Tycoon of Japan himself.
" I ain t much of a hand at spinnin a yarn,"
remarked Sailor Ben apologetically, " specially
when the yarn is all about a man as has made
a fool of hisself, an specially when that man s
name is Benjamin Watson.
" Bravo ! " cried Captain Nutter, rapping on
the table encouragingly.
" Thankee, sir, thankee. I go back to the
time when Kitty an me was livin in lodgin s
by the dock in New York. We was as happy,
sir, as two porpusses, which they toil not
neither do they spin. But when I seed the
money gittin low in the locker Kitty s star
board stockin , savin your presence, marm
I got down-hearted like, seein as I should be
obleeged to skip agin, for it did n t seem as I
could do much ashore. An then the sea was
my nat ral spear of action. I was n t exactly
born on it, look you, but I fell into it the
fust time I was let out arter my birth. My
mother slipped her cable for a heavenly port
afore I was old enough to hail her ; so I larnt
to look on the ocean for a sort of stepmother
an a precious hard one she has been to me.
" The idee of leavin Kitty so soon arter our
marriage went agin my grain considerable. I
cruised along the docks for somethin to do in
190 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
the way of stevedore ; an though I picked up
a stray job here and there, I did n t arn enough
to buy ship-bisket for a rat, let alone feedin
two human mouths. There was n t nothin
honest I would n t have turned a hand to ; but
the longshoremen gobbled up all the work, an
a outsider like me did n t stand a show.
" Things got from bad to worse ; the month s
rent took all our cash except a dollar or so, an
the sky looked kind o squally fore an aft.
Well, I set out one mornin that identical
unlucky mornin determined to come back
an toss some pay into Kitty s lap, if I had to
sell my jacket for it. I spied a brig unloadin
coal at pier No. 47 how well I remembers
it ! I hailed the mate, an offered myself for a
coal-heaver. But I was n t wanted, as he told
me civilly enough, which was better treatment
than usual. As I turned off rather glum I was
signalled by one of them sleek, smooth-spoken
rascals with a white hat an a weed on it, as is
always goin about the piers a-seekin who they
" We sailors know em for rascals from stem
to starn, but somehow every fresh one fleeces
us jest as his mate did afore him. We don t
larn nothin by exper ence ; we re jest no bet
ter than a lot of babbys with no brains.
" Good-mornin , my man, sez the chap, as
iley as you please.
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 191
" Mornin , sir/ sez I.
" -Lookin for a job ? sez he.
" Through the big end of a telescope/ sez I
meanin that the chances for a job looked
very small from my pint of view.
" You re the man for my money/ sez he,
smilin as innocent as a cherubim ; jest step
in here, till we talk it over.
" So I goes with him like a nat ral-born idiot,
into a little grocery-shop near by, where we
sets down at a table with a bottle atween us.
Then it comes out as there is a New Bedford
whaler about to start for the fishin -grounds,
an jest one able-bodied sailor like me is wanted
to make up the crew. Would I go ? Yes, I
would n t on no terms.
" * I 11 bet you fifty dollars/ sez he, that
you 11 come back fust mate.
" I ll bet you a hundred/ sez I, that I
don t, for I ve signed papers as keeps me
ashore, an the parson has witnessed the deed/
" So we sat there, he urgin me to ship, an*
I chaffin him cheerful over the bottle.
" Arter a while I begun to feel a little queer ;
things got foggy in my upper works, an I
remembers, faintlike, of signin a paper ; then
I remembers bein in a small boat ; and then I
remembers nothin until I heard the mate s
whistle pipin all hands on deck. I tumbled
192 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
up with the rest, an there I was on board
of a whaler outward bound for a three years
cruise, an my dear little lass ashore awaitin
" Miserable wretch ! " said Miss Abigail, in
a voice that vibrated among the tin platters on
the dresser. This was Miss Abigail s way of
testifying her sympathy.
"Thankee, marm," returned Sailor Ben
"No talking to the man at the wheel," cried
the Captain. Upon which we all laughed.
" Spin ! " added my grandfather.
