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´╗┐Title: My Doggie and I
Author: Ballantyne, R. M. (Robert Michael), 1825-1894
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "My Doggie and I" ***

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MY DOGGIE AND I, BY R.M. BALLANTYNE.



CHAPTER ONE.

EXPLAINS ITSELF.

I possess a doggie--not a dog, observe, but a doggie.  If he had been a
dog I would not have presumed to intrude him on your notice.  A dog is
all very well in his way--one of the noblest of animals, I admit, and
pre-eminently fitted to be the companion of man, for he has an
affectionate nature, which man demands, and a forgiving disposition,
which man needs--but a dog, with all his noble qualities, is not to be
compared to a doggie.

My doggie is unquestionably the most charming, and, in every way,
delightful doggie that ever was born.  My sister has a baby, about which
she raves in somewhat similar terms, but of course that is ridiculous,
for her baby differs in no particular from ordinary babies, except,
perhaps, in the matter of violent weeping, of which it is fond; whereas
my doggie is unique, a perfectly beautiful and singular specimen of--of
well, I won't say what, because my friends usually laugh at me when I
say it, and I don't like to be laughed at.

Freely admit that you don't at once perceive the finer qualities, either
mental or physical, of my doggie, partly owing to the circumstance that
he is shapeless and hairy.  The former quality is not prepossessing,
while the latter tends to veil the amiable expression of his countenance
and the lustre of his speaking eyes.  But as you come to know him he
grows upon you; your feelings are touched, your affections stirred, and
your love is finally evoked.  As he resembles a door-mat, or rather a
scrap of very ragged door-mat, and has an amiable spirit, I have called
him "Dumps."  I should not be surprised if you did not perceive any
connection here.  You are not the first who has failed to see it; I
never saw it myself.

When I first met Dumps he was scurrying towards me along a sequestered
country lane.  It was in the Dog Days.  Dust lay thick on the road; the
creature's legs were remarkably short though active, and his hair being
long he swept up the dust in clouds as he ran.  He was yelping, and I
observed that one or two stones appeared to be racing with, or after,
him.  The voice of an angry man also seemed to chase him, but the owner
of the voice was at the moment concealed by a turn in the lane, which
was bordered by high stone-walls.

Hydrophobia, of course, flashed into my mind.  I grasped my stick and
drew close to the wall.  The hairy whirlwind, if I may so call it, came
wildly on, but instead of passing me, or snapping at my legs as I had
expected, it stopped and crawled towards me in a piteous; supplicating
manner that at once disarmed me.  If the creature had lain still, I
should have been unable to distinguish its head from its tail; but as
one end of him whined, and the other wagged, I had no difficulty.

Stooping down with caution, I patted the end that whined, whereupon the
end that wagged became violently demonstrative.  Just then the owner of
the voice came round the corner.  He was a big, rough fellow, in ragged
garments, and armed with a thick stick, which he seemed about to fling
at the little dog, when I checked him with a shout--

"You'd better not, my man, unless you want your own head broken!"

You see I am a pretty well-sized man myself, and, as I felt confidence
in my strength, my stick, and the goodness of my cause, I was bold.

"What d'you mean by ill-treating the little dog?"  I demanded sternly,
as I stepped up to the man.

"A cove may do as he likes with his own, mayn't he?" answered the man,
with a sulky scowl.

"A `cove' may do nothing of the sort," said I indignantly, for cruelty
to dumb animals always has the effect of inclining me to fight, though I
am naturally of a peaceable disposition.  "There is an Act of
Parliament," I continued, "which goes by the honoured name of Martin,
and if you venture to infringe that Act I'll have you taken up and
prosecuted."

While I was speaking I observed a peculiar leer on the man's face, which
I could not account for.  He appeared, however, to have been affected by
my threats, for he ceased to scowl, and assumed a deferential air as he
replied, "Vell, sir, it do seem raither 'ard that a cove should be
blowed up for kindness."

"Kindness!"  I exclaimed, in surprise.

"Ay, kindness, sir.  That there hanimal loves me, it do, like a brother,
an the love is mootooal.  Ve've lived together now--off an' on--for the
matter o' six months.  Vell, I gits employment in a factory about
fifteen miles from here, in which no dogs is allowed.  In coorse, I
can't throw up my sitivation, sir, can I?  Neither can my doggie give up
his master wot he's so fond of, so I'm obleeged to leave 'im in charge
of a friend, with stric' orders to keep 'im locked up till I'm fairly
gone.  Vell, off I goes, but he manages to escape, an' runs arter me.
Now, wot can a feller do but drive 'im 'ome with sticks an' stones,
though it do go to my 'eart to do it? but if he goes to the factory he's
sure to be shot, or scragged, or drownded, or somethink; so you see,
sir, it's out o' pure kindness I'm a peltin' of 'im."

Confess that I felt somewhat doubtful of the truth of this story; but,
in order to prevent any expression of my face betraying me, I stooped
and patted the dog while the man spoke.  It received my attentions with
evident delight.  A thought suddenly flashed on me:--

"Will you sell your little dog?"  I asked.

"Vy, sir," he replied, with some hesitation, "I don't quite like to do
that.  He's such a pure breed, and--and he's so fond o' me."

"But have you not told me that you are obliged to part with him?"

I thought the man looked puzzled for a moment, but only for a moment.
Turning to me with a bland smile, he said, "Ah, sir I that's just where
it is.  I am obleeged to part with him, but I ain't obleeged to sell
him.  If I on'y part with 'im, my friend keeps 'im for me, and we may
meet again, but if I sell 'im, he's gone for ever!  Don't you see?
Hows'ever, if you wants 'im wery bad, I'll do it on one consideration."

"And that is?"

"That you'll be good to 'im."

I began to think I had misjudged the man.  "What's his name?"  I asked.

Again for one moment there was that strange, puzzled look in the man's
face, but it passed, and he turned with another of his bland smiles.

"His name, sir?  Ah, his name?  He ain't got no name, sir!"

"No name!"  I exclaimed, in surprise.

"No, sir; I object to givin' dogs names on principle.  It's too much
like treatin' them as if they wos Christians; and, you know, they
couldn't be Christians if they wanted to ever so much.  Besides, wotever
name you gives 'em, there must be so many other dogs with the same name,
that you stand a chance o' the wrong dog comin' to 'e ven you calls."

"That's a strange reason.  How then do you call him to you?"

"Vy, w'en I wants 'im I shouts `Hi,' or `Hallo,' or I vistles."

"Indeed," said I, somewhat amused by the humour of the fellow; "and what
do you ask for him?"

"Fi' pun ten, an' he's dirt cheap at that," was the quick reply.

"Come, come, my man, you know the dog is not worth that."

"Not worth it, sir!" he replied, with an injured look; "I tell you he's
cheap at that.  Look at his breedin', and then think of his affectionate
natur'.  Is the affections to count for nuffin'?"

Admitted that the affections were worth money, though it was generally
understood that they could not be purchased, but still objected to the
price, until the man said in a confidential tone--

"Vell, come, sir, since you do express such a deal o' love for 'im, and
promise to be so good to 'im, I'll make a sacrifice and let you 'ave 'im
for three pun ten--come!"

Gave in, and walked off, with my purchase leaping joyfully at my heels.

The man chuckled a good deal after receiving the money, but I took no
notice of that at the time, though I thought a good deal about it
afterwards.

Ah! little did I think, as Dumps and I walked home that day, of the
depth of the attachment that was to spring up between us, the varied
experiences of life we were destined to have together, and the important
influence he was to exercise on my career.

