Copyright
Frederick Marryat.

Poor Jack; and The settlers in Canada online

. (page 4 of 58)
Online LibraryFrederick MarryatPoor Jack; and The settlers in Canada → online text (page 4 of 58)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


orders, although he would wink at any little sky-larking,
walking aft, shutting his eyes, and pretending not to see or
hear it. His usual phrase was, ' My man, you've got your
duty to do, and I've got mine.' And this he repeated fifty
times a day ; so at last he went by the name of ' Old Duty.'
I think I see him now, walking up and down with his spy-
glass under his left arm, and the hand of the other pushed
into his breast, as if he were fumbling for a flea. His hat
was always split and worn in the front, from constantly taking
it off, instead of touching it, when he came on the quarter-
deck ; and, as soon as it was too far gone in front to raise the
purchase off his head, he used to shift it end for end, bring-
ing the back part in front, and then he would wear it, until,
as the Yankees say, it was in ' taterations altogether,' and he
was forced to bend a new one.

" Now, we had a boy on board, who entered one day when
the captain landed at Torquay to dine with a friend. His
name was Jack Jervis : his father and his whole tribe had
been fishermen for as long as could be remembered ; and
Jack himself had been drafted out of his cradle into a coble,
and there he had continued day and night, from one year's
end to another, helping his father to fish so, you see, it had
become second nature to him ; and after he came on board,
his liking for his former calling still remained with him, and
he never was so happy as when his line was overboard, or
when he was snooding a hook in some corner or another.
He went by the name of Jack the Fisherman ; and a smart,
active, willing lad he was, sure enough.

" Now, there was a little difficulty between Old Duty and
Jack the Fisherman. Old Duty would not allow the lines to
be overboard when the ship was in harbour ; as he said it was
untidy in appearance, and that there was always plenty of
work, and no time for fishing. So Jack hadn't pulled up his
line ten or a dozen times before he was pulled up himself.
' Whose line's that ? ' says Old Duty. ' Mine, sir,' says Jack,
touching his hat. ' I don't allow fishing, young man,' said
the first lieutenant. ' You understand me ? I don't allow
fishing. You've your duty to do, sir, and I've got mine."

28



POOR JACK

" Jack, who had only been two or three days on board, and
who, I believe, would never have entered had he known that
there would have been such a ' tveto,' as the boatswain used
to call it, looked quite astonished, and said

" ' What, mayn't I fish, sir ? '

" ' No, my man, you must not fish without permission ; and
that I never give in harbour. If I catch you fishing again,
you get two dozen at the gun, recollect that. You've got
your duty to do, and I've got mine.'

" Well, Jack could not give up his habit, so he used to fish
at night, and all night long, out of the fore-chains ; but it so
happened that the ship's corporal caught Jack in the middle
watch, and reports him to the first lieutenant.

"'So, you've been fishing again, sir,' says Old Duty. 'No,
sir,' replied Jack, 'not fishing only laying night lines.'

" ' Oh ! that's it,' replied the first lieutenant ; ' only laying
night lines ! Pray, what's the difference ? ' ' Please, sir,'
said Jack, touching his hat, ' the difference is that it's not
the same thing.'

" ' Well, sir, I see but one difference, and I'll meet it accord-
ingly. You've your duty to do, and I've got mine.'

"The boys' heads and ears having been pulled about and
examined by the master-at-arms, they were dismissed ; and
Jack thought that he had got off but he was mistaken.

"After the hammocks had been piped down, and it was
dark, the boys were ordered up by the master-at-arms ; Jack
was seized to the gun, and had his two dozen. ' There, sir,'
said Old Duty, as they cast the seizings off, 'if fishing at
night is not fishing, punishment at night is not punishment.
Now we're quits. You've your duty to do, and I've got
mine.'

" I don't think that Jack perceived any more difference in
the two dozen at night-time, than the first lieutenant did
between day and night fishing ; however, Jack did not fish
for some time afterwards. But it so happened that the first
lieutenant was asked on shore to dine with the port-admiral ;
and although he seldom left the ship, he could not refuse
such a compliment, and so he went. As soon as it was dark,
Jack thought his absence too good an opportunity not to
have a fish ; so he goes into the mizen-chains, and drops his
line. Well, he fished (but I don't know whether he caught

29



POOR JACK

any) till the boat was hailed in which the first lieutenant was
coming on board, and then Jack thought it time to haul in
his line ; but just at that moment there was a jerk, and
Jack, who knew that fish was at the bait, could not for the
life of him pull up his line for, you see, he was a fisherman
heart and soul ; so Jack trusted to Providence, and the first
lieutenant's going down below as soon as he came on
deck.

