David Judson, Midshipman - 5 & 6
Chapter Five: Dreaming of the Navy
The next month was grueling. David had to re-learn etiquette he’d forgotten over the holidays, and the intensity of his studies picked up as Foulkes began to realize the potential of his student. He corrected every dropped ‘h’ and other spoken offense, graded papers more critically, and increased the work load. The weather was too harsh for David to go outside, and so he spent his spare moments with Peters, once his Bible reading and homework were done. David would often descend the stairs into the servants’ quarters and sit at the table with Peters. Sometimes he would help Peters with his duties, but most everyone looked down on David for doing so. But of anywhere at Donsmoth, David felt most comfortable with the servants.
“What’s your family like, Peters?” David asked one afternoon.
“I have seven brothers and three sisters,” Peters said. “We’re farmers from about thirty miles north of Donsmoth. I’m the youngest, and was sent out by my family to seek a place in the world. We couldn’t all be farmers, and most of us didn’t want to be. Mr. Young’s estate provided the perfect solution. My oldest sister started here, too, before she was married.”
“Do you struggle with the difference between the rich and the poor?” David asked.
Peters shrugged. “I don’t think about it much. I don’t want to become ungrateful. I don’t think the rich understand how much they could help us, though, but when they do try to help often it does more harm than good. We don’t need their gifts but their help to find better work. ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for life,’ the saying goes, and it’s very true.”
David shook his head. “I just can’t get used to it here. Everything is too different. I’d try harder but it doesn’t seem right that there’s such a divide between fellow men. I know I sound like the French when I say that, but I don’t mean it in a revolutionary way. I know that’s not the answer to the problem.”
“What is the answer, then?” Peters asked.
“That instead of the rich focusing on themselves and their wealth as for their own good, they think of it as a gift from God to use to further His Kingdom and help others.”
“So you see it as a religious problem?”
“Everything has to do with religion. Because man isn’t right with God, he can’t be right with his neighbor, even if he thinks he is.”
Peters shrugged. “That makes sense, if you’re the religious type.”
“It’s not a matter of being religious or not,” David said. “Every man is an enemy of God because of his sin, whether he sees it that way or not.”
“Well, I don’t see it that way, so I don’t know what else there is to do about it.”
“Nothing – you can’t make peace with someone you don’t think you’re at war with. But when you do realize your enmity, there’s a way for peace. Jesus Christ took the punishment of God for our sin, and now for His glory we can be God’s friends, not His enemies.”
“My mother used to tell me things like that. I used to listen, but haven’t had time since I’ve come here for church and God.”
“You’ll never have time unless you make time,” David said. “It’s my greatest priority – but speaking of time, I’d best get upstairs. Foulkes told me to be up for a math lesson at three.”
“Then you’d better go. I’ll see you later.”
The dreary greyness of February passed slowly as David and Foulkes continued their lessons. David threw himself into his studies, learning as much as he could while storms raged outside. He grew in the graces of etiquette, studied the word of the Lord, and continued to deepen his friendship with Peters. He wrote letters home every week, and every month news arrived from his family. Once more accustomed to upper class life, David’s hardships consisted of missing his family and the gathering of the church. Uncle George was “not religious” and there was no church close enough for David to attend every week. He had some fellowship with Foulkes, who professed faith in Christ, but did not understand how all-encompassing the commands of God are in the life of a Christian.
But in early March, the sun broke through again, distracting David from his studies. He stared at the ray of sun that broke through the clouds and reflected on the lake. David sighed. He wanted to be out in the sun, and longed to be atop the water in a ship – or even a row boat, but Uncle George didn’t have one. Maybe I can go fishing this afternoon.
The boy’s head turned from the window. “Sir!”
“I left five minutes ago and you were looking out the window, and you have not moved. Thoughts elsewhere today, lad?”
David lowered his eyes to the desk. “Aye. I’m sorry sir. I can’t seem to stay focused this morning.”
“I don’t blame you on a such a beautiful day – the first sun we’ve seen in a few months. And I’m sure you miss your family.”
“Not long until noon, and then we can take a break.”
David nodded and pushed a stray lock of brown hair off of his forehead. “Where were we, sir?”
“You were supposed to be calculating the answers to your algebra problems.”
David nodded again and turned his attention to the book in front of him. He snuck a glance towards the window. Noon couldn’t come soon enough.
