― 57 ―

Collop's Mother.

HE was an ancient mariner, and of the old school, a fellow-passenger on s.s. Hauroto, Auckland to Sydney. We foregathered, refreshed together (he didn't take water in his), and subsequently conversed of many things—the way to set a foretopmast stun'sail ship-shape and Bristol fashion, religion, the superiority of sail to steam, education, blackbirding (he had been there), and, lastly, filial affection.

“I ain't wot you'd call religious,” he remarked, “but I believes in a religious eddication. I don't hold with this yer new-fangled sekkilar system. I've knocked about promiscuous, an' I says early religious trainin' is a first-chop thing. As for what you calls filliul affeckshun, I don't take no stock much in fathers—mine brought me up on holystone and rope's-end, dern him!—but no chap's any good onless he's allfired fond of his mother. You take it from me.”

I acquiesced.

“Did you ever come across Bob Collop—Captain Collop, that is?” he asked, with seeming irrelevance.

I intimated that I had not the voluptuous pleasure of Mr. Collop's acquaintance.

“Well, he's a runnin' down to the Islands just now, in the Martha and Emily schooner. Years ago me and him was sailin' our own schooners on the Chinee coast, Ningpo to Shanghai. Lots of Australian chaps was on that lay then. Well, Collop he was an axample of early pious trainin' an' filliul affeckshun, an' no bloomin' error. No, there wasn't many as could touch Collop!”

I hinted that a recital of the manifold virtues of Collop

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might prove a means of grace to myself. And this was the story of Collop—his piety and filial affection:—

My name's Joful—John Joful. Collop was a saint, if ever was one. But you understand me, he was no God-forgot teetotaller. There weren't any—not at sea, at least—them days. He'd take his tot reg'lar and his religion didn't show out startling, only about once every four months, when he said he'd got a letter from his poor old mother in Sydney. I never seed the letters, but I knowed when he had one, for he'd go off on a reg'lar religious rampage, so to speak. We would be lyin' in the river and one of his China sailors'd come aboard my craft with his teeth a-chatterin' and pig-tail a-stickin' out straight, and say:

“Claptin'; you klum makee see Collop; he catchee one piecee chopee flom his old muddee; he makee too much bobelee, go lah!”

Then I'd know Collop was took bad with piety and filliul thing-ummy. I'd take my boat and six Manila-men and a few fathom o' new nine-thread, and pull for Collop's hooker. Afore we reached her we'd hear the firing; we'd pull straight down ahead, so's he couldn't spot us coming, for he'd be posted on the companion-ladder, half up and half down, with a loaded old smooth-bore a-restin' on the hatch, and with no dunnage on him particular and his hair a-flyin' loose in the breeze, and him six foot four, bare feet, and a fine figger of a man, and a-patiently waitin' till something alive showed so's he could shoot at it. He misliked heathen drefful, when these pious fits was on him—bless you! he'd shoot a Chinaman, or a Malay, or a Manila-man, or a Lascar, or a buck nigger he suspicioned wasn't Christianised, whenever he'd heard from his poor old mother. That's how his what-d'ye-call-it affeckshun and early trainin' come out. But it showed the nat'ral religion and goodness as was in him—didn't it, now?

I'd fasten my painter to his anchor-chain, tell my Manila-men to stand by, shin up and sing out loud, “All right, Collop, don't fire! it's only me, Joful!” And I'd dodge for'ard of the foremast

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till I'd drawed his fire; then I'd up stick and get aft, alongside of him, afore he could load.

He was always glad to see me, and he'd go on loading, so's to be ready for anything as moved. I'd say:

“Had a letter, Collop, old ship?”

He'd bust a-cryin' and say:

“Yes, Joful—a letter from my poor old mo-mother, as taught me piety when I was an innercent nipper at her knee.”

And he'd catch sight of some pagan heathen a-hidin' behind a water-butt and—bang!'d go his gun, and as he'd run the rod through her he'd cry gently to hisself and say:

“Missed that yaller thief, Joful. Yes, Joful, it was my poor old mother as taught me all the goodness as I knows. And I gets a letter from her to-day, a beautiful letter, full of hymns and tex's and”—

Then he'd slip, maybe, two bullets in.

“When I was a little, little kid a-dressed in my little velvet coat and lace, and my innercent little drawers with frills on 'em, she'd fold my hands and teach me”—

Bang! would go his old gun again, and he'd say quite sad and solemn:

“Another inch to the left, Joful, and I'd a hit that fat-headed Chinese lowdah that don't know the difference between sou'-east and nor'-west—he don't, as you're a sinner, Joful, which you know you are, and a drunkard, which the same is cursed in the Book!”

An' byemby he'd let her rip again.

“Oh! Joful, you ain't got religion; you can never know what it is to me.” And he'd fill her a quarter up with powder.

“Religion's all I have left; but I'm at peace, at peace with all men. Shove up that 300-yard sight for me, Joful! There's something in that lorcha's riggin'. 'Pears to me it's one of them Goa Portugese. Sinful Roman Catholics they are, them Goa men!”

And after he'd fired that shot, and missed—which he did frequent—I'd let a whoop out o' me, and my Manila-men'd come swarming over the bows, and we'd run round and round poor

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Collop with the nine-thread, till we'd tangle his legs and throw him, and a awful gay time we'd have, that's a fact. We'd bowse him below and lash him to his bunk, and take away all his guns an' pistols an' razors an' carving knives, an' I'd sit alongside him and feed him with big spoons of brandy or squareface, and talk to him about his good old mother or read chice parts of Scripter—Jonah and the whale, and Paul's voyages, and all about the Ark, and Lot and the promises, an' in two or three days these yer religious exercises, and a little opium as I give him, 'd pull him round.

