Mr. Pipps Has an Idea
This little scene takes place in the late afternoon of the
upon which the Indefatigable trounced several other ships in the
best-decorated stern cabin competition. See 'Mr. Pipps Saves the
Day' in the archive if you need a refresher course.
"You're a lucky pig, that's wot you are mate," said
scratching Thomas between his shoulder blades. Thomas grunted in
gratitude, his eyes half closed. "You wos 'sposed to be lunch for
all them nobs wot came aboard today, you know that doncha?"
"You mustn't talk to him about that!" said a young and extremely
indignant voice behind the seaman.
"Sorry Mr. P." said Oldroyd cheerfully "didn't mean to upset
your porker. We wos just 'avin a chat."
"Really? What did he say?" asked Mr. Pipps, much intrigued.
"Well Sir, 'e says 'as 'ow 'e's lookin' forward to goin'
to liv wiv your Ma. You might say 'e's as 'appy as a pig in
straw!" chuckled Oldroyd, wishing that Matty and Styles were around to
be impressed by his joke.
"Why might I say that?" asked Mr. Pipps, failing utterly to
appreciate the jest as he took several weevils-in-blankets from his
breeches pocket and fed them to Thomas.
"Eh? Oh, well Sir 'cos 'e's got 'imself a cushy berth ain't
he? I mean 'e'll be stowed in some nice field and I expect it'll
'ave a wood alongside where 'e can go rootin' for acorns."
"Mama says he may have his own hut and a piece of old rug to lie
on," said Mr. Pipps offering Thomas a Cox's orange pippin, one of
a bagful that Mrs. Pipps had brought from the orchard at Saxamunny
"There you are then Sir! "E'll be as 'appy as a pig in
clover!" said Oldroyd with a grin. It really was a pity that his
mates were too busy lowering Lady Horse Face Dalrymple into one of the
Indy's shore boats to hear his second funny remark of the day.
"No, he's going to live in a hut, A HUT, Oldroyd," said Mr. Pipps
with all the patience that he usually reserved for explaining things to
Oldroyd sighed. Officers were officers, pint-sized or not.
"Do you like pigs very much?" asked Mr. Pipps as he polished an
apple on his disgracefully grubby shirtfront.
"Luv 'em Sir, luv 'em," answered Oldroyd with enthusiasm.
"But not to eat!" whispered Mr. Pipps sternly through a mouthful of
"Bless you no Sir!" lied the seaman, who could recognize
disapproval when he heard it. "I always give all my salt pork to,
"No, no Sir 'e never touches it neither," said Oldroyd crossing
his fingers behind his back.
"Never passes 'is lips Sir," lied Oldroyd stoutly. "We all
gives it to some of the other coves. Lubbers they are, all of 'em. I
grew up 'wiv pigs see. Some of my best mates were pigs when I wos a
"What were their names?" asked Mr. Pipps seating himself on a coil
of rope and holding out his bag of apples. He could see his adored Mama
up on the quarterdeck talking to Captain Pellew. He could see that his
Commander was inching slowly backwards and that Mrs. Pipps was jabbing
him in the lapels whenever she said something important.
"No thank you Sir," said Oldroyd declining an apple, "and you
want to lay off them, beggin' your pardon. Wicked stuff fruit is. Does
'orrible things to your insides. Well now, there wos Spot, Bess, Big
Ears, Pinky. Blackie, Scamp, 'Orace and Julian. There wos lots more
too but them wos me best ones like."
"Did you live on a farm?" asked Mr. Pipps biting into another
apple. He had it on very good authority (from his Mama no less) that
apples were perfectly safe for one's insides, when ripe.
"No Sir, my old Dad wos a butcher."
Mr. Pipps was taken aback and dropped his apple. Thomas looked
distinctly uncomfortable for a moment and then cast longing eyes at the
"He didn't, I mean he didn't..?" gasped Mr. Pipps in horror.
"All the time," said Oldroyd sadly "just as I'd get pally wiv
one 'em I'd come down in the morning, run across the yard to see
'ow they wos doin' and there they wos, gone."
"Were you very sad?" asked Mr. Pipps laying a sympathetic, but
somewhat grimy, hand on the seaman's arm.
"I used to cry my eyes out," admitted Oldroyd "course, I wasn't
much bigger than you then."
"Would you like to borrow my mouse Jeremy?" said Mr. Pipps kindly,
"he could sleep in your hammock." As the possible consequences of
his generosity dawned on him he added, "but only for one night."
"No thank you sir," said Oldroyd hastily, "that's very 'ansom
of you but, er, I wouldn't want 'im to get squashed."