“Alright, it’s close enough to noon,” Foulkes said at last. “Put away your books.”
David closed his book and stood.
“Let’s go for a walk.”
“A walk, sir?”
Foulkes nodded and handed David his hat.
“It’s nice here when it’s not raining,” Foulkes said. “Though it’s still a mite chilly this time of year.”
“Anything’s nicer than London anytime,” David replied. “I’m so grateful to my uncle for having me come work for him.”
“Your uncle cares for you well.”
“That he does, Mr. Foulkes. I’m very grateful for his care of me – and in that, his care of all of us.”
“But you miss your family.”
“Aye. I’m the only hope for some time, though. The other boys are too young to have work yet. But a clerk makes good money compared to a weaver, sir, and works much better hours.”
“You sound as if you’re trying to convince yourself it’s the right thing. A clerk’s not what you want to be, is it?”
“How’d you know, sir?”
“You’re a bright lad, David, but your heart often isn’t in your studies. Where is it you’d rather be? I think I can guess, but I want to hear it from yourself.”
David put his hands in his pockets and looked up at the sky. He closed his eyes and wrinkled his nose as he thought.
“I didn’t expect you’d think so long, lad.”
“I’m not thinking about where so much as what,” David said, looking back at his teacher. “And how.” He shook his head. “I’d best not talk about it; it’ll only make me discontent with my lot.”
“If you never speak up, it’s certain it’ll never happen – and I think I may already know anyhow.”
“When I think of what I’d really love to do, sir, I picture myself an officer aboard a 74-gun frigate, fighting the French. Maybe it’s a boyish fantasy; I don’t understand war, and I know the Navy’s a hard place for a disciple of Christ.” David shook his head again. “And it’s not as steady for money as being a clerk. It would be hard on my father if I left a steady position as clerk to join the Navy. But I can’t help but wishin’, sir.”
“How old are you, lad?”
“Twelve, sir. Thirteen in a few months. But I’ve no hope of a commission in the Navy, and I could not enlist – it would break my mother’s heart.”
“Thirteen’s still young for a midshipman, especially if you pick up the pace with your studies, so you’d be ready.”
David stopped walking. “Now, don’t get my hopes up, sir.”
Foulkes turned and smiled at his student. “I wouldn’t if I thought they were hopeless. But you’re not the only lad who’s ever had dreams. I’ll speak to your uncle and we’ll see what we can do about it.”
“Sir, will you really? Thank you, oh thank you!”
Foulkes smiled. “Enough of that, lad, or I might call you Davey.”
“Please don’t, Mr. Foulkes; I was christened David and David I stay. I’ll stop, I promise – because no amount of thanks could ever suffice.”
“But,” Foulkes began, “there’s a lot of work, studying, and being away from home in the Navy, too. We’ll have to test your readiness.”
“Let’s walk back to the office for some dinner. The post isn’t in your pocket yet – and we need your father’s approval before we make any more beyond talk.”
“Aye. I’ll speak to him when I’m home in May.”
“Home for your birthday?”
David nodded. “It just worked out that way. I’m glad for it, though. There’s nowhere I’d rather be on my birthday than with my family.”
“You think you could survive months at sea with no communication to your family?”
“There are other men around, and there’s always letters, slow as they might be. It’s my mother I’d be worried about. Her and Nan. The other children wouldn’t know enough to worry yet, except Beth, but she’s patient. The boys still think war’s just a game.”
Foulkes turned and studied his student. “You don’t?”
“Of course not, sir. War’s serious, life and death business. It’s bloody and frightening. But it’s something we need to do right now, so I want to help my country – and protect mother, Nan, and Beth – and make enough to support the boys and father, too.”
Foulkes nodded. “I’ll see what I can do for you. But if I can’t convince your uncle, no one can.”
“My father’s going to be a bit harder to convince. But I will honor him, sir, even if he says no.”
“Good lad. Now, it’s been far too long since breakfast. Let’s eat some dinner.”
George sat with his hands folded on the large, mahogany desk. He licked his lower lip and nodded.
“Foulkes tells me you have an interest in the Navy.”
“Aye, Uncle George,” David said. He stood in front of the desk, hands at his sides.
“How long have you had this interest?”
