Chapter 29: Attempts to Expand the Business
Now we were in Plenty and as much Tobacco as we liked. So, while enjoying ourselves in this way, my Mate began "We have made a mistake in selling our Samphire at three Halfpence a Pound. If we go to Warrington we can get there two Pence a Pound: and if we look sharp we may get there by this tide!"
"Well", says I, "if that is so, let us get off at once". It being concluded in this manner, we hastened off the Boat and set sail for Warrington, and got Bank Quay, two miles from Warrington about the middle of the Day. We immediately set off with a Basket of Samphire on my Head and went straight to the Market Place and set myself down among the Country Market People, expecting of course to attract customers to what I had to sell; but no one seeming to take Notice. I thought it my Duty to make a little Stir, and began in this way: "Ladies, I have some Samphire here, which I have brought from Talacre Hall in Wales, after much trouble and being nearly Shipwreckt. This Samphire makes a famous pickle". After making a Palaver in this way, I got a group of Women about me, and one after another asked Questions. "What is it?" "Where does it come from?" After repeating my description of the article over and over again my expected buyers moved on, leaving me to myself. After waiting and waiting I says to myself, "this will not do. I must try the houses and do as I did at Runcorn." So, I tried the Houses, but sold nothing. I had not even a Bid. So I thought it was no Use trying any further: so I started for the Boat again. On the way to the Boat I met a man who wanted to know what I had in my Basket. "Samphire", says I. "What is that?" says be, "Oh it is a Seaweed that grows on a Mud Bank near the Point of Air Lighthouse on the Coast of Wales". Says he "I should like to have some!" "Very well" says I, "that is what I have come here for; but no one will buy because they don't know what it is." After telling him as much as I knew myself he says, "Well, let me have two Pounds". So I got out my Scales and weighed him out two pounds for three pence and went on to the Boat.
On approaching this, I said to my Mate, "we have made a grave mistake in coming here; for I have only sold two pounds for all my hawking". "Well", says he, it is because they know not what it is; but, if we look sharp, we may yet get to Warrington before the Night, and may have a chance to sell it in the Market, for there is a fine freshet on." "Very well", says I, "then let us go at once". And so we were on our way to Runcorn until we stuck fast at Fiddlers ferry. So we both went into the Forecastle, lit our pipes, and laid down, talking about our mistake in leaving Runcorn when our Sales were going on so well.
While talking we felt the Boat grounding again. We both got up to see what was the matter, when, lo and behold, we were lying on the Woodend side, opposite to Runcorn, for we had been drifting, unperceived by us where we were. But it was on the wrong side, so we could not get to Runcorn that Night as we had wished. So there was nothing for it but to wait until the tide turned at two o'Clock on Sunday morning. So we went into the Forecastle, laid down, and waited for the Tide and then worked up to the Lock to be ready to go up the River Weaver. For we had agreed that, as we could not get into Runcorn on Saturday Night, we would go to Northwich on Monday morning.
Waiting until the Locks were open, we entered the River Weaver, which I think is called Ellesmere Port, where the Northwich and Winsford Salt Flats enter to go up the River Weaver. After we got into the Port we still found we wanted something, for we had had nothing to Eat since we left Runcorn. But we were not short of Money, having the Proceeds of Runcorn's Sale in our Pockets.
But, being Sunday, all shops were Shut. But, as it devolved upon me to find Breakfast, I went round the Village to see if I could find a Shop open to buy something to Eat; but they were all Religiously Shut.
So I found it necessary to expostulate with one of the Shopkeepers to let me have something. For it was a case of Necessity, not having had the opportunity to buy on Saturday. With this I got all I wanted, and we sat down to a Magnificent Breakfast, consisting of Bread, Butter, and Coffee. So, when we were refreshed, I went down to my boat with a great many reflections; how it was I got into the Mess I was in by my own Folly - the Vagabond Life I was at present leading. I remembered the happy Meetings I had enjoyed, and now I was, as it were, cast out of God's presence. O how I did dilate on the eighty fourth Psalm; "How amiable are thy Tabernacles O lord God .... I went with them that kept Holiday ... If I forget thee O Jerusalem, let my right Hand forget her Cunning.. if I prefer not Jerusalem above my Chief Joy". "Oh", I thought, "if I cannot join with the Assembly of God's People, and sing their Songs and their Prayer. O what a Wilderness will this be to me. Take what thou will; but let me have my Sabbaths as I had heretofore!"
