Imágenes de páginas

honour, and even those few perhaps not more than once in the year. But he was, as I have said, very poor; and moreover he was a married man, which reminds me that I must introduce his lady, who, as the ship was on Channel service, had lodgings at the port near to which the frigate was stationed, and occasionally came on board to take a passage when the frigate changed her station to the eastward or to the westward. Lady Hercules, as we were directed to call her by Sir Hercules, was as large in dimensions, and ten times more proud than her husband. She was an excessive fine lady in every respect; and whenever she made her appearance on board, the ship's company looked upon her with the greatest awe. She had a great dislike to ships and sailors; officers she seldom condescended to notice; and pitch and tar were her abomination. Sir Hercules himself submitted to her dictation; and, had she lived on board, she would have commanded the ship : fortunately for the service, she was always very sea-sick when she was taking a passage, and therefore did no mischief. “I recollect,” said my father to me, once when we were running down to Portsmouth, where we had been ordered for provisions, that my Lady Hercules, who was no fool of a weight, being one night sea-sick in her cot, the laynyard of the cot gave way, and she came down with a run by the head. The steward was called by the sentry, and there was a terrible shindy. I, of course, was sent for, as I had the hanging up of the cot. There was Sir Hercules with his shirt Aapping in the wind, and a blanket over his shoulders, strutting about in a towering passion ; there was the officer of the watch, who had been sent for by mistake, and who was ordered to quit the cabin immediately ; and there was I, expecting to be put in irons, and have seven dozen for my breakfast. As for Sir Hercules, he didn't know what to do ; he did nothing but storm at every body, for my lady, with her head under the clothes, was serving him out at no small rate. She wouldn't, she declared, allow any man to come into the cabin to hoist her up again. So indecent, so indelicate, so shocking, - she was ashamed of Sir Hercules, - to send for the men; if they didn't leave the cabin immediately, she'd scream and she'd faint, that she would—there was no saying what she wouldn't do! Well, there we waited just outside until at last Sir Hercules and my lady came to a parley. She was too sick to get out of bed, and he was not able to hoist her up without assistance; so being as I

suppose, pretty well tired of lying with her head three feet lower than her heels ; she consented, provided that she was properly kivered up, to allow us to come in and put all to rights. Well, first she made Sir Hercules throw over her his two boat cloaks, but that would'nt do; so he threw the green cloth from off the table, but that warn't enough for her delicate sensibility, and she hollowed from under the clothes for more kivering ; so Sir Hercules sent for two of the ship’s ensigns, and coiled away the bunting on her till it was as high as a haycock, and then we were permitted to come in and hoist her ladyship up again to the battens. Fortunately it was not a slippery hitch that had let her down by the run, but the laynyard had given way from my lady's own weight, so my back was not scratched after all. Women ain't no good on board, Jack, that's sartain."

But I must now introduce a more important personage than even Lady Hercules, which is my mother. They say

6 like master, like man," and I may add,“ like lady, like maid." Lady Hercules was fine, but her maid was still finer. Most people when they write their biography, if their parents were poor, inform you that they left them a good name and nothing else. Some parents cannot even do that; but all parents can at all events leave their children a pretty name, by taking a little trouble at their baptism. My mother's name was Araminta, which, as my father truly observed, was “a touch above the common." She had originally gone into service as a nursery maid, living in her first situation one year and nine months; in her second, she remained two years and four months; then she left to better herself, and obtained the situation of nurse in a family where she remained two years and one month ; after which Lady Hercules then having a child of a year old, she was received into her service. At three

