advice to patriotic Spaniards, guerilleros or secret juntas of the province. Something of the sort. All this can be only inferred from the preserved scraps of his conscientious writing.

Next we come upon the panegyric of a very fine sailor, a member of the ship’s company, having the rating of the captain’s coxswain.* He was known on board as Cuba Tom; not because he was a Cuban, however. He was indeed the best type of a genuine British tar of that time, and a man-of-war’s* man for years. He came by the name on account of some wonderful adventures he had in that island in his young days—adventures which were the favourite subject of the yarns he was in the habit of spinning to his shipmates of an evening on the forecastle* head. He was intelligent, very strong and of proved courage. Incidentally we are told, so exact is our narrator, that Tom had the finest pigtail for thickness and length of any man in the Navy. This appendage, much cared for and sheathed tightly in a porpoise skin, hung half-way down his broad back, to the great admiration of all beholders and to the great envy of some.

Our young officer dwells on the manly qualities of Cuba Tom with something like affection. This sort of relation between officer and man was not then very rare. A youngster on joining the service was put under the charge of a trustworthy seaman, who slung his first hammock for him, and often, later on became a sort of humble friend to the junior officer. This man the narrator on joining the sloop had found on board after some years of separation. There is something touching in the warm pleasure he remembers and records at this meeting with the professional mentor of his boyhood.

We discover then that no Spaniard being forthcoming for the service, this worthy seaman with the unique pigtail and a very high character for courage and steadiness, had been selected as messenger for one of these missions inland which have been mentioned. One gloomy autumn morning the sloop ran close to a shallow cove where a landing could be made on that iron-bound shore. A boat was lowered and pulled in, Tom Corbin (Cuba Tom) perched in the bow and our young man (Mr Edgar Byrne was his name on this earth which knows him no more) sitting in the stern-sheets.*

A few inhabitants of a hamlet whose grey stone houses could be seen a hundred yards or so up a shallow ravine had come down to the shore and watched the approach of the boat. The two Englishmen leaped ashore. Either from dullness or astonishment the peasants gave no greeting, and only fell back in silence.

Mr Byrne had made up his mind to see Tom Corbin started fairly on his way. He looked round at the heavy, surprised faces. ‘We won’t get much out of them,’ he said. ‘Let us walk up to the village. There will be a wine-shop for sure where we may find somebody more promising to talk to and get some information from.’

‘Aye, aye, sir,’ said Tom, falling into step behind his officer. ‘A bit of palaver as to courses and distances can do no harm; I crossed the broadest part of Cuba by the help of my tongue, though knowing far less Spanish than I do now. As they say themselves, it was “four words and no more” with me, that time when I got left behind on shore by the Blanche frigate.’

He made light of what was before him, which was but a day’s journey into the mountains. It is true that there was another day’s journey before striking the mountain path, but that was nothing for a man who had crossed the island of Cuba on his two legs, and with no more than four words of the language to begin with.

The officer and the man were walking now on a thick sodden bed of dead leaves which the peasants thereabouts accumulate in the streets of their villages to rot during the winter for field manure. Turning his head Mr Byrne perceived that the whole male population of the hamlet was following them on the noiseless springy carpet. Women stared from the doors of the houses, and the children had apparently gone into hiding. The village knew the ship by sight, afar off, but no stranger had landed on that spot perhaps for a hundred years or more. The cocked hat of Mr Byrne, the bushy whiskers and the enormous pigtail of the sailor filled them with mute wonder. They pressed behind the two Englishmen, staring like those islanders discovered by Captain Cook in the South Seas.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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