The Dominie cast a look at Mary, which was intended for her alone, but which was not unperceived by young Tom or me. "We shall have some fun, Jacob," said he, aside, as we all sat down to the table, which just admitted six, with close stowage. The Dominie on one side of Mary, Tom on the other, Stapleton next to Tom, then I and old Tom, who closed in on the other side of the Dominie, putting one of his timber toes on the old gentleman's corns, which induced him to lift up his leg in a hurry, and draw his chair still closer to Mary, to avoid a repetition of the accident; while old Tom was axing pardon, and Stapleton demonstrating that, on the part of old Tom, not to feel with a wooden leg, and on the part of the Dominie, to feel with a bad corn, was all nothing but "human natur'." At last we were all seated, and Mary, who had provided for the evening, produced two or three pots of beer, a bottle of spirits, pipes, and tobacco.
"Liberty Hall—I smokes," said Stapleton, lighting his pipe, and falling back on his chair.
"I'll put a bit of clay in my mouth too," followed up old Tom; "it makes one thirsty, and enjoy one's liquor."
"Well, I malts," said Tom, reaching a pot of porter, and taking a long pull. "What do you do, Jacob?"
"I shall wait a little, Tom."
"And what do you do, sir?" said Mary to the Dominie. The Dominie shook his head. "Nay but you must—or I shall think you do not like my company. Come, let me fill a pipe for you." Mary filled a pipe, and handed it to the Dominie, who hesitated, looked at her, and was overcome. He lighted it, and smoked furiously.
"The ice is breaking up—we shall have a change of weather—the moon quarters to-morrow," observed old Tom, puffing between every observation; "and then honest men may earn their bread again. Bad times for you, old codger, heh!" continued he, addressing Stapleton. Stapleton nodded an assent through the smoke, which was first perceived by old Tom. "Well, he ar'nt deaf, a'ter all; I thought he was only shamming a bit. I say, Jacob, this is the weather to blow your fingers, and make your eyes bright."
"Rather to blow a cloud and make your eyes water," replied Tom, taking up the pot: "I'm just as thirsty with swallowing smoke, as if I had a pipe myself—at all events, I pipe my eye. Jacob," continued Tom, to me apart, "do look how the old gentleman is funking Mary, and casting sheeps' eyes at her through the smoke."
"He appears as if he were inclined to board her in the smoke," replied I.
"Yes, and she to make no fight of it, but surrender immediately," said Tom.
"Don't you believe it, Tom; I know her better; she wants to laugh at him—nothing more; she winked her eye at me just now, but I would not laugh, as I did not choose that the old gentleman should be trifled with. I will tax her severely to-morrow."
During all this time old Tom and Stapleton smoked in silence: the Dominie made use of his eyes in dumb parlance to Mary, who answered him with her own bright glances, and Tom and I began to find it rather dull; when at last old Tom's pipe was exhausted, and he laid it down; "There, I'll smoke no more—the worst of a pipe is that one can't smoke and talk at the same time. Mary, my girl, take your eyes off the Dominie's nose, and hand me that bottle of stuff. What, glass to mix it in; that's more genteel than we are on board, Tom." Tom filled a rummer of grog, took half off at a huge sip, and put it down on the table. "Will you do as we do, sir?" said he, addressing the Dominie.
"Nay, friend Dux, nay—pr'ythee persuade me not—avaunt!" and the Dominie, with an appearance of horror, turned away from the bottle handed towards him by old Tom.
"Not drink anything?" said Mary to the Dominie, looking at him with surprise, "but indeed you must, or I shall think you despise us, and do not think us fit to be in your company."
"Nay, maiden, entreat me not. Ask anything of me but this," replied the Dominie.
"Ask anything but this—that's just the way people have of refusing," replied Mary; "were I to ask anything else, it would be the same answer—'ask anything but this.' Now, if you will not drink to please me, I shall quarrel with you. You shall drink a glass, and I'll mix it for you." The Dominie shook his head. Mary made a glass of grog, and then put it to her lips. "Now, if you refuse to drink it, after I have tasted it, I'll never speak to you again." So saying, she handed the glass to the Dominie.
"Verily, maiden, I must needs refuse, for I did make a mental vow."
"What vow was that? was it sworn on the Bible?"
"Nay, not on the sacred book, but in my thoughts most solemnly."
"Oh! I make those vows every day, and never keep one of them; so that won't do. Now, observe, I give you one more chance. I shall drink a little more, and if you do not immediately put your lips to the same part of the tumbler, I'll never drink to you again;" Mary put the tumbler again to her lips, drank a little, with her eyes fixed upon the Dominie, who watched her with distended nostrils and muscular agitation of countenance. With her sweetest smile, she handed him the tumbler; the Dominie half held out his hand, withdrew it, put it down again, and by degrees took the tumbler. Mary conquered, and I watched the malice of her look as the liquor trickled down the Dominie's throat. Tom and I exchanged glances. The Dominie put down the tumbler, and then, looking round, like a guilty person, coloured up to the eyes; but Mary, who perceived that her victory was but half achieved, put her hand upon his shoulder, and asked him to let her taste the grog again. I also, to make him feel more at ease, helped myself to a glass. Tom did the same, and old Tom with more regard to the feelings of the Dominie than in his own bluntness of character I would have given him credit for, said in a quiet tone, "The old gentleman is afraid of grog, because he seed me take a drop too much, but that's no reason why grog ar'n't a good thing, and wholesome in moderation. A glass or two is very well, and better still when sweetened by the lips of a pretty girl; and, even if the Dominie does not like it, he's too much of a gentleman not to give up his dislikes to please a lady. More's the merit; for, if he did like it, it would be no sacrifice, that's sartain. Don't you think so, my old boozer?" continued he, addressing Stapleton, who smoked in silence.
"Human natur'," replied Stapleton, taking the pipe out of his mouth, and spitting under the table.
"Very true, master; and so here's to your health, Mr Dominie, and may you never want a pretty girl to talk to, or a glass of grog to drink her health with."
"Oh, but the Dominie don't care about pretty girls, father," replied Tom; "he's too learned and clever; he thinks about nothing but the moon, and Latin and Greek, and all that."
"Who can say what's under the skin, Tom? There's no knowing what is, and what isn't—Sall's shoe for that."
"Never heard of Sall's shoe, father; that's new to me."
"Didn't I ever tell you that, Tom?—Well, then, you shall have it now— that is, if all the company be agreeable."
"Oh, yes," cried Mary; "pray tell us."
"Would you like to hear it, sir?"
"I never heard of Sall Sue in my life, and would fain hear her history," replied the Dominie; "proceed, friend Dux."
"Well, then, you must know when I was a-board of the Terp-sy-chore, there was a fore-topman, of the name of Bill Harness, a good sort of chap enough, but rather soft in the upper-works. Now, we'd been on the Jamaica station for some years, and had come home, and merry enough, and happy enough we were (those that were left of us), and we were spending our money like the devil. Bill Harness had a wife, who was very fond of he, and he was very fond of she, but she was a slatternly sort of a body, never tidy in her rigging, all adrift at all times, and what's more, she never had a shoe up at heel, so she went by the name of Slatternly Sall, and the first lieutenant, who was a 'ticular sort of a chap, never liked to see her on deck, for you see she put her hair in paper on New Year's day, and never changed it or took it out till the year came round again. However, be it as it may be, she loved Bill, and Bill loved she, and they were very happy together. A'ter all, it ain't whether a woman's tidy without that makes a man's happiness; it depends upon whether she be right within; that is, if she be good-tempered, and obliging, and civil, and 'commodating, and so forth. A'ter the first day or two, person's nothing—eyes get palled, like the cap-stern when the anchor's up to the bows; but what a man likes is, not to be disturbed by vagaries, or gusts of temper. Well, Bill was happy—but one day he was devilish unhappy, because Sall had lost one of her shoes, which wasn't to be wondered at, considering as how she was always slipshod. 'Who has seen my wife's shoe?' says he. 'Hang your wife's shoe,' said one, 'it warn't worth casting an eye upon;' Still he cried out, 'Who has seen my wife's shoe?' 'I seed it,' says another. 'Where?' says Bill. 'I seed it down at heel,' says the fellow. But Bill still hallooed out about his wife's shoe, which it appeared she had dropped off her foot as she was going up the forecastle ladder to take the air a bit, just as it was dark. At last Bill made so much fuss about it that the ship's company laughed, and all called out to each other, 'Who has seen Sall's shoe?—Have you got Sall's shoe?' and they passed the word fore and aft the whole evening, till they went to their hammocks. Notwithstanding, as Sall's shoe was not forthcoming, the next morning Bill goes on the quarter-deck, and complains to the first lieutenant, as how he had lost Sall's shoe. 'Damn Sall's shoe,' said he, 'haven't I enough to look after without your wife's confounded shoes, which can't be worth twopence?' Well, Bill argues that his wife had only one shoe left, and that won't keep two feet dry, and begs the first lieutenant to order a search for it; but the first lieutenant turns away, and tells him to go to the devil, and all the men grin at Bill's making such a fuss about nothing. So Bill at last goes up to the first lieutenant, and whispers something, and the first lieutenant booms him off with his speaking trumpet, as if he were making too free, in whispering to his commanding officer, and then sends for the master-at-arms. 'Collier,' says he, 'this man has lost his wife's shoe: let a search be made for it immediately—take all the ship's boys, and look everywhere for it; if you find it bring it up to me.' So away goes the master-at-arms with his cane, and collects all the boys to look for Sall's shoe—and they go peeping about the maindeck, under the guns, and under the hen-coops, and in the sheep-pen, and everywhere; now and then getting a smart slap with the cane behind, upon the taut part of their trowsers, to make them look sharp, until they all wished Sall's shoe at Old Nick, and her too, and Bill in the bargain. At last one of the boys picks it out of the manger, where it had lain all the night, poked up and down by the noses of the pigs, who didn't think it eatable, although it might have smelt human-like; the fact was, it was the same boy who had picked up Sall's shoe when she dropped it, and had shied it forward. It sartainly did not seem to be worth all the trouble, but howsomever it was taken aft by the master-at-arms, and laid on the capstern head. Then Bill steps out and takes the shoe before the first lieutenant, and cuts it open, and from between the lining pulls out four ten pound notes, which Sall had sewn up there by way of security; and the first lieutenant tells Bill he was a great fool to trust his money in the shoe of a woman who always went slipshod, and tells him to go about his business, and stow his money away in a safer place next time. A'ter, if any thing was better than it looked to be, the ship's company used always to say it was like Sall's shoe. There you have it all."
