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POWDER DICK AND HIS TRAIN.
THE Surrey shore of the Thames at London is dotted with damp
houses of entertainment. The water-side public-house, though, perchance, hard by
an archiepiscopal residence, and over against a legislative palace, is
essentially watersidey. Mud is before, behind, around, about it: mud that in wet
weather surges against its basement in pea-soup-like gushes, and that in summer
cakes into hard parallelograms of dirt, which, pulverised by the feet of
customers, fly upwards in throat-choking dust. The foundations of the water-side
public-house are piles of timbers, passably rotten; timbers likewise shore up no
inconaiderable portion of its frontage. It is a very damp house. The garrets are
as dank and oozy as cellars, and the cellars are like - what? - well: mermaids'
caves. The pewter pots and counters are never bright; the pipe splints light
with a fizzy sluggish sputter; an unwholesome ooze hangs on the wall; the
japanned tea-trays are covered with a damp rime; the scanty vegetation in the
back-garden resembles sea-weed; the ricketty summer-house is like the wreck of a
caboose. The landlord wears a low-crowned glazed hat, and the pot-boy a checked
shirt; the very halfpence he gives you for change are damp, so is the tobacco,
so are the leaves of last Saturday's 'Shipping and Mercantile Gazette.' They
don't wash the water-side public-house much, but let it fester and ooze and
slime away as it lists; neither do they attempt to clear away the muddy sort of
moat surrounding it; although, for the convenience of customers wishing to
preserve clean boots, there is a species of bridge or pontoon leading from the
road to the public door, formed of rotten deck-planks, and stair-rails. One side
of the door is guarded by a mop as ragged and as tangled as the unkempt head of
Peter the wild boy; the other by a damp dog, looking as if he had been in the
wafer too long, had not been properly dried when he came out, and had so got
chapped and mangy.
Rollocks is the landlord of the water-side public-house, the Tom Tug's Head. Rollocks was a jolly young waterman [-103-] once, and used for to ply at Blackfriars and elsewhere in the days when the waters of the Thames were ruffled by oars feathered with skill and dexterity; and not by the paddle-wheels of the Citizen and Waterman steamboats. Rollocks won Doggett's Coat and Badge twenty years ago. Afterwards, when by the introduction of steam-vessels aquatics had become more a sport than an avocation, Rollocks won many hard-contested matches. He beat Sammon the Newcastle coaley, by three lengths, and was subsequently matched to row Jibb, the famous sculler, from Execution Dock, for a matter of two hundred pounds. On the evening of the payment of the last deposit (made good at Thwaits's, the Trim built Wherry, Fishgaff Stairs) it so fell out that Jibb and Rollocks quarrelling as to who fouled whom in some previous match, Jibb broke both Rollocks' shins with an oar; which, coupled with his getting exceedingly inebriated that night and sleeping in a six-oared cutter half full of water, brought on lameness and rheumatism, broke off the match (Jibb paid forfeit), and moved Rollocks to retire into the public line. He is a damp mildewed man now, with bow legs and very long arms; to exhibit the symmetry and muscle of which he is, seemingly, much addicted - if one may judge from his shirt-sleeves being always rolled up to his armpit.
Rollocks has, behind his bar, the silver cups he has won during his aquatic career; his Doggett's Coat and Badge, with his portrait wearing ditto; the silver oar presented to him by the Barge Club (Viscount Billingsgate, chairman), the mahogany model of his wager-boat, and a neat collection of oars and sculls of various shapes and dimensions. Likewise the identical cushion on which Her Mellifluous Highness the Grand Duchess Dowager of Kartoffelshausen-Stoubenfeldt sat when he, Rollocks, had the honour to row her from Vauxhall to Whitehall Stairs, during the visit of the Allied Sovereigns to England in 1815. Rollocks's parlour is decorated with various coloured engravings of crack scullers in crack wager-boats, all bearing (the boats, I mean) in their sharp-nosedness, slim-shapedness, and eager, straining attitudes, a certain curious, inanimate, yet striking resemblance to so many racehorses, winning memorable Derbys. There is a screen before the fire, on which are pasted sundry pictorial illustrations of the songs of Mr. Thomas Dibdin; notably Jolly Dick the lamplighter, in a full curled wig, lighting a large lamp with an enormous flambeau, in so jaunity a manner, that his tumbling [-104-] off his ladder seems an event anything but problematical off occurrence.
