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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 hammock-cloths 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 made 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 check, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and was in the act of giving and receiving a chaste salute, wher 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 fathor 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 articles 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 sho 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) – no, indeed, upon her honour! Mr. Saunders was — (sob) — excellent young man (sob) — so attached to Sir Hercules (sob), and had such a great respect for her ladyship, that – (sob -sob — sob) he had won her heart.”
By this time her ladyship had regained her breath, and she interrupted my mother by pointing out to her, that allowing all she said to be correct, yet still th
was no reason why she should allow such indecent liberties; that Sir Hercules had never obtained such favours from her until after the ring had been put on her finger. Then, indeed, such things might be that is, occasionally; but the kitchen of all places! And, besides, how did she know how many wives the coxswain had already? She shouldn't be surprised if, with that long pigtail of his, he had five at least nay, perhaps, six or seven. Here my mother replied that "it was out of gratitude to her (sob) for having consented to permit him to (sob) speak to Sir Hercules (sob), who would plead with her ladyship (sob), which had occasioned Mr. Saunders (sob) to take — such
liberty (sob --- sob -sob) – which he had never done before (sob) - No! — never
upon her honour never !
And here my mother's sobs choked her utterance.
This explanation somewhat pacified, and a little subsequent humility and flattery gained the mistress, who consented to settle the matter with Sir Hercules, alleging, as one principal reason for so doing, that after the familiarity which had taken place between them, the sooner they were married the better. The wishes of her ladyship were tantamount to commands. Sir Hercules pronounced my father to be a fool, and they were married.
My mother was a good-looking person, perhaps two or three years older than my father; she was of a very bad temper, very vindictive and revengeful, and in every way she had a pleasure in annoying other people, and when she succeeded she invariably concduded her remarks with “ There now you're vexed !"
Whenever out of humour herself from the observations of others, she attempted to conccal her vexation by singing; and having been so many years of her life in the
nursery, her songs were usually those little ditties used to pacify or amuse children in arms. Saunders,” she would cry out, “ if you arn't the biggest fool that ever walk'd on two legs — to look at that long tail of yours you're so proud of, one would think I'd married a monkey, a hourang-howtang, instead of a There — now you're vexed! One can't open one's mouth.” My mother knew where to strike; and this attack upon his pigtail was certain to provoke my father, who would retort in no measured language, till she, in her turn, lost her temper, and then out she would sing, in a sort of scream
“ IIey diddle, diddle, the cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon,” &c. And thus she continued to sing (or squeal) until her wrath cooled down.
The consequences of forming a matrimonial alliance with a captain's coxswain soon became visible. Six months after they had been married, Lady Hercules pronounced my mother's appearance to be quite indecent, and declared her no longer fit for the office of lady's maid to a lady of her exquisite delicacy; and my mother, who became less active every day, received notice to quit, which she did, when her month was up, in great wrath, packing up her boxes, and slamming the door as she left the house, singing at the very highest pitch of her voice,
“ Dickory, dickory, dock; the mouse ran up the clock," &c.
My father wished her to come and live with him on board the frigate ; but to that my mother would not consent, saying that she had, it was true, degraded herself and her family by marrying a coxswain, but she was not going to further contaminate herself by mixing with the vulgar creatures on board. In this resolve I think my mother was right; but her dismissal and disgraco was followed up by my father being disrated and turned into the main-top, for no other reason in the world than such being the will and pleasure of Lady Hercules.
Her ladyship considered that she had lost a good servant through my father's intervention; and having therefore taken a dislike to him, did not choose that he should, as coxswain, come up to the house as usual; and, as he no longer did the duty of coxswain, she asserted that he was not entitled to the rating. Thus, seven months had hardly passed away before my father's marriage became a source of vexation and annoyance; his pay was decreased, and he was no longer a petty officer. My mother's pride was hurt; and if she was resolute in not going on board to remain with him when he was captain's coxswain, she was still more so now that he was reduced to a common seaman. As for my father, he was the picture of misery, - he had no consolation except turning his quid and tying his pigtail.
But everything changes in this world, and among other changes was that of the station of the frigate, which was ordered foreign. Sir Hercules took leave of his lady, who retired to Tunbridge Wells. My father took leave of my mother, who retired to Woolwich.