For the execution of all form, observance,
ceremony, subordination, and the like, even though,
while he compels obedience, he may get himself privately
laughed at, commend me to our governor, Don Fabricio.
HUMOURS OF MADRID.
In a few days, Courtenay, with the
prize crew of the Aspasia, sailed for Barbadoes
in the frigate which had been ordered to receive them
for a passage. The frigate was commanded by
one of the most singular characters in the service.
He was a clever man, a thorough sailor, and well
acquainted with the details and technicalities of the
profession a spirited and enterprising
officer, but of the most arbitrary disposition.
So well was he acquainted with the regulations of
the service, that he could hedge himself in so as
to insure a compliance with the most preposterous
orders, or draw the officer who resisted into a premunire
which would risk his commission.
In a profession where one man is embarked
with many, isolated from the power whence he derives
his own where his fiat must be received without a
murmur by hundreds who can reason as well as himself
it is absolutely requisite that he should be invested
with an authority amounting to despotism. True
it is that he is held responsible to his superiors
for any undue exercise of this authority: but
amongst so many to whom it is confided, there must
be some who, from disposition, or the bad example
of those under whom they have served, will not adhere
to the limits which have been prescribed. This,
however, is no reason for reducing that authority,
which, as you govern wholly by opinion, is necessary
for the discipline which upholds the service; but
it is a strong reason for not delegating it to those
who are not fit to be intrusted.
Captain Bradshaw had many redeeming
qualities. Oppressor as he was, he admired a
spirit of resistance in an officer when it was shown
in a just cause, and, upon reflection, was invariably
his friend, for he felt that his own natural temperament
was increased by abject obedience. Raynal, I
think it is, has said that “the pride of men
in office arises as much from the servility of their
inferiors or expectants as from any other cause.”
In our service they are all inferiors, and all expectants.
Can it then be surprising that a captain occasionally
becomes tyrannical? But Captain Bradshaw was
not naturally tyrannical: he had become so, because,
promoted at an early age, he had never been afterwards
opposed; no one contradicted him; every one applauded
his jokes, and magnified his mirth into wit.
He would try by a court-martial an officer who had
committed a slight error, and on the same day would
open his purse and extend his patronage to another
whom he knew not, but had been informed that he was
deserving, and had no friends. To his seamen
he was as lavish with his money as he was with the
cat. He would give a man a new jacket one day,
and cut it to pieces on his back with a rope’s
end on the next. Yet it was not exactly inconsistency it
was an eccentricity of character not natural,
but created by the service. The graft was of
a worse quality than the parent stock, and the fruit
was a compound of the two. The sailors, who
are of the most forgiving temper in the world, and
will pardon a hundred faults for one redeeming quality,
declared that “he warn’t a bad captain
His violent and tyrannical disposition
made him constantly at variance with his officers,
and continual changes took place in his ship; but it
was observed, that those who had left him from a spirited
resistance were kindly received, and benefited by
his patronage, while those who submitted were neglected.
Like a pretty but clever woman, who is aware that
flattery is to be despised, and yet, from habit, cannot
exist without it so Captain Bradshaw exacted the servility
which he had been accustomed to, yet rewarded not
those by whom it was administered. All the midshipmen
promoted on the station had to pass through the ordeal
of sailing with Captain Bradshaw, who generally had
a vacancy; and it certainly had a good effect upon
those young men who were inclined to presume upon
their newly acquired rank: for they were well
schooled before they quitted his ship.
When Courtenay and his party went
on board of the frigate, the first-lieutenant, master,
and surgeon, indignant at language which had been
used to them by the captain, refused to dine in the
cabin, when they were invited by the steward, who
reported to Captain Bradshaw that the officers would
not accept his invitation.
“Won’t they, by God?
I’ll see to that. Send my clerk here.”
The clerk made his appearance, with an abject bow.
“Mr Powell, sit down, and write
as I dictate,” said Captain Bradshaw, who, walking
up and down the fore-cabin, composed a memorandum,
in which, after a long preamble, the first-lieutenant,
master, and surgeon, were directed to dine with him
every day, until further orders. Captain Bradshaw,
having signed it, sent for the first-lieutenant, and
delivered it himself into his hands.
cried the first-lieutenant, entering the gun-room,
with the paper in his hand, “here’s something
for all three of us, a positive order to
dine with the skipper every day, until he gets tired
of our company.”