"All right," said Mr. Pipps, evidently much relieved. His face grew
solemn. "Did you ever manage to save any of the pigs?" he asked.
"Yes Sir. That's 'ow I ended up at sea. When I wos about nine we
'ad two prime pigs come to the yard behind me father's shop.
Berkshires they wos. I called 'em Orace and Julian. Friendly they wos,
and as clever as anything. Always knew I was coming to see 'em before
I got out the door. Well, I couldn't let'em get, you know," he
drew his finger across the front of his throat, "so I come down stairs
late one night and let'em out.
"You did?" exclaimed Mr. Pipps, his eyes glowing with approval,
"Thank you Sir," said Oldroyd. "They wos clever like I said and
they followed me down the street and out of town as quiet as mice. When
we got to 'Amstead 'Eath I took 'em into the woods and told 'em
to keep mum."
"And did they?" said Mr. Pipps enthralled
"I 'ope so. Me old man found out wot I done the next day so I 'ad
run away to sea."
"Was he very cross?" breathed Mr. Pipps.
"Swore he'd have me liver and lights and turn 'em into pies,"
"Oh!" said Mr. Pipps indistinctly as he chewed his third apple.
Oldroyd sighed as he began scratching Thomas behind the ears. Thomas
sighed even louder. "A nice little place of me own wiv a few pigs
would be just the job."
"Do pigs cost a lot?" asked Mr. Pipps. His Mama would not tell him
how much she was going to pay Captain Pellew for Thomas.
"More than I've got Sir," said Oldroyd gloomily.
"But don't you get paid?" said Mr. Pipps, "Captain Pellew gives
me my allowance every week you know."
"Oh I gets paid Sir," said Oldroyd "but I spends it all don't
"What on?" asked Mr. Pipps whose own purchases ashore included a
wide variety of sweetmeats, and items capable of producing a
considerable amount of noise.
"Oh you know Sir," replied Oldroyd. It was obvious from his
expression that Mr. Pipps didn't know and the seaman felt obliged to
flounder on. "I likes a beer and a, well a bit of the old
"Mama says he's very well thank you," said Mr. Pipps politely.
Oldroyd could think of no useful reply to that and a silence fell as he
scratched Thomas on the snout. Mr. Pipps chewed thoughtfully on his
apple for several minutes his wide eyes swiveling between his porcine
friend and the quarterdeck and back again.
"I 'spect my Mama will need someone to help her when she takes
Thomas back to England," he mused. "Pigs can't climb in and out of
boats very well and they don't know how to go to the heads."
"It stands to reason Sir" agreed Oldroyd earnestly, "your Lady Ma
wouldn't want to 'ave nuffink to do wiv all that."
A far away look came into Mr. Pipps eyes, and was followed shortly
after by a more determined one. "Would you like to help her?" he
"I dunno about that," said Oldroyd shaking his head.
"It's very nice at our house," said Mr. Pipps persuasively,
"There's lots of room to play,"
"Big, is it Sir?" said Oldroyd.
"Oh yes," nodded Mr. Pipps.
"I suppose you 'ave lots of servants then?"
"Yes lots," agreed Mr. Pipps.
"Them big 'ouses must take a bit of lookin' after, lots of floors
to 'olystone and swab," observed Oldroyd, his brow creased with
"Well I think Mama has a lot of maids to do all that sort of
thing," supplied Mr. Pipps.
"Um, well there's Hetty and Dorcas. They don't like mice. And
Mary, she always gives me apple tarts without cook knowing. Then
there's Molly and Harriet and Lucy. Lucy's good at playing
conkers, and she can throw a cricket ball a long way. Maisie and Nettie
look after the ducks and chickens. They gave me a dead hedgehog once.
"I think you're right about me needin' to go wiv your Ma and
'elp out," said Oldroyd with great conviction, "do you think
you can swing it Sir?"
"Swing what?" said Mr. Pipps his brow creasing with puzzlement.
"I mean the Captains' not just goin' to up and let me go is
"I think he will if Mama asks him," said Mr. Pipps with a
confidence born of experience, "I'll go and see her now." He
skipped blithely away pausing only to toss an apple core over the side.
From the resulting torrent of bad language it seemed likely that it had
landed on the head of a passing boatman.
"Did you 'ear that Thomas me old mate," whispered Oldroyd in
undisguised delight. "Maids! Lots of 'em! I tell you wot me old chum
we're both goin' to be in clover soon. Wait 'til I tell old Matty
and Styles! It's Fiddler's Green for us!"