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Frederick Marryat.

Poor Jack; and The settlers in Canada online

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babies, all day long, and never tire. Now, you see, a
man gets tired of nursing in no time ; I never was in love
but once."

"Oh, father, I've heard that story so often."

"Well, then, you shan't hear it again. Now, I'll go out
and see where Tom may be. I suppose he's looking at the
wind, and thinking how it changes like a woman. But I'll
light my pipe first."

" Do, father ; and while Tom looks at the wind and thinks
of women, do you just watch the smoke out of your pipe, and
think of men and their constancy."

" Well, I will, if it pleases you. Put the letter by, Bessy,
for I shouldn't like Tom to see it. What have you got for
dinner ? "

" I left that to Mrs. Maddox, so I can't tell. But there's
cold pudding in the larder ; I'll put it out for Tom."

" Nay, Bessy, you must not jest with him."

"Am I likely, think you, father?" replied Bessy; "can't
I feel for him ?"

" Come, come, dearest, I didn't mean to make you
cry."

" I'm not crying, but I'm very sorry for Tom, and that's
the truth. Now go away with your pipe, and leave me
alone."

It was impossible for me to have returned without being
perceived, and I therefore remained during the whole of this
conversation. I was annoyed to discover that they knew my
secret ; and still more vexed at the remainder of this colloquy,
by which I discovered that Bramble had so completely set
his heart upon an union between me and Bessy, which I con-
sidered as impossible. I felt, as all do at the time, as if I
never could love again. I walked away, and did not return
home till dinner-time. Bramble and Bessy were very kind,

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"POOR JACK

although they did not talk much ; and when I went away
the next day I was moved with the affectionate farewell of
the latter.

It was a beautiful night, and we were running before the
east wind, the Portland Light upon our starboard beam ;
the other men in the boat had laid down in their gregos and
pilot-jackets, and were fast asleep, while Bramble was at
the helm steering ; and I, who was too restless in my mind
to feel any inclination to repose, was sitting on the stern-
sheets beside him.

" Do you see the line of the Race ? " said Bramble ; " it
seems strong to-night."

Bramble referred to what is called by the mariners the
Race of Portland, where the uneven ground over which the
water runs creates a very heavy sea even in a calm. Small
smuggling vessels and boats, forced into it in bad weather,
have often foundered. The tide, however, runs so rapidly
over it that you are generally swept through it in a few
minutes, and then fina yourself again in comparatively smooth
water.

"Yes," replied I; "it is very strong to-night, from the
long continuance of the easterly wind."

" Exactly so, Tom," continued Bramble. " I've often
thought that getting into that Race is just like falling in
love."

" Why so ? " replied I, rather pettishly, for I was not
pleased at his referring to the subject.

"I'll tell you why, Tom," said Bramble; "because, you
see, when we get into the Race, it's all boiling and bubbling
and tossing about rudder and sails are of no use ; and you
are carried along by a fierce tide, which there's no resist-
ing, with no small damage to the upper works, until you are
fairly out again, and find breath to thank God for it. Now,
aren't that like love ? ''

" I suppose it is as you say so ; you know best."

" Well, I think I do know best ; because, you see, I have
long been clear of it. I never was in love but once, Tom ;
did I ever tell you about it ? "

"Never/' replied I.

"Well, then, as 'twill pass time away, I'll just give you
the long and the short of it, as the saying is. When I was

