Some weeks had passed, when the frigate and brigs were standing in for the land, a steamer hove in sight, and a signal was made that she had the mail-bags on board. It was the first day Terence had been able to sit up in the midshipmen's berth. Jack had come on board to see him. A long, official-looking letter was handed to each of them, "On Her Majesty's Service."
Then, that he might not be seen by the crew, he spread his handkerchief over his face and his stars. But for his needless risk in revealing them before, he might have lived. The cockpit was crowded with the wounded and dying men. Over their bodies he was carried, and laid upon a pallet in the midshipmen's berth. The wound was mortal. A brief examination showed this.
Had he but concealed these badges of honour from the enemy, England, perhaps, would not have had cause to receive with sorrow the news of the battle of Trafalgar. The cockpit was crowded with wounded and dying men, over whose bodies he was with some difficulty conveyed, and laid upon a pallet in the midshipmen's berth. It was soon perceived, upon examination, that the wound was mortal.
Such was the song sung in the midshipmen's berth of the Doris, as once more our gallant frigate entered the chops of the Channel, and we were looking forward to seeing again those western cliffs which often and often we had pictured to ourselves awake, and seen in our dreams asleep.
After my story had been told to the Captain, I left my preserver, his father, and his sisters in his hands, and I need scarcely say that they had as hearty a welcome as the worthy old soul could give them, and dived into the midshipmen's berth for a morsel of comfort, where, in a twinkling, I was far into the secrets of a pork pie. The Cruise of the Torch.
As I hurried aft to attend to the lowering of the gig, which hung from davits over the stern, a hand was suddenly laid upon my arm, and, turning, I found myself confronted by Cupid, the Krooboy servant who "did for us" in the midshipmen's berth.
"Don't you dine in the cabin, Simple?" said the caterer. "Yes," replied I. "Then don't eat any pork, my boy, now, for you'll have plenty there. Come, gentlemen, fill your glasses; we'll drink happiness to our new messmate, and pledging him, we pledge ourselves to try to promote it." "I'll just join you in that toast," said O'Brien, walking into the midshipmen's berth.
Shafto and Willy, who had snatched a hurried meal in the midshipmen's berth, were quickly again on deck, as were indeed many of the officers and men, those who had remained on duty going below. The ship made but slow way.
A marine had, by the captain's orders, attended Jack during his illness, and this man came to his assistance, opened his chest, and brought him all he required, or Jack would have been in a sad dilemma. Jack then inquired where he was to go, for he had not been in the midshipmen's berth, although five days on board.
It was still daylight, and Peter and I were walking the deck, for it was our watch; indeed, the midshipmen's berth not being the pleasantest place in the world in that climate, we were seldom in it, except at meal-times. I have not talked much about the heat, but the air, if not hotter, was more stifling in that river than we had felt it since we reached the coast.