With these reflections I went down into my Boat and spread out my Case before the Lord. O what a scene was that! I on the bare boards lying down, for there was not Height enough to stand upright, or, when on my knees height for my Head. But the Communion I had with God was amazing. Never did Heaven appear so Grand, or the Earth so mean and Poor! Loth to leave my Partner I got out of the Boat and wandered into the Fields, looking for a Brook to have a Wash. For my eyes had been suffused with Tears of Gladness. When I had my Ablutions finished, I naturally turned to my Shirttail for a Towel, as I had done some years before when I was on Tramp. Now I wandered away and looked about to see if there were any place of Worship about. Then I came upon a Place which I thought was a Dissenting Chapel. The door was shut but I tried to open it. Then a man came to the door and scanned me very anxiously and said: "My Friend, you are making a mistake: this is no Public House!" "No", I said, "I did not think it was". Now he took me down at once and said; "Ah, my Lad, I fear you are in a Bad Case. You would not have that Dirty Shirt on of a Sunday Morning! You would not have your Coat out at Elbow, as I see you have!" To all this I answered nothing, and had not one Word to say in my Defence. For the Words of David came into my mind: "let him Curse you: for the Lord hath bidden him."
Not that I thought that the Man was saying these words out of Spleen! His Idea was to do me good, and my Idea was that this time was for me a Place of Discipline. After a time the Man told me that they were holding Sunday School there, and, if I liked, I might come in and sit down and watch their proceedings. And they were going to have Preaching at Night and I was welcome to come. This I duly did, and attended at six O'Clock. After Service I went into the Hut where the Flatmen met together to Talk. I was agreeably surprised at the Pleasant and Sober Talk of these Flatmen, which you would not expect from that Class of Men. Many of them were Methodists. This shows that, wherever the Religion of Jesus Christ Prevails, there it ennobles, and make a visible distinction from other Men.
On Monday Morning we set out for Northwich, a distance, I believe, of twenty two miles. This we proposed to make by relays of five miles each, that is, that the man in the Boat steered five Miles and then took his turn at hauling five miles. So we got to Northwich. The Country we passed through was full of Cheesemaking Farms which my Mate knew well, for when we passed certain farms he would send me to buy Whey, which was left after Cheese making. Being a Cheshire man he loved this well. By which he and I were refreshed by the way. We got to Northwich some time in the afternoon, and then, as usual, washed the Samphire for me to take thorough the Town to sell. But, as our ideas had considerably moderated, we did not raise the Price, but kept to Three halfpence the Pound instead of the Two pence my Mate had anticipated. I got on very well at three half pence; but, the place being small I soon got to the end of the houses, and consequently also to the End of my sales. So, when I came back after selling the last Basket I said "I can sell no more; so we may as well make ourselves as comfortable as we can and make some Coffee".
We were alongside of a Mud Barge, which had just been deserted by Men for the Night, leaving a good Fire turning in The Cabin. My Mate, observing this, said. "There is a good Fire there, let us go and make our Coffee there." This was agreed instantly. We soon had our Coffee ready and were very comfortable in our New House. After Coffee my Mate says: "We may as well stop here for the Night, for it is much more comfortable than on our Boat. The men won't be back till Six O'Clock in the Morning: and by that time we shall be on our Way to Frodsham". So this was agreed to, and we had a comfortable Lodging for the night. In the morning my Mate proposed to go on to Winsford and sell there the remainder of our Stuff; but as hitherto he had not been fortunate in his conjectures, I thought I might reasonably Doubt if in his last proposal he might be wrong. So now our next place was to be Frodsham, his Native Place, where he could see his Family. So, off we went to Frodsham, turn and turn about at hauling and in the Boat. So we got to Frodsham Bridge, where we halted and my Mate went home and secured me a Wheelbarrow for to take up my Wares to Frodsham, which was two miles. Having the Wheelbarrow, I filled the two Baskets to see what I could do. Now I had to come down to a Penny a Pound, for the stuff was diminishing in Value, for its freshness had gone off. So that it was with great difficulty it was as much as I could to sell what I had at a Penny the pound.
I knew some friends at Frodsham, the Miss Williams, to whom I turned for an Hour or so, and had a Wash and mended the hole in my Coat, for which my Friend upbraded me with. So, after that good Wash and my Coat mended, I felt a little tidier than before. So, having done all we could we got into Ellesmere Port and so off to Liverpool, and went into Cocklehole Slip and took a basket of Samphire to St James' Market, where, as usual, we had overstayed our Market. I went to one Stall and another; they all said we were too late. At the last Stall I came to I said: "Will you allow me to leave it here, for I will try no farther?" The Woman said:"I will not take it for nothing! Here, there is a pint of Beer for you". So that was the end of my selling. When I got back to the Boat, I said to my Mate:"You can let anyone have what they like of the stuff, for I can sell no more!" By this means we soon got our Boat empty.