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his labours, and left Davy Jones' to send back word about it; which that Pelagian Davy fails to do, unless the message is enshrined in a bottle, for which he seems to cherish true naval regard.
In this state of things, the two brothers-in-law-as they fully intended to be by and by-were going into this tremendous battle; Jack as a petty officer, and Robin as a junior lieutenant of Lord Nelson's ship. Already had Jack Anerley begun to feel for Robinor Lieutenant Blyth as he now was called-that liking of admiration which his clear free manner, and quickness of resource, and agreeable smile in the teeth of peril had won for him, before he had the legal right to fight much. And Robin-as he shall still be called, while the memory of Flamborough endures-regarded Jack Anerley with fatherly affection, and hoped to put strength into his character.
However, one necessary step towards that, is to keep the character surviving; and in the world's pell-mell now beginning, the uproar alone was enough to kill some, and the smoke sufficient to choke the rest. Many a British sailor, who, by the mercy of Providence, survived that day, never could hear a word concerning any other battle (even though a son of his own delivered it down a trumpet), so furious was the concussion of the air, the din of roaring metal, and the clash of cannon-balls which met in the air, and split up into founts of iron.
No less than seven French and Spanish ships agreed with one accord to fall upon and destroy Lord Nelson's ship. And if they had only adopted a rational mode of doing it, and shot straight, they could hardly have helped succeeding. Even as it was, they succeeded far too well. For they managed to make England rue the tidings of her greatest victory.
In the storm, and whirl, and flame of battle, when shot flew as close as the teeth of a hay-rake, and fire blazed into furious eyes, and then with a blow was quenched for ever, and raging men flew into pieces, some of which killed their dearest friends-who was he that could do more than attend to his own business? Nelson had known that it would be so, and had twice enjoined it, in his orders; and when he was carried down to die, his dying mind was still on this. Robin Lyth was close to him when he fell, and helped to bear him to his plank of death; and came back with orders not to speak but work.
Then ensued that crowning effort of misplaced audacity-the attempt to board, and carry by storm, the ship that still was Nelson's. The captain of the Redoutable' saw, through an alley of light, between walls of smoke, that the quarter-deck of the Victory' had plenty of corpses, but scarcely a life upon it. Also he felt (from the comfort to his feet, and the increasing firmness of his spinal column) that the heavy British guns, upon the lower-decks, had ceased to throb, and thunder, into his own poor ship. With a bound of high spirits, he leaped to a pleasing conclusion; and shouted, 'Forward, my brave sons! We will take the vessel of war, of that Nielson!'
This however proved to be beyond his power; partly through the inborn absurdity of the thing; and partly, no doubt, through the
quick perception and former vocation of Robin Lyth. What would England have said if her greatest hero had breathed his last in French arms, and a captive to the Frenchman? Could Nelson himself have departed thus, to a world in which he never could have put the matter straight? The wrong would have been redressed very smartly here; but perhaps outside his knowledge. Even to dream of it awakes a shudder; yet outrages almost as great have triumphed; and nothing is quite beyond the irony of fate.
But if free-trade cannot be shown, as yet, to have won for our country any other blessing, it has earned the last atom of our patience and fortitude by its indirect benevolence at this great time. Without free-trade-in its sweeter, and more innocent maidenhood of smuggling-there never could have been on board that English ship the Victory,' a man, unless he were a runagate, with a mind of such laxity as to understand French. But Robin Lyth caught the French captain's words; and with two bounds and a holloa called up Britons from below. By this time a swarm of brave Frenchmen was gathered in the mizen-chains and gangways of their ship, waiting for a lift of the sea to launch them into the English outworks. And scarcely a dozen Englishmen were alive within hail to encounter them. Not even an officer, till Robin Lyth returned, was there to take command of them. The foremost and readiest there was Jack Anerley, with a boarder's pike and a brace of ship pistols, and his fine ruddy face screwed up, as firm as his father's before a big sale of wheat. Come on, you froggies; we are ready for you,' he shouted, as if he had a hundred men in ambush.
