Read CHAPTER V - MR. CLYDE BLACKLOCK AND MOTHER of Up The Baltic Young America in Norway‚ Sweden‚ and Denmark , free online book, by Oliver Optic, on

Belonging to the squadron were fourteen boats, ranging from the twelve-oar barge down to the four-oar cutter.  In the waters of Brockway harbor, rowing had been the principal exercise of the students, though the daily evolutions in seamanship were well calculated to develop the muscles and harden the frame.  They had been carefully trained in the art, and, enjoying the amusement which it afforded, they were apt scholars.  As the safety of the squadron and the saving of life at sea might often depend upon the skill with which the boats were handled, the principal devoted a great deal of attention to this branch of nautical education.  To give an additional zest to the exercise, he had occasionally offered prizes at the boat-races which the students were encouraged to pull; and the first cutter was now in possession of a beautiful silk flag, won by the power of the crew in rowing.

Every boy in the squadron was a swimmer.  In the summer season this accomplishment had been taught as an art, an hour being devoted to the lesson every day, if the weather was suitable.  Cleats, the adult boatswain of the Josephine, was the “professor” of the art, having been selected for the responsible position on account of his remarkable skill as a swimmer.  The boys were trained in diving, floating, swimming under water, and taught to perform various evolutions.  Not alone in the tranquil bay were they educated to the life of the fishes, but also in the surf, and among the great waves.  They were taught to get into a boat from the water in a heavy sea.  A worn-out old longboat had done duty during the preceding summer as a wreck, in order to familiarize the students with the possibilities of their future experience.  It was so prepared that a portion of its planking could be suddenly knocked out, and the boat almost instantly filled with water; and the problem was, to meet this emergency in the best manner.  Other boats were at hand in case of a real accident, or if any naturally timid fellow lost his presence of mind.  While the “wreck,” as the practice boat was called, was moving along over the waves, pulled by half a dozen boys, Cleats, without warning or notice of his intention, opened the aperture near her keel.  Sometimes she was loaded with stones, so that she went to the bottom like a rock, though this part of the programme was always carried out on a beach, where the receding tide would enable the professor to recover the boat.  The crew were then to save themselves by swimming ashore, or to another boat.  Sometimes, also, the “wreck” was loaded with broken spars, pieces of board, and bits of rope; and the problem was for the crew to construct a raft in the water, often in a rough sea.  All these exercises, and many others, were heartily enjoyed by the boys, and a ringing cheer always announced the safety of a crew, either on the shore, in a boat, or on the raft.

Many persons, and even those who are tolerable swimmers, have been drowned simply by the loss of their presence of mind.  The dashing of the waves, or the great distance of the land or other place of safety, intimidates them, and they are unable to use their powers.  But the students of the squadron were gradually and carefully accustomed to the water, so that they could swim a reasonable distance without wearing themselves out, could rest their limbs by floating, and were taught to avail themselves of any expedient to secure their safety.  If a boat was stove on the rocks in a surf, or was run down by a vessel, the fact of being in the water did not frighten them out of their wits, for they had been trained to feel quite at home, as in their native element.  They were actually drilled to confront danger in every imaginable form.  But a gentle and timid boy was not pitched into the water, even after he had learned to swim.  His constitutional shrinking was slowly and skilfully overcome, so that even the most delicate ­though but few such ever found their way into the ranks of the squadron ­took to the water as a pastime.  Of course the degree of proficiency in the art of swimming, and of the acquired ability to meet danger in the water, differed very widely in different boys; but all were accustomed to the waves, and, in a measure, to leading the life of a duck or a fish.

The crews of the several boats piped over the side, and took their places, the rest of the students being distributed in the barges and cutters, till only the adult officers remained in the ship.  Each one, as it was loaded, pulled off, and took its station in the order in which the boat squadron usually moved.  The commodore’s barge and the ship’s first cutter, each twelve oars, led the van, while the other boats came in four ranks of three each.  All the boats carried the American flag at the stern, and each one had its number at the bow.  All the Young America’s boats had their numbers on a white, the Josephine’s on a green, and the Tritonia’s on a blue flag.

