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We and the World_ A Book for Boys. Part II

We and the World_ A Book for Boys. Part II
Category: Sea stories
Title: We and the World_ A Book for Boys. Part II
Release Date: 2006-04-12
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 25 March 2019
Count views: 15
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London: Northumberland Avenue, W.C.
Brighton: 129, North Street.
New York: E. & J.B. YOUNG & CO.

[Published under the direction of the General Literature Committee.]



“A friend in need is a friend indeed.”—Old Proverb.

I have often thought that the biggest bit of goodluck (and I was lucky), which befell me on my outsetinto the world, was that the man I sat next to in therailway carriage was not a rogue. I travelled thirdclass to Liverpool for more than one reason—it wasthe cheapest way, besides which I did not wish tomeet any family friends—and the man I speak ofwas a third-class passenger, and he went to Liverpooltoo.

At the time I was puzzled to think how he cameto guess that I was running away, that I had moneywith me, and that I had never been to Liverpoolbefore; but I can well imagine now how my ignoranceand anxiety must have betrayed themselves at everystation I mistook for the end of my journey, and withevery question which I put, as I flattered myself, inthe careless tones of common conversation, I reallywonder I had not thought beforehand about myclothes, which fitted very badly on the character Iassumed, and the company I chose; but it was notperhaps to be expected that I should know then, asI know now, how conspicuous all over me must havebeen the absence of those outward signs of hardshipand poverty, which they who know poverty andhardship know so well.

I wish I had known them, because then I shouldhave given the man some of my money when weparted, instead of feeling too delicate to do so. Ican remember his face too well not to know now howmuch he must have needed it, and how heroic a virtuehonesty must have been in him.

It did not seem to strike him as at all strange orunnatural that a lad of my age should be seeking hisown fortune, but I feel sure that he thought it wasmisconduct on my part which had made me runaway from home. I had no grievance to describewhich he could recognize as grievous enough todrive me out into the world. However, I felt veryglad that he saw no impossibility in my earning myown livelihood, or even anything very unusual in mysituation.

“I suppose lots of young fellows run away fromhome and go to sea from a place like this?” said I,when we had reached Liverpool.

“And there’s plenty more goes that has no homesto run from,” replied he sententiously.

Prefacing each fresh counsel with the formula,“You’ll excuse me,” he gave me some excellentadvice as we threaded the greasy streets, and jostledthe disreputable-looking population of the lower partof the town. General counsels as to my conduct,and the desirableness of turning over a new leaf for“young chaps” who had been wild and got intoscrapes at home. And particular counsels whichwere invaluable to me, as to changing my dress, howto hide my money, what to turn my hand to with thequickest chance of bread-winning in strange places,and how to keep my own affairs to myself amongstrange people.

It was in the greasiest street, and among themost disreputable-looking people, that we found the“slop-shop” where, by my friend’s orders, I was to“rig out” in clothes befitting my new line of life.He went in first, so he did not see the qualm thatseized me on the doorstep. A revulsion so violentthat it nearly made me sick then and there; and ifsome one had seized me by the nape of my neck,and landed me straightway at my desk in UncleHenry’s office, would, I believe, have left me tamedfor life. For if this unutterable vileness of sights andsounds and smells which hung around the dark entryof the slop shop were indeed the world, I felt asudden and most vehement conviction that I wouldwillingly renounce the world for ever. As it happened,I had not at that moment the choice. My friend hadgone in, and I dared not stay among the peopleoutside. I groped my way into the shop, which wasso dark as well as dingy that they had lighted a smalloil-lamp just above the head of the man who servedout the slops. Even so the light that fell on himwas dim and fitful, and was the means of givingme another start in which I gasped out—“MosesBenson!”

The man turned and smiled (he had the Jew-clerk’sexact smile), and said softly,

“Cohen, my dear, not Benson.”

And as he bent at another angle of the oil-lampI saw that he was older than the clerk, and dirtier;and though his coat was quite curiously like theone I had so often cleaned, he had evidently eithernever met with the invaluable “scouring drops,” ordid not feel it worth while to make use of them insuch a dingy hole.

One shock helped to cure the other. Come whatmight, I could not sneak back now to the civil congratulationsof that other Moses, and the scorn ofhis eye. But I was so nervous that my fellow-travellertransacted my business for me, and whenthe oil-lamp flared and I caught Moses Cohenlooking at me, I jumped as if Snuffy had comebehind me. And when we got out (and it was noeasy matter to escape from the various benevolentoffers of the owner of the slop-shop), my friend said,

“You’ll excuse me telling you, but whatever youdo don’t go near that there Jew again. He’s nofriend for a young chap like you.”

“I should have got your slops cheaper,” headded, “if I could have taken your clothes in withoutyou.”

