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Briggs, Charles F. (Charles Frederick), 1804-1877 [1839], The adventures of Harry Franco. Volume 1 (F. Saunders, New York) [word count] [eaf025v1].
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CHAPTER XXIII [sic]. Continues and ends on Shipboard. A narrow Escape from a flogging, and from Death.

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The next day after I came on board, I was put
into a mess, and when dinner was piped, for they
do nothing on board a man of war without first
being piped, I took my seat with my messmates,
around a huge plumb pudding, and a kid of boiled

I don't know how it happens, but it is always so
arranged on board a man of war, that there is a
bully, a buffoon, and a butt, in each mess. I am
not certain that such is not the case every where;
even in bodies of collected wisdom, I have heard
of things very much like bullying, and buffoonery,
and perhaps there always will be butts in all societies,
as long as there are inequalities of intellects.

Now, in the mess which I had joined, it chanced
that the butt had lately set up for a buffoon, and
they immediately pitched upon me to fill the vacancy
which he had left.

“I say, chummy,” said Tom Sweeny, the captain
of the after guard, “aint your name Newcome?”

“No,” I replied.

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“But it's Johnny Comelately, aint it, you?” said
a young mizen topman.

“No,” I replied again, doggedly.

“Well, it's Johnny Raw, I know,” said a foretopman,
who was the bully.

I gave the bully an indignant look, but made
him no reply.

“Well, I'll tell you what it is, sloop mate,” said
Mr. Sweeny, winking to his messmates, “it's my
'pinion the doctor won't pass you no how.”

“Why won't he?” I said.

“Because you have got strong symptoms of the
fantods; your skin is so tight you can't shut your
eyes without opening your mouth.”

At this bright sally, all the mess laughed very
heartily, the captain of the after guard, as a matter
of course, laughing louder than any.

The late butt, who had been absent, now joined
the mess, and perceiving the laudable work in
which his messmates were engaged, took his part,
by saying that the boatswain had sent him to tell
me to go down to the purser's steward, and get a
piece of cheese to make a fid for the foretopgallant

“And when you come along,” added an ugly
old brute, who acted as cook of the mess, “please
to give my complements to the capting, and tell

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him as Mister Swazey would be werry much obliged
to him for the loan of one of his eperlets, as I
wants to go ashore this arternoon, to see my sweet
heart, the Countess of Santos.”

“What did you come to sea for any how?”
asked the foretopman.

“I know,” replied Mr. Sweeny, “it was to wear
out his old clothes.”

“No it warn't,” said the cook, “he is a gentleman's
son, and he comed to sea cos as they wanted
him to marry a gal which he didn't like, so he
run'd away.”

“I will tell you what I didn't come to sea for,”
I said, jumping up, “I didn't come to be made fun
of by a dirty rascal like you.”

“O, ah! didn't you mister?” replied the cook.

“No,” I said, throwing down my knife, “and
neither you nor any other man shall make fun of
me.” So saying, I leaped on to the messcloth,
and gave him a blow in the eye, which sent him
reeling against the bulwarks.

“Hallo, there,” cried the officer of the deck,
“what's all that?”

“Nothing, sir,” answered the captain of the after
guard, “only this here Mister Comelately wants
to take charge of the ship.”

“Very well, sir,” replied the officer, “let me

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hear no more of this, or I will make every mother's
son of you drink six water grog for a fortnight.”

Whether it was owing to the threat of the officer,
or to the attack I made upon the cook, I cannot
say, but neither the bully, nor the buffoon,
nor the captain of the after guard, ever again
attempted to crack any jokes at my expense.

About a month after this, part of the starboard
watch, to which I belonged, was sent on to Hospital
Island in charge of a midshipman and the
boatswain, to overhaul some rigging, preparatory
to our departure for home. Hospital Island is
one of the pretty little spots of living green
which dot the upper part of the harbor of Rio;
there is on it a pile of grotesque old buildings,
which were once occupied as a convent, but
they are now, or were, rented by the United
States, for a store house for the government ships
on the Brazilian stations.

