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The Cruise of the Frolic

William Henry Giles Kingston

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  The Cruise of the Frolic, by W.H.G. Kingston.


  ________________________________________________________________________THE CRUISE OF THE FROLIC, BY W.H.G. KINGSTON.


  By Barnaby Brine, Esq, RN.

  The "Cruise of the `Frolic'" has already met with so many marks offavour, that it is hoped it will be welcomed not the less warmly in itsnew and more attractive form. The yachting world especially receivedthe narrative of my adventures in good part; two or three, however,among whom was the O'Wiggins, insisted that I had caricatured them, andtalked of demanding satisfaction at the point of the sword, or themuzzle of a pistol. I assured them then, as I do now, that on the wordof an officer and a gentleman, I had not the slightest intention ofwounding the feelings of any human being; and I entreated their pardon,if in shooting at a venture I had hit an object at which I had not takenaim.

  I can only say, that I hope my readers may experience as much pleasurein perusing my adventures, as I had in writing them, and, I may add,again feel, in looking over the pages which recall so many of theamusing scenes and incidents of my yachting days--a pleasure which will,I feel sure, be shared by my companions in the adventures I havedescribed.

  No one with any yachting experience will venture to say that the tale isimprobable, although it may be confessed that when an author takes penin hand, he is apt to throw an air of romance over events which, if toldin a matter-of-fact manner, would be received as veracious history; andsuch is the plea which I have to offer for the truth of the followingnarrative of my yachting experience many summers ago.



  What yachtsman can ever forget the beautiful scene Cowes Road presentedon a regatta morning in the palmy days of the club, when the broadpennant of its noble commodore flew at the masthead of his gallantlittle ship, the "Falcon," and numberless beautiful craft, of all rigsand sizes, with the white ensign of St. George at their peaks, and thered cross and crown in their snowy burgees aloft, willingly followed theorders of their honoured leader? Then, from far and near, assembledyachts and pleasure-boats, of all degrees, loaded with eager passengersto witness the regatta; and no puffing, blowing, smoking, rattlingsteamers came to create discord on the ocean, and to interfere with thetime-honoured monopoly of the wind in propelling vessels across thewatery plain. Small thanks to the man whose impertinently-inquisitivebrain could not let the lid of his tea-kettle move up and down at itspleasure without wanting to know the cause of the phenomenon! Smallerto him who insisted on boiling salt water on the realms of Old Neptune!Stern enemy to the romance and poetry of a life on the ocean! Could younot be content to make carriages go along at the rate of forty miles anhour over the hard land, without sending your noisy, impudent demagoguesof machines to plough up the waves of the sea, which have already quiteenough to do when their lawful agitator thinks fit to exert hisinfluence? It was a work of no slight difficulty and risk to cruise inand out among the innumerable craft at anchor, and dodging about undersail just when the yachts were preparing to start. I doubt whether manyof your "turn-a-head and back her" mariners, with their chimney-sweepfaces, would possess seamanship enough to perform the feat withoutfouling each other every instant. But I must not go on harping on thesmoke-jacks. Back, memory! back, to those glorious yachting days. Ofthe regatta I am treating. While afloat, all was movement, gaiety, andexcitement; there was not less animation on shore. The awning of theclub-house shaded crowds of gay visitors; and on the broad esplanade infront of it were drawn up the carriages-and-four of the noble house ofHolmes, and those of Barrington and Simeon, with blood-red handsemblazoned on their crests; while, in like style, some might by chancecome over from Appuldercombe, and others of equal rank from the east andthe west end of the island; and thus, what with booths of gingerbreadand bands of music, scarcely standing-room was to be found on the quaysduring the day, while every hotel and lodging was overflowing at night.And then the ball! what lofty rank, what a galaxy of beauty, was to beseen there! And the fireworks! what a splutter, what a galaxy of brightstars they afforded! Alas, alas! how have they faded! how have theygone out! The pride of Cowes has departed, its monopoly is no more, itsregattas and its balls are both equalled, if not surpassed, by itsyounger rivals! "Tempora mutantur et nos mutamur in illis." I am nowabout to speak of times when that change had already commenced, and thefleets of the Ryde, the Thames, the Western, the Irish, and other clubsdotted the ocean. The first day of a Cowes Regatta broke fair andlovely, then down came the rain in torrents to disappoint the hopes ofthe pleasure-seekers, like the clouds which at every turn beset our pathin life; but again, as they do happily in our mortal course, the cloudspassed away, and the sun shone forth bright, warm, and cheering; a lightair sprang up from the westward, and the whole scene on shore and afloatlooked animated, joyous, and beautiful. While the rain-drops were stillhanging on the trees, a large party of ladies and gentlemen collected onthe Yacht Club slip, by the side of which were two gigs, their fine,manly crews, with their oars in the air, ready to receive them. Threeor four servants followed, laden with cloaks and plaids, to guardagainst a repetition of the shower; and several white baskets, of nomean proportions, showed that delicacies were provided from the shorewhich might not be found afloat. Never was a merrier set of peoplecollected together. Cheerful voices and shouts of laughter emanatedfrom them on all sides.