Sailor Ben resumed
" I leave you to guess the wretchedness as
fell upon me, for I ve not got the gift to tell
you. There I was down on the ship s books
for a three years viage, an no help for it. I
feel nigh to six hundred years old when I think
how long that viage was. There is n t no
hour-glass as runs slow enough to keep a tally
of the slowness of them fust hours. But I
done my duty like a man, seein there was n t
no way of gittin out of it. I told my ship
mates of the trick as had been played on me,
an they tried to cheer me up a bit ; but I was
sore sorrowful for a long spell. Many a night
on watch I put my face in my hands and
sobbed for thinkin of the little woman left
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 193
among the land-sharks, an* no man to have an
eye on her, God bless her ! "
Here Kitty softly drew her chair nearer to
Sailor Ben, and rested one hand on his arm.
" Our adventures among the whales, I take
it, does n t consarn the present company here
assembled. So I give that the go-by. There s
an end to everything even to a whalin viage.
My heart all but choked me the day we put
into New Bedford with our cargo of ile. I got
my three years pay in a lump, an made for
New York like a flash of lightnin . The people
hove to and looked at me, as I rushed through
the streets like a madman, until I came to the
spot where the lodgin -house stood on South
Street. But, Lord love ye, there was no sech
lodgin -house there, but a great new brick
" I made bold to go in an* ask arter the old
place, but nobody knowed nothin about it, save
as it had been torn down two years or more. I
was adrift now, for I had reckoned all them
days and nights on gittin* word of Kitty from
Dan Shackford, the man as kept the lodgin .
" As I stood there with all the wind knocked
out of my sails, the idee of runnin alongside
the perlice-station popped into my head. The
perlice was likely to know the latitude of a
man like Dan Shackford who was n t over an*
194 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
above respecktible. They did know he had
died in the Tombs jail that day twelvemonth.
A coincydunce, was n t it ? I was ready to drop
when they told me this ; howsomever, I bore
up an give the chief a notion of the fix I was
in. He writ a notice which I put into the news
papers every day for three months ; but nothin
come of it. I cruised over the city week in and
week out ; I went to every sort of place where
they hired women hands ; I did n t leave a
think undone that an uneddicated man could
do. But nothin come of it. I don t believe
there was a wretcheder soul in that big city of
wretchedness than me. Sometimes I wanted
to lay down in the streets and die.
" Driftin disconsolate one day among the
shippin , who should I overhaul but the identi
cal smooth-spoken chap with a white hat an* a
weed on it ! I did n t know if there was any
sperit left in me, till I clapped eye on his very
onpleasant countenance. You villain ! * sez
I, where s my little Irish lass as you dragged
me away from ? an* I lighted on him, hat and
all, like that ! "
Here Sailor Ben brought his fist down on the
deal table with the force of a sledge-hammer.
Miss Abigail gave a start, and the ale leaped up
in the pitcher like a miniature fountain.
" I begs your parden, ladies and gentlemen ;
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 195
but the thought of that feller with his ring an*
his watch-chain an his walrus face is allus too
many for me. I was for pitchin him into the
North River, when a perliceman prevented me
from benefitin the human family. I had to pay
five dollars for hittin the chap (they said it was
salt and buttery), an that s what I call a neat,
genteel luxury. It was worth double the money
jest to see that white hat, with a weed on it,
layin on the wharf like a busted accordiun.
" Arter months of useless sarch, I went to
sea agin. I never got into a foren port but I
kept a watch out for Kitty. Once I thought I
seed her in Liverpool, but it was only a gal as
looked like her. The numbers of women in
different parts of the world as looked like her
was amazin . So a good many years crawled by,
an I wandered from place to place, never givin
up the sarch. I might have been chief mate
scores of times, may be master ; but I had n t
no ambition. I seed many strange things in
them years outlandish people an cities,
storms, shipwracks, an battles. I seed many
a true mate go down, an sometimes I envied
them what went to their rest. But these things
is neither here nor there.
" About a year ago I shipped on board the
Belphcebe yonder, an of all the strange winds
as ever blowed, the strangest an the best was
196 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
the wind as blowed me to this here blessed
spot. I can t be too thankful. That I m as
thankful as it is possible for an uneddicated
man to be, He knows as reads the heart of
Here ended Sailor Ben s yarn, which I have
written down in his own homely words as nearly
as I can recall them. After he had finished, the
Captain shook hands with him and served out
As Kitty was about to drink, she paused,
rested the cup on her knee, and asked what day
of the month it was.
"The twenty-seventh," said the Captain,
wondering what she was driving at.
" Then," cried Kitty, " it s ten years and a
day this night sence "
" Since what ? " asked my grandfather.
