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Mr. Midshipman Easy (chapter 15)

2006-08-22 18:30

  Chapter 15

  IN WHICH MUTINY, LIKE FIRE, IS QUENCHED FOR WANTOF FUEL AND NO WANT OF WATER

  Although we have made the African negro hitherto talk in his own mixed jargon, yet, as we consider that, in a long narration, it will be tedious to the reader, we shall now translate the narrative part into good English, merely leaving the conversation with which it may be broken, in its peculiar dialect.

  “The first thing I recollect,” said Mesty, “is that I was carried on the shoulders of a man with my legs hanging down before, and holding on by his head.

  “Every one used to look at me, and get out of the way, as I rode through the town and market—place, so loaded with heavy gold ornaments that I could not bear them, and was glad when the women took them off; but, as I grew older, I became proud of them, because I knew that I was the son of a king—I lived happy, I did nothing but shoot my arrows, and I had a little sword which I was taught to handle, and the great captains who were about my father showed me how to kill my enemies. Sometimes I laid under the shady trees, sometimes I was with the women belonging to my father, sometimes I was with him and played with the skulls, and repeated the names of those to whom they had belonged, for in our country, when we kill our enemies. we keep their skulls as trophies.

  “As I grew older, I did as I pleased; I beat the women and the slaves; I think I killed some of the latter—I know I did one, to try whether I could strike well with my two—handed sword made of hard and heavy wood— but that is nothing in our country. I longed to be a great captain, and I thought of nothing else but war and fighting, and how many skulls I should have in my possession when I had a house and wives of my own, and I was no longer a boy. I went out in the woods to hunt, and I stayed for weeks. And one day I saw a panther basking in the sun, waving his graceful tail. I crept up softly till I was behind a rock within three yards of it, and drawing my arrow to the head I pierced him through the body. The animal bounded up in the air, saw me, roared and made a spring, but I dropped behind the rock, and he passed over me. He turned again to me, but I had my knife ready, and, as he fixed his talons into my shoulder and breast, I pierced him to the heart. This was the happiest day of my life; I had killed a panther without assistance, and I had the wounds to show. Although I was severely hurt, I thought nothing of it. I took off the skin as my blood dropped down and mixed with that of the beast—but I rejoiced in it. Proudly did I go into the town dripping with gore and smarting with pain. Every one extolled the feat, called me a hero and a great captain. I filed my teeth, and I became a man.

  “From that day I ranked among the warriors, and, as soon as my wounds were healed, I went out to battle. In three fights I had gained five skulls, and when I returned they weighed me out gold. I then had a house and wives, and my father appointed me a Caboceer. I wore the plume of eagle and ostrich feathers, my dress was covered with fetishes, I pulled on the boots with bells, and with my bow and arrows slung on my back, my spear and blunderbuss, my knives and my double— handed sword, I led the men to battle and brought was beaten back. I fired his house, wasted his provision ground, and taking away more slaves, I returned home with my men, intending soon to assault him again. The next day there came more messengers, who knelt in vain, so they went to my father, and many warriors begged him to interfere. My father sent for me, but I would not listen; the warriors spoke, and I turned my back: my father was wroth and threatened, the warriors brandished their two—handed swords—they dared to do it; I looked over my shoulder with contempt, and I returned to my house. I took down my skulls, and I planned. It was evening, and I was alone, when a woman covered up to the eyes approached; she fell down before me as she exposed her face.

  “ ‘I am the girl who was promised to your relation, and I am now the wife of your enemy. I shall be a mother. I could not love your relation, for he was no warrior. It is not true that my husband asked for a fetish—it was I who bought it, for I would not wed him. Kill me and be satisfied.’

  “She was very beautiful, and I wondered not that my enemy loved her—and she was with child—it was his child, and she had fetished my friend to death. I raised my sword to strike, and she did not shrink: it saved her life. ‘Thou art fit to be the mother of warriors,’ said I, as I dropped my sword, ‘and thou shalt be my wife, but first his child shall be born, and I will have thy husband’s skull.‘

  “ ‘No, no,’ replied she, ‘I will be the mother of no warriors but my present husband, whom I love; if you keep me as your slave I will die.’

  “I told her she said foolish things, and sent her to the women‘s apartment, with orders to be watched— but she hardly had been locked up before she drew her knife, plunged it into her heart, and died.

  “When the king my father heard this he sent me a message—‘Be satisfied with the blood that has been shed, it is enough’—but I turned away, for I wished for mine enemy‘s skull. That night I attacked him again and met him hand to hand; I killed him, and carried home his skull, and I was appeased.

  “But all the great warriors were wroth, and my father could not restrain them. They called out their men, and I called out my men, and I had a large body, for my name was terrible. But the force raised against me was twice that of mine, and I retreated to the bush—after awhile we met and fought and I killed many, but my men were too few and were overpowered—the fetish had been sent out against me, and their hearts melted; at last I sank down with my wounds, for I bled at every pore, and I told my men who were about me to take off my feathers, and my dress and boots, that my enemies might not have my skull: they did so, and I crawled into the bush to die. But I was not to die; I was recovering, when I was discovered by those who steal men to sell them: I was bound, and fastened to a chain with many more. I, a prince and a warrior, who could show the white skulls of his enemies—I offered to procure gold, but they derided me; they dragged me down to the coast, and sold me to the Whites. Little did I think, in my pride, that I should be a slave. I knew that I was to die, and hoped to die in battle: my skull would have been more prized than all the gold in the earth, and my skin would have been stuffed and hung up in a fetish—house—instead of which, I now boil the kettle for the young gentlemen.”

