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Frederick Marryat.

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do prove that the man I suspect is the party, I will say
nothing, arid make Anderson promise the same, as I think
he will. But how is it that people come to rob a poor old
woman like you ? How is it, mother, that there is a report
going about that you have money?"

" Is there such a report, Jack ? "

" Yes, mother, every one says so ; why, I do not know ;
and as long as it is supposed, you will always be subject to
attacks like this, unless, indeed, if you have money, you
were to put it away safely, and let everybody know that
you have done so. Tell me truly, mother, have you any
money ? "

" Jack, what a boy you are to ask questions. Well,
perhaps I have a little a very little ; but no one will ever
find out where I have hidden it."

" But they will try, mother, as this man has done, and you
will always be in peril of your life. Why not place it into
the hands of some safe person ? "

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POOR JACK

** Safe person ! Who's safe nowadays ? ''

"Why, for instance, there's Mr. Wilson."

" Wilson ! what do you know about him, Jack, except that
he has a smooth face and a bald head ? You're young, Jack,
and don't know the world. The money's safe where it is,
and no one will ever find it."

"If so, who is to find it after " I stopped, for I did

not like to say, after she was dead.

" I know what you would have said, Jack ; who's to find
it after my death ? That's very true. I never thought of
that, and I must will it away. I never thought of that,
Jack, it's very true, and I'm glad that you have mentioned
it. But who dare I tell ? who can I trust ? Can I trust
you, Jack ? can I ? I ought, for it's all for you, Jack, when
I die."

" Mother, whoever it may be for, you may, I hope, trust
me."

" Well, I think I can. I'll tell you where it is, Jack, and
that will prove that it is for you, for nobody else will know
where to find it. But, Jack, dear, dear Jack, don't you rob
me, as my son did ; don't rob me, and leave me penniless,
as he did ; promise me ? "

" I never will, mother ; you need not be afraid."

" Yes ; so you say, and so he said ; he swore and he cried
too, Jack, and then he took it all, and left his mother with-
out a farthing."

" Well, mother, then don't tell me ; I'd rather not know :
you will only be uncomfortable, and so let the money go."

" No, Jack, that won't do either ; I will tell you, for I
can trust you. But first, Jack, go out and look behind the
house, that there is no one listening at the window ; for if
any one should hear go, look round carefully, and then
come back."

I did as she wished, and then Nanny bid me hold my
head closer to her, while she whispered, "You must take
the back out of the fireplace, and then pull out three bricks,
and then put your hand into the hole, and you will find a
small box; and there you will find a little money, a very
little, Jack, hardly worth having, but still it may be of some
use ; and it's all yours when I die, Jack, I give it to you."

" Mother, I'm thankful for your kindness, but I cannot

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POOR JACK

touch it if you do die without you leave it to me by your
will."

" Ah ! that's true, Jack. Well, tell Anderson to come
here, and I'll tell him I'll leave the money to you ; but I
won't tell him where it is, I'll only say that I leave you
everything I have. They'll suppose that it's the shop
and all the pretty things." Here she chuckled for some
time.

It was now broad daylight, and Nanny told me that she
would like to get up, and see about a padlock being put to
her door before night ; so I wished her good-bye, and left
her,



CHAPTER XL

Showing the great advantages to be derived from patronage.

JL LEFT old Nanny, and arrived at my mother's house in
time for breakfast. I did not, however, find her in a very
good humour ; something had evidently ruffled her. Virginia
also, who welcomed me most cordially, was taciturn and
grave. My mother made but one observation during our
repast.

"Well, Tom," said she, "you've found out what it is to
wish to marry for love ; I only wish it may be a lesson to
others."

To this evident attack upon Virginia, at the expense of
my feelings, I made no reply, and soon afterwards my
mother went to superintend her establishment, leaving me
and my sister alone.

" Tom," said she, " I hope by this time you are no longer
suffering from your late cruel disappointment. I have felt
for you, I assure you, and, assuring you of that, will not
again revert to the subject. Let her be blotted from your
memory as soon as possible."

" Be it so, my dear Virginia ; but you are grave, and my
mother is evidently out of humour. You must explain
this."

