title="74"/> Duckling's voice and the boatswain's whistle, and manned the windlass. The pilot was now on the poop with the skipper, the latter looking lively enough as he heard the quick clanking of the palls. The men broke into a song and chorus presently, and the rude strains chimed in well with the hoarse echo of the cable coming link by link in-board.
Presently I reported the cable up and down. Then from Duckling, the pilot's mouthpiece, came the familiar orders—
"Loose the outer jib."
"Lay aloft, some of you, and loose the topsails."
"Up with that jib smartly, my lads."
"A hand aft here to the wheel."
The ship lay with her head pointing to the direction in which she was going: there was nothing more to do than sheet home the topsails and trip the anchor. The men were tolerably nimble and smart. The three topsails were soon set, the windlass again manned, and within a quarter of an hour from the time when the order was given, the ship was under way, and pushing quietly through a tide that raced in a hundred wrinkles around her bows.
We set the fore and main top-gallant sails and spanker presently: the yards were braced sharp up, for we were heading well south, so as to give the Foreland a wide berth. This extra canvas sent us swirling past the red-hulled lightship off this point, and soon the Dover pier opened, and the great white cliffs with their green heights. Anon, our course bringing the wind more aft, we set the mainsail and main-royal and mizzen top-gallant sail, with the staysails and jibs.
The breeze freshened as we stretched seawards; the ship was now carrying a deal of canvas, and the men seemed pleased with her pace.
The day was gloriously fine. The sea was of an emerald green, alive with little leaping waves each with its narrow thread of froth: the breeze was strong enough to lay the vessel over, just so far as to enable one looking over the weather side to see her copper, shining red below the green line of water. The brilliant sunshine illuminated the brass-work with innumerable glories, and shone with fluctuating flashes in the glass of the skylights, and made the decks glisten like a yacht's. The canvas, broad and white, towered nobly to the sky, and the main-royal against the deep blue of the sky seemed like a cloud among the whiter clouds which swept in quick succession high above. It was a sight to look over the ship's bows, to see her keen stem shredding the water, and the permanent pillar of foam leaning away from her weather-bow.
This part of the Channel was full of shipping, and I know, by the vividness with which my memory reproduces the scene, how beautiful was the picture impressed upon it. All on our right were the English shores, made delicate and even fanciful by distance; here and there fairy-like groups of houses, standing on the heights among trees or embosomed in valleys, with silver sands sloping to the sea: deep shadows staining the purity of the brilliant chalk, and a foreground of pleasure-boats with sails glistening like pearl and bright flags streaming. And to our right and left vessels of different rigs and sizes standing up or down Channel, some running like ourselves, free, with streaming wakes, others coming up close-hauled, some in ballast high out of water, stretching their black sides along the sea and exposing to windward shining surfaces of copper.
At half-past two o'clock in the afternoon, all sail that was required having been made, and the decks cleared, the hands were divided into watches, and I, having charge of the port watch, came on deck. The starboard watch went below; but as the men had not dined, a portion of my own watch joined the others in the forecastle to get their dinner.
I now discovered that the copper-faced man, to whom I have drawn attention, was the new cook. I heard the men bandying jokes with him as they went in and out of the galley, carrying the steaming lumps of pork and reeking dishes of pea-soup into the forecastle, whence I concluded that they had either not yet discovered the quality of the provisions, or that they were more easily satisfied than their predecessors had been.
Among the men in my own watch was the great strapping fellow whom I had likened to a Lifeguardsman. I had thought the man too big to be handy up aloft, but was very much deceived; for in all my life I never witnessed such feats of activity as he performed. His long legs had enabled him to take two ratlines at a time, and he saved himself the trouble of getting over the futtock shrouds by very easily making two steps from the mainshrouds to the mainyard, and from the mainyard to the maintop. I watched him leave the galley, carrying his smoking mess; but I also noticed, before I lost sight of him, that he took a suspiciously long sniff at the steam under his nose, and then violently expectorated.