" Sence the little woman and I got spliced ! "
cried Sailor Ben. " There s another coincy-
dunce for you, if you re wanting anything in
On hearing this we all clapped hands, and
the Captain, with a degree of ceremony that
was almost painful, drank a bumper to the
health and happiness of the bride and bride
It was a pleasant sight to see the two old
lovers sitting side by side, in spite of all, drink-
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 197
ing from the same little cup a battered zinc
dipper which Sailor Ben had unslung from a
strap round his waist. I think I never saw him
without this dipper and a sheath-knife sus
pended just back of his hip, ready for any con
We had a merry time of it. The Captain
was in great force this evening, and not only
related his famous exploit in the war of 1812,
but regaled the company with a dashing sea-
song from Mr. Shakespeare s play of The Tem
pest. My grandfather however it came about
was a great reader of Shakespeare. He had
a mellow tenor voice (not Shakespeare, but the
Captain), and rolled out the verse with a will
" The master, the swabber, the boatswain, and I,
The gunner, and his mate,
Lov d Mall, Meg, and Marian, and Margery,
But none of us cared for Kate."
"A very good song, and very well sung,"
says Sailor Ben ; " but some of us does care for
Kate. Is this Mr. Shawkspear a seafarin man,
sir ? "
" Not at present," replied the Captain, with
a monstrous twinkle in his eye.
The clock was striking ten when the party
broke up. The Captain walked to The Sailor s
Rest with his guest, in order to question him
regarding his future movements.
198 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
" Well, sir," said he, " I ain t as young as I
was, an I don t cal ulate to go to sea no more.
I proposes to drop anchor here, an hug the
land until the old hulk goes to pieces. I ve
got two or three thousand dollars in the locker,
an expects to get on uncommon comfortable
without askin no odds from the Assylum for
My grandfather indorsed the plan warmly,
and Benjamin Watson did drop anchor in Riv-
ermouth, where he speedily became one of the
institutions of the town.
His first step was to buy a small one-story
cottage located at the head of the wharf,
within gunshot of the Nutter House. To the
great amusement of my grandfather, Sailor
Ben painted the cottage a light sky-blue, and
ran a broad black stripe around it just under
the eaves. In this stripe he painted white
port-holes, at regular distances, making his
residence look as much like a man-of-war as
possible. With a short flagstaff projecting
over the door like a bowsprit, the effect was
quite magical. My description of the exterior
of this palatial residence is complete when I
add that the proprietor nailed a horseshoe
against the front door to keep off the witches
a very necessary precaution in these lati
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 199
The inside of Sailor Ben s abode was not less
striking than the outside. The cottage con
tained two rooms ; the one opening on the
wharf he called his cabin ; here he ate and
slept. His few tumblers and a frugal collec
tion of crockery were set in a rack suspended
over the table, which had a cleat of wood nailed
round the edge to prevent the dishes from slid
ing off in case of a heavy sea. Hanging against
the walls were three or four highly colored
prints of celebrated frigates, and a lithograph
picture of a rosy young woman insufficiently
clad in the American flag. This was labelled
" Kitty," though I am sure it looked no more
like her than I did. A walrus-tooth with an
Esquimau engraved on it, a shark s jaw, and
the blade of a swordfish were among the envi
able decorations of this apartment. In one
corner stood his bunk, or bed, and in the other
his well-worn sea-chest, a perfect Pandora s
box of mysteries. You would have thought
yourself in the cabin of a real ship.
The little room aft, separated from the cabin
by a sliding door, was the caboose. It held a
cooking-stove, pots, pans, and groceries ; also
a lot of fishing-lines and coils of tarred twine,
which made the place smell like a forecastle,
and a delightful smell it is to those who
200 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
Kitty did not leave our service, but played
housekeeper for both establishments, returning
at night to Sailor Ben s. He shortly added a
wherry to his worldly goods, and in the fishing
season made a very handsome income. During
the winter he employed himself manufacturing
crab-nets, for which he found no lack of cus
His popularity among the boys was immense.
A jackknife in his expert hand was a whole
chest of tools. He could whittle out anything
from a wooden chain to a Chinese pagoda, or
a full-rigged seventy-four a foot long. To own
a ship of Sailor Ben s building was to be ex
alted above your fellow-creatures. He did not
carve many, and those he refused to sell, choos
ing to present them to his young friends, of
whom Tom Bailey, you may be sure, was one.
