David Judson, Midshipman - 7 & 8
Chapter Seven: Hard at Work
“You’ve lost your country complexion and health,” Foulkes said when he saw David. He didn’t say how sickly he thought his student looked.
“London’s not an easy place in the summer,” David replied. “The fresh country air is welcome – but not the etiquette.”
Foulkes laughed. “It’ll be routine again before long. How’s your family?”
“Well in health, but we’re struggling financially. The landlord is renting the upstairs room father is keeping his loom in to someone who can pay more. We have to find another place for the loom, or another job.”
“Perhaps we can come up with an extra job here at Donsmoth. That way you all can stay together, and you’ll all be out of London.”
“Maybe so, though I don’t know if father would want that. He’d feel as if he weren’t really providing for his family as he knows he should.”
“Did you get my letter?”
David grinned. “Aye.”
“What do you think?”
“I’ve the blessing of my parents and support of the whole family, and I’m willing to give it a shot.”
“Good lad. But that means we’ve got to buckle down and get to it in the next few months!”
“Aye, aye, sir!”
The only spare time David had was gone once he had prayed and read his Bible. On Sundays he was given a day off of his studies, and would write home or talk with Peters. The weather grew cold and grey once more. Spending his days inside became both easier and harder for David. The outdoors seemed less inviting, but the weather was often so poor he could not go outside at all and grew restless. During his school breaks, he would walk up and down the long corridors, praying or reviewing lessons.
December came, and an early snow fell with it. The hills of Donsmoth were blanketed with white, and on Sunday afternoon Peters took David sledging. The laughter of the two young men floated across the estate as they slid down the slopes on trays the cook had abandoned. Their noses and cheeks were red with cold when they entered the house, still laughing, and took off their wet coats and scarves.
“No puddles in my kitchen,” the cook scolded, shooing them away from the fire.
“How many more days do you have here?” Peters asked as they went to find another fire they could both sit at.
“I’m not certain. Not many, though. I need to talk to Uncle George about the details – and something else as well.”
“What’s that?” Peters sat down on David’s trunk and poked at the fire.
“Nan’s last letter has me worried.”
“I thought everything was going better,” Peters said. He looked at David, his cheerful countenance sober for once.
“It was, when there was work at the port. But fewer ships come in when the weather’s turning colder, and they don’t need as much help anymore. They’re living on what my siblings can bring in and the little they had in savings from when father sold the loom to the factory.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Peters said. “I hoped all would begin to look up for you again.”
“Nan isn’t as worried as she was last time, that’s one good thing. Father’s going to church still and they’ve been reading the Bible together. Last time work was scarce he turned his back on God,” David said.
“Well, I can’t say I identify with you at all there.”
“When was the last time you went to church?”
“Before I moved here. Four years ago now, I think.”
“Would you go again, if you had the chance?”
“Don’t think so. I haven’t much need of it.”
David looked at his friend. His nose wrinkled and he rubbed his hands together. My time with Peters is running out. He needs to hear of Christ, and I’m the only one who can tell him! “What do you mean?”
“I don’t have any use for God, so why go to church? It’s all about Him there.”
“Peters, you have every need of God. You’ve broken His laws and rebelled against Him. His just anger for your sin is upon you. But through Jesus Christ, He’s reconciled us to Him, not counting our sins against us if we repent.”
“I’ve heard that before – but it just isn’t for me.” He stood. “And I’ve got to get back to work.”
David watched as Peters left the room. His heart sank. Father, how can you allow this desecration of Your name? Let Him behold You, that he might repent and glorify You!
David was ill at ease that night as they dined. Peters waited on him, Foulkes, and Uncle George, and all seemed normal, but there was a coldness between them David had not felt before. The forks and knives scraping on plates and light conversation between Foulkes and Uncle George faded into the background as David thought. He scowled as he cut into a chicken breast. He remembered Jesus talking about how the gospel would divide families.
And friends, too, he thought.
“You’re deep in thought there, David,” Foulkes said. “Studying hard for your exam tomorrow, I hope.”
David’s eyes grew wide. The exam! He had forgotten all about it. Captain Bristow had mailed Foulkes a copy of the entrance exam for the Royal Naval College, and David was to take it the next morning.
“Don’t be troubled about it, lad. You’ve been doing harder work for the past month. I just couldn’t think of anything else that would cause such a hard look on your face during dinner.”
