Poor Jack, by Captain Marryat.
Captain Frederick Marryat was born July 10 1792, and died August 8 1848. He retired from the British navy in 1828 in order to devote himself to writing. In the following 20 years he wrote 26 books, many of which are among the very best of English literature, and some of which are still in print.
Marryat had an extraordinary gift for the invention of episodes in his stories. He says somewhere that when he sat down for the day's work, he never knew what he was going to write. He certainly was a literary genius.
"Poor Jack" was published in 1840, the sixteenth book to flow from Marryat's pen. It is principally set on the banks of the River Thames, as it flows through London, in particular at Greenwich. Many of the landmarks described still exist, though their use may have changed in two centuries! Like "Jacob Faithful", which also takes place to a large extent, though in a different manner, on the London River Thames, the descriptions of the working of lighters, wherries, and other light boats, is especially interesting.
This e-text was transcribed in 1998 by Nick Hodson, and was reformatted in 2003, and again in 2005.
POOR JACK, BY CAPTAIN FREDERICK MARRYAT.
IN WHICH, LIKE MOST PEOPLE WHO TELL THEIR OWN STORIES, I BEGIN WITH THE HISTORIES OF OTHER PEOPLE.
I have every reason to believe that I was born in the year of our Lord 1786, for more than once I put the question to my father, and he invariably made the same reply: "Why, Jack, you were launched a few months before the Druids were turned over to the Melpomene." I have since ascertained that this remarkable event occurred in January 1787. But my father always reckoned in this way: if you asked him when such an event took place, he would reply, so many years or months after such a naval engagement or remarkable occurrence; as, for instance, when I one day inquired how many years he had served the King, he responded, "I came into the sarvice a little afore the battle of Bunker's Hill, in which we licked the Americans clean out of Boston." [I have since heard a different version of the result of this battle.] As for Anno Domini, he had no notion of it whatever.
Who my grandfather was, I cannot inform the reader, nor is it, perhaps, of much consequence. My father was a man who invariably looked forward, and hated anything like retrospection: he never mentioned either his father or his mother; perhaps he was not personally acquainted with them. All I could collect from him at intervals was, that he served in a collier from South Shields, and that a few months after his apprenticeship was out, he found himself one fine morning on board of a man-of-war, having been picked up in a state of unconsciousness, and hoisted up the side without his knowledge or consent. Some people may infer from this, that he was at the time tipsy; he never told me so; all he said was, "Why, Jack, the fact is when they picked me up I was quite altogether non pompus." I also collected at various times the following facts,—that he was put into the mizen-top, and served three years in the West Indies; that he was transferred to the main-top, and served five years in the Mediterranean; that he was made captain of the foretop, and sailed six years in the East Indies; and, at last, was rated captain's coxswain in the Druid frigate, attached to the Channel fleet cruising during the peace. Having thus condensed the genealogical and chronological part of this history, I now come to a portion of it in which it will be necessary that I should enter more into detail.
The frigate in which my father eventually served as captain's coxswain was commanded by a Sir Hercules Hawkingtrefylyan, Baronet. He was very poor and very proud, for baronets were not so common in those days. He was a very large man, standing six feet high, and with what is termed a considerable bow-window in front; but at the same time portly in his carriage. He wore his hair well powdered, exacted the utmost degree of ceremony and respect, and considered that even speaking to one of his officers was paying them a very high compliment: as for being asked to his table, there were but few who could boast of having had that honour, and even those few perhaps not more than once in the year. But he was, as I have said, very poor; and moreover he was a married man, which reminds me that I must introduce his lady, who, as the ship was on Channel service, had lodgings at the port near to which the frigate was stationed, and occasionally came on board to take a passage when the frigate changed her station to the eastward or to the westward. Lady Hercules, as we were directed to call her by Sir Hercules, was as large in dimensions, and ten times more proud than her husband. She was an excessive fine lady in every respect; and whenever she made her appearance on board, the ship's company looked upon her with time greatest awe. She had a great dislike to ships and sailors; officers she seldom condescended to notice; and pitch and tar were her abomination. Sir Hercules himself submitted to her dictation; and, had she lived on board, she would have commanded the ship: fortunately for the service, she was always very sea-sick when she was taking a passage, and therefore did no mischief. "I recollect," said my father to me, "once when we were running down to Portsmouth, where we had been ordered for provisions, that my Lady Hercules, who was no fool of a weight, being one night sea-sick in her cot, the lanyard of the cot gave way, and she came down with a run by the head. The steward was called by the sentry, and there was a terrible shindy. I, of course, was sent for, as I had the hanging up of the cot. There was Sir Hercules with his shirt flapping in the wind, and a blanket over his shoulders, strutting about in a towering passion; there was the officer of the watch, who had been sent for by mistake, and who was ordered to quit the cabin immediately; and there was I, expecting to be put in irons, and have seven dozen for my breakfast. As for Sir Hercules, he didn't know what to do; he did nothing but storm at everybody, for my lady, with her head under the clothes, was serving him out at no small rate. She wouldn't, she declared, allow any man to come into the cabin to hoist her up again. So indecent, so indelicate, so shocking,—she was ashamed of Sir Hercules,—to send for the men; if they didn't leave the cabin immediately, she'd scream and she'd faint—that she would—there was no saying what she wouldn't do! Well, there we waited just outside until at last Sir Hercules and my lady came to a parley. She was too sick to get out of bed, and he was not able to hoist her up without assistance; so being, as I suppose, pretty well tired of lying with her head three feet lower than her heels, she consented, provided that she was properly kivered up, to allow us to come in and put all to rights. Well, first she made Sir Hercules throw over her his two boat cloaks, but that wouldn't do; so he threw the green cloth from off the table, but that warn't enough for her delicate sensibility, and she hollered from under the clothes for more kivering; so Sir Hercules sent for two of the ship's ensigns, and coiled away the bunting on her till it was as high as a haycock, and then we were permitted to come in and hoist her ladyship up again to the battens. Fortunately it was not a slippery hitch that had let her down by the run, but the lanyard had given way from my lady's own weight, so my back was not scratched after all. Women ain't no good on board, Jack, that's sartain."
But I must now introduce a more important personage than even Lady Hercules, which is my mother. They say "like master, like man," and I may add, "like lady, like maid." Lady Hercules was fine, but her maid was still finer. Most people when they write their biography, if their parents were poor, inform you that they left them a good name and nothing else. Some parents cannot even do that; but all parents can at all events leave their children a pretty name, by taking a little trouble at their baptism. My mother's name was Araminta, which, as my father truly observed, was "a touch above the common." She had originally gone into service as a nursery maid, living in her first situation one year and nine months; in her second she remained two years and four months; then she left to better herself, and obtained the situation of nurse in a family where she remained two years and one month; after which Lady Hercules then having a child of a year old, she was received into her service. At three years old the child died, and my mother was promoted to the situation of lady's maid. This advancement quite spoiled her; she was prouder than her mistress, and gave herself ten times more airs, and when, at first, my father (who as coxswain was constantly up at the house) offered to speak to her, she turned away from him in most ineffable disdain. Now my father was at that time about thirty years of age, and thought no small beer of himself, as the saying goes. He was a tall, handsome man, indeed, so good-looking that they used to call him "Handsome Jack" on board of the Druid, and he had, moreover, a pigtail of most extraordinary size and length, of which he was not a little proud, as it hung down far below the waistband of his trousers. His hair was black and glossy, and his lovelocks, as the sailors term the curls which they wear on their temples, were of the most insinuating description. Now, as my father told me, when he first saw my mother with her sky-scraping cap at the back of her head, so different from the craft in general, he was very much inclined to board her; but when she boomed him off in that style, my father, who was quite the rage and fancy man among the ladies of Sally Port and Castle Rag, hauled his wind in no time, hitching up his white trousers and turning short round on his heel, so as to present his back to her whenever they happened to meet. For a long time he gave her a wide berth. Now this fact of my father returning her disdain had the usual effect. At first she was very savage, and when she spoke of him to Lady Hercules, she designated him as "that proud coxswain, who seemed to think himself a greater man than Sir Hercules himself—with his filthy pigtail, indeed!" My father also, when he spoke of her to the boat's crew, termed her "that proud —- of a lady's maid," the word not mentionable being both canine and feminine. Thus matters went on for some time, until my mother, by a constant survey of my father's handsome proportions, every day thought him to be a more proper man, and a few advances on her part at last brought them to a mutual understanding.
MY FATHER DOES WHAT MOST SAILORS DO—HE MAKES A FOOLISH MARRIAGE, ONE OF THE CONSEQUENCES OF WHICH IS BROUGHT TO LIGHT AT THE END OF THE CHAPTER.
I have observed at the finale of my first chapter, that at last my mother and father came to a good understanding; but at the same time Madam Araminta (for so my mother insisted upon being called) took good care to let my father understand that she considered that she was lowering herself by surrendering up her charms to a captain's coxswain. She informed him that her father might be said to have been royally connected, being a king's messenger (and so, indeed, he might be considered, having been a twopenny postman), and that her mother had long scores against the first nobles in the land (she was a milk-woman), and that she had dry-nursed a young baronet, and was now, not merely a ladies' maid, but a lady's ladies' maid. All this important and novel communication sunk deep in my father's mind, and when he heard it he could hardly believe his good fortune in having achieved such a conquest; but, as the sequel will prove, his marriage did not turn out very happily. He used to say to me, "Jack, take my advice, and never marry above your condition, as I did; nothing would please me but a lady's ladies' maid; I had no right to look up to even a ladies' maid, and had your mother only been a simple maid, all might have been right." But these were after-reflections when it was too late. I do not wonder at my poor father's senses being dazzled, for, as he said to me, "You see, Jack, after being used to see nothing but Point women, all so slack in stays and their rigging out of order, to fall aboard of a craft like your mother, so trim and neat, ropes all taut, stays well set up, white hammock-cloths spread every day in the week, and when under weigh, with a shawl streaming out like a silk ensign, and such a rakish gaff topsail bonnet, with pink pennants; why, it was for all the world as if I was keeping company with a tight little frigate after rolling down channel with a fleet of colliers; but, howsomever, fine feathers don't make fine birds, and handsome is as handsome does."
