Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 28 HE GOES TO SUPPER AT THE SIGN OF THE BALTIMORE CLIPPER

  • In the afternoon our pilot was all alive with his orders; we hove up th_nchor, and after a deal of pulling, and hauling, and jamming against othe_hips, we wedged our way through a lock at high tide; and about dark,
  • succeeded in working up to a berth in _Prince's Dock._ The hawsers and tow-
  • lines being then coiled away, the crew were told to go ashore, select thei_oarding-house, and sit down to supper.
  • Here it must be mentioned, that owing to the strict but necessary regulation_f the Liverpool docks, no fires of any kind are allowed on board the vessel_ithin them; and hence, though the sailors are supposed to sleep in th_orecastle, yet they must get their meals ashore, or live upon cold potatoes.
  • To a ship, the American merchantmen adopt the former plan; the owners, o_ourse, paying the landlord's bill; which, in a large crew remaining a_iverpool more than six weeks, as we of the Highlander did, forms n_nconsiderable item in the expenses of the voyage. Other ships, however—th_conomical Dutch and Danish, for instance, and sometimes the pruden_cotch—feed their luckless tars in dock, with precisely the same fare whic_hey give them at sea; taking their salt junk ashore to be cooked, which,
  • indeed, is but scurvy sort of treatment, since it is very apt to induce th_curvy. A parsimonious proceeding like this is regarded with immeasurabl_isdain by the crews of the New York vessels, who, if their captains treate_hem after that fashion, would soon bolt and run.
  • It was quite dark, when we all sprang ashore; and, for the first time, I fel_usty particles of the renowned British soil penetrating into my eyes an_ungs. As for _stepping_ on it, that was out of the question, in the well-
  • paved and flagged condition of the streets; and I did not have an opportunit_o do so till some time afterward, when I got out into the country; and then,
  • indeed, I saw England, and snuffed its immortal loam-but not till then.
  • Jackson led the van; and after stopping at a tavern, took us up this street,
  • and down that, till at last he brought us to a narrow lane, filled wit_oarding-houses, spirit-vaults, and sailors. Here we stopped before the sig_f a Baltimore Clipper, flanked on one side by a gilded bunch of grapes and _ottle, and on the other by the British Unicorn and American Eagle, lying dow_y each other, like the lion and lamb in the millennium.—A very judicious an_asty device, showing a delicate apprehension of the propriety of conciliatin_merican sailors in an English boarding-house; and yet in no way derogatin_rom the honor and dignity of England, but placing the two nations, indeed,
  • upon a footing of perfect equality.
  • Near the unicorn was a very small animal, which at first I took for a youn_nicorn; but it looked more like a yearling lion. It was holding up one paw,
  • as if it had a splinter in it; and on its head was a sort of basket-hilted,
  • low-crowned hat, without a rim. I asked a sailor standing by, what this anima_eant, when, looking at me with a grin, he answered, "Why, youngster, don'_ou know what that means? It's a young jackass, limping off with a kedgere_ot of rice out of the cuddy."
  • Though it was an English boarding-house, it was kept by a broken-down America_ariner, one Danby, a dissolute, idle fellow, who had married a buxom Englis_ife, and now lived upon her industry; for the lady, and not the sailor,
  • proved to be the head of the establishment.
  • She was a hale, good-looking woman, about forty years old, and among th_eamen went by the name of _"Handsome Mary."_ But though, from the dissipate_haracter of her spouse, Mary had become the business personage of the house,
  • bought the marketing, overlooked the tables, and conducted all the mor_mportant arrangements, yet she was by no means an Amazon to her husband, i_he _did_ play a masculine part in other matters. No; and the more is th_ity, poor Mary seemed too much attached to Danby, to seek to rule him as _ermagant. Often she went about her household concerns with the tears in he_yes, when, after a fit of intoxication, this brutal husband of hers had bee_eating her. The sailors took her part, and many a time volunteered to giv_im a thorough thrashing before her eyes; but Mary would beg them not to d_o, as Danby would, no doubt, be a better boy next time.
  • But there seemed no likelihood of this, so long as that abominable bar of hi_tood upon the premises. As you entered the passage, it stared upon you on on_ide, ready to entrap all guests.
  • It was a grotesque, old-fashioned, castellated sort of a sentry-box, made of _moky-colored wood, and with a grating in front, that lifted up like _ortcullis. And here would this Danby sit all the day long; and when customer_rew thin, would patronize his own ale himself, pouring down mug after mug, a_f he took himself for one of his own quarter-casks.
  • Sometimes an old crony of his, one Bob Still, would come in; and then the_ould occupy the sentry-box together, and swill their beer in concert. Thi_ot-friend of Danby was portly as a dray-horse, and had a round, sleek, oil_ead, twinkling eyes, and moist red cheeks. He was a lusty troller of ale-
  • songs; and, with his mug in his hand, would lean his waddling bulk partly ou_f the sentry-box, singing:
  • > "No _frost, no snow, no wind, I trow,_
  • > Can hurt me if I wold, I am so wrapt, and thoroughly lapt
  • > In jolly good ale and old,—
  • > I stuff my skin so full within,
  • > Of jolly good ale and old."
  • Or this,
  • > _"Four wines and brandies I detest,
  • > Here's richer juice from barley press'd.
  • > It is the quintessence of malt,
  • > And they that drink it want no salt.
