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SNARLEYYOW; OR, THE DOG FIEND.
BY CAPT. MARRYAT.
In which is explained the sublime mystery of keel-hauling-Snarleyyow saves Smallbones from being drowned, although Smallbones would have drowned him.
It is a dark morning; the wind is fresh from the north-west ; flakes of snow are seen wafting here and there by the wind, the avantcouriers of a heavy fall; the whole sky is of one murky grey, and the sun is hidden behind a dense bank. The deck of the cutter is wet and slippery, and Dick Short has the morning watch. He is wrapped up in a Flushing pea-jacket, with thick mittens on his hands ; he looks about him, and now and then a fragment of snow whirls into his eye; he winks it out, it melts and runs like a tear down his cheek. If it were not that it is contrary to man-of-war custom he would warm himself with the double shuffle, but such a step would be unheard of on the quarter-deck of even the cutter Yungfrau.
The tarpaulin over the hatchway is pushed on one side, and the space between the combings is filled with the bull head and broad shoulders of Corporal Van Spitter, who, at last, gains the deck; he looks round him and apparently is not much pleased with the weather. Before he proceeds to business, he examines the sleeves and front of his jacket, and having brushed off with the.palm of his hand a variety of blanket-hairs adhering to the cloth, he is satisfied, and now turns to the right and to the left, and forward and aft—in less than a minute he goes right round the compass. What can Corporal Van Spitter want at so early an hour ? He has not come up on deck for nothing, and yet he appears to be strangely puzzled: the fact is, by the arrangements of last night, it was decided, that this morning, if Snarleyyow did not make his appearance in the boat sent on shore for fresh beef for the ship's company, that the unfortunate Smallbones was to be keelhauled.
1 Continued from vol. xv. p. 346. May 1836.-VOL. XVI.—NO. LXI.
What a delightful morning for a keelhauling!!
This ingenious process, which, however, like many other good old customs has fallen into disuse, must be explained to the non-nautical reader. It is nothing more nor less than sending a poor navigator on a voyage of discovery under the bottom of the vessel, lowering him down over the bows, and with ropes retaining him exactly in his position under the kelson, while he is drawn aft by a hauling-line until he makes his appearance at the rudder-chains, generally speaking quite out of breath, not at the rapidity of his motion, but because, when so long under the water, he has expended all the breath in his body, and is induced, at last, to take in salt water en lieu. There is much merit in this invention ; people are very apt not to be content with walking the deck of a man-of-war, and complain of it as a hardship, but when once they have learnt, by experience, the difference between being comfortable above board, and the number of deprivations which they have to submit to when under board and overboard at the same time, they find that there are worse situations than being on the deck of a vessel-we say privations when under board, for they really are very important:-you are deprived of the air to breathe, which is not borne with patience even by a philosopher, and you are obliged to drink salt water instead of fresh. In the days of keelhauling, the bottoms of vessels were not coppered, and in consequence were well studded with a species of shell-fish which attached themselves, called barnacles, and as these shells were all open-mouthed and with sharp cutting points, those who underwent this punishment (for they were made by the ropes at each side, fastened to their arms, to hug the kelson of the vessel) were cut and scored all over their body, as if with so many lancets, generally coming up bleeding in every part, and with their faces, especially their noses, as if they had been gnawed by the rats; but this was considered rather advantageous than otherwise, as the loss of blood restored the patient if he was not quite drowned, and the consequence was, that one out of three, it is said, have been known to recover after their submarine excursion. The Dutch have the credit, and we will not attempt to take from them their undoubted right, of having invented this very agreeable description of punishment. They are considered a heavy phlegmatic sort of people, but on every point in which the art of ingeniously tormenting is in request, it must be admitted that they have taken the lead of much more vivacious and otherwise more inventive nations.
And now the reader will perceive why Corporal Van Spitter was in a dilemma. With all the good-will in the world, with every anxiety to fulfil his duty, and to obey his superior officer, he was not a seaman, and did not know how to commence operations. He knew nothing about foddering a vessel's bottom, much less how to fodder it with the carcase of one of his fellow-creatures. The corporal, as we said before, turned round and round the compass to ascertain if he could compass his wishes ; at last, he commenced by dragging one rope's end from one side and another from the other; those would do for the side ropes, but he wanted a long one from forward and another from aft, and how to get the one from aft under the cutter's bottom was a puzzle ; and then there was the mast and the rigging in his way :—the corporal reflected, the more he considered the matter, the more his brain became confused; he was at a nonplus, and he gave it up in despair : he stood still, took out a blue cotton handkerchief from the breast of his jacket and wiped his forehead, for the intensity of thought had made him perspire—any thing like reflection was very hard work for Corporal Van Spitter.
“ Tousand tyfels !" at last exclaimed the corporal, and he paused and knocked his big head with his fist.
