« PredošláPokračovať »
CHAP. II. Mizendeck joins his God-father, Admiral Sternpost - Is well sea
soned in Fighting-Promoted — Atrocities committed by BonypartThreatened Siege of Gibraltar-Judicious preparations made by the Governor-Siege, Defence, and Preservation of the Place-Destruction of the Enemy-Peace between England and France.
“I soon found a hoy that was going to land some passengers in the Adriatic, so off I went. We had not been many weeks at sea, when, in lat. 205° 15' N.N.W., what should we meet but an immense hundredgun frigate coming our way. Conceive my joy upon reading on her stern the words ' Pride of Putney ! We fired a gun to bring her to; she instantly ran foul of us, and I jumped on board. I shall not attempt to describe the pleasure of Lord Sternpost and myself at this unexpected meeting. He was perfectly extasie’d (as your father would say) at the news I told him, for fighting was his delight: but when he had read his instructions from the Admiralty, contained in the little threecornered note, he danced about the quarter-deck for very joy. Those instructions were brief but precise: they were simply
• Go it, STERNY!' "Now I know exactly what to be at,' cried Lord Sternpost, rubbing his hands. And I must do my noble god-father the justice to say," continued Lord Mizendeck, “ that he obeyed his orders to the very letter ; for, from that moment forward, he attacked everything that fell in our way, friend or foe. We were not sailing in the Pacific ocean, that I can
Scarcely a day passed that we did not draw a prize; but we were sadly perplexed by the want of a ship of the line to tow them home. I need scarcely say that, constantly fighting as we did, immense numbers of our crew were killed, so that we were almost weary of the melancholy task of manning the shrouds. Indeed, Sternpost himself declared that he had never witnessed anything like it-except at the battle of Otaheite, in which the famous Captain Cook was slain. All this gave me a good seasoning; nor, blow my timbers ! was it unlucky for me: for, having lost all our officers, my god-father was enabled at once to make me a captain, without exciting any of those jealousies and heart-burnings which, otherwise, such a proceeding might have occasioned.
“ Some months had passed when Lord S. received a letter from the Governor-general of the Island of Gibraltar. This was sent to him by one of the natives, in a canoe. It stated that the Governor had received positive intelligence that the monster Bonypart, having already killed the King of France, had smothered the Dauphin (the French Prince of Wales) in his chambers in the Temple, and mounted the throne with the title of Emperor. But, what was of most importance to us, it added that the usurper had sent out a first-rate man-of-war to take Gibraltar; and it concluded with a request that the Admiral would come immediately in his ship to defend the place. With this request my god-father complied without a moment's delay; for the possession of Gibraltar was all in all to us, it being (I must inform you, my dear Jessamine) the key to the Mediterranean.'
“ My Lord,” replied I (with somewhat of indignation at his presuming me to be ignorant upon such a point), “ my Lord, I am well
aware of that fact, for I have seen Sir Joshua Reynolds's portrait of Lord Heathfield with the very key in his hand.”
Lord Mizendeck politely begged my pardon and proceeded.
" The moment we struck on Gibraltar the Admiral ordered his gig, and to the Governor's house we drove. As might have been expected under such circumstances, we found the Governor in very low spirits ; but, upon the Admiral assuring him that he would stand by him as long as he had a inuzzle to a gun, he rallied amazingly. These two brave men then went out to inspect the works; and I must do the Governor (General Rocketshaw) the justice to say that he had not been idle. He had taken the precaution to fortify the place; and this he had done with consummate skill. Martello towers, curtains, ambuscades, ravines, and counterscarps, (all of them bomb-proof,) were placed at those points which were the most exposed. He had constructed a strong garrison, defended by a parapet ; and this again wad protected by lines of
amazing strength -as thick, almost, as cables. He had prudently destroyed all his outworks to prevent their falling into the hands of the enemy; blown up the glacis and countermined the ramparts. But the chief object of his solicitude (as any tyro may imagine) had been the tower. Guns were planted on the walls overlooking the ditch ;* a row of cannon was placed on the wharf; and two sentinels were always on duty at the gate opening into the yard where (in fortresses of this description) the wild beasts are usually kept: to say nothing of the numerous beef-eaters within, armed with their murderous pikes. Several breaches had been effected in the walls ; scaling-ladders were placed in their proper positions; and the drawbridges were always down : all this, to the end that the troops might, without loss of time, rush out upon the enemy in case they should effect a sudden landing. He had also, with great humanity, formed a bomb-proof covert-way, under which to shelter the old men, and the women and children, in case the expected attack should be made ; and which cover would serve, as well, to protect the baggage-waggons and ammunition. The disposition of the troops, too, was no less admirable than the rest of his arrangements; particularly as it concerned the Heavy Horse, the Chevaux-de-Frise, and other sorts of cavalry. In a word, General Rocketshaw was prepared to stand a siege at the shortest notice; and, considering the judgment and foresight which he had exhibited in all these arrangements, he was justified in exclaiming 'If I must surrender, even the enemy shall acknowledge that I surrendered at discretion.'