Mr. Ruffally was the officer whom the first
lieutenant sent in charge of the gang, with the
launch, and he had strict orders, neither to allow
a boat to approach the island, nor one to leave
it, lest grog, in some shape, should be smuggled
on board the ship; for Mr. Wallop believed that
the Evil One entered mankind through their gullets,
in the shape of strong drink, and he was

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determined that no evil spirits, nor any other spirits,
should enter his ship's company, at least in
that manner. But Mr. Ruffally liked a horn himself,
and what was more, he had no objection in
the world to others taking a horn, and he was the
very last man in the steerage that Mr. Wallop
should have sent in charge of the starboard
watch to keep them sober. But the first lieutenant
had never known Mr. Ruffally to go ashore
with the other midshipmen, and he thought him
one of the discreetest young gentlemen in the

The reason why Mr. Ruffally did not go ashore
was this: he was once, before Mr. Wallop joined
the ship, appointed caterer of his mess, and the
very first time he went ashore to purchase provisions,
he gambled away all the mess money,
pawned his side arms, lost his gold laced cap, and
came off to the ship with an old straw hat on his
head, and his face most wofully scratched. The
consequences were, the mess had to eat pork and
beans for the next three months, and he was not
allowed to go ashore until he had furnished himself
with side arms, and so forth, and the
state of his finances had not yet enabled him to
do so.

We had not been on the island long, when a

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little skiff was seen approaching the shore from
Pragy Grand. Mr. Ruffally discovered the corpulent
form of Portuguese Joe seated in the
stern, and guessing the errand on which the crafty
smuggler was bound, he contrived to busy himself
in the chapel of the convent in overhauling
some old rubbish.

The little skiff touched the beach, and landed,
in the twinkling of an eye, some dozens of bladders
well filled with Aquadente, and Portuguese
Joe being well paid for his trouble, shoved off,
and continued on his way towards the opposite
side of the harbor. Mr. Ruffally made his appearance,
and exchanged a knowing wink with
the boatswain, and very soon contrived to have a
whole bladder of Aquadente to himself, to which
he paid his respects so freely, that he soon was under
the necessity of laying down on the grass, observing,
as he stretched himself out, that the climate
was so enervating he should be under the
necessity of leaving the ship if she was not ordered
home immediately. It was not long before
he was snoring, as Bill Littlepenny said, like seven
bells half struck.

All work now ceased, or rather we all went to
work in good earnest, under the directions of the
boatswain, winding spun yarn round the

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bladders of liquor, so that they could be smuggled on
board the ship, where they would be under the
charge of that worthy gentleman, who would
then be enabled to indulge in deep potations of
the most abominable distillation that ever scalded
the throat, or eat up the liver of a man, whenever
he had an inclination. We had hardly got
through with the job of enclosing the bladders of
liquor in a covering of spun yarn, when the signal
was set for the launch to return to the ship.
Mr. Ruffally was too far gone either to move or
speak, so we lifted him into the boat, and laid
him in the stern sheets, and shoved off for the

Mr. Bunker, the boatswain, was very happy;
his eyes sparkled, and his tongue, though apparently
too big for his mouth, was not idle a moment;
he cursed, and laughed, and cried by
turns, and in quick succession; he told stories
about killing whales, and talked about the Essex
Junior and Commodore Porter; and he bet his
silver call, chain and all, against a head of tobacco,
with Bill Littlepenny, a foretopman, that
he could out jump him, out lift him, out drink
him, and out sing him. Such familiarities from
the boatswain, gave the boat's crew immense satisfaction,
and we came along side the ship in

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high glee. Myself and a marine were the only
sober men in the launch; but the others, drunk
though they were, had sense enough left not to
make any noisy demonstrations of their happy
condition, as we came within hail of the ship.

The captain was walking the poop, and seeing
Mr. Ruffally lying in the stern sheets of the
boat, he called out to the boatswain, to know what
ailed him.

“I cant say, sir, exactly,” said Mr. Bunker,
very prudently keeping his seat, “but I believe he
is in a fit.”

“A fit!” exclaimed the captain.

“Yes, sir,” replied the boatswain, “appleplexy,
or something of that sort.”

“How long since he was taken?” asked the
doctor, who now appeared at the gangway.

“About two hours since, sir,” replied the boatswain.

“In the name of heaven!” exclaimed the captain,
“why did you not bring him on board before,
or send to the ship for assistance.”

“I had no orders, sir,” replied the boatswain,
gravely, but at the same time giving a comical
twist of his mouth, which set the whole boat's
crew in a broad grin.

“What stupidity!” exclaimed the captain.

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“Bear a hand there, Mr. Gravel,” he said, addressing
the officer of the deck, “and get a whip
on the main yard, and hoist Mr. Ruffally on board,
in a chair.”

The doctor ran below for his phlebotomising
instruments, to be in readiness to bleed the unfortunate
midshipman to death, in case he should not
be dead already; and the whole ship was in commotion.
The whip was overhauled, and Mr. Ruffally
put into a large arm chair, out of the captain's
own cabin, and carefully hoisted on board,
in an incredibly short space of time. His case
was immediately reported to the first lieutenant,
who reported it to the captain, who ordered the
drunken young gentleman to be put under arrest.
Mr. Bunker was sent below to his state-room,
with a marine, with a rusty cutlass in his hand,
to stand guard over him. Mr. Wallop looked
paler than ever, and he was seized with a fit of
coughing, which he had no sooner recovered from,
than he ordered all the gang who were on the
island, o come aft and toe a seam in the deck.
But this was a performance which none of them
were equal to, except the sober marine and myself;
so they were all put in irons, and soon became
very noisy.

