作者：Kingston, William Henry Giles
格式: AZW3, DOCX, EPUB, MOBI, PDF, TXT
Peter Trawl The Adventures of a Whaler试读：
My early days at home.
Brother Jack, a seaman’s bag over his shoulders, trudged sturdily ahead; father followed, carrying the oars, spars, sails, and other gear of the wherry, while as I toddled alongside him I held on with one hand to the skirt of his pea-jacket, and griped the boat-hook which had been given to my charge with the other.
From the front of the well-known inn, the “Keppel’s Head,” the portrait of the brave old admiral, which I always looked at with awe and admiration, thinking what a great man he must have been, gazed sternly down on us as we made our way along the Common Hard of Portsea towards the water’s edge.
Father and Jack hauled in the wherry, and having deposited their burdens in her, set to work to mop her out and to put her to rights, while I stood, still grasping the boat-hook, which I held upright with the point in the ground, watching their proceedings, till father, lifting me up in his arms, placed me in the stern-sheets.
“Sit there, Peter, and mind you don’t topple overboard, my son,” he said, in the kind tone in which he always spoke to me and Jack.
I was too small to be of much use, indeed father had hitherto only taken me with him when he was merely going across to Gosport and back or plying about the harbour.
It was a more eventful day to Jack than to me. When I saw mother packing his bag, I had a sort of idea that he was going to sea, and when the next morning she threw her arms round his neck and burst into tears, and Jack began to cry too, I understood that he would be away for a long time.
Jack had been of great use to father, who grieved as much as mother to part with him, but, as he said, he wouldn’t, if he could help it, bring him up as a long-shore lubber, and a few voyages would be the making of him.
“He can’t get none of the right sort of eddication on shore,” observed father. “He’ll learn on board a man-of-war what duty and discipline mean, and to my mind till a lad knows that he isn’t worth his salt.”
The Lapwing brig-of-war, fitted out at Sheerness, had brought up at Spithead, and her commander, Captain Rogers, with whom father had long served, meeting him on shore, and hearing that he had a son old enough to go to sea, offered to take Jack and look after him.
When Commander Rogers was a midshipman, he fell overboard, and would have been drowned had not father jumped in and saved him. He was very grateful, but had not till now had an opportunity of practically showing his gratitude. Father, therefore, gladly accepted his offer, being sure that he would do his best for Jack; and as Blue Peter was flying from the masthead of the brig, there was no time to be lost in taking him on board.
At the time I was too young, as I was saying, to understand these matters, but I learnt about them afterwards. All I then knew was that brother Jack was going for a sailor aboard of a man-of-war.
Father and Jack were just shoving off, when two persons who had come out of the “Keppel’s Head” were seen hurrying down the Hard with cases and packages in their hands and under their arms. One, as his dress and appearance showed, was a seafaring man; the other wore long toggery, as sailors call the costume of landsmen.
“If you are going out to Spithead, my man, we’ll go with you,” shouted the first.
“Ay, ay, sir! I’ll be glad enough to take you,” answered father, happy to get a fare, instead of making nothing by the trip.
“We’ll give you five shillings apiece,” said the officer, for such he seemed to be.
“Thank you, sir; that will do. What ship shall I put you aboard?” asked father.
“The Intrepid, South Sea whaler—she’s lying to the eastward of the men-of-war. We shall see her when we get abreast of Southsea Castle,” answered the officer.
“Step aboard, then, sir,” said father. “The tide will soon have done making out of the harbour, and there’s no time to lose.”
The strangers took their seats in the stern-sheets, and father and Jack, shoving off, pulled out into the stream.
The officer took the yoke-lines, and by the way he handled them, showed that he knew what he was about. Careful steering is always required where tides run strong and vessels are assembled; but especially was it at that time, when, peace having been just proclaimed, Portsmouth Harbour was crowded with men-of-war lately returned from foreign stations, and with transports and victuallers come in to be discharged; while all the way up towards Porchester Castle lay, now dismantled in vast numbers, those stout old ships with names renowned which had borne the victorious flag of England in many a fierce engagement. Dockyard lighters, man-of-war boats, wherries crowded with passengers, and other craft of various descriptions, were sailing or pulling about in all directions, so that the stranger had to keep his eyes about him to avoid being run down by, or running into, some other boat or vessel.
“We’ll step the mast, and make sail while we’re in smooth water, sir,” said father. “There’s a lop of a sea outside, when it wouldn’t be pleasant to this gentleman if we were to wait till then,” and he gave a look at the landsman, who even now did not seem altogether comfortable.
