Poor Jack

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If the reader will refer back to the first part of this narrative, he will find that I was born in the year 1786; and as I am writing this in the year 1840, I am now fifty-four years old. I was but little more than twenty-one when I married; I have, therefore, the experience of thirty-two years of a married life; but I will not anticipate. I ended the last chapter with my own happy union; I must now refer to those events which followed close upon that period.

Sir James and Lady O'Connor had taken up their residence at Leamington, then a small village, and not the populous place which it has since become. After a few months' residence, during which I had repeated letters from Lady O'Connor and Virginia, they were so pleased with the locality and neighborhood that Sir James purchased a property of some hundred acres, and added to a house which was upon it, so as to make it a comfortable and elegant residence. Lady O'Connor, after the first year, presented her husband with a son, and has since that been very assiduous in increasing his family—more so, perhaps, than would have been convenient to Sir James O'Connor's income at the time that he purchased the property, had it not been that the increase of its value, in consequence of a large portion of it having been taken as building land, has been so great as to place them in most affluent circumstances. About a year after my marriage I had notice from Lady O'Connor that a certain gentleman had arrived there who had shown great attention to Virginia; and she added that he had been very well received by my sister, being an old acquaintance of the name of Sommerville, a clergyman with a good living, and a very superior young man. I immediately recollected him as the preceptor who had behaved with such propriety when my sister was persecuted by the addresses of the young nobleman; and I, therefore, felt very easy upon the subject. A few months afterward I had a letter from Virginia, stating that he had proposed, and that she had conditionally accepted him. I wrote to her, congratulating her upon the choice she had made, giving her father's consent and blessing (of my mother hereafter); and shortly after they were married; and I am happy to say that her marriage has turned out as fortunate as my own.

We had remained in the cottage for some months after my own marriage, very undecided what we should do. Bramble did not like to quit the seaside, nor, I believe his old habits and localities. Money was of little value to him; indeed, on my marriage, he had insisted upon settling upon Bessy and her children the whole sum he had received for the salvage of the Dutch Indiaman, reserving for himself his farm near Deal. It did so happen, however, that about that period, while we were still in perplexity, I received a letter from Mr. Wilson's son, at Dover, telling me that the manor-house and three hundred acres of land, adjoining to Bramble's farm, were to be disposed of. This exactly suited, so I made the purchase and took possession, and then sent for my father to join us, which he hastened to do. Bramble did not, however, give up his cottage on the beach. He left Mrs. Maddox in it, and it was a favorite retirement for my father and him, who would remain there for several days together, amusing themselves with watching the shipping, and gaining intelligence from the various pilots as they landed, as they smoked their pipes on the shingle beach. It was not more than half a mile from the great house, so that it was very convenient; and Bessy and I would often go with the children and indulge in reminiscences of the former scenes which had there occurred.

My father and mother parted very good friends. The fact was that she was pleased with the arrangement, as she did not like my father wearing a pensioner's coat, and did not want his company at her own house. When he left the hospital, she insisted upon paying him his rent; and she did so very punctually until she gave up business. On her marriage, my sister requested that we would come to Leamington and be present; to which we all consented, particularly as it was a good opportunity of introducing Bessy to her and Lady O'Connor. My mother was also to join the party on the occasion. The only circumstance worth mentioning was the surprise of my mother on being introduced to Lady O'Connor, and finding that in this great lady she met with her old acquaintance, Mrs. St. Felix. Whatever she may have felt, she certainly had tact enough to conceal it, and was as warm in her congratulations as the best well-wisher. I must say that I never knew my mother appear to such advantage as she did during this visit to Leamington. She dressed remarkably well, and would have persuaded those who did not know her history that she had always been in good society; but she had been a lady's maid and had learned her mistress's airs, and as she could dress others so well, it would have been odd if she did not know how to dress herself. A good copy will often pass for an original. It was not till about six years after our marriage that my mother decided upon retiring from business. She had made a very comfortable provision for herself, as Mr. Wilson informed me, and took up her abode at Cheltenham, where she lived in a very genteel way, was considered quite a catch at card-parties, and when she did ask people to tea she always did the thing in better style than anybody else. The consequence was she was not only visited by most people, but in time became rather a person of consideration. As she never mentioned her husband, it was supposed that she was a widow, and, in consequence of her well-regulated establishment, she received much attention from several Irish and foreign bachelors. In short, my mother obtained almost the pinnacle of her ambition when she was once fairly settled at Cheltenham. I ought to observe that when she arrived there she had taken the precaution of prefixing a name to her own to which by baptismal rite she certainly was not entitled, and called herself Mrs. Montague Saunders.

