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“ Her fader's not asleep, and he will not agree,
Dat you take away his dater to Ken-tuck-y.
“ Your moder, too, is near, aldough you did not see;
And wid her leave you nebber go to Ken-tuck-y.
“ Man, I have dis purse of gold, half of it for ye,
Woman, I hab ne'er a wife in Ken-tuck-y:
“ De fader weighed de purse, he took his half wid glee,
De moder said her child might go to Ken-tuck-y.
“ Bravo, Billy, that's not so bad !” said some of the pensioners.
“I tell you, Dick, I take de shine out of you. You nebber - believe, till I make you fall in my wake and den you soon be where de little boat was long way astarn.”
“I'll tell you what, Billy,” said Dick Harness ; “you do improve, and we'll allow you to sing that song once more before you die, just by way of encouragement.”
Dick then played several flourishes on his fiddle. Opposition Bill tried to imitate him, but made sad work of it. It was near dinner-time, and the pensioners rose, and proceeded to the painted
for at that time they dined there, and not below in the crypts, as they do now.
I GET INTO VERY DOUBTFUL COMPANY. - I AM TEMPTED, AND, LIKE A
TRUE SON OF ADAM, I FALL.
The reader must have observed, that, under the tuition of Anderson, I promised to follow the right path, and, provided his good offices were not interfered with, there appeared little doubt but that such would be the case ; but I was little aware, nor was he, that the humble profession which I had chosen for myself was beset with danger, and that the majority of those with whom I was associating, were the most likely of all others to lead me into evil. Why I had not hitherto been tempted can only be ascribed to my tender years. In fact, I had not been considered strong enough, or of an age, to be useful to them ; but now that I was more than thirteen years old, being moreover very tall and strong for my age, the hour of temptation arrived ; and fortunate was it for me that, previous to this epoch, I had been taken under the protection of Peter Anderson.
I have said, in a former chapter, that I was a regular mudlarker; so I was, as far as the ostensible occupation of those who are so denominated went, to wit; “picking up pieces of old rope, wood, &c.;" but the mudlarkers, properly speaking, at that time composed a very extensive body on the river, and were a more humble portion of the numerous river depredators, of which I may
hereafter speak. A mudlarker was a man who had an old boat, generally sold by some merchant vessel, furnished with an iron bar full of hooks, which was lowered down by a rope to catch pieces of cordage, oakum, canvass, or other articles, which might fall overboard from the numerous vessels in the river. These were sold to the marine stores, such as were kept by old Nanny; but, as I observed, this was the ostensible mode of livelihood ; they had other resources to which I shall presently refer. An old man of the name of Jones, who resided at Greenwich, was one of these mudlarkers by profession. He was a surly old fellow, his sharp nose and chin nearly meeting, and he usually went by the name of Old Grumble. I had occasionally assisted him with his boat, but without receiving money, or indeed thanks, for my pains; but for this I cared little. He was a very old man; and when he came on shore, and went up to old Nanny, with the few things he had collected during the day, I almost wondered how he could manage to subsist, and thought myself infinitely better off than he was.
One evening he said to me, “Jack, I'm going up the river; I wish you'd come in the boat and help me; and if I make any thing, I will give you something for your trouble ; but if I don't, you can't expect it.” As he was very infirm, I went with him, more out of charity than with any hopes of profit. We pulled with the tide till we arrived a little above Deptford, where several ships were lying, and he went close to one and lowered down his grapnels. He dragged for a short time.
“ Just you make a little farther off, old fellow,” cried the mate of the vessel.
“Wo'n't allow a poor old man to earn a few pence, I suppose," replied Old Grumble, hauling up his grapnel, and directing me to pull under the bows, where he dropped it down again. I now perceived, as I thought, some signs passing between him and one of the men in the head; but if so, they were soon over, and Old Grumble continued his avocation till the sun set.
“ How long do you intend to remain here?” inquired I.
“Oh! not much longer; but I must wait a bit.” At last it was quite dark, and then Grumble pulled up his grapnel and dropped down nearer to the cutwater of the vessel. I soon distinguished a tinkling, as it were, of metal ; and Old Grumble, holding up his hands, received some sheets of copper, which were lowered down by a rope-yarn. As soon as they were quietly landed in the stern of the boat, down came a bag, which he cast off and laid beside the copper. I was all astonishment; but still more so, when a large bag of something weighing very heavy was lowered down by a rope after the small bag. A low whistle was then given, and the words “Monday night" pronounced in a whisper. Grumble whistled in return; and then, hauling up the grapnel, he told me to put out the oars and pull, while he took his grapnel on board. We then pulled down the river again, for the tide had turned; and as soon as we were clear of the shipping, I began to interrogate him.
“ Who gave you all these things ?”—“Who! why, that man.” “ But what did he give them you
for ?" Why, out of charity, to be sure; but I can't talk now, I've no breath to spare. Let's pull ashore, and then I'll talk to you."
As we pulled down, I observed that a lighter had broken adrift from her moorings, and was sweeping down the river with the ebb tide. “ There's a lighter adrift,” said I.
“ Yes," replied Grumble ; “ I'm too old for that work now;time was;
there'll be pretty pickings as soon as she gets down a little lower. The Light Horsemen have cut her adrift.”
“ Light Horsemen! Who are they?"
“ Bah! you know nothing; - I tell ye again, I hav'n't no breath to spare - I can't pull and talk too."
I was convinced in my own mind that Old Grumble had not obtained the articles in the boat by fair means, and annoyed that I should have been made a participator in any dishonest dealings; I was resolved to question him closely as soon as we landed. There
was no one at the steps, and when we beached the boat, I asked him whether he was going to take the things up to old Nanny's.
“ Old Nanny! no. She's no fence now : she used to be a good one; but she was overhauled once or twice, and nearly sent on the other side of the water, and, since that, she's satisfied with little articles, sure profit and no risk.”
“What do you mean by a fence ?” enquired I.
“Why don't you know that yet, boy? Well, a fence is one who receives things that are brought for sale, and never asks no questions."
“Well, but if these things were given you out of charity, as you say, why should you want to take them up to a fence, as you call it?”
“I tell you what, Jack; I can't be answering all these questions here, where there may be twenty pair of ears a listening.”
“Well, and if they do listen, what is the harm, if we are doing what is right?"
“It wo’n't do to argufy here, I tell you. In my opinion, a poor man who works hard to get some victuals to keep body and soul together is doing what is right."
“ Yes, if he works at an honest livelihood.”
“Don't talk so loud about honesty ; the very word is enough to make people suspect something not right. I'll tell you all, when you come up to my house; for you see, Jack, you must help me to carry these things up. D'ye think you can manage this bag of pease? Let's try!” Between us, we contrived to get the bag, which weighed about half a hundred weight, on my back, and I walked off with it; Grumble following me with the copper and the other small bag, which I afterwards found contained copper nails. When we arrived at his dwelling, which was as dilapidated and miserable as old Nanny's, he took out his key and fumbled a long while at the lock; at last he opened it. You had better stay till I get a light, said he. In a minute he came with one to the door, and told me to follow him. I went in, put down the bag, and, some grains falling out, I took them up.
Why, this is coffee, Grumble!" “ Well, pease is our name for coffee, sand for sugar, and vinegar for rum, when we get any."
“Well, but, Grumble, I wish to know how you came by these things."