When a rowing-match is on the tapis - or, more appropriately, on the water-the parlour of the Tom Tug's Head is scarcely large enough to contain the eager crowd of freshwater sportsmen, watermen, bargees, backers, and amateurs in aquatics. On these occasions it is by no means unfrequent to see the happy class of society, known among the commonaliy as 'swells,' muster strongly within Hollocks's damp walls. The alumni of the two great seats of Academic education are here in great numbers, their costumes presenting a sumptuary medley, in which the fashions of the wild-beast menagerie mingle with those of the stable. At present, they come to Rollocks's (which is close to Hook's, the great boat-builder); they drink out of his pots and clap him on the back, and are hail-fellows well met with the decayed tapsters and discarded serving-men; the river weeds, and slime, and scum. They meet here, not because they like it, but because some of their associates who have been two terms longer than they have at 'Keys,' or 'Maudlin,' say that it is very 'jolly' to go to old Rollocks's 'crib,' that it is 'life, my boy,' that it is 'the thing,' and so on.
Apart from the parlour of the Tom Tug's Head connected with aquatics as a sport, I must enumerate a miscellaneous population who are of the water and watery, though they run no races and win no cups. Here by night smoke their pipes and drink their grog, captains of river steamboats: silent, reserved men, mostly, lost in fogs of fluvial metaphysics, perhaps; or forming mental charts of shoals in the river yet undiscovered. These aquatic omnibus-drivers, if I may call them so, puzzle and disconcert me mightily. They are inscrutably mysterious. Where do they live? What were they before the steamboats were started? Do their wives (if they have wives) call themselves Mrs. Captain So and So? Are the call-boys their sons? Have they studied steam? Could they stoke? Would they be sea-sick if they were to go to sea? They are nautical men, yet why do they always wear frock coats, round hats, and half-boots? When shall we see a 'Citizen' captain in a cocked hat?
Not so much parlour customers, put chiefly frequenters of the bar, or hangers about the door and muddy bridge, are knots of damp, silent, deep-drinking men, surrounding whom there is a halo of deep and fearful interest. I know what [-105-] they wear those huge leathern aprons and thigh boots for. I know why they carry at times that weird apparatus of hooks and cordage. I know what lies sometimes in the long, low, slimy shed at the bottom of the garden, with a padlock on the door, blue, swollen, stiff, stark, dead! These be the searchers of the river, the finders of horrors, the coroner's purveyors, the beadle's informants, the marine-storekeeper's customers. When a man is no longer a man, but a body, and drowned, these seek and find him. The neighbouring brokers' stalls and rag-shops have dead men's boots and dead men a coats exposed for sale. These men are quiet, civil, sober men enough, and passing honest - only there never was a drowned man found with any money in his pockets.
Homogeneous to the bar and purlieus of the Tom Tug's Head are casual half-pint-of-porter customers, mudlarks, sewer gropers, rat-catchers, finders, river thieves, steamboat touters, waterside beggars, waterside thieves, I am afraid, sometimes. They pick up a living, nobody knows how, out of the mud and soppy timbers, as men will pick up livings from every refuse; as a teeming population and an advanced civilization only can have such livings to be picked up.
