Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

The cry, though invariably raised by the bearers, is different in all the provinces. In some, the palankeen is carried straight forward, so that the hindermost men tread on the footsteps of the foremost; but in other places, again, the occupier of the palankeen is carried as a passenger in an English omnibus, to sit side-ways.

Some highly interesting observations on the agricultural condition of Mysore, and a very graphic description of the great festival of this place, called Dussera, form the contents of the sixth and seventh chapters of this volume. The principal incident worthy of notice in this account, is a sort of amusement which will be best understood under the appellation of “ baiting a tiger.” To this are added some reminiscences of tame and fighting tigers, by the Captain, in which the reader will find a great deal of amusing matter. From the quarrels of inferior animals, the author ascends to those of the pugnacious classes of men ; and dwells for some time on a certain caste, called Jetties, the members of which have been trained from their infancy to the most laborious exercises which it is possible for man to be engaged in. The mode of fighting, for it is their practice to wrestle or box in public, consists of closing or grappling with each other; and then the law of combat, which prescribes that the right arm should carry a cestus, also forbids this instrument to be aimed at any other part than the head. Great dexterity is shown in giving the wounds, a skilful Jetty being able so to incise the scalp by a blow, as that his adversary shall be covered all over with blood. The wounds, however, appear to be never of a dangerous kind.

The prettiest game, however, which the party witnessed at the above festival was the following, which Captain Hall considers is well worthy of being imitated at the Opera-house at home.

Eight boys, standing round a pole at a certain distance in a circle, held each in his hand a silk string, which was connected with a ring placed in the middle of the pole. The colours of the strings were all different, and the business of the play consisted in the boys commencing a dance on the signal of lively music, and so regulating their movements as to twist up the separate cords into a single rope. A couple of feet of the rope being completed, the boys waited the inspection of the Maha Rajah of Mysore, because they might unravel the work, and compose the rope again according to any pattern which his royal highness might think it necessary to command.

The last two chapters present descriptions of a granite mountain cut into a statue, and of a bamboo forest; together with the particulars of a visit to the Sultan of Pontiana, in Borneo. The result of the latter excursion implicated Sir Samuel Hood in unpleasant circumstances, the manner of getting out of which are related by Captain Hall in such a way as to cover the memory of that gallant Admiral with glory.

We now arrive at the third volume of the Fragments, the con. tents of which appear to us to predominate in value far above those of its predecessors. The author informs us that it had been his original intention to have made a general survey of the nature and practice of the naval system of discipline, and to show the relative duties of the different classes of officers as well as men ; to have added some hints on the subject of officer-like and gentleman-like conduct, including a denunciation of the crimes of debt and duelling; and to conclude with some remarks on the proper courses of study, professional, scientific, and literary, which would prove most suitable to the object of the intellectual improvement of naval officers. But the space which the adequate treatment of these important ques. tions required, would have been altogether inconsistent with the plan of the work, and the Captain was therefore under the necessity of confining himself to such portions of the task as he was persuaded that he could make intelligible to unprofessional, and useful to naval men.

