Chapter 7: Portsmouth

As usual, I got hungry. Then I bethought me of the Turnip peelings I had been eating along this Road. This made me look around for a field of Turnips, which I thought must be hereabouts and soon found and then began to eat a Turnip at first-hand. I don't remember any incident befalling me on the Road but went, in the strength of Turnips, till I reached Chatham sometime in the Afternoon when I went to my old Quarters, the Murphys. I got work there again for a short time, then Work again failed, so I started off again, this time for Portsmouth. It was the old idea to look for a Ship; but this time I had nothing to start with, for I had been waiting about, hoping to get a Job, but nothing came of it, so that I had to go penniless.

The first stage I reached was Tunbridge. I remember getting in there Hungry and weary, wondering how I should get on for the Night. Looking about, I saw an empty Van with a cover on, standing outside a Public House. "That will do for my Bedroom!" thought I, "when it gets a little darker". While I was there thus musing, I Kicked my foot against a Halfpenny. "And that" ,says I, "will do for my Supper." So I hastened away to a Baker Shop, for it was getting dark, before it was shut, and buys a Halfpenny Biscuit - and away to my Bedroom, the Van, and there ate my Supper. It was not all I could wish; but it was better than nothing. So I laid me down. A sharp Cold Wind was whistling through chinks and ends of the Van. "Anyhow if Rain should come I shall be dry overhead" I think. So I laid my Arms across my Breast to squeeze, if I could, some warmth into my Body, or, at least to retain what I had. So I went to sleep for a While; but I would waken up, every now and then, by the piercing Night Wind that was blowing, and wished for the Day.

Morning came, and, with it, a Beautiful warm Sun, which put fresh life into me and brought me to my feet - and my way to Brighton, which brought a fresh experience, on which I had not thought on leaving Chatham. Namely, I could not get to Portsmouth without Eating, and, if I would travel I must beg, or I should have no Breakfast. So I concluded to begin at once, for necessity was laid on me, for I was very hungry. I began at the first farmhouse I came to. The Farmer brought me a large piece of Bread and Fat Bacon, which exactly answered my need and brought me, I think, as far as Lewes, 8 miles from Brighton.

When I got to Brighton, where I thought to stop for the Night, I looked about me and thought "This is too fine a Place to lodge without Money!" I pushed a few Miles along the Shore, and lay down somewhere for the Night. I got free Quarters somewhere behind a Hedge or a Shed - I forget now which, but I think I got to Portsmouth next day, getting a snatch of something to eat as I went along. When I got to Portsmouth, I heard that the "Samarang" a Sloop of war, had just come in, commanded by Lord Paget, so I thought I would watch for him and ask him for a Berth. I saw him coming along, dressed in a Blue Swallowtail Coat and a Cocked Hat, such as all the Naval Officers wore in those days. I went up to him, took off my Hat, I think, and said "Please Sir, do you want a Boy?"

To this day, his Pleasant Kindly Countenance presents itself to me, as it has done many times through my Life. The words were few, kindly spoken. He said: "No, my Boy, we are just paid off, so I cannot take you". The Readers of these lines may say; "Why, what was there in a few Civil words, spoken by a Captain of a Ship?" Well, I suppose, before a person can appreciate a little kindness, they must be outcasts like I was then. But, to proceed, I found that for what I had come to Portsmouth for - that is to get a ship - there was no chance.

As I had been used to be among Soldiers at Chatham, I sought their acquaintance at Portsmouth, where I met a Marine who had been paid off who gave me a Shilling. Getting a bason of Soup now and again at the Soldiers' Dinners, getting Scraps here and there , and begging a little, I made out a Week at Portsmouth - the longest time I stopped anywhere except Chatham. Seeing no chance of getting anything to do, I set off for London, 72 miles. I got into London late one night; but where to sleep I could not tell, but wandered on to the East End and put up at Billingsgate Sleeping under a Bench there until Morning. Calling on my sister Fanny, who was servant at the East India Gunproof House in the Commercial Road, where I got my Breakfast, I started immediately after that, intending for Liverpool.

Go to Next Chapter