Recollections of John Pounds: New Years Day by Reverend Henry Hawkes
The New Year 1839, opened with a glorious sun-rise; bright and clear. The frost was intense; but there was a dryness in the air which made it pleasant and refreshing. John Pounds was up long before the sun; cooking hot breakfasts; and taking them round to poor sufferers in back courts and alleys.
While he was out on his rounds, of beneficence; some of his little scholars began to come into his shop, – although it was still very early, – and crowded to the fire. When he came in, they all ran to him; exclaiming with delight, “A happy New Year, Mr. Pounds!” “Thank y’, dears! Same to you, an many on ’em!”
And he kissed them all. “Has y’had any breakfast?” “No, Mr. Pounds;” – several voices. “Mother’s none to give us.” “Well, here’s some fory’.” He had long had his own breakfast; but he quickly set out plentifully for them. And the hungry children set to eagerly. And the old man looked on with joy. He put fresh coals on the fire, and made it blaze up cheerfully; and they were all very happy.
Before nine o’clock, his little shop was filled with scholars; and he began setting them their lessons. “Dick, that slate o’ yours?” “Here ‘tis, Mr. Pounds.” And he set the boy a sum. “Do that; – quick lad; – an no blunders, mind.” “I’se try, Mr. Pounds.” “That’s it, my lad! Try, an do your best. That’s all I wants of you.
“Jenny, how’s mother?” “Very bad, Mr. Pounds.” “Sorry, for that, Jenny. Run and tell her, I’se bring her some hot dinner at twelve.” “Yes, Mr. Pounds; and thank y’.” “Mind you comes back again to school, Jenny.” “Yes, Mr. Pounds.” And she ran off, to tell her mother the good news; and was soon back again; and gave Mr. Pounds a look – and a smile, as she came in. “I sees ye, Jenny! – Good lass! – Here larn these pretty verses. I know you’s like ’em; they’s about the little busy bee!” “Yes, Mr. Pounds;” – with a happy springing voice, as he gave her a torn leaf with the verses on. “An you’s a busy bee, Jenny!” “Yes, Mr. Pounds!” And she stood beside the fire, learning her verses.
“Bill, my lad, come and read the first chapter of Genesis: – In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” And a stoutish boy came and read that favourite chapter of his dear old master’s with a clear voice, and as if he felt that his master was enjoying it. All the children were listening; – very still; and pleased.
About ten o’ clock the old man rose from his bench, and said: – “Here, Ashton, you come along wi’ me; an we’s go to Mr. Carter’s, an they’s kindly gie you something to put on your bad heel; an I’se show ’em this sum o’
yours;” taking up the boys slate. “Now, you’s all be good while I’se a-way.” “Yes, Mr. Pounds!” – all at once, – gaily! – looking up at him with their bright loving faces. “I’se soon be back again.” And he strode away with his accustomed alacrity.
They were soon in High Street; and at Mr. Carter’s door. The slate was taken in, while the old cobbler remained standing in the hall. Almost immediately after, a noise was heard – as of someone falling down in the hall. Mr. Carter came out, and saw the old man stretched on the floor, and apparently endeavouring to get up, but not succeeding. “Stretch your leg out, and then you can get up;” – Mr. Carter said; – supposing he had accidentally slipped down, and was not exerting himself sufficiently, to get up again. “I can’t, Sir;” – the old man said feebly, – and groaning. Mr. Carter then saw it was something serious.
They lifted him up, and placed him in a chair. Mr. Carter went and brought a glass of wine. The old man took a little of it. Miss Carter put a smelling bottle to his nose; – and he revived a little: – but only for a moment. The old man said: “I’m sorry this has happened here.” “Say nothing of that;” Mr. Carter said kindly. Just then, Mr. Martell, the surgeon, happened to be passing on the other side of the street. Mr. Carter, seeing him, said to one of the servants, “There’s Martell; call him in.”
“As soon as I saw him,” Mr. Martell said; – telling me of it after: – “I saw the old man was dying. In ten minutes – he was dead.
“Now came the question; – how the body was to be removed from the house, without disturbing the neighbourhood. I went and fetched a fly; and
brought one of my pupils in it; – L—- ; — you know him.” “Yes.” “From
the old man’s extreme deformity, and stiffened joints, in consequence of his fall into the dry dock when a boy, we could only place him in the fly – in a
sitting posture. So I told L—— to get into the fly first, and take his seat in
the farther corner. He didn’t like it; but he couldn’t help that. There was no time to choose. Then we lifted the poor old man in, and placed him on the seat, – as if he was sitting beside him. Then I got in, and took my place on this side; and shut the door. And so – we drove quietly away: – propping the body up between us. Anyone looking into the fly, as we passed along to the old man’s shop, wouldn’t suppose he was dead; – seeing him sitting upright between us.
“Meanwhile, the boy had run back to the scholars terrified; and told them, that Mr. Pounds had fallen down at Mr. Carter’s; and they thought he was in a fit, or else dead; and they were bringing him home in a fly.”
“The Nephew, who was in the house at the time, hearing this, came out and met us. Poor fellow! – It was a terrible blow for him. He fainted.
“When we came to the old man’s shop, and lifted him out of the fly, – and carried the dead body in among the children: – no words can describe
People came out of their houses – crowding towards us – all along the street. Poor creatures came pouring out from the back courts and alleys. It was one scene of excitement and loud lamentation. All had lost a Friend.
“We carried the body up-stairs, and laid him on his bed. And I went to tell Lemmon what had happened. Poor Lemmon! – You’d have thought – his heart was broken. They had been friends from childhood. They were playfellows together as little children.”
A Coroners inquest was held in the afternoon. The Jury gave it as their verdict, that the death was caused by “an affection of the heart.”