« AnteriorContinuar »
At last the negro came aft; and we were each upon our guard as he passed us, for we had seen him sharpen bis knife. He went to the stern sheets, where the poor woman sat, and we all knew what he intended to do — for he only acted our own thoughts. She was still hanging over the gunnel, with her eyes fixed downwards, and she heeded not his approach: he caught her by the hair, and dragged her head towards him. She then held out her arms towards me, faintly calling me by name ; but I - shame on me — remained sitting on the after thwart. The negro thrust his knife into her neck, below the ear; and, as soon as he had divided the artery, he glued his thick lips to the gash, and sucked her blood.
“«When the deed was done, others rose up and would have shared; but the negro kept his white eyes directed towards them -one arm thrust out, with his knife pointed at them, as he slaked his thirst, while, with his other round her waist, he supported her dying frame. The attitude was that of fondness, while the deed was — murder. He appeared as if he were caressing her, while her life's blood poured into his throat. At last we all drew our knives; and the negro knew that he must resign his prey, or his life. He dropped the woman, and she fell, with her face forward, at my feet. She was quite dead. And then our hunger was relieved.
«« Three days passed away, and again we were mad for want of water, when we saw a vessel. We shouted, and shook hands, and threw out the oars, and pulled as if we had never suffered. It was still calm, and, as we approached the vessel, we threw what remained of the poor woman into the sea ; and the sharks finished what we had left. We agreed to say nothing about her; for we were ashamed of ourselves.
“Now, I did not murder, but I did not prevent it; and I have ever since been haunted by this poor woman. I see her and the negro constantly before me; and then I think of what passed, and I turn sick. I feel that I ought to have saved her, she is always holding out her arms to me, and I hear her faintly call • Charles,'— then I read my Bible — and she disappears, and I feel as if I were forgiven. - Tell me, what do you think, messmate ?"
""Why,' replied I, “sarcumstances will make us do what we otherwise would never think possible. I never was in such a predicament; and, therefore, can't tell what people may be brought to do — but tell me, messmate, what was the name of the poor woman?'
« « The husband's name was Ben Rivers.'
“ • Yes,' replied he; "that was her name; she was of this town ;- but never mind the name, tell me what you think, messmate ?'
“« Well,' says I, (for I was quite bewildered,) 'I'll tell you what, old fellow — as far as I'm consarned, you have my forgiveness, and now I must wish you good bye — and I pray to God that we may never meet again.'
“Stop a little,' said he; 'don't leave me this way - Ah! I see how it is — you think I'm a murderer.'
“No I don't,' replied I; not exactly - still there'll be no harm in your reading your Bible.' “And so I got up, and walked out of the room
for you see, Jack, although he mayn't have been so much to blame, still I didn't like to be in company with a man who had eaten up my own mother !”
Here Ben paused, and sighed deeply. I was so much shocked with the narrative, that I could not say a word. At last Ben continued :
“I couldn't stay in the room— I couldn't stay in the workhouse. I couldn't even stay in the town. Before the day closed, I was out of it - and I have never been there since. Now, Jack, I must
remember what I have said to you ; and larn to read your Bible."
I promised that I would, and that very evening I had my first lesson from Peter Anderson - and I continued to receive them until I could read well. He then taught me to write and cipher ; but before I could do the latter, many events occurred, which must be made known to the reader.
IN WHICH THE DOCTOR LETS OUT SOME VERY NOVEL MODES OF MEDICAL
TREATMENT, WHICH ARE ATTENDED WITH THE GREATEST SUCCESS.
Such a change has taken place since I can first recollect Greenwich, that it will be somewhat difficult for me to make the reader aware of my localities. Narrow streets have been pulled down, handsome buildings erected new hotels in lieu of small inns gay shops have now usurped those which were furnished only with articles necessary for the outfit of the seamen. Formerly, long stages, with a basket to hold six behind, and dillies which plied at the Elephant and Castle, were the usual land conveyances they have made place for railroads and omnibuses. Formerly, the
wherry conveyed the mariner and his wife with his sea-chest, down to the landing place— now steam-boats pour out their hundreds at a trip. Even the view from Greenwich is much changed, here and there broken in upon by the high towers for shot and other manufactories, or some large building which rises boldly in the distance; while the Dreadnought's splendid frame fills up half the river, and she that was used to deal out death and destruction with her terrible rows of teeth, is now dedicated by humanity to succour and relieve.
I mention this, because the house in which Dr. Tadpole formerly lived no longer exists; and I wish particularly to describe it to the reader.
When I left Greenwich in 1817 or 1818, it was still standing; although certainly in a very dilapidated state. I will however give a slight sketch of it; as it is deeply impressed on my memory.
It was a tall narrow building of dark red brick, much ornamented, and probably built in the time of Queen Elizabeth. It had two benches on each side the door; for, previous to Tadpole's taking possession of it, it had been an alehouse, and much frequented by seamen. The doctor had not removed these benches, as they were convenient, when the weather was fine, for those who waited for medicine or advice; and moreover, being a jocular sociable man, he liked people to sit down there, and would often converse with them. Indeed, this assisted much to bring him into notice, and made him so well known among the humbler classes, that none of them, if they required medicine or advice, ever thought of going to any one but Dr. Tadpole. He was very liberal and kind, and I believe there was hardly a poor person in the town, who was not in his debt, for he never troubled them much about payment. He had some little property of his own, or he never could have carried on such a losing concern, as his business really must have been to him. In early life, he had been a surgeon in the navy; and was said, and I believe with justice, to be very clever in his profession. In defending himself against some act of oppression on the part of his captain - for in those times the service was very different to what it is now — he had incurred the displeasure of the navy board, and had left the service. His enemies (for even the doctor had his enemies) asserted that he was turned out of the service ; his friends, that he left the service in disgust; after all a matter of little consequence. The doctor is now gone, and has left behind him in the town of Greenwich a character for charity and generosity of which no one can deprive him. He was buried in Greenwich churchyard ; and never was there, perhaps, such a numerous procession as voluntarily followed his remains to the grave. The poor fully paid him the debt of gratitude, if they did not pay him their other debts; and when his will was opened, it was found that he had released them all from the latter. Peace be to him, and honour to his worth.
The shop of Doctor Tadpole was fitted up in a very curious manner, and excited a great deal of admiration. During his service afloat, he had collected various objects of natural history, which he had set up or prepared himself: the lower row of bottles in the windows were full of snakes, lizards, and other reptiles; the second tier of bottles in the window were the same as are now generally seen- large globes containing blue and yellow mixtures, with gold hieroglyphics outside of them; but between each of these bottles was a stuffed animal of some kind, generally a small monkey, or of that description. The third row of bottles was the most incomprehensible; no one could tell what was in them; and the doctor, when asked, would laugh and shake his head: this made the women very curious. I believe they were chiefly preparations of the stomach, and other portions of the interior of the animal frame; but the doctor always said that it was his row of “secrets :” and used to amuse himself with evading the questions of the other sex. There were some larger specimens of natural history suspended from the ceiling, chiefly skulls and bones of animals; and on the shelves inside a great variety of stones and pebbles and fragments of marble figures, which the doctor had picked up I believe in the Mediterranean; altogether the shop was a strange medley, and made people stare very much when they came into it. The doctor kept an old woman to cook and clean the house, and his boy Tom, whom