Peters caught David’s eye and both looked away.
“It’s not the exam, sir,” David said.
“Any news from your family?” George asked in between bites of his meal.
“Well, what is it?”
“Not good again. They don’t need father at the port anymore.”
“I warned Susannah against marrying that Irishman!” George shouted.
David froze. His eyes moved to Foulkes, who was staring at Mr. Young.
“But if he can’t take care of her, that won’t stop me from doing it. Tell your father I can give him a job here, and they can all move in once you’re gone.”
For a moment, David stared at his uncle. “I’ll tell him,” David said, remembering his manners.
“Good. You can write it to him in your next letter.”
“When do you plan on his studies being finished here, Foulkes?”
“We’ll be finished the end of this coming week, George. Then I might like to have a week to review some other things before I send him home.”
“Then you’ll be on your way home in two weeks time, David. How does that sound?”
“Wonderful, Uncle George. Though I will miss Donsmoth sometimes,” he added.
“Captain Bristow won’t give you any time to miss Donsmoth,” Foulkes said.
“In that case, I’m sure I really will miss it.”
David rose early to pray before taking his exam. Then he spent the next three hours seated at his desk, Foulkes working across from him. David wrote and calculated, then checked his work again and again. At last, Foulkes looked at his watch and said, “time’s up.”
“I’m glad it is,” David said. “And I don’t think there was anything more I could’ve done anyhow.”
“I’ll look this over, and you can write your letter to your father.”
“Will you tell me how I did?”
“I won’t be able to tell you much – you’ll have to wait for Captain Bristow to give you your real score.”
David sighed and pulled a piece of blank paper out of a drawer.
“Done,” he said a few minutes later.
Foulkes looked up from David’s exam. “Take a short break. I’ll call you in when I’m done.”
David paced up and down the hall outside the office. He could not think of anything other than the exam.
“David!” Foulkes said at last.
“Well, how did I do?” David asked as he took his seat.
“I can’t say for sure, but I think you passed.”
“That’s a relief. Now what will we do for the next week?”
“We’ve still got pages and pages of your seamanship book, and a mathematics book to finish.”
“Your break is coming – but not until all this work is done.”
David did finish all the work. The days were his most grueling yet. With the end in sight, every page seemed like a mountain. But by the time Saturday came, all of his books were finished. Some of them Foulkes gave him to take to Portsmouth, but others were returned to the shelves, much to David’s delight.
In his last week at Donsmoth, Foulkes and David reviewed etiquette and history. In spare moments, David studied maps and quizzed himself on ships and sailing. Peters remained cold and distant, despite David’s attempts to restore their friendship. On Friday during dinner, a letter came from London.
“Well, what’s it say?” Uncle George asked as David tore it open.
David skimmed it. “Nan writes… father says thank you for your offer but he does not need more help providing for his family. Nan adds that they have been making ends meet but it has been harder than before and the younger ones may have to work come spring.”
“Well, I did what I could,” George said. “But I will not sit by while Susannah starves.”
David shook his head. “She won’t, Uncle George. None of us would let that happen. And don’t worry about her happiness, either – she’s the most joyful of all of us, by the grace of God.”
George grunted. “Make sure Patrick knows the offer stands if he changes his mind.”
“I’ll tell him. But I don’t think he will change his mind. Hard as it is to admit it, we Judsons are a proud lot.”
“And I know that, I’m sure.”
“Alright, let’s not spoil the lad’s last dinner here,” Foulkes said. “Not that it could be spoiled with what I asked the cook to make for dessert.”
David looked at his teacher. “What’s that?”
“A little bird told me you have a fondness towards chocolate.” Foulkes’s blue eyes twinkled.
“Oh, aye, sir!”
“Bring it in, Peters!”
David thought he saw a faint smile on Peters’s lips as he brought the chocolate tart in, but he couldn’t be sure. He sought to make eye contact with his old friend, but as soon as he did, Peters’s coldness had returned. They had not spoken since the day they had gone sledding, though they had seen each other each night at dinner and Peters helped David dress for dinner whenever he could be spared.
Well, I did the part of men – the rest is up to God, David thought. But perhaps I should have been more gentle and conversational with it.
The thought vanished as a bite of velvety, rich chocolate tart entered his mouth, and he thought nothing more of it until the next day.
Early the next morning, he crept down to the kitchen. His trunk and satchel were packed, and were sitting outside his door, ready for Peters to bring them downstairs to the carriage.