"Well," says Stapleton, taking the pipe out of his mouth, "I know a fact, much of a muchness with that, which happened to me when I was below the river, tending a ship at Sheerness—for at one time, d'ye see, I used to ply there. She was an old fifty-gun ship, called the Adamant, if I recollect right. One day the first lieutenant, who, like yourn, was a mighty particular sort of chap, was going round the maindeck, and he sees an old pair of canvas trowsers stowed in under the trunnion of one of the guns. So says he, 'Whose be these?' Now, no man would answer, because they knowed very well that it would be as good as a fortnight in the black list. With that, the first lieutenant bundles them out of the port, and away they floats astern with the tide. It was about half-an-hour after that, that I comes off with the milk for the wardroom mess, and a man named Will Heaviside says to me, 'Stapleton,' says he, 'the first lieutenant has thrown my canvas trowsers overboard, and be damned to him; now I must have them back.' 'But where be they?' says I: 'I suppose down at the bottom by this time, and the flat-fish dubbing their noses into them.' 'No, no,' says he, 'they wo'n't never sink, but float till eternity; they be gone down with the tide, and they will come back again; only you keep a sharp look-out for them, and I'll give you five shillings if you bring them.' Well, I seed little chance of ever seeing them again, or of my seeing five shillings, but as it so happened next tide, the very 'denticle pair of trowsers comes up staring me in the face. I pulls them in, and takes them to Will Heaviside, who appears to be mightily pleased, and gives me the money. 'I wouldn't have lost them for ten, no, not fur twenty pounds,' says he. 'At all events you've paid me more than they are worth,' says I. 'Have I?' says he; 'stop a bit;' and he outs with his knife, and rips open the waistband, and pulls out a piece of linen, and out of the piece of linen he pulls out a child's caul. 'There,' says he, 'now you knows why the trowsers wouldn't sink, and I'll leave you to judge whether they ar'n't worth five shillings.' That's my story."
"Well, I can't understand how it is, that a caul should keep people up," observed old Tom.
"At all events, a call makes people come up fast enough on board a man-of-war, father."
"That's true enough, but I'm talking of a child's caul, not of a boatswain's, Tom."
"I'll just tell you how it is," replied Stapleton, who had recommenced smoking; "it's human natur'."
"What is your opinion, sir?" said Mary to the Dominie.
"Maiden," replied the Dominie, taking his pipe out of his mouth, "I opine that it's a vulgar error. Sir Thomas Brown, I think it is, hath the same idea; many and strange were the superstitions which have been handed down by our less enlightened ancestors—all of which mists have been cleared away by the powerful rays of truth."
"Well, but, master, if a vulgar error saves a man from Davy Jones's locker, ar'n't it just as well to sew it up in the waistband of your trowsers?"
"Granted, good Dux; if it would save a man; but how is it possible? it is contrary to the first elements of science."
"What matter does that make, provided it holds a man up?"
"Friend Dux, thou art obtuse."
"Well, perhaps I am, as I don't know what that is."
"But, father, don't you recollect," interrupted Tom, "what the parson said last Sunday, that faith saved men? Now, Master Dominie, may it not be faith that a man has in the caul which may save him?"
"Young Tom, thou art astute."
"Well, perhaps I am, as father said, for I don't know what that is. You knock us all down with your dictionary."
"Well I do love to hear people make use of such hard words," said Mary, looking at the Dominie. "How very clever you must be, sir! I wonder whether I shall ever understand them?"
"Nay, if thou wilt, I will initiate—sweet maiden, wilt steal an hour or so to impregnate thy mind with the seeds of learning, which, in so fair a soil, must needs bring forth good fruit!"
"That's a fine word, that impregnate—will you give us the English of it, sir?" said young Tom to the Dominie.
"It is English, Tom, only the old gentleman razeed it a little. The third ship in the lee line of the Channel fleet was a eighty, called the Impregnable, but the old gentleman knows more about books than sea matters."
"A marvellous misconception," quoth the Dominie.
"There's another," cried Tom, laughing; "that must be a three-decker. Come, father, here's the bottle, you must take another glass to wash that down."
"Pray what was the meaning of that last long word, sir," said Mary, taking the Dominie by the arm, "mis—something."
"The word," replied the Dominie, "is a compound from conception, borrowed from the Latin tongue implying conceiving; and the mis prefixed, which negatives or reverses the meaning; misconception, therefore, implies not to conceive. I can make you acquainted with many others of a similar tendency as mis-conception; videlicet, mis- apprehension, mis-understanding, mis-contriving mis-applying, mis—"
"Dear me, what a many misses," cried Mary, "and do you know them all?"
"Indeed do I," replied the Dominie, "and many, many more are treasured in my memory, quod nunc describere tongum est."
"I'd no idea that the old gentleman was given to running after the girls in that way," said old Tom to Stapleton.
"Human natur'," replied the other.
"No more did I," continued Mary; "I shall have nothing to say to him;" and she drew off her chair a few inches from that of the Dominie.
"Maiden," quoth the Dominie, "thou art under a mistake."
"Another miss, I declare," cried Tom, laughing.
"What an old Turk!" continued Mary, getting further off.
"Nay, then, I will not reply," said the Dominie indignantly, putting down his pipe, leaning back on his chair, and pulling out his great red handkerchief, which he applied to his nose, and produced a sound that made the windows of the little parlour vibrate for some seconds.
"I say, master Tom, don't you make too free with your betters," said old Tom, when he saw the Dominie affronted.
"Nay," replied the Dominie, "there's an old adage which saith, 'As the old cock crows, so doth the young.' Wherefore didst thou set him the example?"
"Very true, old gentleman, and I axes your pardon, and here's my hand upon it."
"And so do I, sir, and here's my hand upon it," said young Tom, extending his hand on the Dominie's other side.
"Friend Dux, and thou, young Tom, I do willingly accept thy proffered reconciliation; knowing, as I well do, that there may be much mischief in thy composition, but naught of malice." The Dominie extended his hands, and shook both those offered to him warmly.
"There," said old Tom, "now my mind's at ease, as old Pigtown said."
"I know not the author whom thou quotest from, good Dux."
"Author!—I never said he was an author; he was only captain of a schooner, trading between the islands, that I sailed with a few weeks in the West Indies."
"Perhaps, then, you will relate to the company present the circumstances which took place to put old Pegtop's—(I may not be correct in the name)—but whoever it may be—"
"Well, then—that put old Pigtown's mind at ease—for I am marvellously amused with thy narrations, which do pass away the time most agreeably, good Dux."
"With all my heart, old gentleman; but first let us fill up our tumblers. I don't know how it is, but it does appear to me that grog drinks better out of a glass than out of metal and if it wasn't that Tom is so careless—and the dog has no respect for crockery any more than persons—I would have one or two on board for particular service; but I'll think about that, and hear what the old woman has to say on the subject. Now to my yarn. D'ye see, old Pigtown commanded a little schooner, which plied between the isles, and he had been in her for a matter of forty years, and was as well-known as Port Royal Tom."
"Who might Port Royal Tom be?" inquired the Dominie; "a relation of yours?"
"I hope not, master, for I wanted none of his acquaintance; he was a shark about twenty feet long who rode guard in the harbour, to prevent the men-of-war's men from deserting, and was pensioned by government."
"Pensioned by government! nay, but that soundeth strangely. I have heard that pensions have been most lavishly bestowed, but not that it extended so far. Truly it must have been a sinecure."
"I don't know what that last may be," replied old Tom, "but I heard our boatswain, in the Minerve, who talked politics a bit, say, 'as how half the pensions were held by a pack of damned sharks;' but in this here shark's case, it wasn't in money, master; but he'd regular rations of bullock's liver to persuade him to remain in the harbour, and no one dare swim on shore when he was cruising round and round the ships. Well, old Pigtown, with his white trousers and straw hat, red nose and big belly, was as well-known as could be, and was a capital old fellow for remembering and executing commissions, provided you gave him the money first; if not, he always took care to forget them. Old Pigtown had a son, a little dark or so, which proved that his mother wasn't quite as fair as a lily, and this son was employed in a drogher, that is, a small craft which goes round to the bays of the island, and takes off the sugars to the West India traders. One fine day the drogher was driven out to sea, and never heard of a'terwards. Now, old Pigtown was very anxious about what had come of his son, and day after day expected he would come back again; but he never did, for very good reasons, as you shall hear by-and-by; and every one knowing old Pigtown, and he knowing everybody, it was at least fifty times a day that the question was put to him, 'Well, Pigtown, have you heard anything of your son?' And fifty times a day he would reply, 'No; and my mind's but ill at ease.' Well, it was two or three months afterwards, that when I was in the schooner with him, as we lay becalmed between the islands, with the sun frizzing our wigs, and the planks so hot that you couldn't walk without your shoes, that we hooked a large shark which came bowling under our counter, got him on board and cut him up. When we opened his inside, what should I see but something shining. I took it out, and sure enough it was a silver watch. So I hands it to old Pigtown. He looks at it very 'tentively, opens the outside case, reads the maker's name, and then shuts it up again. 'This here watch,' says he, 'belonged to my son Jack. I bought it of a chap in a South whaler for three dollars and a roll of pigtail, and a very good watch it was, though I perceive it to be stopped now. Now, d'ye see, it's all clear—the drogher must have gone down in a squall—the shark must have picked up my son Jack, and must have digested his body, but has not been able to digest his watch. Now I knows what's become of him, and so—my mind's at ease.'"
"Well," observed old Stapleton, "I agrees with old Poptown, or whatever his name might be, that it were better to know the worst at once than to be kept on the worry all your days; I consider it's nothing but human natur'. Why, if one has a bad tooth, which is the best plan, to have it out with one good wrench, or to be eternally tormented, night and day."
"Thou speakest wisely, friend Stapleton, and like a man of resolve—the anticipation is often, if not always, more painful than the reality. Thou knowest, Jacob, how often I have allowed a boy to remain unbuttoned in the centre of the room for an hour previous to the application of the birch—and it was with the consideration that the impression would be greater upon his mind than even upon his nether parts. All of the feelings in the human breast, that of suspense is—"
"Worse than hanging," interrupted young Tom.
"Even so, boy [cluck, cluck], an apt comparison, seeing that in suspense you are hanging, as it were, in the very region of doubt, without being able to obtain a footing even upon conjecture. Nay, we may further add another simile, although not so well borne out, which is, that the agony of suspense doth stop the breath of a man for the time, as hanging doth stop it altogether, so that it may be truly said, that suspense is put an end to by suspending." [cluck, cluck.]
