« FöregåendeFortsätt »
for crossing his bows unfairly ; but he did this, we thought, merely to screen himself from blame. Every one except the mate, who saw the accident, knew Captain Pivot was in fault, and said there was ample room for him to have got away without fouling had he been a little more cautious.
Not so however with the mate, who was standing well forward in the bow of the Sooloo, and saw the whole of it. He stated boldly the Diamond was in fault, and not the Sooloo.
We never saw our friend Charley more enraged and annoyed, than at this sudden and unexpected termination to his chance in the race.
The Diamond hauled down her racing flag to signify her intention of protesting against the Sooloo. The protest was instantly acknowledged aboard the Committee vessel by the report of their gun ; and the Diamond again hoisted her flag and proceeded on her course.
“I suppose we may set the gaff-topsail, Captain,” said the mate, “ You are not going to give up because that fellow has entered a protest against us, are you? He had no business to cross our bows in that way, and if I was Mr. Scupper I would protest against him.”
I'm dd if I know what to do,” said Captain Pivot, " unless I jump overboard and drown myself. I never felt so much like a lubberheaded fool in my life.” “Give me the helm," said Charley to the Captain, in his most petu
"and tell them to up topsail; I'll sail the match for honour now, and not for gold.”
“ Hurrah !" shouted the crew: and with hearty good-will the disappointed sailors responded to their master's orders, and set the topsail in quick time.
The unfortunate occurrence had given all the yachts a clear start of the Sooloo. The thirty-tonner had obtained the lead, Diamond second, and Miscreant third. The Sooloo had no sooner felt the influence of her topsail than she glided past the Miscreant in beautiful style ; and as she reached along in the wake of her next rival, one of the crew of that vessel was observed sitting astride at the outer end of the boom, diligently applying his needle in repairing the damaged mainsail.
* Thank'ee Captain Pivot,” said the man as we sailed past. much obliged to ye for giving me this little job: because we shall draw the cup through this here slit, presently.”
“ I wish you and your Diamond had been at h- instead of running across me at that moment,” replied the enraged Captain Pivot.
" You've got your green glasses on to-day, Captain Pivot, have you not?" said another.
In less than half an hour from the start, the Sooloo had passed all three yachts, and was inch by inch obtaining an increasing lead. The Diamond had come up rapidly with the thirty-tonner, and threatened to pass her, when we last turned our heads to look back on our rivals.
“ We may as well show them what an easy task it is to beat them," said Charley “What say you, Joe Strand ?”
Why, what I says, sir, is this--this is what I says,” replied Joe. “ I says that the Sooloo is an unlucky vessel : 'tis not the bowsprit now,
but 'tis the whole craft. You may smile at my 'lossiphy, sir, but I says as how her keel was laid down under an unlucky planet ; that's what I says, sir. Why look here, sir ! Aint we a beatin' on em right
clean off their legs ; but no matter : I know enough of 'lossiphy to say that if she could go like a aoreal flying machine she'd have bad luck. Who'd a' thought of her poking a hole through the Diamond's canvas the first thing this morning? For my part I was prepared for almost any sort of a misfortune but that : Hows'ever, you never can be sure of 'em: what you think they're agoin' to do they don't do ; and just what you don't think on, they're sure to do.”
“ Well, Joe,” said the yachtsman, “it can't be helped. I suppose you hav'nt a receipt in your book on philosophy to remedy bad luck?"
“ Well, sir,” replied Joe, “I'll look it over, now that you've put that idea into my head; but I don't think there is—no,” said he musing, “ because you see, sir, if there had been, I should have copied it out ; and I'll be bound to say I could have sold them, as many as I liked, at half-a-erown a-piece.
“ I've no doubt you could,” said the yachtsman. “ But now then, stand by the sheets there, lads, and look out for the gybe. That's it—" said he, as the sails swayed to the other side, and we rounded the Nore; at the same time taking out our watches to time the others.
“ Thirteen minutes a-head of the Diamond, and seventeen of the thirty-tonner ; that's not bad sailing, Mr. Scupper," said the Captain, who now spoke, almost for the first time since he had resigned the helm.
“ No," replied the yachtsman, “it's not bad sailing by any means : we have at least shown them what we can do, barring accidents.”
“Ah! barring accidents, sir, truly," said the Captain. “This unfortunate affair this morning makes one almost inclined to believe there's something in Joe's notion of bad luck.
" I cannot attribute your careless blunder this morning to bad luck,” said the yachtsman, with stern emphasis on the two last words.
