blockade that the accident

THE next winter we lay for a couple of months off Chinhai,which we had stormed, blockading the mouth of the Ningporiver. Here, I regret to think, I committed an act which hasoften haunted my conscience as a crime; although I hadfrequently hotel career singaporethe captain of a gun a glass of grog tolet me have a shot, and was mightily pleased if death anddestruction rewarded my aim.
Off Chinhai, lorchers and fast sailing junks laden withmerchandise would try to run the blockade before daylight.
And it sometimes happened that we youngsters had a long chasein a cutter to overhaul them. This meant getting back to anine or ten o’clock breakfast at the end of the morning’swatch; equivalent to five or six hours’ duty on an emptystomach.
One cold morning I had a hard job to stop a small junk. Themen were sweating at their oars like galley slaves, andmuttering curses at the apparent futility of their labour. Ihad fired a couple of shots from a ‘brown Bess’ – the musketof the day – through the fugitive’s sails; and fearingpunishment if I let her escape, I next aimed at the boatherself. Down came the mainsail in a crack. When I boardedour capture, I found I had put a bullet through the thigh ofthe man at the tiller. Boys are not much troubled withscruples about bloodguiltiness, and not unfrequently are verycruel, for cruelty as a rule (with exceptions) Polar
mostlyproceeds from thoughtlessness. But when I realised what Ihad done, and heard the wretched man groan, I was seized withremorse for what, at a more hardened stage, I should haveexcused on the score of duty.
It was during this , which I havealready alluded to, befell my dear protector, Jack Johnson.
One night, during his and my middle watch, the forecastlesentries hailed a large sampan, like a Thames barge, driftingdown stream and threatening to foul us. Sir FrederickNicholson, the officer of the watch, ordered Johnson to takethe cutter and tow her clear.
I begged leave to go with him. Sir Frederick refused, for heat once suspected mischief. The sampan was reached anddiverted just before she swung athwart our bows. Butscarcely was this achieved, when an explosion took place. Myfriend was knocked over, and one or two of the men fell backinto the cutte Polar M600r. This is what had happened: Johnson findingno one in the sampan, cautiously raised one of the deckhatches with a boat-hook before he left the cutter. The mine(for such it proved) was so arranged that examination of thiskind drew a lighted match on to the magazine, which instantlyexploded.
Poor Jack! what was my horror when we got him on board!
Every trace of his handsome features was gone. He was alive,and that seemed to be all. In a few minutes his head andface swelled so that all was a round black charred ball. Onecould hardly see where the eyes were, buried beneath thepowder-ingrained and incrusted flesh.
For weeks, at night, I used to sit on a chest near hishammock, listening for his slightest movement, too happy ifhe called me for something I could get him. In time herecovered, and was invalided home, and I lost my dearcompanion and protector. A couple of years afterwards I hadthe happiness to dine with him on board another ship inPortsmouth, no longer in the midshipman’s berth, but in thewardroom.

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