I could not send for any one to whom I could impart the intelligence—there was no one whom I could expect to sympathise with me, or to whom I could pour out the abundance of my joy; for that the service prohibited. What could I do? Why, I could dance; so I sprang from my chair, and singing the tune, commenced a quadrille movement,—Tal de ral la, tal de ral la, lity, lity, lity, liddle-um, tal de ral la, tal—
“Three bells, sir,” cried the first lieutenant, who had opened my door unperceived by me, and showed evident surprise at my motions; “shall we beat to quarters?”—
“Certainly, Mr B—,” replied I, and he disappeared.
But this interruption produced only a temporary cessation: I was in the height of “Cavalier seul,” when his head popped into the cabin—
“All present, and sober, sir,” reported he, with a demure smile.
“Except the captain, I presume you are thinking,” replied I.
“Oh! no, indeed, sir; I observed that you were very merry.”
“I am, Mr B—, but not with wine; mine is a sort of intellectual intoxication not provided for in the Articles of War.”
“A what! sir?”
“Oh! something that you’ll never get drunk upon, as you never look into a book—beat a retreat.”
“Ay, ay, sir,” replied the first lieutenant; and he disappeared.
And I also beat a retreat to my sofa; and as I threw myself upon it, mentally vowed that, for two months at the least, I never would take up a pen. But we seldom make a vow which we do not eventually break; and the reason is obvious. We vow only when hurried into excesses; we are alarmed at the dominion which has been acquired over us by our feelings, or by our habits. Checked for a time by an adherence to our resolutions, they gradually recover their former strength, until they again break forth, and we yield to their overpowering influence. A few days after I had made the resolution, I found myself, like the sailor, rewarding it by writing more indefatigably than ever.
So now, reader, you may understand that I continue to write, as Tony Lumpkin says, not to please my good-natured friends, “but because I can’t bear to disappoint myself;” for that which I commenced as an amusement, and continued as a drudgery, has ended in becoming a confirmed habit.
So much for the overture. Now let us draw up the curtain, and our actors shall appear upon the stage.
“Boldly I venture on a naval scene,
Nor fear the critics’ frown, the pedants’ spleen.
Sons of the ocean, we their rules disdain.
Tears her strong bottom on the marble rock.
Down on the vale of death, with dismal cries,
The fated victims, shuddering, roll their eyes
In wild despair—while yet another stroke
With deep convulsion rends the solid oak,
Till like the mine in whose infernal cell
The lurking demons of destruction dwell,
At length, asunder torn, her frame divides,
And crushing, spreads in ruin o’er the tides.”