"And now that you've got rid of all that, master, suppose you fill up your pipe," observed old Tom.
"And I will fill up your tumbler, sir," said Mary; "for you must be dry with talking such hard words."
The Dominie this time made no objection, and again enveloped Mary and himself in a cloud of smoke, through which his nose loomed like an Indiaman in a Channel fog.
CHAPTER TWENTY SIX.
THE DOMINIE'S BOSOM GROWS TOO WARM; SO THE PARTY AND THE FROST BREAK UP—I GO WITH THE STREAM AND AGAINST IT; MAKE MONEY BOTH WAYS—COOLNESS BETWEEN MARY AND ME—NO CHANCE OF A THAMES' EDITION OF ABELARD AND ELOISE—LOVE, LEARNING, AND LATIN ALL LOST IN A FIT OF THE SULKS.
"I say, Master Stapleton, suppose we were to knock out half a port," observed old Tom, after a silence of two minutes; "for the old gentleman blows a devil of a cloud: that is, if no one has an objection." Stapleton gave a nod of assent, and I rose and put the upper window down a few inches. "Ay, that's right, Jacob; now we shall see what Miss Mary and he are about. You've been enjoying the lady all to yourself, master," continued Tom, addressing the Dominie.
"Verily and truly," replied the Dominie, "even as a second Jupiter."
"Never heard of him."
"I presume not; still, Jacob will tell thee that the history is to be found in Ovid's Metamorphoses."
"Never heard of the country, master."
"Nay, friend Dux, it is a book, not a country, in which thou may'st read how Jupiter at first descended unto Semele in a cloud."
"And pray, where did he come from, master?"
"He came from heaven."
"The devil he did. Well, if ever I gets there, I mean to stay."
"It was love, all-powerful love, which induced him, maiden," replied the Dominie, turning, with a smiling eye, to Mary.
"'Bove my comprehension altogether," replied old Tom.
"Human natur'," muttered Stapleton, with the pipe still between his lips.
"Not the first vessels that have run foul in a fog," observed young Tom.
"No, boy; but generally there ar'n't much love between them at those times. But, come, now that we can breathe again, suppose I give you a song. What shall it be, young woman, a sea ditty, or something spooney?"
"Oh, something about love, if you've no objection, sir," said Mary, appealing to the Dominie.
"Nay, it pleaseth me maiden, and I am of thy mind. Friend Dux, let it be Anacreontic."
"What the devil's that?" cried old Tom, lifting up his eyes, and taking the pipe out of his mouth.
"Nothing of your own, father, that's clear; but something to borrow, for it's to be on tick," replied Tom.
"Nay, boy, I would have been understood that the song should refer to women or wine."
"Both of which are to his fancy," observed young Tom to me, aside.
"Human natur'," quaintly observed Stapleton.
"Well, then, you shall have your wish. I'll give you one that might be warbled in a lady's chamber without stirring the silk curtains:—
"Oh! the days are gone when beauty bright My heart's chain wove, When my dream of life from morn to night Was Love—still Love. New hope may bloom, and days may come, Of milder, calmer beam, But there's nothing half so sweet in life As Love's young dream; Oh! there's nothing half so sweet in life, As Love's young dream."
The melody of the song, added to the spirits he had drunk and Mary's eyes beaming on him, had a great effect upon the Dominie. As old Tom warbled out, so did the pedagogue gradually approach the chair of Mary; and as gradually entwine her waist with his own arm, his eyes twinkling brightly on her. Old Tom, who perceived it, had given me and Tom a wink, as he repeated the two last lines; and then we saw what was going on, we burst into an uncontrollable fit of laughter. "Boys! boys!" said the Dominie, starting up, "thou hast awakened me, by thy boisterous mirth, from a sweet musing created by the harmony of friend Dux's voice. Neither do I discover the source of thy cachinnation, seeing that the song is amatory and not comic. Still, it may not be supposed, at thy early age, that thou canst be affected with what thou art too young to feel. Pr'ythee continue, friend Dux, and, boys, restrain thy mirth."
"Though the bard to a purer fame may soar When wild youth's past, Though he win the wise, who frowned before, To smile at last, He'll never meet a joy so sweet In all his noon of fame, As when first he sung to woman's ear His soul-felt flame; And at every close she blush'd to hear The once-lov'd name."
At the commencement of this verse the Dominie appeared to be on his guard; but gradually moved by the power of song, he dropped his elbow on the table, and his pipe underneath it; his forehead sank into his broad palm, and he remained motionless. The verse ended, and the Dominie, forgetting all around him, softly ejaculated, without looking up, "Eheu! Mary."
"Did you speak to me, sir?" said Mary, who, perceiving us tittering, addressed the Dominie with a half-serious, half-mocking air.
"Speak, maiden? nay, I spoke not; yet thou mayest give me my pipe, which apparently hath been abducted while I was listening to the song."
"Abducted! that's a new word; but it means smashed into twenty pieces, I suppose," observed young Tom. "At all events, your pipe is, for you let it fall between your legs."
"Never mind," said Mary, rising from her chair, and going to the cupboard; "here's another, sir."
"Well, master, am I to finish, or have you had enough of it?"
"Proceed, friend Dux, proceed; and believe that I am all attention."
"Oh, that hallowed form is ne'er forgot Which first love trac'd, Still it lingering haunts the greenest spot On memory's waste. 'Twas odour fled as soon as shed, 'Twas memory's winged dream, 'Twas a light that ne'er can shine again On life's dull stream; Oh, 'twas light that ne'er can shine again On life's dull stream."
"Nay," said the Dominie, again abstracted, "the metaphor is not just. 'Life's dull stream.' 'Lethe tacitus amnis,' as Lucan hath it; but the stream of life flows—ay, flows rapidly—even in my veins. Doth not the heart throb and beat—yea, strongly—peradventure too forcibly against my better judgment? 'Confiteor misere molle cor esse mihi,' as Ovid saith. Yet must it not prevail! Shall one girl be victorious over seventy boys? Shall I, Dominie Dobbs, desert my post?—Again succumb to—I will even depart, that I may be at my desk at matutinal hours."
"You don't mean to leave us, sir?" said Mary, taking the Dominie's arm.
"Even so, fair maiden, for it waxeth late, and I have my duties to perform," said the Dominie, rising from his chair.
"Then you will promise to come again."
"Peradventure I may."
"If you do not promise me that you will, I will not let you go now."
"Promise," interrupted Mary.
"Promise," cried Mary.
"In good sooth, maiden—"
"Promise," reiterated Mary, pulling the Dominie towards her chair.
"Nay, then, I do promise, since thou wilt have it so," replied the Dominie.
"And when will you come?"
"I will not tarry," replied the Dominie; "and now good night to all."
The Dominie shook hands with us, and Mary lighted him downstairs. I was much pleased with the resolution and sense of his danger thus shown by my worthy preceptor, and hoped that he would have avoided Mary in future, who evidently wished to make a conquest of him for her own amusement and love of admiration; but still I felt that the promise exacted would be fulfilled, and I was afraid that a second meeting, and that perhaps not before witnesses, would prove mischievous. I made up my mind to speak to Mary on the subject as soon as I had an opportunity, and insist upon her not making a fool of the worthy old man. Mary remained below a much longer time than was necessary, and when she re-appeared and looked at me, as if for a smile of approval, I turned from her with a contemptuous air. She sat down, and looked confused. Tom was also silent, and paid her no attention. A quarter of an hour passed, when he proposed to his father that they should be off, and the party broke up. Leaving Mary silent and thoughtful, and old Stapleton finishing his pipe, I took my candle and went to bed.
The next day the moon changed, the weather changed, and a rapid thaw took place. "It's an ill wind that blows nobody good," observed old Stapleton; "we watermen will have the river to ourselves again, and the hucksters must carry their gingerbread-nuts to another market." It was, however, three or four days before the river was clear of the ice, so as to permit the navigation to proceed; and during that time, I may as well observe, that there was dissension between Mary and me. I showed her that I resented her conduct, and at first she tried to pacify me; but finding that I held out longer than she expected, she turned round, and was affronted in return. Short words and no lessons were the order of the day; and as each party seemed determined to hold out, there was little prospect of a reconciliation. In this she was the greatest sufferer, as I quitted the house after breakfast, and did not return until dinner time. At first old Stapleton plied very regularly, and took all the fares; but about a fortnight after we had worked together, he used to leave me to look after employment, and remain at the public-house. The weather was now fine, and, after the severe frost, it changed so rapidly that most of the trees were in leaf, and the horse-chestnuts in full blossom. The wherry was in constant demand, and every evening I handed from four to six shillings over to old Stapleton. I was delighted with my life, and should have been perfectly happy if it had not been for my quarrel with Mary still continuing, she as resolutely refraining from making advances as I. How much may life be embittered by dissension with those you live with, even when there is no very warm attachment; the constant grating together worries and annoys, and although you may despise the atoms, the aggregate becomes insupportable. I had no pleasure in the house; and the evenings, which formerly passed so agreeably, were now a source of vexation, from being forced to sit in company with one with whom I was not on good terms. Old Stapleton was seldom at home till late, and this made it still worse. I was communing with myself one night, as I had my eyes fixed on my book, whether I should make the first advances, when Mary, who had been quietly at work, broke the silence by asking me what I was reading. I replied in a quiet tone.
"Jacob," said she, in continuation, "I think you have used me very ill to humble me in this manner. It was your business to make it up first."
"I am not aware that I have been in the wrong," replied I.
"I do not say that you have; but what matter does that make? You ought to give way to a woman."
"Why so! don't the whole world do so? Do you not offer everything first to a woman? Is it not her right?"
"Not when she is in the wrong, Mary."
"Yes, when she's in the wrong, Jacob; there's no merit in doing it when she's in the right."
"I think otherwise; at all events, it depends on how much she has been in the wrong, and I consider you have shown a bad heart, Mary."
"A bad heart! in what way, Jacob?"
"In realising the fable of the boys and the frogs with the poor old Dominie, forgetting that what may be sport to you is death to him."
"You don't mean to say that he'll die of love," replied Mary, laughing.
"I should hope not: but you may contrive, and you have tried all in your power, to make him very wretched."
"And, pray, how do you know that I do not like the old gentleman, Jacob? You appear to think that a girl is to fall in love with nobody but yourself. Why should I not love an old man with so much learning? I have been told that old husbands are much prouder of their wives than young ones, and pay them more attention, and don't run after other women. How do you know that I am not serious?"