Shortly after Mrs. St. Felix had given notice to the doctor that she should not return, and that her shop and the goodwill thereof were for sale, I received a letter from my friend Tom Cobb, the doctor's assistant, telling me that as he perceived he had now no chance of Mrs. St. Felix, he had some idea of taking her shop, and setting up as a tobacconist; his reasons were that physic was a bore, and going out of nights when called up a still greater. I wrote to Lady O'Connor inclosing Mr. Tom's letter, and pointed out to her that I thought it would be a public benefit to prevent Tom from killing so many people, as he certainly would do if he continued in his present profession, and eventually set up for himself. She replied that she agreed with me, but at the same time that she was anxious to benefit fat Jane, who really was a very good girl; and that, therefore, she empowered me to enter into a treaty with Mr. Thomas, by which, provided he could obtain the lady's consent, he was to wed her, and receive the stock in trade, its contents and fixtures, and goodwill, etc., as her portion.

As this was an offer which required some consideration before it was refused, I wrote to Tom pointing out to him the advantages of settling down with a good business, with a wife to assist him, and a cat and dog all ready installed, upon such advantageous conditions. Tom agreed with me, won the love of fat Jane, which was easily done, as he had no rival, and in a short time was fairly set down as the successor of Mrs. St. Felix. As for the doctor, he appeared to envy Tom his having possession of the shop which his fair friend once occupied; he was inconsolable, and there is no doubt but that he, from the period of her quitting Greenwich, wasted away until he eventually was buried in the churchyard. A most excellent man was Dr. Tadpole, and his death was lamented by hundreds who esteemed his character, and many hundreds more who had benefited not only by his advice, but by his charitable disposition. About ten years after my marriage Ben the Whaler was summoned away. His complaint was in the liver, which is not to be surprised at, considering how many gallons of liquor he had drunk during his life.

Peter Anderson—my father, my friend, my preceptor—was for many years inspecting boatswain of the hospital. At last he became to a certain degree vacant in mind, and his situation was filled up by another. He was removed to what they call the helpless ward, where he was well nursed and attended. It is no uncommon, indeed I may say it is a very common thing, for the old pensioners, as they gradually decay, to have their health quite perfect when the faculties are partly gone; and there is a helpless ward established for that very reason, where those who are infirm and feeble, without disease, or have lost their faculties while their bodily energies remain, are sent to, and there they pass a quiet, easy life, well attended, until they sink into the grave. Such was the case with Peter Anderson: he was ninety-seven when he died, but long before that time his mind was quite gone. Still he was treated with respect, and many were there who attended his funeral. I erected a handsome tombstone to his memory, the last tribute I could pay to a worthy, honest, sensible, and highly religious good man.

Mr. Wilson has been dead some time; he left me a legacy of five hundred pounds. I believe I have mentioned all my old acquaintances now, except Bill Harness and Opposition Bill. In living long certainly Opposition Bill has beat his opponent, for Harness is in the churchyard, while Opposition Bill still struts about with his hair as white as snow, and his face shriveled up like an old monkey's. The last time I was at Greenwich, I heard the pensioners say to one another, "Why, you go ahead about as fast as Opposition Bill." I requested this enigma to me to be solved, and it appeared that one Greenwich fair, Opposition Bill had set off home rather the worse for what he had drank, and so it happened that, crossing the road next to the hospital, his wooden leg had stuck in one of the iron plug-holes of the water conduit. Bill did not, in his situation, perceive that anything particular had occurred, and continued playing his fiddle and singing, and, as he supposed, walking on the whole time, instead of which he was continually walking round and round the one leg in the plug-hole with the other that was free. After about half an hour's trotting round and round this way, he began to think that he did not get home quite so fast as he ought, but the continual circular motion had made him more confused than before.

