The Ram started up--'
'Who?' inquired the bald gentleman, intensely interested.
'The Ram--Ram Chowdar--'
'Oh!' said the old gentleman, 'beg your pardon; pray go on.'
'--Started up and drew a pistol. "Helves," said he, "my boy,"--he always called me, my boy--"Helves," said he, "do you hear that tom- tom?" "I do," said I. His countenance, which before was pale, assumed a most frightful appearance; his whole visage was distorted, and his frame shaken by violent emotions. "Do you see that gum-gum?" said he. "No," said I, staring about me. "You don't?" said he. "No, I'll be damned if I do," said I; "and what's more, I don't know what a gum-gum is," said I. I really thought the Ram would have dropped. He drew me aside, and with an expression of agony I shall never forget, said in a low whisper--'
'Dinner's on the table, ladies,' interrupted the steward's wife.
'Will you allow me?' said the captain, immediately suiting the action to the word, and escorting Miss Julia Briggs to the cabin, with as much ease as if he had finished the story.
'What an extraordinary circumstance!' ejaculated the same old gentleman, preserving his listening attitude.
'What a traveller!' said the young ladies.
'What a singular name!' exclaimed the gentlemen, rather confused by the coolness of the whole affair.
'I wish he had finished the story,' said an old lady. 'I wonder what a gum-gum really is?'
'By Jove!' exclaimed Hardy, who until now had been lost in utter amazement, 'I don't know what it may be in India, but in England I think a gum-gum has very much the same meaning as a hum-bug.'
'How illiberal! how envious!' cried everybody, as they made for the cabin, fully impressed with a belief in the captain's amazing adventures. Helves was the sole lion for the remainder of the day- -impudence and the marvellous are pretty sure passports to any society.
The party had by this time reached their destination, and put about on their return home. The wind, which had been with them the whole day, was now directly in their teeth; the weather had become gradually more and more overcast; and the sky, water, and shore, were all of that dull, heavy, uniform lead-colour, which house- painters daub in the first instance over a street-door which is gradually approaching a state of convalescence. It had been 'spitting' with rain for the last half-hour, and now began to pour in good earnest. The wind was freshening very fast, and the waterman at the wheel had unequivocally expressed his opinion that there would shortly be a squall. A slight emotion on the part of the vessel, now and then, seemed to suggest the possibility of its pitching to a very uncomfortable extent in the event of its blowing harder; and every timber began to creak, as if the boat were an overladen clothes-basket. Sea-sickness, however, is like a belief in ghosts--every one entertains some misgivings on the subject, but few will acknowledge any. The majority of the company, therefore, endeavoured to look peculiarly happy, feeling all the while especially miserable.
'Don't it rain?' inquired the old gentleman before noticed, when, by dint of squeezing and jamming, they were all seated at table.
'I think it does--a little,' replied Mr. Percy Noakes, who could hardly hear himself speak, in consequence of the pattering on the deck.
'Don't it blow?' inquired some one else.
'No, I don't think it does,' responded Hardy, sincerely wishing that he could persuade himself that it did not; for he sat near the door, and was almost blown off his seat.
'It'll soon clear up,' said Mr. Percy Noakes, in a cheerful tone.
'Oh, certainly!' ejaculated the committee generally.
'No doubt of it!' said the remainder of the company, whose attention was now pretty well engrossed by the serious business of eating, carving, taking wine, and so forth.
The throbbing motion of the engine was but too perceptible. There was a large, substantial, cold boiled leg of mutton, at the bottom of the table, shaking like blancmange; a previously hearty sirloin of beef looked as if it had been suddenly seized with the palsy; and some tongues, which were placed on dishes rather too large for them, went through the most surprising evolutions; darting from side to side, and from end to end, like a fly in an inverted wine- glass.