Proceeding in the development of his plan, the Captain is resolved to begin at the beginning, and brings us at once to the initiatory process of the commissioning of a man-of-war. This description includes the fitting out, the force which the ship is to carry, &c. When an officer is appointed to the command of a ship, he either goes to the Admiralty or to the dock-yard where the vessel is; previously, however, he must have waited on the Admiral who commands the outport where the dock-yard is situated, and then upon the Admiral who superintends the dock-yard itself. All these formalities completed, the next thing to do is, for the officer to get hold of one of what are called the warrant-officers, that is to say, either the boatswain, gunner, or carpenter of the ship, and make him hoist the pendant. The latter is a long streamer, with a St. George's cross painted on a white-field in the upper part next the mast, with a fly or tail, either red, white, or blue, or entirely of the colour of the particular ensign belonging to the ship, which colour again is determined by that of the flag of the Admiral under whose orders the ship is placed. The pendant is then hoisted, and this is a sign to all beholders that the ship is commissioned ; the sign remains permanently in its conspicuous place, never being taken down night or day. Now the muster-book is opened; this is a book in which are entered the names of the officers and men as they gradually arrive. The ship, however, is not yet fitted out, and therefore a hulk or receiving ship is stationed alongside the newlycommissioned one, where the officers and men are to live in the meantime. The marines are generally the first men on board the hulk, having been early drafted from the barracks; and immediately upon the officer's taking possession of the hulk, there are sent from the victualling office provisions for present use, together with slop clothing, hammocks, bedding, &c. for the marines and sailors. Here, then, is the foundation at once laid of a ship’s company; and the full complement, the Captain says, may be attained with good management, a little patience, and a few grains of cheerfulness. He recommends that a public house should be appointed in some street frequented by seamen, and that this should be distinguished by a flag with the name of the ship. Some old and steady hand connected with the ship, and who has an interest in getting it properly manned, should attend this place of rendezvous, dropping in as it were on some other business, while the real one is to engage the sailors as they come in to consider the new enterprise which the ship is destined to undertake. The Captain, with that love of candour and fair dealing which every one would readily expect to find in his character, states it to be of the utmost consequence, that on such occasions every thing should be scrupulously avoided which could possibly come under the description of false pretences; and this he insists on, not only because this recommendation is sanctioned by moral propriety, but because the impolicy of the contrary conduct when exposed (and exposure is always sure to take place) would be highly injurious to the naval service. The truth, he forcibly remarks, is, that Jack, with all his vagaries, is in the enjoyment of a ready discernment in all such matters, and certainly is not to be entrapped by chaff.

We are now advanced in our theoretical process to the completion of the commissioning of the ship; and next we have to contemplate the Captain quite overwhelmed in his efforts to effect its equipment. One of the most important of his early duties is the management of the stowage of the ballast, for on the due distribution of the ballast depends, to a great extent, the sailing qualities of the vessel. The Port Admiral then supplies the signal-books, printed naval instructions, Admiralty statutes, and the other works of reference appointed to be placed in the hands of seamen. The port regulations and orders which are habitually given, are recommended by the Captain to be frequently perused by the officers and crew of a newly-commissioned ship; for the tribulation which results from even a casual neglect of these written orders is so general and vexatious, that no pains should be spared in order to prevent its occurrence. The Captain makes several suggestions for the treatment of the noviciate crew, which show how practically he views every subject about which he is interested. Whilst the reins of discipline should not be held too tightly, yet it would be a fatal error in the officer on duty to attempt to obtain popularity by unworthy means. His most obvious policy, because it is his safest, is to adopt a stern principle of fair dealing and strict propriety, administering equal justice to all, and affording as much indulgence to individuals as circumstances and sound discretion will allow. Captain Hall, from some facts stated by himself, seems to us to have hit with admirable discrimination the very delicate line of demarkation between justifiable lenity, and that conduct which would compromise discipline. It is usual for the officers, in about a week after the ship has been commissioned, to assemble on board the hulk and appoint their servants; then, too, the mates and mids, and a pretty large proportion of youngsters (sometimes these are only squeakers) come on board, by the authority of the Admiralty, to serve in due time as mids. Amongst the ceremonies performed in this state of infancy of the ship, is one of a very peculiar nature, as we are disposed to believe, called gammoning the bowsprit. We can bear testimony to the justice of the apprehension expressed by the Captain, that his description of this operation would not prove intelligible to shore-going folks. Indeed, the same conviction, that we meet with an inexplicable mystery, seizes us when we approach the details of the process of rigging a ship. These, therefore, we are under the necessity of passing by. The arrangements for the general conduct of the new community, now brought together by the complete fitting out of the ship, and her readiness to leave the harbour, are placed under the guidance of a most rigid spirit of regularity, which is attended with the greatest practical advantages. The men, says the Captain, quickly learn to feel a pride in that which is approved of and lauded by their officers, and there is generated between those who rule and are ruled, a system of co-operation which works smoothly, and is constantly accompanied by perfect cheerfulness on all sides. He challenges a comparison between the efficiency of a ship in which the bullying and reproachful plan of discipline is resorted to, and that ship in which the principle of encouragement and affability is recognised ; and he has no doubt that the result of that comparison would be all in favour of the latter. The crew, in the former instance, so far from performing their duties with good will, feel a pleasure in crossing the objects of their hated officers, and too often wait until punishment overtakes them in their obstinate passiveness. But how different is the result where the exercise of authority is discreetly and moderately applied ; where indulgence is granted when it reasonably can; and where, more particularly, no coarse or profane language, in the urgency of violent passion, is employed by an officer to any of his subordinates. It may, therefore, as the Captain observes, be said of cheerfulness in discipline, as is stated of mercy in justice, that it is twice blessed, or rather, we may be permitted to add, that it is three times blessed, inasmuch as the benefit is not only shared by him who gives, and by those who take, but also by the State which is so fortunate as to number such men amongst its servants. No man, according to every testimony that is worthy of credit, seems more to have thoroughly understood the advantages to be derived from the practical observation of the wise maxims of conduct which have been now indicated, than the illustrous Lord Nelson. If we wanted sufficient authority for knowing how this gallant hero governed his fleets--if we were without the irresistable testimonies furnished by the behaviour and actions of his men-in the absence of all these, we might yet have a sufficient notion of the principles