"Now, you see, the ship was lying at the time 'cross the
tide, the wind blowing against the current ; the starboard
side (being to leeward as to the wind, but to windward as to
the tide) had been cleared away, and manned for the boat,
and Jack made sure that the first lieutenant would pull to
that side ; but he was mistaken. Whether it was that the
first lieutenant wished to have a look round the ship or not,
I do not know, but he pulled across the bows, and went
round the stern, passing the larboard side. As he passed,
Jack shrunk under the lee of the deadeyes and lanyards,
hoping he might not be seen ; but the first lieutenant, having
the clear horizon on the other side, perceived the line which
Jack had half hauled up, and having an eye like a cat,
makes out Jack also.

" ' I see you, sir I see you, Mr. Jervis, fishing again, sir.
Very well,' cried the first lieutenant from the stern-sheets
of the boat, as he passed by. ' You've your duty to do,
and I've got mine.' ' That's as good as two dozen to-morrow
morning at muster,' thought Jack, who cui'sed his luck, and
in a very melancholy mood began to haul up his line, which,
as soon as he had been discovered, he had let go down to
the bottom again. Now, it so happened that, as Old Duty
went up the other side, his foot slipped ; and how it was I
can't tell, for they say he wasn't the least groggy, but down
he fell, between the boat's gunnel and the ship's side, just
like a deep-sea lead, and disappeared. There being so few
men on deck, there was not much of a bustle there was a
dive or two for him with the boat-hook, but all in vain
Old Duty was gone.

" In the meantime, Jack on the other side was slowly
hauling up his line ; but he had not got it half-way up when
he felt a heavy strain, and he thought that a large conger
eel had followed the bait up, as they do sometimes, and he

30



POOR JACK

hauled and hauled with all his might. At last, who should
he bring to the surface of the water but Old Duty, who had
been sucked under the ship's bottom by the tide, and had
been hooked by Jack, as he was pulling up. When Jack saw
it was the first lieutenant, as he told me, his first idea was to
let him down again ; but that was only for a moment. The
words of the first lieutenant still rang in his ears, ' You've
your duty to do, and I've got mine ' so Jack did his duty.
He hollows out that he had caught Old Duty, and the boat
shifted round and took him on board. The old fellow was
quite senseless ; but as he had been but a short time in the
water, he was put to bed, and resuscitated by the surgeon.
The next morning he was all just as if nothing had happened,
walking the deck with his right hand in his breast, and his
spy-glass under his left arm, as usual.

" Well, we all told Jack that he was safe this time, but
Jack seemed to think otherwise. He shook his head ; and
now you'll learn who was right.

" When the boys were all mustered next morning, towing
a line, and holding out their paws, the first lieutenant turns
round, and says, ' Jervis, you were fishing last night, against
my orders.' ' Yes, sir,' said Jervis, 'and I catched a first
lieutenant ; ' for Jack had a good deal of fun in him. ' Yes,
sir, and queer fishes they are sometimes,' replies Old Duty ;
' but you forget that you have also catched two dozen. You
have your duty to do, and I've got mine.'

" Well, as you may suppose, there were many of us looking
abaft, just to see what would take place, and were not a little
astonished at the idea of his rewarding Jack with two dozen
for saving his life ; however, of course, we were mum. Jack
was tied up, and the first lieutenant whispered a word into
the ear of his master-at-arms, who again whispered to Williams,
the boatswain's mate ; and the effect of that whisper was, that
the cat was laid on so lightly that Jack hardly felt it ; so
lightly, indeed, that the first lieutenant walked away aft, that
he might not appear to be a party in the consarn, and Jack
was cast off without having half a tear in either eye, when
Old Duty went up to him.

" ' You fished last night against orders, and therefore you
have received your punishment. You saved my life last
night, and therefore it is my duty to reward you. I could

*



POOR JACK

dot let you off this punishment, as it would be making the
King pay you for me, instead of my paying you myself. I'm
not a rich man, but here's ten guineas for your purse, and
here's my gold watch. Spend the first usefully, and keep
the other; and observe, Jack Jervis, if ever you are again
caught fishing in harbour, you will as surely get two dozen
for your pains. You've your duty to do, and I've got
mine.' "

" Well, messmate, that's a queer story altogether, and
queerer fellows in it. I wouldn't have minded sailing with
that Old Duty. Suppose we drink his health."