I don't know whether I am justified - before coming to Powder Dick - in describing the house I am about, now, lightly to touch upon as a 'waterside public,' inasmuch as it is less by the waterside than on the water itself - an hostelry permanently floating on the muddy bosom of the Thamesian stream. In good sooth this 'public' hath its habitat on a barge: its basement and cellar are keel and ribs. During the week it is moored by the muddy shore; but on Sundays it casts anchor a good score of yards therefrom; and the proprietor may, if he list, join in the exulting chorus of the piratical navigator whose bark was his bride, who was afloat, afloat, and, being a rover, free. I will call the proprietor Mr. Rover; for his hair is red, and he has a jovial, roving delivery and a roving eye (one), and, according to the centilingued Rumour, has roved a great deal in his time - to the Antipodes once on compulsion. Mr. Rover's bride, the Barge and Buttons, has attained a green old age - to judge by the rankly aqueous vegetation clinging to her mildewed sides. For aught I or Mr. Rover know, she may have been once, as a single barge or lads, first cousin to, if not herself the very identical, Folly on the Thames, at which our great-grandfathers and grandmothers halted sometimes in their wherries [-106-] on their way to a Vauxhall masquerade. The Barge and Buttons may have beheld the 'nice conduct of a clouded cane,' the surrounding waters may have rippled reflectively with the dazzling brightness of Belinda's diamonds, of the still more dazzling brightness of Belinda's eyes. The Barge's rotten timbers may have been mute witnesses of the humours of Lieutenant Lismahago, of the fopperies of Beau Tibbs, of the assurance of Ferdinand Count Fathom, of the fashionable airs of Miss Caroline Arabella Wilhelmina Skeggs; for the Folly on the Thames was the resort of highly fashionable company, and if bears were danced there they were never danced but to the very genteelest of tunes. I only hazard this, nothing more. I am not certain.
Rover is a cunning man. Sunday, the dies non (comparatively speaking) of the publican, of the financier (though beer can be sold in church hours and bargains made at church doors), is a harvest day for him. On week-days, as I have said, his boat is on the shore; but, hebdomadally, his bark is on the sea, or rather on the river; and, being there, Rover is extra-parochial, and can sell all sorts of exciseable commodities. So can, and do, as all men know, the river steamboats. All sorts of benches of magistrates, parochial and municipal authorities, have tried to do all sorts of things with the astute landlord; but in vain. The Rover is free and licensed. You have, to be sure, to pay a small augmentation of price on the liquors you consume, owing to the necessity of taking a wherry or a ferry-boat to put you on board the Barge and Buttons; but what is a penny to a man who must and will have his drink, week-day or Sunday, fair weather or foul?
Touching Sunday, I am moved to advert here, cursorily, to a class of bibulous philosophers, who unite the wisdom of the serpent to the subtilty of the fox, and who, drunken dogs as they mostly are, have been wary and expert enough to baffle persons and powers of no meaner note than the Houses of Lords and Commons. These are the Sunday 'dram-waiters.' The legislature has said to the dram-waiter, 'John Smith, during such and such hours, when divine service is performed, you shall not buy beer of Thomas Swypes.' To the publican it has said, 'Swypes, you shall not, during the aforesaid hours, sell any beer to John Smith; and if you do, I, the Law, will send my lictors, or "bobbies," after you, and I will mulct you of golden pounds and take away your licence, and bring you very low, and, in fact, play the devil with you.' [-107-] But the 'dram-waiter,' wiser, subtler, and warier than even the collective wisdom of the nation, forthwith sets to study parochial law and parochial regulations. He finds, that in one parish, afternoon service begins at one hour, and in another at another; that in the one street in the county of Middlesex, called the Strand, there are houses that close from two till four, from three till five, from three till eight, from six to seven, P.M., respectively: that some publics are extra-parochial. The 'dram-waiter' will do without his Sunday-morning drink by taking as much home over-night as he wants, or he will introduce himself surreptitiously into a 'public' with the connivance of a lawless licensed victualler; but he is not to be baulked of his post-prandial potations. He knows to a moment when the Bag o' Nails opens, and when the Elephant and Shoestrings closes. He can roam from bar to bar, suck sweets from every noggin, and keep himself all the time within the strict limits of legality. He is never hard up for a drink. He may get as drunk as an African king between litany and sermon, and endanger no man's licence. So much will perverted human ingenuity do. The glutton studies Latin to be able to read the beastly messes of Apicius in the original. We learn to paint in order to blacken, to write in order to libel Heaven gives us the talents, and - somebody else their application.