How delightful it was of winter nights to sit
in his cosey cabin, close to the ship s stove (he
would never hear of having a fireplace), and
listen to Sailor Ben s yarns ! In the early sum
mer twilights, when he sat on the doorstep
splicing a rope or mending a net, he always
had a bevy of blooming young faces alongside.
The dear old fellow ! How tenderly the
years touched him after this ! all the more
tenderly, it seemed, for having roughed him so
cruelly in other days.
HOW WE ASTONISHED RIVERMOUTH
SAILOR BEN S arrival partly drove the New
Orleans project from my brain. Besides, there
was just then a certain movement on foot by
the Centipede Club which helped to engross
Pepper Whitcomb took the Captain s veto
philosophically, observing that he thought from
the first the governor would not let me go. I
do not think Pepper was quite honest in that.
But to the subject in hand.
Among the few changes that have taken
place in Rivermouth during the past twenty
years there is one which I regret. I lament
the removal of all those varnished iron cannon
which used to do duty as posts at the corners
of streets leading from the river. They were
quaintly ornamental, each set upon end with a
solid shot soldered into its mouth, and gave to
that part of the town a picturesqueness very
poorly atoned for by the conventional wooden
stakes that have deposed them.
202 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
These guns (" old sogers " the boys called
them) had their story, like everything else in
Rivermouth. When that everlasting last war
the war of 1812, I mean came to an end,
all the brigs, schooners, and barks fitted out at
this port as privateers were as eager to get rid
of their useless twelve-pounders and swivels as
they had previously been to obtain them. Many
of the pieces had cost large sums, and now they
were little better than so much crude iron not
so good, in fact, for they were clumsy things
to break up and melt over. The government
did not want them ; private citizens did not
want them ; they were a drug in the market.
But there was one man, ridiculous beyond
his generation, who got it into his head that
a fortune was to be made out of these same
guns. To buy them all, to hold on to them
until war was declared again (as he had no
doubt it would be in a few months), and then
sell out at fabulous prices this was the dar
ing idea that addled the pate of Silas Trefe-
then, "Dealer in E. & W. I. Goods and Gro
ceries," as the faded sign over his shop-door
informed the public.
Silas went shrewdly to work, buying up every
old cannon he could lay hands on. His back
yard was soon crowded with broken-down gun-
carriages, and his barn with guns, like an
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 203
arsenal. When Silas s purpose got wind it
was astonishing how valuable that thing be
came which just now was worth nothing at all.
" Ha, ha ! " thought Silas ; "somebody else
is tryin tu git control of the market. But I
guess I Ve got the start of him"
So he went on buying and buying, oftentimes
paying double the original price of the article.
People in the neighboring towns collected all
the worthless ordnance they could find, and
sent it by the cart-load to Rivermouth.
When his barn was full, Silas began piling
the rubbish in his cellar, then in his parlor.
He mortgaged the stock of his grocery-store,
mortgaged his house, his barn, his horse, and
would have mortgaged himself if any one would
have taken him as security, in order to carry
on the grand speculation. He was a ruined
man, and as happy as a lark.
Surely poor Silas was cracked, like the ma
jority of his own cannon. More or less crazy
he must have been always. Years before this
he purchased an elegant rosewood coffin, and
kept it in one of the spare rooms in his resi
dence. He even had his name engraved on
the silver-plate, leaving a blank after the word
The blank was filled up in due time, and
well it was for Silas that he secured so stylish
204 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
a coffin in his opulent days, for when he died
his worldly wealth would not have bought him
a pine box, to say nothing of rosewood. He
never gave up expecting a war with Great
Britain. Hopeful and radiant to the last, his
dying words were, England war few days
great profits !
It was that sweet old lady, Dame Jocelyn,
who told me the story of Silas Trefethen ; for
these things happened long before my day.
Silas died in 1817.
At Trefethen s death his unique collection
came under the auctioneer s hammer. Some
of the larger guns were sold to the town,
and planted at the corners of divers streets ;
others went off to the iron foundry ; the bal
ance, numbering twelve, were dumped down
on a deserted wharf at the foot of Anchor
Lane, where, summer after summer, they
rested at their ease in the grass and fungi,
pelted in autumn by the rain and annually
buried by the winter snow. It is with these
twelve guns that our story has to deal.
