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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Two Admirals: A Tale - Chapter 7
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The Two Admirals: A Tale - Chapter 7 Post by :ellie Category :Long Stories Author :James Fenimore Cooper Date :May 2012 Read :3441

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The Two Admirals: A Tale - Chapter 7


----"Somewhat we will do.
And, look, when I am king, claim thou of me
The earldom of Hereford, and all the moveables
Whereof the king my brother was possessed."


Rear-Admiral Bluewater found Sir Gervaise Oakes pacing a large dressing-room, quarter-deck fashion, with as much zeal, as if just released from a long sitting, on official duty, in his own cabin. As the two officers were perfectly familiar with each other's personal habits, neither deviated from his particular mode of indulging his ease; but the last comer quietly took his seat in a large chair, disposing of his person in a way to show he intended to consult his comfort, let what would happen.

"Bluewater," commenced Sir Gervaise, "this is a very foolish affair of the Pretender's son, and can only lead to his destruction. I look upon it as altogether unfortunate."

"That, as it may terminate. No man can tell what a day, or an hour, may bring forth. I am sure, such a rising was one of the last things _I have been anticipating, down yonder, in the Bay of Biscay."

"I wish, with all my heart, we had never left it," muttered Sir Gervaise, so low that his companion did not hear him. Then he added, in a louder tone, "_Our duty, however, is very simple. We have only to obey orders; and it seems that the young man has no naval force to sustain him. We shall probably be sent to watch Brest, or l'Orient, or some other port. Monsieur must be kept in, let what will happen."

"I rather think it would be better to let him out, our chances on the high seas being at least as good as his own. I am no friend to blockades, which strike me as an un-English mode of carrying on a war."

"You are right enough, Dick, in the main," returned Sir Gervaise, laughing.

"Ay, and _on the main, Oakes. I sincerely hope the First Lord will not send a man like you, who are every way so capable of giving an account of your enemy with plenty of sea-room, on duly so scurvy as a blockade."

"A man like _me_! Why a man like _me in particular? I trust I am to have the pleasure of Admiral Bluewater's company, advice and assistance?"

"An inferior never can know, Sir Gervaise, where it may suit the pleasure of his superiors to order him."

"That distinction of superior and inferior, Bluewater, will one day lead you into a confounded scrape, I fear. If you consider Charles Stuart your sovereign, it is not probable that orders issued by a servant of King George will be much respected. I hope you will do nothing hastily, or without consulting your oldest and truest friend!"

"You know my sentiments, and there is little use in dwelling on them, now. So long as the quarrel was between my own country and a foreign land, I have been content to serve; but when my lawful prince, or his son and heir, comes in this gallant and chivalrous manner, throwing himself, as it might be, into the very arms of his subjects, confiding all to their loyalty and spirit; it makes such an appeal to every nobler feeling, that the heart finds it difficult to repulse. I could have joined Norris, with right good will, in dispersing and destroying the armament that Louis XV. was sending against us, in this very cause; but here every thing is English, and Englishmen have the quarrel entirely to themselves. I do not see how, as a loyal subject of my hereditary prince, I can well refrain from joining his standard."

"And would _you_, Dick Bluewater, who, to my certain knowledge, were sent on board ship at twelve years of age, and who, for more than forty years, have been a man-of-war's-man, body and soul; would you now strip your old hulk of the sea-blue that has so long covered and become it, rig yourself out like a soldier, with a feather in your hat,--ay, d----e, and a camp-kettle on your arm, and follow a drummer, like one of your kinsmen, Lord Bluewater's fellows of the guards?--for of sailors, your lawful prince, as you call him, hasn't enough to stopper his conscience, or to whip the tail of his coat, to keep it from being torn to tatters by the heather of Scotland. If you _do follow the adventurer, it must be in some such character, since I question if he can muster a seaman, to tell him the bearings of London from Perth."

"When I join him, he will be better off."

"And what could even _you do alone, among a parcel of Scotchmen, running about their hills under bare poles? Your signals will not man(oe)uvre regiments, and as for man(oe)uvring in any other manner, you know nothing. No--no; stay where you are, and help an old friend with knowledge that is useful to him.--I should be afraid to do a dashing thing, unless I felt the certainty of having you in my van, to strike the first blow; or in my rear, to bring me off, handsomely.

"You would be afraid of nothing, Gervaise Oakes, whether I stood at your elbow, or were off in Scotland. Fear is not your failing, though temerity may be."

