« AnteriorContinuar »
to expect from my father, and aware probably of tho 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 Fishers 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 boro that name, as because she considered it peculiarly ladylike and genteel.
IN WHICH I TELL TIIL READER ALL I CAN RECOLLECT ABOUT
My readers must not expect mo to tell them much of
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 her 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 mother gave 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,
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 cry, because my mother beat me, for we were fond of each other. And my mother used to take Virginia on her knee, and make her say lier 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.
As I said before, my mother let lodgings, and kept the ground-floor front room for people to drink tea and smoke in; and I used to take my little stool and sit at the knees of the pensioners who came in, and hear all their stories, and try to make out what they meant, for half was to me incomprehensible; and I brought them fire for their pipes, and ran messages. Old Ben the Whaler, as they called him, was the one who took most notice of me, and said that I should be a man one of these days, which I was very glad to hear then. And I made a little boat for my sister, which cost mo a great deal of trouble and labour; and Ben helped me to paint it, and I gave it to Virginia, and she and I were both so pleased; but when my mother saw it, she threw it into the fire, saying it was so ungenteel,"