“The doctor hasn’t been used to the sea, but he’ll soon get accustomed to it. No fear of that, Cockle, eh?” said the officer, who was, he afterwards told father, second mate of the Intrepid.
“I hope I shall, Mr Griffiths, but I confess I don’t much like the thought of going through those foaming waves out there in such a cockleshell of a boat as this,” answered the doctor. “No offence to you, my friend,” he added, turning to father.
“Ha! Ha! Ha! That’s just what the boat is at present,” said the mate, laughing. “Do you twig, doctor? Do you twig? She carries you and your fortunes, and if she takes us safe alongside the Intrepid—and I see no reason why she shouldn’t—we shall be obliged to her and her owner here. What’s your name, my man?”
“Jack Trawl, sir; at your service,” answered father. “Many’s the time I’ve been out to Spithead in this here wherry when it’s been blowing great guns and small arms, and she’s ridden over the seas like a duck. The gentleman needn’t be afraid.”
The doctor, who did not seem to like the mate’s joking, or father’s remark about being afraid, sat silent for some time.
“I’ll take the helm, sir, if you please,” said father, who had stepped the mast and hauled aft the sheets. “My wherry likes me to have hold of her, and maybe she mightn’t behave as well as she should if a stranger was steering.”
“I understand,” answered Mr Griffiths, laughing. “You are wise not to trust any one but yourself. I’ll yield to you in handling this style of boat under sail, though I may have been more at sea than you have.”
“I doubt that, sir, as I went afloat not long after you were born, if not before, and for well-nigh thirty years seldom set foot on shore,” answered father. “All that time I served His Majesty—God bless him—and if there was to come another war I’d be ready to serve him again, as my boy Jack there is just going to do.”
“A fine lad he seems, but he’d better by half have joined the merchant service than submitted to the tyranny of a man-of-war,” said the mate.
“There are just two opinions, sir, as to that,” answered father, dryly. “Haul down the tack, Jack, and get a pull of the foresheet,” he sang out.
There was a fresh breeze from the south-east blowing almost up the harbour, but by keeping over on the Portsmouth side, aided by the tide, we stood clear out of it. The wherry soon began to pitch into the seas, which came rolling in round Southsea Castle in a way which made the doctor look very blue. The mate tried to cheer him up, but he evidently didn’t like it, especially when the spray came flying over the bows, and quickly wet him and most of us well-nigh through to the skin. Every now and then more than the mere spray came aboard us, and the doctor became more and more uncomfortable.
Father now called Jack aft to bale out the water, and he set to work heaving it overboard as fast as it came in. I laughed, and did not feel a bit afraid, because when I looked up at father’s face I saw that there was nothing to be afraid about. At length the mate seemed to think that we were carrying on too long.
“Doctor Cockle is not accustomed to this sort of thing,” he observed. “Hadn’t we better take in a reef or two?”
“Not if you wish to get aboard your ship, sir, before night,” answered father. “I know my boat, and I know what she’ll do. Trust me, sir, and in less than half-an-hour you’ll be safe alongside the Intrepid.”
The mate seemed satisfied, and began talking to me, amused at the way I sat bobbing, as the spray came aboard, under an old pea-jacket which father had thrown over my shoulders, and grinning when I found that I had escaped the shower by which the others got well sprinkled.
“I’ll not forget you, my little fellow,” he said, laughing. “You’ll make a prime seaman one of these days. Will you remember my name?”
“Yes, sir, I think I shall, and your face too,” I answered.
“You are a sharp chap, I see,” he observed, in the same tone as before.
“Do you intend to make a sailor of him?” he asked, turning to father.
“Not if I can find a better calling for the boy, sir,” answered father. “I’ve heard say, and believe it, that man proposes and God disposes. It mayn’t be in my power to choose for him.”
“Ay, ay, you’re right there, my friend,” said the mate. “If he had been as old as his brother I would have given him a berth aboard the Intrepid.”
It may seem curious that, young as I was, I should have remembered these remarks, but so it was, and I had reason long afterwards to do so.
Even sooner than father had said we had hooked on to the whaler, a barque of about three hundred tons, her black hull rising high out of the water, and with three boats, sharp at both ends, hoisted up to davits in a line on each side. The good-natured mate having paid the fare and given me a bright shilling in addition, helped the doctor, who wasn’t very well able to help himself, up on deck, and we then, shoving off, stood for the man-of-war brig.