"That is easily done. I have made a sad mistake. I was

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POOR JACK

so much annoyed at my mother's system towards me that I
ventured, without her knowledge, to write to Lady Hercules,
requesting her protection and influence to procure me some
situation as a companion to a lady, amanuensis, or reader.
It appears that her ladyship was not very sincere in her
professions when we had an interview with her ; at all
events, her reply was anything but satisfactory, and, un-
fortunately, it was addressed to my mother, and not to me.
You can have no idea of my mother's indignation upon the
receipt of it, and she has not been sparing in her reproaches
to me for having written without her knowledge, and having,
by so doing, subjected her to such a mortification. 1 cer-
tainly am sorry to have done so. As for her ladyship's
answer, it would have been to me more a subject of mirth
than any other feeling. It has, however, proved the cause
of much annoyance from my mother's continually harping
upon it."

" Have you the letter of Lady Hercules ?"

" I have a copy of it, which I took, intending to have sent
it to you the next time that I wrote. I will bring it down
if you will wait a minute."

When Virginia returned she put the following epistle into
my hand :

" MRS. SAUNDERS, I have received a letter from your
daughter, which, I presume, was forwarded as a specimen
of her penmanship ; otherwise it was your duty to have
addressed me yourself. I said to your when I met you at
Greenwich, that you were educating your daughter above
her condition in life, and I now repeat it. My patronage
is extended only to those who are not above their situations,
which, I am sorry to observe, most people are now. Never-
theless, as I did say that I would exert my influence in your
daughter's behalf, in consequence of your having been a
decent, well-behaved menial to me, I have made inquiry
among my acquaintances, and find that I may be, possibly,
able to place her with my friend, Lady Towser, as a ' boudoir
assistant.' I have said possibly, as I am by no means sure
that she will be equal to the situation, and the number of
applicants are very numerous. The enclosed paper from Lady
Towser will give you an idea of what will be requisite :

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POOR JACK

" Morning^ up at six, and nicely dressed ; come in in list
shoes, and wait at bedside, in case Lady Tovvser should be
troubled with her morning cough, to hand the emulsion,
&c. At nine, to call and assist to dress Lady Towser's head
tirewoman ; follow her to Lady T.'s chamber, and obey
orders. Breakfast in housekeeper's room. After breakfast
assist housemaid to dust ornaments, and on Saturdays and
Wednesdays wash, comb, and examine dogs ; other days
comb and examine them only ; clean and feed macaw,
cockatoo, and parrot, also canary and other birds ; bring up
dogs' dinners, and prevent them fighting at meals. After
dogs' dinners read to Lady T. if required ; if not, get up
collars and flounces, laces, &c., for Lady T. and Lady T.'s
tirewoman. After your own dinner assist housekeeper as
required in the still-room ; fine needlework ; repair clothes
before they go to wash ; dress and brush Lady T.'s perukes ;
walk out with dogs if weather is fine, and be careful to
prevent their making any acquaintances whatever.

"Evening. Read to Lady T., write notes, look over bills,
and keep general accounts ; if not wanted, to make herself
useful in housekeeper's room, and obey all orders received
from her or head tirewoman. At night see that the hot
water is ready for Lady T.'s feet, and wait for her retiring
to bed ; wash Lady T.'s feet, and cut corns, as required ;
read Lady T. to sleep, or, if not required to read, wait till
she is certain that Lady T. is so.

" Now the only points in which I think your daughter
may fail is in properly washing, combing, and examining
the dogs, and cutting her ladyship's corns ; but surely she
can practise a little of both, as she will not be wanted for
a month. There can be no difficulty about the first ; and
as for the latter, as all people in your rank of life have corns,
she may practise upon yours or her father's. At all events,
there can be no want of corns in Greenwich Hospital among
the pensioners. I am desired to say that Lady T. gives
no wages the first year ; and you will be expected to send
your daughter neatly fitted out, that she may be able to
remain in the room when there is company. If this offer will
not suit, I can do nothing more ; the difficulty of patronage
increases every day. You will send an answer.

" VIRGINIA HAWKINGTREFYLYAN.
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POOR JACK

"I was just closing my letter when Lady Scrimmage came
in ; she tells me that Lady Towser is suited, and that you
have no hopes of this situation. I have done my best.
Lady Scrimmage has, however, informed me that she thinks
she can, upon my recommendation, do something for you in
Greenwich, as she deals largely with a highly respectable
and fashionable milliner of the same name as your own,
and with whom it would be of the greatest advantage to
your daughter to be placed as an apprentice, or something
of that sort. This is an opportunity not to be lost, and I
therefore have requested Lady S. to write immediately, and I
trust, by my patronage, she will gain a most enviable situation."

