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Chapter 56

A SHORE EMPEROR ON BOARD A MAN-OF-WAR.


While we lay in Rio, we sometimes had company from shore; but an
unforeseen honour awaited us. One day, the young Emperor, Don
Pedro II., and suite--making a circuit of the harbour, and
visiting all the men-of-war in rotation--at last condescendingly
visited the Neversink.

He came in a splendid barge, rowed by thirty African slaves, who,
after the Brazilian manner, in concert rose upright to their oars
at every stroke; then sank backward again to their seats with a
simultaneous groan.

He reclined under a canopy of yellow silk, looped with tassels of
green, the national colours. At the stern waved the Brazilian
flag, bearing a large diamond figure in the centre, emblematical,
perhaps, of the mines of precious stones in the interior; or, it
may be, a magnified portrait of the famous "Portuguese diamond"
itself, which was found in Brazil, in the district of Tejuco, on
the banks of the Rio Belmonte.

We gave them a grand salute, which almost made the ship's live-
oak _knees_ knock together with the tremendous concussions. We
manned the yards, and went through a long ceremonial of paying
the Emperor homage. Republicans are often more courteous to
royalty than royalists themselves. But doubtless this springs
from a noble magnanimity.

At the gangway, the Emperor was received by our Commodore in
person, arrayed in his most resplendent coat and finest French
epaulets. His servant had devoted himself to polishing every
button that morning with rotten-stone and rags--your sea air is a
sworn foe to metallic glosses; whence it comes that the swords of
sea-officers have, of late, so rusted in their scabbards that
they are with difficulty drawn.

It was a fine sight to see this Emperor and Commodore complimenting
each other. Both were _chapeaux-de-bras_, and both continually waved
them. By instinct, the Emperor knew that the venerable personage before
him was as much a monarch afloat as he himself was ashore. Did not our
Commodore carry the sword of state by his side? For though not borne
before him, it must have been a sword of state, since it looked far
to lustrous to have been his fighting sword. _That_ was naught but a
limber steel blade, with a plain, serviceable handle, like the handle
of a slaughter-house knife.

Who ever saw a star when the noon sun was in sight? But you seldom see
a king without satellites. In the suite of the youthful Emperor came a
princely train; so brilliant with gems, that they seemed just emerged
from the mines of the Rio Belmonte.

You have seen cones of crystallised salt? Just so flashed these
Portuguese Barons, Marquises, Viscounts, and Counts. Were it not
for their titles, and being seen in the train of their lord, you
would have sworn they were eldest sons of jewelers all, who had
run away with their fathers' cases on their backs.

Contrasted with these lamp-lustres of Barons of Brazil, how waned
the gold lace of our barons of the frigate, the officers of the
gun-room! and compared with the long, jewel-hilted rapiers of the
Marquises, the little dirks of our cadets of noble houses--the
middies--looked like gilded tenpenny nails in their girdles.

But there they stood! Commodore and Emperor, Lieutenants and
Marquises, middies and pages! The brazen band on the poop struck
up; the marine guard presented arms; and high aloft, looking down
on this scene, all _the people_ vigorously hurraed. A top-man
next me on the main-royal-yard removed his hat, and diligently
manipulated his head in honour of the event; but he was so far
out of sight in the clouds, that this ceremony went for nothing.

A great pity it was, that in addition to all these honours, that
admirer of Portuguese literature, Viscount Strangford, of Great
Britain--who, I believe, once went out Ambassador Extraordinary
to the Brazils--it was a pity that he was not present on this
occasion, to yield his tribute of "A Stanza to Braganza!" For our
royal visitor was an undoubted Braganza, allied to nearly all the
great families of Europe. His grandfather, John VI., had been
King of Portugal; his own sister, Maria, was now its queen. He
was, indeed, a distinguished young gentleman, entitled to high
consideration, and that consideration was most cheerfully
accorded him.

He wore a green dress-coat, with one regal morning-star at the
breast, and white pantaloons. In his chapeau was a single,
bright, golden-hued feather of the Imperial Toucan fowl, a
magnificent, omnivorous, broad-billed bandit bird of prey, a
native of Brazil. Its perch is on the loftiest trees, whence it
looks down upon all humbler fowls, and, hawk-like, flies at their
throats. The Toucan once formed part of the savage regalia of the
Indian caciques of the country, and upon the establishment of the
empire, was symbolically retained by the Portuguese sovereigns.

His Imperial Majesty was yet in his youth; rather corpulent, if
anything, with a care-free, pleasant face, and a polite, indifferent,
and easy address. His manners, indeed, were entirely unexceptionable.