“ Hundred tousand tyfels !” repeated the corporal, after five minutes' more thought.
“ Twenty hundred tousand tyfels !” muttered the corporal, once mere knocking his head; but he knocked in vain: like an empty house, there was no one within to answer the appeal. The corporal could do no more; so he returned his pocket-handkerchief to the breast of his jacket, and a heavy sigh escaped from his own breast. All the devils in hell were mentally conjured and summoned to his aid, but they were, it is to be presumed, better employed, for although the work in hand was diabolical enough, still Smallbones was such a poor devil that probably he might have been considered as remotely allied to the fraternity
It may be inquired why, as this was on service, Corporal Van Spitter did not apply for the assistance of the seamen belonging to the vessel, particularly to the officer in charge of the deck; but the fact was, that he was unwilling to do this, knowing that his application would be in vain, for he was aware that the whole crew sided with Smallbones ; it was only as a last resource that he intended to do this, and being now at his wit's end, he walked up to Dick Short, who had been watching the corporal's motions in silence, and accosted him,
* If you please, Mynheer Short, Mynheer Vanslyperken give orders dat de boy be keelhauled dis morning ;-I want haben de rope and de way.”
Short looked at the corporal, and made no reply. “Mynheer Short, I haben tell de order of Mynheer Vanslyperken."
Dick Short made no reply, but leaning over the hatchway, called out, “Jemmy."
“Ay, ay,” replied Jemmy Ducks, turning out of his hammock and dropping on the lower deck.
Corporal Van Spitter, who imagined that Mr. Short was about to comply with his request after his own Harpocratic fashion, remained quietly on the deck until Jemmy Ducks made his appearance.
“ Hands," quoth Short. Jemmy piped the hands up.
“ Boat," quoth Short, turning his head to the small boat hoisted up astern.
Now as all this was apparently preparatory to the work required. the corporal was satisfied. The men soon came up with their hammocks on their shoulders, which they put into the nettings, and then Jemmy proceeded to lower down the boat ; as soon as it was down and hauled up alongside, Short turned round to Coble and waving his hand towards the shore, said, “ Beef.”
Coble, who perfectly understood him, put a new quid into his cheek, went down the side, and pulled on shore to bring off the fresh beef and vegetables for the ship's company, after which Dick Short walked the deck and gave no further orders.
Corporal Van Spitter perceiving this, went up to him again.
“ Got for dam, dat is mutiny,” muttered the corporal, who immediately backed stern foremost down the hatchway, to report to his commandant the state of affairs on deck. Mr. Vanslyperken had already risen ; he had slept but one hour during the whole night, and that one hour was so occupied with wild and fearful dreams that he awoke from his sleep unrefreshed. He had dreamed that he was making every attempt to drown Smallbones but without effect, for, as soon as the lad was dead he came to life again ; he thought that Smallbones' soul was incorporated in a small animal something like a mouse, and that he had to dislodge it from its tenement of clay, but as soon as he drove it from one part of the body it would force its way back again into another; if he forced it out by the mouth after incredible exertions, which made him perspire at every pore, it would run back again into the ear; if forced from thence, through the nostril, then in at the toe, or any other part; in short, he laboured apparently in his dream for years, but without success. And then the “ change came o'er the spirit of his dream,” but still there was analogy, for he was now trying to press his suit, which was now a liquid in a vial, into the widow Vandersloosh, but in vain. He administered it again and again, but it acted as an emetic, and she conld not stomach it, and then he found himself rejected by all—the widow kicked him, Smallbones stamped upon him, even Snarleyyow flew at him and bit him; at last, he fell with an enormous paving-stone round his neck descending into a horrible abyss head foremost, and as he increased his velocity, he awoke trembling and confused, and could sleep no more. This dream was not one to put Mr. Vanslyperken into good humour, and two severe cuts on his cheek with the razor as he attempted to shave, for his hand still trembled, had added to his discontent, when it was raised to its climax by the entrance of Corporal Van Spitter, who made his report of the mutinous conduct of the first officer. Never was Mr. Vanslyperken in such a tumult of rage; he pulled off some beaver from his hat to staunch the blood, and wiping off the remainder of the lather, for he put aside the operation of shaving till his hand was more steady, he threw on his coat and followed the corporal on deck, looked round with a savage air, spied out the diminutive form of Jemmy Ducks, and desired him to pipe “ all hands to keelhaul."
Whereupon Jemmy put his pipe to his mouth, and after a long flourish, bawled out what appeared to Mr. Vanslyperken to be—all hands to be keelhauled, but Jemmy slurred over quickly the little change made in the order, and, although the men tittered, Mr. Vanslyperken thought it better to say nothing. But there is an old saying, that you may bring a horse to the pond, but you cannot make him drink. Mr. Vanslyperken had given the order, but no one attempted