« AnteriorContinuar »
in his hand. “ Mistress," said he, as my mother retreated, “ you said, Now you're vexed,' to me just now. I ask you again, am I vexed, or am I not ?" and my father flourished the tail over his head.
My mother looked at the strange weapon, the remembrance of the past was too painful; she was conquered by her fear.
Oh, no!” cried she, falling on her knees. “ You're not vexed — indeed you are not."
“ You're quite sure of that ?” responded my father authoritatively, as he advanced towards her.
“Oh! yes, yes,” cried my mother, trembling; “indeed, you're not."
“A'n't I in a very good-humour ?" continued my father. “ Yes, you are in the best of humours, and always are so, unless - I aggravate you,” replied my mother whimpering.
“ Well!” replied my father, lowering his tail ; “ I expect we've come to a right understanding at last. So now get up and wipe your eyes : but recollect, that whenever you dare to tell me that I'm vexed, I won't be so ungenteel as to contradict you.”
Thus was the mastery gained by my father, and never lost. It is true, that sometimes my mother would forget herself, and would get on as far as “ There now, you're -," but she would stop there, and correct herself, saying “ No! you're not,” and allow her temper to evaporate, by singing one of her usual ditties, as
Hush-a-by, baby, on the tree top;” but my father never took notice of her singing; and being really a very good-tempered man, my mother's temper gradually became improved.
The return of my father made some alteration in our mode of life. He might, if he had pleased, have lived as an out-pensioner with my mother; but this he would not do. He used to come in almost every evening to see her, and she used to provide for him a pot of porter, which he seldom exceeded ; if he had friends with him, they paid for what they drank. This pot of porter per diem was the only demand made upon my mother for permission to remain separate, and she did not grumble at it. His tobacco he fonnd himself out of the tobacco money allowed at the Hospita). He had received some pay; which, contrary to his former custom, he had laid by in the charge of one of the lieutenants of the Hospital ; for at that time there were no savings banks.
As a married man, my father had the liberty to introduce his wife and children into the Hospital at meal times, to share his allowance with them: this my mother would not listen to, as regarded herself and my sister ; but my father messed in what is called the married men's room, on my account; and instead of buying my own dinner, or applying to my mother for it, I now always took it with my father in the Hospital. In consequence of my father's admittance as a pensioner, both I and my sister might have been instructed at the Hospital school ; but my mother would not permit Virginia to go there, and I found it much more convenient to go to Peter Anderson in the evening, when I had nothing to do. On the whole, we all went on much more comfortably than we did before my father's return.
One evening I was, as usual, with Anderson in his cabin, my father having been drafted into his ward, I could not help asking Anderson how he liked him. His reply was, “ I like
your father, Jack, for he is a straight-forward, honest, good-tempered man; and, moreover, has a good natural judgment. I think it a great pity that such a man as he is, should be so early in life lost as it were, to the country. He is a first-rate seaman; and although there are many like him, still there are none to spare. However, if his country loses, he may himself gain, by being so soon called away from a service of great temptation. The sailor who has fought for his country, Jack, has much to be thankful for when he takes in moorings at Greenwich Hospital. He is well fed, well clothed, tended in sickness, and buried with respect; but all these are nothing, compared with the greatest boon. When I reflect what lives sailors live, how reckless they are, how often they have been on the brink of eternity, and wonderfully preserved, without even a feeling of gratitude to Hiin who has watched over them, or taking their escapes as warnings — when I consider how they pass their whole lives in excess, intemperance, and, too often, blasphemy, it is indeed a mercy that they are
allowed to repose here after such a venturous and careless career that they have time to reflect upon what has passed —to listen to the words of the Gospel, to hate their former life, and, trusting in God's mercy, to secure their salvation. This is the greatest charity of this institution, and long may it flourish, a blessing to the country which has endowed it, and to the seamen, who are not only provided for in this world, but are prepared in it for the next."
Such were continually the style of admonitions given me by this good old man; and I need not point out to the reader how fortunate it was for me that I had secured such a preceptor.
IX WHICH IS PROVED THE TRUTH OF THE PROVERB WHEN YOUR OWN
HOUSE IS MADE OF GLASS, YOU NEVER SHOULD BE THE FIRST TO TAROW STONES."
