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A Middy of the Slave Squadron:A West African Story

A West African Story

Library of Alexandria
A sound through the darkness. “Phew!” ejaculated Mr Perry, first lieutenant of His Britannic Majesty’s corvette Psyche, as he removed his hat and mopped the perspiration from his streaming forehead with an enormous spotted pocket-handkerchief. “I believe it’s getting hotter instead of cooler; although, by all the laws that are supposed to govern this pestiferous climate, we ought to be close upon the coolest hour of the twenty-four! Just step aft to the skylight, Mr Fortescue, and see what the time is, will ye? It must surely be nearing two bells.” “Ay, ay, sir!” I dutifully answered; and, moving aft to the skylight, raised the canvas cover which had been placed over it to mask the light of the low-turned lamp which was kept burning all night in the fore cabin, and glanced at the clock which, screwed to the coaming on one side of the tell-tale compass, balanced the barometer which, hung in gimbals, was suspended on the other side. The clock marked the time as two minutes to five a.m., or within two minutes of two bells in the morning watch. Dropping the canvas screen back into place, I was about to announce the time to my superior officer, when I thought I caught, through the faint creak of the ship’s timbers and the light rustling of the canvas aloft, a slight, far off sound, like the squeak of a sheave on a rusty pin. Therefore, instead of proclaiming the time aloud, I stepped quietly to the side of the first luff, and asked, almost in a whisper—“Did you hear anything just then, sir?” “Hear anything?” reiterated Mr Perry, unconsciously lowering his usually stentorian voice in response to the suggestion of secrecy conveyed by my whisper; “no, I can’t say that I did. What d’ye mean, Mr Fortescue