"Because I know your character, Mary, and am not to be deceived. If you mean to defend yourself in that way, we had better not talk any more."
"Lord, how savage you are! then, suppose I did pay the old gentleman any attention. Did the young ones pay me any? Did either you, or your precious friend, Mr Tom, even speak to me?"
"No; we saw how you were employed, and we both hate a jilt."
"Oh, you do. Very well, sir; just as you please. I may make both your hearts ache for this some day or another."
"Forewarned, forearmed, Mary; and I shall take care that they are both forewarned as well as myself. As I perceive that you are so decided, I shall say no more. Only, for your own sake, and your own happiness, I caution you. Recollect your mother, Mary, and recollect your mother's death."
Mary covered her face and burst into tears. She sobbed for a few minutes, and then came to me. "You are right, Jacob; and I am a foolish—perhaps wicked—girl; but forgive me, and indeed I will try to behave better. But, as father says, it is human nature in me, and it's hard to conquer our natures, Jacob."
"Will you promise me not to continue your advances to the Dominie, Mary?"
"I will not, if I can help it, Jacob. I may forget for the moment, but I'll do all I can. It's not very easy to look grave when one is merry, or sour when one is pleased."
"But what can induce you, Mary, to practise upon an old man like him? If it were young Tom, I could understand it. There might be some credit, and your pride might be flattered by the victory; but an old man—"
"Still, Jacob, old or young, it's much the same. I would like to have them all at my feet, and that's the truth. I can't help it. And I thought it a great victory to bring there a wise old man, who was so full of Latin and learning, and who ought to know better. Tell me Jacob, if old men a how themselves to be caught, as well as young, where is the crime of catching them? Isn't there as much vanity in an old man, in his supposing that I really could love him, as there is in me, who am but a young, foolish girl, in trying to make him fond of me?"
"That may be; but still recollect that he is in earnest, and you are only joking, which makes a great difference; and recollect further, that in trying at all, we very often lose all."
"That I would take my chance of, Jacob," replied Mary, proudly throwing her curly ringlets back with her hand from her white forehead; "but what I now want is to make friends with you. Come, Jacob, you have my promise to do my best."
"Yes, Mary, and I believe you, so there's my hand."
"You don't know how miserable I have been, Jacob, since we quarrelled," said Mary, wiping the tears away, which again commenced flowing; "and yet I don't know why, for I'm sure I have almost hated you this last week—that I have; but the fact is, I like quarrelling very well for the pleasure of making it up again; but not for the quarrel to last so long as this has done."
"It has annoyed me too, Mary, for I like you very much in general."
"Well, then, now it's all over; but Jacob, are you sure you are friends with me?"
Mary looked archly at me. "You know the old saw, and I feel the truth of it."
"What, 'kiss and make friends?'" replied I; "with all my heart," and I kissed her, without any resistance on her part.
"No, I didn't mean that, Jacob."
"Oh! 'twas another."
"Well, then, what was the other?"
"Never mind, I forget it now," said she laughing, and rising from the chair. "Now, I must go to my work again, and you must tell me what you've been doing this last fortnight."
Mary and I entered into a long and amicable conversation till her father came home, when we retired to bed. "I think," said old Stapleton, the next morning, "that I've had work enough; and I've belonged to two benefit clubs for so long as to 'title me to an allowance. I think, Jacob, I shall give up the wherry to you, and you shall in future give me one-third of your earnings, and keep the rest to yourself. I don't see why you're to work hard all day for nothing." I remonstrated against this excess of liberality; but old Stapleton was positive, and the arrangement was made. I afterwards discovered, what may probably occur to the reader, that Captain Turnbull was at the bottom of all this. He had pensioned old Stapleton that I might become independent by my own exertions before I had served my apprenticeship; and after breakfast, old Stapleton walked down with me to the beach, and we launched the boat. "Recollect, Jacob," said he, "one-third, and honour bright;" so saying, he adjourned to his old quarters, the public-house, to smoke his pipe and think of human natur'. I do not recollect any day of my life on which I felt more happy than on this: I was working for myself, and independent. I jumped into my wherry, and, without waiting for a fare, I pushed off, and, gaining the stream, cleaved through the water with delight as my reward; but after a quarter of an hour I sobered down with the recollection that, although I might pull about for nothing for my own amusement, that as Stapleton was entitled to one-third, I had no right to neglect his interest; and I shot my wherry into the row, and stood with my hand and fore-finger raised, watching the eye of every one who came towards the hard. I was fortunate that day, and when I returned, was proceeding to give Stapleton his share, when he stopped me. "Jacob, it's no use dividing now; once a-week will be better. I likes things to come in a lump; cause, d'ye see—it's— it's—human natur'."
CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN.
A GOOD FARE—EAT YOUR PUDDING AND HOLD YOUR TONGUE—THE DOMINIE CROSSED IN LOVE—THE CROSSER ALSO CROSSED—I FIND THAT "ALL THE WORLD'S A STAGE," NOT EXCEPTING THE STERN SHEETS OF MY WHERRY—CLEOPATRA'S BARGE APOSTROPHISED ON THE RIVER THAMES.
I consider that the present was the period from which I might date my first launching into human life. I was now nearly eighteen years old, strong, active, and well-made, full of spirits, and overjoyed at the independence which I had so much sighed for. Since the period of my dismissal from Mr Drummond's my character had much altered. I had become grave and silent, brooding over my wrongs, harbouring feelings of resentment against the parties, and viewing the world in general through a medium by no means favourable. I had become in some degree restored from this unwholesome state of mind from having rendered an important service to Captain Turnbull, for we love the world better as we feel that we are more useful in it; but the independence now given to me was the acme of my hopes and wishes. I felt so happy, so buoyant in mind, that I could even think of the two clerks in Mr Drummond's employ without feelings of revenge. Let it, however, be remembered that the world was all before me in anticipation only.
"No, thanky, my lad. I want old Stapleton—is he here?"
"No, sir, but this is his boat."
"Humph, can't he take me down?"
"No, sir; but I can, if you please."
"Well, then, be quick."
A sedate-looking gentleman, about forty-five years of age, stepped into the boat, and in a few seconds I was in the stream, shooting the bridge with the ebbing tide.
"What's the matter with deaf Stapleton?"
"Nothing, sir; but he's getting old, and has made the boat over to me."
"Are you his son?"
"No, sir, his 'prentice."
"Humph! sorry deaf Stapleton's gone."
"I can be as deaf as he, sir, if you wish it."
The gentleman said no more at the time, and I pulled down the river in silence; but in a few minutes he began to move his hands up and down, and his lips, as if he was in conversation. Gradually his action increased, and words were uttered. At last he broke out:—"It is with this conviction, I may say important conviction, Mr Speaker, that I now deliver my sentiments to the Commons' house of Parliament, trusting that no honourable member will decide until he has fully weighed the importance of the arguments which I have submitted to his judgment." He then stopped, as if aware that I was present, and looked at me; but, prepared as I was, there was nothing in my countenance which exhibited the least sign of merriment; or, indeed, of having paid any attention to what he had been saying, for I looked carelessly to the right and left at the banks of the river. He again entered into conversation.
"Have you been long on the river?"
"Born on it, sir."
"How do you like the profession of a waterman?"
"Very well, sir; the great point is to have regular customers."
"And how do you gain them?"
"By holding my tongue; keeping their counsel and my own."
"Very good answer, my boy. People who have much to do cannot afford to loose even their time on the water. Just now I was preparing and thinking over my speech in the House of Commons."
"So I supposed, sir, and I think the river is a very good place for it, as no one can overhear you except the person whose services you have hired—and you need not mind him."
"Very true, my lad; but that's why I liked deaf Stapleton: he could not hear a word."
"But sir, if you've no objection, I like to hear it very much; and you may be sure that I should never say anything about it, if you will trust me."
"Do you my lad? well, then I'll just try it over again. You shall be the speaker—mind you hold your tongue, and don't interrupt me."
The gentleman then began: "Mr Speaker, I should not have ventured to address the House at this late hour, did I not consider that the importance of the question now before it is—so important—no, that won't do—did I not consider that the question now before it is of that, I may say, paramount importance as to call forth the best energies of every man who is a well-wisher to his country. With this conviction, Mr Speaker, humble individual as I am, I feel it my duty, I may say, my bounden duty, to deliver my sentiments upon the subject. The papers which I now hold in my hand, Mr Speaker, and to which I shall soon have to call the attention of the House, will, I trust, fully establish—"
"I say, waterman, be you taking that chap to Bedlam?" cried a shrill female voice close to us. The speech was stopped; we looked up, and perceived a wherry with two females passing close to us. A shout of laughter followed the observation, and my fare looked very much confused.
I had often read the papers in the public-house, and remembering what was usual in the house in case of interruption, called out, "Order, order!" This made the gentleman laugh, and as the other wherry was now far off, he recommenced his oration, with which I shall not trouble my readers. It was a very fair speech, I have no doubt, but I forget what it was about.
I landed him at Westminster Bridge, and received treble my fare. "Recollect," said he, on paying me, "that I shall look out for you when I come again, which I do every Monday morning, and sometimes oftener. What's your name?"
"Very well; good morning, my lad."
This gentleman became a very regular and excellent customer, and we used to have a great deal of conversation, independent of debating, in the wherry; and I must acknowledge that I received from him not only plenty of money, but a great deal of valuable information.
A few days after this I had an opportunity of ascertaining how far Mary would keep her promise. I was plying at the river side as usual, when old Stapleton came up to me, with his pipe in his mouth, and said, "Jacob, there be that old gentleman up at our house with Mary. Now, I sees a great deal, but I says nothing. Mary will be her mother over again, that's sartain. Suppose you go and see your old teacher, and leave me to look a'ter a customer. I begin to feel as if handling the sculls a little would be of sarvice to me. We all think idleness be a very pleasant thing when we're obliged to work but when we are idle, then we feel that a little work be just as agreeable—that's human natur'."