“I’ll be hanged if I do,”
replied the surgeon. “I’ll put myself
in the sick-list.”
“And if I am obliged to go,
I’ll not touch anything,” rejoined the
master. “There’s an old proverb,
`you may lead a horse to the pond, but you can’t
make him drink.’”
“Whatever we do,” replied
Roberts, the first-lieutenant, “we must act in
concert; but I have been long enough in the service
to know that we must obey first, and remonstrate afterwards.
That this is an unusual order, I grant, nor do I
know by what regulations of the service it can be
enforced; but at the same time I consider that we run
a great risk in refusing to obey it. Only observe,
in the preamble, how artfully he inserts `appearance
of a conspiracy, tending to bring him into contempt;’
and again, `for the better discipline of his Majesty’s
service, which must invariably suffer when there is
an appearance of want of cordiality between those
to whom the men must look for example.’
Upon my soul, he’s devilish clever. I do
believe he’d find out a reason for drawing out
all our double teeth, if he was inclined, and prove
it was all for the benefit of his Majesty’s service.
Well, now, what’s to be done?”
“Why, what’s your opinion, Roberts?”
“Oh, mine is to go; and if you
will act with me, he won’t allow us to dine
with him a second time.”
“Well, then, I agree,” replied the surgeon.
“And so must I, then, I presume;
but, by heavens, downright tyranny and oppression.”
“Never mind; listen to me.
Let’s all go, and all behave as ill as we can be
as unmannerly as bears abuse everything be
as familiar as possible, and laugh in his face.
He cannot touch us for it, if we do not go too far and
he’ll not trouble us to come a second time.”
Their plans were arranged; and at
three o’clock they were ushered into the cabin,
with one of the midshipmen of the ship, and Jerry,
who, as a stranger, had been honoured with an invitation.
Captain Bradshaw, whose property was equal to his
liberality, piqued himself upon keeping a good table;
his cook was an artiste, and his wines were
of the very best quality. After all, there was
no great hardship in dining with him but,
“upon compulsion!” No.
The officers bowed. The captain, satisfied
with their obedience, intended, although he had brought
them there by force, to do the honours of his table
with the greatest urbanity.
“Roberts,” said he, “do
me the favour to take the foot of the table.
Doctor, here’s a chair for you. Mr
Bradly, come round on this side. Now, then, steward,
off covers, and let us see what you have for us.
Why, youngster, does your captain starve you?”
“No, sir,” replied Jerry,
who knew what was going on; “but he don’t
give me a dinner every day.”
“Humph!” muttered the
captain, who thought Mr Jerry very free upon so short
The soup was handed round; the first
spoonful that Roberts took in his mouth, he threw
out on the snow-white deck, crying out, as soon as
his mouth was empty, “O Lord!”
“Why, what’s the matter?” inquired
“So cursed hot, I’ve burnt my tongue.”
“Oh, that’s all? steward,
wipe up that mess,” said the captain, who was
rather nice in his eating.
“Do you know Jemmy Cavan, sir, at Barbadoes?”
inquired the doctor.
“No, sir, I know no Jemmies,”
replied Captain Bradshaw, surprised at his familiar
“He’s a devilish good
fellow, sir, I can tell you. When he gets you
on shore, he’ll make you dine with him every
day, whether or not. He’ll take no denial.”
“Now, that’s what I call
a damned good fellow: you don’t often meet
a chap like him,” observed the master.
Captain Bradshaw felt that he was
indirectly called a chap, which did not please
“Mr Bradly, will you take some mutton?”
“If you please,” said the master.
“Roberts, I’ll trouble you to carve the
saddle of mutton.”
The first-lieutenant cut out a slice,
and taking it on the fork, looked at it suspiciously,
and then held his nose over it.
“Why, what’s the matter?”
“Rather high, sir, I’m afraid.”
“Oh, I smell it here,” said Jerry, who
entered into the joke.