"Then I want your presence to keep me within the bounds of reason," said Sir Gervaise, stopping short in his walk, and looking his friend smilingly in the face. "In some mode, or other, I always need your aid."

"I understand the meaning of your words, Sir Gervaise, and appreciate the feeling that dictates them. You must have a perfect conviction that I will do nothing hastily, and that I will betray no trust. When I turn my back on King George, it will be loyalty, in one sense, whatever he may think of it in another; and when I join Prince Charles Edward, it will be with a conscience that he need not be ashamed to probe. What names he bears! They are the designations of ancient English sovereigns, and ought of themselves, to awaken the sensibilities of Englishmen."

"Ay, Charles in particular," returned the vice-admiral, with something like a sneer. "There's the second Charles, for instance--St. Charles, as our good host, Sir Wycherly, might call him--he is a pattern prince for Englishmen to admire. Then his father was of the school of the Star-Chamber martyrs!"

"Both were lineal descendants of the Conqueror, and of the Saxon princes; and both united the double titles to the throne, in their sacred persons. I have always considered Charles II. as the victim of the rebellious conduct of his subjects, rather than vicious. He was driven abroad into a most corrupt state of society, and was perverted by our wickedness. As to the father, he was the real St. Charles, and a martyred saint he was; dying for true religion, as well as for his legal rights. Then the Edwards--glorious fellows!--remember that they were all but one Plantagenets; a name, of itself, to rouse an Englishman's fire!"

"And yet the only difference between the right of these very Plantagenets to the throne, and that of the reigning prince, is, that one produced a revolution by the strong hand, and the other was produced by a revolution that came from the nation. I do not know that your Plantagenets ever did any thing for a navy; the only real source of England's power and glory. D----e, Dick, if I think so much of your Plantagenets, after all!"

"And yet the name of Oakes is to be met with among their bravest knights, and most faithful followers."

"The Oakes, like the pines, have been timbers in every ship that has floated," returned the vice-admiral, half-unconscious himself, of the pun he was making.

For more than a minute Sir Gervaise continued his walk, his head a little inclined forward, like a man who pondered deeply on some matter of interest. Then, suddenly stopping, he turned towards his friend, whom he regarded for near another minute, ere he resumed the discourse.

"I wish I could fairly get you to exercise your excellent reason on this matter, Dick," he said, after the pause; "then I should be certain of having secured you on the side of liberty."

Admiral Bluewater merely shook his head, but he continued silent, as if he deemed discussion altogether supererogatory. During this pause, a gentle tap at the door announced a visiter; and, at the request to enter, Atwood made his appearance. He held in his hand a large package, which bore on the envelope the usual stamp that indicated it was sent on public service.

"I beg pardon, Sir Gervaise," commenced the secretary, who always proceeded at once to business, when business was to be done; "but His Majesty's service will not admit of delay. This packet has just come to hand, by the arrival of an express, which left the admiralty only yesterday noon."

"And how the devil did he know where to find me!" exclaimed the vice-admiral, holding out a hand to receive the communication.

"It is all owing to this young lieutenant's forethought in following up the Jacobite intelligence to a market-town. The courier was bound to Falmouth, as fast as post-horses could carry him, when he heard, luckily, that the fleet lay at anchor, under Wychecombe Head; and, quite as luckily, he is an officer who had the intelligence to know that you would sooner get the despatches, if he turned aside, and came hither by land, than if he went on to Falmouth, got aboard the sloop that was to sail with him, for the Bay of Biscay, and came round here by water."

Sir Gervaise smiled at this sally, which was one in keeping with all Atwood's feelings; for the secretary had matured a system of expresses, which, to his great mortification, his patron laughed at, and the admiralty entirely overlooked. No time was lost, however, in the way of business; the secretary having placed the candles on a table, where Sir Gervaise took a chair, and had already broken a seal. The process of reading, nevertheless, was suddenly interrupted by the vice-admiral's looking up, and exclaiming--

"Why, you are not about to leave us, Bluewater?"

"You may have private business with Mr. Atwood, Sir Gervaise, and perhaps I had better retire."