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POOR JACK

just about twenty, and a smart lad in my own opinion, I was
on board of a transport, and we had gone round to Portsmouth
with a load of timber for the dockyard. It was not my first
trip there, for, you see, the transport was employed wholly
on that service ; and during my cruising on shore I had taken
up my quarters at the Chequer Board, a house a little way
from the common Hard, in the street facing the dockyard
wall; for, you see, Tom, it was handy to us, as our ship laid
at the wharf, off the mast pond, it being just outside the
dockyard gates. The old fellow who kept the house was as
round as a ball, for he never started out by any chance from
one year's end to another ; his wife was dead ; and he had
an only daughter, who served at the bar, in a white cap with
blue streamers ; and when her hair was out of papers, and
she put on clean shoes and stockings, which she did every
day after dinner, she was a very smart neat-built little heifer;
and, being an only daughter, she was considered as a great
catch to any one who could get hold of her. She had quite
the upper hand of her father, who dared not say a word ;
and with others she would give herself no few airs. At one
time she would be as sweet as sugar, and the next, without
any cause, she'd 'wonder at your imperance.' It was diffi-
cult to know how to take her : it's a bad thing for a girl to
have a great fortune ; they get so much flattery that it turns
their heads. Well, Tom, I wasn't looking after the money,
as you'll believe when I tell you so ; but as she was very
chatty with me, and allowed me to come inside the bar,
which was considered as a great favour, to help rinse the
glasses, and so on, and as the other men used to joke with
me, and tell me that I should carry off the prize, I began to
think that she was fond of me, and so very naturally I became
fond of her ; and we met and we parted (and she would
allow me to kiss her when we parted), until I was quite gone
altogether, and did nothing but think of her all day and
dream of her all night. Well, the last time that I was in
the transport to Portsmouth, I had made up my mind to
clench the business, and as soon as the sails were furled, I
dressed myself in my best toggery, and made all sail for the
old house. When I came in I found Peggy in the bar, and
a very fancy sort of young chap alongside of her. I did not
think so much of that, and I was going inside the bar to

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POOR JACK

shake hands as usual, when says she, ' Well, I should not
wonder/ pulling to the half door, as if she were surprised at
my attempting to come in.

" ' Oh, ho ! ' says I, ' are you on that tack ? what next ? '
and then I looked more at the chap, and he was a very nice
young man, as the saying is. As I afterwards found out, he
was in the smuggling line between Cherbourg and our coast,
and he had Frenchified manners, and he talked little bits
of French, and he had French gloves for presents, and had
earrings in his ears, and lots of rings on his fingers. So I
took my seat at the wooden benches near the fire, just as
sulky as a bear with a sore head, watching their manoeuvres :
at last he walked out, kissing his hand as she smiles. As the
coast was clear I went up to the bar.

" ' Well,' says I, ' Peggy, so the wind's shifted, is it ? '

" ' What do you mean ? ' says she. ' I suppose I may be
civil to another person as well as to you.'

" ' Yes, I see no objection/ says I ; ' but why was he to
6e inside the bar, and I put out ? '

"'Oh/ replied she, 'one at a time, you know, Mr.
Philip. I haven't made any promises to you that I
know of.'

"'That's very true/ replied I, 'but '

'"Oh, you mustn't fret here/ interrupted she. 'I'm my
own mistress, I suppose. However, I'll tell you this much,
that I don't care a bit about him, and that's the truth of
rt but' I did not like your coming inside the bar so quietly,
as if you had a right there, for I don't want people to make
remarks.'

"Well, the end of it was that she pacified me, and we
were as great friends almost as ever : I say almost, for I
had my eyes upon her and that chap, and did not much
tike it. A week after my arrival there was to be a fair
over at Ryde, in the Isle of Wight, and I asked Peggy
whether she would go with me ; but she refused, saying
that she was obliged to go to her aunt's out at Limberhook,
who was very old, and had sent for her, so I thought nothing
more about the matter. Well, the day before the fair, as
we were busy in the forenoon getting the timber out of
the vessel, one of my shipmates, who went to the same
house, says to me, ' I say, Tom, when I was at the Chequers

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POOR JACK

iast night, I overheard Peg^y promise to go to the Ryde
Fair with that Frencl.ificd smuggling chap/

" ' Did you ? ' said I.

"'Yes/ replied he, 'and they agreed to start at twelve
o'clock, just alter the dockyard bell rang : I thought at
the time it was just to give you the slip before you left the
ship, and that she is turning you over.'

" Well, when I heard this, did not my blood boil ? for the
hussy had told me a lie in saying that she was going to her
aunt's ; and it was evident that she had done so, that she
might go with this other fellow to the fair. I thought
the matter over and over again, for, to tell you the truth, all
I wanted then was revenge. I felt nothing but scorn for a
woman who could act in so base a manner ; at the same
time I wished to punish both her and him by spoiling their
day's sport ; so at last I determined that I would start
right away for the fair myself, and not only put her to
shame, but give her fancy man a good drubbing, which I
was well able to do. So I walks down to Point and gets
into a wherry, keeping a sharp look-out for their coming
down from the Hard. At last I spied them, and then I
made the waterman pull away, so as to keep about three
cables' length ahead of them, and thus I continued watching
their billing and cooing, and grinding my teeth with rage,
until we had come over to the other side. Now, you see,
Tom, at that time there was no wooden pier at Ryde as
there is now, and when the tide was out there was such a
long flat of mud that there was no landing ; so the way it
was managed was, the wherries came in as far as they could,
and were met by a horse and cart, which took out the
passengers and carried them through the mud and water to
the hard ground. Well, when I pulled in, the man was
there with his horse and cart, and I paid my fare, and
stepped out of the wherry, expecting the man to drive off
and put me on shore ; but he seeing that there was another
wherry close at hand, says he must wait for her passengers,
and make one trip of it. I did not care how soon we met,
and waited very patiently until they pulled up to us. They
were not a little surprised to see me, and not a little
annoyed either. As for Peggy, she coloured to her elbows,
and then tried to put up an impudent face on the matter.