My father's marriage was, however, precipitated by circumstances. One afternoon, after he had been accepted, he had taken his quid out of his cheek, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and was in the act of giving and receiving a chaste salute, when Lady Hercules happened to come down into the kitchen—a most rare occurrence, and wholly unexpected from a lady of her refined and delicate ideas. She caught my father and mother in the very act; and (as my father expressed it) with an exclamation of horror, "She 'bout ship, and sculled upstairs like winkin'." A loud peal of the bell summoned up my mother, leaving my father in a state of no pleasant suspense, for he was calculating how far Sir Hercules could bring in "kissing a lady's ladies' maid" under the article of war as "contempt of superiors," and, if so, how many dozen kisses his back might receive from the cat in return. While he was absorbed in this pleasing speculation, Lady Hercules was pouring out anathemas against my mother's want of delicacy and decency, informing her that it was impossible she could submit the decoration of her person to one who has so contaminated herself with a tobacco-chewing seaman— who was all pigtail within and without; for, as the Scripture says, "Who can touch pitch without being defiled?"
Although my mother had made up her mind, that if it was to be a question between a place and a husband, she should decide upon retaining the latter, still she thought it advisable, if it were possible, to conciliate my lady. She therefore pulled out a cambric handkerchief, and while her ladyship scolded, she covered up her face and wept. Lady Hercules continued to scold until she was out of breath, and thereby compelled to stop. My mother then replied, with deep humility and many tears, "that indeed she had been so persuaded (sob) that she at last promised, to (sob) marry; but only on one condition—yes, indeed—(sob) that her ladyship gave her consent—positively on no other (sob)—no, indeed, upon her honour! Mr Saunders was—(sob)—excellent young man—(sob), so attached to Sir Hercules (sob), and had such a great respect for her ladyship, that—(sob—sob—sob)—he had won her heart."
By this time her ladyship had regained her breath, and she interrupted my mother by pointing out to her, that allowing all she said to be correct, yet still that was no reason why she should allow such indecent liberties; that Sir Hercules had never obtained such favours from her until after the ring had been put on her finger. Then, indeed, such things might be—that is, occasionally; but the kitchen of all places!— And, besides, how did she know how many wives the coxswain had already? She shouldn't be surprised, if, with that long pigtail of his, he had five at least—nay, perhaps, six on seven. Here my mother replied, that "it was out of gratitude to her (sob) for having consented to permit him to (sob) speak to Sir Hercules (sob), who would plead with her ladyship (sob), which had occasioned Mr Saunders (sob) to take—such—a—liberty (sob—sob—sob)—which he had never—done before—(sob)—No!—never— upon her honour—never—!" And here my mother's sobs choked her utterance.
This explanation somewhat pacified, and a little subsequent humility and flattery gained the mistress, who consented to settle the matter with Sir Hercules, alleging, as one principal reason for so doing, that after the familiarity which had taken place between them, the sooner they were married the better. The wishes of her ladyship were tantamount to commands. Sir Hercules pronounced my father to be a fool, and they were married.
My mother was a good-looking person, perhaps two or three years older than my father; she was of a very bad temper, very vindictive and revengeful, and in every way she had a pleasure in annoying other people, and when she succeeded she invariably concluded her remarks with, "There—now you're vexed!" Whenever out of humour herself from the observations of others, she attempted to conceal her vexation by singing; and having been so many years of her life in the nursery, her songs were usually those little ditties used to pacify or amuse children in arms. "Saunders," she would cry out, "if you aren't the biggest fool that ever walked on two legs—to look at that long tail of yours you're so proud of, one would think I'd married a monkey—a hourang-howtang, instead of a man. There—now you're vexed! One can't open one's mouth." My mother knew where to strike; and this attack upon his pigtail was certain to provoke my father, who would retort in no measured language, till she, in her turn, lost her temper, and then out she would sing, in a sort of scream—
"Hey diddle, diddle, the cat and the fiddle, The cow jumped over the moon," etcetera.
And thus she continued to sing (or squeal) until her wrath cooled down.
The consequences of forming a matrimonial alliance with a captain's coxswain soon became visible. Six months after they had been married, Lady Hercules pronounced my mother's appearance to be quite indecent, and declared her no longer fit for the office of lady's maid to a lady of her exquisite delicacy; and my mother, who became less active every day, received notice to quit, which she did, when her month was up, in great wrath, packing up her boxes, and slamming the door as she left the house, singing at the very highest pitch of her voice:—
"Dickory, dickory, dock; the mouse ran up the clock," etcetera.
My father wished her to come and live with him on board the frigate; but to that my mother would not consent, saying, that she had, it was true, degraded herself and her family by marrying a coxswain, but she was not going to further contaminate herself by mixing with the vulgar creatures on board. In this resolve I think my mother was right; but her dismissal and disgrace was followed up by my father being disrated and turned into the main-top, for no other reason in the world than such being the will and pleasure of Lady Hercules.
Her ladyship considered that she had lost a good servant through my father's intervention; and having therefore taken a dislike to him, did not choose that he should, as coxswain, come up to the house as usual; and, as he no longer did the duty of coxswain, she asserted that he was not entitled to the rating. Thus, seven months had hardly passed away before my father's marriage became a source of vexation and annoyance; his pay was decreased, and he was no longer a petty officer. My mother's pride was hurt; and if she was resolute in not going on board to remain with him when he was captain's coxswain, she was still more so, now that he was reduced to a common seaman. As for my father, he was the picture of misery,—he had no consolation except turning his quid and tying his pigtail.
But everything changes in this world, and among other changes was that of the station of the frigate, which was ordered foreign. Sir Hercules took leave of his lady, who retired to Tunbridge Wells. My father took leave of my mother, who retired to Woolwich. She had saved some money in service, and my father handed over to her all the pay which he received, when the ship's company were paid previous to the sailing of the ship. It is but justice to observe, that the moment he was out of soundings and away from the influence of her ladyship, Sir Hercules reinstated my father, and gave him back his rating as coxswain. My father was indeed the smartest and best seaman in the ship; he could do his work from stem to stern,—mouse a stay, pudding an anchor, and pass a gammoning, as well as he could work a Turk's head, cover a manrope, or point a lashing for the cabin table. Besides which, he had seen service, having fought under Rodney, and served at the siege of Gibraltar.
But I must return to my mother, who, when she first went to Woolwich, which she did in a transport that was ordered round, took lodgings in the outskirts of the town; and not wishing to acknowledge that she had married a common sailor, as she supposed my father still to be, asserted that she was the wife of a captain of a merchant vessel, which had been taken up as a transport to convey troops to the West Indies. On this supposition, being received into a society above her real station, she was compelled to spend more money than she could afford, and her finances rapidly wasted away. In the meantime I was born—a fine baby, but with nothing to look up to but a penniless mother, an absent (if existing) father, the work and the sky.
IN WHICH MY MOTHER PROVES HERSELF A TENDER WIFE, AND AT THE SAME TIME SHOWS HER PATRIOTISM AND DEVOTION TO HER COUNTRY.
I had almost unconsciously arrived at the age of two years before there were any tidings of my father. All the information that my mother could obtain was, that the ship's company of the Druid had been turned over to another frigate called the Melpomene, the former having been declared not seaworthy, and in consequence condemned and broken up at Port Royal.
But no letter had been received from my father, who indeed was not much of a scholar; he could read, but he could not write. By this time my mother's savings were expended, and she was in great tribulation lest the deceit she had practised should be exposed. Indeed, there were already many surmises as to the truth of her story, it being so long that her husband had been absent. At last, when she had changed her only remaining guinea, a letter arrived from my father, dated from Portsmouth, stating that the ship was to be paid off in a few days, and then "he would clap on all sail and be on board of his old woman in no time."
My mother, although not a little disgusted at being called an old woman—an affront which she determined to revenge upon a more fitting occasion—was in raptures with the contents of the letter: she therefore returned a kind answer, informing my father what a promising child he was blessed with, and giving him a direction to meet her at Greenwich, as she had resolved upon not receiving him at Woolwich, where her false assertions would have been exposed. Going round to all her acquaintances, she bade them farewell, telling them that her husband had returned well, and well to do, and had ordered her to meet him at Greenwich. Having thus satisfactorily, as she imagined, got out of this little difficulty, she packed up and hastened to Greenwich, where she sunk her assumed rank and waited very impatiently for her husband. He came at last, seated with many others on the outside of a stage coach— his hat bedecked with ribands, a pipe in one hand and flourishing a pewter pot in the other. It hardly need be added that he was more than half tipsy. Nevertheless, even in this state, he was well received; and after he had smothered her with kisses, dandled me on his knee, thrown into her lap all the pay he had left, and drank three more pots of porter, they went very peaceably and lovingly to repose.
I regret to say that this amity did not last long. My father's manners, which perhaps had been softened down by the awe which he had of Lady Hercules when he first made my mother's acquaintance, were now more coarse, and so was his language; and the neatness and cleanliness of person which he was obliged to maintain while performing the duties of a coxswain to a married captain were not so observable. Besides which, being no longer under discipline, he was almost every night intoxicated; and being so, was more self-willed and regardless of his wife's injunctions: the consequences were, that having received from my father fifty pounds, my mother first locked that up, and then "unlocked her jaw." Disputes were now hourly occurring; and it was "now you're vexed," and "hey diddle diddle," from morning till night.
