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Woolwich; but now she was discovered, and avoided by one party, as well as insulted by the other. I cannot defend my mother's conduct; nor indeed was she deserving of pity, as her treatment had been brought about by her own folly and pride. The effect of all this was, however, that of souring her temper still more; and the constant vituperation poured out upon my father so roused his indignation, that one evening, when more than usually intoxicated, the “lady's ladies' maid" received such a severe box on the ear, that the one candle turned to a general illumination. This blow was never forgotten nor forgiven, although my father was very sorry for it, and begged her pardon the next day, with promises of amendment.
Just at this time the French revolution commenced, and there was expectation of a war with France; the press-gangs were ordered out, and the seamen, aware of it, remained concealed until they should leave the town. But my mother had made up her mind; she found out an officer who commanded one of the pressgangs, gave her address, and having supplied my father with spirits until he was stupified, she let in the gang, and before morning my father was safe on board of the tender lying off the Tower. This treachery on her part my father did not discover until some time afterwards; and it was the occasion of a scene between them, as I shall hereafter show. The next day my mother went on board of the tender to visit my father, put her cambric handkerchief to her eyes, pressed his hand between the iron bars, and lamented his hard fate, and her hard fate; but when requested by him to smuggle a little liquor in a bladder to comfort him with, she tossed up her head and declared, that “nothing could induce her to do any thing so ungenteel.” Whereupon my father turned away, lamenting the day that ever he had married a lady's ladies' maid.
A day or two afterwards my mother brought my father his kit of clothes, and two pounds of his own money. As a war was expected, my mother would have persuaded my father to give her his “ will and power" to receive his prize money ; but my father, grown comparatively wiser, positively refused. He turned away on his heel, and they parted.
I shall, for the present, leave my father to his fortunes, and follow those of my mother. Convinced by his refusal to sign the
ed, which she had brought ready prepared with her, that she had little in future to expect from my father, and aware probably of the risk incurred by a seaman from “ battle, fire, and wreck," she determined this time to husband her resources, and try if she could not do something for herself. At first she thought of going again into service and putting me out to nurse; but she discovered that my father's return was not without its consequences, and that she was again to be a mother. She therefore hired rooms in Fisher's Alley, a small street still existing in Greenwich, and indeed still a general thoroughfare. Here. in due time, she was brought to bed of a daughter, whom she christened by the name of Virginia ; not so much out of respect to her last mistress, who bore that name, as because she considered it peculiarly ladylike and genteel.
IN WHICH I TELL THE READER ALL I CAN RECOLLECT ABOUT MYSELY,
AND MOREOVER PROVE THE TRUTH OF THE OLD ADAGE THAT IT IS A WISE CHILD WHO KNOWS ITS OWN FATHER."
My readers must not expect me to tell them much of what passed during the first four years of my existence. I have a recollection of a deal board put at the door of our house, which opened into Fisher's Alley, to prevent me, and afterwards my sister, from crawling out. Fisher's Alley is a very narrow street, and what was said in a room on one side of it can be heard on the other, and I used to hang over the board and listen : there were drunken men and drunken women, and occasionally scolding and fighting. My mother, having made up her mind to be saving, had taken a lease of the house and furnished it; and every day I heard ber saying at the door, “Walk in, gentlemen ; I've a nice clean room and boiling hot water – for the seamen used to come
in to take tea, drink, and smoke; and so did the old pensioners occasionally, for my mother had made acquaintance with several of them. I was always very ragged and dirty, for my mother neglected and ill-treated me: as soon as my sister was born she turned all her affections over to Virginia, who was always very much petted, well dressed, and a very beautiful child.
All this I recollect, but little more, except that my me several beatings for calling my sister “ Jenny,” which I had learnt to do from others who knew her; but when my mother heard them, she was always very angry, and told them that her child had not such a vulgar name : at which many would laugh, and make a point of calling out “Jenny” to Virginia whenever they passed and saw her at the door. When I was a little more than four years old I would climb over the board, for I had no pleasure at home. As I grew older, I used to hasten down to the landing steps on the beach, where the new inn called the “ Trafalgar" now stands, and watch the tide as it receded, and pick up anything I could find, such as bits of wood and oakum ; and I would wonder at the ships which lay in the stream, and the vessels sailing up and down. I would sometimes remain out late to look at the moon and the lights on board of the vessels passing ; and then I would turn my eyes to the stars, and repeat the lines which I had heard my mother teach little Virginia to lisp:
« Pretty little twinkling star,
How I wonder what you are ;
and when I did stay out late I was sure of having no supper, and very often a good beating; and then Virginia would wake and because
mother beat me, for we were fond of each other. And my mother used to take Virginia on her knee, and make her say
her prayers every night; but she never did so to me: and I used to hear what Virginia said, and then go into a corner and repeat it to myself. I could not imagine why Virginia should be taught to pray, and that I should not.