“I’ve loved the sea since I was a li’le boy. And since we’ve been fightin’ the French, I’ve wanted to join the Navy – do my part to fend them off, and keep supporting my father. You know ’ow it’s ’ard on ’im and my mother down in London. Our time at the seaside last year only heightened that desire. I love the sea.”
George nodded. “When you’re excited, you forget your heritage, David. Watch that accent. But I’ve given it some thought. Foulkes showed me your work from the past few months, and you’ve been progressing quite well. If we got you the books, you wouldn’t be far behind other Midshipmen your age – though there are a few who join as late or later than you – by the time you were aboard a ship.”
“Then you’ll help me, uncle?”
“I will, if I can. But first you must go by your father and mother. Your mother won’t stand in the way of her boy and his dream, but my brother-in-law may be a harder task.”
“I know, sir,” David said. “He’s always been real proud of and thankful for my position here at your estate. It’s a pity the other boys are too young to come out here yet. That’d solve a lot of problems.”
“There’s a lot of things that could solve the many problems,” George said. “But the solutions aren’t always attainable.”
“Alright. I told Foulkes I wouldn’t keep you long. I’m leaving on a trip tomorrow morning and may not see you before then, in which case, I won’t see you until you’re back from London. Best of luck with your father. I’m really hoping for the best. You’ll be just fine.”
“Thank you, Uncle George. I’m forever grateful for all you’ve done, whatever comes of this.”
George waved his hand and sent the boy out.
“I’ve brought you some new books,” Foulkes said.
David sat up higher in his chair and leaned over to see the books Foulkes set on his desk. “What are they about?”
“They’re books used at the Royal Naval College, for young men preparing to be midshipmen. It’ll mean longer days, but we’ll try to get through some of them before you go home.”
David grinned and reached for one of them.
“But you can only study these after your other work is done.”
“Aye, Mr. Foulkes.”
In the month and a half before David left for London, he finished his mandatory lessons by noon, and from then until dinner, he and Foulkes would study the books from the college. Many times, David wanted to quit, but he remembered the end goal, gritted his teeth, and went back to work.
“I remembered an old friend who was a captain in the Navy,” Foulkes said one morning, a week before David left.
David looked up from his mathematics.
“I wrote to him last month –”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” David cried.
“In case he didn’t reply or the news was bad – didn’t want to get your hopes up.” Foulkes waved a letter. “This came yesterday.”
“What did he say?”
“He’ll help you if he can. He may not be able to get you a place in the Royal Navy College, but if not, you can live with him to continue your studies. This all has the condition that your father gives his blessing.”
David nodded. “If he knows it could really happen, I don’t think he’ll mind – as long as I can keep earning money while I’m studying.”
“We may be able to work that out. Until we have his permission, we can’t move forward any farther.”
“I’ll be sure to talk to him. It’s only a week until I’m ’ome - home.”
Foulkes nodded. “Aye – but you’re not on your way yet, so it’s back to work with you!”
David looked back at his work, but a grin was plastered all over his face.
Chapter Six: Home Again
The Judson family met David at the entrance to the alley. He was surrounded by hugs and shouts of delight as soon as his feet touched the ground. William and James carried his trunk to their house and everyone else followed.
“This time you’re ’ere for a whole two months, David!” Harry cried.
“Indeed I am,” David replied.
“You’re sounding like a rich person,” Beth said.
“That’s because I’ve been around rich people. I can’t wait to slip back into comfortable speech.”
When they had gotten David settled at the house, everyone returned to their duties. David sat at the table watching them until Nan called to him.
“I’m going to the market, David – will you come with me?”
“I’d love to.” David followed Nan out the door. Once they had turned past the alley, she spoke.
“Don’t tell father what I’m saying to you. He feels badly that any of us children should know this – I only know ‘cos I overheard him and mother talking. Business is bad, David. Father hasn’t been able to find much work. Things were going so well when you were home at Christmas. Perhaps we presumed too much when we celebrated so much.” Nan stopped walking. Her shoulders began to shake and she covered her face with her hands. “Father hasn’t been coming to church and ’as been angry at the Lord for this extra ’ardship.”
David stared at his sister.
She looked up at him. “It’s been ’ard enough in the past to make ends meet, but even with Uncle George’s help, I don’t know as we can do it.”
David’s heart sank. How can I ask father about a different job when we don’t have enough this way?