My father would repair to the grog-shops to have a dance and carouse with his messmates, and my mother would not accompany him to such a vulgar place; consequently he went alone, was out very late, coming home very drunk, if indeed he came home at all. Moreover, the wives and companions of the other seamen would insult her when she walked out, for pretending to be better than they were.
One day when she was walking out arm-in-arm with my father, unluckily she was met by one of her Woolwich acquaintances. This was the severest stroke of all, as she had intended to return to Woolwich; but now she was discovered, and avoided by one party, as well as insulted by the other. I cannot defend my mother's conduct; nor indeed was she deserving of pity, as her treatment had been brought about by her own folly and pride. The effect of all this was, however, that of souring her temper still more; and the constant vituperation poured out upon my father so roused his indignation, that one evening, when more than usually intoxicated, the "lady's ladies' maid" received such a severe box on the ear, that the one candle turned to a general illumination. This blow was never forgotten nor forgiven, although my father was very sorry for it, and begged her pardon the next day, with promises of amendment.
Just at this time the French Revolution commenced, and there was expectation of a war with France; the press-gangs were ordered out, and the seamen, aware of it, remained concealed until they should leave the town. But my mother had made up her mind: she found out an officer who commanded one of the press-gangs, gave her address, and having supplied my father with spirits until he was stupefied, she let in the gang, and before morning my father was safe on board of the tender lying off the Tower. This treachery on her part my father did not discover until some time afterwards; and it was the occasion of a scene between them, as I shall hereafter show. The next day my mother went on board of the tender to visit my father, put her cambric handkerchief to her eyes, pressed his hand between the iron bars, and lamented his hard fate, and her hard fate; but when requested by him to smuggle a little liquor in a bladder to comfort him with, she tossed up her head, and declared "that nothing could induce her to do anything so ungenteel." Whereupon my father turned away, lamenting the day that ever he had married a lady's ladies' maid.
A day or two afterwards my mother brought my father his kit of clothes, and two pounds of his own money. As a war was expected, my mother would have persuaded my father to give her his "will and power" to receive his prize money; but my father, grown comparatively wiser, positively refused. He turned away on his heel, and they parted.
I shall, for the present, leave my father to his fortunes, and follow those of my mother. Convinced by his refusal to sign the deed, which she had brought ready prepared with her, that she had little in future to expect from my father, and aware probably of the risk incurred by a seaman from "battle, fire, and wreck," she determined this time to husband her resources, and try if she could not do some for herself. At first she thought of going again into service and putting me out to nurse; but she discovered that my father's return was not without its consequences, and that she was again to be a mother. She therefore hired rooms in Fisher's Alley, a small street still existing in Greenwich, and indeed still a general thoroughfare. Here, in due time, she was brought to bed of a daughter, whom she christened by the name of Virginia; not so much out of respect to her last mistress, who bore that name, as because she considered it peculiarly ladylike and genteel.
IN WHICH I TELL THE READER ALL I CAN RECOLLECT ABOUT MYSELF, AND MOREOVER PROVE THE TRUTH OF THE OLD ADAGE "THAT IT IS A WISE CHILD WHO KNOWS ITS OWN FATHER."
My readers must not expect me to tell them much of what passed during the first four years of my existence. I have a recollection of a deal board put at the door of our house, which opened into Fisher's Alley, to prevent me, and afterwards my sister, from crawling out. Fisher's Alley is a very narrow street, and what was said in a room on one side of it can be heard on the other, and I used to hang over the board and listen: there were drunken men and drunken women, and occasionally scolding and fighting. My mother, having made up her mind to be saving, had taken a lease of the house and furnished it; and every day I heard her saying at the door, "Walk in, gentlemen; I've a nice clean room and boiling hot water"—for the seamen used to come in to take tea, drink, and smoke; and so did the old pensioners occasionally, for my mother had made acquaintance with several of them. I was always very ragged and dirty, for my mother neglected and ill-treated me; as soon as my sister was born she turned all her affections over to Virginia, who was always very much petted, well dressed, and a very beautiful child.
All this I recollect, but little more, except that my mother gave me several beatings for calling my sister "Jenny," which I had learnt to do from others who knew her; but when my mother heard them, she was always very angry, and told them that her child had not such a vulgar name: at which many would laugh, and make a point of calling out "Jenny" to Virginia whenever they passed and saw her at the door. When I was a little more than four years old I would climb over the board, for I had no pleasure at home. As I grew older, I used to hasten down to the landing-steps on the beach, where the new inn called the Trafalgar now stands, and watch the tide as it receded, and pick up anything I could find, such as bits of wood and oakum; and I would wonder at the ships which lay in the stream, and the vessels sailing up and down. I would sometimes remain out late to look at the moon and the lights on board of the vessels passing; and then I would turn my eyes to the stars, and repeat the lines which I had heard my mother teach little Virginia to lisp:—
"Pretty little twinkling star, How I wonder what you are; All above the earth so high, Like a diamond in the sky."
and when I did stay out late I was sure of having no supper, and very often a good beating; and then Virginia would wake and cry, because my mother beat me, for we were fond of each other. And my mother used to take Virginia on her knee, and make her say her prayers every night; but she never did so to me: and I used to hear what Virginia said, and then go into a corner and repeat it to myself. I could not imagine why Virginia should be taught to pray, and that I should not.
As I said before, my mother let lodgings, and kept the ground-floor front room for people to drink tea and smoke in; and I used to take my little stool and sit at the knees of the pensioners who came in, and hear all their stories, and try to make out what they meant, for half was to me incomprehensible; and I brought them fire for their pipes, and ran messages. Old Ben the Whaler, as they called him, was the one who took most notice of me, and said that I should be a man one of these days, which I was very glad to hear then. And I made a little boat for my sister, which cost me a great deal of trouble and labour; and Ben helped me to paint it, and I gave it to Virginia, and she and I were both so pleased; but when my mother saw it, she threw it into the fire, saying it was "so un-genteel," and we both cried; and old Ben was very angry, and said something to my mother, which made her sing "High diddle diddle" for the whole day afterwards.
Such are the slight reminiscences, which must content the reader, of my early existence.
When I was eight years old (about six years after his last visit), my father made his appearance; and for the first time, I knew that my father was alive, for I was but two years old when he left, and I remembered nothing about him, and I had never heard my mother mention his name as if he still existed.
My father came in one day very unexpectedly, for he had given no notice of his return; and it so happened that as he came in, my mother was beating me with the frying-pan, for having dipped my finger in the grease in which she had been frying some slices of bacon. She was very angry, and as she banged me with it, Virginia was pulling at her skirts, crying and begging her to desist. "You little wretch," cried my mother, "you'll be just such a sea-monster as your father was—little wulgar animal, you must put your fingers into the frying-pan, must you? There, now you've got it." So saying, she put down the frying-pan, and commenced singing as loud as she could, "Hush-a-bye, baby, Pussy's a lady."
"Ay, now you're vexed, I daresay," continued she, as she walked into the back kitchen.
All this time, my father had been at the door looking on, which she had not perceived. My father then came in. "What's your name, my lad?" said he.
"Tommy Saunders," replied I, rubbing myself; for the frying-pan was very hot, and my trousers very much out of repair.
"And who is that little girl?" said he.
"That's my sister Virginia;—but," continued I, "who are you? Do you want my mother?"
"Not very particularly just now," said my father, taking up my sister and kissing her, and then patting me on the head.
"Do you want any beer or 'baccy?" said I. "I'll run and get you some, if you give me the money, and bring back your change all right."
"Well, so you shall, Jack, my boy," replied he; and he gave me a shilling. I soon returned with the pipes, tobacco, and beer, and offered him the change, which he told me to keep, to buy apples with it. Virginia was on the knee of my father, who was coaxing and caressing her, and my mother had not yet returned from the back kitchen. I felt naturally quite friendly towards a man who had given me more money than I ever possessed in my life; and I took my stool and sat beside him; while, with my sister on his knee, and his porter before him, my father smoked his pipe.
"Does your mother often beat you, Jack?" said my father, taking the pipe out of his mouth.
"Yes, when I does wrong," replied I.
"Oh! only when you do wrong—eh?"
"Well, she says I do wrong; so I suppose I do."
"You're a good boy," replied my father. "Does she ever beat you, dear?" said he to Virginia.
"Oh, no!" interrupted I; "she never beats sister, she loves her too much; but she don't love me."
My father puffed away, and said no more.
I must inform the reader that my father's person was very much altered from what I have described it to have been at the commencement of this narrative. He was now a boatswain's mate, and wore a silver whistle hung round, his neck by a lanyard, and with which little Virginia was then playing. He had grown more burly in appearance, spreading, as sailors usually do, when they arrive to about the age of forty; and moreover, he had a dreadful scar from a cutlass wound, received in boarding, which had divided the whole left side of his face, from the eyebrow to the chin. This gave him a very fierce expression; still he was a fine looking man, and his pig-tail had grown to a surprising length and size. His ship, as I afterwards found out, had not been paid off, but he had obtained a fortnight's leave of absence, while she was refitting. We were all very sociable together, without there being the least idea, on the part of my sister and myself, with whom we were in company, when in rolled old Ben the Whaler.
"Sarvice to you," said Ben, nodding to my father. "Tommy, get me a pipe of 'baccy."
"Here's pipe and 'baccy too, messmate," replied my father. "Sit down, and make yourself comfortable, old chap."
"Won't refuse a good offer," replied Ben, "been too long in the sarvice for that—and you've seen sarvice too, I think," continued Ben, looking my father full in the face.
"Chop from a French officer," replied my father; after a pause, he added, "but he didn't live to tell of it."
Ben took one of the offered pipes, filled, and was soon very busy puffing away, alongside of my father.