"That postscript is admirable," observed I, "and ought
to have put my mother in a good-humour. Is she not
called by Lady Hercules ' highly respectable and fashion-
able'?"'

"Very true," replied Virginia ; "but my mother cannot
get over the first part of the letter, in which she is men-
tioned as 'a. decent and well-behaved menial.' She has
since received a note from Lady Scrimmage, requesting
her to take me in some capacity or another, adding, by
way of postscript, 'You know you need not keep her if
you do not like it is very easy to send her away for idle-
ness or impertinence; but I wish to oblige Lady Hercules,
and so, pray, at all events, write and say that you will
try her.' "

" And what has my mother said in reply ? "

"She did not show me the answer; but, from what I
have collected from her conversation, she has written a
most haughty, and, I presume it will be said, a most im-
pertinent letter to both the ladies ; the one to Lady
Scrimmage accompanied with her bill, which has not
been paid these three years. I am sorry that my mother
has been annoyed. My father, to whom I related what
had taken place, told me that my mother was very ill
treated by Lady Hercules, and that she had smothered
her resentment with the hopes of benefiting her children
by her patronage ; but that was at a time when she little
expected to be so prosperous as she is now."

" It is all true, my dear girl ; I recollect my father telling

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POOR JACK

me the whole story. However, I presume my mother, now
that she can venture upon defiance, has not failed to resort
to it."

" That I am convinced of. I only hope that she will
carry her indignation against great people so far as not to
court them as she has done, and abandon all her ridiculous
ideas of making a match for me. After all, she has my
welfare sincerely at heart, and, although mistaken in the
means of securing it, I cannot but feel that she is actuated
solely by her love for me."

We then changed the conversation to Janet, about
whom I could now speak calmly ; after which I narrated
to her what had occuri'ed during the night, arid my in-
tention to consult with my father and Anderson upon the
subject.

Virginia then left me that she might assist her mother,
and I hastened to my father's ward, where I found him,
and, after our first greeting, requested that he would
accompany me to Anderson's office, as I had something to
communicate to them both. As 1 walked along with my
father I perceived Spicer at a corner with his foot on a
stone step and his hand to his knee, as if in pain. At last
he turned round and saw us. I walked up to him, and he
appeared a little confused as he said, " Ah ! Tom, is that
you ? I did not know you were at Greenwich."

" I came here last night," replied I ; " and I must be off
again soon. Are you lame ? "

"Lame! No; what should make me lame ? " replied he,
walking by the side of us as if he were not so.

I looked at his coat, and perceived that the third button
on the right side was missing.

" You've lost a button, Spicer," observed I.

" So I have," replied he ; and, as we had now arrived at
Anderson's door, my father and I turned from him to walk
in and wished him good-bye.

Anderson was in his office, and as soon as the door was
closed I communicated to them what had occurred during
the night, expressing my conviction that Spicer was the
party who had attempted the murder. In corroboration I
reminded my father of the loss of the button from Spicer's
coat, and produced the one which Nanny had torn off.

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POOR JACK

"This is something more than suspicion," observed
Anderson ; " but if, as you say, old Nanny will not give
evidence against him, I know not what can be done. Did
you say that the old woman wanted to speak with me ? "

" Yes, and I really wish that you would call there
oftener."

" Well," replied Anderson, " I'll go, Tom ; but, to be plain
with you, I do not think that I can be of much use there.
I have been several times : she will gossip as long as you
please ; but if you would talk seriously, she turns a deaf
ear. You see, Tom, there's little to be gained when you
have to contend with such a besetting sin as avarice. It
is so powerful, especially in old age, that it absorbs all other
feelings. Still it is my duty, and it is also my sincere wish,
to call her to a proper sense of her condition. The poor
old creature is, like myself, not very far from the grave ;
and, when once in it, it will be too late. I will go, Tom,
and most thankful shall I be if, with God's help, I may
prove of service to her."