Forgot to mention that my name is Mellon--John Mellon.  Dumps knows my
name as well as he knows his own.

On reaching home, Dumps displayed an evidence of good breeding, which
convinced me that he could not have spent all his puppyhood in company
with the man from whom I had bought him.  He wiped his feet on the
door-mat with great vigour before entering my house, and also refused to
pass in until I led the way.

"Now, Dumps," said I, seating myself on the sofa in my solitary room (I
was a bachelor at the time--a medical student, just on the point of
completing my course), "come here, and let us have a talk."

To my surprise, the doggie came promptly forward, sat down on his
hind-legs, and looked up into my face.  I was touched by this display of
ready confidence.  A confiding nature has always been to me powerfully
attractive, whether in child, cat, or dog.  I brushed the shaggy hair
from his face in order to see his eyes.  They were moist, and intensely
black.  So was the point of his nose.

"You seem to be an affectionate doggie, Dumps."

A portion of hair--scarce worthy the name of tail--wagged as I spoke,
and he attempted to lick my fingers, but I prevented this by patting his
head.  I have an unconquerable aversion to licking.  Perhaps having
received more than an average allowance, in another sense, at school,
may account for my dislike to it--even from a dog!

"Now, Dumps," I continued, "you and I are to be good friends.  I've
bought you--for a pretty large sum too, let me tell you--from a man who,
I am quite sure, treated you ill, and I intend to show you what good
treatment is; but there are two things I mean to insist on, and it is
well that we should understand each other at the outset of our united
career.  You must never bark at my friends--not even at my enemies--when
they come to see me, and you must not beg at meals.  D'you understand?"

The way in which that shaggy creature cocked its ears and turned its
head from side to side slowly, and gazed with its lustrous eyes while I
was speaking, went far to convince me it really did understand what I
said.  Of course it only wagged its rear tuft of hair in reply, and
whimpered slightly.

Refer to its rear tuft advisedly, because, at a short distance, my
doggie, when in repose, resembled an elongated and shapeless mass; but,
when roused by a call or otherwise, three tufts of hair instantly sprang
up--two at one end, and one at the other end--indicating his ears and
tail.  It was only by these signs that I could ascertain at any time his
exact position.

I was about to continue my remarks to Dumps when the door opened and my
landlady appeared bearing the dinner tray.

"Oh!  I beg parding, sir," she said, drawing back, "I didn't 'ear your
voice, sir, till the door was open, an' I thought you was alone, but I
can come back a--"

"Come in, Mrs Miff.  There is nobody here but my little dog--one that I
have just bought, a rather shaggy terrier--what do you think of him?"

"Do 'e bite, sir?" inquired Mrs Miff, in some anxiety, as she passed
round the table at a respectful distance from Dumps.

"I think not.  He seems an amiable creature," said I, patting his head.
"Do you ever bite, Dumps?"

"Well, sir, I never feel quite easy," rejoined Mrs Miff in a doubtful
tone, as she laid my cloth, with, as it were, one eye ever on the alert:
"you never knows w'en these 'airy creatures is goin' to fly at you.  If
you could see their heyes you might 'ave a guess what they was a
thinkin' of; an' then it is so orkard not knowin' w'ich end of the 'airy
bundle is the bitin' end, you can't help bein' nervish a little."

Having finished laying the cloth, Mrs Miff backed out of the room after
the manner of attendants on royalty, overturning two chairs with her
skirts as she went, and showing her full front to the enemy.  But the
enemy gave no sign, good or bad.  All the tufts were down flat, and he
stood motionless while Mrs Miff retreated.

"Dumps, what do you think of Mrs Miff?"

The doggie ran to me at once, and we engaged in a little further
conversation until my landlady returned with the viands.  To my surprise
Dumps at once walked sedately to the hearth-rug, and lay down thereon,
with his chin on his paws--at least I judged so from the attitude, for I
could see neither chin nor paws.

This act I regarded as another evidence of good breeding.  He was not a
beggar, and, therefore, could not have spent his childhood with the man
from whom I had bought him.

"I wish you could speak, Dumps," said I, laying down my knife and fork,
when about half finished, and looking towards the hearth-rug.

One end of him rose a little, the other end wagged gently, but as I made
no further remark, both ends subsided.

"Now, Dumps," said I, finishing my meal with a draught of water, which
is my favourite beverage, "you must not suppose that you have got a
greedy master; though I don't allow begging.  There, sir, is your
corner, where you shall always have the remnants of my dinner--come."

The dog did not move until I said, "come."  Then, with a quick rush he
made for the plate, and very soon cleared it.

"Well, you have been well trained," said I, regarding him with interest;
"such conduct is neither the result of instinct nor accident, and sure
am I, the more I think of it, that the sulky fellow who sold you to me
was not your tutor; but, as you can't speak, I shall never find out your
history, so, Dumps, I'll dismiss the subject."

Saying this, I sat down to the newspaper with which I invariably solaced
myself for half an hour after dinner, before going out on my afternoon
rounds.

This was the manner in which my doggie and I began our acquaintance, and
I have been thus particular in recounting the details, because they bear
in a special manner on some of the most important events of my life.

Being, as already mentioned, a medical student, and having almost
completed my course of study, I had undertaken to visit in one of the
poorest districts in London--in the neighbourhood of Whitechapel; partly
for the purpose of gaining experience in my profession, and partly for
the sake of carrying the Word of Life--the knowledge of the Saviour--
into some of the many homes where moral as well as physical disease is
rife.

Leanings and inclinations are inherited not less than bodily
peculiarities.  My father had a particular tenderness for poor old women
of the lowest class.  So have I.  When I see a bowed, aged, wrinkled,
white-haired, feeble woman in rags and dirt, a gush of tender pity
almost irresistibly inclines me to go and pat her head, sit down beside
her, comfort her, and give her money.  It matters not what her
antecedents may have been.  Worthy or unworthy, there she stands now,
with age, helplessness, and a hopeless temporal future, pleading more
eloquently in her behalf than could the tongue of man or angel.  True,
the same plea is equally applicable to poor old men, but, reader, I
write not at present of principles so much as of feelings.  My weakness
is old women!

Accordingly, on my professional visiting list--I had at that time a
considerable number of these.  One of them, who was uncommonly small,
unusually miserable, and pathetically feeble, lay heavy on my spirit
just then.  She had a remarkably bad cold at the time, which betrayed
itself chiefly in a frequent, but feeble, sneeze.

As I rose to go out, and looked at my doggie--who was, or seemed to be,
asleep on the rug--a sudden thought occurred to me.

"That poor old creature," I muttered, "is very lonely in her garret; a
little dog might comfort her.  Perhaps--but no.  Dumps, you are too
lively for her, too bouncing.  She would require something feeble and
affectionate, like herself.  Come, I'll think of that.  So, my doggie,
you shall keep watch here until I return."



CHAPTER TWO.

INTRODUCES A YOUNG HERO.

The day had become very sultry by the time I went out to visit my
patients.  The sky was overcast with dark thunderous clouds, and, as
there seemed every chance of a heavy shower, I returned to my lodgings
for an umbrella.

"Oh, Mr Mellon!" exclaimed my landlady, as I entered the lobby, "was
there ever a greater blessin'--oh!--"

"Why, what's the matter, Mrs Miff?"

"Oh, sir! that 'orrid little dog as you brought 'as gone mad!"

"Is that the blessing you refer to, Mrs Miff?"

"No, sir; but your comin' back is, for the creetur 'as bin rampagin'
round the room, an yellin' like a thing possessed by demons.  I'm so
glad you've come!"

