Chapter 9


The next morning Jack Easy would have forgotten all about his engagement with the captain, had it not been for the waiter, who thought that, after the reception which our hero had given the first—lieutenant, it would be just as well that he should not be disrespectful to the captain. Now Jack had not, hitherto, put on his uniform, and he thought this a fitting occasion, particularly as the waiter suggested the propriety of his appearance in it. Whether it was from a presentiment of what he was to suffer, Jack was not at all pleased, as most lads are, with the change in his dress. It appeared to him that he was sacrificing his independence; however, he did not follow his first impulse, which was to take it off again, but took his hat, which the waiter had brushed and handed to him, and then set off for the captain’s lodgings. Captain Wilson received him as if he had not been aware of his delay in joining his ship, or his interview with his first—lieutenant, but before breakfast was over, Jack himself narrated the affair in a few words. Captain Wilson then entered into a detail of the duties and rank of every person on board of the ship, pointing out to Jack, that where discipline was required, it was impossible, when duty was carried on, that more than one could command; and that that one was the captain, who represented the king in person, who represented the country; and that, as the orders were transmitted from the captain through the lieutenant, and from the lieutenant to the midshipmen, who, in their turn, communicated them to the whole ship’s company, in fact, was the captain alone who gave the orders, and that every one was equally obliged to obey. Indeed, as the captain himself had to obey the orders of his superiors, the admiral and the admiralty; all on board might be said to be equally obliged to obey. Captain Wilson laid a strong emphasis on the word equally, as he cautiously administered his first dose; indeed, in the whole of his address, he made use of special pleading, which would have done credit to the bar; for at the same time that he was explaining to Jack that he was entering a service in which equally could never for a moment exist, if the service was to exist, he contrived to show that all the grades were levelled, by all being equally bound to do their duty to their country, and that, in fact, whether a seaman obeyed his orders, or he obeyed the orders of his superior officer, they were in reality only obeying the orders of the country, which were administered through their channels.

Jack did not altogether dislike this view of the subject, and the captain took care not to dwell too long upon it. He then entered upon other details, which he was aware would be more agreeable to Jack. He pointed out that the articles of war were the rules by which the service was to be guided, and that everybody, from the captain to the least boy in the ship, was equally bound to adhere to them—that a certain allowance of provisions and wine were allowed to each person on board, and that this allowance was the same to all; the same to the captain as to the boy; the same in quantity as in quality; every one equally entitled to his allowance;—that, although there were, of necessity, various grades necessary in the service, and the captain’s orders were obliged to be passed and obeyed by all, yet still, whatever was the grade of the officer, they were equally considered as gentlemen. In short, Captain Wilson, who told the truth, and nothing but the truth, without telling the whole truth, actually made Jack fancy that he had at last found out that equality he had been seeking for in vain on shore, when, at last, he recollected the language used by Mr. Sawbridge the evening before, and asked the captain why that personage had so conducted himself. Now, as the language of Mr. Sawbridge was very much at variance with equality, Captain Wilson was not a little puzzled. However, he first pointed out that the first—lieutenant was, at the time being, the captain, as he was the senior officer on board, as would Jack himself be if he were the senior officer on board; and that, as he before observed, the captain or senior officer represented the country. That in the articles of war, everybody who absented himself from the ship committed an error, or breach of those articles; and if any error or breach of those articles was committed by any one belonging to the ship, if the senior officer did not take notice of it, he then himself committed a breach of those articles, and was liable himself to be punished, if he could not prove that he had not noticed it; it was therefore to save himself that he was obliged to point out the error; and if he did it in strong language, it only proved his zeal for his country.

“Upon my honour, then,” replied Jack, “there can be no doubt of his zeal; for if the whole country had been at stake, he could not have put himself in a greater passion.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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