Jack almost broke down as we approached her. Not that he was unwilling to go away, but that he was very sorry to part from father and me, and I know that we were very sorry to part with him.
“Jack, my son,” said father, and his voice wasn’t as firm as usual, “we may never meet again on this side the grave. You may be taken or I may be taken. What I want to say to you is this, and they may be well-nigh the last words you will ever hear me speak. Ever remember that God’s eye is upon you, and so live that you may be prepared at any moment to die. I can’t say more than that, my boy. Bless you. God bless you.”
“I will, father, I will,” answered Jack, and he passed the back of his hand across his eyes.
We were soon up to the brig. He gave me a hug and a kiss, and then, having made fast the end of the rope hove to us, he griped father’s hand, and sprang up the side of the brig. His bag was hoisted up after him by an old shipmate of father’s, who sang out, “All right, Trawl, I’ll look after your boy!”
We had at once to shove off, for the brig was rolling considerably, and there was a risk of the wherry being swamped alongside. As we stood away I looked astern. Jack had climbed into the fore-rigging and was waving to us. We soon lost sight of him. When, if ever, should we see him again?
Having the wind and tide with us, we quickly ran back into the harbour. For reasons which will appear by-and-by I ought to say a few words respecting my family, though I don’t flatter myself the world in general will be much concerned about the matter. Some people are said to be born with silver spoons in their mouths; if that means, as I suppose it does, that from their earliest days they enjoy all the luxuries of life, then I may say that when I first saw the light I must have had a very rough wooden one between my toothless gums. However, as I’ve often since thought, it isn’t so much what a man is born to which signifies, as what he becomes by his honesty, steadiness, perseverance, and above all by his earnest desire to do right in the sight of God.
My father, Jack Trawl (as he spelt his name, or, rather, as others spelt it for him, he being no great hand with a pen), was an old man-of-war’s-man. I well remember hearing him say that his father, who had been mate of a merchantman, and had been lost at sea when he himself was a boy, was a Shetlander; and in an old Testament which had belonged to his mother, and which he had treasured as the only relic of either of his parents, I found the name written Troil. The ink was very faint, but I made out the words clearly, “Margaret Troil, given to her by her husband Angus.” This confirmed me in the idea I had formed, that both my father’s parents had come from the far off island of Shetland.
My father being a sober, steady man, having saved more of his pay and prize-money than had most of his shipmates, when he left the service bought a wherry, hired and furnished a house, and married my mother, Polly Treherne, the daughter of a bumboat-woman who plied her trade in Portsmouth Harbour.
I have no cause to be ashamed of my grandmother, for every one who knew her said, and I am sure of it, that she was as worthy a woman in her line of life as ever lived. She gave good measure and charged honest prices, whether she was dealing in soft tack, fruit, vegetables, cheese, herrings, or any of the other miscellaneous articles with which she supplied the seamen of His Majesty’s ships; and her daughter Polly, who assisted her, was acknowledged by all to be as good and kind-hearted as she was pretty. No wonder, then, that she won the heart of my brave father when she visited the ship in which he had just come home, or that, knowing his worth, although she had many suitors, she consented to marry him.
For some time all went well, but what happened is a proof that honest, industrious persons may be overtaken by misfortunes as well as other people. Father had no intention that his wife should follow her mother’s calling, as he could make enough to keep the pot boiling; but after they had been married a few years, and several children had been born, all of whom died in their infancy, except my eldest brother Jack, and me and Mary, the two youngest, bad times came.
How a true friend was gained.
Just before we two entered this world of troubles, the bank in which my father had deposited his savings broke, and all were lost. The sails of his wherry were worn out, and he had been about to buy a new suit, which he now couldn’t do; the wherry herself was getting crazy, and required repairs, and he himself met with an accident which laid him up for several weeks. Grandmother also, who had lost nearly her all by the failure of the bank, though she had hitherto been hale and hearty, now began to talk of feeling the approach of old age.
One evening, while father was laid up, she looked in on us. “Polly, my girl, there’s no use trying to beat up in the teeth of a gale with a five-knot current against one,” she exclaimed, as, dropping down into out big arm-chair and undoing her bonnet-strings and the red handkerchief she wore round her neck, she threw her bonnet over the back of her head. “I’m dead beat with to-day’s work, and shall be worse to-morrow. Now, my dear, what I’ve got to say is this, I want you to help me. You know the trade as well as I do. It will be a good thing for you as well as for me; for look you, my dear, if anything should happen to your Jack, it will help you to keep the wolf from the door.”