Feeling sure that the little dog, unaccustomed, perhaps, to be left
alone in a strange place, was merely anxious to be free, I at once went
to my room-door and opened it.  Dumps bounced out, and danced joyfully
round me.  Mrs Miff fled in deadly silence to her own bedroom, where
she locked and bolted herself in.

"Dumps," said I, with a laugh, "I shall have to take you with me at the
risk of losing you.  Perhaps the memory of the feed I've given you, and
the hope of another, may keep you by me.  Come, we shall see."

My doggie behaved much better than I had anticipated.  He did indeed
stop at several butchers' shops during our walk, and looked inquiringly
in.  He also evinced a desire to enter into conversation with one or two
other sociable dogs, but the briefest chirp or whistle brought him at
once obediently to my heel, just as if he had known and obeyed me all
his life.

When we reached the poorer parts of the city, I observed that the
free-and-easy swagger, and the jaunty hopping of each hind-leg
alternately, gave place to a sedate walk and a wary turn of the head,
which suggested keen suspicious glances of the unseen eyes.

"Ah!" thought I, "evidently he has suffered hardships and bad treatment
in places like this."

I stooped and patted his head.  He drew closer to me, as if seeking
protection.

Just then a low grumbling of thunder was heard, and soon after the rain
came down so heavily that, the umbrella forming an insufficient
protection, Dumps and I sought shelter in the mouth of an alley.  The
plump was short-lived, and the little knots of people who had sought
shelter along with us melted quickly away.

My doggie's aspect was not improved by this shower.  It had caused his
hairy coat to cling to his form, producing a drowned-rat aspect which
was not becoming; but a short run and some vigorous shakes soon restored
his rotundity.

In a few minutes thereafter we reached a narrow square or court at the
end of a very dirty locality, in one corner of which was a low
public-house.  Through the half-open swing-door could be seen the usual
melancholy crowd of unhappy creatures who had either already come under
the full influence and curse of strong drink, or were far on the road to
ruin.  It was a sight with which I had become so familiar that, sad
though it was, I scarce gave it a thought in passing.  My mind was
occupied with the poor old woman I was about to visit, and I would have
taken no further notice of the grog-shop in question if the door had not
opened violently, and a dirty ragged street-boy, or "waif," apparently
about eight or nine years of age, rushed out with a wild cry that may be
described as a compound cheer-and-yell.  He came out in such blind haste
that he ran his ragged head with great violence against my side, and
almost overturned me.

"Hallo, youngster!"  I exclaimed sternly.

"Hallo, oldster!" he replied, in a tone of the most insolent
indignation, "wot ever do you mean by runnin' agin my 'ead like that?
Hain't you got no genteel boys in the West-end to butt agin, that you
come all the way to Vitechapel to butt agin _me_?  I've a good mind to
'and you over to the p'leece.  Come, you owes me a copper for that."

The ineffable insolence of this waif took me quite by surprise.  He
spoke with extreme volubility, and assumed the commanding air of a man
of six-feet-four, though only a boy of four-feet-six.  I observed,
however, that he kept at a sufficient distance to make sure of escaping
in the event of my trying to seize him.

"Come," said I, with a smile, "I think you rather owe me a copper for
giving me such a punch in the ribs."

"Vell, I don't mind lookin' at it in that light," he replied, returning
my smile.  "I _vill_ give you a copper, on'y I hain't got change.  You
wouldn't mind comin' into this 'ere grog-shop while I git change, would
you?  Or if you'll lend me a sixpence I'll go in and git it for you."

"No," said I, putting my fingers into my waistcoat pocket; "but here is
a sixpence for you, which you may keep, and never mind the change, if
you'll walk along the streets with me a bit."

The urchin held out his dirty hand, and I put the coin into it.  He
smiled, tossed the sixpence, caught it deftly, and transferred it to his
right trousers pocket.

"Vell, you are a rum 'un.  But I say, all square?  No dodges?  Honour
bright?"

"No dodges.  Honour bright," I replied.

"Come along."

At this point my attention was attracted by a sudden change in the
behaviour of Dumps.  He went cautiously towards the boy, and snuffed as
him for a moment.

"I say, is he wicious?" he asked, backing a little.

"I think not, but--"

I was checked in my speech by the little dog uttering a whine of delight
and suddenly dancing round the boy, wagging its tail violently, and
indeed wriggling its whole shapeless body with joy; as some dogs are
wont to do when they meet with an old friend unexpectedly.

"Why, he seems to know you," said I, in surprise.

"Vell, he do seem to 'ave 'ad the honour of my acquaintance some'ow,"
returned the boy, whose tone of banter quickly passed away.  "What d'ee
call 'im?"

"Dumps," said I.

"That won't do.  Has he a vite spot on the bridge of 'is nose?" asked
the boy earnestly.

"I really cannot tell.  It is not long--"

"Here, Punch, come here!" called the boy, interrupting.

At the name of Punch my doggie became so demonstrative in his affections
that he all but leaped into the boy's arms, whined lovingly, and licked
his dirty face all over.

"The wery dog," said the boy, after looking at his nose; "only growed so
big that his own mother wouldn't know 'im.--Vy, where 'ave you bin all
this long while, Punch?"

"D'you mean to say that you know the dog, and that his name is Punch?"

"Vell, you _are_ green.  Wouldn't any cove with half an eye see that the
dog knows me, an' so, in course, I must know _him_?  An' ven I called
'im Punch didn't he answer?--hey?"

I was obliged to admit the truth of these remarks.  After the first
ebullition of joy at the meeting was over, we went along the street
together.

"Then the dog is yours?" said I as we went along.

"No, he ain't mine.  He was mine once--ven he was a pup, but I sold 'im
to a young lady for--a _wery_ small sum."

"For how much?"  I asked.

"For five bob.  Yes--on'y five bob!  I axed vun pound, but the young
lady was so pleasant an' pritty that I come down to ten bob.  Then she
said she was poor--and to tell 'ee the plain truth she looked like it--
an' she wanted the pup so bad that I come down to five."

"And who was this young lady?"

"Blow'd if I knows.  She went off wi' my Punch, an' I never saw'd 'em
more."

"Then you don't know what induced her to sell Punch to a low fellow--but
of course you know nothing about that," said I, in a musing tone, as I
thought of the strange manner in which this portion of my doggie's
history had come to light, but I was recalled from my reverie by the
contemptuous tones of my little companion's voice, as he said--

"But I _do_ know something about that."

"Oh, indeed!  I thought you said you never saw the young lady again."

"No more I did.  Neither did I ever see Punch again till to-day, but I
know for certain that my young lady never sold no dog wotsomedever to no
_low_ feller as ever walked in shoe leather or out of it!"

"Ah, I see," said I slowly, "you mean--"

"Yes, out with it, that's just wot I do mean--that the low feller
prigged the pup from her, an' I on'y vish as I 'ad a grip of his ugly
nose, and I'd draw it out from his uglier face, I would, like the small
end of a telescope, and then shut it up flat again--so flat that you'd
never know he'd had no nose at all!"

My little sharp-witted companion then willingly gave me an account of
all he knew about the early history of my doggie.

The story was not long, but it began, so to speak, at the beginning.

Punch, or Dumps, as I continued to call him, had been born in a dry
water-butt which stood in a back yard near the Thames.  This yard was,
or had been, used for putting away lumber.