They, for their part, failed to enter into the niceties of his language -which difficulty somehow used never to be felt among classic warriors; yet from his manner and position they made out that he offered let and hindrance. To remove him from their course, they began to load guns, or to look about for loaded ones, postponing their advance until he should cease to interfere; so clear at that time was the Gallic perception of an English sailor's fortitude. Seeing this to be so, Jack (whose mind was not well balanced) threw a powder-case amongst them, and exhibited a dance. But this was cut short by a hand-grenade; and before he had time to recover from that, the deck within a yard of his head flew open, and a stunning crash went by.
Poor Jack Anerley lay quite senseless; while ten or twelve men (who were rushing up to repel the enemy) fell, and died, in a hurricane of splinters. A heavy round shot fired up from the enemy's main-deck had shattered all before it; and Jack might thank the grenade that he lay on his back while the havoc swept over. Still, his peril was hot; for a volley of musketry whistled and rang around him; and at least a hundred and fifty men were watching their time to leap down on him.
Everything now looked as bad as could be, with the drifting of the smoke, and the flare of fire, and the pelting of bullets, and of grapnel from cohorns, and the screams of Frenchmen exulting vastly, with
scarcely any Englishmen to stop them. It seemed as if they were to do as they pleased, level the bulwarks of English rights, and cover themselves with more glory than ever. But while they yet waited to give one more scream, a very different sound arose. Powder, and metal, and crash of timber, and even French and Spanish throats, at their very highest pressure, were of no avail against the onward vigour and power of an English cheer. This cheer had a very fine effect. Out of their own mouths the foreigners at once were convicted of inferior stuff; and their two twelve-pounders crammed with grapnel, which ought to have scattered mortality, banged upwards, as harmless as a pod discharging seed.
In no account of this great conflict is any precision observed, concerning the pell-mell and fisticuff parts of it. The worst of it is, that on such occasions almost everybody, who was there, enlarges his own share of it; and although reflection ought to curb this inclination, it seems to do quite the contrary. This may be the reason why nobody as yet (except Mary Anerley and Flamborough folk) seems even to have tried to assign fair importance to Robin Lyth's share in this glorious encounter. It is now too late to strive against the tide of fortuitous clamour, whose deposit is called history. Enough, that this Englishman came up with fifty more behind him, and carried all before him, as he was bound to do.
CONQUESTS, triumphs, and slaughterous glory are not very nice, till they have ceased to drip. After that extinction of the war upon the waves, the nation, which had won the fight, went into general mourning. Sorrow, as deep as a maiden's is at the death of her lover, spread over the land; and people who had married their romance away and fathered off their enthusiasm, abandoned themselves to even deeper anguish at the insecurity of property. So deeply had England's faith been anchored into the tenacity of Nelson. The fall of the funds when the victory was announced, outspoke a thousand monuments.
From sires and grandsires Englishmen have learned the mood into which their country fell. To have fought under Nelson, in his last fight, was a password to the right hands of men, and into the hearts of women. Even a man, who had never been known to change his mind, began to condemn other people, for being obstinate. Farmer Anerley went to church in his Fencible accoutrements, with a sash of heavy crape, upon the first day of the Christian year. To prove the largeness of his mind, he harnessed the white-nosed horse, and drove his family away from his own parish, to St. Oswald's church at Flamborough, where Dr. Upround was to preach upon the death of Nelson. This sermon was of the noblest order, eloquent, spirited,
theological; and yet so thoroughly practical, that seven Flamborough boys set off on Monday, to destroy French ships of war. Mary did her very utmost not to cry-for she wanted so particularly to watch her father-but nature and the Doctor were too many for her. And when he came to speak of the distinguished part played (under Providence) by a gallant son of Flamborough, who, after enduring, with manly silence, evil report and unprecious balms, stood forward in the breach, like Phineas, and with the sword of Gideon defied Philistia to enter the British ark; and when he went on to say that but for Flamborough's prowess on that day, and the valour of the adjoining parish (which had also supplied a hero), England might be mourning her foremost póμaxos, her very greatest fighter in the van, without the consolation of burying him, and embalming him in a nation's tears, for the French might have fired the magazine; and when he proceeded to ask who it was that (under the guiding of a gracious hand) had shattered the devices of the enemy, up stood Robin Cockscroft, and a score of equally ancient captains, and, remembering where they were, touched their forelocks, and answered, Robin Lyth, sir!'