  "Who's for the first boat?" sung out Ned Hearty, the owner of the"Frolic." Ned had tried shooting, hunting, and every other amusementwhich the brain of man has invented to kill time; and he was now tryingyachting, which he seemed to enjoy amazingly, though practically he knewvery little about it; but I never met a man, green from the shore, so'cute in taking in the details of marine affairs. In a week he couldbox the compass, knew the names of all the sails and most of the ropesof his craft, and had a slight notion of steering, though I'll wager henever touched a tiller in his life before. "I say, old fellow," hecontinued, turning to me--I had joined him the day before, and had takenup my quarters on board for a spell--"do you take charge of the firstgig, and see some of the ladies safe on board. Send her back, though,for the two boats won't hold us all, and the Cardiffs and Lorimer havenot come down yet."

  "Very well: I can stow four ladies and three gentlemen," I answered,stepping into the boat, and offering my hand to Miss Seaton, who wasconsidered the belle of the party by most of the men: at all events, shewas the most sought after, for she was that lovable thing, an heiress.She took her seat, and looked up with her soft blue eyes to see who wasnext coming.

  "We'll go in the first! we'll go in the first?" exclaimed the two MissRattlers, in one breath; and forthwith, without ceremony, they jumpedinto the boat, disdaining my proffered aid. Fanny Rattler, the eldest,was dark, with fine flashing eyes and a _petite_ figure; but Susan wasthe girl for fun. She had not the slightest pretension to beauty, ofwhich she was well aware; but she did not seem to care a pin about it:and such a tongue for going as she had in her head! and what funnythings it said!--the wonder was it had not worn out long ago.

  "Who'll come next?" I asked. "Come, Miss May Sandon, will you?" Shenodded, and gave her delicate little hand into my rough paw. She wasone of three sisters who were about to embark. They were all fair, andvery pretty, with elegant figures, and hair with a slight touch ofauburn, and yet they were not, wonderful as it may seem, alike infeature. This made them more attractive, and there was no mistaking onefor the other. The three gentlemen who presented themselves were HarryLoring, a fine, good-looking fellow, a barri
ster by profession, butbriefless, and the younger son of Sir John and Lady Loring. He was adevoted admirer of Miss Seaton. The next was Sir Francis Futtock, apost-captain, and a right honest old fellow. "Here, I must go, to actpropriety among you youngsters," he said, as he stepped into the boat.The third, Will Bubble, the owner of a small yacht called the "Froth,"laid up that year for want, as he confessed, of quicksilver to floather. Will, like many a man of less wisdom, had been, I suspect,indulging in railway speculations, and if he had not actually burnt hisfingers, he had found his capital safely locked up in lines which don'tpay a dividend. "Shove off!" was the word; and I, seizing theyoke-lines, away we went towards the "Frolic."

  "I say, Sir Francis, take care they behave properly,--don't discreditthe craft," sung out her owner. "No flirtations, remember, till we geton board--all start fair."