"It was a queer place," said my little companion, looking up in my face
with a droll expression--"a sort o' place that, when once you had gone
into it, you was sure to wish you hadn't.  Talk o' the blues, sir; I do
assure _you_ that w'en I used to go into that yard of a night it gave me
the black-an'-blues, it did.  There was a mouldiness an' a soppiness
about it that beat the katticombs all to sticks.  It looked like a place
that some rubbish had bin flung into in the days before Adam an' Eve was
born, an' 'ad been forgotten tee-totally from that time to this.  Oh, it
was awful!  Used to make my marrow screw up into lumps w'en I was used
to go there."

"But why did you go there at all if you disliked it so much?"  I asked.

"Vy? because I 'adn't got no better place to go to.  I was used to sleep
there.  I slep' in the self-same water-butt where Punch was born.
That's 'ow I come to scrape acquaintance with 'im.  I'd bin away from
'ome in the country for a week's slidin'."

"A week's what?"

"Slidin'.  Don't you know what sliding on the ice is?"

"Oh!--yes.  Are you very fund of that?"

"I should think I was--w'en my boots are good enough to stick on, but
they ain't always that, and then I've got to slide under difficulties.
Sometimes I'm out o' boots an' shoes altogether, in vich case slidin's
impossible; but I can look on and slide in spirit, vich is better than
nuffin'.  But, as I was sayin' w'en you 'ad the bad manners to interrupt
me, I 'ad bin away from 'ome for a week--"

"Excuse my interrupting you again, but where is your home, may I ask?"

"You may ask, but it 'ud puzzle me to answer for I ain't got no 'ome,
unless I may say that London is my 'ome.  I come an' go where I pleases,
so long's I don't worrit nobody.  I sleep where I like, if the bobbies
don't get their eyes on me w'en I'm agoin' to bed, an' I heat wotever
comes in my way if it ain't too tough.  In winter I sleeps in a lodgin'
'ouse w'en I can but as it costs thrippence a night, I finds it too
expensive, an' usually prefers a railway arch, or a corner in Covent
Garden Market, under a cart or a barrow, or inside of a empty
sugar-barrel--anywhere so long's I'm let alone; but what with the rain,
the wind, the cold, and the bobbies, I may be said to sleep under
difficulties.  Vell, as I was agoin' to say w'en--"

"Excuse me once more--what is your name?" said I.

"Hain't got no name."

"No name!  Come, you are joking.  What is your father's name?"

"Hain't got no father--never 'ad, as I knows on, nor mother neither, nor
brother, nor sister, nor aunt, nor wife--not even a mother-in-law.  I'm
a unit in creation, I is--as I once heerd a school-board buffer say w'en
he was luggin' me along to school; but he was too green, that buffer
was, for a school-boarder.  I gave 'im the slip at the corner of Watling
Street, an' they've never bin able to cotch me since."

"But you must be known by some name," said I.  "What do your companions
call you?"

"They call me bad names, as a rule.  Some o' the least offensive among
'em are Monkey-face, Screwnose, Cheeks, Squeaker, Roundeyes, and
Slidder.  I prefers the last myself, an' ginerally answers to it.  But,
as I was agoin' to say, I'd bin away for a veek, an' w'en I comed
'ome--"

"To which part of home? for London is a wide word, you know," I said.

"Now, sir, if you go for to interrupt me like that I'll 'ave to charge a
bob for this here valk; I couldn't stand it for sixpence."

"Come, Slidder, don't be greedy."

"Vell, sir, if you got as many kicks as I do, and as few ha'pence,
p'r'aps you'd be greedy too."

"Perhaps I should, my boy," said I, in a gentle tone.  "But come, I will
give you an extra sixpence if we get along well.  Let's have the rest of
your story; I won't interrupt again."

"It ain't my story, it's Punch's story," returned the waif, as he
stooped to pat the gratified doggie.  "Vell, w'en I com'd 'ome it was
lateish and I was tired, besides bein' 'ungry; so I goes right off to my
water-butt, intendin' to go to bed as usual, but no sooner did I put my
head in, than out came a most awful growl.  The butt lay on its side,
and I backed out double quick just in time, for a most 'orrible-lookin'
terrier dog rushed at me.  Bein' used to dogs, I wasn't took by
surprise, but fetched it a clip with one o' my feet in its ribs that
sent it staggerin' to the palin' o' the yard.  It found a hole, bolted
through, scurried up the lane yellin', and I never saw'd it more!  This
was Punch's mother.  On goin' into the butt afterwards I found three
dead pups and one alive, so I pitched the dead ones away an' shoved the
live one into the breast of my coat, where he slep' till mornin'.  At
first I 'ad a mind to drown the pup, but it looked so comfortable an'
playful, an' was such a queer critter, that I called him Punch, an'
became a father to 'im.  I got him bones an' other bits o' grub, an'
kep' 'im in the water-butt for three veeks.  Then he began to make a
noise v'en I left him; so, bein' sure the bobbies would rout 'im out at
last, I took 'im an' sold 'im to the first pleasant lady that seemed to
fancy 'im."

"Well, Slidder," said I, as we turned down into the mean-looking alley
where Mrs Willis, my little old woman, dwelt, "I am greatly interested
in what you have told me about my little dog, and I am interested still
more in what you have told me about yourself.  Now, I want you to do me
a favour.  I wish you to go with me to visit an old woman, and, after
that, to walk home with me--part of the way, at least."

The boy, whose pinched, hunger-smitten face had an expression of almost
supernatural intelligence on it, bestowed on me a quick, earnest glance.

"No dodges?  Honour bright?  You ain't a school-board buffer?" he asked.

"No dodges.  Honour bright," I replied, with a smile.

"Vell, then, heave ahead, an' I'll foller."

We passed quickly down to the lower end of the alley, which seemed to
lose itself in a wretched court that appeared as if it intended to slip
into the river--an intention which, if carried out, would have vastly
improved its sanitary condition.  Here, in a somewhat dark corner of the
court, I entered an open door, ascended a flight of stairs, and gained a
second landing.  At the farthest extremity of the passage I stopped at a
door and knocked.  Several of the other doors of the passage opened, and
various heads were thrust out, while inquisitive eyes surveyed me and my
companion.  A short survey seemed to suffice, for the doors were soon
shut, one after another, with a bang, but the door at which I knocked
did not open.

Lifting the latch, I entered, and observed that Mrs Willis was seated
by the window, looking wistfully out.  Being rather deaf, she had not
heard my knock.

"Come in," I whispered to little Slidder, "sit down on this stool near
the door, and keep quiet until I speak to you."

So saying, I advanced to the window.  The view was not interesting.  It
consisted of the side of a house; about three feet distant, down which
ran a water-spout, or drain-pipe, which slightly relieved the dead look
of the bricks.  From one pane of the window it was possible, by
squeezing your cheek against it, to obtain a perspective view of
chimney-pots.  By a stretch of the neck upwards you could see more
chimney pots.  By a stretch of imagination you could see cats
quarrelling around them,--or anything else you pleased!

Sitting down on a rickety chair beside the little old woman, I touched
her gently on the shoulder.  She had come to know my touch by that time,
I think, for she looked round with a bright little smile.



CHAPTER THREE.

TREATS OF AN OLD HEROINE.

It was pleasant yet sad to observe the smile with which old Mrs Willis
greeted me--pleasant, because it proved that she was rejoiced to see me;
sad, because it was not quite in keeping with the careworn old face
whose set wrinkles it deranged.

"I knew you would come.  You never miss the day," she said, both words
and tone showing that she had fallen from a much higher position in the
social scale.

"It costs me little to visit you once a week, dear Mrs Willis," I
replied, "and it gives me great pleasure; besides, I am bound by the
laws of the Society which grants your annuity to call personally and pay
it.  I only wish it were a larger sum."

