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Frederick Marryat.

Poor Jack; and The settlers in Canada online

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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



POOR JACK

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
Lke your mother, so trim and neat, ropes all taut, stays well
set up, white hammock-cloths spread eveiy 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 circum-
stances. 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 unex-
pected 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 specula-
tion, 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

6.



POOR JACK

decide upon retaining the latter, still she thought it advis-
able, 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 per-
suaded (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 cox-
swain had already ? She shouldn't be surprised, if, with that
long pigtail of his, he had five at least nay, perhaps, six or
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,

7



POOR JACK

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," &c.

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," &c.

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

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POOR JACK

father being disrated and turned into the maintop, 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 annoy-
ance ; 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

9



POOR JACK

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 workhouse, and the sky.



CHAPTER III

In which my mother proves herself a tender wife, and at the
same time shows her patriotism and devotion to her country.

JL HAD almost unconsciously arrived at the age of two years
before there were any tidings of my father. All the infor-
mation 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 de-
clared 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

JO



POOR JACK

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 difficult}',
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. Neverthe-
less, 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 intoxi-
cated ; and being so, was more self-willed and regardless of
his wife's injunctions : the consequences were, that having re-
ceived 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 acquaint-
ances. 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

11



POOR JACK

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 vitu-
peration poured out upon my father so roused his indignation,
that one evening, when more than usually intoxicated, the
te 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 con-
cealed 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

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POOR JACK

"battle, fire, and wreck," she determined this time to husband
her resources, and try if she could not do something for her-
self. 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.



CHAPTER IV

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"

JVlY 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 after-
wards 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
w r as always very much petted, well dressed, and a very
beautiful child.

13



POOR JACK

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 any-
thing 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 arid 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 incompre-
hensible ; and I brought them fire for their pipes, and ran
messages. Old Ben the Whaler, as they called him, was the

14



POOR JACK

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 ungenteel," 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 then, 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 finger 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

15



POOR JACK

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 boat-
swain's mate, and wore a silver whistle h'ung round his neck
by a lanyard, and with which little Virginia was then play-
ing. 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



Online LibraryFrederick MarryatPoor Jack; and The settlers in Canada → online text (page 2 of 58)