  "Hear that, young ladies," said Sir Francis, looking, however, at MissSeaton, whereat a _soupcon_ of rosy tint came into her fair cheek, andher bright eyes glanced at her own delicate feet, while Henry Loringtried to look nohow, and succeeded badly.

  "I vote for a mutiny against such restrictions," cried Miss SusanRattler. "I've no idea of such a thing. Come, Sir Francis, let you andme set the example."

  The gallant officer, who had only seen the fair Susan two or three timesbefore, stared a little, and laughingly reminded her that he, as a navalman, should be the last to disobey the orders of the commander-in-chief."Though faith, madam," he added, "the temptation to do so is verygreat."

  "There, you've begun already with a compliment, Sir Francis," answeredMiss Susan, laughing; "I must think of something to say to you inreturn."

  She had not time, however, before the whole party were put in terror oftheir lives by a large schooner-yacht, which, without rhyme or reason,stood towards the mouth of the harbour, merely for the sake of standingout again, and very nearly ran us down, as she went about just at themoment she should not. We did not particularly bless the master, whostood at the helm with white kid gloves on his hands, one of whichtouched the tiller, the other held a cambric handkerchief to his nose,the scent of which Bubble declared he could smell as we passed toleeward. Two minutes more took us alongside the "Frolic." She was afine cutter of between ninety and a hundred tons; in every respect whata yacht should be, though not a racer; for Ned Hearty liked his ease andhis fun too much to pull his vessel to pieces at the very time he mostwanted to use her. She did not belong to the Cowes squadron; but Rydeowned her, and Ryde was proud of her, and the red burgee of the RoyalVictoria Yacht Club flew at her masthead. The water was perfectlysmooth, so the ladies stepped on board without any difficulty. Thegentlemen were busily engaged in arranging the cloaks and cushions forthe ladies, while the other boats were coming off. In the next came,under charge of Captain Carstairs, who was yachting regularly withHearty, Mrs Sandon, and two more of her fair daughters. Mamma was avery amiable gentlewoman, and had been a brunette in her youth, notwanting in prettiness, probably.

  Then came a Mrs Skyscraper, a widow, pretty, youngish--that is to say,not much beyond thirty--and with a good jointure at her own disposal;and a very tall young lady, Miss Mary Masthead by name, a regular jollygirl, though, who bid fair to rival the Rattlers. Then there was MasterHenry Flareup perched in the bows, a precocious young gentleman, waitingfor his commission, and addicted to smoking; not a bad boy in the main,however, and full of good nature. Hearty himself came off last withwhat might be considered the aristocracy of the party--Lady and MissCardiff, Lord Lorimer, and the Honourable Mrs Topgallant; and with themwas young Sandon, an Oxonian, and going into a cavalry regiment. Herladyship was one of those persons who look well and act well, andagainst whom no one can say a word; while Clara Cardiff was a generalfavourite with all sensible men, and even the women liked her; shetalked a great deal, but never said a silly thing, and, what is more,never uttered an unkind one. She was so incredulous, too, that shenever believed a bit of scandal, and (consequently, or rather, for suchwould not in all cases be the _sequitur_) at all events she neverrepeated one. She was not exactly pretty, but she had a pair of eyes,regular sparklers, which committed a great deal of mischief, though shedid not intend it; her figure was _petite_ and perfect for her height,and she was full of life and animation. Mrs Topgallant was proud ofher high descent, and a despiser of all those who had wealth, theadvantages arising from which they would not allow her to enjoy. It waswhispered that her liege lord was hard up in the world--not a very rarecircumstance now-a-days. I almost forgot Lord Lorimer. He was a youngman--a very good fellow--slightly afraid of being caught, perhaps, andconsequently very likely to be so. The Miss Sandons, in their quietway, set their caps at him; Jane Seaton looked as if she wished he wouldpay her more attention; and Mrs Skyscraper thought his title verypretty; but the Rattler girls knew that he was a cut above them; andClara Cardiff treated him with the same indifference that she did therest of the men. Such was the party assembled on board the "Frolic."