“Mother and I have taken on some washing, and the boys try to get odd jobs wherever they can. Beth has taken over much of the household work so mother and I can do the laundry. I’ve been seeking work as a daytime maid, but haven’t found anything yet.”
“I wish I could do more, Nan. I wish I could be here with you.”
Nan shook her head. “That’s father’s consolation – that at least one of us will have a way out of this place.”
“Nan – I have something to tell you as well. I mean to tell father, since I need his permission, and it may help, but it may only make things worse.”
“Tell me as we walk – we’ve wasted enough time already.”
“I want to join the Navy. Not enlisted, but as a Midshipman. My teacher and I have been talking about it, and it seems within our grasp. Pay would be less constant than as a clerk, but I would be making money, and doing what I want to do.”
“Mother would be very worried about you.”
“You would be, too, Nan, I know. But there’s more years of schooling first. It’s that time I’m more worried about, since I don’t know if I can earn any money.”
Nan’s eyes grew bright. “David, if you’re gone from Uncle George’s, then there’s another place there. William is learned enough to go and begin training as a clerk, if Uncle would take him.”
“That doesn’t solve the years of studying – but that may be worked out another way. How do you think father would take it if I asked him now? I’m especially worried it might push him further from God.”
“Wait a few days. Let him get used to having you home first – and get what odd jobs you can. I have a feeling there may be a perfect opportunity to speak of it soon enough.”
The next day, David found some work helping a clerk at a store. From then on, he was gone every morning. On Sundays, he went to work in the afternoon, coming home just in time for supper. A week went by, and there still seemed no right time to speak to Patrick about the Navy. But Nan’s hunch was right, soon enough the perfect opportunity would come.
May eighteenth dawned with a ray of sunshine. David smiled at it on his way to work, and kept up his smiles for most of the day, for it was his birthday. His family surprised him with small, homemade gifts at lunch.
“Boys, let’s go see if they want any help at the port today,” he said in the afternoon. “And bring your fishing poles, too.” They journeyed down to the port, skipping and laughing all the way.
“It’s such a beautiful day today, God,” David whispered. “Thank you for a wonderful birthday.”
The peace and calm of the May afternoon ended abruptly when they reached the port. The wharfs were a flurry of activity and people were everywhere.
“Boys, come back!” David shouted to his brothers, who had run ahead of him. “We need to stay together. I promised mother I’d not let you out of my sight.”
“What’s ‘appening today, David?” William asked.
“I don’t know – but let’s find out.” He approached a seaman. “Excuse me, sir, what’s going on?”
“You haven’t heard the news? The Treaty of Amiens has failed – we’re at war!” The man moved on, fulfilling his duties.
“What’s that mean?” James asked.
“Amiens was a treaty between us and France, signed in 1802. It was supposed to bring peace, but I suppose Napoleon has done something to break it. I’ll try to find out more. Stay here.”
David tapped a Naval officer on the shoulder. “Excuse me, sir – can you explain what’s going on?”
“Napoleon has been taking part in expansionist behavior, and so we’ve declared war.”
“We’ve kept all our side of Amiens?” David asked, casting back an eye at his brothers.
“That depends on how you look at it,” the officer said. “We never gave up our post on Malta, which we were supposed to. We’re not innocent, but neither is Napoleon. There’s been retaliation, mostly with our man Whitworth. That’s the short of it, lad. Longer than that it becomes too complicated, even for me.”
“Well, thank you, sir. That’s enough explanation.”
David relayed the news back to his brothers, and they went home to tell the family.
“We’re at war!” Harry shouted as soon as they entered the house.
Nan dropped a shirt into the washtub. “At war?”
“Amiens has failed, and we declared war on France,” David said. “The port is packed with people. We found out the news and came straight home.”
“Go tell father,” Nan said. “I’ll tell mother and Beth when they come in.”
David ran up the stairs to the room above them, where father kept his weaving loom. From outside the room, David could hear the soft swish of the shuttle moving back and forth. He opened the door.
“Father, the boys and I went to the port today. I have news.”
Patrick finished a line and stopped. He turned to face his son. “Go ahead.”
“We’re at war with France. Amiens has failed.”
“I wondered if this would come,” Patrick said. “Peace with France was too good to last. What has Napoleon done now?”
“Well, it’s not just Napoleon. We’ve kept Malta, which we said we wouldn’t. But Napoleon has been taking part in expansionist behavior – that’s what a Naval officer down at the port told me.”