"By Gum!" said Bill, "this hospital is a confounded long way off. I'm sure I walk a mile, and I get no nearer; howsoebber, nebber mind—here goes."

Here Billy struck up a tune, and commenced a song along with it, still walking round and round his wooden leg which was firmly fixed in the plug-hole, and so he continued till he fell down from giddiness, and he was picked up by some of the people, who carried him home to the hospital.

I have but one more circumstance to relate. I was one day sitting with Bessy and my children, at the old cottage on the beach, Bramble and my father were smoking their pipes on a bench which they had set up outside, when one of the Deal boats landed with passengers. As they passed by us one old gentleman started, and then stopped short, as he beheld Bessy.

"Mine frau!" he cried, "mine frau dat was in heaven!"

We stared very much, as we did not comprehend him; but he then came up to me and said, "I beg your pardon, mynheer, but what is dat young woman?"

"She is my wife," replied I.

"I was going to say dat she was my wife, but dat is impossible. Look you here, sar."

The old man pulled a miniature out of his breast, and certainly the resemblance to Bessy was most remarkable.

"Now, sar, dat was my wife. Where did you get dis young woman?"

I requested him to walk into the cottage, and then told him the history of Bessy.

"Sar, my wife was coming home with her child in a brig, and the brig was never heard of. It was supposed that she did perish, and every one else too. Sar, this lady must be my daughter."

"I'm sorry that we have no proofs to offer you," replied I; "she had only bedclothes on when she was taken into the boat, and there is nothing to establish her identity."

"I am content, sar; she must be my daughter. She was in a brig with her mother, and she was saved the very same year that her mother come home. There, sar, look at this picture; it is the same person. I want no more proof—she is my daughter."

Although this was what might be called only collateral proof, I did agree with the old gentleman that it was very strong; at all events, it was sufficient for him, and he claimed Bessy as his child. Had he claimed her to take her away, I might have disputed it; but as he loaded her with presents, and when he died, which he did three years afterward, and left twenty thousand rix dollars, of course I was perfectly satisfied with his relationship.

So much for what has occurred since the time I married; and now, as the reader may, perhaps, wish to know something about the present condition of myself and family, I must inform him that my father and Bramble are still alive, and flourishing under their gray hairs. My sister has four children, and her husband is now a dean: they do say that, from the interest of his patron, he will in all probability be a bishop, a distinction not to be envied in these days, and therefore I do not wish him success. My mother is, however, of the contrary opinion, having been told that her daughter as a bishop's lady will take precedence and be led out before Lady Hercules. Sir James and Lady O'Connor are still well, and as happy as they well can be. Bessy has blessed me with three boys and three girls, now all grown up; but the boys came first. The eldest is a lieutenant in his Majesty's service, the second is a captain of an Indiaman, and the third commands a free trader. They are all well to do, and independent of their father. My girls, who are much younger, have been well educated, and people say that they are very handsome; at all events, they are modest and good-tempered. I have not attempted to conceal what I once was, yet Time has called away most of those who knew me in my profession. I am still considered as having been a seafaring man, but nevertheless, in consequence of my property, I am generally addressed by the title of Squire Saunders. By not assuming a station which does not become me, I find myself treated not only with respect, but with friendship, by those who are in birth, as well as other qualifications, my superiors. My daughters are invited out to all the balls and fêtes in the neighborhood, and are great favorites wherever they go: they all of them are like their mother, not only in appearance, but in temper and disposition. We have plenty of young men who visit the house, and I am afraid that we shall soon have to part with two of them, my eldest, Virginia, being engaged to a ship-builder at Limehouse, and Elizabeth to a young clergyman in the neighborhood. Jane thinks she never will marry, and, as I tell her, I suppose she never will till she is asked. To wind up, I may say that Bessy and I have been very happy, and promise still to be as happy as most people are who pass through this pilgrimage. We have competence—the good opinion of the world—a family who have never caused us one hour's uneasiness (how few can say that?), and we have, I trust, a due sense of God's mercy and kindness toward us, and never lie down in our beds without thanking Him for the many mercies we have received, and acknowledging how unworthy we are to have been so signally blessed.

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