POOR JACK

He looked both foolish and angry. They were both very
smart. She had on a white gown, with a yellow handker-
chief on her shoulders, a green silk bonnet and blue
feathers, and he was figged out as fine as fivepence, with
white jean trousers, and rings and chains, and Lord knows
what.

" ' Well,' says Peggy, as bold as brass, e who'd have
thought to have seen you here ? '

e< ' I did not say that I was going to see my aunt/ replied
I ; ' but as you did, who would have expected to see you
here ? '

" ' Don't talk to me, young man/ said she, as red as fire,
and turning away to her beau.

"Just as she said this, the cart drove off, the horse
floundering through the mud, which was about three feet
deep, with a matter of six inches of water above it. As she
turned away aft, I turned forward, thinking what I should
do next, and then I cast my eyes down, and observed that
it was a tilting cart as they use for carrying out manure,
and that if I took the two pegs out it would fall right back.
I thought this a capital trick. The carman was sitting on
his horse, and it couldn't matter to him, so I stepped out
on the front of the cart, and standing on the shafts, I first
pulled out one peg and then another, while they were busy
talking to each other, with their heads so close that his
face was under her bonnet. As soon as the second peg
was out, I helped up the front of the cart a little, and back
it went, shooting them out right headforemost in the mud.
You never saw such a scramble, for they had caught hold
of each other in their fright, and they rolled and floundered,
and were half smothered before they could recover their
feet ; and then a pretty pickle they were in, wet to the
skin, and covered with mud from one end to the other ;
they could not see out of their eyes. Peggy did nothing
but scream and flounder she was frightened out of her
wits while the carman and I laughed ready to split. I
gave him half-a-crown to drive on shore without them, which
he did, and we left them to make their way out how they
could ; and a pretty pickle they did come out at last. Thus
was their day's pleasure as well as their clothes all spoilt ;
and instead of dancing at the fair and seeing all the sights,

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POOR JACK

they were shivering in their wet clothes, and the laughing-
stocks to all that saw them.

" Depend upon it, I did not leave them after they had"
crawled out to the beach. The fellow was, as you may
suppose, as savage as a bull, and very saucy, so I took off
my jacket that I might not dirty myself, and gave him
a couple of black eyes and a bloody nose for his trouble ;
and as for Peggy, I pretended to be so sorry for her, and
condoled with her so much, that at last she flew at me
like a tigress, and as I knew that there was no honour,
and plenty of mud, to be gained by the conflict, I took to
my heels and ran off to the fair, where I met some of my
friends and told them what had happened, and then we
had a very merry day of it, and I felt quite cured of my
love : for, you see, Peggy looked so ugly and miserable
when she was in the state I left her, that I had only to
think of her as when I last saw her, and all my love was
gone."

" Did you ever meet her again ? "

" I met her that very night ; for, you see, she had gone
to a cottage and taken off her clothes, having insisted upon
her fancy man going back to Portsmouth to fetch her
others to go home in. He dared not refuse, so off he went
in the pickle that he was. But he didn't come back again,
for, you see, there was a warrant out against him for an
affray at Bear Haven, in which a King's officer was killed ;
and after he had changed his own clothes, and was pro-
ceeding to get some for her from the Chequers, he was met
by the constable who had the warrant, and carried off hand-
cuffed to gaol, and afterwards he was transported, so she
never saw him again. Well, Peggy, poor creature, had
been waiting for him for hours, expecting his return ; and
it was past ten o'clock when I was coming down with some
others, and saw her at the door of the cottage weeping.

" ' Good-night, Peggy,' says I.-

" { Oh, Philip, do be kind, do come to me ; I'm frightened
out of my life. I shall have to stay here all night.'

