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A Middy of the Slave Squadron by Harry Collingwood

To find that little Tom Copplestone who shared my watch


"We did, Mr Futtock; yes, we heard it distinctly, seeing that we don't `caulk' in our watch on deck," I retorted. "Yes, it's another boat affair; so be good enough to have all hands called at once, if you please. And kindly make it your personal business to see that nobody raises his voice, lets anything fall, or otherwise creates row enough to wake the dead. This is going to be a little surprise visit, you understand."

"Ay, ay, Mr Fortescue, I understands," answered Futtock, as he moved toward the open hatchway; "I'll see that the swabs don't make no noise. The man that raises his voice above a whisper won't go. That's all."

"Just one word more, Mr Futtock," I hastily interposed, as the boatswain stepped over the coaming to descend the hatchway. "You may do me a favour, if you will. Kindly ask the armourer to pick me out a nice sharp cutlass, if you please. You can bring it on deck with you when you come up."

To this request the boatswain readily enough assented; and matters being thus far satisfactorily arranged I descended to the cockroach-haunted den wherein we mids. ate and slept, to find that little Tom Copplestone--who shared my watch, and who was a special favourite of mine because of his gentle, genial disposition, and also perhaps because he hailed from the same county as myself--having overheard the conversation between Mr Perry and myself, had already come below and roused the occupants of the place, who, by the smoky rays of a flaring oil lamp that did its best to make the atmosphere quite unendurable, were hastily arraying themselves.

"Murder!" I ejaculated, as I entered the pokey little place and got my first whiff of its close, reeking, smoke-laden atmosphere; "put out that abominable lamp and light a candle or two, somebody, for pity's sake. How the dickens you fellows can manage to breathe down here I can't understand. And, boy," to the messenger outside, "pass the word for Cupid to bring us along some cocoa from the galley."

"There's no need," remarked Nugent, the master's mate, as he struggled ineffectively to find the left sleeve of his jacket. "The word has already been passed; I passed it myself when Master Cock-robin there," pointing to Copplestone, "came and roused us out. And, as to candles, I'm afraid we haven't any; the rats appear to have eaten the last two we had in the locker. However--ah, here comes the cocoa. Put the pot down there, Cupid--never mind if it _does_ soil our beautiful damask table- cloth, we're going to have it washed next time we go into Sierra Leone. And just see if you can find us a biscuit or two and some butter, will ye, you black angel? Here, avast there,"--as the black was about to retire--"produce our best china breakfast-set before you go, you swab, and pour out the cocoa."

The black, a herculean Krooboy, picked up when we first arrived on the Coast, and promptly christened "Cupid" by the master's mate, who, possibly because of sundry disappointments, had developed a somewhat sardonic turn of humour, grinned appreciatively at Nugent's sorry jest respecting "our best china breakfast-set," and proceeded to rout out the heterogeneous assortment of delf and tin cups, basins, and plates that constituted the table-equipage of the midshipmen's berth, poured out a generous allowance of cocoa for each of us, and then departed, with the empty bread-barge, in quest of a supply of ship's biscuit. By the time that Cupid returned with this, we had gulped down our cocoa and were ready to go on deck. I therefore helped myself to a couple of biscuits which, breaking into pieces of convenient size by the simple process of dashing them against my elbow, I crammed into my jacket pocket, and then rushed up the ladder to the deck, leaving my companions to follow after they had snatched a hasty bite or two of food; for there was now no knowing when we might get breakfast.


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