But revenons a nos Buttons. This barge-tap offers, both on week-days Sundays, many features of social peculiarity worthy of entrance into the common-place book of the philosophic observer. Analogically thinking, I perpend that this beery vessel has many points in common with the dark, stifling mouldy cheese, and rancid rat, and raw rum-smelling store-room of an emigrant-ship, or to the worst class of bar in the worst class American steamer. This reeking smell of bad spirits, this lowering roof, these sticky stains of beer, this malty mildew, these haggard or crimsoned customers - these, the accessories more or less of almost every public-house, but here denuded of the adventitious concomitants of light and glitter and gilding, stand forth in hideous and undisguised relief. They mean drink and drunkenness without excuse or extenuation; the cup that inebriates and does not cheer; the bowl that is wreathed with no flowers of soul, but with the crass dockweeds of intemperance. Bacchus is dismounted here, and lies wallowing in the thwarts of a bumboat. Sir John Barleycorn staggers about disknighted, [-108-] with his spurs hacked off his heels. It is convivial life, but life seen in a Claude Lorraine glass, and that glass a pothouse rummer blackened with the smoke of a pipe of mundungus.
'Love levels ranks,' Lord Grizzle says, but intemperance has pre-eminently the power of levelling and confounding ranks and ages and sexes, and species even. And thus it happens that from so levelling a system there will result a terrible sameness of feature and expression, of habit, manner, and custom; even as drill makes ploughboys, mechanics, and vagabonds all machines, as similar to each other as the sequent spikes in an area railway; even as slavery makes all negroes alike as one parched pea to another; even as judicious flogging will train a pack of hounds to run and cry and stop as one dog. Tyranny is most potent for exacting and maintaining conformity; and there is no tyranny so strong as that of the King of Drink, no conformity so abject and so universal as that of drunkards. Which must be my excuse, gentles, if I find no very novel characters among the bibbers at the Barge and Buttons.
Stay! one, a man; nay, half a man; nay, a quarter man; nay, less than that, a trunk - a drunken trunk. As I live, a miserable little atomy, more deformed, more diminutive, more mutilated than any beggar in a bowl, any cul-de-jatte, than that famed Centaur-beggar who, as Charles Lamb phrased it, appeared to have had his equestrian half hewn off in some dire Lapithaean conflict. This wondrous abortion's name, if he have a name, is doubtful. Men call him 'Powder Dick,' whether in remembrance of some terrible Dartford or Hounslow explosion, by which his limbs were (supposititiously) blown off, or because his chest and face are ceaselessly covered with the black powdery refuse of coal-barges, or because he was so actually baptized, who can say? Powder Dick he has been for years: blasted, blown up, crushed, torn up, or amputated he must have been at one time or another; but he cares not to say, and no man cares to ask him; for, though an atomy, he blasphemes like an imp of Acheron, and, though he cannot fight he can bite and spit, and with one maimed arm his accidents have left him, hurl pewter pots, and broken glasses, and hot tobacco ash, with unerring aim. His occupation is that of a ferryman; and he ferries fares cross river from six in the morning till nine in the evening al1 the year round.
Not, of course, that he rows himself, he sits at the stern of the boat like a hideous pagod, and steers, swearing mean-[-109-] while, and craunchiug a monstrous plug of tobacco, in the manner of a wild beast over a shin-bone of beef. His wife plies the oars - a tall, bony, ay, and a strong-boned woman - quick of action, quicker of imprecation and vituperation, who on a disputed copper would not scruple to paint your eyes as black as Erebus with the fire out. She is called Mrs. Dick, but whether that be her right name, or she have her 'marriage lines' to prove her legitimate connection with Mr. Dick, I should advise you not to be too curious in inquiring. She is communicative, however, when unruffled. 'My fust,' she vouchsafed to tell your correspondent, 'was a life-guardsman, and I kep him, for he carried on dreadful, and his pay wouldn't a kep him in blacking. My second was a navvy, and I kep him. So thou I took up along with Powder Dick, here, and, rabbit him, I a'most keeps him, for though the boat is his hown, and the hoars hare his hown, my harms is my hown, and they keeps us all afloat. A penny, please, sir.'