“You were talking to Naval officers?”
“I talked to anyone who could tell me news,” David said.
“Are ye still thinking about the Navy?”
“Aye. But it’s more than just thinking.”
“Sit down,” Patrick said, nodding to a stool in the corner. He took up his shuttle again and began to work.
“I spoke of it to my teacher, and Uncle George. Foulkes, my teacher, knows a retired Captain who can help with my studies.”
“That’s all very well, David, but there’s money to think of.”
“We won’t have to pay for my training, but I don’t know that I can bring in money during that time.”
“We can’t afford that.”
“Nan tells me William is doing well enough in his studies he could be ready to go to Uncle George.”
“He’s too young yet; I won’t ’ave ’im sent away.”
David looked down.
“If you can find a way to continue to provide for us – and no less than Uncle George pays - while you study, you have my permission.”
David grinned. “Thank you, father! I’ll write to Foulkes right away.”
“Not too long of a letter; they cost money.”
David stood and moved toward the door. “And father – I’ve no doubt the Lord will provide. He is good, and He is faithful, whatever we may feel.”
“That’s enough, David.”
Father, have mercy, David prayed as he went out.
“What did father say?” Nan asked that night. She was sewing by the dim light brought in from the moon, and David sat beside her, the family Bible open in front of him.
“If I can earn money while I’m studying, I can join the Navy.”
Nan smiled. “Did you ask about William?”
“Father says he’s too young. But I’m sure in a few years he can go. If only there were a way for us all to go.”
“We looked into that long ago,” Nan said.
“Uncle’s house is so large and empty! I never understood why it wouldn’t work.”
“Father said no, that’s why – but I’m sure there’s more than that.”
“I’m worried about him, Nan.”
“When I assured him that the Lord was good and faithful – he told me ‘that’s enough.’ I’d barely said anything.”
“Mother’s burdened by it, too.”
David put his hands over his eyes. “Does he get angry any time God is mentioned?”
“If things got better, he may return to worship Him, but he may just continue on this way. And if things get worse – he won’t change.”
“It’s not in our ’ands, David, it’s in God’s.” Nan’s voice was tight, and the dropped ‘h’ proved her stress.
“I’ve written to my teacher to tell him what father said.” David brightened a little. “I hope to receive an answer before I return to Donsmoth, though I know it will take time because Foulkes has to talk to his captain friend.”
“I’ll be praying for wisdom for them, and your patience.”
“Thank you, Nan.”
“And I told mother – I hope you don’t mind.”
David shook his head. “You know how to tell her better than I. What’d she say?”
“She said she would be worried, but doesn’t want to stand in the way of something you want to do.”
“That’s what I thought she’d say – and what Uncle George said she’d say. Now that we’re at war, there’s more chance they’re taking on more men. But I know that mother will be a lot more worried about me joining up when there’s war.”
“I hope it will all be over before you’re on a ship – for everyone’s sake.”
David nodded. “Well, I’d best be going to bed. And so had you, Nan,” he added. “You’ve got to be up as early as me, and you’ve been staying up much later. Ye need your sleep as much as I do.”
“I’ll come to bed soon.”
“I won’t sleep easy until I hear you lay down,” David said.
“Sleep well,” Nan said.
Apart from long hours of work, David enjoyed every moment of his time at home. Sure, the London streets stank of human waste and between rains the air was heavy, but he was home with his family. Neither Patrick nor Susannah said any more about the Navy, and the children did not speak of it much. The war was almost forgotten as they worked, played, and loved. Their financial situation came to a standstill, getting neither better nor worse as they scraped by each week. David arranged for William to take his place at the store after the summer; it paid more than the odd jobs he found, and with so little weaving, Patrick didn’t need his sons’ help.
“I’d rather them have other work anyhow,” he told Susannah. “Weaving’s not solid work these days, and they need a stable job if they’re to provide for their family – now and someday.”
David studied when he could, but his progress was slow when he had so many other responsibilities. Sometimes he took his brothers to the port and they watched the ships come and go. David taught them what he knew, and picked up new information as he listened to conversations around him. When there was enough light at night, he would help them with their studies. None of them had ever gone to school, but Susannah had taught them all she knew and now they taught each other, too.
