The Singular Adventure of a Small Free-Trader
The events which are to be narrated happened in the spring of 1803, and just before the rupture of the Peaceof Amiens between our country and France; but were related to my grandfather in 1841 by one Yann, or Jean, Riel, a Breton "merchant," alias smuggler--whether or not a descendant of the famous Herve of that name, I donot know. He chanced to fall ill while visiting some friends in the small Cornish fishing-town, of which my grandfather was the only doctor; and this is one of a number of adventures recounted by him during hisconvalescence. I take it from my grandfather's MSS., but am not able, at this distance of time, to learn howclosely it follows the actual words of the narrator.
Smuggling in 1841 was scotched, but certainly not extinct, and the visit of M. Riel to his old customers was, aslikely as not, connected with business.--Q.
Item, of the Cognac 25 degrees above proof, according to sample in the little green flask, 144 ankers at 4 gallons per anker, at 5s. 6d. per gallon, the said ankers to be ready slung for horse-carriage.
""Now may the mischief fly away with these English!" cried my father, to whom my mother was reading theletter aloud. "It costs a man a working day, with their gallons and sixpences, to find out of how much they meanto rob him at the end of it.""
Item, 2 ankers of colouring stuff at 4 gallons per anker, price as usual. The place to be as before, under Rope Hauen, east side of Blackhead, unless warned: and a straight run. Come close in, any wind but easterly, and can load up horses alongside. March 24th or 25th will be best, night tides suiting, and no moon. Horses will bethere: two fenced lights, pilchard-store and beach, showing S 1/4 E to E S E. Get them in line. Same pay for freighting, and crew 17l. per man, being a straight run,
""And little enough," was my father's comment."
Item, 15 little wooden dolls, jointed at the knees and elbows, the same as tante Yvonne used to sell for two solsat Saint Pol de Leon--
.""'Fifteen little wooden dolls'! 'Fifteen little woo--'." My father dropped into his chair, and sat speechless,opening and shutting his mouth like a fish."It is here in black and white," said my mother. I found the letter, years after, in her kist. It was written, as wereall the letters we received from this Cornish venturer, in a woman's hand, small and delicate, with upstrokes likespider's thread; written in French, too, quite easy and careless. My mother held it close to the window. "'Fifteenlittle wooden dolls,'" she repeated, "'jointed at the knees and elbows.'""Well, I've gone to sea with all sorts, from Admiral Brueys upwards; but fifteen little wooden dolls--jointed--at--the--knees!""I know the sort," I put in from the hearth, where my mother had set me to watch the
. "You can get asmany as you like in the very next street, and at two sols apiece. I will look to that part of the cargo.""You, for example? . . .""Yes, I; since you promised to take me on the very next voyage after I was twelve.""But that's impossible. This is a straight run, as they call it, and not a mere matter of sinking the crop."