“Eight bells, there, sleepers; d’ye hear the news?—Rouse and bitt, my hearties! Show a leg! Eight bells, Courtenay! and Keene says he will be much obliged if you will relieve him as soon as possible!” These words, delivered in a tone of voice that was a curious alternation of a high treble with a preternaturally deep bass—due to the fact that the speaker’s voice was “breaking”—and accompanied by the reckless banging of a tin pannikin upon the deal table that adorned the midshipmen’s berth of H.M. frigate Althea, instantly awoke me to the disagreeable consciousness that my watch below had come to an end, especially as the concluding portion of the harangue was addressed to me personally, and accompanied by a most uncompromising thump upon the side of my hammock. So I surlily growled an answer— “All right, young ’un; there’s no occasion to make all that hideous row! Just see if you can make yourself useful by finding Black Peter, will you, and telling him to brew some coffee.” The lad was turning away to do my bidding when a pattering of naked feet became audible as their owner approached, while a husky voice ejaculated— “Who’s dat axin’ for Brack Petah? Was it you, Mistah Courtenay?” And at the same instant the shining, good-natured, grinning visage of a gigantic negro appeared in the narrow doorway, through which the fellow instantly passed into the berth, bearing a big pot of steaming hot coffee. “Ay, you black demon, I it was,” answered I. “Is that coffee you have there? Then find my cup and fill it, there’s a good fellow, and I’ll owe you a glass of grog.” “Hi, yi!” answered the black, his eyes sparkling and his teeth gleaming hilariously, “who you call ‘brack demon,’ eh, sah? Who eber hear of brack demon turnin’ out at four o’clock in de mornin’ to make coffee for young gentermen, eh? And about de grog, Mistah Courtenay; how many glasses do dis one make dat you now owe me, eh, sah? Ansah me dat, sah. You don’ keep no account, I expec’s, sah, but I do. Dis one makes seben, Mistah Courtenay, and I’d be much obleege, sah, if you’d pay some of dem off. It am all bery well to say you’ll owe ’em to me, sah, but what’s de use ob dat if you don’ nebber pay me, eh?” “Pay you, you rascal?” shouted I, as I sprang to the deck and began hastily to scramble into my clothes, “do you mean to say that you have the impudence to actually expect to be paid? Is it not honour and reward enough that a gentleman condescends to become indebted to you? Pay, indeed! why, what is the world coming to, I wonder?”
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