"So, you see, I did feel some little pity for her, and I
went up to her, and she told me how she had sent him,
and he had never come back again.

" ' The fact is/ says I, ' Peggy, you aren't smart enough

267



POOR JACK

for such a Frenchified chap as he is. He don't like to be
seen in your company. Come, get up, and I will see you
home, at all events ; ' so I took charge of her, and saw her
safe to her father's door.

" ' Won't you come in ? ' said she.

" ' No, thank you,' says I.

"'Won't you forgive me, Philip ? ' said she.

"' Yes/ says I, ' I'll forgive you, for old acquaintance' sake,
and for one more reason.'

" ' What's that ? ' says Peggy.

' Why,' says I, ' for the lesson which you've learnt me.
I've been made a fool of once, and it's your fault ; but if
ever a woman makes a fool of me again, why, then it's mine.
And so, Peggy, good-bye for ever.'

" So I turned away on my heel, and as I left the transport
the next trip, I never saw her again."

" Well, Bramble," replied I, " I agree with you ; and if
ever a woman makes a fool of me again, it will be my
fault. You know what's happened, so I don't mind
saying so."

"Why, Tom, in your present humour, you think so; but
all do not keep to the same way of thinking as I did till it
was too late to think about marrying ; but still I do not
think that I should have been happy as a single man, if
it had not been for my falling in with Bessy. I should
.have been very lonely, I expect, for I began to feel so.
When you come to your own door, Tom, home looks cheer-
less if there is no bright eye to welcome you, and the older
a man gets the more he feels that he was not intended to
live single. My yearning after something to love and to
love me, which is in our nature, was satisfied, first by having
Bessy, and then by having you and I'm thankful."

" You might have married, and have been very un-
happy."

" I might, and I might have been very happy, had I
chosen a wife as a man should do."

" And how is that, pray, Bramble ? "

"Why, Tom, I've often thought upon it. In the first
place look out for good temper : if you find that, you may
be happy, even if your wife is a silly woman ; assure your-
self first of her temper, and then you must judge her by

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POOR JACK

the way in which she does those duties which have fallen
to her lot ; for if a girl is a dutiful and affectionate daughter
there is little fear but that she will prove a loving and
obedient wife. But I think we have had our spell here,
Tom, and it's rather cold : rouse up one of those chaps, and
tell him to come to the helm. I'll coil myself up and have
a snooze till the morning, and do you do the same."



In which I receive a very severe blow from a party or parties
unknown.

J. HE day after this conversation we fell in with several
vessels windbound at the entrance of the Channel. I
took charge of one, and the wind shifting to the SW.,
and blowing strong, I carried her up to the Pool. As
soon as I could leave her I took a boat to go down to
Greenwich, as I was most anxious to have a long conver-
sation with Virginia. It was a dark squally night, with
rain at intervals between the gusts of wind, and I was wet
through long before I landed at the stairs, which was
not until past eleven o'clock. I paid the waterman, and
hastened up to my mother's house, being aware that they
would either be all in bed or about to retire. It so
happened that I did not go the usual way, but passed by
the .house of old Nanny ; and as I walked by with a quick
step, and was thinking of her and her misfortunes, 1 fell
over something which, in the dark, I did not perceive, and
which proved to be some iron railings, which the workmen
who were fixing them up had carelessly left on the ground,
previous to their returning to their work on the ensuing
morning. Fortunately the spikes at the ends of them
were from me, and I received no injury, except a severe
blow on the shin : and as I stopped a moment to rub it,
I thought that I heard a cry from the direction of old
Nanny's house ; but the wind was very high, and I was
not certain. I stopped and listened, and it was repeated.



POOR JACK

I gained the door ; it was so dark that I groped for the
latch. The door was open, and when I went in I heard
a gurgling kind of noise and a rustling in her chamber.
" Who's there ? What's this ? " cried I ; for I had a fore-
boding that something was wrong. I tumbled over some
old iron, knocked down the range of keys, and made a
terrible din, when, of a sudden, just as I had recovered
my legs, I was thrown down again by somebody who
rushed by me and darted out of the door. As the person
rushed by me I attempted to seize his arm, but I received
a severe blow on the mouth, which cut my lip through, and
at first I thought I had lost all my front teeth.

