Jack turned upon his heel, and, before the admiral could make any reply he left the place.
“What’s the rascal up to now?” said the admiral. “I really didn’t think he’d have taken me at my word.”
“Oh, then, after all, you didn’t mean it, uncle?” said Charles.
“What’s that to you, you lubber, whether I mean it, or not, you shore-going squab? Of course I expect everybody to desert an old hulk, rats and all—and now Jack Pringle’s gone; the vagabond, couldn’t he stay, and get drunk as long as he liked! Didn’t he say what he pleased, and do what he pleased, the mutinous thief? Didn’t he say I run away from a Frenchman off Cape Ushant, and didn’t I put up with that?”
“But, my dear uncle, you sent him away yourself.”
“I didn’t, and you know I didn’t; but I see how it is, you’ve disgusted Jack among you. A better seaman never trod the deck of a man-of-war.”
“But his drunkenness, uncle?”
“It’s a lie. I don’t believe he ever got drunk. I believe you all invented it, and Jack’s so good-natured, he tumbled about just to keep you in countenance.”
“But his insolence, uncle; his gross insolence towards you—his inventions, his exaggerations of the truth?”
“Avast, there—avast, there—none of that, Master Charlie; Jack couldn’t do anything of the sort; and I means to say this, that if Jack was here now, I’d stick up for him, and say he was a good seaman.
“Tip us your fin, then,” said Jack, darting into the room; “do you think I’d leave you, you d——d old fool? What would become of you, I wonder, if I wasn’t to take you in to dry nurse? Why, you blessed old babby, what do you mean by it?”
“Jack, you villain!”
“Ah! go on and call me a villain as much as you like. Don’t you remember when the bullets were scuttling our nobs?”
“I do, I do, Jack; tip us your fin, old fellow. You’ve saved my life more than once.”
“It’s a lie.”
“It ain’t. You did, I say.”
And thus was the most serious misunderstanding that these two worthies ever had together made up. The real fact is, that the admiral could as little do without Jack, as he could have done without food; and as for Pringle, he no more thought of leaving the old commodore, than of—what shall we say? forswearing him. Jack himself could not have taken a stronger oath.
But the old admiral had suffered so much from the idea that Jack had actually left him, that although he abused him as usual often enough, he never again talked of taking him off the ship’s books; and, to the credit of Jack be it spoken, he took no advantage of the circumstance, and only got drunk just as usual, and called his master an old fool whenever it suited him.
THE HUNGARIAN NOBLEMAN GETS INTO DANGER.—HE IS FIRED AT, AND SHOWS SOME OF HIS QUALITY.