Then Mary permitted the pride of her heart, which had long been painful with the tight control, to escape in a sob, which her mother had foreseen; and pulling out the stopper from her smelling-bottle, Mistress Anerley looked at her husband as if he were Buonaparte himself. He, though aware that it was inconsistent of her, felt (as he said afterwards) as if he had been a Frenchman; and looked for his hat, and fumbled about for the button of the pew, to get out of it. But luckily the clerk, with great presence of mind, awoke, and believing the sermon to be over, from the number of men who were standing up, pronounced Amen,' decisively.
During the whole of the homeward drive, Farmer Anerley's countenance was full of thought; but he knew that it was watched, and he did not choose to let people get in front of him, with his own brains. Therefore he let his wife and daughter look at him, to their hearts' content, while he looked at the hedges, and the mud, and the ears of his horse, and the weather; and he only made two observations of moment, one of which was 'gee,' and the other was 'whoa!'
With females jolting up and down, upon no springs, except those of jerksome curiosity, conduct of this character was rude in the extreme. But knowing what he was, they glanced at one another; not meaning in any sort of way to blame him, but only that he would be better by and by, and perhaps try to make amends handsomely. And this, beyond any denial, he did, as soon as he had dined, and smoked his pipe on the butt of the tree by the rickyard. Nobody knew where he kept his money, or at least his good wife always said so, when anyone made bold to ask her. And even now he was right down careful to go to his pot without anybody watching, so that when he came into the Sunday parlour, there was not one of them who could say, even at a guess, where he last had been.
Master Simon Popplewell, gentleman-tanner (called out of his name, and into the name of 'Johnny,' even by his own wife, because there was no sign of any Simon in him)-he was there, and his good wife Debby, and Mistress Anerley in her best cap, and Mary, dressed in royal-navy blue with bars of black (for Lord Nelson's sake), according to the kind gift of aunt and uncle; also Willie, looking wonderfully handsome, though pale with the failure of perpetual motion,' and inclined to be languid, as great genius should be, in its intervals of activity. Among them a lively talk was stirring; and the farmer said, 'Ah! You was talking about me.'
'We mought be: and yet again we mought not,' Master Popplewell returned, with a glance at Mrs. Deborah, who had just been describing to the company how much her husband excelled in jokesomeness; brother Stephen, a good man seeks to be spoken of; and a bad one objects to it, in vain.'
'Very well. You shall have something for your money. Mary, you know where the old Mydeary wine is, that come from your Godfathers and Godmothers when you was called in baptism. Take you the key from your mother, child, and bring you up a bottle, and brother Popplewell will open it; for such things is beyond me.'
'Well done our side!' exclaimed the tanner; for if he had a weakness, it was for Madeira, which he always declared to have a musky smack of tan, and a waggish customer had told him once that the grapes it was made of were always tanned first. The others kept silence, foreseeing great events.
Then Mr. Popplewell, poised with calm discretion, and moving with the nice precision of a fine watchmaker, shed into the best decanter (softly as an angel's tears) liquid beauty, not too gaudy, not too sparkling with shallow light, not too ruddy with sullen glow, but vivid— like a noble gem, a brown Cairngorm-with mellow depth of lustre. 'That's your sort!' the tanner cried, after putting his tongue, while his wife looked shocked, to the lip of the empty bottle.
'Such things is beyond my knowledge,' answered Farmer Anerley, as soon as he saw the best glasses filled; but nothing in nature is too good to speak a good man's health in. Now fill you up a little glass for Mary, and, Perpetual Motion, you stand up, which is more than your machines can do. Now here I stand, and I drink good health to a man as I never clapped eyes on yet, and would have preferred to keep the door between us; but the Lord hath ordered otherwise. He hath wiped out all his faults against the law; he hath fought for the honour of old England well; and he hath saved the life of my son Jack. Spite of all that, I might refuse to unspeak my words, which I never did afore, if it had not been that I have wronged the man. I have wronged the young fellow; and I am man enough to say so. I called him a murderer, and a sneak, and time hath proved me to have been a liar. Therefore, I ask his pardon humbly; and what will be more to his liking perhaps, I say that he shall have my daughter Mary, if she abides agreeable. And I put down these here twenty guineas, for No. 609 (No. CXXIX. N. s.)