I thought that Mary was very likely to forget all her good resolutions, from her ardent love of admiration, and I was determined to go and break up the conference. I, therefore, left the boat to Stapleton, and hastened to the house. I did not like to play the part of an eavesdropper, and was quite undecided how I should act; whether to go in at once or not, when, as I passed under the window, which was open, I heard very plainly the conversation that was going on. I stopped in the street, and listened to the Dominie in continuation—"But, fair maiden, omnia vincit amor—here am I, Dominie Dobbs, who have long passed the grand climacteric, and can already muster three score years—who have authority over seventy boys, being Magister Princeps et Dux of Brentford Grammar School—who have affectioned only the sciences, and communed only with the classics—who have ever turned a deaf ear to the allurements of thy sex, and ever hardened my heart to thy fascination— here am I, even I, Dominie Dobbs, suing at the feet of a maiden who had barely ripened into womanhood, who knoweth not to read or write, and whose father earns his bread by manual labour. I feel it all—I feel that I am too old—that thou art too young—that I am departing from the ways of wisdom, and am regardless of my worldly prospects. Still, omnia vincit amor, and I bow to the all-powerful god, doing him homage through thee, Mary. Vainly have I resisted—vainly have I, as I have lain in bed, tried to drive thee from my thoughts, and tear thine image from my heart. Have I not felt thy presence everywhere? Do not I astonish my worthy coadjutor, Mistress Bately, the matron, by calling her by the name of Mary, when I had always before addressed her by her baptismal name of Deborah? Nay, have not the boys in the classes discovered my weakness, and do they not shout out Mary in the hours of play? Mare periculosum et turbidum hast thou been to me. I sleep not—I eat not—and every sign of love which hath been adduced by Ovidius Naso, whom I have diligently collated, do I find in mine own person. Speak, then, maiden. I have given vent to my feelings, do thou the same, that I may return, and leave not my flock without their shepherd. Speak, maiden."
"I will, sir, if you will get up," replied Mary, who paused, and then continued. "I think, sir, that I am young and foolish, and you are old and—and—"
"Foolish, thou wouldst say."
"I had rather you said it, sir, than I; it is not for me to use such an expression towards one so learned as you are. I think, sir, that I am too young to marry; and that perhaps you are—too old. I think, sir, that you are too clever—and that I am very ignorant; that it would not suit you in your situation to marry; and that it would not suit me to marry you—equally obliged to you all the same."
"Perhaps thou hast in thy reply proved the wiser of the two," answered the Dominie; "but why, maiden, didst thou raise those feelings, those hopes in my breast, only to cause me pain, and make me drink deep of the cup of disappointment? didst thou appear to cling to me in fondness, if thou felt not a yearning towards me?"
"But are there no other sorts of love besides the one you would require, sir? May I not love you because you are so clever, and so learned in Latin. May I not love you as I do my father?"
"True, true, child; it is all my own folly, and I must retrace my steps in sorrow. I have been deceived—but I have been deceived only by myself. My wishes have clouded my understanding, and have obscured my reason; have made me forgetful of my advanced years, and of the little favour I was likely to find in the eyes of a young maiden. I have fallen into a pit through blindness, and I must extricate myself, sore as will be the task. Bless thee, maiden, bless thee! May another be happy in thy love, and never feel the barb of disappointment. I will pray for thee, Mary—that Heaven may bless thee." And the Dominie turned away and wept.
Mary appeared to be moved by the good old man's affliction, and her heart probably smote her for her coquettish behaviour. She attempted to console the Dominie, and appeared to be more than half crying herself. "No, sir, do not take on so, you make me feel very uncomfortable. I have been wrong—I feel I have—though you have not blamed me, I am a very foolish girl."
"Bless thee, child—bless thee!" replied the Dominie, in a subdued voice.
"Indeed, sir, I don't deserve it—I feel I do not; but pray do not grieve, sir; things will go cross in love. Now, sir, I'll tell you a secret, to prove it to you. I love Jacob—love him very much, and he does not care for me—I am sure he does not; so, you sir, you are not the only one—who is—very unhappy;" and Mary commenced sobbing with the Dominie.
"Poor thing!" said the Dominie; "and thou lovest Jacob? truly is he worthy of thy love. And, at thy early age, thou knowest what it is to have thy love unrequited. Truly is this a vale of tears—yet let us be thankful. Guard well thy heart, child, for Jacob may not be for thee; nay I feel that he will not be."
"And why so, sir?" replied Mary, despondingly.
"Because, maiden—but nay, I must not tell thee; only take my warning, Mary—fare thee well? I come not here again."
"Good-bye, sir, and pray forgive me; this will be a warning to me."
"Verily, maiden, it will be a warning to us both. God bless thee!"
I discovered by the sound that Mary had vouchsafed to the Dominie a kiss, and heard soon afterwards his steps as he descended the stairs. Not wishing to meet him I turned round the corner, and went down to the river, thinking over what had passed. I felt pleased with Mary, but I was not in love with her.
The spring was now far advanced, and the weather was delightful. The river was beautiful, and parties of pleasure were constantly to be seen floating up and down with the tide. The Westminster boys, the Funny Club, and other amateurs in their fancy dresses, enlivened the scene; while the races for prize wherries, which occasionally took place, rendered the water one mass of life and motion. How I longed for my apprenticeship to be over, that I might try for a prize! One of my best customers was a young man, who was an actor at one of the theatres, who, like the M.P., used to rehearse the whole time he was in the boat; but he was a lively, noisy personage, full of humour, and perfectly indifferent as to appearances. He had a quiz and a quirk for everybody that passed in another boat, and would stand up and rant at them until they considered him insane. We were on very intimate terms, and I was never more pleased than when he made his appearance, as it was invariably the signal for mirth. The first time I certainly considered him to be a lunatic, for playhouse phraseology was quite new to me. "Boat, sir," cried I to him as he came to the hard.
"My affairs do even drag me homeward. Go on; I'll follow thee," replied he, leaping into the boat. "Our fortune lies in this jump."
I shoved off the wherry: "Down, sir?"
"Down," replied he; pointing downwards with his finger, as if pushing at something.
"Down, down to hell, and say I sent you there."
"Thanky, sir, I'd rather not, if it's all the same to you."
"Our tongue is rough, coz—and my condition is not smooth." We shot the bridge, and went rapidly down with the tide, when he again commenced:—
"Thus with imagin'd wing our soft scene flies, In motion of no less celerity Than that of thought."
Then his attention was drawn by a collier's boat, pulled by two men as black as chimney-sweeps, with three women in the stern-sheets. They made for the centre of the river, to get into the strength of the tide, and were soon abreast and close to the wherry, pulling with us down the stream.
"There's a dandy young man," said one of the women, with an old straw bonnet and very dirty ribbons, laughing, and pointing to my man.
"Plead you to me, fair dame? I know you not; At Ephesus I am but two hours old, As strange unto your town as to your talk."
"Well, he be a reg'lar rum cove, I've a notion," said another of the women, when she witnessed the theatrical airs of the speaker, who immediately recommenced—
"The barge she sat in, like a burnish'd throne, Burn'd on the water—the poop was beaten gold, Purple the sails, and so perfumed that The winds were love-sick with them; the oars were silver, Which to the tunes of flutes kept stroke, and made The water, which they beat, to follow faster, As amorous of their strokes. For her own person, It beggar'd all description."
"Come, I'll be blowed but we've had enough of that, so just shut your pan," said one of the women, angrily.
"Her gentlewomen, like the Naiades, So many mermaids tend her."
"Mind what you're arter, or your mouth will tend to your mischief, young fellow."
"From the barge A strange, invisible perfume hits the sense Of the adjacent wharfs."
"Jem, just run him alongside, and break his head with your oar."
"I thinks as how I will, if he don't mend his manners."
"I saw her once Hop forty paces through the public streets."
"You lie, you liver-faced rascal. I never walked the streets in my life. I'm a lawful married woman. Jem, do you call yourself a man, and stand this here?"
"Well, now, Sal, but he's a nice young man. Now an't he?" observed one of the other women.
"Away, Away, you trifler. Love! I know thee not, I care not for thee, Kate: this is no world To play with mammets, and to tilt with lips; We must have bloody noses and cracked crowns."
"I've a notion you will, too, my hearty," interrupted one of the colliers. "That 'ere long tongue of yours will bring you into disgrace. Bill, give her a jerk towards the wherry, and we'll duck him."
"My friend," said the actor, addressing me:—
"Let not his unwholesome corpse come between the wind And my nobility.
"Let us exeunt, OP."
Although I could not understand his phrases, I knew very well what he meant, and pulling smartly, I shoved towards the shore, and ahead. Perceiving this, the men in the boat, at the intimation of the women, who stood up waving their bonnets, gave chase to us, and my companion appeared not a little alarmed. However, by great exertion on my part, we gained considerably, and they abandoned the pursuit.
"Now, by two-headed Janus," said my companion, as he looked back upon the colliers—
"Nature hath framed strange fellows in her time, Some that will evermore peep through their eyes, And laugh like parrots at a bagpiper, And others of such a vinegar aspect That they'll not show their teeth by way of smile, Though Nestor swear the jest be laughable.
"And now," continued he, addressing me, "what's your name, sir? Of what condition are you—and of what place, I pray?"
Amused with what had passed, I replied, "That my name was Jacob—that I was a waterman, and born on the river."
"I find thee apt; but tell me, art thou perfect that our ship hath touched upon the deserts of Bohemia?"
"Do you land at Westminster, sir?"
"No: at Blackfriars—there attend my coming.
"Base is the slave who pays; nevertheless, what is your fare, my lad?
"What money's in my purse? Seven groats and twopence.
"By Jove, I am not covetous of gold, Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost.
"I can get no remedy for this consumption of the purse.
"Here my lad—is that enough?"
"Yes, sir, I thank you."
"Remember poor Jack, sir," said the usual attendant at the landing place, catching his arm as he careened the wherry on getting out.
"If he fall in, good-night—or sink or swim.
"Jack, there is a penny for you. Jacob, farewell—we meet again;" and away he went, taking three of the stone steps at each spring. This gentleman's name was, as I afterwards found out, Tinfoil, an actor of second-rate merit on the London boards. The Haymarket Theatre was where he principally performed, and, as we became better acquainted, he offered to procure me orders to see the play when I should wish to go there.
CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT.
THE PIC-NIC PARTY—SUFFERINGS BY OIL, ICE, FIRE, AND WATER—UPON THE WHOLE THE "DIVARTING VAGABONDS," AS THE THESPIAN HEROES AND HEROINES ARE CLASSICALLY TERMED, ARE VERY HAPPY, EXCEPTING MR. WINTERBOTTOM, WHOSE FEELINGS ARE BY SITTING DOWN, DOWN TO ZERO.
One morning he came down to the hard, and, as usual, I expected that he would go down the river. I ran to my boat, and hauled in close.
"No, Jacob, no; this day you will not carry Caesar and his fortunes, but I have an order for you."
"Thank you; sir; what is the play?"
