« AnteriorContinuar »
MY FATHER MAKES HIS APPEARANCE, HAVING LEFT HIS LEG, BUT NOT
HIS TAIL, BEHIND HIM. - MY FATHER IS PENSIONED OFF BY MY MOTHER AS WELL AS BY HIS COUNTRY.
About six weeks after the intelligence of the battle of the Nile, as I was sweeping away from the steps the mud which had been left by the tide, a King's Tender that I had been watching as she came up the river, dropped her anchor in the stream, abreast of the Hospital
Shortly afterwards, the lieutenant who commanded her pulled on shore in his boat; and landing at the steps, proceeded to the governor's house. The men having orders not to leave the boat, requested me to procure them some porter, which I did ; and on my return with it, they informed me that they had come, round from Portsmouth with sixty-three men, who had lost their limbs, or had been otherwise so severely wounded in the late action, as to have been recommended for Greenwich.
I felt very anxious for the men to land, as it was possible that my father might be one of them. The lieutenant soon returned, jumped into the boat, and shoved off. I perceived that the disabled men were getting ready to land, hauling their chests and kits on deck. In about half an hour, a boat full of them came to the steps. I ran down to assist ; and as I held on to the gunnel of the boat, while they threw out their gang-board, the first person who stumped out was my father, minus his left leg.
“ Father!" cried I, half sorry and half pleased.
“ Who calls me father?” replied he, looking at me. “Why, you don't mean to say that you're my boy Tom?"
Yes, indeed!” said I. “Ah! yes – I recollect your smile now. Why, what a big fellow you've grown!"
“ It's four years since you left, father.” “ Well! I suppose it is, since you say so," replied he, taking me by the arm, and stumping a little of one side, when he said in a low tone, “I say, Jack, what became of the old woman? Did I settle her?" “Oh! no," replied I, laughing, “she was only shamming."
Shamming, was she? Well! it's all the better, — for she has been a little on my conscience, that's truth. Shamming? Heh! She won't sham next time, if I fall foul of her. How does she
get on ?"
“ Oh! very well indeed.”
“ And how's your little sister? What's her name — Jenny lengthened at both ends? I never could recollect it, though I've often thought of her sweet little face.”
“ She's quite well, and as pretty and as good as ever."
“Well! Tom my boy, you stood by your father when he was in trouble, and now he'll stand by you. How does your mother treat you?"
“ We get on pretty well — not over fond of each other.”
“ Well, Tom, I've only one pin left; but I say,” continued my father, with a wink of his eye, “I hav'n't left my tail behind me, 'cause it may be useful you know. Now we must all go up to the governor of the Hospital for inspection, and I suppose we shall be kept for some time--so you may run home and tell your mother that I've come back in a perfect good humour, and that it will be her fault if she puts me out — that's all.”
“ I will, father ; and then I'll come to you at the Hospital.”
I ran home to communicate the important intelligence to my mother and to Virginia, who had as usual come from school for her dinner.
“ Mother,” says I out of breath, “ who do you think has come back?" “ Come back?" said she. Back? Not
father?” “ Yes,” says I, “my father. I just left him."
My mother turned deadly pale, and dropped the hot iron from her hand, so as to spoil a frilled night-cap belonging to one of her lady customers. She staggered to a chair, and trembled all over. I really believe that had she been aware of his being about to return, she would have quitted Greenwich before his arrival; but now it was too late. Virginia had run for the salts, as soon as she perceived that her mother was unwell, and as she smelt them she gradually recovered. At last she inquired how my father looked, and what he said.
I told her that he had lost his leg, and had been sent as a pen. sioner to the Hospital; that he had looked very well, and that he had told me to say that, “he was in a perfect good humour, and it would be her fault if she put him out of it; and that if she did
“ Well, what then?” inquired my mother. « Oh! the tail, - that's all."
At the mention of the tail, my mother very nearly went off in a swoon- her head fell back, and I heard her mutter, “ So vulgar! so ungenteel !” However, she recovered herself, and appeared to be for some time in deep thought. At last she rose up, ordered me to fetch something extra for supper, and recommenced her ironing
As soon as I had executed ber commission, I went to the Hospital where I found my father, who with the other men had just been dismissed. He accompanied me to my mother, shook hands with her very good-humouredly, kissed Virginia, whom he took on his knce, praised the supper, drank only one pot of porter, and then returned to the Hospital, to sleep in the cabin which had been allotted to him in the Warrior's ward, of which Anderson was the boatswain. My mother, although not very gracious, was much subdued, and for a few days everything went on very comfortably; but my mother's temper could not be long restrained. Displeased at something which she considered as very vulgar, she ventured to assail my father as before, concluding her tirade as usual, with “ There
now you're vexed I” My father looked at her very sternly—at last he said, “ You're just right-I am vexed ; and whenever you tell me so in future, I'll prove that it's no lie.” He then rose, stumped up stairs to my room, in which he had deposited his sea-chest, and soon made his appearance with the formidable and never to be forgotten tail