  “Well,” replied Jack, “that‘s better than being killed and stuffed.”

  “Mayhap it is,” replied Mesty, “I tink very different now dan I tink den—but still, it women‘s work and not suit me.

  “They put me with others into a cave until the ship came, and then we were sent on board, put in irons, and down in the hold, where you could not sit upright—I wanted to die, but could not; others died every day, but I lived—I was landed in America, all bone, and I fetched very little money—they laughed at me, as they bid their dollars: at last a man took me away, and I was on a plantation with hundreds more, but too ill to work, and not intending to work. The other slaves asked me if I was a fetish—man; I said yes, and I would fetish any man that I did not like: one man laughed, and I held up my finger; I was too weak to get up, for my blood had long boiled with fever, and I said to him, ‘you shall die;’ for I meant to have killed him, as soon as I was well. He went away, and in three days he was dead. I don‘t know how, but all the slaves feared me, and my master feared me, for he had seen the man die, and he, although he was a white man, believed in fetish, and he wished to sell me again, but no one would buy a fetish—man, so he made friends with me; for I told him, if I was beat he should die, and he believed me. He took me into his house, and I was his chief man, and I would not let the other slaves steal, and he was content. He took me with him to New York, and there after two years, when I had learnt English, I ran away, and got on board of an English ship—and they told me to cook. I left the ship as soon as I came to England, and offered myself to another, and they said they did not want a cook; and I went to another, and they asked me if I was a good cook: everybody seemed to think that a black man must be a good cook, and nothing else. At last I starve, and I go on board man—of—war, and here I am, after having been a warrior and a prince, cook, steward and everyting else, boiling kettle for de young gentlemen.”

  “Well,” replied Jack, “at all events that is better than being a slave.”

  Mesty made no reply: any one who knows the life of a midshipman‘s servant will not be surprised at his silence.

  “Now, tell me, do you think you were right in being so revengeful, when you were in your own country?” inquired Jack.

  “I tink so den, Massa Easy; sometimes when my blood boil, I tink so now—oder time, I no know what to tink—but when a man love very much, he hate very much.”

  “But you are now a Christian, Mesty.”

  “I hear all that your people say,” replied the negro, “and it make me tink—I no longer believe in fetish, anyhow.”

  “Our religion tells us to love our enemies.”

  “Yes, I heard parson say dat—but den what we do with our friends, Massa Easy?”

  “Love them too.”

  “I no understand dat, Massa Easy—I love you, because you good, and treat me well—Mr. Vigors, he bully, and treat me ill—how possible to love him? By de power, I hate him, and wish I had him skull. You tink little Massa Gosset love him?”

  “No,” replied Jack, laughing, “I‘m afraid that he would like to have his skull as well as you, Mesty—but at all events we must try and forgive those who injure us.”

  “Then, Massa Easy, I tink so too—too much revenge very bad—it very easy to hate, but not very easy to forgive—so I tink that if a man forgive, he had more soul in him, he more of a man.”

  “After all,” thought Jack, “Mesty is about as good a Christian as most people.”

  “What that?” cried Mesty, looking out of the cabin window—“Ah! d—n drunken dogs—they set fire to tent.”

  Jack looked, and perceived that the tent on shore was in flames.

  “I tink these cold nights cool their courage anyhow,” observed Mesty—“Massa Easy, you see they soon ask permission to come on board.”

  Jack thought so too, and was most anxious to be off, for, on looking into the lockers in the state—room, he had found a chart of the Mediterranean, which he had studied very attentively—he had found out the rock of Gibraltar, and had traced the Harpy‘s course up to Cape de Gatte, and thence to Tarragona—and, after a while had summoned Mesty to a cabinet council.

  “See, Mesty,” said Jack, “I begin to make it out; here is Gibraltar, and Cape de Gatte, and Tarragona—it was hereabout we were when we took the ship, and, if you recollect, we had passed Cape de Gatte two days before we were blown off from the land, so that we had gone about twelve inches, and had only four more to go.”

  “Yes, Massa Easy, I see all dat.”

  “Well, then, we were blown off shore by the wind, and must of course have come down this way; and here you see are three little islands, called Zaffarine Islands, and with no names of towns upon them, and therefore uninhabited; and you see they lie just like the islands we are anchored among now—we must be at the Zaffarine Islands—and only six inches from Gibraltar.”

  “I see, Massa Easy, dat all right—but six debbelish long inches.”

  “Now, Mesty, you know the compass on deck has a flourishing thing for the north point—and here is a compass with a north point also. Now the north point from the Zaffarine Islands leads out to the Spanish coast again, and Gibraltar lies five or six points of the compass to this side of it—if we steer that way we shall get to Gibraltar.”

  “All right, Massa Easy,” replied Mesty; and Jack was right, with the exception of the variation, which he knew nothing about.

  To make sure, Jack brought one of the compasses down from deck, and compared them. He then lifted off the glass, counted the points of the compass to the westward, and marked the corresponding one on the binnacle compass with his pen.

  “There,” said he, “that is the way to Gibraltar, and as soon as the mutiny is quelled, and the wind is fair, I‘ll be off.”

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