When a month had passed, David went to the post office every day to see if Foulkes had written. June drew to a close, and with its ending, David began to count the days until his return to Donsmoth. The carriage was coming for him on July twenty-fifth, leaving David just over three weeks at home. With days filled mostly with work that meant there was little family time left.
“I aim to spend as much of it as possible with father,” he told Nan, and he saw his wish carried out, though he did not see fruit come from it.
His last day home, the long-awaited letter arrived. He had been let off of work early, since it was his last day, and stopped by the post office on the way home.
“Your letter’s come,” the post master said, handing it to David.
“Thank you very much!” David took it and went outside, leaning against the wall as he tore it open and read.
To David Judson –
Forgive me for taking so long to reply; I’m sure you’ve been anxious. I took the opportunity of my own summer holiday to visit my captain friend – his name is Captain Bristow – and speak to him about you in person. I showed him some of your work and told him our dilemma. It’s a pretty pickle you’re in, David. But we may have worked something out. I’ll explain some now, but it’s easier in person.
Some midshipmen join through the Royal Naval College in Portsmouth. That would be three years of study, but you gain two years of sea time towards your commission as a Lieutenant. That was the first option we’d considered, that Captain Bristow would pay for your studies there. However, there would be no pay then and it would be three years before you were at sea, and academy midshipmen are looked down upon since they have had little practical experience. Pay is also less since they have served less time aboard a ship.
In the end, we’ve decided to attempt a somewhat risky course of action. You’ll stay and study with me at Donsmoth until December. After the New Year, you’ll join Captain Bristow in Portsmouth. He has some work you can do for him, and will pay you for it, provided you study well. When he feels you’re ready – if you prove yourself worthy – he will be your patron and get you a place aboard a ship.
I don’t doubt your ability to rise to the occasion, if you so desire. It will be a very difficult next few years, and you’ll be very busy. The decision is now in your hands. I know you will choose well, considering your abilities and desires. We can also start and decide otherwise at New Year’s. I’ll see you soon.
David folded up the letter, put it in his pocket, and walked home. His head spun as he considered what Foulkes had written. His dream of the past two years was almost in his grasp. Could it be true? He felt the letter, just to make sure it was there. This isn’t a dream! He broke into a run, eager to tell his news to the family. But he stopped short when he reached their door.
Patrick stood in the doorway, his face buried in his arm as he leaned against the door frame. He looked up when he heard David, but neither said anything.
“Your mother will tell you what’s come to pass,” Patrick said at last. He straightened. “Tell ‘er I’ll be back in time for supper tonight.”
David watched as his father walked down the alley. A sense of foreboding fell over his being as he stepped inside the house. Susannah sat at the table, her hands folded in prayer.
“Mother,” David said as he sat down beside her, “what’s happened?”
“Someone wants the weaving room, and can pay more than we can. The landlord said we must have it ready in a few days.” She wiped tears from her cheeks.
“’e cannae do that!” David cried. “Doesnae ’e ken it’s our livelihood?”
“This is his livelihood, David. There’s nothing else he can do. He listened to our case, but can do nothing more for us. At least our rent will be lower now.”
David put his letter on the table. “I was going to show you this, but now may not be the best time.”
Susannah took her son’s hand. “You leave tomorrow. I want to hear your news.”
“Foulkes writes that his friend can teach me and provide work for me, and then secure a place on board a ship for me. I can study and join the Navy, but still help you before I’m a midshipman.”
Susannah hugged her son. “I’m so proud of you, David! Make sure you tell your father – it will ease his heart at least some.”
“Where’s he gone?”
“He went to look for a room to rent for his loom. We cannot fit it down here with all of us, no matter how we try.”
“Maybe I shouldn’t leave.”
“No, David, you must. It pleases your father so much to know you’re getting an education, and what your uncle pays for your help is more than you earn at the store.”
David stood. “I’m going up to the loom. Oh – father said he’ll be home for supper.” He went up the stairs to the loom. He ran his hand over the cloth Patrick had woven that morning, and felt the smooth wood. “It’s such a beautiful contraption.” He sat down on the stool and put his head in his hands.
Father, what are you doing? How can this help us? How can this bring father to yourself, when all you’re doing is taking things from him, one by one? Help me to trust you. Help all of us respond in a way that brings you glory, and shows father how worthy you are of our worship.
He heard footsteps, and the door opened. It was Nan. She held David’s letter in her hand.
