Chapter 30: Our Boating Business Ends in Failure
My reflection on our first Venture was. "Don't overstay your Market. Strike while the Iron is Hot." We might have made a good thing of it if we had stayed at Runcorn and sold out while the People were ready to Buy. For, being a perishable article, the longer we held out the worse it became. So we had to take the consequences of our Mistake, and probably next time we might do better. Now Jack was ashore, and we did not know what to do next. At last my Mate said "We may as well go to Bromley Pool and fetch two or three tons of Gritstones from the Quarry there, and sell it out to the Gritgirls". To this, of course, I assented, not knowing anything better. So we set of for Bromble Pool, where there are now large Candle Works, but it then was a Wild Place, the Pool leading only up to the Quarry, where they had a Crane loading Stone on to the Boats. We had to work up to it with our Oars, for the Pool was very winding and Narrow. We got up to the Crane and took in our Stone, paying a few Shillings for it. Then we took it to Liverpool, landing at the Old Fort Slip, alongside of the Clarence Dock. Now I began to open my eyes to the kind of Customers we had to deal with. There was a group of poor girls surrounding us, without Shoes and Stockings, whose Purchasing ability at the outside would not exceed a Penny or two. Then there was the Squabble and the Screaching in doing business which alarmed me. So I asked my Mate, would he see the Business through, and let me go and see some old friends. To this he assented. For I was as tired as a Dog; for, though our Cargo was mean and Nothing Worth, it had cost us a great deal of labour, in going up and down that crowded Pool, and all had to be done by Rowing, for Sailing was not possible.
So I started off to Kings in Ford Street, where previously I had been Lodging, before I gave them notice to go to sea. I must also say there was a Miss Goodson living there, a young Woman with who I was intimately connected ever since I had lodged there, in whose company I was always refreshed; but at this time especially so. For I felt jaded and worn out with the work of my Boat, for I had scarcely had my clothes off for a week. A little talk with her and a day's rest would set me up. And so it was. I never remember a time when Rest was so congenial and acceptable to my then state. So, after Dinner I sat down and did not leave the room until it was time for me to go to the Boat. In the meantime I had along convesation with Mary, who sympathised with my present difficulties. "O Mary", says I, "Don't fear for me!" For Mary had just come to the Faith of Jesus, as I understood, by my means. So I thought, I must mind what I say to her, for she is weak in the Faith, lest she should stumble at what she might hear of my career. So I considered again "Can I stand to what I am going to tell Mary?" "Yes I can!" So, after this deliberation I said: "Mary, God will never suffer anyone that trusts in him to want. Consequently he will not suffer me to want: for I trust in Him". I little thought that Satan would cast this up to me. This he did, as you will find in the sequel of this Story.
My day passed on very pleasantly until it was time for me to go to the Boat. When I got there I found that things had not gone on so pleasantly there. Sales had been bad. Almost all the stone was unsold. But we could not remain there. So we left it, as a Blessing to the Grit Girls, poor things, and I was glad of it, though it came from benefactors as poor as themselves. Nevertheless we must pass on to the next Venture. Our Boat could not lie where she was: so we took her to Cocklehole Slip, her old Berth. Next morning, we started off to Hoylake. Somewhere off there was a Mussel bed. We took our Boat there and worked through one Night Tide and filled our Boat, each having a basket and going up to our knees or further in the Mud; but we got a fair Cargo by Morning and so started off for Liverpool as soon as the tide served. Now came the Question; "What should we do with them?"
My Mate proposed that we should take them up to Manchester, to which of course I assented, for I had no plan of my own in Working the Boat but the first plan to trade in Potatoes. Now that was impossible, for we had no Money.
So we went to Runcorn, and entered the Boat for the Locks on the Bridgewater Canal, and paid two and six to enter the Locks. We worked the Boat the same way here as we did in going up to Northwich - turn and turn about in Hauling and Boat Steering. We got up to Manchester in good time, and sold them out of the Boat at a Penny a Quart. They sold very well; but, having so large a Quantity, we ought to have put them in bags and sent them to Shudehill Market. This we wanted to do next Day; but, as with the Samphire we overstood our time. But, as it was, we did a fair thing, and divided between ourselves upwards of two Pounds. This was the best Venture we had made hitherto. So we gathered ourselves up, and made as fast as we could for Liverpool and our way to the Mussel Bed once more.
This time, we thought we would lay in a little Sea Store to be Used on the voyage. Among the few things we took were some Potatoes, which we thought we might boil after we had loaded the Boat with Mussels. We got to the Mussel Bed all right; but we did not succeed in Pitching our Boat on a good Bank like the first time. So, when the Tide was done and we could no longer work we had to depart with half a Load. In coming back I thought we would Boil the Potatoes, for, having worked all night in loading the Boat, we were hungry enough for a good Breakfast. We had a few Stones and Bricks in the bottom of the Boat, with which I built up a hearth. On this I set the Pan with the Potatoes in. But Fortune did not favour us, for, as the Water began to Boil, a brisk wind sprang up, making the fireplace I built very shaky. So I was in fear that it would not hold together till the Potatoes were boiled. But I was very loth to lose my labour at Potatoes. So, squatting down on the Stones, I put my hands one on each side of the Pan to Keep it from falling from its seat until the Potatoes were boiled. Then the Boat made a sudden Lurch and brought down Furnace, Pan and all. At this I ought to have been thankful that I had not been scalded seriously; for I got off without any further hurt. So I gathered up the Potatoes, which had flown on all sides. I put my teeth in one; but found it barely eatable, being yet hard. But I was harder still and would not let go the Potatoes, being very Hungry. I offered some to my Mate; but he could not touch them, not having as good Teeth as myself. His part was only to lament the misfortune that had happened to us. So we sailed along, and did not stop till we had got to Runcorn, where we disposed of our Cargo by selling it retail at a Penny the Quart.
My Mate was by this time nearly worn out and tired of the Boat; and so was I. We concluded to separate. He went to his Family at Frodsham: from there he would soon get another Flat. I hoped this would be more prosperous than the 'Hope of Liverpool', which only had been a Swindle and a Dream. I took my Boat to Liverpool and disposed of her to Mr Howard, nominally for twenty five Pounds
He gave me a Ten Pound Note and, as I thought, a Promissory Note for twenty five Pounds. But after some years after of Course the Note was never presented; but was only £10.