” 1 replied, “we have not done with these rascals yet ; and it seems that they have the power in their own hands now, that mustn’t be. Quick ! get me pens, ink, and paper. ” These were soon brought, and I wrote the following letter : Ship , oft' tile Sow and Pigs Reef. Send the Pinnance immediately, with a dozen marines, with their arms and ball cartridge. Let the boat’s crew have their side-arms, revolvers, and ammunition ; send mine as well. There is mutiny on hoard—expect an outbreak every moment. We must take them by surprise, therefore see the oars well muffled. The boat is to approych the ship’s stern, keeping her three r lasts in one, so as to be as much out of sight as possible. The officer of the boat is to enforce strict silence on nearing the vessel. Lose no time in carrying out these instructions.
Having signed this, and addressed it to “ The Commanding Officer H.M. S. Herald,” the next consideration was as to the means of sending it; there -was the difficulty. Our only chance was a passing boat. We watched anxiously for some time and at length we heard a very merry pleasure party, singing as they pulled hack after a day’s sca-tishiug. To my shout of “Boat, ahoy !” nothing but the echoing rocks and hills answered. Just as we were losing hope, and the boat was passing away, I gave a louder hail, and I knew that I was heard, for tln-.y stopped singing, and the monotonous splash of their oars ceased. Then there came a lazy “ Hul-10-ah!” across the water.
“ Give me a passage on shore,” I sung out at the top of my voice. They seemed for some time to debate whether they should or not, but presently a hail of ‘ ‘All right” was returned, and they pulled in the direction of the ship. As they came alongside I stepped over the gangway into the boat, and was glad to find that the boatman was well known lo me as a man I could trust. I slipped the letter into his hands, and told him in a whisper to take it with all haste, as there was a mutiny on board, and that that was all I wanted.
By this time the crew were leaning over the buhvarks watching us, as well as they could in the uncertain starlight. The old boatman saw at once the position of affairs, and with consumate address said in a bullying tone, “ Oh, it’s you, is it I 1 knows you ! I don’t have no navy gentlemen in my boat though ; so I guess you can go back aboard, just as quick as you like ! I won’t give ’eo a passage ashore, so I tell ’ee, Mr. Quarterdeck Jack !”
This was received by the men with roars of laughter, and 1 pretended to remonstrate with the clever old salt, who only continued, “There, don’t I tell ’ee it’s no use a-argyfyiug, for I won’t take ’ee ashore. Mutiny aboard, says yon 1 why you mcn-o’-war folks calls everything mutiny, you does , and if there is mutiny aboard, why you’d better stop and see it out. Come now, just get out o’ my boat, for liwon’t take ’ee ashore—my colonial oath I won’t.” Again the crew of the merchantman shouted with delight, and greeted me with derisive laughter as, with apparent reluctance, 1 returned, to all appearances baffled. Thinking that those laugh best who laugh the longest, I rejoined my friend on the poop. The ruse hadsuceeded admirably; none of the men for a moment divined my real object in calling the boat alongside, nor suspected that I had so well achieved my purpose. So far the best had been done, but no assistance could reach us under two hours at the least. It was an anxious time. The men were gathered together about the forecastle talking with a savage earnestness ; they showed no disposition to turn in peacefully, but on the other hand seemed to be only consulting as to their next course of action. Thus a long tedious hour passed away. To keep them quiet for another hour the captain, by my advice, threw them a sop in the shape of some bottles of rum, which they received with ironical cheers. This was a desperate expedient, for although it had the effect of making them for the time more contented, there was no doubt hut that in the end the spirit would only make them more potvaliant and mutinous. However, we trusted that before then the pinance would have come to our assistance.
Anxiously we sat at the stern-port, intently listening for the sound of the muffled oars. It was quite dark, nothing could be seen or heard but the drunken brawling of the crew on deck. By degrees they became noisier and noisier, their conversation principally turning on that infernal naval 1 sutenant. as they were pleased to design ite me, and what they intended to do with him. Some suggested “ keel-hauling” him ; others a dose of his favorite cat-o’-nine tails ; whilst many advised making a target of him for a little practice with that revolver which had previously so cowed them all. Again, many thought that he would look well whilst dancing on nothing wliilst hanging from the foreyard-arm—-that is to say, if one could judge from the roars of laughter that this provoked. All this was not particularly pleasant for the individual in question, so that we wei'e not sorry when we heard the welcome plashplash, plash-plash of the pinnace’s oars. A few minutes sufficed for her to pull s lent’y up under the stern, a few more saw the men safely entconsed in the after state-cabins, to which they gained access by means of ropes lowered out of the stern-ports. And they arrived none too soon, for the captain and I had hardly seated ourselves at our old places in the saloon, when the same unruly mob burst in as before. In answer to the captain, they said that they did not mean to harm him, and all they wanted was that man-o’-war officer, and without him they would not leave the saloon.
To.which the captain replied with un wonted firmness —
“This gentleman is a guest of mine, and I must first know what you want with him.”
The boatswain then, as spokesman for the rest, said, “Waal, we don’t ’zactly know yet what we do want with him, but you can bet your jolly oath that we’ll make it pretty lively for him when we do get hold on him.”
Here there wei’c shouts of “Ay, that we will“ Hang the beggar;” “Stick him up and shoot him“ Feed the sharks with him,” and numerous other playful suggestions of a like nature. “ In that case.” said the captain, “not a man of you shall lay a finger on him, so you’d better clear out of this at once. ” “ Avast there a bit,” replied the boatswain, “not so fast, my hero, not so fast. That man taught me a lesson just now, and I’ll just larn it to you now.” At these, word? he produced the very same revolver, and with a malicious grin, he took a deliberate aim at the captain’s head, at the same time saying, “How, my -fine feller, if you don’t change your mind, in three minutes I’ll blow your brains first’, and his’n arterwards. Them’s the right words, arn’t they mates? I thought I’d Tamed the lesson pretty well I aint got
a watch, I know, but I can guess three minutes ncas enough. But I’ll tell ye what I have got, and that is a'pistol as is loaded this time, there’s no gammon about it.”
Tliis speech of the boatswain’s was evidently considered cxtremly facetious, for the men roared again and again with drunken laughter, and they chuckled with a fiendish glee over the game that they thought they now had entirely in their own hands.
“ So then,” said I, “ you rascals won’t leave the saloon when your captain orders you to. I see that I shall again have to make you.” This produced cries of “You make us,” and howls of derision. “ Stop a moment,” I continued , “you want me, do you ? Well then, here I am, and as much more of the same sort as you like.” At these words I opened the doors of the state-cabins, and giving the orders, “ Ready, present,” a dozen rifles were levelled at the head of the braggart boatswain. With a cry of baffled rage and amazement, he dropped the pistol from his grasp and begged for mercy. The rest ran like a flock of frightened sheep. The ringleaders and those who had been the most troublesome were soon secured and placed in irons. The next day saw them safely lodged in Sydney Gaol, where they remained for periods of from two to ten years. The captain of the merchantman was more fortunate with his next crew, and made a good run to England. (oonluded.)
THE CHIMNEY CORNER., 8 April 1880
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