"The play—pooh! no play; but I hope it will prove a farce, nevertheless, before it's over. We are to have a pic-nic party upon one of those little islands up the river by Kew. All sock and buskin, all theatricals: if the wherries upset, the Hay-market may shut up, for it will be 'exeunt omnes' with all its best performers. Look you, Jacob, we shall want three wherries, and I leave you to pick out the other two—oars in each, of course. You must be at Whitehall steps exactly at nine o'clock, and I daresay the ladies won't make you wait more than an hour or two, which, for them, is tolerably punctual."
Mr Tinfoil then entered into the arrangement for remuneration, and walked away; and I was conning over in my mind whom I should select from my brother watermen, and whether I should ask old Stapleton to take the other oar in my boat, when I heard a voice never to be mistaken by me—
"Life is like a summer day Warmed by a sunny ray.
"Lower away yet, Tom. That'll do, my trump.
"Sometimes a dreary cloud, Chill blast, or tempest loud.
"Look out for Jacob, Tom," cried the old man, as the head of the lighter, with her mast lowered down, made its appearance through the arch of Putney Bridge, with bright blue streaks on her sides.
"Here he is, father," replied Tom, who was standing forward by the windlass, with the fall in his hand.
I had shoved off, on hearing old Tom's voice, and was alongside almost as soon as the lighter had passed under the bridge, and discovered old Tom at the helm. I sprang on the deck, with the chain-painter of the wherry in my hand, made it fast, and went aft to old Tom, who seized my hand.
"This is as it should be, my boy, both on the look-out for each other. The heart warms when we know the feeling is on both sides. You're seldom out of our thoughts, boy, and always in our hearts. Now, jump forward, for Tom's fretting to greet you, I see, and you may just as well help him to sway up the mast when you are there."
I went forward, shook hands with Tom, and then clapped on the fall, and assisted him to hoist the mast. We then went aft to his father and communicated everything of interest which had passed since our last meeting at the house of old Stapleton.
"And how's Mary?" inquired Tom; "she's a very fine lass, and I've thought of her more than once; but I saw that all you said about her was true. How she did flam the poor old Dominie!"
"I have had a few words with her about it, and she has promised to be wiser," replied I; "but as her father says, 'in her it's human natur'.'"
"She's a fine craft," observed old Tom, "and they always be a little ticklish. But, Jacob, you've had some inquiries made after you, and by the women, too."
"Indeed!" replied I.
"Yes; and I have had the honour of being sent for into the parlour. Do you guess now?"
"Yes," said I, a gloom coming over my countenance. "I presume it is Drummond and Sarah whom you refer to?"
Tom then informed me that Mrs Drummond had sent for him, and asked a great many questions about me, and desired him to say that they were very glad to hear that I was well and comfortable, and hoped that I would call and see her and Sarah when I came that way. Mrs Drummond then left the room, and Tom was alone with Sarah, who desired him to say, that her father had found out that I had not been wrong; that he had dismissed both the clerks; and that he was very sorry he had been so deceived—"and then," said Tom, "Miss Sarah told me to say from herself, that she had been very unhappy since you had left them, but that she hoped that you would forgive and forget some day or another, and come back to them; and that I was to give you her love, and call next time we went up the river for something that she wanted to send to you. So you perceive, Jacob, that you are not forgotten, and justice has been done to you."
"Yes," replied I, "but it has been too late; so let us say no more about it. I am quite happy as I am."
I then told them of the pic-nic party of the next day, upon which Tom volunteered to take the other oar in my boat, as he would not be wanted while the barge was at the wharf. Old Tom gave his consent, and it was agreed he should meet me next morning at daylight.
"I've a notion there'll be some fun, Jacob," said he, "from what you say."
"I think so, too; but you've towed me two miles, and I must be off again, or I shall lose my dinner; so good-bye;" I selected two other wherries in the course of the afternoon, and then returned home.
It was a lovely morning when Tom and I washed out the boat, and, having dressed ourselves in our neatest clothes, we shoved off in company with the two other wherries, and dropped leisurely down the river with the last of the ebb. When we pulled in to the stairs at Whitehall, we found two men waiting for us with three or four hampers, some baskets, an iron saucepan, a frying-pan, and a large tin pail with a cover, full of rough ice to cool the wines. We were directed to put all these articles into one boat; the others to be reserved for the company.
"Jacob," said Tom, "don't let us be kitchen; I'm togged out for the parlour."
This point had just been arranged, and the articles put into the wherry, when the party made their appearance, Mr Tinfoil acting as master of the ceremonies.
"Fair Titania," said he to the lady who appeared to demand, and therefore received, the most attention, "allow me to hand you to your throne."
"Many thanks, good Puck," replied the lady; "we are well placed; but dear me, we haven't brought, or we have lost, our vinaigrette; we positively cannot go without it. What can our women have been about?"
"Pease-blossom and Mustard-seed are much to blame," replied Tinfoil; "but shall I run back for it?"
"Yes," replied the lady, "and be here again ere the leviathan can swim a league."
"I'll put a girdle round the earth in forty minutes," replied the gentleman, stepping out of the boat.
"Won't you be a little out of breath before you come back, sir?" said Tom, joining the conversation.
This remark, far from giving offence, was followed by a general laugh. Before Mr Tinfoil was out of sight, the lost vinaigrette was dropped out of the lady's handkerchief; he was therefore recalled; and the whole of the party being arranged in the two boats, we shoved off; the third boat, in which the provender had been stowed, followed us, and was occupied by the two attendants, a call-boy and scene-shifter, who were addressed by Tinfoil as Caliban and Stephano.
"Is all our company here?" said a pert-looking, little pug-nosed man, who had taken upon himself the part of Quince the carpenter, in the Midsummer Night's Dream. "You, Nick Bottom," continued he, addressing another, "are set down for Pyramus."
The party addressed did not, however, appear to enter into the humour. He was a heavy-made, rather corpulent, white-faced personage, dressed in white jean trousers, white waistcoat, brown coat, and white hat. Whether anything had put him out of humour I know not, but it is evident that he was the butt of the ladies and of most of the party.
"I'll just thank you," replied this personage, whose real name was Winterbottom, "to be quiet, Mr Western, for I shan't stand any of your nonsense."
"Oh, Mr Winterbottom, surely you are not about to sow the seeds of discord so early. Look at the scene before you—hear how the birds are singing, how merrily the sun shines and how beautifully the water sparkles! Who can be cross on such a morning as this?"
"No, miss," replied Mr Winterbottom, "not at all—not at all—only my name's Winterbottom, and not Bottom. I don't wear an ass's head to please anybody—that's all. I won't be bottom—that's flat."
"That depends upon circumstances, sir," observed Tom.
"What business have you to shove your oar in, Mr Waterman?"
"I was hired for the purpose," replied Tom, dipping his oar in the water, and giving a hearty stroke.
"Stick to your own element, then—shove your oar into the water, but not into our discourse."
"Well, sir, I won't say another word, if you don't like it."
"But you may to me," said Titania, laughing, "whenever you please."
"And to me too," said Tinfoil, who was amused with Tom's replies.
Mr Winterbottom became very wroth, and demanded to be put on shore directly, but the Fairy Queen ordered us to obey him at our peril, and Mr Winterbottom was carried up the river very much against his inclination.
"Our friend is not himself," said Mr Tinfoil, producing a key bugle; "but—
"Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast, To soften rocks, and rend the knotted oak.
"And, therefore, will we try the effect of it upon his senses." Mr Tinfoil then played the air in "Midas":—
"Pray, Goody, please to moderate," etcetera.
During which Mr Winterbottom looked more sulky than ever. As soon as the air was finished, another of the party responded with his flute, from the other boat—while Mr Quince played what he called base, by snapping his fingers. The sounds of the instruments floated along the flowing and smooth water, reaching the ears and attracting the attention of many who, for a time, rested from their labour, or hung listlessly over the gunnels of the vessels, watching the boats, and listening to the harmony. All was mirth and gaiety—the wherries kept close to each other, and between the airs the parties kept up a lively and witty conversation, occasionally venting their admiration upon the verdure of the sloping lawns and feathering trees with which the banks of the noble river are so beautifully adorned; even Mr Winterbottom had partially recovered his serenity, when he was again irritated by a remark of Quince, who addressed him.
"You can play no part but Pyramus; for Pyramus is a sweet-faced man—a proper man as one shall see on a summer's day; a most lovely, gentleman-like man; therefore, you must needs play Pyramus."
"Take care I don't play the devil with your physiognomy, Mr Western," retorted Winterbottom.
Here Caliban, in the third boat, began playing the fiddle and singing to it—
"Gaffer, Gaffer's son, and his little jackass, Were trotting along the road."
The chorus of which ditty was "Ee-aw, Ee-aw!" like the braying of a jackass.
"Bless thee, Bottom, bless thee; thou art translated," cried Quince, looking at Winterbottom.
"Very well—very well, Mr Western. I don't want to upset the wherry, and therefore you're safe at present, but the reckoning will come—so I give you warning."
"Slaves of my lamp, do my bidding. I will have no quarrelling here. You, Quince, shut your mouth; you, Winterbottom, draw in your lips, and I, your queen, will charm you with a song," said Titania, waving her little hand. The fiddler ceased playing, and the voice of the fair actress rivetted all our attention.
"Wilt thou waken, bride of May, While flowers are fresh, and sweet bells chime, Listen and learn from my roundelay How all life's pilot boats sailed one day A match with Time!
"Love sat on a lotus-leaf aloft, And saw old Time in his loaded boat, Slowly he crossed Life's narrow tide, While Love sat clapping his wings, and cried, 'Who will pass Time?'
"Patience came first, but soon was gone, With helm and sail to help Time on; Care and Grief could not lend an oar, And Prudence said (while he staid on shore), 'I wait for Time.'
"Hope filled with flowers her cork-tree bark, And lighted its helm with a glow-worm's spark; Then Love, when he saw his bark fly past, Said, 'Lingering Time will soon be passed, Hope outspeeds time.'
"Wit went nearest Old Time to pass, With his diamond oar and boat of glass A feathery dart from his store he drew, And shouted, while far and swift it flew, 'O Mirth kills Time!'
"But Time sent the feathery arrow back, Hope's boat of Amaranthus miss'd its track; Then Love bade its butterfly pilots move, And laughing, said 'They shall see how Love Can conquer Time.'"
I need hardly say that the song was rapturously applauded, and most deservedly so. Several others were demanded from the ladies and gentlemen of the party, and given without hesitation; but I cannot now recall them to my memory. The bugle and flute played between whiles, and all was laughter and merriment.