“Indeed! Steward, remove
that dish; fortunately, it is not all our dinner.
What will you take, Mr Bradly?”
“Why, really, I seldom touch
anything but the joint. I hate your kickshaws,
there’s so much pawing about them. I’ll
wait, if you please; in the meantime, I’ll drink
a glass of wine with you, Captain Bradshaw.”
“The devil you will!”
was nearly out of the captain’s mouth, at this
reversal of the order of things; but he swallowed it
down, and answered, in a surly tone, “With great
“Come, doctor, let you and I
hob and nob,” said the first-lieutenant.
They did so, and clicked their glasses together with
such force as to break them both, and spill the wine
upon the fine damask table-cloth. Jerry could
contain himself no longer, but burst out into a roar
of laughter, to the astonishment of Captain Bradshaw,
who never had seen a midshipman thus conduct himself
at his table before: but Jerry could not restrain
his inclination for joining with the party, although
he had no excuse for his behaviour.
“Bring some wine-glasses, steward;
and you’ll excuse me, gentlemen, but I will
thank you not to try the strength of them again,”
said Captain Bradshaw, with a very majestic air.
“Now, Mr Ferguson, I shall be
happy to take a glass of wine with you. What
will you have? There’s sherry and Moselle.”
“I prefer champagne, if you
please,” answered the surgeon, who knew that
Captain Bradshaw did not produce it except when strangers
were at the table.
Captain Bradshaw restrained his indignation,
and ordered champagne to be brought.
“I’ll join you,”
cried the first-lieutenant, shoving in his glass.
“Come, younker, let you and
I have a glass cosy together,” said Jerry to
the midshipman, who, frightened at what was going on,
moved his chair a little further from Jerry, and then
looked first at him and then at the captain.
“Oh, pray take a glass with
the young gentleman,” said Captain Bradshaw,
with mock politeness.
“Come, steward, none of your
half allowance, if you please,” continued the
impertinent Jerry. “Now, then, my cock,
here’s towards you, and `better luck
Captain Bradshaw was astonished.
“I say, youngster, did Captain M –
ever flog you?”
“No, sir,” replied Jerry,
demurely, perceiving that he had gone too far; “he
always treats his officers like gentlemen.”
“Then, I presume, sir, when
they are on board of his ship, that they conduct themselves
This hint made Jerry dumb for some
time; the officers, however, continued as before.
The surgeon dropped his plate, full of damascene
tart, on the deck. The first-lieutenant spilt
his snuff on the table-cloth, and laid his snuff-box
on the table, which he knew to be the captain’s
aversion; and the master requested a glass of grog,
as the rotgut French wines had given him a pain in
the bowels. Captain Bradshaw could hardly retain
his seat upon the chair, upon which he fidgeted right
and left. He perceived that his officers were
behaving in a very unusual manner, and that it was
with a view to his annoyance: yet it was impossible
for him to take notice of breaking glasses, and finding
fault with the cookery, which they took care to do,
sending their plates away before they had eaten a
mouthful, with apparent disgust; neither could he
demand a court-martial for awkwardness or want of
good manners at his own table. He began to think
that he had better have left out the “every
day until further orders,” in the memorandum,
as rescinding it immediately would have been an acknowledgment
of their having gained the victory; and as to their
going on in this way, to put up with it was impossible.
The dinner was over, and the dessert
placed on the table. Captain Bradshaw passed
the bottles round, helping himself to Madeira.
Roberts took claret, and as soon as he had tasted
it, “I beg your pardon, Captain Bradshaw,”
said he, “but this wine is corked.”
“Indeed take it away,
steward, and bring another bottle.”
Another was put on the table.
“I hope you will find that better,
Mr Roberts,” said the captain, who really thought
that what he stated had been the case.
“Yes,” replied the first-lieutenant;
“for the description of wine, it’s well
“What do you mean, sir?
Why, its Chateau Margaux of the first growth.”
“Excuse me, sir,” replied
the officer, with an incredulous smile; “they
must have imposed upon you.”
