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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesCharley Laurel: A Story Of Adventure By Sea And Land - Chapter 6. Captain Podgers
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Charley Laurel: A Story Of Adventure By Sea And Land - Chapter 6. Captain Podgers Post by :teachmaster Category :Long Stories Author :William H. G. Kingston Date :May 2012 Read :3225

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Charley Laurel: A Story Of Adventure By Sea And Land - Chapter 6. Captain Podgers

Chapter Six. Captain Podgers

The _Dolphin under all sail was making rapid progress to the southward.

I have not hitherto mentioned the fact that I was the little Charley I have been speaking of; indeed, so indistinct is my recollection of the earlier events I have described, that had it not been for Dick, I could have known very little about them. Dick soon recovered, and I was delighted when, on having made my way forward, I found myself again with him. He scanned me all over, as if to ascertain whether any harm had come to me during our long separation. I assured him that I was all right, and was loud in my praise of Miss Kitty, though I was less complimentary to Mrs Podgers and the captain.

"They are not nice people," I observed; "drink nasty rum, quarrel and fight, and then kiss and hug; then quarrel and fight again."

My description was a correct one. Mrs Podgers, indeed, had come to sea sorely against her husband's will, simply because she would, and had brought Miss Kitty, who had just come from school, with her--to save the expense of keeping her at home. Miss Kitty was evidently very unhappy, and did not at all like the life she had to lead. She was as refined in appearance, manners, and feelings, as Mrs Podgers was coarse in all three; but the captain, though fat and addicted to rum-drinking in large quantities, and somewhat sulky in his cups, was not nearly as bad as his wife. He was, moreover, greatly tried, both in the cabin by her, and on deck by his unruly crew: the latter was, indeed, about as rough a set of fellows as ever collected on board ship. The first and second mates were not unfitted, by the ready use they made of their fists, to manage them, but the third mate, Edward Falconer, who had brought Dick and me on board, differed from them greatly. He was refined in his appearance and manners, and gentle in his behaviour, though there was, at times, a look in his eye which showed that he was not lacking in spirit and daring.

The _Dolphin_, besides being bound on a whaling cruise, was a "Letter of Marque," by which she had the right, without being considered a pirate, to take and plunder any of the enemy's ships she might fall in with; but when Mrs Podgers, with Miss Kitty, came on board, the crew, suspecting that the captain intended to confine himself to the more pacific of the two occupations, were very indignant, and a mutinous and discontented spirit arose among them.

The captain never from the first took to me.

"I am bothered enough with women, and don't want a brat in the cabin into the bargain," he growled out one day when angry with his wife.

"Oh, but the little boy loves me so much," said Mrs Podgers, drawing me towards her. "Don't you, Charley?"

"No, I can't say I do," I answered; for Dick had charged me always to speak the truth. "But I love Miss Kitty, that I do, for she is sweet and pretty, and that's what you know you are not;" and I broke away from her and ran up to the young lady.

"Ungrateful little wretch!" exclaimed Mrs Podgers. "Then out of the cabin you shall go, and live with your equals forward."

"Yes, let him go at once," said the captain, "or you will be changing your mind."

"Not likely, after what he has said to me," exclaimed Mrs Podgers. "I would pull his ears, as he deserves, that I would."

Poor Kitty looked very much frightened, and held me close to her. "Oh, don't, Mrs Podgers, pray don't; the little boy did not intend to be naughty, and I will take care of him, and teach him better manners if you will let me."

"No, Miss, I will do no such thing," answered Mrs Podgers, her anger in no way diminished.

"Take him on deck at once, and tell the man who came with him to look after him. If he goes overboard that's his own fault, not mine. I would have been a mother to him, but I cannot stand ingratitude, and he has no claim on my sympathy and affections, as you have, Kitty my dear."

Poor Kitty gave no responsive glance to this remark, but turned away her head, and taking me by the hand led me to the companion stair, whence we went up on deck.

Mr Falconer, who was officer of the watch, stepped up as she appeared. She told him with tears in her eyes what had occurred.

"It is what might be expected," he observed; "but let me entreat you not to be anxious about the little boy. You shall see him as often as you wish, and I suspect that he will be as well off with the honest fellow who had charge of him as he would with those people in the cabin."

I did not understand at the time that there was anything peculiar in his remarks, or that Miss Kitty seemed to place far more confidence in him than she did in captain and Mrs Podgers. I only understood that I was to go back to Dick, and of that I should have been heartily glad, had not my satisfaction been mitigated by the idea that I should be thus separated from Miss Kitty, whose amiability and gentleness had greatly attracted me.

