« AnteriorContinuar »
- no, indeed, upon her honour! Mr. Saunders was -(sob) excellent young man (sob) -- so attached to Sir Hercules (sob), and had such a great respect for her ladyship, that — (sob-sob -sob-) he had won her heart.”
By this time her ladyship had regained her breath, and she interrupted my mother by pointing out to her, that allowing all she said to be correct, yet still that was no reason why she should allow such indecent liberties ; that Sir Hercules had never obtained such favours from her until after the ring had been put on her finger. Then, indeed, such things might be - that is, occasionally; but the kitchen of all places ! - And, besides, how did she know how many wives the coxswain had already ? She shouldn't be surprised, if, with that long pigtail of his, he had five at least — nay, perhaps, six or seven. Here my mother replied, , that “it was out of gratitude to her (sob) for having consented to permit him to (sob) speak to Sir Hercules (sob), who would plead with her ladyship (sob), which had occasioned Mr. Saunders (sob) to take — such — a- liberty (sob -- sob — sob) — which he had never
done before (sob) - No!. honour never ! And here my mother's sobs choked her utterance.
This explanation somewhat pacified, and a little subsequent humility and flattery gained the mistress, who consented to settle the matter with Sir Hercules, alleging, as one principal reason for so doing, that after the familiarity which had taken place between them, the sooner they were married the better. The wishes of her ladyship were tantamount to commands. Sir Hercules pronounced my father to be a fool, and they were married.
My mother was a good-looking person, perhaps two or three years older than my father; she was of a very bad temper, very vindictive and revengeful, and in every way she had a pleasure in annoying other people, and when she succeeded she invariably concluded her remarks with “ There
- now you're vexed I" Whenever out of humour herself from the observations of others, she attempted to conceal her vexation by singing; and having been
so many years of her life in the nursery, her songs were usually those little ditties used to pacify or amuse children in arms. “ Saunders,' she would cry out, “ if you arn't the biggest fool that ever walk'd on two legs — to look at that long tail of yours you're so proud of, one would think I'd married a monkey, a hourang-howtang, instead of a man. There - now you're vexed ! One can't open one's mouth.” My mother knew where to strike; and this attack upon his pig-tail was certain to provoke my father, who would retort in no measured language, till she, in her turn, lost her temper, and then out she would sing, in a sort of scream
“ Hey diddle, diddle, the cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon,” &c.
And thus she continued to sing (or squeel) until her wrath cooled down.
The consequences of forming a matrimonial alliance with a captain's coxswain soon became visible. Six months after they had been married, Lady Hercules pronounced my mother's appearance to be quite indecent, and declared her no longer fit for the office of lady's maid to a lady of her exquisite delicacy; and my mother, who became less active every day, received notice to quit, which she did, when her month was up, in great wrath, packing up her boxes, and slamming the door as she left the house, singing at the very highest pitch of her voice,
“ Dickory, dickory, dock; the mouse ran up the clock," &c.
My father wished her to come and live with him on board the frigate ; but to that my mother would not consent, saying, that she had, it was true, degraded herself and her family by marrying a coxswain, but she was not going to further contaminate herself by mixing with the vulgar creatures on board. In this resolve I think
mother was right; but her dismissal and disgrace was followed up by my father being disrated and turned into the main-top, for no other reason in the world than such being the will and pleasure of Lady Hercules.
Her ladyship considered that she had lost a good servant through my father's intervention; and having therefore taken a dislike to him, did not choose that he should, as coxswain, come up to the house as usual ; and, as he no longer did the duty of coxswain, she asserted that he was not entitled to the rating. Thus, seven months had hardly passed away before my father's marriage became a source of vexation and annoyance; his pay was decreased, and he was no longer a petty officer. My mother's pride was hurt; and if she was resolute in not going on board to remain with him when he was captain's coxswain, she was still more so, now that he was reduced to a common seaman. As for my father, he was the picture of misery, - he had no consolation except turning his quid and tying his pig-tail.