"There's a sweet place," said Tinfoil, pointing to a villa on the Thames; "Now, with the fair Titania and ten thousand a-year, one could there live happy."
"I'm afraid the fair Titania must go to market without the latter encumbrance," replied the lady; "The gentleman must find the ten thousand a-year, and I must bring as my dowry—"
"Ten thousand charms," interrupted Tinfoil—"that's most true, and pity 'tis 'tis true. Did your fairyship ever hear my epigram on the subject?
"Let the lads of the East love the maids of Cash-meer, Nor affection with interests clash; Far other idolatry pleases us here, We adore but the maids of Mere Cash."
"Excellent, good Puck! Have you any more?"
"Not of my own, but you have heard what Winterbottom wrote under the bust of Shakespeare last Jubilee?"
"I knew not that Apollo had ever visited him."
"You shall hear:—
"In this here place the bones of Shakespeare lie, But that ere form of his shall never die; A speedy end and soon this world may have, But Shakespeare's name shall bloom beyond the grave."
"I'll trouble you, Mr Tinfoil, not to be so very witty at my expense," growled out Winterbottom. "I never wrote a line of poetry in my life."
"No one said you did, Winterbottom; but you won't deny that you wrote those lines."
Mr Winterbottom disdained a reply. Gaily did we pass the variegated banks of the river, swept up with a strong flood-tide, and at last arrived at a little island agreed upon as the site of the pic-nic. The company disembarked, and were busy looking for a convenient spot for their entertainment, Quince making a rapid escape from Winterbottom, the latter remaining on the bank. "Jenkins," said he to the man christened Caliban, "you did not forget the salad?"
"No, sir, I brought it myself. It's on the top of the little hamper."
Mr Winterbottom, who, it appears, was extremely partial to salad, was satisfied with the reply, and walked slowly away.
"Well," said Tom to me, wiping the perspiration from his brow with his handkerchief, "I wouldn't have missed this for anything. I only wish father had been here. I hope that young lady will sing again before we part."
"I think it very likely, and that the fun is only begun," replied I. "But come, let's lend a hand to get the prog out of the boat."
"Pat! pat! and here's a marvellous convenient place for our rehearsal. This green plot shall be our stage," cried Quince, addressing the others of the party.
The locality was approved of, and now all were busy in preparation. The hampers were unpacked, and cold meats, poultry, pies of various kinds, pastry, etcetera, appeared in abundance.
"This is no manager's feast," said Tinfoil; "the fowls are not made of wood, nor is small beer substituted for wine. Don Juan's banquet to the Commendador is a farce to it."
"All the manager's stage banquets are farces, and very sorry jokes into the bargain," replied another.
"I wish old Morris had to eat his own suppers."
"He must get a new set of teeth, or they'll prove a deal too tough."
"Hiss! turn him out! he's made a pun."
The hampers were now empty; some laid the cloth upon the grass, and arranged the plates, and knives and forks. The ladies were as busy as the gentlemen—some were wiping the glasses, others putting salt into the salt-cellars. Titania was preparing the salad. Mr Winterbottom, who was doing nothing, accosted her; "May I beg as a favour that you do not cut the salad too small? It loses much of its crispness."
"Why, what a Nebuchadnezzar you are! However, sir, you shall be obeyed."
"Who can fry fish?" cried Tinfoil. "Here are two pairs of soles and some eels. Where's Caliban?"
"Here I am, sir," replied the man on his knees, blowing up a fire which he had kindled. "I have got the soup to mind."
"Cooling the wine, sir."
"Who, then, can fry fish, I ask?"
"I can, sir," replied Tom; "but not without butter."
"Butter shalt thou have, thou disturber of the element. Have we not Hiren here?"
"I wasn't hired as a cook, at all events," replied Tom: "but I'm rather a dab at it."
"Then shalt thou have the place," replied the actor.
"With all my heart and soul," cried Tom, taking out his knife, and commencing the necessary operation of skinning the fish.
In half-an-hour all was ready: the fair Titania did me the honour to seat herself upon my jacket, to ward off any damp from the ground. The other ladies had also taken their respective seats, as allotted by the mistress of the revels; the tables were covered by many of the good things of this life; the soup was ready in a tureen at one end, and Tom had just placed the fish on the table, while Mr Quince and Winterbottom, by the commands of Titania, were despatched for the wine and other varieties of potations. When they returned, eyeing one another askance, Winterbottom looking daggers at his opponent, and Quince not quite easy even under the protection of Titania, Tom had just removed the frying-pan from the fire with its residuary grease still bubbling. Quince having deposited his load, was about to sit down, when a freak came into Tom's head, which, however, he dared not put into execution himself; but "a nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse," says the proverb. Winterbottom stood before Tom, and Quince with his back to them. Tom looked at Winterbottom, pointing slily to the frying-pan, and then to the hinder parts of Quince. Winterbottom snatched the hint and the frying-pan at the same moment. Quince squatted himself down with a serge, as they say at sea, quoting at the time—"Marry, our play is the most lamentable comedy"—but putting his hands behind him, to soften his fall, they were received into the hot frying-pan, inserted behind him by Winterbottom.
"Oh, Lord! oh! oh!" shrieked Mr Quince, springing up like lightning, bounding in the air with the pain, his hands behind him still adhering to the frying-pan.
At the first scream of Mr Quince, the whole party had been terrified; the idea was that a snake had bitten him, and the greatest alarm prevailed; but when they perceived the cause of the disaster, even his expressions of pain could not prevent their mirth. It was too ludicrous. Still the gentlemen and ladies condoled with him, but Mr Quince was not to be reasoned with. He walked away to the river-side, Mr Winterbottom slily enjoying his revenge, for no one but Tom had an idea that it was anything but an accident. Mr Quince's party of pleasure was spoiled, but the others did not think it necessary that theirs should be also. A "really very sorry for poor Western," and a half-dozen "poor fellows!" intermingled with tittering, was all that his misfortunes called forth after his departure; and then they set to like French falconers. The soup was swallowed, the fish disappeared, joints were cut up, pies delivered up their hidden treasures, fowls were dismembered like rotten boroughs, corks were drawn, others flew without the trouble, and they did eat and were filled. Mr Winterbottom kept his eye upon the salad, his favourite condiment, mixed it himself, offered it to all, and was glad to find that no one would spare time to eat it; but Mr Winterbottom could eat for everybody, and he did eat. The fragments were cleared away, and handed over to us. We were very busy, doing as ample justice to them as the party had done before us, when Mr Winterbottom was observed to turn very pale, and appeared very uneasy.
"What's the matter?" inquired Mr Tinfoil.
"I'm—I'm not very well—I—I'm afraid something has disagreed with me. I'm very ill," exclaimed Mr Winterbottom, turning as white as a sheet, and screwing up his mouth.
"It must be the salad," said one of the ladies; "no one has eaten it but yourself, and we are all well."
"I—rather think—it must be—oh—I do recollect that I thought the oil had a queer taste."
"Why there was no oil in the castors," replied Tinfoil. "I desired Jenkins to get some."
"So did I, particularly," replied Winterbottom. "Oh!—oh, dear—oh, dear!"
"Jenkins," cried Tinfoil, "where did you get the oil for the castors? What oil did you get?—are you sure it was right?"
"Yes, sir, quite sure," replied Jenkins. "I brought it here in a bottle, and put it into the castors before dinner."
"Where did you buy it?"
"At the chemist's, sir. Here's the bottle;" and Jenkins produced a bottle with castor oil in large letters labelled on the side.
The murder was out. Mr Winterbottom groaned, rose from his seat, for he felt very sick indeed. The misfortunes of individuals generally add to the general quota of mirth, and Mr Winterbottom's misfortune had the same effect as that of Mr Quince. But where was poor Mr Quince all this time? He had sent for the iron kettle in which the soup had been warmed up, and filling it full of Thames water, had immersed the afflicted parts in the cooling element. There he sat with his hands plunged deep, when Mr Winterbottom made his appearance at the same spot and Mr Quince was comforted by witnessing the state of his enemy. Indeed, the sight of Winterbottom's distress did more to soothe Mr Quince's pain than all the Thames water in the world. He rose, and leaving Winterbottom, with his two hands to his head, leaning against a tree, joined the party, and pledged the ladies in succession, till he was more than half tipsy.
In the space of half-an-hour Mr Winterbottom returned, trembling and shivering as if he had been suffering under an ague. A bumper or two of brandy restored him, and before the day closed in, both Winterbottom and Quince, one applying stimulants to his stomach, and the other drowning his sense of pain in repeated libations, were in a state (to say the least of it) of incipient intoxication. But there is a time for all things, and it was time to return. The evening had passed freely; song had followed song. Tinfoil had tried his bugle, and played not a little out of tune; the flute also neglected the flats and sharps as of no consequence; the ladies thought the gentlemen rather too forward, and, in short, it was time to break up the party. The hampers were repacked, and handed half-empty, into the boat. Of wine there was a little left; and by the direction of Titania, the plates, dishes, etcetera, only were to be returned, and the fragments divided among the boatmen. The company re-embarked in high spirits, and we had the ebb-tide to return with. Just as we were shoving off, it was remembered that the ice-pail had been left under the tree, besides a basket with sundries. The other wherries had shoved off, and they were in consequence brought into our boat, in which we had the same company as before, with the exception of Mr Western, alias Quince, who preferred the boat which carried the hampers, that he might loll over the side, with his hands in the water. Mr Winterbottom soon showed the effects of the remedy he had taken against the effects of the castor oil. He was uproarious, and it was with difficulty that he could be persuaded to sit still in the boat, much to the alarm of Titania and the other ladies. He would make violent love to the fairy queen; and as he constantly shifted his position to address her and throw himself at her feet, there was some danger of the boat being upset. At last Tom proposed to him to sit on the pail before her, as then he could address her with safety; and Winterbottom staggered up to take the seat. As he was seating himself, Tom took off the cover, so that he was plunged into the half-liquid ice; but Mr Winterbottom was too drunk to perceive it. He continued to rant and to rave, and protest and vow, and even spout for some time, when suddenly the quantity of caloric extracted from him produced its effect.
"I—I—really believe that the night is damp—the dew falls—the seat is damp, fair Titania."
"It's only fancy, Mr Winterbottom," replied Titania who was delighted with his situation. "Jean trousers are cool in the evening; it's only an excuse to get away from me, and I never will speak again to you if you quit your seat."
"The fair Titania, the mistress of my soul, and body too, if she pleases—has—but to command—and her slave obeys."