MY FATHER AND MOTHER MEET AFTER AN ABSENCE OF SIX YEARS. SHE DISCOVERS THAT HE IS NO LONGER A COXSWAIN BUT A BOATSWAIN'S MATE.
While my father and Ben are thus engaged, I will give the reader a description of the latter.
Ben was a very tall, broad-shouldered old fellow, but stooping a little from age: I should think he must have been at least sixty, if not more; still, he was a powerful, sinewy man. His nose, which was no small one, had been knocked on one side, as he told me, by the flukes (i.e., tail) of a whale, which cut in half a boat of which he was steersman. He had a very large mouth, with very few teeth in it, having lost them by the same accident; which, to use his own expression, had at the time "knocked his figure-head all to smash." He had sailed many years in the whale fisheries, had at last been pressed, and served as quarter-master on board of a frigate for eight or nine years, when his ankle was broken by the rolling of a spar in a gale of wind. He was in consequence invalided for Greenwich. He walked stiff on this leg, and usually supported himself with a thick stick. Ben had noticed me from the time that my mother first came to Fisher's Alley; he was the friend of my early days, and I was very much attached to him.
A minute or two afterwards my father pushed the pot of porter to him. Ben drank, and then said—
"Those be nice children, both on 'em—I know them well."
"And what kind of a craft is the mother?" replied my father.
"Oh! why, she's a little queer at times—she's always so mighty particular about gentility."
"Do you know why?" replied my father.
Ben shook his head.
"Then I'll tell you: because she was once a lady's ladies' maid."
"Well," replied Ben, "I don't understand much about titles and nobility, and those sort of things; but I'm sorry she's gone down in the world, for though a little particular about gentility, she's a good sort of woman in her way, and keeps up her character, and earns an honest livelihood."
"So much the better for her," replied my father, who refilled his pipe, and continued to smoke in silence.
My mother had gone into the back kitchen to wash, which was the cause (not having been summoned) of her being so long absent.
Virginia, who had become quite sociable, was passing her little fingers through my father's large whiskers, while he every now and then put his pipe out of his mouth to kiss her. I had the porter-pot on my knees, my father having told me to take a swig, when my mother entered the room.
"Well, Mr Benjamin, I shouldn't wonder—but—Oh! mercy, it's he!" cried my mother. "Oh! be quick—sal-wolatily!"
"Sall who? What the devil does she mean?" said my father, rising up, and putting my sister off his knee.
"I never heard of her," replied Ben, also getting up; "but Mistress Saunders seems taken all aback, anyhow. Jack, run and fetch a bucket of water!"
"Jack, stay where you are," cried my mother, springing from the chair on which she had thrown herself. "Oh, dear me! the shock was so sudden— I'm so flustered. Who'd have thought to have seen you?"
"Are you her brother?" inquired Ben.
"No; but I'm her husband," replied my father.
"Well, it's the first time I've heard that she had one—but I'll be off, for Mistress Saunders is too genteel to kiss, I see, before company." Ben then took up his stick and left the house.
It may be as well here to remark, that during his absence, my father had fallen in with one of the men who had been employed in the press-gang, and from him he learnt that a woman had given the information by which he was taken. He made the man, who was present when my mother called upon the officer, describe her person, and the description in every point was so accurate, that my father had no doubt in his mind but that it was my mother who had betrayed him: this knowledge had for years rankled in his breast, and he had come home, not only from a wish to see how things were going on, but to reproach my mother with her treachery.
Whether my mother's conscience smote her, or that she perceived by my father's looks that a squall was brewing, I know not; but as soon as Ben had left the house, she shut the street-door, that the neighbours might not hear. Having so done, she turned to my father, who had resumed his seat and his pipe.
"Well," said she, putting her apron to her eyes, "you have been away a good six years, and left me to get on how I could with these two poor orphanless children."
"You know best why I went," replied my father, "and by whose means I was walked off in such a hurry."
"Me?" replied my mother.
"Yes, you," responded my father.
"Well, what next?" cried she.
"I'll tell you what next," said my father, rising, and taking about eighteen inches of inch-and-a-half rope out of his pocket. "Look you, ma'am, when I first found out that it was by your peaching that I was sent on board of the tender, I made up this colt, and I vowed that I would keep it in my pocket till I served you out: now the time's come."
Here my father flourished his rope's end. My mother would have flown to the door, but my father was beforehand with her; he turned the key, and, to the astonishment of Virginia and me, he seized my mother, and, holding her at arm's length, gave her several blows—not severe ones, I must acknowledge, indeed, they could not have hurt her.
"There," said my father, "it's well for you, my Lady lady's maid, that I did not fall in with you when I first made up this colt; and it's well for you that I've heard a good character of you from the old chap who has just now left the house, or you'd have smarted for the false trick you played upon me. Howsomever, I've kept my oath, and you may thank your stars that it's not worse."
My mother, who had not uttered a cry during the punishment, but only looked very indignant, now that my father had finished his speech, and was rolling up his colt to put it in his pocket, suddenly threw herself down on the floor, screaming murder with all her might; the noise summoned the neighbours—all Fisher's Alley was in an uproar, and our house was besieged with people, who attempted to force their way in—for my mother continued her screams, and poor little Virginia became so frightened, that she also roared as loud as her mother.
"I've more than two minds," said my father, taking the rope's end out of his pocket again; "but howsomever, since you wish it, all the world shall know it."
My father put his colt into his pocket, and went to unlock the door: my mother, perceiving what he was about, immediately rose and hastened upstairs to her own room. My father then told the neighbours what had occurred, and why my mother had been punished, and the verdict of Fisher's Alley was, "sarved her right." Ben the Whaler, who was outside with the others, espoused my father's cause, and as soon as the people dispersed, my father invited him to join him in his pipe and pot.
Little Virginia, still terrified, had crept up to her mother. I, on the contrary, felt the highest respect for one who could dare to punish my mother, who had so often punished me; and the knowledge that he was my father inspired me with a feeling of tenderness towards him which I could not repress. I was old enough to understand why my mother had received such treatment, and I could not feel angry with my father; I therefore stayed below, and went for the porter as was required.
I believe that at first it had been my father's intentions to have administered a much severer castigation to my mother, and then to have left the house, taking me with him, for he had not been apprised of the birth of Virginia; but whatever were his intentions before he came, or for the morrow, it is certain that he continued to smoke and talk with old Ben the Whaler till a very late hour, while I sat by and listened.
A BRIGHT PLEASANT EVENING AFTER A SQUALL, IN WHICH THE ART OF ANGLING IS INTRODUCED IN A WAY WHICH WOULD HAVE ADDED TO THE KNOWLEDGE OF IZAAC WALTON HIMSELF.
"I beg pardon, messmate," said Ben, as he and my father became more sociable; "but may I make so bold as to ask you how you contrived to get that seam across your figure-head? You did say something about a Frenchman, if I heard right; and as the war is now of two years' standing, I suppose you've had a rap or two at Mounseer."
"'Xpect I have," replied my father. "Well, old chap, I'll just wet my whistle, and then I'll tell you all about it, and it won't take long neither. The boats were ordered away—"
"Of what ship, messmate?"
"Very true, I began in the middle. Well, it was in the ship I now belongs to, the Oudacious—we were with the squadron off Ferrol;—signal made to chase south-east—clapt every stitch on her after two gun-boats who were running down in-shore. Light winds—got well in for the land, and then it fell calm. Gun-boats four miles off using their sweeps—our boats in chase;—I was coxswain of the first pinnace—a devilish fast boat, messmate, I can tell you, with a smart brass gun—pulled two feet to their one, and came up with them hand-over-hand—both cutters and the other pinnace well up with us—the old launch half a mile astern. Now you see, sir, I've got the picture for you, haven't I?"
"Just exactly," replied old Ben.
"Well, then, it was a long pull; and that reminds me that I'll have a long pull now, so hand me the porter, messmate." My father took a tremendous long pull at the pewter, and then handing it to Ben, he recommenced—
"We were soon within gun-shot, and they turned their heads towards us and blazed away: very pretty shot they fired, for they cut away three of our starboard oars before we were near enough to return the fire with our small gun. However, the second pinnace and cutters came up and shared the shot with us; and at last the old fat launch came grunting along, for all the world like an old boar, pitching into them round and grape. Now the first lieutenant was in the launch, and, of course, commanded, and he ordered the boats to separate more, which was very right, as it divided the shot; and then he passed the word that when he sounded the bugle we were all to pull to the headmost gun-boat and board her. D'ye understand, messmate?"
"Perfectly," replied Ben, taking his pipe out to reply.
"Well, then, just hand me the pot." My father drained it this time, and told me to go for another.
"Then I shall lose the story," replied I.
"No, boy, you won't," replied Ben; "I'll answer for it—your father will heave-to till you come back."
"So I will, Jack," replied my father. And having with every expedition executed my task, my father then continued:—
"Well, there we all were, waiting for the bugle, each boat creeping on a little every moment, so as to have a fair start, as they do in a race; when at last the signal was given, and away we all went like smoke, with our oars bending double. The first pinnace reached the gun-boat first; then the cutters banged alongside of her—all three of us to windward— while the second pinnace and launch took her to leeward. There's not much climbing in getting on board of a gunboat; indeed, we were at it before we were out of the boat, for the Frenchmen had pikes as long as the spanker-boom; but we soon got inside of their points, and came to close work. They stood a good tussle, I will say that, and so they always do; we may laugh at 'em, and call 'em Johnny Crapows, but they are a right brave nation, if they aren't good seamen; but that I reckon's the fault of their lingo, for it's too noisy to carry on duty well with, and so they never will be sailors till they larn English."
"I never heard them carry on duty in French," said Ben; "it quite beats my comprehension how they can do it at all."
