A silence as of the tomb reigned among the bystanders while the great General Potter proceeded to mount; which he effected after considerable puffing and fussing, and adjusting his three-cornered hat, of which he was singularly scrupulous. Holding on by the rope with great tenacity, the only difficulty now in the way seemed his legs, which were too short to get crossed upon the oar. Declaring he had never before rode an animal of such sharpness in the back, he proposed that the crossing of legs be omitted, when he would show them that he could dislodge the hat with great agility sitting astride the oar. But as this would leave no chance for the sport that was to follow, the officers all asserted upon their reputations that in no instance of which they had any knowledge had such a concession been made, no matter how distinguished the ambassador. But in order not to be wanting in courtesy, two of the officers assisted him in getting his legs crossed. This done the benches were cleared, and, not a little disturbed in his courage, the gallant general swung away to the motion of the ship. Several voices now called to him, demanding that he let go the rope and dislodge the hat. “When a man knows his life is in danger, it occurs to me, gentlemen, that he had better be left to choose his own time in parting with it!” replied the general. He however let go the rope, and suddenly making a pass at the hat with his staff, lost his balance and was plunged headlong into the larboard scuppers, and with such force that had not his bones been equal to wrought-iron, not a sound one had been left in his body. He now gave out such pitiful groans as brought the officers to a knowledge of the serious character of the joke, which was put an end to by their picking him up and bearing him away to his cabin.
Of the general’s recovery, and his interview with Mr. Tickler; also, of the landing at Buzabub, and various other strange and amusing things.
When the general was sufficiently recovered from the effects of the fall, he began thanking heaven that it was no worse, and inquiring of the officers who stood around him, each trying to emulate the other in offering him consolation, whether any of his predecessors had been thrown into the scuppers in this manner. “You may say there was a lack of skill, gentlemen; but I at least gave you a taste of my courage, which is something in these days.” Thus he addressed them as he rose to his feet, with evident self-satisfaction, and believing in his heart that a man was as much to be praised for what he attempted as for what he achieved. “That you are a gentleman of courage no man with eyes in his head will dispute; and as our country is extremely fortunate in the possession of so brave a general, we have been saying among ourselves that the interests of the nation demand that you should be less prodigal of it!” replied one of the officers.