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Bill Thayer

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The Barber's Shop

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Life in a Man-of‑War

a Fore‑top-man

published by
Houghton Mifflin Company
Boston and New York

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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The Lost Favourite
This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

 p146  The Shabby Reception, or Jacko Discarded

List! shipmates, list! I'll tell to you

A joke, tho' comical yet true,

For lying ain't my bent;

Which shows as plain as mid‑day sun

That monkeys, when imposed upon,

Will give their feelings vent.

It was September, 'Twenty-eight,

I really believe that was the date,

I can't exactly say:

For lately my memory, I find,

Has got so bad I scarce can mind

Which was last banyan day.

But curse the date — 'twas in September,

That every one can well remember,

We in Puna lay moored;

The awnings were fore and aft hauled out

That every tar might lounge about,

From the hot sun secured.

Puna is but a wretched spot,

Where oysters, guanas, can be got,

Besides some savoury fruit;

But still it is a paltry hole,

Surrounded too by many a shoal, —

My taste it does not suit.

Our officers they could not find

Amusement there to please their mind,

So up to Guayaquil

Repaired our captain, commodore,

Besides of reefers half a score,

To have of mirth their fill.

What kind of place 'tis, don't ask me,

For I have never been there to see;

But what I've heard them tell,

 p147  When they returned, 'bout the low price

Of hats, grass hammocks, melons nice,

They must have liked it well.

Some of our tars, too, had a run,

And joined in all the vulgar fun

Which Neptune's sons delight in —

As dancing with the Cyprians fair,

And swilling steam to banish care,

With a slight dash of fighting.

But to our tale: amongst each notion

Brought down by our hard sons of ocean,

And they were not a few,

long-tailed, chattering monkey came,

A fellow, anything but tame,

Popped in amongst the crew.

The reason I can't exactly tell,

But monkeys and rats agree quite well: —

And on that self-same night

When Jacko he made his debut

On the gun‑deck amongst the crew,

They hailed him with delight.

And the next morn when they "turned out,"

The talk in every group about

Was of the monkey's fame;

How his wild antics, day by day,

Would lightly make time pass away, —

They lauded high his name.

But alas! the Fates did not ordain

That Jacko should on board remain,

For ere the breakfast hour

Our first lieutenant's falcon eye

Did our poor chattering favourite spy, —

His brow did quickly lower.

His mandate soon was heard around,

The monkey trembled at the sound,

On shore he quick must go;

Each tar looked quite dejected now,

And sorrow dampened every brow,

But who would dare say "no?"

 p148  "Well, well!" cried Jacko, sobbing low,

"I little thought they'd serve me so,

When I formed the resolution

Of leaving behind my friends up‑town,

And coming with jocund spirits down

To join the Constitution.

"I heard of her fame when I was young —

Her deeds were praised by every tongue;

And oftentimes I sighed,

That ere to this world I'd bid adieu,

I might once chance to have a view

Of her — Columbia's pride.

"And when I saw her tars on shore,

My heart yearned towards her then the more,

I struck a bargain quick, —

And left my every thing behind,

But little thinking in my mind

They'd serve me this sad trick.

"I thought I'd have a glorious chance

My sailor knowledge to advance;

But alas! 'tis all in vain;

For I must leave this sturdy frigate,

My disappointment how they'll rig it,

When I join my friends again.

"So fare you well, you sons of ocean,

You can't imagine what emotion

Fills my poor heart just now;

But though I'm started off this fashion,

Don't, my dear friends, fly in a passion,

'Twould only raise a row.

"You know, yourselves, the commodore

Knows nothing 'bout my going ashore;

Hold on — he'll soon be here.

And I, to some folks' damn'd confusion,

On board the frigate Constitution

Will then once more appear.

"Won't that be one great satisfaction

For this low, spiteful, shabby action;

The thought most makes me grin —

 p149  And when again on board I skip,

The strut I'll take about the ship,

I'm sure will be a sin.

"Officers, sailors, or marines,

They then can't do me even beans;

Whilst I've the commodore

To stand my friend — I wonder who,

Amongst the officers or crew,

Dare then send me ashore?

"No, no, — I reckon some of those

Who now at me turn up their nose

Will then be mighty civil,

And try my friendship to regain;

But all their talk will be in vain,

I'll pitch 'em to the devil.

"But here's the boat — adieu! adieu!

I can't stay longer now with you,

I've time to say no more."

And in the boat he quickly hied,

And hundreds flocked to the ship's side

To see him reach the shore.

But mark the upshot — Jack was right —

The commodore arrived next night,

Enquired for his baboon;

And when they found 'twas really his,

How disappointment stamped each phiz —

They quickly changed their tune.

My tale is done in few words more —

A boat was quickly sent ashore,

Jack was brought off that night;

And as he stepped on board the ship,

He nimbly o'er the decks did skip.

And grinned with fair delight.

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Page updated: 1 Sep 21