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DOROTHY my niece, who is a scholar, writes
this for me, and puts it into her fine English
as I tell it to her in my own salt-water way.
I am a fore-mast hand, an able seaman, I can
hand, reef, and steer, I can strop a block or
turn in a dead-eye; but my fingers are more
handy with the tar-pot than the ink-bottle.
Many a landsman who would rather ink his
hands than tar them, does not know what it
is to haul out a weather earring in a gale; I
do, so don't let anybody call me ignorant. I'm
afraid, too, that I know some other things
that are not known on land; for I do think
that if what you call the public had properly
known before this what I want to tell them
now, things wouldn't be exactly what they
are as this leaves me at present.

I fancy I catch somebody saying, what
don't the public know about them ? Sailors,
certainly, have had a great deal of attention
lately. Perhaps we don't understand it, and
so don't like it as we ought to do. I can't say,
I am sure. Members of Parliament have
gathered all sorts of statistics about us, and
we've been obliged to carry bits of paper with
our eyes, noses, and mouths, and our blue
anchors and ladies on our arms and chests
put down in them, and we are forced to keep
them, or to lose them at our peril, and otherwise,
also, we are legislated for more than
enough.  We have our own notions of things,
and we talk them over in the forecastle. So
it comes to pass that I and my shipmates
have agreed that we would try and get some of
our opinions outspoken somewhere in print,
especially about the forecastle itself. For
when we see the comfortable Sailors' Homes
built up for us ashore, where we spend on an
average only about two months in the year,
we think there must be many people who
don't know how we spend the other ten
months of the twelve, and what a need there
is of something more comfortable and decent
than is now provided for the Sailors' Homes
at sea.

I said two months, but I believe it to be
mostly not more than six weeks of the twelve-month
that a sailor spends ashore, and nearly
all the Acts of Parliament that go to make us
comfortable are intended for the good of us
during those six weeks; as for the other
forty-six, we are left in those pretty much at
the mercy of cargo-loving owners and blue
water skippers. A skipper in deep water is
commonly less polite and considerate than
a skipper in soundings or ashore. It is quite
true that the law has ordained how many
ounces of biscuit, beef, pease and lime juice
we shall get at sea, and has laid heavy
penalties on masters who neglect to furnish
the due supply of lime juice. For that much
we thank the honourable House of Commons
that it has attended a little to the commons
of the sailor, but it is our opinion in the
forecastle, as I may some day show if I can find
a way to talk these matters through and
overhaul the Merchant Seaman's Act, that
the advantages got out of new laws are ten
to the owners and the captain against one
to the man before the mast.

Let a man go aboard what merchant ship
he will, and after he has seen the cabins for
the officers and passengers, ask for a peep at
the accommodation that has been provided
for the sailors in it. My last voyage was in
the Hope, of Plymouth, a barque that carried
emigrants to Melbourne. They are all pretty
much alike, I was not worse lodged there than
aboard other vessels, but now do just look at
what our lodging was. Of course there was
the officer's home under the poop, with a
painted and carved front, and brass rods like
the outside of a caravan, all snug inside, well
lighted, with table, chairs, sofas, ingenious
lockers and books. The mizen mast that
rose through the farther end was disguised
with fine carving and painting. Doors led
from the cabin to the ofiicers' berths in little
state-rooms well lighted, carpeted, and
comfortable. We don't grudge our officers any
comfort, and we don't want any carving,
painting, or carpeting for ourselves. Let
gentlemen be gentlemen, and men be men,
but don't kennel the men like dogs. Well,
then, if we left the cabin and went down the
after-hatchway to the 'tween decks; there we
found the emigrants. They are badly enough
lodged in some vessels, but aboard the Hope
their passage money had been paid by
Government, and they were well looked after.
They occupied the whole length of the ship,
that was divided for them into three separate
homes; that to the fore for single men,
the after one for single women and the hospital,