  • > Come, then, quick come, and take this beer,
  • > And water henceforth you'll forswear."_
  • Alas! Handsome Mary. What avail all thy private tears and remonstrances wit_he incorrigible Danby, so long as that brewery of a toper, Bob Still, dail_clipses thy threshold with the vast diameter of his paunch, and enthrone_imself in the sentry-box, holding divided rule with thy spouse?
  • The more he drinks, the fatter and rounder waxes Bob; and the songs pour ou_s the ale pours in, on the well-known principle, that the air in a vessel i_isplaced and expelled, as the liquid rises higher and higher in it.
  • But as for Danby, the miserable Yankee grows sour on good cheer, and dries u_he thinner for every drop of fat ale he imbibes. It is plain an_emonstrable, that much ale is not good for Yankees, and operates differentl_pon them from what it does upon a Briton: ale must be drank in a fog and _rizzle.
  • Entering the sign of the Clipper, Jackson ushered us into a small room on on_ide, and shortly after, Handsome Mary waited upon us with a courtesy, an_eceived the compliments of several old guests among our crew. She the_isappeared to provide our supper. While my shipmates were now engaged i_ippling, and talking with numerous old acquaintances of theirs in th_eighborhood, who thronged about the door, I remained alone in the littl_oom, meditating profoundly upon the fact, that I was now seated upon a_nglish bench, under an English roof, in an English tavern, forming a_ntegral part of the English empire. It was a staggering fact, but none th_ess true.
  • I examined the place attentively; it was a long, narrow, little room, with on_mall arched window with red curtains, looking out upon a smoky, untidy yard,
  • bounded by a dingy brick-wall, the top of which was horrible with pieces o_roken old bottles, stuck into mortar.
  • A dull lamp swung overhead, placed in a wooden ship suspended from th_eiling. The walls were covered with a paper, representing an endles_uccession of vessels of all nations continually circumnavigating th_partment. By way of a pictorial mainsail to one of these ships, a map wa_ung against it, representing in faded colors the flags of all nations. Fro_he street came a confused uproar of ballad-singers, bawling women, babies,
  • and drunken sailors.
  • And this is England?
  • But where are the old abbeys, and the York Minsters, and the lord mayors, an_oronations, and the May-poles, and fox-hunters, and Derby races, and th_ukes and duchesses, and the Count d'Orsays, which, from all my reading, I ha_een in the habit of associating with England? Not the most distant glimpse o_hem was to be seen.
  • Alas! Wellingborough, thought I, I fear you stand but a poor chance to see th_ights. You are nothing but a poor sailor boy; and the Queen is not going t_end a deputation of noblemen to invite you to St. James's.
  • It was then, I began to see, that my prospects of seeing the world as a sailo_ere, after all, but very doubtful; for sailors only go _round_ the world,
  • without going _into_ it; and their reminiscences of travel are only a di_ecollection of a chain of tap-rooms surrounding the globe, parallel with th_quator. They but touch the perimeter of the circle; hover about the edges o_erra-firma; and only land upon wharves and pier-heads. They would dream a_ittle of traveling inland to see Kenilworth, or Blenheim Castle, as the_ould of sending a car overland to the Pope, when they touched at Naples.
  • From these reveries I was soon roused, by a servant girl hurrying from room t_oom, in shrill tones exclaiming, "Supper, supper ready."
  • Mounting a rickety staircase, we entered a room on the second floor. Thre_all brass candlesticks shed a smoky light upon smoky walls, of what had onc_een sea-blue, covered with sailor-scrawls of foul anchors, lovers' sonnets,
  • and ocean ditties. On one side, nailed against the wainscot in a row, were th_our knaves of cards, each Jack putting his best foot foremost as usual. Wha_hese signified I never heard.
  • But such ample cheer! Such a groaning table! Such a superabundance of solid_nd substantial! Was it possible that sailors fared thus?—the sailors, who a_ea live upon salt beef and biscuit?
  • First and foremost, was a mighty pewter dish, big as Achilles' shield,
  • sustaining a pyramid of smoking sausages. This stood at one end; midway was _imilar dish, heavily laden with farmers' slices of head-cheese; and at th_pposite end, a congregation of beef-steaks, piled tier over tier. Scattere_t intervals between, were side dishes of boiled potatoes, eggs by the score,
  • bread, and pickles; and on a stand adjoining, was an ample reserve of ever_hing on the supper table.
  • We fell to with all our hearts; wrapt ourselves in hot jackets of beef-steaks;
  • curtailed the sausages with great celerity; and sitting down before the head-
  • cheese, soon razed it to its foundations.
  • Toward the close of the entertainment, I suggested to Peggy, one of the girl_ho had waited upon us, that a cup of tea would be a nice thing to take; and _ould thank her for one. She replied that it was too late for tea; but sh_ould get me a cup of _"swipes"_ if I wanted it.
  • Not knowing what _"swipes"_ might be, I thought I would run the risk and tr_t; but it proved a miserable beverage, with a musty, sour flavor, as if i_ad been a decoction of spoiled pickles. I never patronized _swipes_ again;
  • but gave it a wide berth; though, at dinner afterward, it was furnished to a_nlimited extent, and drunk by most of my shipmates, who pronounced it good.
  • But Bob Still would not have pronounced it so; for this _stripes, as I_earned, was a sort of cheap substitute for beer; or a bastard kind of beer;
  • or the washings and rinsings of old beer-barrels. But I do not remember no_hat they said it was, precisely. I only know, that _swipes_ was m_bomination. As for the taste of it, I can only describe it as answering t_he name itself; which is certainly significant of something vile. But it i_runk in large quantities by the poor people about Liverpool, which, perhaps,
  • in some degree, accounts for their poverty.