But rapid as was my career, I was not fated to continue in it long. Like the shot propelled from the mouth of the cannon, which, in its extreme velocity, is turned from the direction which has been given it by glancing along the weakest substance, so was my course of life changed from its direction by meeting with a woman.
My father had a good customer; he had shaved him every morning for years, had extracted every tooth in his head, and was now winding up his long account by bleeding him daily, under the direction of an ignorant apothecary. I was often at the house—not to bleed him, for my father either thought him too valuable, or was too grateful for past favours to trust him in my hands;—but I held the basin, procured water, and arranged the bandages. He had a daughter, a lovely girl, whom I adored in secret; but her rank in life was too far above mine to allow me to express my feelings. I was then a handsome young man, although Time has since exerted his utmost, through jealousy, to make me appear almost as old and ill-favoured as himself. The young lady took a fancy to me, complained of the toothache, and asked for remedies. I offered to extract the tooth; but either having heard of my reputation, or not wishing to remove the excuse for our interviews, or, what is still more probable, having no toothache whatever, she would not consent.
The death of her mother, which had taken place when she was a child, had left her without guidance,—and the helpless situation of her father, without protection. Naturally of a warm temperament, and yielding to the impulse of her feelings, she carried on an intimacy which could only end in her disgrace; and, at the expiration of a year, her situation could no longer be concealed. I was now in a dilemma. She had two brothers in the army, who were returning home, and I dreaded their vengeance. I loved her very much, but I loved myself more; so, one evening, I packed up all that I could call my own, and all that I could lay my hands on belonging to my honoured parent, and shipped on board a Genoese vessel, which was then standing out of the harbour. She was a large ship, mounting twelve long guns, with a complement of sixty men; being what is termed in European countries a “letter of marque.” This implies that she fights her way without convoy, capturing any of the enemy’s vessels she may happen to fall in with, who are not strong enough to resist her. We had cleared out for Genoa with a cargo of lead, which lay at the bottom of the hold, and which merely served for ballast.
I soon found out, by the conversation of the crew, that we were not to proceed to Genoa direct; in fact, your highness, she was a pirate, manned by a most desperate set of men. As soon as my qualifications were made known, I had the honour to remove the beards of sixty of the greatest villains that ever were permitted to exist, receiving nothing but blows and curses for my trouble. I certainly improved very much in