"Well, I have," replied my father; "and every word they use is as long as the main-top bowling, and the mast is over the side before they can get them out. Why, would you believe it? I once asked one of those fellows what be called the foremast in his language, and what d'ye think he said? Why, I'm blowed if he didn't call it a 'Mar-darty-marng' (and that's the only bit of French I know); but how is it possible to work a ship in such gibberish?"
"Quite unpossible," replied Ben.
"Well, as I've yawed a little out of my course, suppose we have another swig before I takes a fresh departure?"
After they had both drank, my father proceeded—
"Well, messmate, I was on the gunnel as soon as the others, and a sword came down upon me like a flash of lightning. I had just time to lift my cutlass and save my head, and then I found that it was the sword of the French lieutenant who commanded the gun-boat. He was a tall, clean-built chap, with curls hanging down like a poodle dog's—every curl not thicker than a rope yarn, and mayhap a thousand of them—and he quite foamed at the mouth (that's another fault of these Frenchmen, they don't take things coolly, but puts themselves in a passion about nothing); so thinks I to myself it won't do for you to go on chopping at that rate, for when I fended off he made my whole hand tingle with the force of his blow; so I darts at him and drives the hilt of my cutlass right into his mouth, and he fell, and his own men trod him underfoot, and on we went, hammer and tongs. By this time the boarding of the launch and pinnace to leeward, for they could not get up as soon as we did, created a divarsian, and bothered the Frenchman, who hardly knew which way to turn; however, as there were more of our men on the other side, they most on 'em faced about; and the French officer was then able to get on his knees again, and while I was busy and did not see him he just give me this cut across the figure-head, which don't add to my beauty, anyhow. Well, it was cut for cut, messmate; I just took one look at the beggar, and I drove my cutlass into his skull, just as he was rising up, and he never rose again. That's my story."
"I suppose you took the craft?"
"Yes; and her consort too. But many lost the number of their mess, and I lost all my beauty. Just hand me the 'baccy, messmate; and, Jack, go for the next pot of beer."
I found them both smoking in silence when I returned; but, after a few minutes, my father said, "Messmate, as I have told you how I got this chalk, suppose you tell me in return how you got that nose of yours fixed so hard a starboard? That's fair play."
"Exactly so," replied Ben. "Why, d'ye see? I sarved most of my early life in the whaling line. I was three voyages to the north; but taking the black whale counts for nothing; you must go south arter the sparmacitty if you wish to see sport."
"I never was in that line," replied my father; "but I've heard fellows spin the devil's own yarns about it."
"And so they may, and tell the truth, that's sartain, shipmate. You see, the sparmacitty don't take the harpoon quite so quietly as the black whale does; he fights hard to the last, and sometimes is very free with his jaws. The very large ones are the most easy to kill; so we always look out for them when we can, as they give less trouble, and more oil: the most dangerous are the half-grown, which we call 'forty-barrel bulls,' as that's about what oil we get out of them."
"Well," said my father, "I'm blessed if ever I knew whales were called bulls before this night."
"Yes, that's our term," replied Ben; "and now to my story. We were down off the coast of Japan; when, about one hour after daybreak, the man looking out at the masthead gave the usual word when he sees a whale blowing—'There she spouts.' And this he repeats every time the fish rises. We had a clean hold at the time, for we had but just come to our fishing-ground, and we were mighty eager. The boats were down in a jiffy, and away we pulled. We were within a quarter of a mile of the whale, when, to our disappointment, he peaked his flukes—"
"What's that, messmate?" inquired my father.
"Why, you see, it's the right term after all, for the tail of sparmacitty is like the flukes of an anchor; and, of course, now you understand me."
"Yes, you mean to say he went down, I suppose."
"Of course; for how could he go down head-foremost, without peaking his tail in the air?"
"One lives and larns as long as one lives," observed my father. "Heave ahead again, old boy."
"Well, as you can't know what you haven't heard anything about, I must now tell you that these animals be as regular as the bells in a man-of-war; and whenever they goes down to feed, they always stays exactly about the time allowed for dinner in a comfortable ship; that is, seventy minutes exactly. An hour, you see, is the regular time allowed, and the other ten minutes are by favour of the officer of the watch, or first lieutenant. We knew that we must wait that time for him, so we tossed up our oars, and laid by."
"I suppose them sparmacitty chaps have a watch in their pockets," said my father, smiling.
"It's a true bill, nevertheless, messmate, and they never alter: how and why they keep to their time, the Lord who gave them the sense to do so only knows. It is one of the wonders of the deep, which they only who go on the great waters can bear witness to."
"It beats my comprehension quite entirely," replied my father; "and yet I have seen animals with a great deal of sense. In one ship, we had a sheep who would chew tobacco and drink grog. Now go ahead again."
"Well, we had waited about half an hour, when we saw a whiff at the masthead of the ship; we knew that it was to direct our attention to some other point, so we looked round the horizon, and perceived that there was a 'school' of young bulls, about three miles from us. We were four boats in all; and the first mate desired my boat and another to go in chase of them, while he remained with the other two, for this old whale to come up again. Well, off we went, and soon came up with the school: they are the most awkward part of whale fishing; for they are savage, and, moreover, easily 'gallied,' that is, frightened. I picked out one, and tried to come up with him, but he was very shy, and at last he raised his head clean out of the water, and set off at the rate of ten miles an hour; this showed that he was aware of danger. I had just thought of giving him up, and trying for another, when he suddenly turned round, and came right towards the boats. That we knew meant mischief; but, in coming towards us, he passed close to the other boat, and the steersman gave him the harpoon right well into him. This made him more savage, and he stood right for my boat, ploughing up the sea as he rushed on. I was all ready in the bow with the harpoon, and the men were all ready with their oars to pull back, so as to keep clear of him. On he came, and when his snout was within six feet of us, we pulled sharp across him; and as we went from him, I gave him the harpoon deep into the fin. 'Starn all!' was the cry as usual, that we might be clear of him. He 'sounded' immediately, that is, down he went, head-foremost, which was what we were afraid of, for you see we had only two hundred fathoms of line in each boat; and having both harpoons in him, we could not bend one to the other, in case he 'sounded' deep, for sometimes they will go down right perpendicular, and take four lines, or eight hundred fathoms, with them; so we expected that we should this time lose the whale as well as our lines, for when they were run out, we must either cut or go down with him. Well, the lines ran out so swift, that we poured water on them that they might not fire—and we thought that it was all over, for the lines were two-thirds out, and he was going down as fast as ever, when all of a sudden he stopped. We were hauling in the slack lines, when we saw him rise again, about a quarter of a mile off. It was a hurrah, for we now thought that we had him. Off he set with his nose up, right in the wind's eye, towing the two boats at the rate of twelve miles an hour; our stems cleaving through the sea, and throwing off the water like a plume of feathers on each side of the bows, while the sun's rays pierced through the spray and formed bright rainbows. We hoped soon to tire him, and to be able to haul in upon our lines, so as to get near enough to give him our lances; but that was only hope, as you'll hear. Of a sudden, he stopped, turned round, and made right for us, with his jaws open; then, all we had to do was to baulk him, and give him the lance. He did not seem to have made up his mind which boat he would attack—we were pretty near together, and he yawed at one, and then at the other. At last he made right for the other boat, and the boatsetter dodged him very cleverly, while we pulled up to him, and I put the lance up to the stock into his side. He made a plunge as if he were going to 'sound' again; and as he did so, with his flukes he threw our boat into the air a matter of twenty feet, cutting it clean in half, and one of the boat's thwarts came right athwart of my nose, and it never has been straight since. So now you have it, messmate; and I shouldn't mind if you passed the beer this way, for this long yarn has made my throat somewhat dry."
"When you've had your swig, old chap, you may as well tell us how the matter ended," observed my father.
"Why, it just ended in our losing the whale in the first place, and the boat with her gear in the second. We were picked up by the other boat, and there was no time to be lost, for the sharks were brought together by the scent of the whale's blood; the whale sounded again, and we were obliged to cut the line, and return on board. But God bless you, messmate, I could tell you many a longer yarn than that, and mayhap I shall some day or another."
"Well, I hope you will," replied my father; "but your fishing story has put me in mind of rather a curious fish, caught by a lad on board of a man-of-war: and suppose I finish what's at the bottom of this here pot; send Jack for another, and when he comes back, I'll tell you all about it."
"There's nothing gives me more satisfaction," replied Ben, "than to pass away the evening in a sober, quiet way, as we are doing now, telling and listening to long yarns. Ain't you sleepy, Jack?"
"Oh! no," replied I, "not a bit. I'll run for the porter; and don't let father begin till I come back, Ben. The house will be shut up soon: shall I get more than a pot?"
"Yes, Jack; but not more beer," replied my father, putting some silver into my hand; "get one pot of beer, and a bottle of rum. We'll have that by way of a nightcap, old boy."
I ran for the beer and liquor, and was soon back. My father and Ben refilled their pipes, and the former commenced as follows:—
"When I was quarter-master on board of the Melpomene, we had an old chap for first lieutenant whose name was Fletcher. He was a kind-hearted man enough, as he never worried the ship's company when there was no occasion; but, at the same time, he was what you call a great stickler for duty—made no allowances for neglect or disobedience of orders, although he would wink at any little skylarking, walking aft, shutting his eyes, and pretending not to see or hear it. His usual phrase was, 'My man, you've got your duty to do, and I've got mine.' And this he repeated fifty times a day; so at last he went by the name of 'Old Duty.' I think I see him now, walking up and down with his spy-glass under his left arm, and the hand of the other pushed into his breast, as if he were fumbling for a flea. His hat was always split and worn in the front, from constantly taking it off, instead of touching it, when he came on the quarter-deck; and, as soon as it was too far gone in front to raise the purchase off his head, he used to shift it end for end, bringing the back part in front, and then he would wear it, until, as the Yankees say, it was in 'taterations altogether,' and he was forced to bend a new one.