The Captain was about entering into an explanation by way of defending himself, when Charley waved his hand to request he would say nothing about it.
On passing the umpire's boat at the winning goal, no gun was fired to acknowledge the arrival of the Sooloo : at which Charley felt a little hurt; for although he had no claim to the prize, he had sailed the match, and expected to have his time of arrival recorded. But on inquiry it was found they supposed the Sooloo had not gone the whole course after the protest was entered against her ; particularly as she arrived so long before the others. Charley assured them he had sailed the match in strict accordance with the rules (except as regards fouling the Diamond), and requested his time of arrival to be entered : which request was immediately complied with, The Diamond arrived just twenty-three minutes later; and the Miscreant thirty-three: the thirty-tonner having, it was stated, got aground. The grounds of the protest were then investigated, and settled without dispute. Every one present acknowledged the extraordinary sailing-superiority of the Sooloo ; and the chairman of the meeting said he deeply regretted the unfortunate occurrence at starting, but it was one of the rules of their club, and indeed of every yacht club in the kingdom, that if a yacht, through wilfulness, carelessness, or incaution, foul another engaged in the same match, the yacht so offending forfeits all claim to the prize. The accident it appeared was clearly attributable to the carelessness of the
captain of the Sooloo; and, but for that vexatious circumstance, it would have been his pleasure to have handed over the cup to Mr. Scupper ; the extraordinary sailing qualities of his yacht having astonished many of the most distinguished yachtsmen present ; and although the prize would be awarded to the Diamond, the honours of the day were due to the Sooloo.
Our friend Charley immediately rose to reply to the Chairman. He said he fully concurred in the decision the committee had come to, in awarding the prize to the Diamond; he well knew, the moment after the accident, that he had forfeited his claim, but wishing to make the match as amusing to the public as possible, he went over the course as if nothing had happened ; and from the result, he had at least a hope to be more fortunate on some future occasion. He thanked the Chairman for the compliment paid him, and the impartial manner in which the meeting had been conducted.
A few hours later in the day, Charley was about stepping into a cab, when a man in a sailor's attire touched him gently on the shoulder, and begged to have a few words with him. Charley immediately stepped aside with the man, who then made the following communication to him :
“I have been waiting here, sir, for the last hour, to see you; for although you are a stranger to me, I don't like to see any one so completely cheated and deceived as you have been to-day."
“Cheated and deceived !” said Charley, starting back, and gazing fiercely at the sailor, " What do you mean? In what way
?" “ I mean simply this, sir,” said the sailor. “ Your captain is a treacherous scoundrel: he fouled the Diamond yacht wilfully and intentionally."
“My good man, you must be under a delusion,” said Charley ; " Captain Pivot would never act so infamously, I am sure. I cannot believe you. Who are you? What proof have you?”
“ Who I am, and where I come from, I shall not say,” replied the sailor. “ But this I know, that some heavy bets were made in a certain inn, two nights ago ; and Captain Pivot and the Captain of the Diamond were there until a late hour : they have been seen conversing together privately, both before and since the match : a great deal of whispering has been going on between them; and 'tis said they both win a good bit of money by the result of the match.”
Charley listened attentively to the man's statement, nor lost a word of his startling tale ; and in a few moments he began to suspect his captain was guilty, as he called to mind every circumstance connected with the match. He remembered his staying ashore later than usual on the night previous to the match ; his uneasiness at the stillness of the morning ; his wish to take the helm at starting ; and many other little incidents which had passed almost unnoticed at the time, but which now rushed upon the yachtsman's memory, and stood like guilty facts before his eyes.
“ Do you know if either of my men was ashore with the Captain ?" he inquired.
“ No," replied the man; " he alone was in company with the Diamond's captain ; and I'd wager a crown that he is with him at this moment."
• Do you know where ?" inquired Charley.
“ No," he replied ; " but depend upon it, sir, he's not aboard the yacht."
Charley then questioned the man as to his further knowledge of facts connected with the affair ; to which he replied :
“ I can give you no further information, sir, nor shall I give you my name, for in a few hours I shall be on my passage to India. I have told you enough to induce you to investigate the matter ; the result of that investigation I may never perhaps hear : I hope for the credit of the sailor profession, and for the credit of your captain, that you may find my suspicions unfounded ; but I fear-ah! I am sorry to say I am too truly convinced, you will find them correct.”
" I thank you heartily, my good friend," said Charley, cordially shaking the sailor's hand,“ for your disinterested goodness in making this revelation to me. Depend on it, I will sift it to the bottom. I wish you would confide to me your name, and that of your ship, that I may hereafter be enabled to communicate to you the result of the investigation."