We then left old Anderson to his duties, and my father
went home with me. We had a long conversation relative
to my sister, as well as about my own affairs. I had in-
tended to have remained some days at Greenwich, but
this was the first time that I had been there since Janet's
desertion, and the sight of everything so reminded me
of her, and made everything so hateful to me, that I
became very melancholy. My mother was, moreover, very
cross, and my sister anything but comfortable ; and, on
the third day, having received a letter from Bramble,
stating that he had arrived at Deal, and that the easterly
winds having again set in, they talked of setting out
again in the galley, I made this an excuse for leaving ;
and for the first time did I quit Greenwich without regret.



279



POOR JACK



CHAPTER XLI

In which it is proved that sailors have very correct ideas as to
metempsychosis.

_L HE day after my return to Deal I again embarked with
Bramble and three others, to follow up our vocation. The
second day we were abreast of the Ram Head, when the
men in another pilot boat, which had come out of Plymouth
and was close to us, waved their hats and kept away to
speak to us. We hove-to for them.

" Have you heard the news ?" cried one of the men.

"No."

''Lord Nelson has beat the French and Spanish fleet."

" Glad to hear it huzza ! "

"Lord Nelson's killed."

" Lord Nelson's killed ! ! " The intelligence was repeated
from mouth to mouth, and then every voice was hushed ;
the other boat hauled her wind without further communi-
cation, nor did we at the time think of. asking for any
more. The shock which was given to the whole country
was equally felt by those who were seeking their bread in
a small boat, and for some little while we steered our
course in silence.

"What d'ye say, my lads?" said Bramble, who first broke
silence ; " shall we haul up for Cawsand, and get a paper ?
I shan't be content till I know the whole history."

This was consented to unanimously ; no one thought of
piloting vessels for the moment, and earning food for their
families. When the country awarded a public funeral to
our naval hero, it did not pay him a more sincere tribute
than was done in this instance by five pilots in a galley. At
Cawsand we obtained the newspaper, and after a few pots
of beer, we again made sail for the mouth of the Channel.
It hardly need be observed, that the account of this winding-
up, as it proved, of our naval triumphs, with the death of
Nelson, was the subject of conversation for more than one
day. On the third, we were all separated, having fallen in

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POOR JACK

with many wind-bound vessels who required our services.
The one I took charge of was a West Indiaman, deeply
laden with rum and sugar, one of a convoy which were
beating about in the Chops of the Channel. As we were
standing out from the English coast, the captain and one of
the passengers were at the taffrail close to me.

" What do you think of the weather, pilot ? " said the
captain.

" I think we shall have a change of wind, and dirty
weather before twelve hours are over our heads," replied I.

" Well," said he, " that's my opinion ; there is a cloud
rising in the south-west ; and, look, there are some Mother
Carey's chickens dipping in the water astern."

" Where ? " said the passenger, a curly-headed Creole,
about twenty years old.

" Those small birds," replied the captain, walking forward.

The passenger went down below, and soon returned with
his double-barrelled fowling-pieue.

" I have long wished to shoot one of those birds," said
he ; " and now they are so near, I think I may get a
shot."

He raised his piece several times without firing, when
the captain came aft, and perceiving his intention, caught
his arm as he was about to level again.

" I beg your pardon, Mr. Higgins, but I really must
request that you will not fire at those birds."

"Why not?"

" Because I cannot permit it."

" But what's to hinder me ? " replied the young man,
colouring up ; " they are not in your manifest, I pre-
sume."

" No, sir, they are not ; but I tell you frankly, that I
would not kill one for a hundred pounds. Nay, I would
as soon murder one of my fellow-creatures."

"Well, that may be your feeling, but it's not mine."

" Nevertheless, sir, as it is, to say the least of it, very
unlucky, you will oblige me by yielding to my request."

"Nonsense ! just to humour your superstitious feeling."

"We are not in port yet, Mr. Higgins; and I must insist
upon it you do not fire. You have taken my gunpowder,
and I cannot allow it to be used in that way."

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POOR JACK

During this altercation I observed that many of the
sailors had come aft, and, although they said nothing,
were evidently of the same opinion as the captain. I was
aware that there was a superstitious feeling among the
seamen relative to these birds, but I had never seen it so
strongly exemplified before.

The mate gave a wink to the captain, behind the pas-
senger's back, and made a motion to him to go forward,
which the captain did. The passenger again raised his gun,
when it was seized by two of the seamen.

" You must not fire at these birds, sir ! " said one of
them.

