Recollections of John Pounds: Johnny Makes Arrangements by Reverend Henry Hawkes

In the evening of the following day, the Nephew called at my lodgings to arrange for the funeral. He wished it to be on Saturday afternoon; and we appointed three o’clock. And his desire was, that the grave should be as near where his Uncle used to sit in Chapel as could be.

John Pounds 1850

We therefore chose the spot just beyond the north-west corner of the Chapel; as it was near the north-west end of the gallery that his Uncle used sit; and where he was so constantly seen, – to the very last Sunday evening.
“Ah, Sir!” he said, with full heart: – “who’d ever have thought it? – Poor dear old Uncle! – that he was so near his end? – So happy, and hearty, – as he was – yesterday morning; – and here we are, – arranging to bury him. He got up yesterday before the gun fired; and lighted his fire, and busied himself
–      with getting nice hot breakfasts ready – for his poor sick neighbours; and was happy in taking them round to them. And he enjoyed his own breakfast heartily. His little scholars began to come in long before school-time; merrily wishing him – a Happy New Year! And he thanked them, fondly; and wished them the same; and kissed the little ones; and gathered them about the fire; and gave those a breakfast – that hadn’t any breakfast at home. And the shop was soon filled; and he was all life and joy among them; setting them their lessons.
And about ten o’clock, when he went out to Mr. Carter’s – with the boy Ashton; he started off in high spirits, and full of vigour; pleased to take the boy’s sum – and show them, and get something for his sore heel. Very soon after, the boy came running back in a fright, and said, Uncle had fallen down in a fit at Mr. Carter’s, and they thought he was dead; and were bringing him back in a fly. I went out – and met them – bringing him in the fly – quite dead.
He was sitting up in the fly – between George Martell and somebody else. – Oh! to see him! – My heart – sunk within me. When they lifted him out of the fly – and took him in among the children – such a scene! – I seem to recollect nothing else – what they did. A blank came over me. They say I fainted.
“When next – I seem to remember any thing, I was very faint; – and didn’t know – where I was; – or – what had happened. – All – seemed confused.
–      But – as I gradually came to, – I found myself – up in the bedroom; – and sitting in Uncles old arm-chair; – and a kind neighbour was doing all she could – to bring me round again. – I saw some friends – busy – about dear old Uncle’s bed: – and – the dead body – lying upon it. – Then – the reality came full upon me. – Uncle – was dead. – And I fell into a fit of crying – that I couldn’t stop.”
I told the Nephew, I should feel it my duty to preach a funeral sermon for his Uncle, next Sunday evening. “I am in the midst of a Course of Sunday­evening lectures; and the subject for next Sunday’s lecture was announced last Sunday. But that must now be postponed. Your Uncle was at Chapel, and heard it announced. How little did any of us think, that, – before the next Sunday, – he would be dead – and buried!”
The young man asked me, if I would take tea with him on Sunday afternoon.
I thanked him, and cordially accepted his invitation.
When we had completed the arrangements relative to the funeral, he seemed to feel it a comfort to sit and go on talking about his Uncle, and every thing connected with him. “Uncle’s poor cat,” he said’ “was noticed yesterday, sitting in the middle of the street, in front of the house; – as if taking no notice of any thing.”
“I saw it so; it was in the afternoon. She seemed quite unconscious of the cold; though so intense; and seemed not to notice anything that was passing.”
“She sat so till after the gun fired. And then I took her in. Poor thing!
–     as I lifted her up, it was like taking up a dead cat in my hands; she was so lifeless. As I took her in, I heard some persons who were passing say: – ‘Mr. Pounds’ poor cat!’ – in a tone of pity. – So lively before; taking an interest in every thing that was going on: – she now takes no interest in any thing. She walks about the house, as if without an object. She takes no food She does not settle herself down to sleep, as she used to do. She seems to find no place of rest anywhere. – She has been sitting again outside in the street, in front of the house, to-day; – for hours; – only walking slowly about a little, at times; but with no object’
“Others have spoken to me of it; – sitting among the snow and ice, in front of the house; – as if disconsolate. ‘His poor cat!’ – they say, with tender commiseration.”
“She’s the common talk of all the neighbour-hood: – ‘Mr. Pounds’ poor cat!’