"Now, we had a boy on board, who entered one day when the captain landed at Torquay to dine with a friend. His name was Jack Jervis: his father and his whole tribe had been fishermen for as long as could be remembered; and Jack himself had been drafted out of his cradle into a coble; and there he had continued day and night, from one year's end to another, helping his father to fish—so, you see, it had become second nature to him; and, after he came on board, his liking for his former calling still remained with him, and he never was so happy as when his line was overboard, or when he was snooding a hook in some corner or another. He went by the name of Jack the Fisherman; and a smart, active, willing lad he was, sure enough.
"Now, there was a little difficulty between Old Duty and Jack the Fisherman. Old Duty would not allow the lines to be overboard when the ship was in harbour; as he said it was untidy in appearance, and that there was always plenty of work, and no time for fishing. So Jack hadn't pulled up his line ten or a dozen times before he was pulled up himself. 'Whose line's that?' says Old Duty. 'Mine, sir,' says Jack, touching his hat. 'I don't allow fishing, young man,' said the first lieutenant. 'You understand me?—I don't allow fishing. You've your duty to do, sir, and I've got mine.'
"Jack, who had only been two or three days on board, and who, I believe, would never have entered, had he known that there would have been such a 'weto,' as the boatswain used to call it, looked quite astonished, and said,—
"'What, mayn't I fish, sir?'
"'No, my man, you must not fish without permission; and that I never give in harbour. If I catch you fishing again, you get two dozen at the gun, recollect that. You've got your duty to do, and I've got mine.'
"Well, Jack could not give up his habit, so he used to fish at night, and all night long, out of the fore-chains; but it so happened that the ship's corporal caught Jack in the middle watch, and reports him to the first lieutenant.
"'So, you've been fishing again, sir,' says Old Duty. 'No, sir,' replied Jack, 'not fishing—only laying night lines.'
"'Oh! that's it,' replied the first lieutenant; 'only laying night lines! Pray, what's the difference?' 'Please, sir,' said Jack, touching his hat, 'the difference is—that it's not the same thing.'"
"'Well, sir, I see but one difference, and I'll meet it accordingly. You've your duty to do, and I've got mine.'
"The boys' heads and ears having been pulled about and examined by the master-at-arms, they were dismissed; and Jack thought that he had got off—but he was mistaken.
"After the hammocks had been piped down, and it was dark, the boys were ordered up by the master-at-arms; Jack was seized to the gun, and had his two dozen. 'There, sir,' said Old Duty, as they cast the seizings off, 'if fishing at night is not fishing, punishment at night is not punishment. Now we're quits. You've your duty to do, and I've got mine.'
"I don't think that Jack perceived any more difference in the two dozen at night-time than the first lieutenant did between day and night fishing; however, Jack did not fish for some time afterwards. But it so happened, that the first lieutenant was asked on shore to dine with the port-admiral; and, although he seldom left the ship, he could not refuse such a compliment, and so he went. As soon as it was dark, Jack thought his absence too good an opportunity not to have a fish; so he goes into the mizen-chains, and drops his line. Well, he fished (but I don't know whether he caught any) till the boat was hailed in which the first lieutenant was coming on board, and then Jack thought it time to haul in his line; but, just at that moment, there was a jerk; and Jack, who knew that fish was at the bait, could not for the life of him pull up his line—for, you see, he was a fisherman heart and soul; so Jack trusted to Providence and the first lieutenant's going down below as soon as he came on deck.
"Now, you see, the ship was lying at the time 'cross the tide, the wind blowing against the current: the starboard side (being to leeward as to the wind, but to windward as to the tide) had been cleared away, and manned for the boat, and Jack made sure that the first lieutenant would pull to that side; but he was mistaken. Whether it was that the first lieutenant wished to have a look round the ship or not, I do not know, but he pulled across the bows, and went round the stern, passing the larboard side: as he passed, Jack shrunk under the lee of the deadeyes and lanyards, hoping he might not be seen; but the first lieutenant, having the clear horizon on the other side, perceived the line which Jack had half hauled up, and, having an eye like a cat, makes out Jack also.
"'I see you, sir—I see you, Mr Jervis, fishing again, sir. Very well,' cried the first lieutenant, from the stern-sheets of the boat, as he passed by. 'You've your duty to do, and I've got mine.' 'That's as good as two dozen to-morrow morning at muster,' thought Jack, who cursed his luck, and, in a very melancholy mood, began to haul up his line, which, as soon as he had been discovered, he had let go down to the bottom again. Now, it so happened that, as Old Duty went up the other side, his foot slipped; and, how it was I can't tell, for they say he wasn't the least groggy, but down he fell, between the boat's gunnel and the ship's side, just like a deep-sea lead, and disappeared. There being so few men on deck, there was not much of a bustle—there was a dive or two for him with the boat-hook, but all in vain—Old Duty was gone.
"In the meantime, Jack on the other side was slowly hauling up his line; but he had not got it half-way up when he felt a heavy strain, and he thought that a large conger eel had followed the bait up, as they do sometimes, and he hauled and hauled with all his might. At last, who should he bring to the surface of the water but Old Duty, who had been sucked under the ship's bottom by the tide, and had been hooked by Jack, as he was pulling up. When Jack saw it was the first lieutenant, as he told me, his first idea was to let him down again; but that was only for a moment. The words of the first lieutenant still rang in his ears, 'You've your duty to do, and I've got mine'—so Jack did his duty. He hollows out that he had caught Old Duty, and the boat shifted round and took him on board. The old fellow was quite senseless; but as he had been but a short time in the water, he was put to bed, and resuscitated by the surgeon. The next morning he was all just as if nothing had happened, walking the deck with his right hand in his breast, and his spy-glass under his left arm, as usual.
"Well, we all told Jack that he was safe this time, but Jack seemed to think otherwise. He shook his head; and now you'll learn who was right.
"When the boys were all mustered next morning, towing a line, and holding out their paws, the first lieutenant turns round, and says, 'Jervis, you were fishing last night, against my orders.' 'Yes, sir,' said Jervis, 'and I catched a first lieutenant;' for Jack had a goad deal of fun in him. 'Yes, sir, and queer fishes they are sometimes,' replies Old Duty; 'but you forget that you have also catched two dozen. You have your duty to do, and I've mine.'
"Well, as you may suppose, there were many of us looking abaft, just to see what would take place, and were not a little astonished at the idea of his rewarding Jack with two dozen for saving his life; however, of course, we were mum. Jack was tied up; and the first lieutenant whispered a word into the ear of his master-at-arms, who again whispered to Williams, the boatswain's mate; and the effect of that whisper was, that the cat was laid on so lightly that Jack hardly felt it; so lightly, indeed, that the first lieutenant walked away aft, that he might not appear to be a party in the consarn, and Jack was cast off without having half a tear in either eye when Old Duty went up to him.
"'You fished last night against orders, and therefore you have received your punishment. You saved my life last night, and therefore it is my duty to reward you. I could not let you off this punishment, as it would be making the King pay you for me, instead of my paying you myself. I'm not a rich man, but here's ten guineas for your purse, and here's my gold watch. Spend the first usefully, and keep the other; and observe, Jack Jervis, if ever you are again caught fishing in harbour, you will as surely get two dozen for your pains. You've your duty to do, and I've got mine.'"
"Well, messmate, that's a queer story altogether, and queerer fellows in it. I wouldn't have minded sailing with that Old Duty. Suppose we drink his health."
"With all my heart; for you're right, old chap: when we knows what we are to expect, we're always ready to meet it; but some officers I've sailed with shift about like a dog-vane, and there's no knowing how to meet them. I recollect—But I say, Jack, suppose you turn in—your eyes are winking and blinking like an owl's in the sunshine. You're tired, boy, so go to bed. We sha'n't tell any more yarns to-night."
I was very tired indeed, and could not keep my eyes open any longer; so I went upstairs, and was asleep almost as soon as I laid my head upon the pillow.
IN WHICH MY MOTHER GIVES MY FATHER A SCRIPTURAL LESSON. MY FATHER'S GRIEF AT PARTING WITH AN OLD FRIEND—HE EXPOSTULATES WITH MY MOTHER AND QUITS THE HOUSE.
I woke early the next morning; for the whole night I had been restless, and dreaming of the unusual occurrences of the day before. It was just daylight, and I was recalling what had passed, and wondering what had become of my father, when I heard a noise in my mother's room. I listened—the door opened, and she went downstairs.
This surprised me; and being conscious, even at my age, of the vindictive temper shown by my mother upon every occasion, and, anxious to know where my father was, I could not remain in bed; I put on my trousers, and crept softly downstairs without my shoes. The door of the front room was ajar, and I looked in. The light was dimly peering through the window which pointed to the alley; the table was covered with the empty pipes, tobacco, and large pools of beer and liquor which had been spilt on it; the sofa was empty, and my father, who evidently had become deeply intoxicated the night before, was lying on the sanded floor with his face downwards; my mother, in her short dressing-gown and flannel petticoat, was standing over him, her teeth set, her fists clenched, and arms raised, with a dire expression of revenge in her countenance. I thought at the time that I never saw her look so ugly—I may say, so horrid; even now her expression at that moment is not effaced from my memory. After a few minutes she knelt down and put her ear close to his head, as if to ascertain whether he was in a sound sleep; she then took a knife from off the table, felt the edge, looked at my prostrate father, and raised it. I would have screamed, but my tongue was glued to my lips with horror. She appeared to reflect, and, after a time, laid the knife down on the table, put the palm of her hand up to her forehead, and then a smile gleamed over her moody features. "Yes, if he murders me; but they will be better," muttered she at last. She went to the cupboard, took out a large pair of scissors, and, kneeling down by my father, commenced severing his long pigtail from his head. My father was too sound asleep to be roused: in a minute the tail was off, and my mother rose up, holding it, with an expression of the utmost contempt, between her finger and thumb. She then very softly laid it down by his side, and replaced the scissors in the cupboard; as I expected that she would go upstairs again, I concealed myself in the back kitchen. I was correct in my supposition. A moment afterwards I heard her ascending the stairs, and go into her own room.
