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THE DOG WATCHES ON THE BRITISH MAN-O'-WAR.

a (By BARTIMENS.) The corporal of the watch steps to the bell and jerka tlie lanyard that hanga from the clapper; eight belle of the afternoon watch, and as the last reverberating stroke dies away the row of buglers breaths and " evening quarters sounds along the busy decks. Ahead of the weather line a red flag creeps to the flagship's foremasthead, and from ship to ship the sirefts wail the fleet numbers. Before each division mustered in the battery stands a midshipman, notebook ra hand, mustering the men by name. It is evidently a familiar duty, for he is doing it by memory, rarely glancing at the list of names ho holds. The sixtieth name is called in a clear, boyish tenor, the midshipman shuts his book with a triumphant snap, salutes the Lieutenant of the division, and reports " All present, sir!" The Lieutenant walks quickly round the ranks, running his eye over each man as he passes, and hurries forward to the fore shelter-deck, where the Commander stands. "Third division: correct, slrl" Simultaneously the officers of the forecastle, foretop, 'and marine divisions arrive, make their reports, and swing down the ladder again to their divisions. The Commander turns to a midshipman behind him. " Who am I waiting for t n 'j ... " Fourth division, sir '• ! •""' * ' "Tell him I'm'waiting." . The boy darts aft, heller-skelter down the steel ladder, and along the battery; he is - the Commander's " Doggie " a, stormy petrel. At the battery door he meets the Lieutenant of the fourth divilion. "Please, sir, Commander's waiting," he pants. Presently the Commander ascends to the forebridge, where the Captain stands with dividers and ruler leaning over the chart. " Quarters correct, sir." Prom the flagship's bridge a hoist of flags flutters towards the masthead. "Hands scrub and wash clothes, sir," calls a yeoman of signals, his glass steadied against the bridge rail. The bugles sound "Disperae," and the divisions turn forward, step outward, and the orderly ranks melt into a confused throng of men. The officer of the afternoon watch " turns over " to his relief, descends tho ladder and walks aft, The quarterdeck is deserted, and through the wardroom skylight comes the chink of tea-cups and the hum of cheerful voices. Presently a flannel-clad figure appears up the hatchway ; he stands whistling a little tune for a minute, and then gravely balances himself upon his hands. He is joined by two more youngster* clad in flannel trousers and sweaters, and in an instant the three are tearing pell-mell round the deck in an indiscriminate game of "Touch last"; this is the one period of tbe day when skylarking on the quarterdeck is permitted, and in a few minutes a dozen laughing figures are panting and scuffling round tbe barbette. " What about Prisoner's Base T " says some one, and pandemonium reigns supreme. You might not recognise in the athletic, ruddy-faced man tearing past Jin shouting pursuit the stern officer who, I with a row of laurel-leaves adorning his cap-peak, had an hour tieforc reported "Quarters correct!" His grey-haired quarry will never see his : fortieth-summer again, and as you watch him clear the capstan in one clean bound, and subside laughing'and panting on to the bollards you forget the three rings of lace that will encircle his mess jacket cuff at dinner. " Oh, Lord," he gasps, " I'm too old for these pranks ! " and anon he is off again, hot on the trail of a nimble footed midshipman—aye, and catches him, too, by vaulting a five-foot armoured covering to the skylight. To a stranger there may bo something irresponsible and even puerile in the amusements of This breathless, laughing crowd of boy-men. He has learned, perhaps, to regard " Prisoner's Base " and "Touch-last," as the pastimes of schoolboys—as indeed they are. But these pupils in life's sternest school (lest the iron, amidst which they have their being, enter also into their soul) return in leisure moments to the games of boyhood, ere the silver cord of youth be loosed, and the years draw nigh wherein they shall have no pleasure. One by one the players drop out exhausted and throw themselves on the glacce of the barbette to rest; then two youngsters slip on the gloves, and stand facing each other in the glare of the sunset sky. " Time," says somebody, and there is silence, broken only by the patter of agile feet, the thud of the gloves, and the sound of the quick breathing. With infinite good humour they circle round, each lean, set face relaxing into a boyish smile as a clever feint succeeds, hitting with all the strength of their clean young bodies and the science learned in "Britannia" days. And, watching the determined lines of mouth and jaw and the unflinching eyes as the gloved fist goes home, you may learn in some measure what manner of men are these that go down to the aea in ships. Beyond the screen doors the smell o! soadsuds mingles in the batteries with the wreaths of tobacco smoke. With trousers rolled up and discarded jumpers, the bluejackets are seated round the tubs and kettles scrubbing their clothes. The " raggies" work together, yarning over the tubs as they souse and rinse each article to a regulation whiteness —which, my'brethren is "the whiteness of whito samite! Later they are "stopped" to long clothes-lines and triced up above the forecastle to dry. In tlie wardroom a few figures are lounging in thO' padded armchairs with pipes and novels. One of them is the Lieutenant of the aftcrnoonwatch, who, having paced the bridge for four consecutive hour 3is refreshing himself with a short nap before dinner, mindful that he will be on watch again at midnight. Next, to him sits an officer with his arm in a sling and one bandaged leg supported on a chair. Life in a modern man-of-war, even in peace time, is not without its peculiar jeopardies; he leans back, smiling faintly, as the sounds of "skylarking" come through the skylight. If thnt six-inch wire hadn't taken charge the other day. ... He aims a book ! at the sleeping Lieutenant. "Wake up, you lazy beggar, and cut for a gin and bitters." • On tlie quarterdeck the boxing is over, and two combatants in mask and jerkins cross -sabres for a bout before the light fails. A sinewy physical training in- j strucior is giving wrestling lessons on a largo mat near the hatchway, and further aft a lithe figure is swinging Indian j clubs. Suddenly tho "Dress" bugle I sounds from below, and there is a stampede to cabin and chest; the pungent smell of "Elliman's" pervades the steer-age-flat, and from tho bathrooms como the sound of splashing and chatter of voices. Once more the notes of the bugle ring out above the wail of the violins, as the band commences tuning Its. '__~.

" Officers' wives eat puddings and pies," chants the Stormy Petrel, to the notes of the bugle-call, iadjusting his tie in the small mirror that hangs .iij the lid of his chest. A passing messmate pauses on his way to the . gun-room. . ' " Smack it about., ..my. !bo_> it!£ duff night!" •-**;•*.- ■ "•'/ '-*-"ij- * The Stormy Petrel slaSns; '.i.ii. cheat lid, and presently,'seated.with a score of his wields knife and fork in a manner worthy of the >tnrtled consideration of gods and men.

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THE DOG WATCHES ON THE BRITISH MAN-O'-WAR. Auckland Star, Volume XL, Issue 68, 20 March 1909

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