Wreck of the Golden Mary by Charles Dickens


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Page 1

I am a single man (she was too good for this world and for me, and she
died six weeks before our marriage-day), so when I am ashore, I live in
my house at Poplar. My house at Poplar is taken care of and kept ship-
shape by an old lady who was my mother's maid before I was born. She is
as handsome and as upright as any old lady in the world. She is as fond
of me as if she had ever had an only son, and I was he. Well do I know
wherever I sail that she never lays down her head at night without having
said, "Merciful Lord! bless and preserve William George Ravender, and
send him safe home, through Christ our Saviour!" I have thought of it in
many a dangerous moment, when it has done me no harm, I am sure.

In my house at Poplar, along with this old lady, I lived quiet for best
part of a year: having had a long spell of it among the Islands, and
having (which was very uncommon in me) taken the fever rather badly. At
last, being strong and hearty, and having read every book I could lay
hold of, right out, I was walking down Leadenhall Street in the City of
London, thinking of turning-to again, when I met what I call Smithick and
Watersby of Liverpool. I chanced to lift up my eyes from looking in at a
ship's chronometer in a window, and I saw him bearing down upon me, head
on.

It is, personally, neither Smithick, nor Watersby, that I here mention,
nor was I ever acquainted with any man of either of those names, nor do I
think that there has been any one of either of those names in that
Liverpool House for years back. But, it is in reality the House itself
that I refer to; and a wiser merchant or a truer gentleman never stepped.

"My dear Captain Ravender," says he. "Of all the men on earth, I wanted
to see you most. I was on my way to you."

"Well!" says I. "That looks as if you _were_ to see me, don't it?" With
that I put my arm in his, and we walked on towards the Royal Exchange,
and when we got there, walked up and down at the back of it where the
Clock-Tower is. We walked an hour and more, for he had much to say to
me. He had a scheme for chartering a new ship of their own to take out
cargo to the diggers and emigrants in California, and to buy and bring
back gold. Into the particulars of that scheme I will not enter, and I
have no right to enter. All I say of it is, that it was a very original
one, a very fine one, a very sound one, and a very lucrative one beyond
doubt.

He imparted it to me as freely as if I had been a part of himself. After
doing so, he made me the handsomest sharing offer that ever was made to
me, boy or man--or I believe to any other captain in the Merchant
Navy--and he took this round turn to finish with:

"Ravender, you are well aware that the lawlessness of that coast and
country at present, is as special as the circumstances in which it is
placed. Crews of vessels outward-bound, desert as soon as they make the
land; crews of vessels homeward-bound, ship at enormous wages, with the
express intention of murdering the captain and seizing the gold freight;
no man can trust another, and the devil seems let loose. Now," says he,
"you know my opinion of you, and you know I am only expressing it, and
with no singularity, when I tell you that you are almost the only man on
whose integrity, discretion, and energy--" &c., &c. For, I don't want to
repeat what he said, though I was and am sensible of it.

Notwithstanding my being, as I have mentioned, quite ready for a voyage,
still I had some doubts of this voyage. Of course I knew, without being
told, that there were peculiar difficulties and dangers in it, a long way
over and above those which attend all voyages. It must not be supposed
that I was afraid to face them; but, in my opinion a man has no manly
motive or sustainment in his own breast for facing dangers, unless he has
well considered what they are, and is able quietly to say to himself,
"None of these perils can now take me by surprise; I shall know what to
do for the best in any of them; all the rest lies in the higher and
greater hands to which I humbly commit myself." On this principle I have
so attentively considered (regarding it as my duty) all the hazards I
have ever been able to think of, in the ordinary way of storm, shipwreck,
and fire at sea, that I hope I should be prepared to do, in any of those
cases, whatever could be done, to save the lives intrusted to my charge.

As I was thoughtful, my good friend proposed that he should leave me to
walk there as long as I liked, and that I should dine with him by-and-by
at his club in Pall Mall. I accepted the invitation and I walked up and
down there, quarter-deck fashion, a matter of a couple of hours; now and
then looking up at the weathercock as I might have looked up aloft; and
now and then taking a look into Cornhill, as I might have taken a look
over the side.

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Sun 18th Aug 2019, 19:30