Now here, thought I, is a very fine lad, with very fine prospects
before him. He is supreme Emperor of all these Brazils; he has no
stormy night-watches to stand; he can lay abed of mornings just
as long as he pleases. Any gentleman in Rio would be proud of his
personal acquaintance, and the prettiest girl in all South
America would deem herself honoured with the least glance from
the acutest angle of his eye.

Yes: this young Emperor will have a fine time of this life, even
so long as he condescends to exist. Every one jumps to obey him;
and see, as I live, there is an old nobleman in his suit--the
Marquis d'Acarty they call him, old enough to be his grandfather
--who, in the hot sun, is standing bareheaded before him, while
the Emperor carries his hat on his head.

"I suppose that old gentleman, now," said a young New England tar
beside me, "would consider it a great honour to put on his Royal
Majesty's boots; and yet, White-Jacket, if yonder Emperor and I
were to strip and jump overboard for a bath, it would be hard
telling which was of the blood royal when we should once be in
the water. Look you, Don Pedro II.," he added, "how do you come
to be Emperor? Tell me that. You cannot pull as many pounds as I
on the main-topsail-halyards; you are not as tall as I: your nose
is a pug, and mine is a cut-water; and how do you come to be a
'_brigand_,' with that thin pair of spars? A _brigand_, indeed!"

"_Braganza_, you mean," said I, willing to correct the rhetoric of
so fierce a republican, and, by so doing, chastise his censoriousness.

"Braganza! _bragger_ it is," he replied; "and a bragger, indeed. See
that feather in his cap! See how he struts in that coat! He may well
wear a green one, top-mates--he's a green-looking swab at the best."

"Hush, Jonathan," said I; "there's the _First Duff_ looking up. Be
still! the Emperor will hear you;" and I put my hand on his mouth.

"Take your hand away, White-Jacket," he cried; "there's no law up
aloft here. I say, you Emperor--you greenhorn in the green coat,
there--look you, you can't raise a pair of whiskers yet; and see
what a pair of homeward-bounders I have on my jowls! _Don Pedro_,
eh? What's that, after all, but plain Peter--reckoned a shabby name
in my country. Damn me, White-Jacket, I wouldn't call my dog Peter!"

"Clap a stopper on your jaw-tackle, will you?" cried Ringbolt, the
sailor on the other side of him. "You'll be getting us all into
darbies for this."

"I won't trice up my red rag for nobody," retorted Jonathan. "So you
had better take a round turn with yours, Ringbolt, and let me alone,
or I'll fetch you such a swat over your figure-head, you'll think a
Long Wharf truck-horse kicked you with all four shoes on one hoof!
You Emperor--you counter-jumping son of a gun--cock your weather eye
up aloft here, and see your betters! I say, top-mates, he ain't any
Emperor at all--I'm the rightful Emperor. Yes, by the Commodore's boots!
they stole me out of my cradle here in the palace of Rio, and put that
green-horn in my place. Ay, you timber-head, you, I'm Don Pedro II.,
and by good rights you ought to be a main-top-man here, with your fist
in a tar-bucket! Look you, I say, that crown of yours ought to be on my
head; or, if you don't believe _that_, just heave it into the ring once,
and see who's the best man."

"What's this hurra's nest here aloft?" cried Jack Chase, coming up the
t'-gallant rigging from the top-sail yard. "Can't you behave yourself,
royal-yard-men, when an Emperor's on board?"

"It's this here Jonathan," answered Ringbolt; "he's been blackguarding
the young nob in the green coat, there. He says Don Pedro stole his hat."

"How?"

"Crown, he means, noble Jack," said a top-man.

"Jonathan don't call himself an Emperor, does he?" asked Jack.

"Yes," cried Jonathan; "that greenhorn, standing there by the
Commodore, is sailing under false colours; he's an impostor, I say;
he wears my crown."

"Ha! ha!" laughed Jack, now seeing into the joke, and willing to
humour it; "though I'm born a Briton, boys, yet, by the mast!
these Don Pedros are all Perkin Warbecks. But I say, Jonathan, my
lad, don't pipe your eye now about the loss of your crown; for,
look you, we all wear crowns, from our cradles to our graves, and
though in _double-darbies_ in the _brig_, the Commodore himself
can't unking us."

"A riddle, noble Jack."

"Not a bit; every man who has a sole to his foot has a crown to
his head. Here's mine;" and so saying, Jack, removing his
tarpaulin, exhibited a bald spot, just about the bigness of a
crown-piece, on the summit of his curly and classical head.


Herman Melville