“You really think you’re up for this?”
“Aye,” David said. “It’s a dream of mine, and it’ll help our family very much. I don’t think I’ll be paid more than I am for my work at Donsmoth – though I do very little work; it’s mostly study – but once I’m a midshipman I’ll be paid much more.”
“It sounds grueling.”
“I’m sure it will be – but anything is these days.”
“Mother told you about the landlord’s visit.”
Nan nodded. She ran her fingers over the threads strung on the loom. “I don’t know what will become of us,” she said, and then turned and went back downstairs.
A little while before dinner, Patrick joined David upstairs.
“Your mother tells me you’ve been up here a long while,” he said, sitting on the weaving bench.
“What’ve you been doing?”
“Much good that’ll do,” Patrick said. “You should’ve been out seeking work for the afternoon.”
“Father, God does hear our prayers,” David said. “And He has answered many of mine in the past few months.”
“Aye, God may have granted your wish – but what of mine, David, what of mine? What of the prayers of a father whose family is on the brink of starvation, who can do naught but sit by and watch as work doesnae come in and so neither does any money. I’m doing all I can to provide for my family – will not God do His part?”
David said nothing.
“I cannae read. There are no places cheap enou’ for rent. I’ve asked about selling the loom, but no one will take it; it’s so old. Factory wages are less than I’ve been earning now. I can see nothing to do but move back to Ireland.”
“There’d be little work there, either, father. I’ll go around early tomorrow, before the carriage comes for me, and find you something. They always need extra hands down at the port, even if it’s a temporary job. You’re strong enough for something like that, father.”
Patrick put a hand on his son’s shoulder. “You’re a good lad, David, thank you. I wish I could give you the upbringing you deserve.”
“Don’t trouble yourself, father. I don’t deserve even what little we have, and what I treasure most is our family, not our possessions. It may be hard to see, but the Lord has been good to us.”
“‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God,’” Patrick whispered.
David looked up.
“There may perhaps be some faith in me yet, lad. You can’t turn your back on your upbringing.”
“Neither does God turn His back on His children,” David said.
“Supper’s waiting on us. Let’s go join them, and have a wonderful evening, forgettin’ all our troubles. We’re going to give you a proper Judson send-off.”
“Before we go down, I heard from Foulkes today. His captain friend can pay me while I study – that’s the short of it.”
“You can tell us all the long of it over supper, David. I’ll be glad to hear it.”
No one in the Judson home got much sleep that night. There was no time for it, as they listened first to David’s news, then Patrick told the younger children what was happening with their loom, and then they schemed up ways to bring in more money. Susannah and Nan would take on more washing and help with the war effort where they could. William would look for work for after his store job.
“But the younger boys will do no work beyond odd jobs,” Patrick said. “There I put my foot down, no matter how poor we are. You’ve got to be about your studies yet. And Beth, donnae think your task isnae important. You’re feeding us all and making a way for the younger boys to be ready for the world.”
When the house was cleaned up from the day, Patrick reached for the family Bible. “It’s been too long since we opened this last. Susannah, please read to us tonight from Psalm 42. Gather ‘round, children.”
Susannah read, and Patrick closed his eyes and listened, nodding as the familiar words met his ears.
“Whenever I hear that,” he said when she finished. “I hear my pastor reading it aloud when I was a wee lad. I hear his fiery accent. The way he read it stuck with me until this very day. Whenever I met anyone that could read, I had them read it to me, until I had it memorized. And today, it brought faith back into this fading soul. God may still show Himself good in this time. But now it’s off to bed with all of ye; David leaves early in the morning.”
David arrived home from the port just in time to eat a bite of breakfast before they all journeyed to the head of the alley.
“Father, there’s plenty of work down there if you just ask around,” he said as they walked.
“I’ll go down as soon as you’re off. When will you be back next?”
“Whenever Foulkes lets me go. Probably Christmas. We’ve got a lot of work to do before then, I think. I’ve got to be ready for Captain Bristow in the New Year.”
“I’ll write as often as I can,” Nan said. “But don’t you write unless your studies allow it.”
“I’ll make time somehow,” David replied.
The carriage came, and David climbed in. His near-three months at home had passed so swiftly. He waved to his family before he vanished around a corner. Thank you, God, for this wonderful time. Help us all, please.