"I rather think it is a little damp," said Tinfoil; "allow me to throw a little sand upon your seat;" and Tinfoil pulled out a large paper bag full of salt, which he strewed over the ice.
Winterbottom was satisfied, and remained; but by the time we had reached Vauxhall Bridge, the refrigeration had become so complete that he was fixed on the ice, which the application of the salt had made solid. He complained of cold, shivered, attempted to rise, but could not extricate himself; at last his teeth chattered, and he became almost sober; but he was helpless from the effects of the castor oil, his intermediate intoxication, and his present state of numbness. He spoke less and less; at last he was silent, and when we arrived at Whitehall stairs he was firmly fixed in the ice. When released he could not walk, and he was sent home in a hackney-coach.
"It was cruel to punish him so, Mr Tinfoil," said Titania.
"Cruel punishment! Why, yes; a sort of impailment," replied Mr Tinfoil, offering his arm.
The remainder of the party landed and walked home, followed by the two assistants, who took charge of the crockery; and thus ended the pic-nic party, which, as Tom said, was the very funniest day he had ever spent in his life.
CHAPTER TWENTY NINE.
MR. TURNBULL "SETS HIS HOUSE IN ORDER"—MRS. T THINKS SUCH CONDUCT VERY DISORDERLY—THE CAPTAIN AT HIS OLD TRICKS WITH HIS HARPOON—HE PAYS HIS LADY'S DEBTS OF HONOUR, AND GIVES THE APPLICANT A QUITTANCE UNDER HIS OWN FOOT—MONSIEUR AND MADAME TAGLIABUE WITHDRAW FROM THE SOCIETY OF "CES BARBARES LES ANGLAIS."
It was on the Sunday after the picnic party, when, feeling I had neglected Captain Turnbull, and that he would think it unkind of me not to go near him, after having accompanied Mary to church, I set off on foot to his villa near Brentford. I rang at the porter's lodge, and asked whether he was at home.
"Yes, sir," replied the old woman at the lodge, who was very communicative, and very friendly with me; "and missus be at home too."
I walked up the carriage-drive of one hundred yards, which led to the entrance-door; and when I rang it was opened by a servant I had not seen before as belonging to the establishment. "Where is Mr Turnbull?" inquired I.
"He is in his own room, sir," replied the man; "but you must send up your name, if you please, as every one is not admitted."
I must observe to the reader that I was not dressed in jacket and trousers. The money I earned was more than sufficient to supply all my expenses, and I had fitted on what are called at sea, and on the river, long togs. I was dressed as most people are on shore. The servant evidently took me for a gentleman; and perhaps, as far as dress went, I was entitled to that distinction. Many people are received as such in this world with less claims than I had. I gave my name; the man left me at the door, and soon returned, requesting that I would follow him. I must say that I was rather astonished; where were Mr Mortimer and the two men in flaunting liveries, and long cotton epaulettes with things like little marline-spikes hanging to the ends of them? Even the livery was changed, being a plain brown coat, with light blue collar and cuffs. I was, however, soon made acquainted with what had taken place on my entering the apartment of Mr Turnbull—his study, as Mrs T called it, although Mr Turnbull insisted upon calling it his cabin, a name certainly more appropriate, as it contained but two small shelves of books, the remainder of the space being filled up with favourite harpoons, porpoise skulls, sharks' jaws, corals, several bears' skins, brown and white, and one or two models of the vessels which had belonged to his brother and himself, and which had been employed in the Greenland fishery. It was, in fact, a sort of museum of all he had collected during his voyages. Esquimaux implements, ornaments and dresses, were lying about in corners; and skins of rare animals, killed by himself, such as black foxes, etcetera, were scattered about the carpet. His sea-chest, full of various articles, was also one of the ornaments of the room, much to the annoyance of Mrs T, who had frequently exerted her influence to get rid of it, but in vain. The only articles of furniture were two sofas, a large table in the centre, and three or four heavy chairs. The only attempt at adornment consisted in a dozen coloured engravings, framed and glazed, of walrus shooting, etcetera, taken from the folio works of Captains Cook and Mulgrave; and a sketch or two by his brother, such as the state of the William pressed by an iceberg on the morning of the 25th of January, latitude —-, longitude —-.
Captain T was in his morning-gown, evidently not very well, at least he appeared harassed and pale. "My dear Jacob, this is very kind of you. I did mean to scold you for not coming before; but I'm too glad to see you to find the heart now. But why have you kept away so long?"
"I have really been very well employed, sir. Stapleton has given me up the wherry, and I could not neglect his interests, even if I did my own."
"Always right, boy; and how are you getting on?"
"I am very happy, sir; very happy, indeed."
"I'm glad to hear it, Jacob; may you always be so. Now, take the other sofa, and let us have a long palaver, as the Indians say. I have something to tell you. I suppose you observed a change—heh?"
"Yes, sir; I observed that Mr Mortimer was not visible."
"Exactly. Mr Mortimer, or John Snobbs, the rascal, is at present in Newgate for trial: and I mean to send him out on a voyage for the good of his health. I caught the scoundrel at last, and I'll show him no more mercy than I would to a shark that had taken the bait. But that's not all. We have had a regular mutiny and attempt to take the ship from me; but I have them all in irons, and ordered for punishment. Jacob, money is but too often a curse, depend upon it."
"You'll not find many of your opinion, sir," replied I, laughing.
"Perhaps not; because those who have it are content with the importance which it gives to them, and won't allow the damnable fact; and because those who have it not are always sighing after it, as if it were the only thing worth looking after in this world. But now, I will just tell you what has happened since I last saw you, and then you shall judge."
As, however, Captain T's narrative ran to a length of nearly three hours, I shall condense the matter for the information of the reader. It appeared that Mrs T had continued to increase the lengths of her drives in her carriage, the number of her acquaintances, and her manifold expenses, until Mr T had remonstrated in very strong terms. His remonstrances did not, however, meet with the attention which he had expected; and he found out by accident, moreover, that the money with which he had constantly supplied Mrs T, to defray her weekly bills, had been otherwise appropriated; and that the bills for the two last quarters had none of them been paid. This produced an altercation, and a desire on his part to know in what manner these sums had been disbursed. At first the only reply from Mrs T, who considered it advisable to brazen it out, and, if possible, gain the ascendancy which was necessary, was a contemptuous toss of her head, which undulated the three yellow ostrich feathers in her bonnet, as she walked out of the room and entered her carriage. This, to Mr T, who was a matter-of-fact man, was not very satisfactory; he waited perforce until the carriage returned, and then demanded an explicit answer. Mrs T assumed the highest ground, talked about fashionable expenses, her knowledge of what was due to his character, etcetera. Mr T rejoined about necessary expenses, and that it was due to his character to pay his tradesmen's bills. Mrs T then talked of good-breeding, best society, and her many plaisers, as she termed them; Mr T did not know what many pleasures meant in French; but he thought she had been indulged in as many as most women since they had come down to this establishment. But to the question: why were not the bills paid, and what had she done with the money? Spent it in pin money. Pin money! thirty pounds a-week in pins! it would have bought harpoons enough for a three years' voyage. She must tell the truth. She wouldn't tell anything, but called for her salts, and called him a brute. At all events, he wouldn't be called a fool. He gave her till the next morning to consider of it. The next morning the bills were all sent in as requested, and amounted to six hundred pounds. They were paid and receipted. "Now, Mrs T, will you oblige me by letting me know what you have done with this six hundred pounds?" Mrs T would not—she was not to be treated in that manner. Mr T was not on board a whaler now, to bully and frighten as he pleased. She would have justice done her. Have a separation, alimony, and a divorce. She might have them all if she pleased, but she should have no more money; that was certain. Then she would have a fit of hysterics. So she did, and lay the whole of the day on the sofa, expecting Mr T would pick her up. But the idea never came into Mr T's head. He went to bed; and feeling restless, he rose very early, and saw from his window a cart drive up to the wall, and the parties who came with it leap over and enter the house, and return carrying to it two large hampers. He snatched up one of his harpoons, walked out the other way, and arrived at the cart just as the hampers had been put in, and they were about to drive off; challenged them, and instead of being answered, the horse was flogged, and he nearly run over. He then let fly his harpoon into the horse, which dropped, and pitched out the two men on their heads insensible; secured them, called to the lodge for assistance, sent for constables, and gave them in charge. They proved to be hampers forwarded by Mr Mortimer, who had been in the habit of so doing for some time. These hampers contained his best wine, and various other articles, which also proved that Mr Mortimer must have had false keys. Leaving the culprits and property in charge of two constables, Mr T returned to the house in company with the third constable; the door was opened by Mr Mortimer, who followed him into his study, told him he should leave the house directly, had always lived with gentlemen before, and requested that he might have what was due to him. Mr T thought the request but reasonable, and therefore gave him in charge of the constable. Mr Snobbs, rather confounded at such ungentlemanly behaviour, was, with the others, marched off to Bow Street. Mr T sends for the other two servants in livery, and assures them that he has no longer any occasion for their services, having the excessive vulgar idea that this peculation must have been known to them. Pays them their wages, requests they will take off their liveries, and leave the house. Both willing. They also had always lived with gentlemen before. Mr T takes the key of the butler's pantry, that the plate may not consider him too vulgar to remain in the house, and then walks to the stables. Horses neigh, as if to say they are all ready for their breakfasts; but the door locked. Hails the coachman, no answer. Returning from the stables, perceives coachee, rather dusty, coming in at the lodge gate; requests to know why he did not sleep at home and take care of his horses. He was missus's coachman, not master's, and could satisfy her, but could not satisfy Mr T; who paid him his wages's and, deducting his liveries, sent him after the others. Coachee also was very glad to go—had always lived with gentlemen before. Meets the lady's maid, who tells him Mrs T is much too ill to come down to breakfast. Rather fortunate, as there was no breakfast to be had. Dresses himself, gets into a pair-horse coach, arrives at the White Horse Cellar, swallows his breakfast, goes to Bow Street, commits Mr Mortimer, alias Snobbs, and his confederates for trial. Hires a job-man to bring the horses up for sale, and leaves his carriage at the coachmaker's. Obtains a temporary footman, and then Mr T returns to his villa. A very good morning's work. Finds Mrs T up in the parlour, very much surprised and shocked at his conduct—at no Mr Mortimer—at no servants, and indebted to her own maid for a cup of tea. More recriminations—more violence—another threat of alimony, and the carriage ordered, that she may seek counsel. No coachman—no carriage— no horses—no nothing, as her maid declares. Mrs T locks herself up in her room, and another day is passed with as little matrimonial comfort as can be expected.