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Off to Sea: The Adventures of Jovial Jack Junker on his Road to Fame

William Henry Giles Kingston

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  Off to Sea, by WHG Kingston.


  ________________________________________________________________________OFF TO SEA, BY WHG KINGSTON.



  From my earliest days I have been known as Jovial Jack Junker. I gotthe name, I believe, from always being in good humour, and seeing thebright side of things. Whatever I ate did me good, and I never had hadan hour's sickness in my life; while if things happened to go wrong oneday, I knew they would go right the next. People said I was of a happydisposition; I suppose I was. I always felt inclined to be singing orwhistling, and when I did not, it was because I knew I ought to keepsilence--in church, for instance, or in the presence of my elders, whohappened to be engaged in conversation. Still, I was not born, as thesaying is, with a silver spoon in my mouth, nor did I possess any greatworldly advantages. I did not trouble myself much about the future, Imust confess that. If I got what I wanted, I was contented; if not, Iexpected to get it the next day or the day after. I could wait; Ialways found something to amuse me in the meantime. My father was amarine--a man well known to fame, though not the celebrated "Cheeks."He was known as Sergeant Junker. He had several small sons anddaughters--young Junkers--and when I was about twelve years of age, hewas left an inconsolable widower by the untimely death of ourinestimable mother. She was an excellent woman, and had brought us up,to the best of her ability, in a way to make us good and useful membersof society. She was indeed a greater loss to us than to our poorfather; for, as my elder brother Simon observed, as he rubbed his eyes,moist with tears, with the back of his hand--

  "You see, Jack, father can go and get another wife, as many do; but wecan't get another mother like her that is gone, that we can't, nohow."

  No more thorough testimony could have been given to the virtues of ourmother. She was a superior woman in many respects, and she was of avery respectable family, and had a nice little fortune of her own; butshe had the common weakness of her sex, and fell in love with thehandsome face of our honest, worthy father, Ben Junker the marine, atthe time a private in that noble corps. She did not like his name, butshe loved him, and overcame her prejudice. He could, at the period Ispeak of, scarcely read or write; but she set to work to educate him,and so far succeeded, that, being a very steady man, he rose in duecourse to be a sergeant. She had the ambition of hoping to see himobtain a commission; but he used to declare that, if he did, nothingwould make him more unhappy, as he should feel exactly like a fish outof water. He was thus, at the time of which I am speaking, still asergeant. Our mother, in consequence of the income she enjoyed, wasable to give her children a much better education than we shouldotherwise probably have obtained. At the time of her death, it wouldhave been difficult to find in our rank of life a more happy, contented,and better-conducted family. Our father, as I have said, was at firstinconsolable; but he was of a happy, contented disposition, as it isvery necessary that marines, as well as other people, should be--adisposition which I fortunately inherited from him. He took the roughwith the smooth in life, as a matter of course. A favourite song ofhis, which he used to hum, was--

  "What's the use of sighing, While time is on the wing? Oh! what's the use of crying? Then merrily, merrily sing Fa! la!"

  Consequently, as Simon said he knew he would, he began in a short timeto look out for another wife; and, unhappily for us, fixed on a widowwith a family. She was, however, a very amiable woman; in fact, hergreat fault was, that she was too amiable, too soft and yielding. Shecould not manage to rule her own family, and a most uproarious, mutinousset they were. From the time they came to the house there was no peaceor quiet for anyone else. They, indeed, soon took to try and rule overus with a high hand. Her girls used to come it over our girls, and herboys over our boys. Brother Simon, who was bigger and stronger than hereldest, more than once threatened that he would thrash them all round,if they had any more nonsense, and that invariably made our poorstepmother burst into tears, and plead so hard for her rebelliousoffspring, that the good, honest fellow had not the heart to put histhreat into execution. At last some of us could stand it no longer. AsSimon was old enough, he went one day, without saying anything toanybody, and enlisted in the marines. Bill, our second brother, got ourfather to apprentice him to a ship-carpenter; and, after no littletrouble and coaxing, he promised to let me go on board a man-of-war. Hedid so, however, very unwillingly.

  "You don't know the sort of life that you will have to lead aboard ship,Jack," he observed. "Boys afloat are not the happy-go-lucky sort ofchaps they seem on shore, let me tell you; but, to be sure, they havegot discipline there, which is more than I can say there is to be foundin a certain place that you know of." And my father uttered a deepsigh.

  We were walking, one evening after tea, up and down our bit of a garden,while he smoked his pipe. He was allowed to live out of barracks, andwe had a small cottage a little way off.

  "I don't know, Jack, but what I should not be sorry, if my company wasordered on service afloat," he observed, confidentially, after aminute's silence. "Your new mother is a good woman--a very good woman;about her I made no mistake, though she is not equal, by a long chalk,to her that's gone; but oh! Jack," and he sighed again, "I did not takeinto account those young cubs of hers. They will not rest till theyhave driven your sisters out of the house, as they have driven the boys;and then--and then--why, I suppose, they will drive me away too!"

  My poor father! I sighed at the thoughts of his domestic happinessbeing so completely destroyed, in consequence of the advice of KingSolomon not having been followed--the rod having been spared, and thechildren spoiled.

  The following day, my father being sent on duty to Portsea, took me withhim. Soon after we landed, I met, just on the inner end of the CommonHard, an old friend of mine, Dick Lee, a waterman.

  "Father," I said, "if Dick will let me, I'll stop, and have a pull inhis wherry. As I am going to sea, I should like to learn to row betterthan I now do."

  My father, glad to keep me out of harm's way, told me that, if Dickwished it, I might remain with him. Well pleased, I ran down the Hard,and jumped into old Dick's wherry. Dick intended that I should sit inhis boat, and just practise with the oars, but I had no notion of thatsort; so, casting off the painter, I shoved away from the shore. I keptpulling up and down for some time, and round and round, till my armsached; when, determining to take a longer voyage, I turned the boat'shead out into the harbour. The tide was running out: I went on veryswimmingly, I did not think of that. I had not, however, got very far,when I heard old Dick's voice shouting to me--

  "Come back, Jack, come back, you young jackanapes!"

  Dick was in a rage, no doubt about that. I pulled round, and in spiteof all my efforts could make no headway. Dick shouted, and swore, butto no purpose. I might have cracked my sinews with pulling, but stillthe boat would keep drifting down and down, running a great risk ofgetting athwart-hawse of some of the vessels moored a dozen yards belowme. At last, Dick did what he might as well have done at first--steppedinto another boat with his mate, and came after me. He soon brought meback as a prize. His temper was in no way soothed, though I cried out,again and again, I could not help it.

  "Jump ashore now, lad," he said, as we touched the Hard. "Next timeyou'll do what I tell you you may do. I never said you might go and runthe chance of getting the boat stove in, and yourself drownded. I keep
smy family in order, whatever other people may do."

  Obeying old Dick, I stood disconsolately on the Hard, while he took hisfare on board, and pulled away across to Gosport, without deigning towaste another word on me. However, I soon recovered my spirits, andamused myself making an excursion over the huge logs of timber thatoccupy a considerable space in that nook of the harbour.

  I was running along on the more steady pieces of timber which formed theboundary of the pond, when I saw a boy in a boat, placed very much inthe position from which I had just escaped. In vain he attempted tostem the tide. He was evidently not accustomed to a boat. He lookedround, and saw that the boat was drifting towards the cable of a vesselmoored off the Hard. I shouted out to him to pull hard with hisstarboard oar; but, instead of so doing, he jumped up, and caught holdof the cable, across which the boat had just