Now, it so happened that while Sir Gervaise Oakes had never, by look or syllable, as he confidently believed, betrayed the secret of his friend's Jacobite propensities, Atwood was perfectly aware of their existence. Nor had the latter obtained his knowledge by any unworthy means. He had been neither an eavesdropper, nor an inquirer into private communications, as so often happens around the persons of men in high trusts; all his knowledge having been obtained through native sagacity and unavoidable opportunities. On the present occasion, the secretary, with the tact of a man of experience, felt that his presence might be dispensed with; and he cut short the discussion between the two admirals, by a very timely remark of his own.

"I have left the letters uncopied, Sir Gervaise," he said, "and will go and finish them. A message by Locker"--this was Sir Gervaise's body-servant--"will bring me back at a moment's notice, should you need me again to-night."

"That Atwood has a surprising instinct, for a Scotchman!" exclaimed the vice-admiral, as soon as the door was closed on the secretary. "He not only knows when he _is wanted, but when he is _not wanted. The last is an extraordinary attainment, for one of his nation."

"And one that an Englishman may do well to emulate," returned Bluewater. "It is possible my company may be dispensed with, also, just at this important moment."

"You are not so much afraid of the Hanoverians, Dick, as to run away from their hand-writing, are ye? Ha--what's this?--As I live, a packet for yourself, and directed to 'Rear-Admiral Sir Richard Bluewater, K.B.' By the Lord, my old boy, they've given you the red riband at last! This is an honour well earned, and which may be fitly worn."

"'Tis rather unexpected, I must own. The letter, however, cannot be addressed to me, as I am not a Knight of the Bath."

"This is rank nonsense. Open the packet, at once, or I will do it for you. Are there two Dick Bluewaters in the world, or another rear-admiral of the same name?"

"I would rather not receive a letter that does not strictly bear my address," returned the other, coldly.

"As I'll be sworn this does. But hand it to me, since you are so scrupulous, and I will do that small service for you."

As this was said, Sir Gervaise tore aside the seals; and, as he proceeded rather summarily, a red riband was soon uncased and fell upon the carpet. The other usual insignia of the Bath made their appearance, and a letter was found among them, to explain the meaning of all. Every thing was in due form, and went to acquaint Rear-Admiral Bluewater, that His Majesty had been graciously pleased to confer on him one of the vacant red ribands of the day, as a reward for his eminent services on different occasions. There was even a short communication from the premier, expressing the great satisfaction of the ministry in thus being able to second the royal pleasure with hearty good will.

"Well, what do you think of that, Richard Bluewater?" asked Sir Gervaise, triumphantly. "Did I not always tell you, that sooner or later, it _must come?"

"It has come too late, then," coldly returned the other, laying the riband, jewels, and letters, quietly on the table. "This is an honour, I can receive, _now_, only from my rightful prince. None other can legally create a knight of the Bath."

"And pray, Mr. Richard Bluewater, who made you a captain, a commander, a rear-admiral? Do you believe me an impostor, because I wear this riband on authority no better than that of the house of Hanover? Am I, or am I not, in your judgment, a vice-admiral of the red?"

"I make a great distinction, Oakes, between rank in the navy, and a mere personal dignity. In the one case, you serve your country, and give quite as much as you receive; whereas, in the other, it is a grace to confer consideration on the person honoured, without such an equivalent as can find an apology for accepting a rank illegally conferred."

"The devil take your distinctions, which would unsettle every thing, and render the service a Babel. If I am a vice-admiral of the red, I am a knight of the Bath; and, if you are a rear-admiral of the white, you are also a knight of that honourable order. All comes from the same source of authority, and the same fountain of honour."

"I do not view it thus. Our commissions are from the admiralty, which represents the country; but dignities come from the prince who happens to reign, let _his title be what it may."

"Do you happen to think Richard III. a usurper, or a lawful prince?"

"A usurper, out of all question; and a murderer to boot. His name should be struck from the list of English kings. I never hear it, without execrating him, and his deeds."

"Pooh--pooh, Dick, this is talking more like a poet than a seaman. If only one-half the sovereigns who deserve to be execrated had their names erased, the list of even our English kings would be rather short; and some countries would be without historical kings at all. However much Richard III. may deserve cashiering in this summary manner, his peers and laws are just as good as any other prince's peers and laws. Witness the Duke of Norfolk, for instance."

"Ay, that cannot be helped by me; but it _is in my power to prevent Richard Bluewater's being made a knight or the Bath, by George II.; and the power shall be used."

"It would seem not, as he is already created; and I dare to say, gazetted."