  I have not yet described the "Frolic," which, as it turned out, was tobe my home--and a very pleasant home, too, for many a month on the oceanwave; and yet she was well worthy of a description. She had the firstrequisite for a good sea-boat--great breadth of beam, with sharp bows,and a straightish stem. Her bulwarks were of a comfortable height, andshe was painted black outside; her copper, of its native hue, wasvarnished so as to shine like a looking-glass. Some people would havethought her deck rather too much encumbered with the skylights; but I amfond of air; provided there are ample means of battening them down incase of a heavy sea breaking on board, they are to be commended. Athorough draught can thus always be obtained by having the foremost andaftermost skylights open at the same time; in a warm climate, anabsolute necessity. Besides her main cabin, she had five good-sizedsleeping-cabins, a cabin for the master and chief mate, store-rooms, andpantries; a large fore cuddy for the men; and Soyer himself would nothave despised the kitchen range. I might expatiate on the rosewoodfittings of her cabin, on the purity of her decks, on the whiteness ofher canvas and ropes, on the bright polish of the brass belaying-pins,stanchions, davits, and guns, and on the tiller with the head of asea-fowl exquisitely carved; but, suffice it to say, that, even to themost fastidious taste, she was perfect in all her details. BeforeHearty came down I had engaged a crew for him, and as soon as he arrivedon board, I mustered them aft in naval fashion. They were, truly, afine-looking set of fellows, as they stood hat in hand, dressed in plainblue frocks and trousers, the ordinary costume of yachtsmen, with thename of "Frolic" in gold letters on the black ribbon which went roundtheir low-crowned hats. The name of the master was Snow. He was athorough sea-dog, who had spent the best part of his life in smuggling,but not finding it answer of late, had grown virtuous, and given up thetrade. He was clean and neat in his person; and as he appeared in hisgold-laced cap, and yacht-buttons on his jacket, he looked every inchthe officer. Odd enough, the name of one of the other men was Sleet, soCarstairs chose to dub the rest, Hail, Ice, Frost, Rain, Mist, Thaw, andso on; while one of the boys always went by the name of Drizzle. Heartyhad brought down his own man, but was very soon obliged to send him onshore again; for John, though an excellent groom, proved a very badsailor. Among other disqualifications, he was invariably sick, andcould never learn to keep his legs. The first day we got under weigh,he caught hold of the swing table, and sent all the plates and dishesflying from it. After breakfast he hove overboard half a dozen silverforks and spoons when shaking the tablecloth; and as he went towindward, of course all the crumbs and egg-tops came flying over thedeck. Indeed, it were endless to mention all the inexcusable atrocitiespoor John committed. On his retiring on sick leave, we shipped asea-steward to serve in his stead, who, having been regularly brought upon board yachts, proved himself admirable in his department; but a moreimpudent rascal to all strangers whom he thought not likely to know hismaster, I never met.

  Who can fail to look with pleasure at the mouth of the Medina on a finesummer's day, filled as the
roadstead is with numerous fine yachts, aswell fitted to contend with the waves and tempests in a voyage round theworld as the largest ship afloat! The scenery itself is beautiful--acharming combination of wood and water. On one side, to the east,Norris Castle, with its ivy-crowned turrets and waving forest; on theother, the church-spire peeping amid the trees; and the prettycollection of villas climbing the heights, and extending along the shorefrom the Club-house and Castle to Egypt Point, with the fine wild downsbeyond. On the opposite coast, the wooded and fertile shores ofHampshire; the lordly tower of Eaglehurst, amid its verdant groves; andCalshot Castle on its sandy beach, at the mouth of the SouthamptonWater; while far away to the east are seen, rising from the ocean, thelofty masts and spars of the ships-of-war at Spithead, and the buildingsin the higher parts of Ryde; altogether forming a picture perfect andunrivalled in its kind. Osborne--fit abode of Her Majesty of England--has now sprung up, and added both dignity and beauty to the scene.