“And what are you doin’ down here this mornin’?” The cook asked when she saw David.
“I wanted to ask a favor of you,” he said.
“Well, I don’t think I can be denying you it the day you leave – but no promises.”
David grinned. The cook could always make him smile. “My sisters and brothers have never eaten any chocolate – but I think they might like it. Do you have any I could take to them?”
The cook nodded. “I have almost a whole bar left from the tart last night. Wait right here and I’ll be back with it in a jiffy.”
The cook went to the pantry, leaving David alone in the kitchen. But he wasn’t alone for long; he heard someone enter the room. David turned to see who it was.
“Peters!” he cried.
“I thought I heard you in here. I just finished taking your things to the carriage. This place will be quiet without you, Mr. Judson.”
“It’s David, Peters, I told you that long ago.”
“But that was before –”
“Forgive me for being so abrupt,” David said. “I was not speaking the truth very kindly.”
“To some it’s not the truth.”
“Then it’s not really the truth, is it?”
“Well, anyhow,” Peters extended his hand. “Goodbye, and good luck with the Navy.”
“Thank you, Peters.” David shook his friend’s hand. “Goodbye.”
The cook came running in waving a bar of chocolate. “Here you are, lad. I wish I could send more with you – you’ve brightened this kitchen so often. May the Navy be good to you.”
“Thank you. And thank you for the many delicious meals you’ve fed me. I’ve never had better.”
“You’re too kind to an old woman.”
“It’s the truth, ma’am.” David looked at the clock. “Well, much as I’d love to stay, I was told to be up at the carriage at eight o’clock sharp, and it’s almost that. Goodbye.”
Heaviness filled David’s heart as he climbed the stairs. When I came, I never imagined leaving would be so difficult. The hardest is leaving Peters behind, in his rejection of God. Father, turn his heart!
“Goodbye, David,” Foulkes said. “Enjoy your holidays, and don’t be worried about Captain Bristow. You’ll be fine.”
David nodded. “Thank you for all you’ve taught me, and all you’ve done for me. I’ll write you when I can.”
“It’s been good to have you here, nephew. Send my love to your mother and siblings.”
“Aye, I will. Goodbye, Uncle George, goodbye, Mr. Foulkes.”
He went out of the house, scurrying through the sleet to the carriage. Then he pulled out of Donsmoth for the last time.
Chapter Eight: Hope
The sleet was coming down even harder when David reached London, so there was no one at the alley to meet him.
“Sorry you have to walk in this,” the driver said.
“Home is on the other side; I don’t mind,” David replied, shouldering his trunk. He set off down the cobbled road to home.
David saw faces pressed against the window, showing through where they had wiped the condensation away.
“David’s here, David’s here, David’s here!” James cried when he saw David approaching.
The door was flung wide open, and David stepped inside.
“You’re home earlier than we expected,” Beth said, rising from by the fire. “William, Nan, mother, and father are still working. They’ll be glad to see you here when they get home.”
“Where is father working?”
“With William. The store owner broke his leg – slipped on ice – so they needed father to move the heavy things. It’s not permanent, but it’s helping for now.”
“Uncle told me to ask him again about working at Donsmoth.”
“Please don’t do it,” Beth said. “He was very upset by your letter. He’s so proud, and we’re not starving so he won’t humble himself yet.”
“I’m glad the Lord has provided, but we could do without Judson pride,” David said.
“Aye. But don’t let’s trouble your time here with talk of money. You’re here for Christmas and the New Year, and we’re going to have a grand time.”
David put his trunk away, then joined Beth by the fire.
“Is it always just you and the wee ones at home during the day?”
“Most of the time, aye. Mother and Nan have been washing with many other women. The work’s more regular that way, and it pays the same. And then it’s less crowded in here and we can do lessons more freely.”
“How are the lessons coming?”
“Even Harry can read now, and James keeps getting better and better. William sometimes borrows books from the store and we’ll read them together, so both of us can learn.”
James and Harry had returned to the window to watch for the rest of the family.
“Do you need help with any Christmas presents?” David asked.
“Not this year,” Beth said. “But I’m sure the boys will need some ideas.”
David schemed Christmas surprises with James and Harry while they waited for everyone else to arrive home.
By the fire that night, he told everyone about his last few months of study at Donsmoth.
