Jack in the Forecastle

John Sherburne Sleeper
Jack in the Forecastle (or,
Incidents in the Early Life of
Hawser Martingale)

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Title: Jack in the Forecastle
Author: John Sherburne Sleeper
Release Date: August, 2005 [EBook #8638] [This file was first posted
on July 30, 2003]

Edition: 10
Language: English
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by John Sherburne Sleeper (1794-1878)
Chapter I
Farewell to New England
I was born towards the close of the last century, in a village pleasantly
situated on the banks of the Merrimack, in Massachusetts. For the
satisfaction of the curious, and the edification of the genealogist, I will
state that my ancestors came to this country from England in the middle
of the seventeenth century. Why they left their native land to seek an
asylum on this distant shore whether prompted by a spirit of adventure,
or with a view to avoid persecution for religion's sake is now unknown.
Even if they "left their country for their country's good," they were
undoubtedly as respectable, honest, and noble, as the major part of
those needy ruffians who accompanied William the Conqueror from
Normandy in his successful attempt to seize the British crown, and
whose descendants now boast of their noble ancestry, and proudly
claim a seat in the British House of Peers.
From my earliest years I manifested a strong attachment to reading; and
as matters relating to ships and sailors captivated my boyish fancy, and
exerted a magic influence on my mind, the "Adventures of Robinson
Crusoe," "Peter Wilkins," "Philip Quarle," and vagabonds of a similar
character, were my favorite books. An indulgence in this taste, and
perhaps an innate dispostion to lead a wandering, adventurous life,

kindled in my bosom a strong desire, which soon became a fixed
resolution, TO GO TO SEA. Indeed, this wish to go abroad, to
encounter dangers on the mighty deep, to visit foreign countries and
climes, to face shipwrecks and disasters, became a passion. It was my
favorite theme of talk by day, and the subject of my dreams by night.
As I increased in years my longing for a sailor's life also increased; and
whenever my schoolfellows and myself were conversing about the
occupations we should select as the means of gaining a livelihood
hereafter, I invariably said, "I will be a sailor."
Had my parents lived, it is possible that this deep-seated inclination
might have been thwarted; that my destiny might have taken another
shape. But my father died while I was quite young, and my mother
survived him but a few years. She lived long enough, however, to
convince me that there is nothing more pure, disinterested, and
enduring than a mother's love, and that those who are deprived of this
blessing meet at the outset of their pilgrimage a misfortune which can
never be remedied. Thus, before I had numbered fifteen years, I found
myself thrown a waif on the waters of life, free to follow the bent of my
inclination to become a sailor.
Fortune favored my wishes. Soon after the death of my parents, a
relation of my mother was fitting out a vessel in Portsmouth, N.H., for
a voyage to Demarara; and those who felt an interest in my welfare,
conceiving this a good opportunity for me to commence my salt-water
career, acceded to my wishes, and prevailed on my relative, against his
inclination, to take me with him as a cabin boy.
With emotions of delight I turned my back on the home of my
childhood, and gayly started off to seek my fortune in the world, with
no other foundation to build upon than a slender frame, an imperfect
education, a vivid imagination, ever picturing charming castles in the
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