" With all my heart ; for you're right, old chap : when we
knows what we are to expect, we're always ready to meet it ;
but some officers I've sailed with shift about like a dog-vane,

and there's no knowing how to meet them. I recollect

But I say, Jack, suppose you turn in your eyes are wink-
ing and blinking like an owl's in the sunshine. You're
tired, boy, so go to bed. We shan't tell any more yarns
to-night."

I was very tired indeed, and could not keep my eyes open
any longer ; so I went upstairs, and was asleep almost as
soon as I laid my head upon the pillow.



CHAPTER VII

In which my mother gives my father a scriptural lesson. My
father's grief at parting with an old friend he expostulates
with my mother and quits the house.

JL WOKE early the next morning ; for the whole night I
had been restless, and dreaming of the unusual occurrences
of the day before. It was just daylight, and I was recalling
what had passed, and wondering what had become of my
father, when I heard a noise in my mother's room. I listened
the door opened, and she went downstairs.

This surprised me ; and being conscious, even at my age,
of the vindictive temper shown by my mother upon every
occasion, and anxious to know where my father was, I could
not remain in bed ; I put on my trousers, and crept softly

32



POOR JACK

downstairs without my shoes. The door of the front room
was ajar, and I looked in. The light was dimly peering
through the window which pointed to the alley ; the table
was covered with the empty pipes, tobacco, and large pools
of beer and liquor which had been spilt on it ; the sofa was
empty, and my father, who evidently had become deeply in-
toxicated the night before, was lying on the sanded floor
with his face downwards ; my mother, in her short dressing-
gown and flannel petticoat, was standing over him, her teeth
set, her fists clenched, and arms raised, w r ith a dire expression
of revenge in her countenance. I thought at the time that
I never saw her look so ugly I may say, so horrid ; even
now her expression at that moment is not effaced from my
memory. After a few minutes she knelt down and put her
ear close to his head, as if to ascertain whether he was in a
sound sleep ; she then took a knife from off the table, felt
the edge, looked at my prostrate father, and raised it. I
would have screamed, but my tongue was glued to my lips
with horror. She appeared to reflect, and after a time laid
the knife down on the table, put the palm of her hand up to
her forehead, and then a smile gleamed over her moody
features. " Yes, if he murders me ; but they will be better,"
muttered she at last. She went to the cupboard, took out
a large pair of scissors, and, kneeling down by my father,
commenced severing his long pigtail from his head. My
father was too sound asleep to be roused : in a minute the
tail was off, and my mother rose up, holding it, with an
expression of the utmost contempt, between her finger and
thumb. She then very softly laid it down by his side, and
replaced the scissors in the cupboard ; as I expected that
she would go upstairs again, I concealed myself in the back
kitchen. I was correct in my supposition. A moment after-
wards I heard her ascending the stairs, and go into her own
room.

I must say that I felt indignant at this conduct of my
mother's, as, so far from provocation, she had hardly received
the reward of previous treachery. I believe, however, that,
like most people, I was actuated by my own feelings towards
my mother, who had treated me so unkindly. I thought for
a little while what would my mother do ? She would
hardly remain in the house, to meet the wrath of my father

33 o



POOR JACK

when he made the discovery. She would escape him : this
I had no wish that she should do ; so I went softly into the
front parlour, and pushed rr.y father to awake him. For
some time this was useless ; he muttered and growled, but it
appeared impossible to rouse him. There were the remains
of a jug of water on the table ; and, as I had seen the same
thing done before to a drunken sailor, I took the jug, and
poured the water softly on the nape of his neck. In a
minute or two this had the effect of waking him ; he turned
over, opened his eyes, and when I put my finger to my lips
to intimate silence, he looked at me with a vacant stare.
Time pressed ; I heard my mother moving about upstairs,
and I was afraid that she would leave the house before my
father had recovered his senses. I therefore took his pigtail
from the floor, and held it up before him. This appeared to
surpi'ise him ; he fixed his eyes upon it for a few seconds,
and then, as if at last suspecting what had taken place, he
put his hand to the back of his head, and found no pigtail
there. Suddenly he jumped up ; he appeared to be sobered
all at once. He caught the tail out of my hand, looked at it,
felt convinced of his loss, threw himself down on the sofa,
and wept like a child.

