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While my mother was away, little Virginia poured her cup of tea, which was already sweetened, into the can. I seized some bread and butter, and before my mother came down I was clear of the house. Old Nanny made a good breakfast ; the doctor came, and said that she was much better, and would soon be well. The doctor had not left long before Peter Anderson came, and told me to go and mind my business, and that he would sit by old Nanny. Old Ben, who had heard of it, also called in ; and he sat up with her the next night.
“ Did I not tell you that there were others who cared for you, Nanny ?" said I, a few days afterwards.
“ Yes, you did, Jack; but I did not believe you ; the world is better than I thought it was. But how will you pay the doctor, Jack?"
“ The doctor 'tended you for nothing; he told me so the first night."
“Well, and that widow, too!-it's kind of her to send me tea and sugar, and such nice things to eat.”
“ Yes, mother, it is.”
“ And your father, to bring your little dear sister, so nice and clean, to come and see an old wretch like me, in such a dirty hole. Ah, Jack ! now I'm getting well again, I like the world better than I did.”
In a few days old Nanny had again opened her shop, sitting at the door as usual; and, as the spring was now well advanced, she gradually recovered her strength. When I gave up my office of nurse, she did not, however, forget to tell me to bring her good bargains, as I had promised that I would.
Among my father's associates there was a man, of about forty years
of age – Dick Harness by name. He had received a wound in the hip, from a grape-shot; and his leg having in consequence contracted, it occasioned him to limp very much ; but he was as strong and hearty in all other respects as a man could be. He was a very merry fellow, full of jokes; and if any one told a story, which was at all verging on the marvellous, he was sure to tell another which would be still more incredible.' He played the fiddle, and sang to his own accompaniments, which were very droll, as he extracted very strange noises from his instrument: sometimes his bow would be on the wrong side of the bridge, sometimes down at the keys; besides which, he produced sounds by thumping the fiddle as well as by touching its strings, as a guitar; indeed, he could imitate, in a certain way, almost every instrument, and most of the noises made by animals. He had one fault, for which he used to be occasionally punished; which was, he was too fond of the bottle: but he was a great favourite, and therefore screened by the men, and as much as possible overlooked by the officers. The punishment for a pensioner getting drunk, was at that time being made to wear a yellow instead of a blue coat, which made a man look very conspicuous.
I recollect one day he had the yellow coat on, when a party of ladies and gentlemen came to see the Hospital. Perceiving that he was dressed so differently from the other pensioners, one of the ladies' curiosity was excited ; and at last she called him to her and said, “ Pray, my good man, why do you wear a yellow coat, when the other pensioners have blue ones ?”
« Bless your handsome face, Ma'am!” replied Dick, “ don't you really know?”—“No, indeed !” replied she.
“ Well then, Ma'am, perhaps you may have heard of the
glorious battle of the Nile, in which Nelson gave the French such a drubbing ?”
“ Oh, yes !” cried all the ladies and gentlemen, who had now crowded about him. “Well, ladies and gentlemen, I had the good fortune to be in that great victory; and all we Nilers, as we are called, are permitted to wear a yellow coat as a mark of distinction, while the common pensioners wear nothing but blue.”
« Dear me !” said the lady, “ and do I really speak to one of those brave fellows who fought at the battle of the Nile?" and she put her hand into her pocket, and pulled out five shillings. “There,” said she, “I hope you'll not be affronted, but accept this from me.”
“ Not at all, Ma'am,” replied Dick, pocketing the money.
Then the whole party made a subscription for him, and Dick went off with a handful of silver.
There was, however, another man who contributed much to the fun created by Dick Harness. He was an American black, who had served as cook in the Majestic, and had been wounded in the battle of the Nile; he had received a bullet in the knee, which had occasioned a stiff joint; and, as his leg was bent, he wore a short wooden stump. He also could play his fiddle and sing his songs; but in neither case so well as Dick Harness, although he thought otherwise himself. We used to call him Opposition Bill ; but his name was Bill White, at least that was the purser's name that he went by when on board of a man-of-war. His pleasure was to follow Dick Harness every where; and if Dick sung, he would sing-if Dick played, he would play also; not at the same time, but if Dick stopped Bill would strike up. Dick used to call him his black shadow; and sometimes he would execute a flourish on his fiddle, which would be quite a puzzler to Opposition Bill, who would attempt something of the kind, which invariably set every one laughing. At last, Dick Harness's performances were not considered to be complete, if Opposition Bill was not in his company; and, as they were both very good-tempered funny fellows, they were a great amusement, especially in the fine weather, when they would sit on the benches upon the terrace about six or eight yards apart, for they seldom came nearer, and play and sing alternately. The songs sung by Dick Harness were chiefly old sea-songs; those of Opposition Bill were picked up from every part of the world ; principally, however, those sung by the negroes who worked on the plantations in Virginia and Carolina.
Peter Anderson, my father, Ben, and many others, were sitting on the benches, basking in the morning's sun, when Dick Harness made his appearance, limping along with his fiddle under his arm.
“ Come along, Dick ?” said Ben the whaler, “ we'll stow close, and make room for
here." “ You must make elbow-room too, my hearty, or I sha'n't be able to fiddle. Come, what will you have this fine morning ?” said Harness, tuning his instrument. As soon as it was in tune, he flourished a prelude from the top of the scale to the bottom, ending with an “Eh-haw ! eh-haw!" in imitation of the braying of a donkey.
“ Give us the Spanish Ladies, Dick ?" said my father. As this song was very popular at that time among the seamen, and is now almost forgotten, I shall, by inserting it here, for a short time rescue it from oblivion.
• Farewell and adieu to you, Spanish ladies,
For we have received orders
For to sail to cld England,
But we hope in a short time to see you again.” “ Stop a moment, lads ? I must screw him up a little more." Dick regulated his first string, and then continued.
“ We'll rant and we'll roar, like true British sailors,
Until we strike soundings
In the Channel of old England,
Then we filled the main topsail
And bore right away, my boys,
We sail-ed by Beachy,
By Fairly and Dungeness,