The tactics of the boat squadron were many and various, which had been adopted more to give interest to the exercise than for any inherent utility.  These movements were regulated by signals from the commodore’s barge.  Mr. Lowington had decided to make an excursion among the islands in the Fjord before dinner, and visit the town in the afternoon.  A pilot was put in the commodore’s barge, and Captain Cumberland, as acting flag officer, was in command of the squadron.  The principal and Professor Badois were passengers in his barge.

The cutters were formed in their usual array, and the two boats from the yachts brought up the rear.  The signal officer, who was a quartermaster from the ship, at the order of the captain, elevated the white flag crossed with red, with which all the signals were made.  The coxswains of the several boats could see this flag, while the oarsmen could not, being back to the barge, and not allowed to look behind them.

“Oars!” said each coxswain, as soon as the signal appeared.

At this command the several crews, who had been laying on their oars, prepared for the stroke.  The signal officer dropped the flag to the port side of the barge.

“Give way!” added each coxswain; and the boat squadron moved off.

In order to keep the lines full, the larger quarter boat of the Grace had been borrowed and manned, and now took the place of the second cutter, which had been stove, and upon which the three carpenters of the squadron were now at work, making the necessary repairs.  The fleet made a splendid appearance, with the flags flying, and with the officers and crews in their best uniforms.  The people on the shore, and on board of the various vessels in the harbor, gathered to see the brilliant array.  The crew of an English steamer cheered lustily, and the lady passengers waved their handkerchiefs.  Suddenly the signal on the commodore’s barge went up again.

“Stand by to toss!” said the several coxswains, as the fleet of boats came abreast of the steamer, which was the Orlando, bound from Hull to Christiania.

The signal went down to the port side.

“Toss!” continued the coxswains, only loud enough to be heard by the crews, for they had been taught that the unnecessary screaming of orders makes an officer seem ridiculous, and injures the effect of the manoeuvre.

At the word every oar went up, and was held perpendicularly in the air with the left hand.  A bugle blast from the barge at this moment brought every student to his feet, with his right hand to his cap.

“One!” said the coxswain of each boat, at a dip of the signal flag.

A rousing cheer, accompanied by a swing of the cap, followed, and was twice repeated, making up the complement of the three cheers, in return for the salutations of the steamer’s people.  Her crew returned the compliment in like manner.  At another blast of the bugle, the crews were seated with their oars still up.  Again the signal in the barge was elevated.

“Stand by!” said the coxswains, which was only a warning to be ready.

The flag dropped to port.

“Let fall!” added the coxswain; and all the oars dropped into the water together, while the flag was again elevated.  “Give way!” and the stroke was resumed.

The passengers of the Orlando clapped their hands vigorously, as they witnessed the perfection of the movements.  The fleet proceeded up the bay towards the west front of the town, where a considerable collection of people had assembled to witness the novel parade.  The barge led the way to the extreme west of the bay, where the signal flag was again exhibited, and then swung first to the port and then to the starboard.  This was the signal for coming into single line, and the coxswain of each boat gave the orders necessary to bring it into range.  It was so managed that each boat came into the new order as it turned to pass in front of the town; so that they proceeded in a single line before the people, but not more than twenty feet apart.  Once more the signal flag appeared, with a double motion upwards.

“Stand by to lay on your oars!” said the coxswains.  “Oars!” they continued, as the flag swung down to starboard.  “Hold water!”

These orders soon brought the boats to a stand.  The signal flag moved in a horizontal circle.

“Pull, starboard; back, port.  Give way!” continued the coxswains; and the effect of this evolution was to turn the boats as on a pivot.  “Oars!” and the crew ceased pulling, with their oars all on a level, and the blades feathered.