"Large enough; more than I deserve," said the old woman in a low tone,
as she gazed somewhat vacantly at the dead wall opposite, and let her
eyes slowly descend the spout.

The view was not calculated to distract or dissipate the mind.  The
bricks were so much alike that the eye naturally sought and reposed on
or followed the salient feature.  Having descended the spout as far as
the window-sill permitted, the eyes of Mrs Willis slowly reascended as
far as possible, and then turned with a meek expression to my face.
"More than I deserve," she repeated, "and _almost_ as much as I require.
It is very kind of the Society to give it, and of you to bring it.  May
God bless you both!  Ah, doctor!  I'm often puzzled by--eh!  What's
that?"

The sudden question, anxiously asked, was accompanied by a feeble
attempt to gather her poor garments close round her feet as Dumps
sniffed at her skirts and agitated his ridiculous tail.

"It's only my dog, granny,"--I had of late adopted this term of
endearment; "a very quiet well-behaved creature, I assure you, that
seems too amiable to bite.  Why, he appears to have a tendency to claim
acquaintance with everybody.  I do believe he knows _you_!"

"No, no, he doesn't.  Put him out; pray put him out," said the old
woman, in alarm.

Grieved that I had unintentionally roused her fear, I opened the door
and called Dumps.  My doggie rose, with his three indicators erect and
expectant.

"Go out, sir, and lie down!"

The indicators slowly drooped, and Dumps crawled past in abject
humility.  Shutting the door, I returned.

"I hope you don't dislike little boys as well as little dogs, granny,
because I have brought one to wait for me here.  You won't mind his
sitting at the door until I go?"

"No, no!" said Mrs Willis quickly; "I like little boys--when--when
they're good," she added, after a pause.

"Say I'm one o' the good sort, sir," suggested Slidder, in a hoarse
whisper.  "Of course, it ain't true, but wot o' that, if it relieves her
mind?"

Taking no notice of this remark, I again sat down beside my old woman.

"What were you going to say about being puzzled, granny?"

"Puzzled, doctor! did I say I was puzzled?"

"Yes, but pray don't call me doctor.  I'm not quite fledged yet, you
know.  Call me Mellon, or John.  Well, you were saying--"

"Oh, I remember.  I was only going to say that I've been puzzled a good
deal of late by that text in which David says, `I have never seen the
righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.'  Now, my father and
mother were both good Christians, and, although I cannot claim to be a
_good_ one myself, I do claim to be a poor follower of Jesus.  Yet here
am I--"

She paused.

"Well, granny," said I, "are you forsaken?"

"Nay, John, God forbid that I should say so; but am I not a beggar?  Ah
pride, pride, you are hard to kill!"

"_Are_ you a beggar?"  I asked in a tone of surprise.  "When did you beg
last, granny?"

"Is not a recipient of charity a beggar?"

"No," I replied stoutly, "he is not.  A solicitor of charity is a
beggar, but a recipient thereof is not.  In your case it was I who was
the beggar.  Do you not remember when I found you first, without a crust
in the house, how I had to beg and entreat you to allow me to put your
name on this charity, and how you persistently refused, until at last I
did it without your consent; and how, eventually, you gave in only when
I charged you with pride?  You are not forsaken, granny, and you are not
a beggar."

"Brayvo, doctor! you have 'er there!" came in a soft whisper from the
door.

For a moment I felt tempted to turn the boy out, as I had turned out the
dog; but, seeing that my old woman had not overheard the remark, I took
no notice of it.

"You have put the matter in a new light John," said Mrs Willis slowly,
as her eyes once more sought the spout.  "You often put things in new
lights, and there does seem some truth in what you say.  It did hurt my
pride at first, but I'm gettin' used to it now.  Besides," continued the
old lady, with a deep sigh, "that trouble and everything else is
swallowed up in the great sorrow of my life."

"Ah! you refer to your granddaughter, I suppose," said I in a tone of
profound sympathy.  "You have never told me about her, dear granny.  If
it is not too painful a subject to speak of, I should like to hear about
her.  When did she die?"

"Die!" exclaimed Mrs Willis with a burst of energy that surprised
me--"she did not die!  She left me many, many months ago, it seems like
years now.  My Edie went out one afternoon to walk, like a beautiful
sunbeam as she always was, and--and--she never came back!"

"Never came back!"  I echoed, in surprise.

"No--never.  I was not able to walk then, any more than now, else I
would have ranged London all round, day and night, for my darling.  As
it was, a kind city missionary made inquiries at all the police-offices,
and everywhere else he could think of, but no clew could be gained as to
what had become of her.  At last he got wearied out and gave it up.  No
wonder; he had never seen Edie, and could not love her as I did.  Once
he thought he had discovered her.  The body of a poor girl had been
found in the river, which he thought answered to her description.  I
thought so too when he told me what she was like, and at once concluded
she had tumbled in by accident and been drowned--for, you see, my Edie
was good and pure and true.  She could not have committed suicide unless
her mind had become deranged, and there was nothing that I knew of to
bring about that.  They got me with much trouble into a cab, and drove
me to the place.  Ah! the poor thing--she was fair and sweet to look
upon, with her curling brown hair and a smile still on the parted lips,
as if she had welcomed Death; but she was not my Edie.  For months and
months after that I waited and waited, feeling sure that she would come.
Then I was forced to leave my lodging.  The landlord wanted it himself.
I begged that he would let me remain, but he would not.  He was a
hard-hearted, dissipated man.  I took another lodging, but it was a long
way off, and left my name and new address at the old one.  My heart sank
after that, and--and I've no hope now--no hope.  My darling must have
met with an accident in this terrible city.  She must have been killed,
and will never come back to me."

The poor creature uttered a low wail, and put a handkerchief to her old
eyes.

"But, bless the Lord!" she added in a more cheerful tone, "I will go to
her--soon."

For some minutes I knew not what to say in reply, by way of comforting
my poor old friend.  The case seemed indeed so hopeless.  I could only
press her hand.  But my nature is naturally buoyant, and ready to hope
against hope, even when distress assails myself.

"Do not say there is no hope, granny," said I at last, making an effort
to be cheerful.  "You know that with God all things are possible.  It
may be that this missionary did not go the right way to work in his
search, however good his intentions might have been.  I confess I cannot
imagine how it is possible that any girl should disappear in this way,
unless she had deliberately gone off with some one."

"No, John, my Edie would not have left me thus of her own free will,"
said the old woman, with a look of assurance which showed that her mind
was immovably fixed as to that point.

"Well, then," I continued, "loving you as you say she did, and being
incapable of leaving you deliberately and without a word of explanation,
it follows that--that--"

I stopped, for at this point no plausible reason for the girl's
disappearance suggested itself.

"It follows that she must have been killed," said the old woman in a low
broken tone.

"No, granny, I will not admit that.--Come, cheer up; I will do my best
to make inquiries about her, and as I have had considerable experience
in making investigations among the poor of London, perhaps I may fall on
some clew.  She would be sure to have made inquiries, would she not, at
your old lodging, if she had felt disposed to return?"

"Felt disposed!" repeated Mrs Willis, with a strange laugh.  "If she
_could_ return, you mean."

"Well--if she could," said I.

"No doubt she would; but soon after I left my old lodging the landlord
fled the country, and other people came to the house, who were troubled
by my sending so often to inquire.  Then my money was all expended, and
I had to quit my second lodging, and came here, which is far, far from
the old lodging, and now I have no one to send."

"Have you any friends in London?"  I asked.

"No.  We had come from York to try to find teaching for my darling, for
we could get none in our native town, and we had not been long enough in
London to make new friends when--when--she went away.  My dear Ann and
Willie, her mother and father, died last year, and now we have no near
relations in the world."