But it showed—didn't it?—the effeck of early religious eddication; because, you see, he always fired on them occasions with ball, whereas if he'd a-had no proper teachin' he 'd 've loaded with shot, and that 'd 've scattered and hit something. It was just his mother's lessons.

One night in Ningpo, he 'd 'ad one of them letters and was flamin'bad. He came nigh killin' the lot of us. The third day he says, sudden:

“Joful, old blowhard, I'd like to see a parson afore I die!”

“You ain't as bad as that, Bob Collop?” I says.

“Joful,” he answers, “fetch me a sky-pilot afore I die.”

Well, he was drefful weak and extra pious that morning, and I felt as if the angel of thingumybob was aboard. I sends a boy down to the mission-station—'Merican Methodees, they was—to say as how Captain Collop was a-dyin', an' to send a proper certificated sky-pilot—not a mud-hobbler—and, maybe, some physic. Towards sundown Collop got worse. Says I to myself: “You're a-goin' out with the tide, a-ebbin' with the ebb, Bob Collop, that's what's the matter with you, an' it's spring tides at that.”

Byemby a sampan sculls alongside, an' in it a missionary cove—a little chap with a white 'elmet size of the bunt of a ship's mains'l, and a rumberella set. Says he, very 'aughty and fierce:

“Is this the Wanderer, my good man?”

“You bet,” says I.

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“Why isn't there a proper ladder rigged for me?” he says like a hadmiral.

Finally we hoisted him on deck, and I p'inted to where the dyin' man were; but when I wants to explain—to prepare him for Collop and Collop for him—he pushes me aside sayin' we men was all the same, a lot of drunken brutes. And down he goes, stiff and grand.

I looked down arter him; there was Collop, as I reckoned dyin', standin' in the cabin, smilin' beautiful.

The little chap was very rough with poor Collop, orderin' him around like as if he was a Christian converted Chinkie, and disremembering as Collop was master mariner, and he was only four foot odd, and Collop six foot and inches. an' when Collop begins talkin' about his poor old mother the little Methodee says:

“I don't want to 'ear that rubbidge. Pay me ten dollars, then I'll give you some medicine.”

Collop's face turned kinder queer, but he planks the dollars, and the missionary he lugs out three powders in white paper, and says, a-curlin' his nose:

“You'll take one of these now, one at eight, and one if you can't sleep.”

Says Collop—soft as a sou'-east trade:

Which will I take now? I'll take 'em for my poor old mother's sake.”

“You stupid, maudlin fellow, never mind your mother! You take one if you can't sleep, one at eight, and one now.”

Collop he smiled a faded smile and asks, poetical: “Mate, which will I take at eight?”

“This man's an idiot,” says the missionary.

Which will I take if I can't sleep?” asks Collop, sweet as East India sugar. “Boss,” he goes on, “I'd like to own a sky-pilot all to myself. What would a gent of your figger take an' sign articles to be my regular chaplain?”

“This fellow's drunk and a fool,” says the other, heavin' his eyes aloft.

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An' I see his 'and (Collop's 'and) go softly, slowly behind him, and afore I could move Collop's arm comes round dragging a great rug from off his bunk, and quicker'n you could splice the mainbrace he had dumped the gospel-grinder in the centre of that blanket—white 'at, rumberella and all—and then he catches hold of the four corners, and ties up the parson inside just as you ties up dirty clothes for the dhobie to take to wash. Then he h'ists the bundle on the cabin table, and as he sees me a-comin'he just out a revolver as he 'ad 'id somehow and says solemn:

“No yer don't, Joful, onless you're weary, and then I will give you rest. Scripter, don't yer know.” I saw he meant shoot, and so I waited.

He turns to the bundle of missionary, opens the mouth of the blanket an inch or so, and says to what was inside:

“Chook! Chook! Chook!” Like as if he'd a chicken in there. Then he says, “You're my chaplain!”

Then he made his chaplain take all them three powders, and orders:

“Chaplain, pray for me!”

An' the little chap begins to pray like mad, but whether for hisself or Collop I couldn't make out. After a time Collop peeps into the parcel again an' orders:

“Pray for my poor old mother, chaplain!”

He prayed.

“Sing a hymn, chaplain!”

He sang.

“Preach me a sermon, chaplain. Lots o' 'ell-fire in it, please.”

He preached.

But by-an'-by Collop would call him to prayers less frequent, and, at last, his head falls back an' he dosses off like a tired hinfant. Down I dives, chucks the pistol through the port, out knife, an'cuts the little gent adrift, an' such a holy mix you never did see. I gives him a stiff second-mate's nip—four fingers up, believe me—an' passes the little creature into his sampan.

Next mornin' Collop wakes up, fresh as paint. “A just man

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made perfeck am I, Joful, you drunken old sinner!”—that's wot he says.

But it all showed the goodness of his heart, an' the good of early pious trainin' an' the inflooence of his mother—didn't it now? Because, you know, if Collop hadn't a had them yer things, he'd 'ave killed that missionary—what do you say? But not he, not Collop. He just made that little cove pray and preach for him like the Levide'n the good Sammarium in the book.

But there is one thing as puzzles me worse nor lograthims; Collop didn't really have them letters from his mother; because he didn't have no mother; because he was a Sydney foundling—they picked him up, a babby, in a newspaper where Riley-street is now. Old Captain Slumley's wife took him and eddicated him with a rolling-pin; an' Slumley—cussing Slumley, they called him—didn't have no religion, nor she, except rum. Anyway, Collop was true pious, and full of what-d'ye-call-it affeckshun and all that, and an axample to the derned young sekkilar larrikins as is box-hauling and buckin' and fillin' about Sydney now.

Let's have a tot, a soldier's supper and turn in.