" I saw my mother do it, father," said I, whispering in his
ear. This appeared to recall him ; he raised himself up,
wiped his eyes with the back of his hand, ground his teeth,
and shook his head. He threw his tail on the floor, and, as
he eyed it, a deep melancholy spread over his countenance.
After a minute or two he folded his arms, and thus lamented
over it :

" Well, I never would have thought it, had they told me
that you and I should have parted company. Many, many
years has it taken you to grow to your present length ; often
have you been handled, often have you been combed, and
often have you been tied. Many's the eel has been skinned
for your sarvice, and many's the yard of ribbon which you
have cost me ; you have been the envy of my shipmates, the
fancy of the women, and the pride of poor Tom Saunders.
I thought we should never have parted on 'arth, and, if so be
my sins were forgiven me, and I could show a fair log, that I
might be permitted to wear you in the world which is to
come. But there you are parted for all the world like a

34



POOR JACK

limb shot off in action, never to he spliced again. What am
I to say when I go on board ? I shall have a short tale to
tell, instead of a long tail to show. And the wife of my
busum to do this ! Well, I married too high, and now my
pride is laid low. Jack, never marry a lady's ladies' maid ;
for it appears that the longer the names, the more venomous
the cattle be."

Just as he had finished, I heard my mother coming down-
stairs with Virginia, whom she had taken up and dressed,
to take away with her. " Hush ! " I heard her softly say to
Virginia, " don't speak, dear, or you'll wake your naughty
father."

She had hardly said this, when she made her appearance,
with Virginia on one arm, and a large bundle on the other.
But as soon as she perceived that my father was awake, and
cognisant of her revenge, she uttered a loud scream, dropped
Virginia and the bundle, and running upstairs to her own
room, locked herself in.

Poor little Virginia set up a roar at this very unusual (and
I believe felonious) act of child-dropping on the part of my
mother. I ran to her, and carried her to the sofa, while my
father, with compressed lips, first taking two or three quarter-
deck strides up and down the room, locked the street door,
put the key in his pocket, and then ascended the stairs to
pay a visit to my mother, who, I believe, would very willingly
have been " not at home," but some people are importunate,
and will take no refusal ; and when my father retired three
or four steps from the door, and with a sudden run brought
the whole weight of his foot to bear upon it, it flew open.
At first my mother was not visible, my father thought she
had escaped ; but at last he spied her legs under the bed.
Seizing her by her extremities, he dragged her out, without
any regard to propriety, until he had her into the middle of
the room with his foot upon her. What a situation for a
lady's ladies' maid ! I had put Virginia down on the sofa,
and crept up the stairs to see what took place. My father
and mother were in these relative positions, and he thus
addressed her

" I have heard say that a man mustn't thrash his wife with
anything thicker than his own thumb. That's as may be
and I do recollect when the first lieutenant wanted to cut off

35



POOR JACK

the men's hair, that the purser told him that it was felony,
under the Act of cutting and maiming. I don't know whether
the first lieutenant would have made a felony or not, but
this I'm sartain of he'd have made a mutiny. You desarve
no mercy, and you shall have none. This pigtail of mine
shall be what I shall use upon you, and if the colt is heavy,
recollect you cut it for yourself; and as you may not be able
to hear what I say by the time I have done with you, I'll
just tell you now. I'll point the end, and work a mouse on
this pigtail of mine, and never part with it. I'll keep it
for your own particular use, and for nobody else's ; and
as sartain as I come back, so sartain every time I come you
shall have a taste of pigtail without chewing, my lady's ladies'
maid."

Having made this uncommon long speech, to which my
mother offered no reply, her eyes being fixed in terror upon
the brandished tail, which was nearly as thick as her own
arm, my father proceeded to put his threats into execution.
Blow resounded after blow ; my mother's cries became feebler
and feebler, until at last she appeared senseless. Then I ran
to my father, and clinging to his leg, cried, " O father, she's
dead ! "

This observation induced him to leave off. He looked at
my mother's face ; her eyes were closed, and her jaw had
fallen. " Well, she had enough of it this time," said my
father after a pause ; " maybe, too much on it. But when I
looks at this tail in my hand, I feel as if I could still give her
more. And if she be dead, I think the judge would not
hang me, if I showed him what I have lost. I'd rather have
parted with an arm or a leg any day of the week. There's
been provocation enough, at all events, if she be dead a
saint in heaven couldn't stand it."