Mr. Wallop asked me how the men got their

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liquor, and whether they had smuggled any on
board. But I remembered the kindness which
Mr. Ruffally had shown me, when I leaped into
the boat, and I was resolved not to betray him, let
the consequences be what they might. So I replied
to Mr. Wallop, that I knew nothing at all
about the matter; as I was not placed in charge
of the men, I had not troubled myself to watch their

“You lie, sir,” said the lieutenant, with a little
more passion than he usually showed, “you do
know all about the matter, and I will flog it out of
you, if you do not tell me.”

This threat was placing me in an antagonist
position, and instead of terrifying me, it only inspired
me with fresh courage to hold out in my
determination. As I had conceived a most thorough
contempt for Mr. Wallop, I could not resist
the inclination to tell him, if he attempted to flog
any thing out of me, he would find it would flog
it into me.

“Order the gratings to be got up instantly,
sir,” said the captain, who overheard me; “and
if he does not tell you, sir, give him two dozen.”

The order was obeyed with great alacrity. The
gratings were placed in the gang-way, and the
boatswain's mate summoned.

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“Now, you scoundrel,” said Mr. Wallop, “answer
my question instantly, or I will flog the life
out of you.”

The sight of the preparations for flogging were,
indeed, terrifying, and a glance at the sturdy boatswain's-mate,
with his arm bared, and the cat with
its thongs still red with Jack Hanson's blood, in
his hand, made me quail; but I was resolved to
die, sooner than I would yield to the tyrannical
command of the lieutenant. I made no reply to his
threat, except by a shake of the head.

“Strip off your shirt, you wretch,” he said, trying
to suppress a cough, “and, boatswain's mate,
pipe all hands to witness punishment.”

The order was obeyed. The men came crowding
aft to the gangway; the marines were turned
out under arms; the old gray-headed master at
arms took his staion; the boatswain's mate stood
ready, and the quarter masters, with their nettles
in their hands, were prepared to seize me up. I
took off my shirt, and stepped with my bare feet
upon the gratings; they put the cords about my
ankles, and around my wrists; they were in the act
of making them fast, when I made a sudden spring
on to a gun, and then on top of the hammock nettings,
and from thence into the main rigging. It
was a sudden impulse, for the possibility of escape

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had never occurred to me, and, indeed, if the act
had been premeditated, I could not have accomplished
it. Luckily, there was no one aloft, and I
reached the top before the first lieutenant recovered
from the astonishment into which my sudden
leap threw him.

“Come down, sir,” called out the captain, who
stood with his sword in his hand on the poop.

But I made no reply to his command, and
sprung into the topmast rigging.

“Jump aloft there, captain of the main top,”
said Mr. Wallop, “and bring the rascal down, or
throw him out of the top.”

But the captain of the top did not jump quite as
fast as I did, and before he showed his head
through the lubber's hole, I had reached the topmast
cross-trees, where I stood with my arms folded,
and gazed about quite at my leisure. Two other
men were sent up to catch me, and as they moved
rather faster than the captain of the top, I climbed
up the topgallant rigging, and then up the royalmast
shrouds, and clinging around the foot of the
skysail mast, with my feet resting upon the stay
for support, for a moment I almost forgot my perilous
situation. The higher I mounted, the lighter
my spirits grew, and the less fear I felt. So grand
and glorious a view as met my eye, while I gazed

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around, might have beguiled a man's thoughts
even upon the gallows. But I was not allowed to
enjoy the prospect long. The captain of the top
reached the topgallant mast head, and told me if I
did not come down, he would certainly haul me
down; but I told him if he came within the reach
of my feet, I would give him a kick, which should
send him headlong to the deck, as sure as his name
was Dick Smith. But the captain was bellowing
through his speaking trumpet, commanding him
to shake me off the mast, and Dick knew no better
than to obey the command of his superior,
even at the risk of his own life, and he began to
climb up towards me. My first impulse was to
carry my threat into execution, which I could have
easily done; but a better thought suggested itself
to me, and I slipped down on the opposite side of
the royal shrouds, and laying hold of the topgallant
lift, slid down and perched myself on the end
of the yard, where, with my arms crossed, I looked
down upon deck, with a feeling of exultation. My
pursuer was about to follow me, when I drew my
knife, and assured him, with an earnestness which
frightened him, that if he made the attempt I would
cut the lift, and both of us should go overboard together.

