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A Middy of the Slave Squadron by Harry Collingwood

I walked the poop with Monsieur Leroy for a full hour


"Partially!"

I objected. "Why, the man is as mad as a March hare. He absolutely loses all control of himself when he allows his temper to master him, and becomes more like a savage beast than a man!"

"Ay, that is true, he does," agreed Leroy. "But, hark ye, monsieur, let me give you a friendly hint--you have escaped unharmed thus far, therefore I believe you may consider yourself reasonably safe; but in case of any further outbreaks on the captain's part, take especial care that you give him no reason to suppose that you are afraid of him; that is the surest road to safety with him."

"Upon my word I believe you are right," said I. "At all events that is the road which I took with him just now, for I pinned him down to the cabin deck, and threatened to beat his brains out. Yet here I am, alive, to speak of it."

"Good!" ejaculated the mate. "If you did that you are all right; I believe that if there is one thing he admires more than another it is absolute fearlessness. Show him that you do not care the snap of a finger for him and he will forgive you anything, even the fact that you are an Englishman."

I walked the poop with Monsieur Leroy for a full hour, chatting with him and learning many things very well worth knowing; and while I was chatting with him I kept my eyes about me, carefully noting all the particulars and peculiarities of the barque,

with a view to future contingencies. Among other things I learned that she was named _La Mouette_; that she was of three hundred and sixty-four tons register; that she mounted fourteen twenty-eight pound carronades on her main-deck and four six-pounders on her poop; that she carried a complement of one hundred and seventy men; and that she was then bound into the river Kwara for a cargo of slaves to be conveyed to Martinique, or Cuba, as circumstances might decide.

At the end of about an hour I was once more summoned to the cabin, where I found Tourville sitting at the table. The man had now completely regained his self-control; he was perfectly calm, and waved me courteously to a seat on the cabin sofa, which I took.

"Monsieur Fortescue," said he, "I shall not mock you or myself by pretending to excuse or apologise for my recent outbreak of violence, for it is due to a weakness which I am wholly unable to conquer, and which may, quite possibly, get the better of me again. If it should, I must ask you to kindly be patient and forbearing with me, and to keep out of my way until the fit has passed. What I particularly wish to say to you now is that you are from this moment perfectly safe so long as it may be necessary for you to honour my ship with your presence. But, since you will naturally desire to rejoin your own ship as speedily as possible, I propose to tranship you into the first vessel bearing the British flag which we may chance to fall in with--provided, of course, that she is not a ship of war. Should we happen to fall in with a British man-o'-war, my course of action will be guided by circumstances; I shall not feel myself justified in trusting to her captain's magnanimity to let us go free after delivering you safe on board her; but should the weather be fine enough to allow of such a proceeding without risk to you, I will give you a boat in which you may make your own way on board her. Meanwhile, I beg that you will regard yourself as my guest, free to come and go in this cabin as you please, and to take your meals at my table; and I have also made arrangements for your greater comfort in the state-room which Leroy assigned to you when you came aboard last night. I trust that these plans of mine will be agreeable to you."


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