Every evening at nine Mrs. Dick marches into the bar of the Barge and Buttons with Powder Dick, pickaback; which mode of conveyance she adopts and he acquiesces in with the utmost coolness and complacency. Powder Dick is then set up on end in a corner of the bar, propped up by emptied measures; and there be remains, on end, guzzling fiery compounds, and roaring forth obscene songs, till his wicked old trunk is suffused with drink to the very stumps, and he tumbles or rolls on to the floor, at which period of time his wife, who has been drinking rum and. porter mixed all the evening, with an inflexible countenance raises him, replaces him in the pickaback posture, and exit with him towards that unknown slum of the purlieus of Lambeth, which may contain his home - if he have a home - or den.
Powder Dick has engrossed so much of my space, has caused me to digress in what is itself but a long digression, because I consider him to be in some measure not only an original but a meritorious deformity - most cul-de-jattes contenting themselves with existing upon charity - wheeling themselves about on small trucks like cockhorses; sitting on kerbstones with rude oil paintings spread before them, pictorially explaining how they came by their mutilation; being conveyed about as riders to perambulating organs; or simply crouching on the cellar flaps of public-houses, holding hats in their mouths much in the fashion of poodle dogs, with an associate (unmutilated) posted close handy to give timely intimation of the approach of the [-110-] police. But Powder Dick, inasmuch as he is the owner and exploiter of a flourishing ferry-boat (albeit the feme coverte, his wife, rows it), inasmuch as he makes an honest living and gets drunk on his proper earnings, may almost be considered in the light of a Mister Biffin, working as he does, though so horribly foreshortened.
I knew another meritorious deformity once (he is dead now), who positively became independent through his deformed industry, coupled with ingenuity. This worthy, being born endowed with qualities combining ignorance the most crass and most persistent, with idleness the most stedfast and persevering, is reported (I speak from report, for I knew him not in his perfect manhood) to have wilfully cast himself three separate times beneath the wheels of three separate carriages belonging to the nobility and gentry. Three mutilations of the most appalling nature, obtained from the charitable and wealthy occupants of the carriages three separate though trifling annuities, amounting in the aggregate to twenty-eight pounds a year. I believe be enacted the part of a votary of Juggernaut a fourth time; but the vehicle turning out to be a yellow hackney coach with a prodigious coat of arms on each panel, he gained little this time, save a five-pound note from the coach proprietor and two months' eleemosynary treatment in Saint Bartholomew's hospital. He then retired upon his annuities, and, feeling naturally lonely and in want of comfort, fixed his eyes and affections on a young and ugly vender of fruit in the public thoroughfares, to whom he was shortly after united, but who does not appear to have had that regard and consideration for the trunk of her husband, to which his talents and well-earned competence would have seemed to entitle him. At the commencement of my acquaintanceship with him (he had then been married two years), it was patent and notorious that his unfeeling partner was in the frequent habit of leaving him for days together without sustenance, on-end in his chair, from which, owing to his infirmity, he was, it is needless to say, unable to move. Nay, as a refinement of brutality, she has been known to place at the foot of the chair a large footbath of mustard and water, thus insultingly and derisively taunting him with his inability to avail himself of that useful adjunct to the toilet. But his sufferings were speedily terminated. My unfortunate friend was one morning found dead, drowned, his stumps uppermost, and his head in the footbath. It was conjectured that, after a too [-111-] copious dose of snuff (to which he was much addicted, and to he was wont to help himself by a dexterous extension and elongation of his upper lip, between a bag of snuff suspended round his neck and his nose - thus quite rivalling the elephant and his trunk) - he had fallen into a violent fit of sneezing; and, in the midst of his convulsive movements, had been precipitated from his chair into the bath, and so asphyxiated. His annuities died with him, and I hope his unworthy widow went to the workhouse.