on which his domestic system, if we may be allowed so to call it, was founded, in the following anecdote, which, to render it justice, must be related in Captain Hall's own words :

I remember hearing that once, during the long and weary period when Lord Nelson was blockading Toulon, he was joined from England by a line-of-battle ship, commanded by an officer who, as the story goes, had long applied for and expected an appointment to a cruising frigate, and who, in consequence of this disappointment, came growling out to join the fleet, in high dudgeon with the Admiralty at being condemned, as he called it, to the galley-slave duty of a blockade, in a wretched old tub of a 74, instead of ranging at large in a gay frigate over the Atlantic or the Adriatic, and nabbing up prizes by the dozen. It appears, farther, that he rather unreasonably extended a portion of his indignation to the admiral, who, of course, had nothing to do with his appointment; and this sulky frame of mind might have proved the captain's ruin, had his admiral been any other than Nelson. But the genius of that great officer appeared to delight in such occasions of recalling people to a sense of their duty, and directing their passions and motives into the channels most useful to themselves and their country. His invariable maxim was, that there might be found more good qualities than bad ones in most people, and that there existed scarcely any one who, by proper management, might not be induced to exert himself heartily to some useful public purpose.

Be this, abstractedly, as it may, it is certain that, on the occasion alluded to, Lord Nelson had somehow got notice of the temper which the new comer had brought with him from home, and he took his wonted line accordingly. Knowing the officer to be a clever man, and capable of performing good service if he chose, it was Nelson's cue to make it his choice. When, therefore, the captain came on board, full of irritability and provocation, the admiral took no notice, but chatted with him during breakfast on the news from England, and other indifferent matters, as if his guest had been in the best humour possible. The other, who was nursing his displeasure, waited only for an opportunity of exploding, when he could do so without a breach of decorum or of the official etiquettes of the service. Lord Nelson soon gave him the occasion he appeared to seek for, by begging him to step into the after-cabin, and then asking him what he thought of the station, and how he should like cruising in the Levant and other interesting parts of the Mediterranean.

" Why, as to that, my lord, I am not very likely to have an opportunity of being able to give an answer. I am sent here against my will to join the blockading fleet; and here, no doubt, I am doomed to stick to the end of the chapter. I care nothing abo'it the Mediterranean, and it would matter little if I did.”

I am sorry to hear you speak in that way,” said Nelson, “ for I had reckoned a good deal on your activity, personal knowledge, and abilities, to have executed a service of some consequence in the upper parts of the station. In this view I have been cutting out a cruise for you, which I had hoped might enable you to see every thing that is interesting, and at the same time to execute a delicate and difficult piece of service. But, if you really do not fancy it, only say so: it is not a business that can be done well on compulsion, but must be done cheerfully. If you have a

« ElőzőTovább »