The wharf where they reposed was shut off
from the street by a high fence a silent,
dreamy old wharf, covered with strange weeds
and mosses. On account of its seclusion and
the good fishing it afforded, it was much fre
quented by us boys.
THE STORY OF A BAD BOV 205
There we met many an afternoon to throw
out our lines, or play leap-frog among the rusty
cannon. They were famous fellows in our
eyes. What a racket they had made in the
heyday of their unchastened youth ! What
stories they might tell now, if their puffy me
tallic lips could only speak ! Once they were
lively talkers enough ; but there the grim sea-
dogs lay, silent and forlorn in spite of all their
They always seemed to me like a lot of ven
erable disabled tars, stretched out on a lawn in
front of a hospital, gazing seaward, and mutely
lamenting their lost youth.
But once more they were destined to lift up
their dolorous voices once more they keeled
over and lay speechless for all time. And this
is how it befell.
Jack Harris, Charley Marden, Harry Blake,
and myself were fishing off the wharf one after
noon, when a thought flashed upon me like an
" I say, boys ! " I cried, hauling in my line
hand over hand, " I ve got something ! "
"What does it pull like, youngster ? " asked
Harris, looking down at the taut line and ex
pecting to see a big perch at least.
" Oh, nothing in the fish way," I returned,
laughing ; " it s about the old guns."
206 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
" What about them ? "
" I was thinking what jolly fun it would be
to set one of the old sogers on his legs and
serve him out a ration of gunpowder."
Up came the three lines in a jiffy. An
enterprise better suited to the disposition of
my companions could not have been proposed.
In a short time we had one of the smaller
cannon over on its back and were busy scrap
ing the green rust from the touch-hole. The
mould had spiked the gun so effectually, that
for a while we fancied we should have to give
up our attempt to resuscitate the old soger.
" A long gimlet would clear it out," said Char
ley Marden, " if we only had one."
I looked to see if Sailor Ben s flag was flying
at the cabin door, for he always took in the
colors when he went off fishing.
" When you want to know if the Admiral s
aboard, jest cast an eye to the buntin , my
hearties," says Sailor Ben.
Sometimes in a jocose mood he called him
self the Admiral, and I am sure he deserved to
be one. The Admiral s flag was flying, and I
soon procured a gimlet from his carefully kept
Before long we had the gun in working order.
A newspaper lashed to the end of a lath served
as a swab to dust out the bore. Jack Harris
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 207
blew through the touch-hole and pronounced
Seeing our task accomplished so easily, we
turned our attention to the other guns, which
lay in all sorts of postures in the rank grass.
Borrowing a rope from Sailor Ben, we managed
with immense labor to drag the heavy pieces
into position and place a brick under each muz
zle to give it the proper elevation. When we
beheld them all in a row, like a regular battery,
we simultaneously conceived an idea, the mag
nitude of which struck us dumb for a moment.
Our first intention was to load and fire a sin
gle gun. How feeble and insignificant was
such a plan compared to that which now sent
the light dancing into our eyes !
" What could we have been thinking of ? "
cried Jack Harris. " We 11 give em a broad
side, to be sure, if we die for it ! "
We turned to with a will, and before night
fall had nearly half the battery overhauled and
ready for service. To keep the artillery dry we
stuffed wads of loose hemp into the muzzles,
and fitted wooden pegs to the touch-holes.
At recess the next noon the Centipedes met
in a corner of the school-yard to talk over the
proposed lark. The original projectors, though
they would have liked to keep the thing secret,
were obliged to make a club matter of it, inas-
208 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
much as funds were required for ammunition.
There had been no recent drain on the treasury,
and the society could well afford to spend a
few dollars in so notable an undertaking.
It was unanimously agreed that the plan
should be carried out in the handsomest man
ner, and a subscription to that end was taken
on the spot. Several of the Centipedes had n t
a cent, excepting the one strung around their
necks ; others, however, were richer. I chanced
to have a dollar, and it went into the cap quicker
than lightning. When the club, in view of my
munificence, voted to name the guns Bailey s
Battery, I was prouder than I have ever been
since over anything.
The money thus raised, added to that already
in the treasury, amounted to nine dollars a
fortune in those days ; but not more than we
had use for. This sum was divided into twelve
parts, for it would not do for one boy to buy all
the powder, nor even for us all to make our pur