–     Nobody disturbs her. Every body pities her. She seems to grieve: – as if she had nothing to live for. If we might say so of a cat.”
“I think we may.”
“Oh, how different from what she was on Christmas day! –
“On Christmas day, Sir, Uncle was in his glory! – To see dear old Uncle then! It was a bright day, you know, Sir.”
“It was; – a brilliant day!”
“Uncle was all his best! – Every thing looked bright and happy! He had all those of his scholars to dine with him, who were not likely to have any plum-pudding at home; – some, perhaps, – no dinner at all. First came a big piece of roast beef. And when the children had eaten heartily of that: – Uncle brought out his great Christmas plum-pudding! – And a general shout, and laugh of joy, burst forth from all the children, to welcome it. And he joyfully gave every one of them a good big piece.
While they were eating it, neighbours began to come in, to taste Uncle’s Christmas plum-pudding! And all afternoon, neighbour after neighbour kept on coming in, to have a taste of the plum-pudding! – and then going out, – to make room for others to come in, and have a taste! – The many that came! – It seemed as if they would never have done coming in! – And Uncle was so glad to welcome them! – He shook hands with every one of them; and blessed them. And they were all so pleased! And said, it was so good!”
“You’re cousin Miss Jamieson told me, it was always her privilege to make your Uncle’s Christmas plum-pudding.”
“Yes. He used to go out the day before, and buy all the things to make it of; and he took them to her; and she was sure to have it ready the next day for dinner.”
“It must have been a large plum-pudding, for so many to eat of it.”
“Yes!” the young man said emphatically, “And I never new it fail lasting out to the last comer.”
“How large was it?”
He looked about the room, for something to tell its size by. There was an old sofa in the room, with straight back and front, and square ends, a long way front from back; – large enough to have served occasionally as a bed; which probably it did, in case of emergency, in the war time; when Portsmouth was often crowded to overflowing. At each end of the sofa there was a large bolster, reaching from front to back, and thick in proportion. Suddenly fixing his eyes on one end of the sofa, he said with hearty emphasis: – “About two- thirds the size of that bolster!”
Then, with altered tone and countenance, – he said: “When his scholars had feasted enough, and were now amusing themselves with playthings that Uncle had in readiness for them; he stirred the fire, and put on more coals, and made it blaze up and look cheerful. And then he sat down in his old arm-chair; and his cat came brushing against him, pleased with everything! – And Uncle was so happy! – welcoming his neighbours, as they kept coming in, and wishing him – a merry Christmas! – And he looked up, – with a bright smiling face, – and said: – ‘I’m as happy as happy can be! – I haven’t a wish on earth unfulfilled! – And now, – if it please God – to take me – before I can no longer help myself – No!’ he said, very earnestly: – ‘I would not live so long – as to be a burden to any one. No! – when I can no longer do for myself; – I should like to die – like a bird dropping from his perch.’
“Oh, Sir! – it seems as if God had answered his prayer.”
“It does.”
He paused; – deeply moved. We both remained silent for a while. Then he said, with a tremulous voice: – “Yesterday was New Year’s Day; and I was to have a holiday; and was going out to dine with some friends of mine. And Uncle said to me, the day before: – “Johnny, you’re going to dine out tomorrow; I shall be alone; I think I’ll cook a nice dinner for myself for once!” And he laughed at the thought of cooking a nice dinner for himself. -‘I’ll go and buy me a pint of sprats, he said; ‘and I’ll cook them for my dinner tomorrow!’ – And he laughed again merrily at the thought. – Poor dear Uncle! Nobody ever knew him do such a thing before. He would cook nice dinners for me; for he used to say, I worked hard at my trade; and he liked to encourage honest industry. And he was continually cooking nice dinners for poor sick neighbours; – and taking them to them himself: – Oh!
–     so kindly, Sir! – So tenderly – he would talk to them! – They’ll miss him.”
–     And the young man wept.
“Yes,” I said; – “many, – many, will miss him.”
After a while, he went on: – “No, Sir: – for himself; as for Uncles cooking any thing, – it wasn’t to be called cooking. A crust of bread and cheese; – or a bit of cold meat; – any thing that was wholesome, – would do for Uncle. His eating – was of the very plainest. And he enjoyed it heartily; – with a thankful heart.
“Poor dear Uncle! – There are the sprats now, – on the shelf; – just as he left them.”