One evening, when I went to the shop of the widow St. Felix to purchase some tobacco for my father, she said, “Why don't your father come himself, Jack? I want to make his acquaintance, and see how he looks without his pig-tail.”
“Why, you never saw him when he had it on,” replied I.
“No, that's the truth ; but still I wish to have a sight of him,the fact is, I want to laugh at him."
“Very well, I'll bring him here; but, recollect, it's a very sore subject with him," replied I, “and that you may have a sharp answer.”
“ That I'll take my chance of, Jack,” replied the widow, laughing.
In consequence of this intimation, one evening when my father was walking in the Hospital, I persuaded him to call at the shop.
“ This is my father, Mrs. St. Felix," said I.
“ Most happy to see him. What shall I have the pleasure of assisting you to, Mr. Saunders ?" said the widow.
My sarvice to you, Marm, - if you please, to two penn'orth of pigtail and a paper of shorts.”
“ Much obliged to you, Mr. Saunders," replied she; “sure we're much indebted to Admiral Lord Nelson for sending us such fine-looking pensioners. I shouldn't wonder if I were to choose a husband out of the Hospital yet.”
“ I'm afeard we're all too mauled, Marm, to suit a pretty young woman like you," replied my father, very gallantly.
“ Thank you for that, Mr. Saunders; but you're mistaken entirely. I don't consider the loss of a leg, for instance, as any thing ; I never look at men's legs, and, therefore, care little whether they are made of wood or not, provided they don't tread on my corns."
“ Well, Marm, I'm glad that you don't consider a timber toe as any obstacle to matrimony ; but, I fear, having a wife already may be considered by you a sort of objection."
Why, sure, I must have the whole of my husband; I couldn't afford to share him, especially when one limb is gone already. That puts me in mind of my want of manners; I hope Mrs. Saunders is quite well. I hear from Jack that you have a separate maintenance, that's very genteel.”
“Why, yes, Marm,” replied my father ; “ the king maintains me, and my wife maintains herself; so, as you say, we have a separate maintenance."
“Well, that's the best way when married people don't agree. What are you laughing at, Mr. Jack? did I hint that
father and mother ever had any little matrimonial differences ? certainly did hear that there was a trifling dispute when they last parted ; but when they bring me such tales I always cut them short. Here's your pigtail, Mr. Saunders,” continued the widow, laughing, as she put the tobacco on the counter.
I looked at my father, who did not seem to relish the hint, but he answered very frankly, “ If you cut them as short as my wife cut mine, why then you won't be troubled with them any more. I see, Marm, you know all about it, and you tray have your laugh if it pleases you; but, I can tell you that my tail has done me better sarvice since it was off, than when it hung down my back.”
“ Become useful, instead of ornamental, I presume, Mr. Saunders."
“ Just made this difference - when it was on it made my wife's tongue to go; now it is off, it has stopped it."
“ An extraordinary powerful instrument, to stop a woman's
“ Well, you've only to ax Mistress Saunders, she'll tell you all its virtues."
• Well ! Mr. Saunders. I don't know whether you have any idea of taking another wife some future day. If so, say nothing about it, or you'll never get one."
“ Wel, Marm — I don't know whether you ever think of taking another husband; but if so, I think it would be kind on my part to lend it to him. Can you tell me why widows' tongues run so much faster than other womens'?"
“ Mercy! what put that idea in your head, Mr. Saunders ?"
“ You, and half a dozen more that I happen to know. May I make so bold as to ask you, Marm, how long you may have been a widow ?" continued my father.
“ Bless me! so long, that I quite forget all about it,” replied Mrs. St. Felix,” turning away from the counter to the jars behind.
I gave my father a wink to let him know that it was his turn now: he understood me, hitched up his waistband, and nodded. “ How did
your first husband, Marm? What did he die of?”
The widow coloured, and my father perceiving it followed up his question.
“Did he die of a fever, Marm ?”
May I ask how long it is since he died ?" continued my father. “Oh! Mr. Saunders,” replied the widow confusedly, “I really don't recollect just now It's very painful to answer such questions."