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"Yes, sir, that might be done, it's true; but an uneasy berth will the
poor devil have of it, if the people fancy he has been a King's
evidence. Men of that class hate a traitor worse than they do crime,
Captain Cuffe, and they'll ride Bolt down like the main tack."
"Perhaps not; and if they do, 'twill not be as bad as hanging. The
fellow must think himself luckily out of a bad scrape, and thank God for
all his mercies. You can see that he suffers nothing unreasonable, or
greatly out of the way. So send an order to the master-at-arms to knock
the irons off the chap, and send him to duty, before you turn in,
Winchester."
This settled the matter as to Ithuel, for the moment, at least. Cuffe
was one of those men who was indisposed to push things too far, while he
found it difficult to do his whole duty. There was not an officer in the
Proserpine, who had any serious doubts about the true country of Bolt,
though there was not one officer among them all who would openly avow
it. There was too much "granite" about Ithuel to permit Englishmen long
to be deceived, and that very language on which the impressed man so
much prided himself would have betrayed his origin, had other evidence
been wanting. Still there was a tenacity about an English ship of war,
in that day, that did not easily permit an athletic hand to escape its
grasp, when it had once closed upon him. In a great and enterprising
service, like that of Great Britain, an _esprit de corps_ existed in the
respective ships, which made them the rivals of each other, and men
being the great essentials of efficiency, a single seaman was
relinquished with a reluctance that must have been witnessed, fully to
be understood. Cuffe consequently could not make up his mind to do full
justice to Ithuel, while he could not make up his mind to push injustice
so far as trial and punishment. Nelson had left him a discretion, as has
been said, and this he chose to use in the manner just mentioned.
Had the case of the New Hampshire man been fairly brought before the
British Admiral, his discharge would have been ordered without
hesitation. Nelson was too far removed from the competition of the
separate ships, and ordinarily under the control of too high motives, to
be accessory to the injustice of forcibly detaining a foreigner in his
country's service; for it was only while under the malign influence to
which there has already been allusion, that he ceased to be high-minded
and just. Prejudiced he was, and in some cases exceedingly so; America
standing but little better in his eyes than France herself. For the
first of these antipathies he had some apology; since in addition to the
aversion that was naturally produced by the history of the cisatlantic
Republic, accident had thrown him in the way, in the West Indies, of
ascertaining the frauds, deceptions, and cupidities of a class of men
that never exhibit national character in its brightest and most alluring
colors. Still, he was too upright of mind willingly to countenance
injustice, and too chivalrous to oppress. But Ithuel had fallen into the
hands of one who fell far short of the high qualities of the Admiral,
while at the same time he kept clear of his more prominent weaknesses,
and who _was_ brought within the sphere of the competition between the
respective ships and their crews.
Winchester, of course, obeyed his orders. He roused the master-at-arms
from his hammock, and directed him to bring Ithuel Bolt to the
quarter-deck.
"In consequence of what took place this morning," said the first
lieutenant, in a voice loud enough to be heard by all near him, "Captain
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Cuffe has seen fit to order you to be released, Bolt, and turned to duty
again. You will know how to appreciate this leniency, and will serve
with greater zeal than ever, I make no doubt. Never forget that you have
been with a yard-rope, as it might be, round your neck. In the morning
you will be stationed and berthed anew."
Ithuel was too shrewd to answer. He fully understood the reason why he
escaped punishment, and it increased his hopes of eventually escaping
from the service itself. Still he gagged a little at the idea of passing
for one who peached--or for a _"State's_-evidence," as he called it;
that character involving more of sin. In vulgar eyes, than the
commission of a thousand legal crimes. This gave Winchester no concern.
After dismissing his man he gossiped a minute or two with Yelverton, who
had the watch, gaped once or twice somewhat provokingly, and, going
below, was in a deep sleep in ten minutes.
CHAPTER XX.
"White as a white sail on a dusky sea.
When half the horizon's clouded and half free,
Fluttering between the dim wave and the sky
Is hope's last gleam in man's extremity."
_The Island._
The dawning of day, on the morning which succeeded, was a moment of
great interest on board the different English ships which then lay off
the Gulf of Salerno. Cuffe and Lyon were called, according to especial
orders left by themselves, while even Sir Frederick Dashwood allowed
himself to be awakened, to hear the report of the officer of the watch.
The first was up quite half an hour before the light appeared. He even
went into the maintop again, in order to get as early and as wide a
survey of the horizon as he wished. Griffin went aloft with him, and
together they stood leaning against the topmast rigging, watching the
slow approach of those rays which gradually diffused themselves over the
whole of a panorama that was as bewitching as the hour and the lovely
accessories of an Italian landscape could render it.
"I see nothing _in-shore_," exclaimed Cuffe, in a tone of
disappointment, when the light permitted a tolerable view of the coast.
"If she should be _outside_ of us our work will be only half done!"
"There is a white speck close in with the land, _sir_," returned
Griffin; "here, In the direction of those ruins, of which our gentlemen
that have been round in the boats to look at, tell such marvels; I
believe, however, it is only a felucca or a sparanara. There is a peak [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]