The boats had been turned half round, and each coxswain aligned his own by the barge on the right.  In this position three cheers were given in compliment to the people on the shore, though the Norwegians seemed to be too dull and heavy to comprehend the nature of the movement.  The boats swung again, and continued on their way, in single line, through the narrow passage between Odderoe and the main land.  Under the direction of the native pilot, the barge led the way among the islands, affording the students an opportunity to see the shores.  When the fleet came into the broad channel, the order was resumed, as at first, and after various manoeuvres, it was dismissed, each boat returning to the vessel to which it belonged.

The appearance of the fleet, including the two beautiful yachts, and the evolutions of the boats, had created a decided sensation on board of the Orlando, which was crowded with passengers, most of them tourists on their way to the interior of Norway.  The crews of the several vessels piped to dinner as soon as they returned from the excursion; but the meal was hardly finished before visitors from the steamer began to arrive, and the boatmen in the harbor made a good harvest on the occasion.  Among those who came to the ship was an elegantly dressed lady, with her son and daughter, attended by a servant man in livery.  Mrs. Garberry Blacklock was duly presented to the principal by one of the gentlemen who had introduced himself.  She was evidently a very fine lady; for she was “distinguished” in her manners as well as in her dress.  And her son, Clyde Blacklock, was as evidently a very fine young gentleman, though he was only fourteen years of age.  It is doubtful whether Miss Celia Blacklock could be regarded as a very fine young lady, for she appeared to be very pretty, and very modest and retiring, with but a very moderate estimate of her own importance.

For the tenth time Mr. Lowington briefly explained the nature of the institution over which he presided; and the fine lady listened with languishing ennui.

“But it is a very rough life for young gentlemen,” suggested Mrs. Blacklock.  “I should fancy they would become very, very rude.”

“Not necessarily,” replied the principal.  “We intend that the students shall behave like gentlemen, and we think the discipline of the ship has a tendency to promote good manners.”

“They must live like sailors, and sailors are very, very rude.”

“Not necessarily, madam.  There is nothing in the occupation itself that ­”

“But I wish to know what the fellows do,” interposed Mr. Clyde Blacklock.

“There is nothing in the occupation itself that begets rudeness,” added Mr. Lowington, giving no attention to the young gentleman, who had so impolitely broken in upon the conversation of his elders.  “I see no reason why a young man cannot be a gentleman in a ship as well as on shore.”

“I dare say you have sailors to do the dirty work.”

“No, madam; our students do all the work.”

“Do they put their own fingers into the pitch and the tar?” inquired the lady, with a curl of the lip which indicated her horror.

“Certainly; but we think pitch and tar are not half so defiling as evil thoughts and bad manners.”

“They are very, very disagreeable.  The odor of tar and pitch is intolerable.”

“We do not find it so, for ­”

“I say, I wish to know what the fellows do.”

“We are accustomed to the odor of them,” continued the principal.  “To some people the scent of musk, and even otto of roses, is not pleasant; and, for my part, I rather enjoy that of tar and pitch.”

“That is very, very singular.  But Clyde desires to know what the young gentlemen do,” added the lady, glancing at her son, behind whom stood the man in livery, as though he were the boy’s exclusive property.

“They have a regular routine of study,” replied Mr. Lowington, addressing the lady, and declining even to glance at the original inquirer, for the rudeness of Mr. Clyde in interrupting the conversation seemed to merit a rebuke.  “They attend to the studies usually pursued in the highest class of academies, including the modern languages and navigation, the latter being a speciality in the course.”

“I don’t care what they study,” said Clyde.  “What do they do in the ship?”

“We prepare boys for college, and beyond that pursue a regular college course, so far as our facilities will permit.  Our students have the advantage of travel; for, in the present cruise, we shall visit all the principal nations of Europe.”

“What do they do in the ship?”

“Clyde desires to know what the boys do in the ship,” added the lady.

