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Frenchman’s Creek
by [?]

Well, now, the time that Bligh came down to Helford was a few months before he sailed for Australia, and that will be a hundred years ago next summer: and I guess the reason of his coming was that the folks at the Admiralty couldn’t stand him in London, the weather just then being sultry. So they pulled out a map and said, “This Helford looks a nice cool far-away place; let the man go down and take soundings and chart the place”; for Bligh, you must know, had been a pupil of Captain Cook’s, and at work of this kind there was no man cleverer in the Navy.

To do him justice, Bligh never complained of work. So off he packed and started from London by coach in the early days of June; and with him there travelled down a friend of his, a retired naval officer by the name of Sharl, that was bound for Falmouth to take passage in the Lisbon packet; but whether on business or a pleasure trip is more than I can tell you.

So far as I know, nothing went wrong with them until they came to Torpoint Ferry: and there, on the Cornish side of the water, stood the Highflyer coach, the inside of it crammed full of parcels belonging to our Vicar’s wife, Mrs. Polwhele, that always visited Plymouth once a year for a week’s shopping. Having all these parcels to bring home, Mrs. Polwhele had crossed over by a waterman’s boat two hours before, packed the coach as full as it would hold, and stepped into the Ferry Inn for a dish of tea. “And glad I am to be across the river in good time,” she told the landlady; “for by the look of the sky there’s a thunderstorm coming.”

Sure enough there was, and it broke over the Hamoaze with a bang just as Captain Bligh and his friend put across in the ferry-boat. The lightning whizzed, and the rain came down like the floods of Deva, and in five minutes’ time the streets and gutters of Torpoint were pouring on to the Quay like so many shutes, and turning all the inshore water to the colour of pea-soup. Another twenty minutes and ’twas over; blue sky above and the birds singing, and the roof and trees all a-twinkle in the sun; and out steps Mrs. Polwhele very gingerly in the landlady’s pattens, to find the Highflyer ready to start, the guard unlashing the tarpaulin that he’d drawn over the outside luggage, the horses steaming and anxious to be off, and on the box-seat a couple of gentlemen wet to the skin, and one of them looking as ugly as a chained dog in a street fight. This was Bligh, of course. His friend, Mr. Sharl, sat alongside, talking low and trying to coax him back to a good temper: but Mrs. Polwhele missed taking notice of this. She hadn’t seen the gentlemen arrive, by reason that, being timid of thunder, at the very first peal she’d run upstair, and crawled under one of the bed-ties: and there she bided until the chambermaid brought word that the sky was clear and the coach waiting.

If ever you’ve had to do with timmersome folks I dare say you’ve noted how talkative they get as soon as danger’s over. Mrs. Polwhele took a glance at the inside of the coach to make sure that her belongings were safe, and then, turning to the ladder that the Boots was holding for her to mount, up she trips to her outside place behind the box-seat, all in a fluff and commotion, and chattering so fast that the words hitched in each other like beer in a narrow-necked bottle.

“Give you good morning, gentlemen!” said Mrs. Polwhele, “and I do hope and trust I haven’t kept you waiting; but thunder makes me that nervous! ‘Twas always the same with me from a girl; and la! what a storm while it lasted! I declare the first drops looked to me a’most so big as crown-pieces. Most unfortunate it should come on when you were crossing–most unfortunate, I vow! There’s nothing so unpleasant as sitting in damp clothes, especially if you’re not accustomed to it. My husband, now–if he puts on a shirt that hasn’t been double-aired I always know what’s going to happen: it’ll be lumbago next day to a certainty. But maybe, as travellers, you’re not so susceptible. I find hotel-keepers so careless with their damp sheets! May I ask, gentlemen, if you’ve come from far? You’ll be bound for Falmouth, as I guess: and so am I. You’ll find much on the way to admire. But perhaps this is not your first visit to Cornwall?”