old the child died, and my mother was promoted to the situation of ladies maid This advancement quite spoiled her; she was prouder than her mistress, and gave herself ten times more airs, and when, at first, my father, (who as coxswain was constantly up at the house,) offered to speak to her, she turned away from him in most ineffable disdain. Now my father was at that time about thirty years of age, and thought no small beer of himself, as the saying goes. He was a tall, handsome man, indeed so good looking that they used to call him “ handsome Jack” on board of the Druid, and he had, moreover, a pigtail of most extraordinary size and length, of which he was not a little proud, as it hung down far below the waistband of his trousers. His hair was black and glossy, and his lovelocks, as the sailors term the curls which they wear on their temples, were of the most insinuating description. Now, as my father told me, when he first saw my mother with her sky scraping cap at the back of her head, so different from the craft in general, he was very much inclined to board her ; but when she boomed him off in that style, my father, who was quite the rage and fancy man among the ladies of Sally Port and Castle Rag, hauled his wind in no time, hitching up his white trousers, and turning short round on his heel, so as to present his back to her whenever they happened to meet. For a long time he gave her a wide berth. Now this fact of my father returning her disdain had the usual effect. At first she was very savage, and when she spoke of him to Lady Hercules, she designated him as “ that proud coxswain, who seemed to think himself a greater man than Sir Hercules himself — with his filthy pig-tail indeed !" My father also, when he spoke of her to the boat's crew, termed her “ that proud of a lady's maid," the word not mentionable, being both canine and feminine. Thus matters went on for some time, until my mother, by a constant survey of my father's handsome proportions, every day thought him to be a more proper man, and a few advances on her part at last brought them to a mutual understanding.





I have observed at the finale of my first chapter, that at last my mother and father came to a good understanding ; but, at the same time Madam Araminta (for so my mother insisted upon being called) took good care to let my father understand that she considered that she was lowering herself by surrendering up her charms to a captain's coxswain. She informed him that her father might be said to have been royally connected, being a king's messenger (and so, indeed, he might be considered, having been a two-penny postman); and that her mother had long scores against the first nobles in the land (she was a milk-woman), and that she had drynursed a young baronet, and was now, not merely a ladies' maid, but a lady's ladies' maid. All this important and novel communication sunk deep in my father's mind, and when he heard it he could hardly believe his good fortune in having achieved such a conquest ; but, as the sequel will prove, his marriage did not turn out very happily. He used to say to me, “ Jack, take my advice, and never marry above your condition, as I did ; nothing would please me, but a lady's ladies' maid ; I had no right to look up to even a ladies' maid, and had your mother only been a simple maid, all might have been right.” But these were after-reflections when it was too late. I do not wonder at my poor father's senses being dazzled, for, as he said to me, “ You see, Jack, after being used to see nothing but Point women, all so slack in stays and their rigging out of order, to fall aboard of a craft like your mother, so trim and neat, ropes all taut, stays well set up, white hammockcloths spread every day in the week, and when under weigh, with a shawl streaming out like a silk ensign, and such a rakish gaff topsail bonnet, with pink pennants ; why, it was for all the world as

if I was keeping company with a tight little frigate after rolling down channel with a fleet of colliers : but howsomever, fine feathers don't make fine birds, and handsome is, as handsome does."

My father's marriage was, however, precipitated by circumstances. One afternoon, after he had been accepted, he had taken his quid out of his cheek, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and was in the act of giving and receiving a chaste salute, when Lady Hercules happened to come down into the kitchen, -a most rare occurrence, and wholly unexpected from a lady of her refined and delicate ideas. She caught my father and mother in the very fact; and, (as my father expressed it) with an exclamation of horror, “She 'bout ship, and sculled up stairs like winkin.” A loud peal of the bell summoned up my mother, leaving my father in a state of no pleasant suspense, for he was calculating how far Sir Hercules could bring in “kissing a lady's ladies' maid" under the article of war as “contempt of superiors," and, if so, how many dozen kisses his back might receive from the cat in return. While he was absorbed in this pleasing speculation, Lady Hercules was pouring out anathemas against my mother's want of delicacy and decency, informing her that it was impossible she could submit the decoration of her person to one who has so contaminated herself with a tobacco-chewing seaman,

- who was all pigtail within and without; for, as the Scripture says,

" Who can touch pitch without being defiled ?”

Although my mother had made up her mind, that if it was to be a question between a place and a husband, she should decide upon retaining the latter, still she thought it advisable, if it were possible, to conciliate my lady. She therefore pulled out a cambric handkerchief, and while her ladyship scolded, she covered up her face and wept. Lady Hercules continued to scold until she was out of breath, and thereby compelled to stop. My mother then replied with deep humility and many tears, “that indeed she had been so persuaded (sob) that she at last promised to (sob) marry ; but only on one condition - yes, indeed — (sob) that her ladyship gave her consent-positively on no other (sob)

« AnteriorContinuar »