A REPORTED TALE OF TWO FRIGATES AND TWO LUGGERS
I dare say you’ve never heard tell of my wife’s grandfather, Captain John Tackabird–or Cap’n Jacka, as he was always called. He was a remarkable man altogether, and he died of a seizure in the Waterloo year; an earnest Methody all his days, and towards the end a highly respected class-leader. To tell you the truth, he wasn’t much to look at, being bald as a coot and blind of one eye, besides other defects. His mother let him run too soon, and that made his legs bandy. And then a bee stung him, and all his hair came off. And his eye he lost in a little job with the preventive men; but his lid drooped so, you’d hardly know ’twas missing. He’d a way, too, of talking to himself as he went along, so that folks reckoned him silly. It was queer how that maggot stuck in their heads; for in handling a privateer or a Guernsey cargo–sink the or run it straight–there wasn’t his master in Polperro. The very children could tell ‘ee.
I’m telling of the year ‘five, when the most of the business in Polperro–free-trade and privateering–was managed (as the world knows) by Mr. Zephaniah Job. This Job he came from St. Ann’s–by reason of his having shied some person’s child out of a window in a fit of temper–and opened school at Polperro, where he taught rule-of-three and mensuration; also navigation, though he only knew about it on paper. By-and-by he became accountant to all the free-trade companies and agent for the Guernsey merchants; and at last blossomed out and opened a bank with 1l. and 2l. notes, and bigger ones which he drew on Christopher Smith, Esquire, Alderman of London.
Well, this Job was agent for a company of adventurers called the “Pride o’ the West,” and had ordered a new lugger to be built for them down at Mevagissey. She was called the Unity, 160 tons (that would be about fifty as they measure now), mounting sixteen carriage guns and carrying sixty men, nice and comfortable. She was lying on the ways, ready to launch, and Mr. Job proposed to Cap’n Jacka to sail over to Mevagissey and have a look at her.
Cap’n Jacka was pleased as Punch, of course. He’d quite made up his mind he was to command her, seeing that, first and last, in the old Pride lugger, he had cleared over 40 per cent, for this very Company. So they sailed over and took thorough stock of the new craft, and Jacka praised this and suggested that, and carried on quite as if he’d got captain’s orders inside his hat–which was where he usually carried them. Mr. Job looked sidelong down his nose–he was a leggy old galliganter, with stiverish grey hair and a jawbone long enough to make Cap’n Jacka a new pair of shins–and said he, “What do’ee think of her?”
“Well,” said Jacka, “any fool can see she’ll run, and any fool can see she’ll reach. I reckon she’ll come about as fast as th’ old Pride, and if she don’t sit nigher the wind than the new revenue cutter it’ll be your sailmaker’s fault.”
“That’s a first-class report,” said Mr. Job. “I was thinking of offering you the post of mate in her.”
Cap’n Jacka felt poorly all of a sudden. “Aw,” he asked, “who’s to be skipper, then?”
“The Company was thinkin’ of young Dick Hewitt.”
“Aw,” said Cap’n Jacka again, and shut his mouth tight. Young Dick Hewitt’s father had shares in the Company and money to buy votes beside.
“What do’ee think?” asked Mr. Job, still slanting his eye down his nose.
“I’ll go home an’ take my wife’s opinion,” said Cap’n Jacka.
So when he got home he told it all to his funny little wife that he doted on like the apple of his one eye. She was a small, round body, with beady eyes that made her look like a doll on a pen-wiper; and she said, of course, that the Company was a parcel of rogues and fools together.