"The oaths are not yet taken, and it is, at least, an Englishman's birth-right, to decline an honour; if, indeed, this can be esteemed an honour, at all."

"Upon my word, Rear-Admiral Sir Richard Bluewater, you are disposed to be complimentary, to-night! The unworthy knight present, and all the rest of the order, are infinitely indebted to you!"

"Your case and mine, Oakes, are essentially different," returned the other, with some emotion in his voice and manner. "Your riband was fairly won, fighting the battles of England, and can be worn with credit to yourself and to your country; but these baubles are sent to me, at a moment when a rising was foreseen, and as a sop to keep me in good-humour, as well as to propitiate the whole Bluewater interest."

"That is pure conjecture, and I dare say will prove to be altogether a mistake. Here are the despatches to speak for themselves; and, as it is scarcely possible that the ministry should have known of this rash movement of the Pretender's son, more than a few days, my life on it, the dates will show that your riband was bestowed before the enterprise was even suspected."

As Sir Gervaise commenced, with his constitutional ardour, to turn over the letters, as soon as his mind was directed to this particular object, Admiral Bluewater resumed his seat, awaiting the result, with not a little curiosity; though, at the same time, with a smile of incredulity. The examination disappointed Sir Gervaise Oakes. The dates proved that the ministers were better informed than he had supposed; for it appeared they had been apprised about the time he was himself of the intended movement. His orders were to bring the fleet north, and in substance to do the very thing his own sagacity had dictated. So far every thing was well; and he could not entertain a doubt about receiving the hearty approbation of his superiors, for the course he had taken. But here his gratification ended; for, on looking at the dates of the different communications, it was evident that the red riband was bestowed after the intelligence of the Pretender's movement had reached London. A private letter, from a friend at the Board of Admiralty, too, spoke of his own probable promotion to the rank of admiral of the blue; and mentioned several other similar preferments, in a way to show that the government was fortifying itself, in the present crisis, as much as possible, by favours. This was a politic mode of procedure, with ordinary men, it is true; but with officers of the elevation of mind, and of the independence of character of our two admirals, it was most likely to produce disgust.

"D--n 'em, Dick," cried Sir Gervaise, as he threw down the last letter of the package, with no little sign of feeling; "you might take St. Paul, or even Wychecombe's dead brother, St. James the Less, and put him at court, and he would come out a thorough blackguard, in a week!"

"That is not the common opinion concerning a court education," quietly replied the friend; "most people fancying that the place gives refinement of manners, if not of sentiment."

"Poh--poh--you and I have no need of a dictionary to understand each other. I call a man who never trusts to a generous motive--who thinks it always necessary to bribe or cajole--who has no idea of any thing's being done without its direct _quid pro quo_, a scurvy blackguard, though he has the airs and graces of Phil. Stanhope, or Chesterfield, as he is now. What do you think those chaps at the Board, talk of doing, by way of clinching my loyalty, at this blessed juncture?"

"No doubt to get you raised to the peerage. I see nothing so much out of the way in the thing. You are of one of the oldest families of England, and the sixth baronet by inheritance, and have a noble landed estate, which is none the worse for prize-money. Sir Gervaise Oakes of Bowldero, would make a very suitable Lord Bowldero."

"If it were only that, I shouldn't mind it; for nothing is easier than to refuse a peerage. I've done _that twice already, and can do it a third time, at need. But one can't very well refuse promotion in his regular profession; and, here, just as a true gentleman would depend on the principles of an officer, the hackneyed consciences of your courtiers have suggested the expediency of making Gervaise Oakes an admiral of the blue, by way of sop!--me, who was made vice-admiral of the red, only six months since, and who take an honest pride in boasting that every commission, from the lowest to the highest, has been fairly earned in battle!"

"They think it a more delicate service, perhaps, for a gentleman to be true to the reigning house, when so loud an appeal is made to his natural loyalty; and therefore class the self-conquest with a victory at sea!"

"They are so many court-lubbers, and I should like to have an opportunity of speaking my mind to them. I'll not take the new commission; for every one must see, Dick, that it is a sop."

"Ay, that's just my notion, too, about the red riband; and I'll not take _that_. You have had the riband these ten years, have declined the peerage twice, and their only chance is the promotion. Take it you ought, and must, however, as it will be the means of pushing on some four or five poor devils, who have been wedged up to honours, in this manner, ever since they were captains. I am glad they do not talk of promoting _me_, for I should hardly know how to refuse such a grace. There is great virtue in parchment, with all us military men."