But every thing changes in this world, and among other changes was that of the station of the frigate, which was ordered foreign. Sir Hercules took leave of his lady, who retired to Tonbridge Wells. My father took leave of my mother, who retired to Woolwich. She had saved some money in service, and my father handed over to her all the pay which he received, when the ship's company were paid previous to the sailing of the ship. It is but justice to observe, that the moment he was out of soundings and away from the influence of her ladyship, Sir Hercules reinstated my father, and gave him back his rating as coxswain. My father was indeed the smartest and best seaman in the ship; he could do his work from stem to stern, mouse a stay, pudding an anchor, and pass a gammoning, as well as he could work a Turk's head, cover a manrope, or point a lashing for the cabin table. Besides which, he had seen service, having fought under Rodney, and served at the siege of Gibraltar.
But I must return to my mother, who, when she first went to Woolwich, which she did in a transport that was ordered round, took lodgings in the outskirts of the town; and not wishing to acknowledge that she had married a common sailor, as she supposed my father still to be, asserted that she was the wife of a captain of a merchant vessel, which had been taken up as a transport to convey troops to the West Indies. On this supposition, being received into a society above her real station, she was compelled to
spend more money than she could afford, and her finances rapidly wasted away.
In the meantime I was born a fine baby; but with nothing to look up to but a pennyless mother, an absent (if existing) father, the workhouse, and the sky.
IN WHICH MY MOTHER PROVES HERSELF A TENDER WIFE, AND AT THE
SAME TIME SHOWS HER PATRIOTISM AND DEVOTION TO HER COUNTRY.
I had almost unconsciously arrived at the age of two years before there were any tidings of my father. All the information that my mother could obtain was, that the ship's company of the Druid had been turned over to another frigate called the Melpomene, the former having been declared not seaworthy, and in consequence condemned and broken up at Port Royal.
But no letter had been received from my father, who indeed was not much of a scholar; he could read, but he could not write. By this time my mother's savings were expended, and she was in great tribulation lest the deceit she had practised should be exposed. Indeed, there were already many surmises as to the truth of her story, it being so long that her husband had been absent. At last, when she had changed her only remaining guinea, a letter arrived from my father, dated from Portsmouth, stating that the ship was to be paid off in a few days, and then “ he would clap on all sail and be on board of his old woman in no time.” My mother, although not a little disgusted at being called an
an affront which she determined to revenge upon a more fitting occasion, was in raptures with the contents of the letter : she therefore returned a kind answer, informing my father what a promising child he was blessed with, and giving him a direction to meet her at Greenwich, as she had resolved upon not receiving him at Woolwich, where her false assertions would have been exposed. Going round to all her acquaintances, she bade them farewell, telling them that her husband had returned well, and well to do, and had ordered her to meet him at Greenwich. Having thus satisfactorily, as she imagined, got out of this little difficulty, she packed up and hastened to Greenwich, where she sunk her assumed rank and waited very impatiently for her husband. He came at last, seated with many others on the outside of a stage coach,-his hat bedecked with ribands, a pipe in one hand and flourishing a pewter pot in the other. It hardly need be added that he was more than half tipsy. Nevertheless, even in this state, he was well received; and after he had smothered her with kisses, dandled me on his knee, thrown into her lap all the pay he had left, and drank three more pots of porter, they went very peaceably and lovingly to repose.
I regret to say that this amity did not last long. My father's manners, which perhaps had been softened down by the awe which he had of Lady Hercules when he first mide my mother's acquaintance, were now more coarse, and so was his language; and the neatness and cleanliness of person which he was obliged to maintain while performing the duties of a coxswain to a married captain were not so observable. Besides which, being no longer under discipline, he was almost every night intoxicated; and being so, was more self-willed and regardless of his wife's injunctions : the consequences were, that having received from my father fifty pounds, my mother first locked that up, and then “unlocked her iaw." Disputes were now hourly occurring; and it was “now you ’re vexed,” and “hey diddle diddle,” from morning till night.
My father would repair to the grog-shops to have a dance and carouse with bis messmates, and my mother would not accompany him to such a vulgar place: consequently he went alone, was out very late, coming home very drunk, if indeed he came home at all. Moreover, the wives and companions of the other seamen would insult her when she walked out, for pretending to be better than they were.
One day when she was walking out arm in arm with my father, unluckily she was met by one of her Woolwich acquaintances. This was the severest stroke of all, as she had intended to return to