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meat there; and sometimes I row down the river to Woolwich, and buy there; then I go to single farmhouses on the Kentish side, where I am known, and buy fowls, and eggs, and butter, and bring to the ships, as they direct me, sometimes one, sometimes the other. I seldom come on shore here; and I came now only to call my wife, and hear how my little family do, and give them a little money which I received last night."
“Poor man!” said I; "and how much hast thou gotten for them ?”
"I have gotten four shillings," said he, " which is a great sum, as things go now with poor men; but they have given me a bag of bread too, and a salt fish, and some flesh; so all helps out."
“Well," said I, “have you given it them yet?”
"No," said he; "but I have called, and my wife has answered that she cannot come out yet, but in half an hour she hopes to come, and I am waiting for her : poor woman !” says he, “she is brought sadly down; she has a swelling, and it is broke, and I hope she will recover; but I fear the child will die; but it is the Lord !”
here he stopped and wept very much.
“Well, honest friend,” said I, “ thou hast a sure Comforter, if thou hast brought thyself to be resigned to the will of God; He is dealing with us all in judgment."
"Oh, sir," says he, “it is infinite mercy, if any of us are spared ; and who am I to repine ?"
Sayest thou so," said I, “and how much less is my faith than thine ?” And here my heart smote
me, suggesting how much better this poor man's foundation was on which he stayed in the danger than mine; that he had nowhere to fly, that he had a family to bind him to attendance, which I had not; and mine was mere presumption, his a true dependance, and a courage resting on God; and yet that he used all possible caution for his safety.
I turned a little away from the man while these thoughts engaged me, for, indeed, I could no more refrain from tears than he.
At length, after some further talk, the poor woman opened the door and called “Robert, Robert !” He answered, and bid her stay a few moments and he would come; so he ran down the common stairs to his boat, and fetched up a sack in which was the provision he had brought from the ships, and when he returned he halloed again; then he went to the great stone which he showed me, and emptied the sack, and laid all out, and then retired; and his wife came with a little boy to fetch them away, and he called and said such a captain had sent such a thing, and such a captain such a thing; and at the end adds, God hath sent them all, give thanks to Him. When the poor woman had taken up all, she was so weak she could not carry it at once in, though the weight was not much neither, so she left the biscuit, which was in a little bag, and left a little boy to watch it till she came again.
“Well, but,” says I to him, " did you leave her the four shillings, too, which you said was your week's pay?".
“Yes, yes," says he ; "you shall hear her own it.” So he calls again, “Rachel, Rachel," (which, it seems, was her name, "did you take up the money?" "Yes," said she. “How much was it?" said he. “Four shillings and a groat,” said she. “Well, well,” says he, “the Lord keep you all;" and so he turned to go away.
As I could not refrain from contributing tears to this man's story, so neither could I refrain my charity for his assistance; so I called him."Hark thee, friend," said I, "come hither, for I believe thou art in health, that I may venture thee;" so I pulled out my hand which was in my pocket before ; "Here,” says I, "go and call thy Rachel once more, and give her a little more comfort from me. God will never forsake a family that trusts in Him as thou dost.” So I gave him four other shillings, and bid him go lay them on the stone, and call his wife.
I have not words to express the poor man's thankfulness, neither could he express it himself, but by tears running down his face; he called his wife, and told her God had moved the heart of a stranger, upon hearing their condition, to give them all that money, and a great deal more such as that he said to her. The woman too made signs of the like thankfulness, as well as to heaven as to me, and joyfully picked it up; and I parted with no money all that year that I thought better bestowed.
I then asked the poor man if the distemper had not reached to Greenwich. He said it had not till about a fortnight before; but that then he feared it had; but that it was only at that end of the town which lay south towards Deptford bridge ; that he went only to a butcher's shop and a grocer's, where he generally bought such things as they sent him for, but was very careful.
I asked him then, how it came to pass that those people who had so shut themselves up in the ships, had not laid in sufficient stores of all things necessary? He said some of them had; but, on the other hand, some did not come on board till they were frighted into it, and till it was too dangerous for them to go to the proper people to lay in quantities of things; and that he waited on two ships, which he showed me, that had laid in little or nothing but biscuit-bread and ship beer; and that he had bought everything else almost for them. I asked him if there were any more ships that had separated themselves, as those had done? He told me yes; all the way up from the point light against Greenwich, to within the shores of Limehouse and Redriff, all the ships that could have room rid two and two in the middle of the stream, and that some of them had several families on board. I asked him if the distemper had not reached them? He said he believed it had not except two or three ships, whose people had not been so watchful as to keep the seamen from going on shore as others had been; and he said it was a very fine sight to see how the ships lay up the pool.
When he said he was going over to Greenwich, as soon as the tide began to come in, I asked him if he would let me go with him, and bring me back? for that I had a great mind to see how the ships were ranged, as he had told me. He told me if I would assure him, on th word of a Christian and of an honest man, that I had not the distemper, he would. I assured him that I had not, that it had pleased God to preserve me; that I lived in Whitechapel, but was too impatient of being so long within doors, and that I had ventured out so far for the refreshment of a little air; but that none in my house had so much as been touched with it.
“Well, sir," says he, “as your charity has been moved to pity me and my poor family, sure you cannot have so little pity left as to put yourself in my boat if you were not sound in health, which would be nothing less than killing me and ruining my whole family."
The poor man troubled me so inuch when he spoke of his family with such a sensible concern and in such an affectionate manner, that I could not satisfy myself at first to go at all. I told him I would lay aside my curiosity rather than make him uneasy; though I was sure, and very thankful for it, that I had no more distemper upon me than the freshest man in the world. Well, he would not have me put it off neither, but to let me see how confident he was that I was just to him, he now importuned me to go : so when the tide came up to his boat, I went in and he carried me to Greenwich. While he bought the things which he had