"Still it must be parchment fairly won. I think you are wrong, notwithstanding, Bluewater, in talking of refusing the riband, which is so justly your due, for a dozen different acts. There is not a man in the service, who has been less rewarded for what he has done, than yourself."

"I am sorry to hear you give this as your opinion; for just at this moment, I would rather think that I have no cause of complaint, in this way, against the reigning family, or its ministers. I'm sure I was posted when quite a young man, and since that time, no one has been lifted over my head."

The vice-admiral looked intently at his friend; for never before had he detected a feeling which betrayed, as he fancied, so settled a determination in him to quit the service of the powers that were. Acquainted from boyhood with all the workings of the other's mind, he perceived that the rear-admiral had been endeavouring to persuade himself that no selfish or unworthy motive could be assigned to an act which he felt to proceed from disinterested chivalry, just as he himself broke out with his expression of an opinion that no officer had been less liberally rewarded for his professional services than his friend. While there is no greater mystery to a selfish manager, than a man of disinterested temperament, they who feel and submit to generous impulses, understand each other with an instinctive facility. When any particular individual is prone to believe that there is a predominance of good over evil in the world he inhabits, it is a sign of inexperience, or of imbecility; but when one acts and reasons as if _all honour and virtue are extinct, he furnishes the best possible argument against his own tendencies and character. It has often been remarked that stronger friendships are made between those who have different personal peculiarities, than between those whose sameness of feeling and impulses would be less likely to keep interest alive; but, in all cases of intimacies, there must be great identity of principles, and even of tastes in matters at all connected with motives, in order to ensure respect, among those whose standard of opinion is higher than common, or sympathy among those with whom it is lower. Such was the fact, as respected Admirals Oakes and Bluewater. No two men could be less alike in temperament, or character, physically, and in some senses, morally considered; but, when it came to principles, or all those tastes or feelings that are allied to principles, there was a strong native, as well as acquired affinity. This union of sentiment was increased by common habits, and professional careers so long and so closely united, as to be almost identical. Nothing was easier, consequently, than for Sir Gervaise Oakes to comprehend the workings of Admiral Bluewater's mind, as the latter endeavoured to believe he had been fairly treated by the existing government. Of course, the reasoning which passed through the thoughts of Sir Gervaise, on this occasion, required much less time than we have taken to explain its nature; and, after regarding his friend intently, as already related, for a few seconds, he answered as follows; a good deal influenced, unwittingly to himself, with the wish to check the other's Jacobite propensities.

"I am sorry not to be able to agree with you, Dick," he said, with some warmth. "So far from thinking you _well treated, by any ministry, these twenty years, I think you have been very _ill treated. Your rank you have, beyond a question; for of that no brave officer can well be deprived in a regulated service; but, have you had the _commands to which you are entitled?--I was a commander-in-chief when only a rear-admiral of the blue; and then how long did I wear a broad pennant, before I got a flag at all!"

"You forget how much I have been with you. When two serve together, one must command, and the other must obey. So far from complaining of these Hanoverian Boards, and First Lords, it seems to me that they have always kept in view the hollowness of their claims to the throne, and have felt a desire to purchase honest men by their favours."

"You are the strangest fellow, Dick Bluewater, it has ever been my lot to fall in with! D----e me, if I believe you know always, when you _are ill treated. There are a dozen men in service, who have had separate commands, and who are not half as well entitled to them, as you are yourself."

"Come, come, Oakes, this is getting to be puerile, for two old fellows, turned of fifty. You very well know that I was offered just as good a fleet, as this of your own, with a choice of the whole list of flag-officers below me, to pick a junior from; and, so, we'll say no more about it. As respects their red riband, however, it may go a-begging for me."

Sir Gervaise was about to answer in his former vein, when a tap at the door announced the presence of another visiter. This time the door opened on the person of Galleygo, who had been included in Sir Wycherly's hospitable plan of entertaining every soul who immediately belonged to the suite of Sir Gervaise.

"What the d----l has brought _you here!" exclaimed the vice-admiral, a little warmly; for he did not relish an interruption just at this moment. "Recollect you're not on board the Plantagenet, but in the dwelling of a gentleman, where there are both butler and housekeeper, and who have no occasion for your advice, or authority, to keep things in order."

