How Old Wiggins Wore Ship

An Old Sailor’s Yarn

“Well, sir,” said the old sailor, “here we are ag’in. I ain’t been round here much lately, and atwixt you and me, she’s put the ‘kybosh onto it, holdin’ that comin’ round here and hystin’ are promotion’ of rheumatics, which, as are well known, they come of long and various exposures in all climates, to say nothin’ of watchin’ onto a damp dock night arter night continual. But what’s the use? Everybody knows as a quiet home are better than silver and fine gold, which it stands to reason are to be obtained in two ways. Wimmin are like sailors in some respects; whoever has anythin’ to do with ’em must either be saddled and bridled, leastwise, or else booted and spurred. You’ve got to ride ’em, or else they’ll ride you. Bein’ a sailorman myself, it ain’t likely as I’d say anythin’ ag’in ’em; but if the truth must be told, I’ll say this—that while it’ll never do, not at no price, for to let sailors git the upper hand, there’s many a man as has giv’ the helm into the hands of his old woman and made a better v’yage thereby; and I don’t mind sayin’, sir, that havin’ while follerin’ the water got into the habit of allowin’ her for to be skipper in the house durin’ my short stoppin’s on shore, it got for to be so much the custom, that since comin’ home for a full due I ain’t never tried for to break away from it; and though human natur’ is falliable, and she does make mistakes, especially about the hystin’, on the whole, and by and large, I judges I’ve been a gainer by it, as I believes at least eight men out of ten would be if they took the hint accordin’ and went and done likewise.

“I don’t go for to say as she ever goes to go to say I ain’t a-goin’ for to let you go there; but it are terrible aggrivokin’ when the rheumatics twinges awful, and as it might be that this sawmill don’t want no more splinters laid onto it, to have her feelin’ly remark, ‘Well, if you will go round a-guzzlin’ ale with your swell friends and a-leavin’ your lawful wife to home alone you must expect to pay for it,’ whereas I know it are the dock and other causes long gone by; but that knowledge don’t ease the pain a morsel, and the last time I were that way tantalized I swore I wouldn’t come here no more. But whatever are the use? Man resolves and re-resolves and then takes another snifter, and so here I are, and bein’ as it’s cold, as so she sha’n’t have no basis for her unfeelin’ remark about guzzlin’ ale, we’ll let him make it hot rum, and arter the old receipt, neither economizin’ in the rum or the sugar, but givin’ a fair drink for honest money.

“Well, well (just mix another afore the glass cools off), to think how the time goes. Here it are autumn ag’in, and in a few weeks ’twill be winter. It reminds me (I’ll take one more, if you please, with one lump less of sugar and the space in rum) that I’m gettin’ old, and I feels it. My eyes ain’t so good and my legs ain’t so good, and I ain’t so good all over. When I goes down to the dock my lantern are heavier than it used to were, and the distance ain’t so short as it used to seem from the dock to the house. Afore many years I’ll be put quietly away, and though I’d prefer bein’ beautifully sewed up and launched shipshape in blue water, with a hundred pound weight for to keep me down, I s’poses it won’t make much difference, nohow. Anyhow, if I lives as long as old Wiggins, I hopes I may go as well at the eend. I don’t think I ever told you about him, and if you’ll let him fill ’em up ag’in—for it’s one of the vartues of hot rum that the more you drinks the thirstier you gits—I’ll reel you the yarn right off.

“Old Wiggins had been all his life into the Liverpool trade and had got well fixed, so far as cash were consarned; and so when he came for to be seventy or seventy-two years old he were persuaded for to knock off for a full due and spend the balance of his life ashore. Goin’ up to some place in Connecticut, he buys hisself a place there and settles down. Well, for a time he were all right, a-fixin’ up his house, a-buildin’ new barns and hen-coops and fences and the like, and I’ve heerd tell that the house where he kep’ his pigs were better than any dwellin’-house in that region, and the whole place were the wonder of the country roundabout; but arter he had fixed his house all up like a ship, with little state-rooms all through the upper part of it, and had got everythin’ inside and out in shipshape order and there weren’t nothin’ else he could think of for to do, he gits terribly homesick and discontented, and times when he’d come to the city for to collect his sheer of the profits of ships as he had a interest in, he’d sit for hours on the wharf a-watchin’ the vessels on the river, and it were like drawin’ teeth for to git him to leave and go up to his home. His eyes had giv’ out sometime afore he quit the sea, and his legs was shaky, so as he had to walk with a settin’ pole, and his hand were tremblin’ and unsteady; but aloft he were still all right, and his head were as clear as a bell.

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