I must say that I felt indignant at this conduct of my mother's, as, so far from provocation, she had hardly received the reward of previous treachery. I believe, however, that, like most people, I was actuated by my own feelings towards my mother, who had treated me so unkindly. I thought for a little while—what would my mother do? She would hardly remain in the house, to meet the wrath of my father, when he made the discovery. She would escape him: this I had no wish that she should do; so I went softly into the front parlour, and pushed my father to awake him. For some time this was useless; he muttered and growled, but it appeared impossible to rouse him. There were the remains of a jug of water on the table and, as I had seen the same thing done before to a drunken sailor, I took the jug, and poured the water softly on the nape of his neck. In a minute or two this had the effect of waking him: he turned over, opened his eyes, and, when I put my finger to my lips to intimate silence; he looked at me with a vacant stare. Time pressed; I heard my mother moving about upstairs, and I was afraid that she would leave the house before my father had recovered his senses. I therefore took his pigtail from the floor, and held it up before him. This appeared to surprise him; he fixed his eyes upon it for a few seconds, and then, as if at last suspecting what had taken place, he put his hand to the back of his head, and found no pigtail there. Suddenly he jumped up; he appeared to be sobered all at once: he caught the tail out of my hand, looked at it, felt convinced of his loss, threw himself down on the sofa, and wept like a child.
"I saw my mother do it, father," said I, whispering in his ear. This appeared to recall him; he raised himself up, wiped his eyes with the back of his hand, ground his teeth, and shook his head. He threw his tail on the floor, and, as he eyed it, a deep melancholy spread over his countenance. After a minute or two, he folded his arms, and thus lamented over it:—
"Well, I never would have thought it, had they told me that you and I should have parted company. Many, many years has it taken you to grow to your present length; often have you been handled, often have you been combed, and often have you been tied. Many's the eel has been skinned for your sarvice, and many's the yard of ribbon which you have cost me; you have been the envy of my ship mates, the fancy of the women, and the pride of poor Tom Saunders. I thought we should never have parted on 'arth, and, if so be my sins were forgiven me, and I could show a fair log, that I might be permitted to wear you in the world which is to come. But there you are—parted for all the world like a limb shot off in action, never to be spliced again. What am I to say when I go on board? I shall have a short tale to tell, instead of a long tail to show. And the wife of my bosom to do this! Well, I married too high, and now my pride is laid low. Jack, never marry a lady's ladies' maid; for it appears that the longer the names, the more venomous the cattle be."
Just as he had finished, I heard my mother coming downstairs with Virginia, whom she had taken up and dressed, to take away with her. "Hush!" I heard her softly say to Virginia, "don't speak, dear, or you'll wake your naughty father."
She had hardly said this, when she made her appearance, with Virginia on one arm, and a large bundle on the other. But as soon as she perceived that my father was awake, and cognizant of her revenge, she uttered a loud scream, dropped Virginia and the bundle, and, running upstairs to her own room, locked herself in.
Poor little Virginia set up a roar at this very unusual (and I believe felonious) act of child-dropping on the part of my mother. I ran to her, and carried her to the sofa, while my father, with compressed lips, first taking two or three quarter-deck strides up and down the room, locked the street door, put the key in his pocket, and then ascended the stairs to pay a visit to my mother, who, I believe, would very willingly have been "not at home;" but some people are importunate, and will take no refusal; and, when my father retired three or four steps from the door, and with a sudden run brought the whole weight of his foot to bear upon it, it flew open. At first my mother was not visible, my father thought she had escaped; but at last he spied her legs under the bed. Seizing her by her extremities, he dragged her out, without any regard to propriety, until he had her into the middle of time room with his foot upon her. What a situation for a lady's ladies' maid! I had put Virginia down on the sofa, and crept up the stairs to see what took place. My father and mother were in these relative positions, and he thus addressed her:—
"I have heard say that a man mustn't thrash his wife with anything thicker than his own thumb. That's as may be,—and I do recollect when the first lieutenant wanted to cut off the men's hair, that the purser told him that it was felony, under the Act of cutting and maiming. I don't know whether the first lieutenant would have made a felony or not; but this I'm sartain of—he'd have made a mutiny. You desarve no mercy, and you shall have none. This pigtail of mine shall be what I shall use upon you, and if the colt is heavy, recollect you cut it for yourself; and as you may not be able to hear what I say by the time I have done with you, I'll just tell you now. I'll point the end, and work a mouse on this pigtail of mine, and never part with it. I'll keep it for your own particular use, and for nobody else's; and as sartain as I come back, so sartain every time I come you shall have a taste of pigtail without chewing, my lady's ladies' maid."
Having made this uncommon long speech, to which my mother offered no reply, her eyes being fixed in terror upon the brandished tail, which was nearly as thick as her own arm, my father proceeded to put his threats into execution. Blow resounded after blow; my mother's cries became feebler and feebler, until at last she appeared senseless. Then I ran to my father, and clinging to his leg, cried, "Oh, father, she's dead!"
This observation induced him to leave off. He looked at my mother's face; her eyes were closed, and her jaw had fallen. "Well, she had enough of it this time," said my father, after a pause; "maybe, too much on it. But when I looks at this tail in my hand, I feel as if I could still give her more. And if she be dead, I think the judge would not hang me, if I showed him what I have lost. I'd rather have parted with an arm or a leg any day of the week. There's been provocation enough, at all events; if she be dead—a saint in heaven couldn't stand it."
During these remarks my mother gave no signs of returning animation, and at last my father became seriously alarmed. "Jack," said he, "I must cut my stick, or they may put me into limbo. As soon as I have cleared out, do you run for a doctor to look at your mother; and mind you don't forget to tell that old chap who was boozing with me last night everything which has happened, and the people will say, come what will on it, that I was aggravated sufficient; and, Jack, if there he a crowner's inquest, mind you tell the truth. You know I didn't want to kill the old woman, don't you, my boy? for didn't I say that I'd keep the tail to give her another dose when I came back again?—that proves I didn't intend that she should slip her wind, you know, boy. I said I'd give her another dose, you know, Jack—and," continued my father, "so I will, if I find her above ground when I comes back again."
My father then went downstairs. Little Virginia had fallen asleep again on the sofa; my father kissed her softly, shook hands with me, and put a crown in my hand. He then unlocked the door, and, thrusting the end of his pigtail into his breast, coiled it, as it were, round his body, hastened down the alley, and was soon out of sight.
IN WHICH THE DOCTOR PAYS A VISIT AND RECEIVES NO FEE; AND I AM OBLIGED TO WORK VERY HARD TO PROCURE MYSELF A LIVELIHOOD.
I did not forget my father's injunctions, for I was very much frightened. There was a doctor who lived half-way up Church Street, a short distance from Fisher's Alley. He was a little man with a large head sunk down between two broad shoulders; his eyes were small and twinkling, his nose snubbed, his pate nearly bald; but on the sides of his head the hair was long and flowing. But if his shoulders were broad, the rest of his body was not in the same proportion—for he narrowed as he descended, his hips being very small, and his legs as thin as those of a goat. His real name was Todpoole, but the people invariably called him Tadpole, and he certainly in appearance somewhat reminded you of one. He was a facetious little fellow, and, it was said, very clever in his profession.
"Doctor Tadpole," cried I, out of breath with running, "come—quick, my mother is very bad indeed."
"What's the matter?" said he, peering over a mortar in which he was rubbing up something with the pestle. "External or internal?"
Although I did not know what he meant, I replied, "Both, doctor, and a great deal more besides."
"That's bad indeed," replied Tadpole, still rubbing away.
"But you must come directly," cried I. "Come along—quick!"
"Festina lente, good boy—that's Latin for hat and boots. Tom, are my boots clean?"
"Ye'es, sir," replied a carroty-headed boy, whom I knew well.
The doctor laid down his pestle, and taking his seat on a chair, began very leisurely to pull on his boots, whilst I stamped with impatience.
"Now, do be quick, doctor, my mother will be dead."
"Jack," said the doctor, grinning, as he pulled on his second boot, "people don't die so quick before the doctor comes—it's always afterwards:—however, I'm glad to see you are so fond of your mother. Tom, is my hat brushed?"
"Ye'es, sir," replied Tom, bringing the doctor's hat.
"Now then, Jack, I'm all ready. Tom, mind the shop, and don't eat the stick-liquorice—d'ye hear?"
"Ye'es, sir," said Tom, with a grin from ear to ear.
The doctor followed me very quick, for he thought from my impatience that something serious must be the matter. He walked up to my mother's room, and I hastened to open the door; when, to my surprise, I found my mother standing before the glass arranging her hair.
"Well!" exclaimed my mother, "this is very pretty behaviour—forcing your way into a lady's room."
The doctor stared, and so did I. At last I exclaimed, "Well! father thought he'd killed her."
"Yes," cried my mother, "and he's gone away with it on his conscience, that's some comfort. He won't come back in a hurry; he thinks he has committed murder, the unfeeling brute! Well, I've had my revenge."
And as she twisted up her hair, my mother burst out screaming—
"Little Bopeep, she lost her sheep, And couldn't tell where to find him; She found him, indeed, but it made her heart bleed For he left his tail behind him."
"Why, then, doctor, it was all sham," exclaimed I.