"Well, there, Sir Gervaise I doesn't agree with you the least bit; for I thinks as a ship's steward--I mean a _cabin steward, and a good 'un of the quality--might do a great deal of improvement in this very house. The cook and I has had a partic'lar dialogue on them matters, already; and I mentioned to her the names of seven different dishes, every one of which she quite as good as admitted to me, was just the same as so much gospel to _her_."

"I shall have to quarantine this fellow, in the long run, Bluewater! I do believe if I were to take him to Lambeth Palace, or even to St. James's, he'd thrust his oar into the archbishop's benedictions, or the queen's caudle-cup!"

"Well, Sir Gervaise, where would be the great harm, if I did? A man as knows the use of an oar, may be trusted with one, even in a church, or an abbey. When your honour comes to hear what the dishes was, as Sir Wycherly's cook had never heard on, you'll think it as great a cur'osity as I do myself. If I had just leave to name 'em over, I think as both you gentlemen would look at it as remarkable."

"What are they, Galleygo?" inquired Bluewater, putting one of his long legs over an arm of the adjoining chair, in order to indulge himself in a yarn with his friend's steward, with greater freedom; for he greatly delighted in Galleygo's peculiarities; seeing just enough of the fellow to find amusement, without annoyance in them. "I'll answer for Sir Gervaise, who is always a little diffident about boasting of the superiority of a ship, over a house."

"Yes, your honour, that he is--that is just one of Sir Jarvy's weak p'ints, as a body might say. Now, I never goes ashore, without trimming sharp up, and luffing athwart every person's hawse, I fall in with; which is as much as to tell 'em, I belongs to a flag-ship, and a racer, and a craft as hasn't her equal on salt-water; no disparagement to the bit of bunting at the mizzen-topgallant-mast-head of the Caesar, or to the ship that carries it. I hopes, as we are so well acquainted, Admiral Bluewater, no offence will be taken."

"Where none is meant, none ought to be taken, my friend. Now let us hear your bill-of-fare."

"Well, sir, the very first dish I mentioned to Mrs. Larder, Sir Wycherly's cook, was lobscous; and, would you believe it, gentlemen, the poor woman had never heard of it! I began with a light hand, as it might be, just not to overwhelm her with knowledge, at a blow, as Sir Jarvy captivated the French frigate with the upper tier of guns, that he might take her alive, like."

"And the lady knew nothing of a lobscous--neither of its essence, nor nature?"

"There's no essences as is ever put in a lobscous, besides potaties, Admiral Bluewater; thof we make 'em in the old Planter"--_nautice for Plantagenet--"in so liquorish a fashion, you might well think they even had Jamaiky, in 'em. No, potaties is the essence of lobscous; and a very good thing is a potatie, Sir Jarvy, when a ship's company has been on salted oakum for a few months."

"Well, what was the next dish the good woman broke down under?" asked the rear-admiral, fearful the master might order the servant to quit the room; while he, himself, was anxious to get rid of any further political discussion.

"Well, sir, she knowed no more of a chowder, than if the sea wern't in the neighbourhood, and there wern't such a thing as a fish in all England. When I talked to her of a chowder, she gave in, like a Spaniard at the fourth or fifth broadside."

"Such ignorance is disgraceful, and betokens a decline in civilization! But, you hoisted out more knowledge for her benefit, Galleygo--small doses of learning are poor things."

"Yes, your honour; just like weak grog--burning the priming, without starting the shot. To be sure, I did, Admiral Blue. I just named to her burgoo, and then I mentioned duff (_anglice dough) to her, but she denied that there was any such things in the cookery-book. Do you know, Sir Jarvy, as these here shore craft get their dinners, as our master gets the sun; all out of a book as it might be. Awful tidings, too, gentlemen, about the Pretender's son; and I s'pose we shall have to take the fleet up into Scotland, as I fancy them 'ere sogers will not make much of a hand in settling law?"

"And have you honoured us with a visit, just to give us an essay on dishes, and to tell us what you intend to do with the fleet?" demanded Sir Gervaise, a little more sternly than he was accustomed to speak to the steward.

"Lord bless you, Sir Jarvy, I didn't dream of one or t'other! As for telling you, or Admiral Blue, (so the seamen used to call the second in rank,) here, any thing about lobscous, or chowder, why, it would be carrying coals to New Market. I've fed ye both with all such articles, when ye was nothing but young gentlemen; and when you was no longer young gentlemen, too, but a couple of sprightly luffs, of nineteen. And as for moving the fleet, I know, well enough, that will never happen, without our talking it over in the old Planter's cabin; which is a much more nat'ral place for such a discourse, than any house in England!"

