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Chapter 57


I Beg their Royal Highnesses' pardons all round, but I had almost
forgotten to chronicle the fact, that with the Emperor came
several other royal Princes--kings for aught we knew--since it
was just after the celebration of the nuptials of a younger
sister of the Brazilian monarch to some European royalty. Indeed,
the Emperor and his suite formed a sort of bridal party, only the
bride herself was absent.

The first reception over, the smoke of the cannonading salute
having cleared away, and the martial outburst of the brass band
having also rolled off to leeward, the people were called down
from the yards, and the drum beat to quarters.

To quarters we went; and there we stood up by our iron bull-dogs,
while our royal and noble visitors promenaded along the batteries,
breaking out into frequent exclamations at our warlike array, the
extreme neatness of our garments, and, above all, the extraordinary
polish of the _bright-work_ about the great guns, and the marvellous
whiteness of the decks.

"Que gosto!" cried a Marquis, with several dry goods samples of
ribbon, tallied with bright buttons, hanging from his breast.

"Que gloria!" cried a crooked, coffee-coloured Viscount, spreading
both palms.

"Que alegria!" cried a little Count, mincingly circumnavigating a

"Que contentamento he o meu!" cried the Emperor himself, complacently
folding his royal arms, and serenely gazing along our ranks.

_Pleasure, Glory_, and _Joy_--this was the burden of the three noble
courtiers. _And very pleasing indeed_--was the simple rendering of
Don Pedro's imperial remark.

"Ay, ay," growled a grim rammer-and-sponger behind me; "it's all
devilish fine for you nobs to look at; but what would you say if
you had to holy-stone the deck yourselves, and wear out your
elbows in polishing this cursed old iron, besides getting a dozen
at the gangway, if you dropped a grease-spot on deck in your
mess? Ay, ay, devilish fine for you, but devilish dull for us!"

In due time the drums beat the retreat, and the ship's company
scattered over the decks.

Some of the officers now assumed the part of cicerones, to show
the distinguished strangers the bowels of the frigate, concerning
which several of them showed a good deal of intelligent
curiosity. A guard of honour, detached from the marine corps,
accompanied them, and they made the circuit of the berth-deck,
where, at a judicious distance, the Emperor peeped down into the
cable-tier, a very subterranean vault.

The Captain of the Main-Hold, who there presided, made a polite
bow in the twilight, and respectfully expressed a desire for His
Royal Majesty to step down and honour him with a call; but, with
his handkerchief to his Imperial nose, his Majesty declined. The
party then commenced the ascent to the spar-deck; which, from so
great a depth in a frigate, is something like getting up to the
top of Bunker Hill Monument from the basement.

While a crowd of people was gathered about the forward part of
the booms, a sudden cry was heard from below; a lieutenant came
running forward to learn the cause, when an old sheet-anchor-man,
standing by, after touching his hat hitched up his waistbands,
and replied, "I don't know, sir, but I'm thinking as how one o'
them 'ere kings has been tumblin' down the hatchway."

And something like this it turned out. In ascending one of the
narrow ladders leading from the berth-deck to the gun-deck, the
Most Noble Marquis of Silva, in the act of elevating the Imperial
coat-tails, so as to protect them from rubbing against the newly-
painted combings of the hatchway, this noble marquis's sword,
being an uncommonly long one, had caught between his legs, and
tripped him head over heels down into the fore-passage.

"Onde ides?" (where are you going?) said his royal master, tranquilly
peeping down toward the falling Marquis; "and what did you let go of my
coat-tails for?" he suddenly added, in a passion, glancing round at the
same time, to see if they had suffered from the unfaithfulness of his
train bearer.

"Oh, Lord!" sighed the Captain of the Fore-top, "who would be a Marquis
of Silva?"

Upon being assisted to the spar-deck, the unfortunate Marquis was
found to have escaped without serious harm; but, from the marked
coolness of his royal master, when the Marquis drew near to
apologise for his awkwardness, it was plain that he was condemned
to languish for a time under the royal displeasure.

Shortly after, the Imperial party withdrew, under another grand
national salute.

Herman Melville