The captain threatened to shoot me, if I did not

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come down, but I preferred being shot to being
flogged, so I shook my head, and folded my arms
again, and turned my face towards the sun, which
was just going down behind the long range of
grotesque and lofty mountains, which bound the
western horizon, giving their peaks of deepest blue
a tinge of gold and crimson. The Sugar Loaf,
and Gloria Hill, and Cocovado, began to look
black and sombre, as the sun withdrew his rays.
The time for sending down the topgallant yards,
on one of which I was perched, had arrived; the
sun had set, but the colors were not hauled down,
and the sunset gun had not been fired.

I could see all the movements that were going
on upon deck, the captain and first lieutenant
were pacing the poop deck in a rage, while the
other officers were collected together in little
knots, and all the men were gazing up at me,
apparently with intense solicitude. Presently I
saw Mr. Wallop speaking to the marine who had
returned from the island with me in the launch;
and from what followed I supposed that he too
had refused to tell how the liquor was procured;
for he was seized up at the gangway, and directly
his piercing cries rang through the air, as the
boatswain's mate laid the cat upon his bare back.
I writhed and shuddred every time the

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boatswain's mate raised his arm. They gave the
poor marine thirty-six lashes, and then they cut
him down; he behaved manfully, and refused to
divulge a word.

The captain seized his speaking trumpet again,
and called out to me to come down, swearing a
horrible oath, that he would shoot me if I did not.
I only shook my head, and clung more closely to
the lift. He called for the sergeant of marines,
who, I remembered having heard, was an expert
marksman with the rifle. The sergeant went upon
the poop with his rifle in his hand, and the captain
ordered him to take aim at me, and fire; but he
hesitated, upon which the captain drew his sword,
and commanded him again to fire at me, swearing
that he would run him through if he missed me.

I cannot say that I felt any fear; death was a
thousand times preferable to the disgrace of a flogging,
besides, I felt myself innocent of any offence.
And there, too, were the upturned faces of the
whole crew, gazing at me with their hearts in their
eyes, and I knew that I had the sympathy of
every man on board, with the exception of the
captain and Mr. Wallop, and even they, I knew,
could not condemn me in their hearts.

I saw the sergeant bring his rifle to an aim, I
averted my head; there was a death-like stillness

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on deck; the next moment I heard the click
of the trigger, and quicker than the ball which
sped from the rifle came the thoughts of my
mother and sister, the gentle Georgiana, and the
prophecy of my haughty cousin; now was its fulfilment,
and all my exertions had come to nought.
O that these thoughts had come but a moment before;
with them in my mind, the gangway would
have been divested of its terrors, the anguish of a
life was crowded into the smallest conceivable
space of time. I made an effort to raise my arm,
but it was too late; the ball whizzed through the
air, and struck the lift just beyond the reach of
my arm. It did not cut it in two, only two strands
of the rope were severed. There was a hope!
How my eyes gazed upon that slender thread
upon which my earthly existence was hanging,
and with what a shock the blood rushed back into
my head as I saw it snap asunder.

In my fall from that fearful height I glanced
against the main yard, which gave a slight turn
to my body, just sufficient to carry me clear of the
main chains into the water. The rush of the air
as I fell, the many-voiced shriek of the crew, and
the roar of the water as I sank beneath its surface,
all sound in my ears even now while I write;
and often since have I started from a deep sleep,

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with the same confusion of noises ringing in my

I had scarcely touched the water before a dozen
men had leaped overboard to rescue me, and,
strange as it may seem, the captain was among
the number; they caught me as I rose to the surface,
and lifted me into one of the cutters, from
which I was hoisted on board by the same whip
which was got up for Mr. Ruffally, the cause of
all the tumult. I was scarcely for a minute insensible
to all that was going on, but I did not choose
to show any signs of life till I had been well rubbed,
and had a glass of brandy poured down my
throat, when I opened my eyes, and made a motion
with my hand, just in time to save myself from
being bled by the doctor, who stood by me with
his lancet in his hand. I was then taken below,
and put into a cot, where I lay comfortable enough
for the next three weeks, receiving visits every
day from the doctor, and congratulations and
kind words from all my shipmates, particularly
from the boatswain and the men who were on the
island with me; all of whom had been set at liberty,
without being punished, and even Mr.
Ruffally, the drunken swab of a young gentleman,
was liberated from his confinement.

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Briggs, Charles F. (Charles Frederick), 1804-1877 [1839], The adventures of Harry Franco. Volume 1 (F. Saunders, New York) [word count] [eaf025v1].
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