"Shall I read to you, granny?" said I, feeling that no words of mine
could do much to comfort one in so sad a case.

She readily assented.  I was in the habit of reading and praying with
her during these visits.  I turned, without any definite intention of
doing so, to the words, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy
laden, and I will give you rest."  I cannot tell why, but I paused here
instead of reading on, or commenting on the words.

The old woman looked earnestly at me.

"These words," she said, "have been in my mind all yesterday and the day
before.  I have been greatly comforted by them, because `He is faithful
who has promised.'  Pray over them, John; don't read any more."

I knelt by the poor woman's chair; she could not kneel with me in body,
though she did in spirit, I doubt not.  I had quite forgotten Slidder,
but, on rising, observed that he had followed my example and gone down
on his knees.

"Were you praying with us, Slidder?"  I asked, after we left Mrs
Willis, and were walking up the alley, followed by Dumps.

"Dun know, sir; I've never heard nor seen nuffin' o' this sort before.
In coorse I've heard the missionaries sometimes, a-hollerin' about the
streets, but I never worrited myself about _them_.  I say, doctor,
that's a rum go about that gal Edie--ain't it?  I've quite took a fancy
to that gal, now, though I ain't seen her.  D'ye think she's bin
drownded?"

"I scarce know what to think.  Her disappearance so suddenly does seem
very strange.  I fear, I fear much that--however, it's of no use
guessing.  I shall at once set about making inquiries."

"Ha! so shall I," said the little waif, with a look of determination on
his small face that amused me greatly, "for she's a good gal is Edie--if
she ain't drownded."

"Why, boy, how can you know whether the girl is good or bad?"

"How can I know?" he echoed, with a glance of almost superhuman wisdom.
"In coorse I know by the powers of obserwation.  That old gal, Mrs
Willis, is a good old thing--as good as gold.  Vell, a good mother is
always cocksure to 'ave a good darter--specially ven she's a only
darter--so the mother o' Edie bein' good, Edie herself _must_ be good,
don't you see?  Anythink as belonged to Mrs Willis can't help bein'
good.  I'm glad you took me to see her, doctor, for I've made up my mind
to take that old 'ooman up, as the bobbies say w'en they're wexed with
avin' nuffin' to do 'xcept strut about the streets like turkey-cocks.
I'll take 'er up and do for 'er, I will."

On questioning him further I found that this ragged and homeless little
waif had indeed been touched by Mrs Willis's sad story, and drawn
towards her by her soft, gentle nature--so different from what he had
hitherto met with in his wanderings,--and that he was resolved to offer
her his gratuitous services as a message-boy and general servant,
without requiring either food or lodging in return.

"But Mrs Willis may object to such a dirty ragged fellow coming about
her," said I.

"Ain't there no pumps in London, stoopid?" said Slidder, with a look of
pity, "no soap?"

"True," I replied, with a laugh, "but you'd require needles and thread
and cloth, in addition, to make yourself respectable."

"Nothink of the sort; I can beg or borrer or steal coats and pants, you
know."

"Ah, Slidder!" said I, in a kind but serious tone, "doubtless you can,
but begging or borrowing are not likely to succeed, and stealing is
wrong."

"D'you think so?" returned the boy, with a look of innocent surprise.
"Don't you think, now, that in a good cause a cove might:--

  "`Take wot isn't his'n,
  An' risk his bein' sent to pris'n?'"

I replied emphatically that I did not think so, that _wrong_ could never
be made _right_ by any means, and that the commencement of a course of
even disinterested kindness on such principles would be sure to end ill.

"Vell, then, I'll reconsider my decision, as the maginstrates ought to
say, but never do."

"That's right.  And now we must part, Slidder," I said, stopping.  "Here
is the second sixpence I promised you, also my card and address.  Will
you come and see me at my own house the day after to-morrow, at eight in
the morning?"

"I will," replied the boy, with decision; "but I say, all fair an'
above-board?  No school-boardin' nor nuffin' o' that sort--hey? honour
bright?"

"Honour bright!"  I replied, holding out my hand, which he grasped and
shook quite heartily.

We had both taken two or three steps in opposite directions, when, as if
under the same impulse, we looked back at each other, and in so doing
became aware of the fact that Dumps stood between us on the pavement in
a state of extreme indecision or mental confusion.

"Hallo!  I say! we've bin an' forgot Punch!" exclaimed the boy.

"Dumps," said I, "come along!"

"Punch," said he, "come here, good dog!"

My doggie looked first at one, then at the other.  The two indicators in
front rose and fell, while the one behind wagged and drooped in a state
of obvious uncertainty.

"Won't you sell 'im back?" said Slidder, returning.  "I'll work it out
in messages or anythink else."

"But what of the bobbies?"  I asked.

"Ah! true, I forgot the bobbies.  I'd on'y be able to keep 'im for a
week, p'r'aps not so long, afore they'd nab him.--Go, Punch, go, you
don't know ven you're vell off."

The tone in which this was uttered settled the point, and turned the
wavering balance of the creature's affections in my favour.  With all
the indicators extremely pendulous, and its hairy coat hanging in a
species of limp humility, my doggie followed me home; but I observed
that, as we went along, he ever and anon turned a wistful glance in the
direction in which the ragged waif had disappeared.



CHAPTER FOUR.

IN WHICH DUMPS FINDS ANOTHER OLD FRIEND.

One morning, a considerable time after the events narrated in the last
chapter, I sat on the sofa waiting for breakfast, and engaged in an
interesting conversation with Dumps.  The only difference in our mode of
communication was that Dumps talked with his eyes, I with my tongue.

From what I have already said about my doggie, it will be understood
that his eyes--which were brown and speaking eyes--lay behind such a
forest of hair that it was only by clearing the dense masses away that I
could obtain a full view of his liquid orbs.  I am not sure that his
ears were much less expressive than his eyes.  Their variety of motion,
coupled with their rate of action, served greatly to develop the full
meaning of what his eyes said.

"Mrs Miff seems to have forgotten us this morning, Dumps," I remarked,
pulling out my watch.

One ear cocked forward, the other turned back towards the door, and a
white gleam under the hair, indicating that the eyes turned in the same
direction, said as plainly as there was any occasion for--

"No; not quite forgotten us.  I hear her coming now."

"Ha! so she is.  Now you shall have a feed."  Both ears elevated to the
full extent obviously meant "Hurrah!" while a certain motion of his body
appeared to imply that, in consequence of his sedentary position, he was
vainly attempting to wag the sofa.

"If you please, sir," said my landlady, laying the breakfast tray on the
table, "there's a shoe-black in the kitchen says he wants to see you."

"Ah! young Slidder, I fancy.  Well, send him up."

"He says he's 'ad his breakfast an' will wait till you have done, sir."

"Very considerate.  Send him up nevertheless."

In a few minutes my _protege_ stood before me, hat in hand, looking, in
the trim costume of the brigade, quite a different being from the ragged
creature I had met with in Whitechapel.  Dumps instantly assaulted him
with loving demonstrations.

"How spruce you look, my boy!"

"Thanks to _you_, sir," replied Slidder, with a familiar nod; "they do
say I'm lookin' up."

"I hope you like the work.  Have you had breakfast?  Would a roll do you
any good?"

"Thankee, I'm primed for the day.  I came over, sir, to say that granny
seems to me to be out o' sorts.  Since I've been allowed to sleep on the
rug inside her door, I've noticed that she ain't so lively as she used
to was.  Shivers a deal w'en it ain't cold, groans now an' then, an
whimpers a good deal.  It strikes me, now--though I ain't a reg'lar
sawbones--that there's suthin' wrong with her in'ards."

