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Cutlass and Cudgel

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Chapter One.

“Heigh-Ho-Ha-Hum! Oh dear me!”

“What’s matter, sir?”

“Matter, Dirty Dick? Nothing; only, heigh-ho-ha! Oh dear me, how sleepy I am!”

“Well, sir, I wouldn’t open my mouth like that ’ere, ’fore the sun’s up.”

“Why not?”

“No knowing what you might swallow off this here nasty, cold, foggy, stony coast.”

“There you go again, Dick; not so good as Lincolnshire coast, I suppose?”

“As good, sir? Why, how can it be?” said the broad, sturdy sailor addressed. “Nothin’ but great high stony rocks, full o’ beds of great flat periwinkles and whelks; nowhere to land, nothin’ to see. I am surprised at you, sir. Why, there arn’t a morsel o’ sand.”

“For not praising your nasty old flat sandy shore, with its marsh beyond, and its ague and bogs and fens.”

“Wish I was ’mong ’em now, sir. Wild ducks there, as is fit to eat, not iley fishy things like these here.”

“Oh, bother! Wish I could have had another hour or two’s sleep. I say, Dirty Dick, are you sure the watch wasn’t called too soon?”

“Nay, sir, not a bit; and, beggin’ your pardon, sir, if you wouldn’t mind easin’ off the Dirty—Dick’s much easier to say.”

“Oh, very well, Dick. Don’t be so thin-skinned about a nickname.”

“That’s it, sir. I arn’t a bit thin-skinned. Why, my skin’s as thick as one of our beasts. I can’t help it lookin’ brown. Washes myself deal more than some o’ my mates as calls me dirty. Strange and curious how a name o’ that kind sticks.”

“Oh, I say, don’t talk so,” said the lad by the rough sailor’s side; and after another yawn he began to stride up and down the deck of His Majesty’s cutter White Hawk, lying about a mile from the Freestone coast of Wessex.

It was soon after daybreak, the sea was perfectly calm and a thick grey mist hung around, making the deck and cordage wet and the air chilly, while the coast, with its vast walls of perpendicular rocks, looked weird and distant where a peep could be obtained amongst the wreaths of vapour.

“Don’t know when I felt so hungry,” muttered the lad, as he thrust his hands into his breeches pockets, and stopped near the sailor, who smiled in the lad’s frank-looking, handsome face.

“Ah, you always were a one to yeat, sir, ever since you first came aboard.”

“You’re a noodle, Dick. Who wouldn’t be hungry, fetched out of his cot at this time of the morning to take the watch. Hang the watch! Bother the watch! Go and get me a biscuit, Dick, there’s a good fellow.”

The sailor showed his white teeth, and took out a brass box.

“Can’t get no biscuit yet, sir. Have a bit o’ this. Keeps off the gnawin’s wonderful.”

“Yah! Who’s going to chew tobacco!” cried the lad with a look of disgust, as he buttoned up his uniform jacket. “Oh, hang it all, I wish the sun would come out!”

“Won’t be long, sir; and then all this sea-haar will go.”

“Why don’t you say mist?” cried the lad contemptuously.

“’Acause it’s sea-haar, and you can’t make nowt else on it, sir!”

“They haven’t seen anything of them in the night, I suppose?”

“No, sir; nowt....