"May I take the liberty of inquiring, then, what _did bring you here?"

"That you may, with all my heart, Sir Jarvy, for I likes to answer your questions. My errand is not to your honour this time, though you are my master. It's no great matter, after all, being just to hand this bit of a letter over to Admiral Blue."

"And where did this letter come from, and how did it happen to fall into your hands?" demanded Bluewater, looking at the superscription, the writing of which he appeared to recognise.

"It hails from Lun'nun, I hear; and they tell me it's to be a great secret that you've got it, at all. The history of the matter is just this. An officer got in to-night, with orders for us, carrying sail as hard as his shay would bear. It seems he fell in with Master Atwood, as he made his land-fall, and being acquainted with that gentleman, he just whipped out his orders, and sent 'em off to the right man. Then he laid his course for the landing, wishing to get aboard of the Dublin, to which he is ordered; but falling in with our barge, as I landed, he wanted to know the where-away of Admiral Blue, here; believing him to be afloat. Some 'un telling him as I was a friend and servant of both admirals, as it might be, he turned himself over to me for advice. So I promised to deliver the letter, as I had a thousand afore, and knowed the way of doing such things; and he gives me the letter, under special orders, like; that is to say, it was to be handed to the rear-admiral as it might be under the lee of the mizzen-stay-sail, or in a private fashion. Well, gentlemen, you both knows I understand that, too, and so I undertook the job."

"And I have got to be so insignificant a person that I pass for no one, in your discriminating mind, Master Galleygo!" exclaimed the vice-admiral, sharply. "I have suspected as much, these five-and-twenty years."

"Lord bless you, Sir Jarvy, how flag-officers will make mistakes sometimes! They're mortal, I says to the people of the galley, and have their appetites false, just like the young gentlemen, when they get athwart-hawse of a body, I says. Now, I count Admiral Blue and yourself pretty much as one man, seeing that you keep few, or no secrets from each other. I know'd ye both as young gentlemen, and then you loved one another like twins; and then I know'd ye as luffs, when ye'd walk the deck the whole watch, spinning yarns; and then I know'd ye as Pillardees and Arrestee, though one pillow might have answered for both; and as for Arrest, I never know'd either of ye to got into that scrape. As for telling a secret to one, I've always looked upon it as pretty much telling it to t'other."

The two admirals exchanged glances, and the look of kindness that each met in the eyes of his friend removed every shadow that had been cast athwart their feelings, by the previous discourse.

"That will do, Galleygo," returned Sir Gervaise, mildly. "You're a good fellow in the main, though a villanously rough one--"

"A little of old Boreus, Sir Jarvy," interrupted the steward, with a grim smile: "but it blows harder at sea than it does ashore. These chaps on land, ar'n't battened down, and caulked for such weather, as we sons of Neptun' is obligated to face."

"Quite true, and so good-night. Admiral Bluewater and myself wish to confer together, for half an hour; all that it is proper for you to know, shall be communicated another time."

"Good-night, and God bless your honour. Good-night, Admiral Blue: we three is the men as can keep any secret as ever floated, let it draw as much water as it pleases."

Sir Gervaise Oakes stopped in his walk, and gazed at his friend with manifest interest, as he perceived that Admiral Bluewater was running over his letter for the third time. Being now without a witness, he did not hesitate to express his apprehensions.

"'Tis as I feared, Dick!" he cried. "That letter is from some prominent partisan of Edward Stuart?"

The rear-admiral turned his eyes on the face of his friend, with an expression that was difficult to read; and then he ran over the contents of the epistle, for the fourth time.

"A set of precious rascals they are, Gervaise!" at length the rear-admiral exclaimed. "If the whole court was culled, I question if enough honesty could be found to leaven one puritan scoundrel. Tell me if you know this hand, Oakes? I question if you ever saw it before."

The superscription of the letter was held out to Sir Gervaise, who, after a close examination, declared himself unacquainted with the writing.

