Chapter 11


The success of any young man in a profession very much depends upon the occurrences at the commencement of his career, as from those is his character judged, and he is treated accordingly. Jack had chosen to enter the service at a much later period than most lads; he was tall and manly for his age, and his countenance, if not strictly handsome, wore that expression of honesty and boldness which is sure to please. His spirit in not submitting to, and meeting Vigors when he had hardly recovered from his severe prostration of sea—sickness, had gained him with the many respect, and with all, except his antagonist and Mr. Smallsole, goodwill. Instead of being laughed at by his messmates, he was played with; for Jolliffe smiled at his absurdities, and attempted to reason him out of them, and the others liked Jack for himself and his generosity, and moreover, because they looked up to him as a protector against Vigors, who had persecuted them all; for Jack had declared, that as might was right in a midshipmen’s berth, he would so far restore equality, that if he could not put down those who were the strongest, at all events he would protect the weak, and let who would come into the berth, they must be his master before they should tyrannize over those weaker than he.

Thus did Jack Easy make the best use that he could of his strength, and become, as it were, the champion and security of those who, although much longer at sea and more experienced than he was, were glad to shelter themselves under his courage and skill, the latter of which had excited the admiration of the butcher of the ship, who had been a pugilist by profession. Thus did Jack at once take the rank of an oldster, and soon became the leader of all the mischief. We particularly observe this, because, had it so happened that our hero had succumbed to Vigors, the case would have been the very reverse. He then would have had to go through the ordeal to which most who enter the naval service are exposed, which cannot be better explained than by comparing it to the fagging carried to such an iniquitous extent in public schools.

Mr. Asper, for his own reasons, made him his companion: they walked the night watch together, and he listened to all Jack’s nonsense about the rights of man. And here Mr. Asper did good without intending it, for, at the same time that he appeared to agree with Jack, to secure his favour, he cautioned him, and pointed out why this equality could not exist altogether on board of a man—of—war.

As for himself, he said, he saw no difference between a lieutenant, or even a captain, and a midshipman, provided they were gentlemen: he should choose his friends where he liked, and despised that power of annoyance which the service permitted. Of course, Jack and Mr. Asper were good friends, especially as, when half the watch was over, to conciliate his goodwill and to get rid of his eternal arguing, Mr. Asper would send Jack down to bed.

They were now entering the Straits, and expected to anchor the next day at Gibraltar, and Jack was forward on the forecastle, talking with Mesty, with whom he had contracted a great friendship, for there was nothing that Mesty would not have done for Jack, although he had not been three weeks in the ship; but a little reflection will show that it was natural.

Mesty had been a great man in his own country; he had suffered all the horrors of a passage in a slave ship; he had been sold as a slave twice; he had escaped— but he found that the universal feeling was strong against his colour, and that on board of a man—of—war he was condemned, although free, to the humblest of offices.

He had never heard any one utter the sentiments, which now beat in his own heart, of liberty and equality— we say now, for when he was in his own country before his captivity, he had no ideas of equality; no one has who is in power: but he had been schooled; and although people talked of liberty and equality at New York, he found that what they preached for themselves, they did not practise towards others, and that, in the midst of liberty and equality, he and thousands more were enslaved and degraded beings.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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