One more variety of the waterside public, and I will go inland. Farther, much farther down-river must you sail with me (our dray hath masts and sails now) before you come to the Trichinopoly Crab. Far down below Woolwich, with its huge Dockyard and Field of the Balls of Death, or Arsenal, and hideous convict-hulks - spruce men-of-war once, but now no more like men-of-war than I to Hecuba; far down below Dumbledowndeary, the already-sung (which charming water-port hath lately been endowed with a garrison of fourteen real coast-guardsmen called by the natives 'perwenters' -.armed with real muskets and cutlasses: and who shall say the coast's in danger now?); - far, even below Bluehithe, where the gentleman hung his harriers, and Grays, and Purfleet, and Rainham, where the gentlemen fight for money - in a reach, a lonely reach, a swampy-shored reach - the grim sedy banks of Essex staring from over the way, the salt marshes of Kent behind and on each side - here is the Trichinopoly Crab, a lone white house, approached from the shore by a bridge over a slough of worse than Despond; approachable from the western of of Kent by ferry only, other communication being cut off by a sludgy miry little estuary - Dead Man's Creek.
The Trinchinopoly Crab is dismally white. Its frame might be taken for the bones of a house, bleached by the wind. The rickety bridge is painted white, so is the door of entry, with ghastly, skeleton-like chequers on either jamb, that remind you of the pips on the Dice of Death. The outward aspect of the Trinchinopoly Crab is, decidedly, not canny; yet within it is a very haven of maritime joviality and jollity. From the ships in the river come skippers, pilots, mates, supercargoes; from the adjacent villages come river-pilots, ship-chandlers, slop-dealers. From, no man knows whither - going, no man knows where - come strange mysterious men, who seem to know everything and everybody, who [-112-] smoke cigars of inconceivable fragrance, moucher themselves with rainbow-hued bandannas, and must be either smugglers (none of your London street 'duffers,' but real smugglers - fellows who could run a cargo of Hollands in the teeth of all, my lords mustered in the Long Room at the Custom House), or else aquatic detective policemen.
If you put your head, and subsequently your corporeality, into the long low coffee or tap-room (for it serves for both) of the Crab, you will first of all be sensible that the tobacco smoked by the majority of the company is of a far better and more fragrant quality than that vended by your lordship's tobacconist. Your olfactory nerves will be gratefully titillated by the pungent fumes of the genuine molasses-mixed Cavendish; by the incense-like suavity of the pure Oronooko; by the manly, vigorous smoke of unadulterated Virginia, and the dream-like languor of Varinhas and Latakia. Next you shall observe pipes, strange in form and fashion - not alone meerschaums and cherry-sticks of foreign make, but also yards of clay with outlandish bowls and tubes. Lastly, you are to be struck by the fact, that, although three-fourths of the company present are nautical men, you cannot detect any one nautical item in any portion of their attire. Sic vos non vobis. The stout little man in the rough brown coat and wide-awake has just come home from Smyrna, and is going back again in ballast, which, in the shape of sand, he is come down river to load himself with, from this portion of the Kentish coast. The tall, lean, wiry, sallow-faced man, wearing a fluffy white hat, a brown frock-coat, light cord trousers very much pulled up over his Wellington boots, and a steel watchguard exactly like a patent corkscrew, is a Yankee skipper, come on shore to see if he can pick up some sea-stores advantageously for the return voyage. Observe that he has whittled away a considerable portion of the circular wooden platter on which the pewter pots are placed, and has spat his and his neighbour's spittoon quite full, and is now sowing expectoration broadcast on the boots of the company underneath the table. His ship is a temperance ship, and he is a temperance man; for, although he has to all appearances consumed two or three tumblers of grog already (judging from the rubicund hue of the bumpers supplied him), his refreshment is, in reality, nothing more than a harmless compound, or temperance cordial called raspberry. All publics frequented by those who go down to the sea in ships' keep a store of this, and similar [-113-] cordials, such as gingerette, lemonette, orangette, all mixing with sugar and hot water in a duly groggy manner, but all perfectly innocuous and teetotal. There are snuggeries in Liverpool, frequented almost solely by American captains - temperance captains be it understood - which have no sale at all for malt or alcoholic liquors.