“ We returned to our ship,” continued Lord Mizendeck. next morning, Lord Steropost received a note from the Governor informing him that the French man-of-war was in sight. We instantly climbed the deck and found this to be the fact. It was owing to the negligence of the little Middy (the “ sweet little cherub," as the merryhearted tars call him) that sits perch'd up aloft to keep watch, that we had not received this intelligence somewhat sooner; but as the poor little fellow (having been at his post all night) had fallen asleep from sheer weariness, his neglect was overlooked. The enemy was making considerable head-way upon us, but we were prepared for them; and
* Mr. Watty Cockney has here evidently taken the precaution to describe from actual observacion--somewhere.-P*.
Sternpost, having resolved to give them what he called a warm reception, ordered our guns, like the guns on shore at Gibraltar, to be all ready loaded with red-hot shot. Presently a boat from the enemy's ship, with an officer in it bearing a flag of truce, came close up to us. The officer jumped on board, and, requesting to say a few words to the Admiral, he was blindfolded (as is usual in such cases) and led to Lord Sternpost's cabin. He said that his Admiral, anxious to spare the effusion of blood, requested of Lord S. that he would condescend to do him the honour so far to oblige him as to have the complaisance (with a great deal more of that French palaver) to move his ship out of the way, so as not to interfere with his attack upon Gibraltar : otherwise his Admiral would feel himself under the painful necessity of declaring hostilities against him. To this Lord Sternpost (deliberately cutting off about an inch from a rope which happened to be lying on his table) coolly replied: Mounscer; make the best of your way out of the Pride of Putney, or I'll give you a taste of a rope's end. And, now, tell your Admiral that, should he dare to send me any more such messages, I'll wind the messenger round the capstan ;'-(and he was the man to do it, too, my dear Narcissus)—and let him but presume to cast his anchor within reach of me, brace my mizen if I don't break the line.' Upon this, the officer took regular French leave, making many congés and grimaces, accompanied with a world of polite expressions, signifying -nothing.
“ Shortly after breakfast the action commenced by a terrific fire upon the Frenchman from the ravines and counterscarps on shore.— Should he return a shot,' said Sternpost, “ I'll blow him out of the water.' This, however, was easier to say than do, for the Frenchman did shoot, and not without effect. We then poured our fire into him. The cannonading now became general and terrific : bombs, mortars, batteries, redoubts, fusees, shells, and red-hot shot, were flying about in all directions : it was (not to speak it profanely) as when Vulcan forged the bolts of Jove. This appalling exhibition continued from ten till dusk ; when Lord Sternpost seeing
an opportunity of putting into execution his threat of blowing the enemy out of the water, he did so. This done, he, with the characteristic humanity of a Briton, ordered that quarter should be given to such of the enemy as might be found alive; and the quarter-master immediately went out in a boat to carry the generous order into effect. But this victory cost my gallant god-father his life. Early in the action a bullet literally divided the tibia from the os coccygis, and of this wound he died at midnight. I, of course, succeeded him as Admiral. Within the same week we received news of the peace of Amiens. Peace between England and France speedily followed; and, this event giving me a long-wished-for opportunity of visiting Paris, to Paris I went. Fatal day!
CHAP. III. Admiral Lord Mizendeck goes overland to Paris-Brief Description
of the Road—French Habits and Manners, and Modes of Parisian Life noticed— The Théâtre Français : Hamlet—The Opera.