"I thought as much," resumed Bluewater, carefully tearing the signature from the bottom of the page, and burning it in a candle; "let this disgraceful part of the secret die, at least. The fellow who wrote this, has put 'confidential' at the top of his miserable scrawl: and a most confident scoundrel he is, for his pains. However, no man has a right to thrust himself, in this rude manner, between me and my oldest friend; and least of all will I consent to keep this piece of treachery from your knowledge. I do more than the rascal merits in concealing his name; nevertheless, I shall not deny myself the pleasure of sending him such an answer as he deserves. Read that, Oakes, and then say if keelhauling would be too good for the writer."

Sir Gervaise took the letter in silence, though not without great surprise, and began to peruse it. As he proceeded, the colour mounted to his temples, and once he dropped his hand, to cast a look of wonder and indignation towards his companion. That the reader may see how much occasion there was for both these feelings, we shall give the communication entire. It was couched in the following words:


"Our ancient friendship, and I am proud to add, affinity of blood, unite in inducing me to write a line, at this interesting moment. Of the result of this rash experiment of the Pretender's son, no prudent man can entertain a doubt. Still, the boy may give us some trouble, before he is disposed of altogether. We look to all our friends, therefore, for their most efficient exertions, and most prudent co-operation. On _you_, every reliance is placed; and I wish I could say as much for _every flag-officer afloat_. Some distrust--unmerited, I sincerely hope--exists in a very high quarter, touching the loyalty of a certain commander-in-chief, who is so completely under your observation, that it is felt enough is done in hinting the fact to one of your political tendencies. The king said, this morning, 'Vell, dere isht Bluevater; of _him we are shure asht of ter sun.' You stand excellently well _there_, to my great delight; and I need only say, be watchful and prompt.

"Yours, with the most sincere faith and attachment, my dear Bluewater, &c., &c.


"P. S.--I have just heard that they have sent you the red riband. The king himself, was in this."

When Sir Gervaise had perused this precious epistle to himself, he read it slowly, and in a steady, clear voice, aloud. When he had ended, he dropped the paper, and stood gazing at his friend.

"One would think the fellow some exquisite satirist," said Bluewater, laughing. "_I am to be vigilant, and see that _you do not mutiny, and run away with the fleet to the Highlands, one of these foggy mornings! Carry it up into Scotland, as Galleygo has it! Now, what is your opinion of that letter?"

"That all courtiers are knaves, and all princes ungrateful. I should think my loyalty to the good _cause_, if not to the _man_, the last in England to be suspected."

"Nor is it suspected, in the smallest degree. My life on it, neither the reigning monarch, nor his confidential servants, are such arrant dunces, as to be guilty of so much weakness. No, this masterly move is intended to secure _me_, by creating a confidence that they think no generous-minded man would betray. It is a hook, delicately baited to catch a gudgeon, and not an order to watch a whale."

"Can the scoundrels be so mean--nay, dare they be so bold! They must have known you would show me the letter."

"Not they--they have reasoned on my course, as they would on their own. Nothing catches a weak man sooner than a pretended confidence of this nature; and I dare say this blackguard rates me just high enough to fancy I may be duped in this flimsy manner. Put your mind at rest; King George knows he may confide in _you_, while I think it probable _I am distrusted."

"I hope, Dick, you do not suspect _my discretion! My own secret would not be half so sacred to me."

"I know that, full well. Of _you_, I entertain no distrust, either in heart or head; of myself, I am not quite so certain. When we _feel_, we do not always _reason_; and there is as much feeling, as any thing else, in this matter."

"Not a line is there, in all my despatches, that go to betray the slightest distrust of me, or any one else. You are spoken of, but it is in a manner to gratify you, rather than to alarm. Take, and read them all; I intended to show them to you, as soon as we had got through with that cursed discussion"

As Sir Gervaise concluded, he threw the whole package of letters on the table, before his friend.

"It will be time enough, when you summon me regularly to a council of war," returned Bluewater, laying the letters gently aside. "Perhaps we had better sleep on this affair; in the morning we shall meet with cooler heads, and just as warm hearts."

"Good-night, Dick," said Sir Gervaise, holding out both hands for the other to shake as he passed him, in quitting the room.

"Good-night, Gervaise; let this miserable devil go overboard, and think no more of him. I have half a mind to ask you for a leave, to-morrow, just to run up to London, and cut off his ears."

Sir Gervaise laughed and nodded his head, and the two friends parted, with feelings as kind as ever had distinguished their remarkable career.

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The Two Admirals: A Tale - Chapter 8 The Two Admirals: A Tale - Chapter 8

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