Captain Bradshaw, who was an excellent
judge of wine, called for a glass, and pouring out
the claret, tasted it. “I must differ from
you, sir; and, moreover, I have no better.”
“Then I’ll trouble you
to pass the port, doctor, for I really cannot drink
“Do you drink port, Mr Bradly?”
said the captain, with a countenance as black as a
“No, not to-day; I am not well
in my inside: but I’ll punish the port
“So will I,” said the surgeon.
“And as I am not among the privileged,”
added Jerry, who had already forgotten the hint, “I’ll
take my whack to-day.”
“Perhaps you may,” observed the captain,
The officers now began to be very
noisy, arguing among themselves upon points of service,
and taking no notice whatever of the captain.
The master, in explanation, drew a chart, with wine,
upon the polished table, while the first-lieutenant
defended his opinion with pieces of biscuit, laid
at different positions during which two
more glasses were demolished.
The captain rang, and ordered coffee
in an angry tone. When the officers had taken
it, he bowed stiffly, and wished them good evening.
There was one dish which was an object
of abhorrence to Captain Bradshaw. The first-lieutenant,
aware of it, as they rose to depart, said, “Captain
Bradshaw, if it’s not too great a liberty, we
should like to have some tripe to-morrow.
We are all three very partial to it.”
“So am I,” rejoined Jerry.
Captain Bradshaw could hold out no
longer. “Leave the cabin immediately,
gentlemen. By heavens, you shall never put your
legs under my table again.”
“Are we not to dine here to-morrow,
sir?” replied the first-lieutenant with affected
surprise; “the order says, `every day.’”
“Till further orders,”
roared the captain; “and now you have them, for
I’ll be damned if ever you dine with me again.”
The officers took their departure,
restraining their mirth until they gained the gun-room:
and Jerry was about to follow, when Captain Bradshaw
caught him by the arm.
“Stop, my young gentleman, you’ve
not had your `whack,’ yet.”
“I’ve had quite sufficient,
sir, I thank you,” replied Jerry; “an
excellent dinner many thanks to your hospitality.”
“Yes, but I must now give you your dessert.”
“I’ve had my dessert and coffee too, sir,”
said Jerry, trying to escape.
“But you have not had your châsse-cafe,
and I cannot permit you to leave the cabin without
it. Steward, desire a boatswain’s mate
to bring his cat, and a quarter-master to come here
Jerry was now in a stew the
inflexible countenance of Captain Bradshaw showed
that he was in earnest. However, he held his
tongue until the operators appeared, hoping that the
captain would think better of it.
“Seize this young gentleman
up to the breach of the gun, quarter-master!”
“Will you oblige me, sir, by letting me know
“I do not belong to your ship,”
continued Jerry. “If I have done wrong,
Captain M – is well known to be a
strict officer, and will pay every attention to your
“I will save him the trouble, sir.”
Jerry was now seized up, and every
arrangement made preparatory to punishment.
“Well, sir,” resumed Jerry, “it must
be as you please; but I know what Captain M –
“That you were angry with your
officers, whom you could not punish, and revenged
yourself upon a poor boy.”
“Would he? Boatswain’s mate,
where’s your cat?”
“Here, sir; how many tails am I to
“Oh, give him the whole nine.”
“Why, your honour,” replied
the man, in a compassionate tone, “there’s
hardly room for them there.”
Jerry, who, when his indignation was
roused, cared little what he said, and defied consequences,
now addressed the captain.
“Captain Bradshaw, before you
commence, will you allow me to tell you what I will
call you after the first lash?”
“What!” cried Jerry, with
scorn, “Why, if you cut me to pieces,
and turn me out of the service afterwards, I will
call you a paltry coward, and your own conscience,
when you are able to reflect, will tell you the same.”
Captain Bradshaw started back with
astonishment at such unheard-of language from a midshipman;
but he was pleased with the undaunted spirit of the
boy perhaps he felt the truth of the observation.
At all events, it saved Jerry. After a short
pause, the captain said
“Cast him loose; but observe,
sir, never let me see your face again while you are
in the ship!”
“No, nor any other part of me,
if I can help it,” replied Jerry, buttoning
up his clothes, and making a precipitate escape by