“I’m glad to have done it, but am even gladder it’s over,” he said. “And I know there’s no rest – soon I’ll be in Portsmouth with Captain Bristow.”
The next two weeks were spent in relative relaxation for David. Every so often he pulled out a book and studied, but otherwise, he took odd jobs where he could and helped any family member he could. His favorite job was down at the port, relaying messages for whoever needed it. He listened for news of the war, but there was nothing new – Nelson was still waiting near Toulon, trying to draw the French from their hideaway.
Christmas came and went, much like the Christmas before it. The chocolate was loved by everyone, even Patrick. The womenfolk cooked a delicious feast, homemade gifts were exchanged, carols were sung, and everyone had a wonderful time. But perhaps the best part of all was when, after dinner, Patrick asked for someone to get the family Bible. Then he opened it, and began to read the Christmas story. No one moved while he read, though his speech was slow and halting as he sounded out the words. William sat with a silly grin on his face, but everyone else was too astonished to know what to do.
“I been teachin’ him when we have quiet moments at the store,” William said as soon as Patrick was done.
Susannah kissed her husband, and everyone cheered.
“Father can read!” James cried, and Harry echoed him.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better Christmas present,” Susannah said.
“None of us could have,” Nan added.
“A little longer, and I can apply for jobs that need reading men,” Patrick said. “Then perhaps life won’t be so hard.”
“It may be hard right now, but it’s still good,” Susannah said. “Especially when all of us are together.”
The year 1804 dawned quietly and somberly for the Judson family. David was leaving that day and might not see any of them again for a year. But he was not worried for his family, as the Lord had already taken such good care of them, and with Patrick’s new skills, work would be just around the corner. Even so, he was nervous as he loaded his trunk onto a public coach bound for Portsmouth. He squeezed into it with other Londoners, wishing for his uncle’s private carriage.
At least I won’t bounce around so much, he thought.
“Where you headed, lad?” an old man asked.
“Portsmouth. Near the Royal Naval College.”
“You going there?”
“Not exactly. I’ll be studying with Captain Bristow, who lives near it.”
“You planning on joining the Navy?”
“Aye,” David said.
The man looked him over. “You seem a mite small for such a thing, lad.”
“I’ll grow yet.”
The man grunted and said nothing more. David leaned his head back against the wall of the coach.
This is going to be a long journey.
The inside of the stagecoach grew stuffy, even in the cold January weather. The windows fogged up and David could not see outside the window. He was glad when they pulled up to an inn for the night, but he shuddered to think that his journey was only half done. He climbed down and stretched his legs and then retrieved his trunk before going inside the inn. Foulkes had given him some spending money for the journey, and David purchased a mug of tea and pot pie for supper, and ate it in silence before going up to his room. He tossed and turned all night long as he struggled to find a comfortable position. Every inch of his body was sore from being jolted along the roads all day. He had tried to pray in the uncomfortable silence, but found it impossible to concentrate. He could not even review ships and sails or any such information that he could say backwards and forwards.
He scrambled out of bed the next morning and made it to the stagecoach just in time. The second day’s journey would be shorter, but more tedious, David knew. He was able to claim a seat by a window, though, and watched through rain as the land rolled – jolted – by.
It was early evening when the stagecoach pulled to a stop near the dockyard. David stepped out of the coach and took down his trunk. The coach rolled away to take its other passengers elsewhere, leaving David staring at the ships in port. For a few moments, he neither breathed nor moved. He could see the block mills in the distance, and now all that Foulkes had told him about the reforms of Bentham made perfect sense. He identified every ship he saw, and wondered if Admiral Nelson had ever stood upon that very spot.
“Mr. David Judson?” a voice said behind him at last.
David turned. “Aye.”
“Captain Bristow sends his regards. I’m Fischer, one of his servants. If I may take your trunk, and then I’ll show you to his grounds.”
“Thank you, Fischer, that will be wonderful.”
They walked for two miles, passing the Royal Naval College as they did so. David breathed a sigh of relief that he would not be attending there, but was grateful he could be so close to the dockyard even so. Soon they entered a small section of the city. Fischer stopped in front of a large townhouse.
“This is Captain Bristow’s residence. I’ll show you in the back way, take you to your room, and then down to meet the Captain.”
David nodded, and followed Fischer. Captain Bristow’s home was much smaller than Donsmoth. I won’t need a map to get around here, David thought. His room was taken up by his bed and a dresser. There was hardly room for his trunk. Then they descended the stairs to the sitting room.
