The Brick Moon and Other Stories
Crusoe In New York
I was born in the year 1842, in the city of New York, of a good family, though not of that
country, my father being a foreigner of Bremen, who settled first in England. He got a
good estate by merchandise, and afterward lived at New York. But first he had married
my mother, whose relations were named Robinson, a very good family in her country--
and from them I was named.
My father died before I can remember--at least, I believe so. For, although I sometimes
figure to myself a grave, elderly man, thickset and wearing a broad- brimmed hat,
holding me between his knees and advising me seriously, I cannot say really whether this
were my father or no; or, rather, whether this is really some one I remember or no. For
my mother, with whom I have lived alone much of my life, as the reader will see, has
talked to me of my father so much, and has described him to me so faithfully, that I
cannot tell but it is her description of him that I recollect so easily. And so, as I say, I
cannot tell whether I remember him or no.
He never lost his German notions, and perhaps they gained in England some new force as
to the way in which boys should be bred. At least, for myself, I know that he left to my
mother strict charge that I should be bound 'prentice to a carpenter as soon as I was
turned of fourteen. I have often heard her say that this was the last thing he spoke to her
of when he was dying; and with the tears in her eyes, she promised him it should be so.
And though it cost her a world of trouble--so changed were times and customs--to find an
old-fashioned master who would take me for an apprentice, she was as good as her word.
I should like to tell the story of my apprenticeship, if I supposed the reader cared as much
about it as I do; but I must rather come to that part of my life which is remarkable, than
hold to that which is more like the life of many other boys. My father's property was lost
or was wasted, I know not how, so that my poor mother had but a hard time of it; and
when I was just turned of twenty-one and was free of my apprenticeship, she had but
little to live upon but what I could bring home, and what she could earn by her needle.
This was no grief to me, for I was fond of my trade, and I had learned it well. My old
master was fond of me, and would trust me with work of a good deal of responsibility. I
neither drank nor smoked, nor was I over-fond of the amusements which took up a good
deal of the time of my fellow-workmen. I was most pleased when, on pay-day, I could
carry home to my mother ten, fifteen, or even twenty dollars--could throw it into her lap,
and kiss her and make her kiss me.
"Here is the oil for the lamp, my darling," I would say; or, "Here is the grease for the
wheels"; or, "Now you must give me white sugar twice a day." She was a good manager,
and she made both ends meet very well.