My “slops” were a very loose suit of clothesmade of much coarser material than my own, andI suppose they were called “slops” because theyfitted in such a peculiarly sloppy manner. Thewhole “rig out” (it included a strong clasp-knife,and a little leathern bag to keep my money in, whichI was instructed to carry round my neck) was providedby Mr. Cohen in exchange for the clothes Ihad been wearing before, with the addition of tenshillings in cash. I dipped again into the leathernbag to provide a meal for myself and my friend;then, by his advice, I put a shilling and some coppersinto my pocket, that I might not have to bring outmy purse in public, and with a few parting words ofcounsel he wrung my hand, and we parted—hetowards some place of business where he hoped toget employment, and I in the direction of the docks,where the ships come and go.

“I hope you will get work,” were my last words.

“The same to you, my lad,” was his reply, andit seemed to acknowledge me as one of that bigbrotherhood of toilers who, when they want “somethingto do,” want it not to pass time but to earndaily bread.


“Deark d’on Dearka.” (“Beg of a Beggar.”)
Irish Proverb.

“... From her way of speaking they also saw immediatelythat she too was an Eirisher.... They must be a bonnyfamily when they are all at home!”—The Life of MansieTailor in Dalkeith.

Dock” (so ran the 536th of the ‘Penny Numbers’)is “a place artificially formed for the reception ofships, the entrance of which is generally closed bygates. There are two kinds of docks, dry-docks andwet-docks. The former are used for receiving shipsin order to their being inspected and repaired. Forthis purpose the dock must be so contrived that thewater may be admitted or excluded at pleasure, sothat a vessel can be floated in when the tide is high,and that the water may run out with the fall of thetide, or be pumped out, the closing of the gatespreventing its return. Wet-docks are formed for thepurpose of keeping vessels always afloat.... One ofthe chief uses of a dock is to keep a uniform levelof water, so that the business of loading and unloadingships can be carried on without any interruption....The first wet-dock for commercialpurposes made in this kingdom was formed in theyear 1708 at Liverpool, then a place of no importance.”

The business of loading and unloading ships can becarried on without any interruption. If everythingthat the Penny Numbers told of were as true tothe life as that, the world’s wonders (at least thoseof them which begin with the first four letters of thealphabet) must be all that I had hoped; and perhapsthat bee-hive about which Master Isaac and I hadhad our jokes, did really yield a “considerableincome” to the fortunate French bee-master!

Loading and unloading, coming and going, liftingand lowering, shouting and replying, swearing and retorting,creaking and jangling, shrieking and bumping,cursing and chaffing, the noise and restlessness ofmen and things were utterly bewildering. I hadoften heard of a Babel of sounds, but I had neverbefore heard anything so like what one might fancyit must have been when that great crowd of workmenbroke up, and left building their tower, in a confoundingof language and misunderstanding of speech.For the men who went to and fro in these docks,each his own way, jostling and yelling to each other,were men of all nations, and the confusion was oftongues as well as of work. At one minute I foundmyself standing next to a live Chinaman in a pigtail,who was staring as hard as I at some swarthy supple-bodiedsailors with eager faces, and scant clothingwrapped tightly round them, chatting to each otherin a language as strange to the Chinaman as to me,their large lustrous eyes returning our curiosity withinterest, and contrasting strangely with the tea-caddycountenance of my elbow neighbour. Then aturbaned Turk went by, and then two grinningnegroes, and there were lots of men who lookedmore like Englishmen, but who spoke with othertongues, and amongst those who loaded and unloadedin this busy place, which was once of no importance,Irish brogue seemed the commonest language of all.

One thing made me hopeful—there were plentyof boys no bigger than myself who were busy working,and therefore earning wages, and as I saw several ladswho were dressed in suits the very counterpart of myown, I felt sure that my travelling companion haddone me a good turn when he rigged me out in slops.An incident that occurred in the afternoon made mea little more doubtful about this.

I really had found much to counterbalance theanxieties of my position in the delightful novelty andvariety of life around me, and not a little to raise myhopes; for I had watched keenly for several hours asmuch as I could see from the wharf of what wasgoing on in this ship and that, and I began to feel lessconfused. I perceived plainly that a great deal ofevery-day sort of work went on in ships as well as inhouses, with the chief difference, in dock at any rate,of being done in public. In the most free and easyfashion; to the untiring entertainment of crowds ofidlers besides myself, the men and boys on vesselafter vessel lying alongside, washed out their shirtsand socks, and hung them up to dry, cooked theirfood, cleaned out their pots and pans, tidied theirholes and corners, swept and brushed, and fetchedand carried, and did scores of things which I knew Icould do perfectly, for want of something betterto do.

“It’s clear there’s plenty of dirty work to go onwith till one learns seamanship,” I thought, and thethought was an honest satisfaction to me.

I had always swept Uncle Henry’s office, and thathad been light work after cleaning the school-room atSnuffy’s. My hands were never likely to be morechapped at sea than they had been with dirt and snowand want of things to dry oneself with at school; andas to coal-carrying ——

Talking of coals, on board the big ship, out ofwhich great white bales, strapped with bars of iron,were being pulled up by machinery, and caught andflung about by the “unloaders,” there was a manwhose business it seemed to be to look after the fires,and who seemed also to have taken a

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