“ My name, sir, will not assist you in your inquiries," said the sailor. “ I am equally a stranger to Captain Pivot and the other, as to you. I have no other motive in laying these facts before you, than a desire to expose fraud and treachery, and to see honesty and uprightness prevailing in the noble amusement of yachting. I must now leave you, sir, instantly."
" But stay,” said the yachtsman; “ what can I do for you? Here,” said he, taking out his purse.
“ I will take no fee whatever, sir,” replied the sailor. « Justice is a jewel that ought never to be vended for gold. I wish you good night,
And so saying, the man walked briskly away, leaving our friend Charley enveloped in mystery, suspicion, anger, and revenge.
“Now, sir, my 'oss is ready when it suits you," said the cabman.
“Oh, very well,” said Charley, scarcely lifting his head, but sauntering leisurely to the cab, “ How long have I kept you waiting ?”'
“ How long, sir?” said the cabby, pulling out his watch ; " just seven minutes and a ’arf over the 'arf hour.”
That night Charley retired to his bed, but slept little : if he dozed a few minutes, dreams would haunt him of the mysterious sailor-of foul play in sailing matches, and exposure of his captain ; and then rage and revenge disturbed his repose, and he lay awake another hour : and thus hour after hour passed away, until morning dawned ; then he tried to think the whole interview with the sailor a dream. But no; it was stern reality; and now he determnined at any cost to expose the villain, if villain he proved. · Had any stranger entered the room as our friend Charley sat in his chair at the hotel, with breakfast before him, they might have remarked how deep in thought he appeared to be ; though firm and resolute. Again and again he tried to remove suspicion from his mind, and fancy. the sailor had deceived him; and sometimes when he took that view he thought on all the good qualities the Captain possessed, on his manly and open countenance, his previous good character, his apparent vexation at the accident, and lastly on the total ruin and disgrace that must
attend a man who lent his hand to such a disreputable action. But then he thought the Captain might have done so at some great gain, and with the certainty of not being found out; therefore Charley still suspected him, notwithstanding the inward struggle of his conscience
" To still believe the story wrong,
That ought not to be true.” Our friend Charley sat sipping his coffee in the same meditative manner as before, when the owner of the Diamond walked in.
“Ah! Scupper, my dear fellow, how are you this morning ?” said he.
“ Good morning to you, Vare. You are the identical fellow I wish to see,” said Charley. “Have you breakfasted ?"
“ No," replied Vare ; “ I'll take some with you, if you've no objection.”
Charley then proceeded to relate his mysterious adventure of the night previous ; to which his friend listened attentively, although with startling surprise.
“ Impossible !” said Vare ; “ I cannot think so black a scoundrel breathes-indeed, I do not believe a word of the fellow's statement; and the very fact of his concealing his name, convinces me that it is a disgraceful plot of some unprincipled villain; artfully designed to injure, if not ruin, two of the best yachting captains that ever lived.”
“ I wish I could remove suspicion from my mind, and think as you do,” said Charley. “ But there was something so candid, and withal so undesigning, and yet so positive about the sailor, that in the absence of any motive which the man might have (and I cannot think he had any but an honest one) in revealing his suspicions to me, I am inclined to fear there is some truth in his statement."
“ With such suspicions impressed upon your mind,” said Vare, “ it will be your duty to investigate the affair immediately ; but although mankind is prone to err, I cannot think, and I will not think go basely of our men as to believe them guilty of such foul play.”
“ Nor could I,” said Charley, “ until forced against my very conscience to suspect them.”
- Well, Scupper,” said Harry Vare, “ I'll assist you in your inquiries. I feel it my duty to do so. The affair must be thoroughly cleared up. There must not be a doubt, nor a shadow of upon our minds.”
The two yachtsmen having finished breakfast, and made arrangements for the investigation, by obtaining the assistance of a professional gentleman from Chancery Lane (Mr. Edwards), proceeded at once aboard the yachts.
Mr. Edwards was requested to accompany them as a yachting friend of Mr. Vare's; that he might unsuspectedly watch the inquiry.
Well, Captain,” said Charley, as the boat pulled alongside the Soolo, “ what do think of the weather this morning ?”
“ Well, sir, I think there'll be twice as much wind to-day as there was yesterday," replied the Captain.
“ Ah, yesterday, indeed!” said Charley. “ How the deuce you contrived to poke that bowsprit through Mr. Vare's mainsail so cleverly, I cannot imagine."
“Nor I neither, sir," replied the Captain. " I never did such a