During these remarks my mother gave no signs of returning
animation, and at last my father became seriously alarmed.
"Jack," said he, "I must cut my stick, or they may put me
into limbo. As soon as I have cleared out, do you run for a
doctor to look at your mother ; and mind you don't forget to
tell that old chap who was boozing with me last night every-
thing which has happened, and the people will say, come
what will on it, that I was aggravated sufficient ; and, Jack,
if there be a crowner's inquest, mind you tell the truth. You

36



POOR JACK

know I didn't want to kill the old woman, don't you, my boy ?
for didn't I say that I'd keep the tail to give her another
dose when I came back again ? that proves I didn't intend
that she should slip her wind, you know, boy. I said I'd
give her another dose, you know, Jack and/' continued my
father, " so I will, if I find her above ground when I comes
back again."

My father then went downstairs. Little Virginia had fallen
asleep again on the sofa ; my father kissed her softly, shook
hands with me, and put a crown in my hand. He then un-
locked the door, and, thrusting the end of his pigtail into his
breast, coiled it, as it were, round his body, hastened down
the alley, and was soon out of sight.



CHAPTER VIII

In which the doctor pays a visit and receives no fee ; and I am
obliged to work very hard to procure myself a livelihood.

J_ DID not forget my father's injunctions, for I was very much
frightened. There was a doctor who lived half-way up Church
Street, a short distance from Fisher's Alley. He was a little
man with a large head sunk down between two broad shoulders ;
his eyes were small and twinkling, his nose snubbed, his pate
nearly bald ; but on the sides of his head the hair was long
and flowing. But if his shoulders were broad, the rest of his
body was not in the same proportion for he narrowed as he
descended, his hips being very small, and his legs as thin as
those of a goat. His real name was Todpoole, but the
people invariably called him Tadpole, and he certainly
in appearance somewhat reminded you of one. He was
a facetious little fellow, and, it was said, very clever in
his profession.

"Doctor Tadpole," cried I, out of breath with running,
"come quick, my mother is very bad indeed."

" What's the matter ? " said he, peering over a mortar in
which he was rubbing up something with the pestle. "Ex-
ternal or internal ? "

37



POOR JACK

Although I did not know what he meant, I replied, " Both,
doctor, and a great deal more besides."

" That's bad indeed," replied Tadpole, still rubbing away.

" But you must come directly," cried I. " Come along
quick ! "

" Festina lente, good boy that's Latin for hat and boots.
Tom, are my boots clean ? "

" Ye'es, sir," replied a carroty-headed boy, whom I knew
well.

The doctor laid down his pestle, and taking his seat on
a chair, began very leisurely to pull on his boots, whilst I
stamped with impatience.

" Now, do be quick, doctor, my mother will be dead."

"Jack," said the doctor, grinning, as he pulled on his
second boot, "people don't die so quick before the doctor
comes it's always afterwards ; however, I'm glad to see
you are so fond of your mother. Tom, is my hat brushed ? "

" Ye'es, sir," replied Tom, bringing the doctor's hat.

"Now then, Jack, I'm all ready. Tom, mind the shop,
and don't eat the stick-liquorice d'ye hear?"

" Ye'es, sir," said Tom, with a grin from ear to ear.

The doctor followed me very quick, for he thought from
my impatience that something serious must be the matter.
He walked up to my mother's room, and I hastened to open
the door ; when, to my surprise, I found my mother standing
before the glass arranging her hair.

" Well ! " exclaimed my mother, " this is very pretty be-
haviour forcing your way into a lady's room."

The doctor stared, and so did I. At last I exclaimed,
"Well ! father thought he'd killed her."

" Yes," cried my mother, " and he's gone away with it on
his conscience, that's some comfort. He won't come back in
a hurry ; he thinks he has committed murder, the unfeeling
brute ! Well, I've had my revenge."

And as she twisted up her hair, my mother burst out
screaming

" Little Bopeep, she lost her sheep,

And couldn't tell where to find him ;
She found him, indeed, but it made her heart bleed,
For he left his tail behind him."
33



POOR JACK

"Why, then, doctor, it was all sham," exclaimed I.
f< Yes ; and the doctor's come on a fool's errand

'' ' Goosey, Goosey Gander,
Whither dost thou wander ?
Upstairs and downstairs,
And in a lady's chamber.' "

The doctor shrugged up his shoulders so that his head
disappeared between them ; at last he said, " Your mother



Online LibraryFrederick MarryatPoor Jack; and The settlers in Canada → online text (page 4 of 58)