“Hah! Hah!” laughed Crockston.
“Have you finished?” asked the Captain, very impatiently.
“Well, this is what I have to say, when one takes the uncle, the nephew comes into the bargain.”
“Yes, that is the custom, the one does not go without the other.”
“And what is this nephew of yours?”
“A lad of fifteen whom I am going to train to the sea; he is willing to learn, and will make a fine sailor some day.”
“How now, Master Crockston,” cried James Playfair; “do you think the Dolphin is a training-school for cabin-boys?”
“Don’t let us speak ill of cabin-boys: there was one of them who became Admiral Nelson, and another Admiral Franklin.”
“Upon my honour, friend,” replied James Playfair, “you have a way of speaking which I like; bring your nephew, but if I don’t find the uncle the hearty fellow he pretends to be, he will have some business with me. Go, and be back in an hour.”
Crockston did not want to be told twice; be bowed awkwardly to the Captain of the Dolphin, and went on to the quay. An hour afterwards he came on board with his nephew, a boy of fourteen or fifteen, rather delicate and weakly looking, with a timid and astonished air, which showed that he did not possess his uncle’s self-possession and vigorous corporeal qualities. Crockston was even obliged to encourage him by such words as these:
“Come,” said he, “don’t be frightened, they are not going to eat us, besides, there is yet time to return.”
“No, no,” replied the young man, “and may God protect us!”
The same day the sailor Crockston and his nephew were inscribed in the muster-roll of the Dolphin.
The next morning, at five o’clock, the fires of the steamer were well fed, the deck trembled under the vibrations of the boiler, and the steam rushed hissing through the escape-pipes. The hour of departure had arrived.
A considerable crowd, in spite of the early hour, flocked on the quays and on Glasgow Bridge; they had come to salute the bold steamer for the last time. Vincent Playfair was there to say good-bye to Captain James, but he conducted himself on this occasion like a Roman of the good old times. His was a heroic countenance, and the two loud kisses with which he gratified his nephew were the indication of a strong mind.
“Go, James,” said he to the young Captain, “go quickly, and come back quicker still; above all, don’t abuse your position. Sell at a good price, make a good bargain, and you will have your uncle’s esteem.”
On this recommendation, borrowed from the manual of the perfect merchant, the uncle and nephew separated, and all the visitors left the boat.
At this moment Crockston and John Stiggs stood together on the forecastle, while the former remarked to his nephew, “This is well, this is well; before two o’clock we shall be at sea, and I have a good opinion of a voyage which begins like this.”
For reply the novice pressed Crockston’s hand.
James Playfair then gave the orders for departure.
“Have we pressure on?” he asked of his mate.
“Yes, Captain,” replied Mr. Mathew.
“Well, then, weigh anchor.”
This was immediately done, and the screws began to move. The Dolphin trembled, passed between the ships in the port, and soon disappeared from the sight of the people, who shouted their last hurrahs.
The descent of the Clyde was easily accomplished, one might almost say that this river had been made by the hand of man, and even by the hand of a master. For sixty years, thanks to the dredges and constant dragging, it has gained fifteen feet in depth, and its breadth has been tripled between the quays and the town. Soon the forests of masts and chimneys were lost in the smoke and fog; the noise of the foundry hammers and the hatchets of the timber-yards grew fainter in the distance. After the village of Partick had been passed the factories gave way to country houses and villas. The Dolphin, slackening her speed, sailed between the dykes which carry the river above the shores, and often through a very narrow channel, which, however, is only a small inconvenience for a navigable river, for, after all, depth is of more importance than width.