"Yes; and the doctor's come on a fool's errand—
"'Goosey, Goosey Gander, Whither dost thou wander? Upstairs and downstairs, And in a lady's chamber.'"
The doctor shrugged up his shoulders so that his head disappeared between them; at last he said, "Your mother don't want me, Jack, that's very clear. Good morning, Mrs Saunders."
"A very good morning to you, Doctor Tadpole," replied my mother with a profound courtesy; "you'll oblige me by quitting this room, and shutting the door after you, if you please."
As the doctor and I went down, my mother continued the song—
"'And then I met a little man, Couldn't say his prayers, I took him by the left leg And sent him downstairs.'"
As soon as we were in the parlour, I acquainted the doctor with what had happened. "I'm sure I thought she was dead," said I, when I had finished the story.
"Jack, when I asked you where your mother was bad, external or internal, you replied both, and a great deal more besides. So she is—internally, externally, and infernally bad," said the doctor, laughing. "And so she amputated your father's pigtail, did she, the Delilah? Pity one could not amputate her head, it would make a good woman of her. Good bye, Jack; I must go and look after Tom, he's swallowed a whole yard of stick-liquorice by this time."
Soon afterwards Ben the Whaler came in to inquire after my father, and I told him what had occurred. He was very indignant at my mother's conduct, and, as soon the affair was known, so were all the tenants of Fisher's Alley. When my mother went out, or had words with any of her neighbours, the retort was invariably, "Who sent the press-gang after her own husband?" or, "Who cut off the tail from her husband's back? Wasn't that a genteel trick?" All this worried my mother, and she became very morose and ill-tempered; I believe she would have left the alley, if she had not taken a long lease of the house. She had now imbibed a decided hatred for me, which she never failed to show upon every occasion, for she knew that it was I who had roused my father, and prevented her escape from his wrath. The consequence was, that I was seldom at home, except to sleep. I sauntered to the beach, ran into the water, sometimes rowed in the wherries, at others hauling them in and holding them steady for the passengers to land. I was beginning to be useful to the watermen, and was very often rewarded with a piece of bread and cheese, or a drink of beer out of their pots. The first year after my father's visit, I was seldom given a meal, and continually beaten—indeed, sometimes cruelly so—but as I grew stronger, I rebelled and fought, and with such success that, although I was hated more, I was punished less.
One scene between my mother and me may serve as a specimen for all. I would come home with my trousers tucked up, and my high-lows unlaced and full of water, sucking every time that I lifted up my leg, and marking the white sanded floor of the front room, as I proceeded through it to the back kitchen. My mother would come downstairs, and perceiving the marks I had left, would get angry, and as usual commence singing—
"'A frog he would a-wooing go, Heigho, says Rowly.'
"I see here's that little wretch been here—
"'Whether his mother would let him or no, Heigho, says Rowly.'
"I'll rowly him with the rolling-pin when I get hold of him. He's worse than that beastly water-spaniel of Sir Hercules', who used to shake himself over my best cambric muslin. Well, we'll see. He'll be wanting his dinner; I only wish he may get it.
"'Little Jack Horner sat in a corner, Eating his Christmas pie; He put in his thumb and pull'd out a plum, And cried, What a good boy am I!'
"'Good boy am I!' good-for-nothing brat, just like his father. Oh, dear!—if I could but get rid of him!
"'There was an old woman who lived in a shoe, She'd so many children she didn't know what to do; She gave them some broth without any bread, She whipped them all round, and sent them to bed.'
"And if I don't whip him, it's fault, that's all. Virginia, my love, don't spit—that's not genteel. It's only sailors and Yankees who spit. Nasty little brute! Oh! here you are, are you?" cried my mother, as I entered. "Do you see what a dirty mess you have made, you little ungrateful animal? Take that, and that, and that," continued she, running the wet bristles of the long broom into my face, with sufficient force to make my nose bleed. I stood the first push, and the second; but the third roused my indignation—and I caught hold of the end of the broom towards me, and tried to force it out of her hands. It was push against push, for I was very strong;—she, screaming as loud as she could, as she tried to wrest the broom from my clutches;—I, shoving at her with all my force—like Punch and the devil at the two ends of the stick. At last, after she had held me in a corner for half a minute, I made a rush upon her, drove her right to the opposite corner, so that the end of the handle gave her a severe poke in the body, which made her give up the contest, and exclaim as soon as she recovered her breath,—"Oh! you nasty, ungrateful, ungenteel brute! You little viper! Is that the way you treat your mother—and nearly kill her? Oh, dear me!"
"Why don't you leave me alone, then? you never beats Jenny."
"Who's Jenny, you wicked good-for-nothing boy? you mean your sister Virginia. Well, you'll have no dinner, I can tell you."
I put my hand in my pocket, took out a sixpence which I had received, and held it up between my thumb and finger. "Won't I?"
"You oudacious boy! that's the way you're spoiled by foolish people giving you money."
"Good bye, mother." So saying, I leaped over the board fixed up at the door, and was again down at the beach. Indeed, I was now what is termed a regular Mud-larker, picking up halfpence by running into the water, offering my ragged arm to people getting out of the wherries, always saluting them with, "You haven't got never a half penny for poor Jack, your honour?" and sometimes I did get a halfpenny, sometimes a shove, according to the temper of those whom I addressed. When I was not on the beach, I was usually in company with Ben the Whaler, who, after my father's visit, was more kind to me than ever; and there were several other pensioners who were great friends of mine; and I used to listen to their long yarns, which were now becoming a source of great delight to me; at other times I would be with the watermen, assisting them to clean out their wherries, or pay the seams. In fact, I was here, there, and everywhere except at home—always active, always employed, and, I may add, almost always wet. My mother used to scold whenever I came in; but that I did not mind: her greatest punishment was refusing me a clean shirt on a Sunday. At last I picked up halfpence enough to pay, not only for my food, such as it was, but for my own washing, and every day I became more independent and more happy.
There were other ways by which money was to be obtained during the summer season, which were from the company who used to come down to the whitebait parties at the Ship and other taverns. There were many other boys who frequented the beach besides me, and we used to stand under the windows, and attract attention by every means in our power, so as to induce the company to throw us halfpence to scramble for. This they would do to while away their time until their dinner was ready, or to amuse themselves and the ladies by seeing us roll and tumble one over the other. Sometimes they would throw a sixpence into the river, where the water was about two feet deep, to make us wet ourselves through in groping for it. Indeed, they were very generous when they wished to be amused; and every kind of offer was made to them which we thought suited to their tastes, or likely to extract money from their pockets.
"Dip my head in the mud for sixpence, sir!" would one of us cry out; and then he would be outbid by another.
"Roll myself all over and over in the mud, face and all, sir—only give me sixpence!"
Sometimes I would perceive a lovely countenance, beaming with pity and compassion at our rags and apparent wretchedness, and then the money thrown to me gave me much more pleasure; but the major portion of those who threw us silver for their own amusement would not have given us a farthing, if we had asked charity for the love of God.
It must not, however, be supposed that I gained the enviable situation of Poor Jack until I had been some time on the beach. There are competitors for every place, even the most humble; and there was no want of competitors for this office among the many idle boys who frequented the beach. When I first plied there, I was often pushed away by those who were older and stronger than myself, with a "Go along with you! He's not poor Jack—I'm poor Jack, your honour." This, at first, I submitted to; taking my chance for a stray halfpenny, which was occasionally thrown to me, trusting to my activity in being the first down to the boat, or to my quickness in a scramble. I never quarrelled with the other boys, for I was remarkable for my good temper. The first idea I had of resistance was from oppression. One of the boys, who was older and taller than myself, attempted to take away a sixpence which I had gained in a scramble. Before that, I had not resented being pushed away, or even when they threw water or mud at me; but this was an act of violence which I could not put up with: the consequence was a fight; in which, to my surprise (for I was not aware of my strength), as well as to the surprise of the bystanders, I proved victorious, beating my opponent until he reeled into the water, following him up until he tumbled, and then holding his head down in the mud until he was almost stifled. I then allowed him to get up, and he went home crying to his mother. For this feat I was rewarded with the plaudits of the old pensioners and others who were looking on, and with a shilling which was thrown to me from the window of the inn. Ben the Whaler, who had witnessed the fray, told me, the next day, that I handled my fists remarkably well, and that I had but to keep a higher guard and I should fight well. He was an old pugilist himself, and he gave me a few directions which I did not forget. I soon had occasion to put them into practice; for, two days afterwards, another boy, bigger than myself, as I was plying as "Poor Jack," pushed me back so hard that I fell off the steps into the deep water, and there was a general laugh against me. I did not care for the ducking, but the laugh I could not bear: as soon as I gained the steps again, I rushed upon him and threw him off, and he fell into the wherry, and, as it afterwards appeared, he strained his back very much; nevertheless he came out to thrash me; and this time it was a regular fight, as the pensioners and watermen interfered, taking us both up on the higher ground, and seeing that it was fair play. Ben the Whaler acted as my second, and we set to. The boy was too powerful for me, had it not been for the hurt he had received, and the instructions I obtained from Ben every time that I sat on his knee between each round. Still it was a very hard fight, and I was terribly beaten; but I could not give up, for so many betted upon my winning, and Ben told me, at the end of every round, that, if I only stood up one more, I should be certain to beat him, and that then I should be Poor Jack for ever! The last inducement stimulated me to immense exertion: we closed and wrestled, and my antagonist was thrown; and, in consequence of the strain he had before received, he could not stand up any more. Poor fellow! he was in great pain; he was taken home, and obliged to have a doctor, and an abscess formed in his side. He was a long while getting well, and, when he came out of doors again, he was so pale. I was very sorry for him, and we were always the best friends afterwards, and I gave him many a half penny, until I had an opportunity of serving him.