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  ― 72 ―

Basher's Hurricane.

ASTONISHMENT is a word which faintly expresses the feeling of the ship's company when we learnt that Captain Basher had married. And when we saw the lady the puzzle grew harder than ever. She had been a Mrs. M'Cluskie—and looked it. Tall, bony, red, and freckled, with eyes the colour of galvanised iron, and teeth which would not have disgraced a small elephant—she was the finest sample of the unadulterated female porridge-eater that ever I clapped eyes on. She was to sail with us, too. We trembled.

It turned out that the captain had married her for the sake of the late M'Cluskie's money, and during the first half of that voyage he earned every penny of it. The ex-widow ruled the ship from the first moment she put her prunella-shod foot aboard us. Basher, the rollicking dare-devil, was tamed to the demeanour of a mouse. His wife was as pious as she was prudish, and she was as prudish as a prayer-meeting full of old maids. Basher shivered in his complaisance. He cuffed an ordinary seaman for unwittingly applying its proper name to a certain portion of the topsail brace-block. The coppered part of the vessel was always alluded to in the lady's presence as “the underneath part”; and the belly of a sail was spoken of apologetically, with bated breath. On Mrs. B.'s washing days, it was sacrilege to look over the counter, for the more essentially feminine of her garments were hung to dry from a sort of “parsheeboom,” rigged from the stern ports, and secure from the irreverent gaze of the rude sailor-man.

Basher lived two lives. With Mrs. B. below, he was his own profane [?] self; with Mrs. B. on deck, it was “Mr. Brown, kindly step for'ard, and ascertain if the fore-to'-gallant-mast is sufficiently


  ― 73 ―
stayed,”—or “Bo's'n, please inform the hands that to-morrow, being the Sabbath, Divine service will be held in the saloon, as usual”—ye gods! The strain on Basher must have been awful.

We were somewhere about the 50th parallel of latitude, having had to go farther to the southward than usual to look for wind, when Captain Basher rose in revolt. “This is too d——d fine a passage, Mr. Brown,” he explained confidentially as he arranged his plan of campaign; “an' I guess, if we don't assist the blanky course of Nature, I'll never live to see port. So—to-morrow night!”

The next night came, starlit and beautiful. The weather being decidedly cold, Mrs. Basher had retired early to her bunk. There was a big swell; and the vessel was brought beam-on to it. The dead-lights, previously loosened by the carpenter, were removed from the deck above the cabin in which the lady slumbered, and a length of hose was led to reach from the “Downton” pump, at which four vigorous seamen waited eagerly for the order to “shake her up.” A couple of hands were stationed on the half-round, with draw-buckets.

The ship was rolling terribly, scooping it up over both rails, and threatening to sling the sticks out of her. Captain Basher arrived on deck in a hurry, having locked his lady-love in her berth.

“Now, then, my lads, let her have it!” he said, and we did. That pump was never worked as it was worked that night, and the water poured in at the deck, whilst the men with the draw-buckets kept up a terrific broadside of cold salt-water through the open ports. The rest of the watch were employed with handspikes in thundering on the deck above Mrs. B.'s head. Basher at intervals bellowed orders of a heroic nature, whilst an apprentice and I kept the little brass signal-gun going till she got too hot to use.

Every few minutes our gallant captain would rush below to the door of the cabin. “Be brave, Jessie, my love, and remain where you are! We may yet weather this awful storm,”—he would roar through the keyhole; or, “Do not abandon hope, my dear beloved wife! the hurricane is now on our weather bow; but trust in God


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and your William, and remember everything depends on your keeping cool.” (Poor Mrs. B. was in all conscience cool enough.) Then, deaf to her screams to be liberated, Basher would rush on deck again to exhort us to further exertion.

We kept it up for two hours, when the captain gave orders to “ease up handsomely,” and on things being made shipshape, the vessel was brought to her course again. Basher, having donned his oilskin and a life-belt, was pumped on to clinch the realism, and went below to his affrighted spouse, who was by this time more dead than alive.

We made the Cape ten days afterwards, and Mrs. B. did not continue the voyage with us, preferring to take steam to Plymouth. That was ten years ago, and the lady has never forgotten the horrors of that awful night. Captain Basher is living on her money somewhere Deptford way, secure from hurricanes and similar perils, for his wife will not hear of him going to sea again, with or without her.

F. MARRYAT NORRIS.

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