“They learn good manners, for the first thing, madam.  There are fifteen officers in this vessel, and nine in each of the others.  They are all students, who take their rank according to their merit.  The best scholar in each is the captain, and so on.”

“Does the captain manage the ship?” asked Clyde.


“I should like to be the captain,” exclaimed the young gentleman.

“Do you think you could manage the ship?” asked his mother, with a smile which expressed the pride she felt in the towering ambition of her son.

“I could, if any fellow could.”

“Clyde is very fond of the sea; indeed, he worries me sadly by his adventurous spirit,” said his mother.

“I think it would do him good to go to sea,” added the principal, rather dryly.

“The students made a beautiful appearance in their boats to-day,” continued Mrs. Blacklock.  “It was really very, very wonderful.”

“They handle the boats very well indeed, but their skill was only acquired by long and careful training.  As we have a considerable number of visitors on board, madam, we will show you a little seamanship.  Captain Cumberland,” he added, turning to the young commander, who had been making himself agreeable to Miss Celia Blacklock.

The captain asked the young lady to excuse him, and stepping up to the principal, bowed gracefully, and raised his cap.

“He’s a regular swell,” said Clyde to his man.

“He’s a young gentleman as is highly polished, which these naval officers is generally,” replied Jeems.

Mr. Lowington directed the captain to call all hands, and go through the evolutions of loosing and furling, for the gratification of the guests of the ship.  Captain Cumberland bowed and raised his cap again as he retired, and the principal hoped that Clyde would take a lesson in good manners from him.

“Will you walk to the quarter-deck, Miss Blacklock,” said the captain, touching his cap to the young lady, to whom he had been formally introduced by the principal.  “We are going to loose and furl, and you can see better there than here.”

“With pleasure,” replied Miss Celia.  “But what did you say you were going to do?”

“Loose and furl the sails,” replied the captain, as he conducted the fair miss to the quarter-deck, where they were followed by Mr. Lowington and the rest of the party.

“Mr. Judson,” said the commander.

“Here, sir,” replied the first lieutenant.

“Call all hands to loose and furl.”

“All hands, sir,” responded Judson, touching his cap to his superior, as all on board were required to do.

“They are all swells,” said Clyde to his man.

“All hands, loose sails!” shouted the boatswain, as he blew the proper blast on his whistle.

In a few moments every officer and seaman was at his station for the manoeuvre indicated by the call.  The students, aware that they were simply to “show off,” were fully determined to astonish the wondering crowd on the decks.

“Stand by to lay aloft, the ready-men!” shouted the first lieutenant, as he received the order from the captain.

It was repeated by the second lieutenant on the forecastle, the third in the waist, and the fourth on the quarter-deck.

“All ready, sir!” reported the several officers.

“Lay aloft!”

At the command those whose duty it was to prepare the sails and rigging for the manoeuvre sprang up the rigging, and in three minutes the midshipman aloft reported that all was ready.

“Lay aloft, sail-loosers!” continued the first lieutenant.

The seamen, who were arranged in proper order on deck, the royal yard men first, then those who belonged on the top-gallant yards, the topsail, and the lower yards, placed in succession, so that each could reach his station without passing others, leaped into the rigging, and went up like so many cats.

“Man the boom tricing-lines!”

These are ropes by which the studding-sail booms, which lie on the yards, are hauled up out of the way.

“Trice up!”

The studding-sail booms were drawn up.

“Lay out!  Loose sails!”

The hands jumped upon the foot-ropes, and worked themselves out to their places on the yards, where they loosed the sails, overhauled the rigging, and made everything ready for the final evolution.  The midshipman in the tops reported to the officers on deck when the preparations were completed, and the lieutenants on deck, in their turn, reported to the first lieutenant.

“Let fall!” said the executive officer; and all, as one, the sails dropped from the yards.