"Well, Charley, we will look after you," said Dick, when I went forward. "There's a vacant berth next to mine, and I'll put your bedding in it. But I am afraid, boy, your manners won't be improved by your new shipmates."

Dick was right, for while I was rapidly increasing my vocabulary of English words, I learned to use some of the expressions constantly issuing from the sailors' mouths, without knowing their meaning, or having any idea of their vileness.

At length, one day, when seated in the forecastle with Dick, I uttered several in succession, highly pleased with my own proficiency. Dick looked at me hard.

"Charley, do you know those are very bad words you are saying?" he exclaimed; "I didn't think you knew such."

"Why, Dick, I heard you say them yourself the other day," and I reminded him of several occasions on which he had uttered some of the words I had made use of.

"Did I, Charley? are you sure of it?" he asked, evidently considering whether I had brought a true or false accusation against him.

"Certain sure, Dick," I said.

"Well, now, I am very sorry for that, and mind, Charley, though you hear other people say what is bad, or see them do what is bad, it is no reason that you should say or do the same; and for my part, Charley, I must clap a preventer-brace on my tongue, and bowse it taut, or those sort of words will, I know, be slipping out. I mind that my good mother used to tell me that I must never take God's name in vain, and that's what I am afraid I have been doing, over and over again. Remember, Charley, if I ever hear you, I'll punish you, and I'll try and break the men of it; it's a shame that they should set such a bad example to a little chap like you, though I am afraid it will be a hard job to stop them."

Dick was as good as his word. From that day forward I never heard him utter an oath, though several times a round one rose to his lips. I at first was not so careful, but the rope's-ending he gave me made me recollect for the future. The men cried shame when they saw him beating me, and were not a little astonished when he told them that it was their fault, and that of course if they swore the little chap would swear also. After this, I really believe that several of them, rough as they were, restrained themselves when I was within hearing, though the greater number went on as before.

Both on and after crossing the line the _Dolphin was frequently becalmed for several days at a time, which did not improve the captain's temper, nor that of the crew either. The voyage therefore was greatly prolonged. I was more with Miss Kitty than I had expected, for the captain and his wife very frequently, after indulging in potations long and deep, fell asleep in the cabin. On such occasions she used to make her escape on deck. She never seemed tired of watching the flying-fish skimming over the ocean, or the dolphins swimming by, or the sea-birds which passed in rapid flight overhead, or watching the magnificent frigate-bird as it soared on high, and then shot down into the ocean to grasp its finny prey.

Sometimes, however, I used to wonder what she could be looking at when Edward Falconer was by her side gazing with her over the ocean. To be sure, there were the stars glittering above, or the moon with her path of silvery light cast across the vast expanse of water, and she and he seemed never tired of gazing at it. Sometimes on such occasions she held me by her hand, and seemed always to wish to have me near her. I at first was not able to understand what she and the young mate were talking about, but in time, as I learned more English, I perhaps comprehended more than they supposed.

"I have been a wild, wayward, careless fellow, Kate," I heard Mr Falconer say one evening as he stood by Miss Kitty's side. "Instead of remaining at college, and taking advantage of the opportunities I possessed of rising in the world, I spent all my means, and then, to the grief of an excellent father, shipped on board a merchantman as a sailor before the mast. My knowledge of mathematics soon enabled me to become a better navigator than the captain himself, while I rapidly acquired a knowledge of seamanship, as from having been accustomed all my life to boating and yachting, I was at once perfectly at home. I soon became a mate, but I spent all my pay, and was glad to ship on board the _Dolphin_, the first vessel I could find which had a vacant berth. Had I known the character of the master and the officers with whom it was to be my lot to associate, I should certainly, as you may suppose, have avoided her. I had already found, like the prodigal son, that I had dry husks alone to eat, and bitterly mourning my folly, had, even before the ship sailed, contemplated returning home on the first opportunity and seeking my father's forgiveness, when you came on board and I began to breathe a new existence."

"You need not tell me more, Edward," said Kitty. "I cannot bear the thoughts of having prevented you from doing what you considered right, and right it was, I am sure. You must not think of me; oh, let me urge you to go home, and occupy the position which from your education and family you should properly enjoy, for surely your father will receive you thankfully, and forgive your offences. As for me--humanly speaking--I am helpless; but I am not without hope--for I know in whom I trust. Were I not confident that God watches over and takes care of all who have faith in that love which induced Him to give us the greatest gift He could bestow on perishing sinners, I should indeed be miserable."

Much more was said which I did not hear. Mr Falconer and Kitty took several turns on deck together, and I ran about near them.

Their conversation was interrupted by the sudden appearance of Mrs Podgers' head at the companion-hatch, as in an angry tone she summoned the young lady below. The mate walked aft, and I scampered forward to rejoin Dick.

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