I rose up. I heard a heavy groaning ; so, instead of
pursuing the robber, I felt my way into Nanny's chamber.
"Nanny," said I, "mother, what's the matter?" but there
was no reply, except another groan. I knew where she
kept her tinder-box and matches ; I found them, and struck
a light ; and by the light of the match I perceived the
candle and candlestick lying on the floor. I picked it up,
lighted it, and then turned to the bed ; the flock mattress
was above all, and the groans proceeded from beneath.
I threw it off, and found old Nanny still breathing, but in
a state of exhaustion, and quite insensible. By throwing
water on her face, after some little while I brought her to
her senses. The flaring of the candle reminded me that
the shop door was open ; I went and made it fast, and then
spoke to her. It was a long while before I could obtain
any rational answer. She continued to groan and cry at
intervals, " Don't leave me, Jack, don't leave me." At last
she fell into a sort of slumber from exhaustion, and in .this
state she remained for more than an hour. One thing was
evident to me, which was, that the party, whoever it might
be, had attempted to smother the poor old woman, and
that in a few seconds more he would have perpetrated
the deed.

At last old Nanny roused up, and turning to me, said,
"It's Jack, is it not? I thought so. Oh, my poor head!
What has happened ? "

" That's what I want to know from you, mother," replied
I ; " but first I will tell you what I know of the business."
Which I did, to give her time to collect her thoughts.

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POOR JACK

"Yes," said she, "so it was. I was just in bed, and my
candle was not out, when I heard a noise at the door, as if
they were turning a key in it, and then a man entered ; but
he had something over his face, I thought, or he had blacked
it. ' What do you want ? ' cried I. ' 1 come for a light, old
woman,' said he. I cried, ' Thieves ! murder ! ' as loud as I
could, and he ran up to me just as I was getting out of bed,
and tried to smother me. I don't recollect anything more
till I heard your voice. Thank you, Jack, and God bless
you ; if you hadn't come to the assistance of a poor old
wretch like me, I should have been dead by this time."

I felt that what she said was true, and I then asked her
many questions, so as to lead to the discovery of the party.

" How was he dressed ? " inquired I.

" I can't exactly say. But, do you know, Jack, I fancied
that he had a pensioner's coat on ; indeed, I am almost sure
of it. I think I tore off one of his buttons, I recollect its
giving way ; I may be wrong, my head wanders."

But I thought that most likely Nanny was right, so I
looked down on the floor with the candle, and there I
picked up a pensioner's button.

" You're right, Nanny ; here is the button."

" Well, now, Jack, I can't talk any more ; you won't leave
me to-night, I'm sure."

" No, no, mother, that I will not. Try to go to sleep."

Hardly had Nanny laid her head down again, when it
came across my mind like a flash of lightning that it must
have been Spicer who had attempted the deed ; and my
reason for so thinking was that the blow I had received on
the mouth was not like that from the hand of a man, but
from the wooden socket fixed to the stump of his right arm.
The more I reflected upon it, the more I was convinced.
He was a clever armourer, and had picked the lock ; and I
now recalled to mind what had never struck me before, that
he had often asked me questions about old Nanny, and
whether I thought the report that she had money was
correct.

It was daylight before old Nanny woke up, and then she
appeared to be quite recovered. I told her my suspicions,
and my intentions to ascertain the truth of them as far as I
possibly could.

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POOR JACK

"Well, and what then ? " said old Nanny.

"Why, then, if we bring it home to him, he will be
hanged, as he deserves."

" Now, Jack, hear me," said old Nanny. " You won't do
anything I don't wish, I'm sure ; and now I'll tell you that
I never would give evidence against him, or any other man,
to have him hanged. So, if you find out that it is him, do
not say a word about it. Promise me, Jack."

"Why, mother, I can't exactly say that I will; but I will
talk to Peter Anderson about it."

" It's no use talking to him ; and, if you do, it must be
under promise of secrecy, or I will not consent to it. Jack,
.Jack, recollect that my poor boy was hanged from my fault.
Do you think I will hang another ? Oh no. Perhaps this
very man had a foolish wicked mother, like me, and has, like
my boy, been led into guilt. Jack, you must do as I wish
you shall, Jack."

" Well, mother, I have no animosity against the man him-
self ; and, if you forgive him, I do not see why I should do
anything."

" I don't forgive him, Jack ; but I think of my own poor
boy."

" Well, mother, since you wish it, it shall be so ; and if I



Online LibraryFrederick MarryatPoor Jack; and The settlers in Canada → online text (page 24 of 58)