The Wreck of the Golden Mary
by Charles Dickens
This etext was prepared from the 1894 Chapman and Hall "Christmas
Stories" edition by David Price, email email@example.com
THE WRECK OF THE GOLDEN MARY
I was apprenticed to the Sea when I was twelve years old, and I have
encountered a great deal of rough weather, both literal and
metaphorical. It has always been my opinion since I first possessed
such a thing as an opinion, that the man who knows only one subject
is next tiresome to the man who knows no subject. Therefore, in the
course of my life I have taught myself whatever I could, and
although I am not an educated man, I am able, I am thankful to say,
to have an intelligent interest in most things.
A person might suppose, from reading the above, that I am in the
habit of holding forth about number one. That is not the case.
Just as if I was to come into a room among strangers, and must
either be introduced or introduce myself, so I have taken the
liberty of passing these few remarks, simply and plainly that it may
be known who and what I am. I will add no more of the sort than
that my name is William George Ravender, that I was born at Penrith
half a year after my own father was drowned, and that I am on the
second day of this present blessed Christmas week of one thousand
eight hundred and fifty-six, fifty-six years of age.
When the rumour first went flying up and down that there was gold in
California--which, as most people know, was before it was discovered
in the British colony of Australia--I was in the West Indies,
trading among the Islands. Being in command and likewise part-owner
of a smart schooner, I had my work cut out for me, and I was doing
it. Consequently, gold in California was no business of mine.
But, by the time when I came home to England again, the thing was as
clear as your hand held up before you at noon-day. There was
Californian gold in the museums and in the goldsmiths' shops, and
the very first time I went upon 'Change, I met a friend of mine (a
seafaring man like myself), with a Californian nugget hanging to his
watch-chain. I handled it. It was as like a peeled walnut with
bits unevenly broken off here and there, and then electrotyped all
over, as ever I saw anything in my life.
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.