This last argument, with her desire to help the good old lady, made mother say that if father was agreeable she would do as grandmother wished. She forthwith went upstairs, where father was lying in bed, scarcely able to move for the pain his hurt caused him. They talked the matter over, and he, knowing that something must be done for the support of the family, gave, though unwillingly, his consent. Thus it happened that my mother again took to bum-boating.
Trade, however, wasn’t like what it used to be in the war time, I heard grandmother say. Then seamen would have their pockets filled with five-pound notes and golden guineas, which they were eager to spend; now they rarely had more than a few shillings or a handful of coppers jingling in them. Still there was an honest livelihood to be made, and grandmother and mother contrived to make it. Poor grandmother, however, before long fell ill, as she said she should, and then all the work fell on mother. Father got better, and was able sometimes to go out with the wherry, but grandmother got worse and worse, and mother had to attend on her till she died.
When she and father were away from home, Mary and I were left to the care of our brother Jack. He did his best to look after us, but not being skilled as a nursemaid, while he was tending Mary, who, being a girl—she was my twin sister, I should have said—required most of his care, he could not always manage to prevent me from getting into trouble. Fortunately nothing very serious happened.
Dear, kind Jack! I was very fond of him, and generally obeyed him willingly. It would not be true to say that I always did so. He was very fond of Mary and me too, of that I am sure, and he used to show his fondness by spending for our benefit any coppers he picked up by running on errands or doing odd jobs for neighbours. As his purchases were usually brandy-balls, rock, and other sweets, it was perhaps fortunate for us that he had not many to spend. By diligently pursuing her trade, mother, in course of time, saved money enough to enable father to get the wherry repaired, and to buy a new suit of sails, and when he got plenty of employment he bade mother stay at home and look after Mary and me, while Jack went with him. As, however, it would not have been prudent to give up her business altogether, she hired a girl, Nancy Fidget, to take her place, as Jack had done, when she was from home.
I don’t remember that anything of importance happened after grandmother’s death till Jack went to sea. We missed him very much, and Mary was always asking after him, wondering when he would come back. Still, if I had gone away, she would, I think, have fretted still more. Perhaps it was because we were twins that we were so fond of each other. We were, however, not much alike. She was a fair, blue-eyed little maiden, with flaxen hair and a rosy blush on her cheeks, and I was a broad-shouldered, strongly-built chap, the hue on my cheeks and the colour of my hair soon becoming deepened by my being constantly out of doors, while my eyes were, I fancy, of a far darker tint than my sister’s.
After Jack went mother seemed to concentrate all her affections on us two. I don’t think, however, that any woman could have a warmer or larger heart than hers, although many may have a wider scope for the exercise of their feelings. She never turned a beggar away from her door without some relief even in the worst of times, and when any of the neighbours were in distress, she always did her best to help them. Often when she had been out bum-boating for the best part of the day, and had been attending to household matters for the remainder, she would sit up the whole night with a sick acquaintance who was too poor to hire a nurse, and had only thanks to give her, and perhaps of that not very liberally.
I have said that my mother had as warm and generous a heart as ever beat in woman’s bosom. I repeat it. I might give numerous instances to prove the truth of my assertion, and to show that I have reason to be proud of being her son, whatever the world may think about the matter. One will suffice. It had an important effect on my destinies, although at the time no one would have supposed that such would be the case. One evening, as my mother was returning home off the water after dark, she found a female fallen down close to our door, in what seemed to be a fit. Some of the neighbours had seen the poor creature, but had let her lie there, and gone indoors, and several persons passing showed by their remarks what they thought of her character; but mother, not stopping to consider who she was or what she was, lifting her up in her strong arms, carried her into the house, and placed her on the bed which used to be Jack’s.
Mother now saw by the light of the candle that the unhappy being she had taken charge of was still young, and once had been pretty, but the life she had led had marred her beauty and brought her to her present sad state. After mother had undressed her and given her food and a cordial in which she had great confidence, the girl slightly revived, but it became more evident than before that she was fearfully ill. She sobbed and groaned, and sometimes shrieked out in a way terrible to hear, but would give no account of herself. At length, mother, mistrusting her own skill, sent Nancy and me off to call Dr Rolt, the nearest medical man we knew of. He came at once, and shaking his head as soon as he saw the stranger, he advised that she should be removed forthwith to the hospital.
“Not to-night, doctor, surely,” said mother. “It might be the death of