Chapter 12


The next day being Sunday, the hands were turned up to divisions, and the weather not being favourable, instead of the service, the articles of war were read with all due respect shown to the same, the captain, officers, and crew with their hats off in a mizzling rain. Jack, who had been told by the captain that these articles of war were the rules and regulations of the service, by which the captain, officers, and men were equally bound, listened to them as they were read by the clerk with the greatest attention. He little thought that there were about five hundred orders from the admiralty tacked on to them, which, like the numerous codicils of some wills, contained the most important matter, and to a certain degree make the will nugatory.

Jack listened very attentively, and, as each article was propounded, felt that he was not likely to commit himself in that point, and, although he was rather astonished to find such a positive injunction against swearing, considered quite a dead letter in the ship, he thought that, altogether, he saw his way very clear. But to make certain of it, as soon as the hands had been piped down he begged the clerk to let him have a copy of the articles.

Now the clerk had three, being the allowance of the ship, or at least all that he had in his possession, and made some demur at parting with one; but at last he proposed—“some rascal,” as he said, “having stolen his tooth—brush”—that if Jack would give him one he would give him one of the copies of the articles of war. Jack replied that the one he had in use was very much worn, and that unfortunately he had but one new one, which he could not spare. Thereupon the clerk, who was a very clean personage, and could not bear that his teeth should be dirty, agreed to accept the one in use, as Jack could not part with the other. The exchange was made, and Jack read the articles of war over and over again, till he thought he was fully master of them.

“Now,” says Jack, “I know what I am to do, and what I am to expect, and these articles of war I will carry in my pocket as long as I’m in the service; that is to say, if they last so long; and, provided they do not, I am able to replace them with another old toothbrush, which appears to be the value attached to them.”

The Harpy remained a fortnight in Gibraltar Bay, and Jack had occasionally a run on shore, and Mr. Asper invariably went with him to keep him out of mischief; that is to say, he allowed him to throw his money on nobody more worthless than himself.

One morning Jack went down in the berth, and found young Gossett blubbering.

“What’s the matter, my dear Mr. Gossett?” inquired Jack, who was just as polite to the youngster as he was to anybody else.

“Vigors has been thrashing me with a rope’s end,” replied Gossett, rubbing his arm and shoulders.

“What for?” inquired Jack.

“Because he says the service is going to hell—(I’m sure it’s no fault of mine)—and that now all subordination is destroyed, and that upstarts join the ship who, because they have a five—pound note in their pocket, are allowed to do just as they please. He said he was determined to uphold the service, and then he knocked me down—and when I got up again he told me that I could stand a little more—and then he took out his colt, and said he was determined to ride the high horse —and that there should be no Equality Jack in future.”

“Well,” replied Jack.

“And then he colted me for half an hour, and that’s all.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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