It is well known,” continued Lord Mizendeck, " that there is no travelling in France without passports. This, however, was a matter It hap
of no inconvenience to me; for my rank and station easily enabled me to procure passports to the best society in Paris. I also took a letter of credit for ten thousand pounds upon one of the richest bankers in the Rue des Lombards, which, as its name imports, my dear messmate, is, as with us, the street where the bankers reside. Having had enough of salt-water, I resolved to travel to Paris by land-excepting, of course, from Dover to Calais. Arrived at the latter place I declined proceeding in a diligence ; for, the country being new to me, I preferred to travel slowly, in order that I might see it to the greatest advantage. The country from Calais to Paris is—but why enter into a lengthened description of its beauties when they are described by one single line of a celebrated song:
“ The vine-cover'd hills and gay regions of France !" “Being a single man, the first thing I did upon my arrival in Paris was to apply to a house-agent to procure apartments for me. pened, however, that he had to let a ready-furnished house, small, but commodious, in the fashionable part of the town, the Tuileries. It consisted merely of a dining-room and back-parlour on the ground-floor, drawing-rooms above, two or three bed-rooms, kitchen, cellars for wine and coals, with a separate entrance for the servants down the area steps. It was, however, sufficient for my purpose, so I instantly took possession of it. My next step was to despatch Higgins, my faithful valet-deplace (who had served me in that capacity ever since I was a boy), with my numerous passports to be delivered according to their several addresses. I then rambled about the principal streets and squares at the west-end of the town, carefully avoiding, however, all those places where people were being guillotined. And here I shall observe that Paris still afforded painful evidence of the effects of the Revolution : the streets absolutely swarmed with poor French emigrants, whom I knew by their characteristic dressma pepper-and-salt-coloured coat, white waistcoat, nankeen smalls with knee-buckles, blue silk stockings, powdered head with pig-tail, cocked hat, cane, and snuff-box; whilst the sans-culottes walked about the streets, in the most shameless manner, and in the open face of day! I then went to look at the fatal spot where poor Lewis the Sixteenth-or, as the French (with their well-known propensity to turn everything into a jest) called him, after he lost his head, Lewis Caput—was beheaded. It is still, in commemoration of that event, called La Place Louis Seize the place where Lewis was seized. This brings me to mention that Bonypart, though Emperor, was not so great a favourite of the people but that numerous conspiracies were formed against him. Such, however, is the vigilance of the French police, that the names of the traitors were well known to that body, and publicly marked by them; so that, in almost every street, upon one house, or more, I observed, painted in large letters, the words, "Dubois, Traiteur;" “ Lerour, Traiteur," and so on.
• Mr. Watty Cockney is so generally accurate in all matters, that it is with great hesitation I venture even to suspect him of having fallen-or, let me say, been misled-into an error upon this point. The Rue des Lombards is inhabited, I believe, not at all by bankers, but almost exclusively by the wholesale vendors of that first necessary of (French) life-bons bons. The error, therefore, is chargeable upon the stupidity of the Parisians in giving such a name to such a street.-P.
I intended to extend my stroll into the city; but, upon reaching the Porte St. Denis (French for Temple Bar), and finding the time to be close upon six, I went into the nearest tavern and ordered dinner. As in Rome one must do as Rome does, I took some soup-meagre and a frog. These dishes I did not at first relish; but, as in France nothing else is to be had, except at great tables, I in time became accustomed to them. Whilst one is at dinner, it is usual (as you may
have somewhere read) for a monk to enter the room and beg alms for his convent. One of that order came to me for the purpose.
As I knew what was proper to be done, I refused him; whereupon (as is again usual) we politely exchanged snuff-boxes—the sly rogue, however, giving me a common little horn box for mine, which was of much greater value.
“I was attended at my dinner,” continued Lord Mizendeck, “by the landlord, Monsieur Coquin, a tall, thin-"
“I know, my lord,” cried I, interrupting his lordship; " I know! a tall, thin man, in a pink satin jacket striped with black, a green satin waistcoat striped with blue, nankeen smalls, yellow silk stockings striped with red, and a large powdered wig with a huge club-tail. He skipped about the room and made grimaces like a monkey; spoke excellent broken English; bowed his head down to the ground at every second word his club-tail bobbing about from side to side ; and called you Milor Anglais."
"Exactly so !” cried Lord Mizendeck with astonishment. “ But avast there, messmate, and tell me where you, who have never been in France, picked up your accurate knowledge of French manners, character, and costume.”
'My Lord,” said I,“ are there no books called “A Rapid Ramble through France," "A Week's Walk about Paris,” “A Galloping Glance at Gallia ?” Have I ever visited the Surrey or Sadler's Wells? And, lastly, did I ever see the great Gattie, the original, the scarcely-equalled, the never-surpassed Monsieur Tonson? Where, indeed, my Lord ?”
His Lordship honoured me with a smile of satisfaction and proceeded. “Having finished mydinner, I went home to dress for the Comédie Française, where they act tragedies. At the door of the theatre I bought some fine fruit and a bill of the play. As I confess that, at that time, I did not understand one word of French, I was delighted to find that the play was to be Hamlet; feeling tolerably sure that I should make out something of it. I paid my money at the box-door, and got an excellent place in the dress circle. I remained patiently till nearly the end of the fifth act, when I began to suspect that the play had been changed, for neither Hamlet nor Ophelia (whom I should have recognised by the bunch of nice clean straw in her hair), neither Ghost nor Grave-digger, made their appearance. As the curtain was about to fall I said, inquiringly, to a gentleman at my side, “Hamlet ?' to which he replied, Oui, Hamlay, -at the same time pointing to an actor (who had been carrying about with him a tea-urn covered with a black cloth) dressed in a large furred cloak. This confirmed my suspicions; for I very well knew that the proper dress for Hamlet was black velvet trimmed with bugles, something like that of our James the First. I quitted my seat, and, for a few minutes, lounged about the lobby of the upper boxes; and certainly I must say that the infortunées, with which of course that part of the theatre abounded, gave me no very exalted idea of the beauty of the