"I'll finish breakfast quickly and go over with you to see her," said I.

"Don't need to 'urry, sir," returned Slidder; "she ain't wery bad--not
much wuss than or'nary--on'y I've bin too anxious about her--poor old
thing.  I'll vait below till you're ready.--Come along, Punch, an' jine
yer old pal in the kitchen till the noo 'un's ready."

After breakfast we three hurried out and wended our way eastward.  As
the morning was unusually fine I diverged towards one of the more
fashionable localities to deliver a note with which I had been charged.
Young Slidder's spirits were high, and for a considerable time he
entertained me with a good deal of the East-end gossip.  Among other
things, he told me of the great work that was being done there by Dr
Barnardo and others of similar spirit, in rescuing waifs like himself
from their wretched condition.

"Though some on us don't think it so wretched arter all," he continued.
"There's the Slogger, now, he won't go into the 'ome on no
consideration; says he wouldn't give a empty sugar-barrel for all the
'omes in London.  But then the Slogger's a lazy muff.  He don't want to
work--that's about it.  He'd sooner starve than work.  By consikence he
steals, more or less, an finds a 'ome in the `stone jug' pretty
frequent.  As to his taste for a sugar-barrel, I ain't so sure that I
don't agree with 'im.  It's big, you know--plenty of room to move, w'ich
it ain't so with a flour-barrel.  An' then the smell!  Oh! you've no
notion!  W'y, that's wuth the price of a night's lodgin' itself, to say
nothin' o' the chance of a knot-hole or a crack full o' sugar, that the
former tenants has failed to diskiver."

While the waif was commenting thus enthusiastically on the bliss of
lodging in a sugar-barrel, we were surprised to see Dumps, who chanced
to be trotting on in front come to a sudden pause and gaze at a lady who
was in the act of ringing the door-bell of an adjoining house.

The door was opened by a footman, and the lady was in the act of
entering when Dumps gave vent to a series of sounds, made up of a whine,
a bark, and a yelp.  At the same moment his tail all but twirled him off
his legs as he rushed wildly up the stairs and began to dance round the
lady in mad excitement.

The lady backed against the door in alarm.  The footman, anxious
apparently about his calves, seized an umbrella and made a wild assault
on the dog, and I was confusedly conscious of Slidder exclaiming, "Why,
if that ain't _my_ young lady!" as I sprang up the steps to the rescue.

"Down, Dumps, you rascal; down!"  I exclaimed, seizing him by the brass
collar with which I had invested him.--"Pardon the rudeness of my dog,
madam," I said, looking up; "I never saw him act in this way before.  It
is quite unaccountable--"

"Not quite so unaccountable as you think," interrupted Slidder, who
stood looking calmly on, with his hands in his pockets and a grin on his
face.--"It's your own dog, miss."

"What do you mean, boy?" said the lady, a gaze of surprise chasing away
the look of alarm which had covered her pretty face.

"I mean 'xactly what I says, miss.  The dog's your own: I sold it to you
long ago for five bob!"

The girl--for she was little more than sixteen--turned with a startled,
doubting look to the dog.

"If you don't b'lieve it, miss, look at the vite spot on the bridge of
'is nose," said Slidder, with a self-satisfied nod to the lady and a
supremely insolent wink to the footman.

"Pompey!" exclaimed the girl, holding out a pair of the prettiest little
gloved hands imaginable.

My doggie broke from my grasp with a shriek of joy, and sprang into her
arms.  She buried her face in his shaggy neck and absolutely hugged him.

I stood aghast.  The footman smiled in an imbecile manner.

"You'd better not squeeze quite so hard, miss, or he'll bust!" remarked
the waif.

Recovering herself, and dropping the dog somewhat hurriedly, she turned
to me with a flushed face and said--

"Excuse me, sir; this unexpected meeting with my dog--"

"_Your_ dog!"  I involuntarily exclaimed, while a sense of unmerited
loss began to creep over me.

"Well, the dog was mine once, at all events--though I doubt not it is
rightfully yours now," said the young lady, with a smile that at once
disarmed me.  "It was stolen from me a few months after I had bought it
from this boy, who seems strangely altered since then.  I'm glad,
however, to see that the short time I had the dog was sufficient to
prevent its forgetting me.  But perhaps," she added, in a sad tone, "it
would have been better if it _had_ forgotten me."

My mind was made up.

"No, madam," said I, with decision; "it is well that the dog has not
forgotten you.  I would have been surprised, indeed, if it had.  It is
yours.  I could not think of robbing you of it.  I--I--am going to visit
a sick woman and cannot delay; forgive me if I ask permission to leave
the dog with you until I return in the afternoon to hand it formally
over and bid it farewell."

This was said half in jest yet I felt very much in earnest, for the
thought of parting from my doggie, even to such a fair mistress, cost me
no small amount of pain--much to my surprise, for I had not imagined it
possible that I could have formed so strong an attachment to a dumb
animal in so short a time.  But, you see, being a bachelor of an
unsocial spirit, my doggie and I had been thrown much together in the
evenings, and had made the most of our time.

The young lady half laughed, and hesitatingly thanked me as she went
into the house, followed by Dumps, _alias_ Punch, _alias_ Pompey, who
never so much as cast one parting glance on me as I turned to leave.  A
shout caused me to turn again and look back.  I beheld an infant rolling
down the drawing-room stairs like a small Alpine boulder.  A little girl
was vainly attempting to arrest the infant, and three boys, of various
sizes, came bounding towards the young lady with shouts of welcome.  In
the midst of the din my doggie uttered a cry of pain, the Babel of
children's voices was hushed by a bass growl, and the street door closed
with a bang!

"Yell, that _is_ a rum go!" exclaimed my little companion, as we walked
slowly away.  "Don't it seem to you, now, as if it wor all a dream?"

"It does, indeed," I replied, half inclined to laugh, yet with a feeling
of sadness at my heart, for I knew that my doggie and I were parted for
ever!  Even if the young lady should insist on my keeping the dog, I
felt that I could not agree to do so.  No!  I had committed myself, and
the thing was done; for it was clear that, with the mutual affection
existing between the lady and the dog, they would not willingly consent
to be parted--it would be cruelty even to suggest a separation.

"Pshaw!" thought I, "why should the loss of a miserable dog--a mere mass
of shapeless hair--affect me so much?  Pooh!  I will brush the subject
away."

So I brushed it away, but back it came again in spite of all my
brushing, and insisted on remaining to trouble me.

Short though our friendship had been, it had, I found, become very warm
and strong.  I recalled a good many pleasant evenings when, seated alone
in my room with a favourite author, I had read and tickled Dumps under
the chin and behind the ears to such an extent that I had thoroughly
gained his heart; and as "love begets love," I had been drawn insensibly
yet powerfully towards him.  In short, Dumps and I understood each
other.

While I was meditating on these things my companion, who had walked
along in silence, suddenly said--

"You needn't take on so, sir, about Punch."

"How d'you know I'm taking on so?"

"'Cause you look so awful solemncholy.  An' there's no occasion to do
so.  You can get the critter back again."

"I fear not Slidder, for I have already given it to the young lady, and
you have seen how fond she is of it; and the dog evidently likes her
better than it likes me."

"Yell, I ain't surprised at _that_.  It on'y proves it to be a dog of
good taste; but you can get it back for all that."

"How so?"  I asked, much amused by the decision and self-sufficiency of
the boy's manner.

"Vy, you've on'y got to go and marry the young lady, w'en, of course,
all her property becomes yours, Punch included, don't you see?"

