"Eight bells, there, sleepers; d'ye hear the news?-Rouse and bitt, my hearties! Show a leg! Eight bells, Courtenay! and Keene says he will be much obliged if you will relieve him as soon as possible!" These words, delivered in a tone of voice that was a curious alternation of a high treble with a preternaturally deep bass-due to the fact that the ...Read More"Eight bells, there, sleepers; d'ye hear the news?-Rouse and bitt, my hearties! Show a leg! Eight bells, Courtenay! and Keene says he will be much obliged if you will relieve him as soon as possible!" These words, delivered in a tone of voice that was a curious alternation of a high treble with a preternaturally deep bass-due to the fact that the speaker's voice was "breaking"-and accompanied by the reckless banging of a tin pannikin upon the deal table that adorned the midshipmen's berth of H.M. frigate Althea, instantly awoke me to the disagreeable consciousness that my watch below had come to an end, especially as the concluding portion of the harangue was addressed to me personally, and accompanied by a most uncompromising thump upon the side of my hammock. So I surlily growled an answer- "All right, young 'un; there's no occasion to make all that hideous row! Just see if you can make yourself useful by finding Black Peter, will you, and telling him to brew some coffee." The lad was turning away to do my bidding when a pattering of naked feet became audible as their owner approached, while a husky voice ejaculated- "Who's dat axin' for Brack Petah? Was it you, Mistah Courtenay?" And at the same instant the shining, good-natured, grinning visage of a gigantic negro appeared in the narrow doorway, through which the fellow instantly passed into the berth, bearing a big pot of steaming hot coffee. "Ay, you black demon, I it was," answered I. "Is that coffee you have there? Then find my cup and fill it, there's a good fellow, and I'll owe you a glass of grog." "Hi, yi!" answered the black, his eyes sparkling and his teeth gleaming hilariously, "who you call 'brack demon, ' eh, sah? Who eber hear of brack demon turnin' out at four o'clock in de mornin' to make coffee for young gentermen, eh? And about de grog, Mistah Courtenay; how many glasses do dis one make dat you now owe me, eh, sah? Ansah me dat, sah. You don' keep no account, I expec's, sah, but I do. Dis one makes seben, Mistah Courtenay, and I'd be much obleege, sah, if you'd pay some of dem off. It am all bery well to say you'll owe 'em to me, sah, but what's de use ob dat if you don' nebber pay me, eh?" "Pay you, you rascal?" shouted I, as I sprang to the deck and began hastily to scramble into my clothes, "do you mean to say that you have the impudence to actually expect to be paid? Is it not honour and reward enough that a gentleman condescends to become indebted to you? Pay, indeed! why, what is the world coming to, I wonder?" "Bravo, Courtenay, well spoken!" shouted young Lindsay, the lad who had so ruthlessly interrupted my slumbers, "how well you express yourself; you ought to be in Parliament, man! Give it him again; bring him to his bearings. The impudence of the fellow is getting to be past endurance! Now then, you black swab, where's the sugar? Do you suppose we can drink that stuff without sugar?" After a search of some duration the sugar was eventually found in a locker, in loving contiguity to an open box of blacking, some boot brushes, a box of candles, a few fragments of brown windsor, -one of which had somehow found its way into the bowl, -and a few other fragrant trifles. In my haste to get on deck, and betrayed by the feeble light of the purser's dip, which just sufficed to render the darkness visible, I managed to convey this stray morsel of soap into my coffee along with the sugar wherewith I intended to sweeten it, and only discovered what I had done barely in time to avoid gulping down the soap along with the scalding liquid into which I had plunged it. A midshipman, however, soon loses all sense of squeamishness, so I contented myself with muttering a sea blessing upon the head of the unknown individual who had deposited this "matter in the wrong place," and dashed up the hatchway to relieve the impatient Keene.Read Less
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