The fat, gray-beaded farmer-like man in the body coat, pepper-and-salt trousers, and brown gaiters, with a heavy bunch of watch-seals at his fob and a broad-brimmed bat, is a pilot; not one by any means you will say resembling the interesting individual with bushy whiskers, snowy ducks, varnished bat, telescope, and black neckerchief tied in a nautical knot, who very properly enjoined the impertinent passenger to go below to his berth and trust in Providence on a certain fearful night: for which vide the song and Mr. Brandard's lithographed frontispiece thereto. The pilot I have first introduced you to does not answer to the lithographed pilot. He is not at all like him. I never saw one like him; I never even saw a pilot in a pilot-coat, though I have seen one in a hat like a London dustman's, in a Jerry hat, in a costermonger's fur cap, and in a red nightcap. Never a one like him of the lithograph. But, my dear sir, is anything in life like the lithograph, or the book, or the canvas, or the proscenium picture thereof? is a Royal Academy brigand like a Calabrian brigand? - a Royal Italian Opera Swiss maiden like a young girl of any one of the thirteen Cantons? Are poet-shepherdesses like women who tend sheep? Are stage peasants like Buckinghamshire labourers? Is any imitation, reproduction or representation of life, like life ? - of man, like man? All men are liars. Put pencils or pens or 'broidering needles in our hands, we straightway fall a lying, and lie our heads out of shape, calling that imagination fiction, forsooth!
The long low room of the Trinchinopoly Crab, though by day a very Lybian desert of sandy floor, tenantless settles, and pyramid-spittoons, and drawing, perhaps, scarcely a butt of beer per month, does a roaring trade at night; for there are always ships in the river, and boats to row, and skippers who have used the Crab before, and nautical tradesmen eager to meet them; though this river-side house is a good mile and a quarter from any village, or even inhabited house. Decent, honest, civil, God-fearing men are these seamen-captains - the nobly great majority of them that is - of every port and nation. From the blunt whaling captains at Hull and Glasgow, to the [-114-] mighty mail steamer skippers at Liverpool or Southampton, they are almost invariably the same: civil of speech, quiet of demeanour, modest of assertion, and incapable of grandiloquence, almost to a fault. They will tell you diffidently of the Isles of Greece that they 'were down Cerigo way once with fruit;' whereas young Swallowpounce of the Treasury, whose Mediterranean travels I verily believe have never extended beyond Malta, is for ever bragging of and quoting
'Eternal summer gilds them yet,
But all except their sun is set.'
Have they been to India? Um, yes: Calcutta, and so on, said as easily as 'Chelsea.' The terrible Patagonian promontory, the awful and inhospitable land of Terra del Fuego is to them merely The Horn; and Venice, the Adriatic, Dalmatia, Styria, are all summed up in a simple 'Up the Gulf as far as Tryeast with hides.' Farewell, ye seamen-captains, honest men, who as pertinaciously persist in wearing chimney-pot hats and frock-coats, as your pictorial and literary delineators are incorrigible in delineating you in large-buttoned peacoats, wide ducks, and flat hats. Simple-minded men, making the little parade you do of your travelling lore and nautical learning - leaving the first only to be guessed at in your mahogany cheeks and sun-crimsoned foreheads and embrowned hands; the second only to be known in the hour of danger and peril, when the sea runs mountains high, and the masts bend like whips, and the rigging writhes like the tresses of a woman posessed.