The precision of the movement called forth a demonstration of applause from the visitors.  Mr. Clyde Blacklock stood with his mouth open, looking up at the students on the yards, but occasionally glancing at the “swellish” first lieutenant, who seemed to be the master-spirit of the occasion, because he spoke in a loud voice, while the captain, who really controlled the evolutions, could hardly be heard, except by the executive officer, to whom alone his order was given.

“Lay in!  Lay down from aloft!” said the first lieutenant; and in a moment more all hands were on deck again.

“Do you ever man the yards, sir?” asked a gentleman of the principal.

“Occasionally, sir ­not often.  You are aware that it requires some preparation, for we are obliged to extend life-lines over the yards,” replied Mr. Lowington.  “We are not in condition to do it now.  If we should happen to be visited by the king at Copenhagen or Stockholm, and had previous notice, we should certainly do it.”

The crew were then required to go through the manoeuvre of furling sails, which was performed with the same precision as the first evolution, and to the great satisfaction of the guests, who were then invited to visit the cabins and steerage of the ship.

“Mother, I like this thing,” said Mr. Clyde Blacklock.

“It’s all very, very fine, Clyde,” replied the tender mother.

“And the ship’s going up the Baltic, and then up the Mediterranean.”

“Yes, Clyde.”

“And I want to go in her.”

“You, Clyde!”

“Yes, that’s what I say.”

“And be a sailor?”

“I always told you I wanted to be a sailor.  Didn’t that head master, or whatever he is, say it would do me good to go to sea?”

“Perhaps he did, but I can’t go with you, my dear.”

“I don’t want you to go with me.  I’m not a baby!” protested the indignant youth.

“But you are my only son, dear.”

“If you had forty only sons, it would be all the same to me.  I say I want to go in this ship, and be a sailor.”

Mrs. Blacklock was appalled, and was sorely disturbed by the announcement of her son.  The young gentleman insisted that he should be entered at once as a member of the ship’s company.  He suggested to his anxious mother that she could travel by land while he went by sea, and that she could see him every time the ship went into port.  The lady appeared to see no alternative, but evidently felt compelled to yield to her son’s demand.  It was plain enough, even to a casual observer, that Clyde was the head of the family.  Mrs. Blacklock promised to speak to the principal, but she hoped he would not be able to take her son.  Before she had an opportunity to make the application, the Orlando’s bell rang for her passengers to return.  The sound seemed to be a relief to the lady; but Mr. Clyde put his foot down just there, and upset all her hopes.

“Come, Clyde; the Orlando is ready to go,” said she.

“Let her go,” replied the hopeful son.

“But we must go on board.”

“You may go.  I’m off to sea in this ship.”

“Not now, my dear,” pleaded Mrs. Blacklock.

“Now’s the time.  If you don’t speak to that head master yourself, I shall do so.”

“Not now, my dearest boy.  This ship is going to Christiania, and we will speak to the gentleman on the subject when she arrives.  Come, Clyde; the boat is waiting for us, and all the other passengers have gone.”

“You can’t fool me, mother.  I’m going to sea now.  I like this ship, and I rather like those swells of officers.”

Clyde positively refused to leave the ship, though his mother, almost in tears, begged him to accompany her.

“My son won’t go with me,” said she, as Mr. Lowington came towards her to ascertain the cause of their delay.

“If you desire, madam, the boatswain will put him into the boat for you,” replied the principal.

“Put me into the boat!” exclaimed the indignant youth.  “I should be glad to see him do it!”

“Should you?  Peaks!”

“On deck, sir,” replied the big boatswain, touching his cap to the principal.

“Pray, don’t, sir ­don’t!” begged the lady.  “Clyde wants to go to sea in your ship.”

“O, does he, indeed!” exclaimed the principal.  “We have a vacant place, and he can be accommodated.”

The fond mother’s heart sank at this announcement.  Mr. Lowington, though his experience with students of this description had been far from satisfactory, felt that his duty to humanity required him to take this boy, who was evidently on the high road to ruin through the weak indulgence of his mother.