“I will call Captain Bristow.” Fischer left David alone in the sitting room.
David stared at the Navy memorabilia that lined the walls of the room. Model ships sat on one shelf, the Captain’s hat and coat were draped on another, and yet another held an old compass and sextant.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you at last, David Judson,” a voice said.
David turned to see a tall man standing in front of him. He wore a powdered wig, like Foulkes. His face was pleasant, but stern. His eyes were grey like the sea, his nose straight and pointed. His face was clean shaven, showing a well-angled jaw and chin. Wrinkles lined the man’s forehead and eyes, but otherwise he seemed young.
“Captain Bristow,” David said. “The pleasure is all mine. I cannot – and never will be – able to thank you enough for your kindness.”
“You can thank me by being diligent with your studies, and working hard with the tasks I give you to do. Unlike the white-washed building you passed with Fischer, this will not be a place for boys who never should have left their mother’s apron strings.”
David stifled a laugh.
“But I think a boy from a poor London family will know how to work.”
“Well, we’ll get acquainted more over dinner. I’m an old bachelor, Mr. Judson, so etiquette isn’t very tight around here. I’m sure you picked some up from Foulkes.”
“Here’s a little secret – most midshipmen don’t have half of the manners they need. So between you and me we won’t worry too much over them while you’re here. Dinner is at six – how many bells?”
“Five?” David guessed, taken aback at the question.
“I caught you off-guard there, lad. Take a second thought.”
“Six o’clock – that’s four bells,” David said.
“Aye. Expect questions like that constantly, Mr. Judson. We’ll have you knowing these things until you’re speaking them in your sleep. Now, be off and explore the town for an hour until dinner.”
“Aye, aye, sir.” David left the house by the front door and walked up and down the streets. He ran back to the dockyard, stopping in front of the college. It seemed so prestigious and intimidating, despite what Captain Bristow had said. Either way, I’m glad I’m not going there.
He put his hand in his pocket, fingering a string covered in practice knots.
I know it’s going to be hard, but I think I’m really going to enjoy the next year and a half. Captain Bristow is kind but hard – like Foulkes, but a little harder, I think.
He turned to return to Captain Bristow’s for dinner. As he left the front of the College, he heard a bell ringing. One, two, three, four – four bells! David tore down the street, up alleys, around curves, and then up the stairs to Captain Bristow’s, where he burst in the door. He passed the mirror in the front room and finger-combed his hair before hurrying into the dining room, where he found Captain Bristow waiting. The Captain said nothing until they were seated and he had said grace.
“I said there’s not much etiquette in this house, Mr. Judson. But I do expect the inhabitants to be on time for everything.”
“I’m sorry, sir.”
“My tardiness is inexcusable, Captain Bristow.”
“But what made you late?”
“I did not realize what time it was until I heard the bells ringing inside the College.”
“You walked down to the dockyard, then?”
“Can’t get enough of those beautiful ships?”
“No, sir. I could look at them for days.”
“I’m glad to hear it, for you’ll be doing that very thing.”
“Now, Foulkes has told me much of the studies you have done with him, so we won’t talk about those. You did very well on the exam you took; I have no fears about your capabilities. We’ll start each morning in textbooks, and afternoons down at the dockyard. In the evening you will work for me. The amount of discretionary time you will have depends on how hard you work, and how you will discipline yourself regarding hours of rest. I expect you to be clean, neat, courteous, hard-working, and on time. Is that understood?”
“Now that you know what’s expected of you, I’d like to know some more about you. Tell me about your upbringing, your family, your hobbies – anything.”
“Well, I’ve lived my whole life in London. We’ve never had much, and it’s been even harder making ends meet in the past year or two. There’s six of us children – myself, two sisters, and three brothers. My father is an Irish weaver, but my mother’s parents owned an estate. I’ve gone to church my whole life, and am a Christian, which is probably the most important thing about me. I like to read and fish, and ships have always fascinated me, though I’ve never been able to try my hand at sailing.”
“What about mathematics? Do you enjoy that?”
“It’s not my first choice when I have leisure time, but as far as work goes I enjoy it. But my focus isn’t always the best.”
Captain Bristow nodded. “Well, David Judson, I think you’re going to be well-suited for the next few years, and beyond, if you make it that far. I have no doubt you will.”