" Why, you scoundrel ? I'll give you the contents of both
barrels if you don't leave my gun alone."

" No, you won't you're not among niggers now, master,"
replied the seaman; "and as you have threatened to shoot
me, I must take the gun from you."

A scuffle ensued, during which both barrels were dis-
charged in the air, and the gun taken from Mr. Higgins^
who was boiling with rage. The gun was handed forward,
and I saw it no more. Mr. Higgins, in a state of great
excitement, went down into the cabin.

The captain then came aft to me, when I observed that
I had no idea that seamen were so very particular on that
point ; and I thought that they had gone too far.

" You may think so, pilot," replied he ; " but when I tell
you that I fully 'believe that these birds are as good as our-
selves, you will not be surprised "

" How do you mean, as good as ourselves ? "

" I believe that they mere every one sailors like ourselves
in former times ; they are now the sailors' friends, come to
warn us of the approaching storm ; and I can tell you a cir-
cumstance which occurred in the West Indies, which fully
proves to me that they are not wantonly killed without a
judgment upon those who do so. I never believed it my-
self till then ; but old Mason, who is now on board, was
one of the seamen of the vessel in which the circumstance
happened."

" Indeed ! " replied I, " I should like to hear it."

" I can't tell you now," said he ; "I must go down and
satisfy that puppy Creole, whose sugars are on board ; he

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POOR JACK

will otherwise make such a row between me and the owners,
that I may lose the command of the vessel. And yet, would
you imagine it ? although he will not credit what I tell him
about Mother Carey's chickens, the foolish young man firmly
believes in the Obi."

1 did not think one superstition more ridiculous than the
other, but still, as I always found that it was useless to argue
such points, I said nothing, and the captain went down into
the cabin to pacify Mr. Higgins.

It was late in the first watch, and when the passengers had
retired to bed, that the captain came on deck. "Well," said
he, " I told Mr. Higgins my story, and as there was a bit of
Obi nonsense in it, he believed it, and he has not only made
friends, but thanked me for not having allowed him to shoot
the birds. And now I'll tell you the real story :

"A schooner was coming down from the Virgin Isles with
sugar and passengers to Antigua, where I was lying with my
ship. She had a fine young fellow of the name of Shedden
on board ; and, besides other passengers, there was an old
black woman, who, where she resided, had always been con-
sidered as an Obi woman. I saw her afterwards ; and you
never beheld such a complication of wrinkles as she was,
from her forehead to her feet, and her woolly head was as
white as snow. They were becalmed as soon as they were
clear of the islands ; and, as it happened, some Mother
Carey's chickens were flying about the stern. Shedden must
needs get at his gun to shoot them. The old black
woman sat near the taffrail ; she saw him with his gun,
but she said nothing. At last he fired, and killed three
of them.

" ' There are three down ! ' cried out some of the other
passengers.

" ' How many ? ' said the old woman, raising her head ;
' three ! Then count the sharks which are coming up.'

" ' Count the sharks, mother ! why count them ? There's
plenty of them,' replied Shedden, laughing.

" ' I tell you that there will be but three sent/ replied
the old woman, who then sunk down her head and said no
more.

" Well, the negroes who were passengers on board, most
of them Mr. Shedden's slaves, look very blank, for they knew

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POOR JACK

that old Etau never spoke without reason. In about ten
minutes afterwards, three large sharks swam up to the vessel,
with their fins above water.

" ' There's the three sharks, sure enough ! ' said the pas-
sengers.

" ' Are they come ? ' said Etau, raising her head.

" ' Yes, moder, dere dey be very large shark/ replied one
of the negroes.

" ' Then three are doomed/ said the old woman, ' and here
we stay, and the waves shall not run, nor the wind blow,
till the three sharks have their food. I say three are
doomed ! '

"The passengers were more or less alarmed with this
prophecy of old Etau's, according as they put faith in her;
however, they all went to bed quite well, and the next
morning they got up the same. Still there was not a breath
of wind, the whole sea was as smooth as glass, and the vessel
laid where she was the night before, in about six fathoms
water, about a mile from the reef, and you could see the
coral rocks beneath her bottom as plain as if they were high
and dry ; and what alarmed them the next morning was that
the three large sharks were still slowly swimming round and



Online LibraryFrederick MarryatPoor Jack; and The settlers in Canada → online text (page 25 of 58)