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heart made of?” said a voice. I turned round; it was old Ben, who had been an unobserved spectator of tho
IN WHICH I NARRATE WHAT I CONSIDER THE MOST FORTUNATE
INCIDENT IN MY LIFE; AND BEN THE WHALER COXFIDES TO ME A VERY STRANGE HISTORY.
Among the pensioners there was one with whom I must make the reader acquainted, as he will be an important person in this narrative. His name was Peter Anderson, a north countryman, I believe, from Greenock : he had been gunner's mate in the service for many years; and, having been severely wounded in an action, he had been sent to Greenwich. He was a boatswain in Greenwich Hospital; that is, he had charge of a ward of twenty-five men; and Ben the Whaler had lately been appointed one of the boatswain's mates under him. He was a very good scholar, and had read a great deal. You could hardly put any question to him but you would get from him a satisfactory sort of an answer; and he was generally referred to in all points of dispute, especially in matters connected with the service, which he had at his fingers' ends; and, moreover, he was a very religious, good man. I never heard him swear, but correct all those who did so in his presence. He had saved some money in the service; the interest of which, with his allowances as boatswain, enabled him to obtain many little comforts, and to be generous to others. Before Ben was shifted over to Anderson's ward, which he was when ho was appointed boatswain's mate under him, they had not been well acquainted; but since that time they were almost always together; so that now I knew Anderson, which I did not before, except by sight. He was a very venerable-looking old man, with
locks curling down on his shoulders, but very stout and hearty; and, as Ben had told him all about me, he took notice of me, and appeared also to take an interest. When I came back, after the providential escape I have mentioned in the last chapter, Ben had narrated to him the conduct of my mother; and a day or two afterwards, when the frost had broken up, and they were both sitting down, basking in the sun, which was shining bright, I went up to them.
“Well, Jack,” said old Ben, “are you ready for another trip down the river ?”
“I hope I shall earn my sixpence at an easier rate if I do go,” replied I.
“It was wonderful that you were saved, boy,” said Peter Anderson ; "and you ought to be very thankful to the Omniscient.”
I stared; for I had never heard that term applied to the Deity.
“ You mean God, don't you ?” said I, at last; for I thought he couldn't mean any other.
“ Yes, boy; has not your mother taught you that Dame?"
“She never would teach me anything. All the prayers I know I have stolen from my sister.”
“And what do you know, Jack ?”
“I know Our Father,' and · Now I lay me down to sleep,' and I believe that is all.”
“How old are you now, Jack ?" three
years older than Virginia ; she, I heard my mother say, was six the other day,– then I supposo I'm nine.” Do you know your
letters ?” “Yes, some of them ; I learnt them on the boats.” “But you cannot read ?"
No, not a word.” “ Has your mother ever told you of the Bible ?"
“Not me; but I've heard her tell Virginia about it.”
“Don't you ever go to church ?”
“No, never. Mother takes little Virginia ; but she says I'm too ragged and ungenteel.”
Why does your mother neglect you? I suppose you are a bad boy?" “ That he's not,” interrupted Ben; "that's not the
But we must not talk about that now; only I must take Jack's part. Go on, Peter.”
“Would you like to learn to read, Jack ?” said Anderson; "and would you like to hear me read the Bible to you, until you can read it yourself?”
"Indeed I would,” replied I. “There's many of the boys on the beach, smaller than me, who can both read and write."
Peter Anderson then told me that he would teach me, provided I behaved myself well. He desired I would come to his cabin every afternoon at six o'clock, a time which interfered little with my avocation of “ Poor Jack," and that he would give me a lesson.
efore he had finished talking, one of the lieutenants 6l be hospital sent for him; and Ben remained behind,
to point out to me how valuable my knowing how to read and write might one day prove to me.
" I've no larning myself, Jack," said he ; "and I know the loss of it. Had I known how to read and write I might have been something better than a poor Greenwich pensioner ; but, nevertheless, I'm thankful that I'm no worse.
Ever since I've been a man grown I've only regretted it once,—and that's been all my life. Why, Jack, I'd give this right arm of mine, to be sure, it's no great things now; but once it could send a harpoon in up to the hilt—but still a right arm is a right arm to the end of your days; and I'd give it with pleasure, if I only knew how to read and write ;nay, I wouldn't care about the writing; but if I could only read print, Jack, I'd give it ; for then I could read the Bible, as Peter Anderson does. Why, Jack, when we do go to chapel on Sunday, there's not one in ten of us who can follow the parson with his book; all we can do is to listen; and when he has done speaking, we are done also, and must wait till he preaches again. Don't I feel ashamed, then, Jack, at not being able to read; and ought not they to feel proud who can ;-no, not proud, but thankful ?* We don't think of the Bible much in our younger days, boy; but when we are tripping our anchor for the other world, we long to read away our doubts and misgivings; and it's thu only chart you can navigate by safely. I think a parent has much to answer for that don't teach its
* Ben's observations were true at the time he spoke : but this is no longer the case. So much more general bas education become, that now, in a ship's company, at least five out of seven can read.
child to read; but I must not blame my father or mother, for I never knew them.”
“ Never knew them ?”
No, boy, no. My father and mother left me when I was one year old; he was drowned ; and my mother —she died too, poor soul!"
“How did your mother die, Ben ?”
“It's a sad, sad story, Jack, and I cannot bear to think of it; it was told me long afterwards, by one who little thought to whom he was speaking.”
“Do tell me, Ben."
“ You're too young, boy, for such a tale--it's too shocking."
“Was it worse than being froze to death, as I nearly was the other day ?”
· Yes, my lad, worse than that; although, for one so young as you are, that was quite bad enough.”
Well, Ben, I wo'n't ask you to tell me, if it pains you to tell it. But you did not do wrong?”
“How could a baby of two years old do wrong? and five thousand miles off at the time, you little fool ? Well, I don't know if I wo’n't tell you, Jack, after all; because you will then find out that there's a comfort in reading the Bible—but you must promise me never to speak about it. I'm a foolish old fellow to tell it to you, Jack, I do believe ; but I'm fond of you, boy, and I don't like to say 'no' to you. Now come to an anchor close to me. The bells are ringing for dinner. I shall lose my meal, but you will not lose your story, and there will be no fear of interruption.
“ My father was brought up to the sea, Jack, and was a smart young man till he was about thirty; when