"True, Slidder; it had not occurred to me in that light," said I,
laughing heartily, as much at the cool and quiet insolence of the waif's
manner as at his suggestion.  "But then, you see, there are difficulties
in the way.  Young ladies who dwell in fine mansions are not fond of
marrying penniless doctors."

"Pooh!" replied the urchin; "that 'as nuffin' to do with it.  You've
on'y got to set up in a 'ouse close alongside, with a big gold mortar
over the door an' a one-'oss broom, an' you'll 'ave 'er in six months--
or eight if she's got contrairy parents.  Then you'll want a tiger, of
course, to 'old the 'oss; an' I knows a smart young feller whose name
begins with a S, as would just suit.  So, you see, you've nothing to do
but to go in an win."

The precocious waif looked up in my face with such an expression of
satisfaction as he finished this audacious speech, that I could not help
gazing at him in blank amazement.  What I should have replied I know
not, for we arrived just then at the abode of old Mrs Willis.

The poor old lady was suffering from a severe attack of influenza,
which, coupled with age and the depression caused by her heavy sorrow,
had reduced her physical powers in an alarming degree.  It was obvious
that she urgently required good food and careful nursing.  I never
before felt so keenly my lack of money.  My means barely sufficed to
keep myself, educational expenses being heavy.  I was a shy man, too,
and had never made friends--at least among the rich--to whom I could
apply on occasions like this.

"Dear granny," I said, "you would get along nicely if you would consent
to go to a hospital."

"Never!" said the old lady, in a tone of decision that surprised me.

"I assure you, granny, that you would be much better cared for and fed
there than you can be here, and it would not be necessary to give up
your room.  I would look after it until you are better."

Still the old lady shook her head, which was shaking badly enough from
age as it was.

Going to the corner cupboard, in which Mrs Willis kept her little store
of food and physic, I stood there pondering what I should do.

"Please, sir," said Slidder, sidling up to me, "if you wants
mutton-chops, or steaks, or port wine, or anythink o' that sort, just
say the word and I'll get 'em."

"You, boy--how?"

"Vy, ain't the shops full of 'em?  I'd go an help myself, spite of all
the bobbies that valks in blue."

"Oh, Slidder," said I, really grieved, for I saw by his earnest face
that he meant it, "would you go and steal after all I have said to you
about that sin?"

"Vell, sir, I wouldn't prig for myself--indeed I wouldn't--but I'd do it
to make the old 'ooman better."

"That would not change stealing into a virtue.  No, my boy, we must try
to hit on some other way of providing for her wants."

"The Lord will provide," said Mrs Willis, from the bed.

She had overheard us.  I hastened to her side.

"Yes, granny, He _will_ provide.  Meanwhile He has given me enough money
to spare a little for your immediate wants.  I will send some things,
which your kind neighbour, Mrs Jones, will cook for you.  I'll give her
directions as I pass her door.  Slidder will go home with me and fetch
you the medicines you require.  Now, try to sleep till Mrs Jones comes
with the food.  You must not speak to me.  It will make you worse."

"I only want to ask, John, have you any--any news about--"

"No, not yet, granny; but don't be cast down.  If you can trust God for
food, surely you can trust Him for protection, not only to yourself, but
to Edie.  Remember the words, `Commit thy way unto the Lord, and He will
bring it to pass.'"

"Thank you, John," replied the old woman, as she sank back on her pillow
with a little sigh.

After leaving Mrs Willis I was detained so long with some of my
patients that it was late before I could turn my steps westward.  The
night was very cold, with a keen December wind blowing, and heavy black
clouds driving across the dark sky.  It was after midnight as I drew
near the neighbourhood of the house in which I had left Dumps so
hurriedly that morning.  In my haste I had neglected to ask the name of
the young lady with whom I had left him, or to note the number of the
house; but I recollected its position, and resolved to go round by it
for the purpose of ascertaining the name on the door.



CHAPTER FIVE.

CONSPIRACY AND VILLAINY, INNOCENCE AND TRAGEDY.

In one of the dirtiest of the dirty and disreputable dens of London, a
man and a boy sat on that same dark December night engaged in earnest
conversation.

Their seats were stools, their table was an empty flour-barrel, their
apartment a cellar.  A farthing candle stood awry in the neck of a pint
bottle.  A broken-lipped jug of gin-and-water hot, and two cracked
tea-cups stood between them.  The damp of the place was drawn out,
rather than abated, by a small fire, which burned in a rusty grate, over
which they sought to warm their hands as they conversed.  The man was
palpably a scoundrel.  Not less so was the boy.

"Slogger," said the man, in a growling voice, "we must do it this wery
night."

"Vell, Brassey, I'm game," replied the Slogger, draining his cup with a
defiant air.

"If it hadn't bin for that old 'ooman as was care-taker all last
summer," continued the man, as he pricked a refractory tobacco-pipe,
"we'd 'ave found the job more difficult; but, you see, she went and lost
the key o' the back door, and the doctor he 'ad to get another.  So I
goes an' gets round the old 'ooman, an' pumps her about the lost key,
an' at last I finds it--d'ye see?"

"But," returned the Slogger, with a knowing frown, "seems to me as how
you'd never get two keys into one lock--eh?  The noo 'un wouldn't let
the old 'un in, would it?"

"Ah, that's where it is," replied Mr Brassey, with a leer, as he raised
his cup to his large ugly mouth and chuckled.  "You see, the doctor's
wife she's summat timmersome, an' looks arter the lockin' up every night
herself--wery partikler.  Then she 'as all the keys up into her own
bedroom o' nights--so, you see, in consikence of her uncommon care, she
keeps all the locks clear for you and me to work upon!"

The Slogger was so overcome by this instance of the result of excessive
caution, that he laughed heartily for some minutes, and had to apply for
relief to the hot gin-and-water.

"'Ow ever did you come for to find that hout?" asked the boy.

"Servants," replied the man.

"Ha!" exclaimed the boy, with a wink, which would have been knowing if
the spirits had not by that time rendered it ridiculous.

"Yes, you see," continued the elder ruffian, blowing a heavy cloud of
smoke like a cannon shot from his lips, "servants is wariable in
character.  Some is good, an' some is bad.  I mostly take up wi' the bad
'uns.  There's one in the doctor's 'ouse as is a prime favourite with
me, an' knows all about the locks, she does.  But there's a noo an'
unexpected difficulty sprung up in the way this wery mornin'."

"Wot's that?" demanded the Slogger, with the air of a man prepared to
defy all difficulties.

"They've bin an' got a dog--a little dog, too; the very wust kind for
kickin' up a row.  'Owever, it ain't the fust time you an' I 'ave met an
conkered such a difficulty.  You'll take a bit of cat's meat in your
pocket, you know."

"Hall right!" exclaimed the young housebreaker, with a reckless toss of
his shaggy head, as he laid his hand on the jug: but the elder scoundrel
laid his stronger hand upon it.

"Come, Slogger; no more o' that.  You've 'ad too much already.  You
won't be fit for dooty if you take more."

"It's wery 'ard on a cove," growled the lad, sulkily.

Brassey looked narrowly into his face, then took up the forbidden jug,
and himself drained it, after which he rose, grasped the boy by his
collar, and forced him, struggling, towards a sink full of dirty water,
into which he thrust his head, and shook it about roughly for a second
or two.

"There, that'll sober you," said the man, releasing the boy, and sending
him into the middle of the room with a kick.  "Now, don't let your
monkey rise, Slogger.  It's all for your good.  I'll be back in 'alf an
hour.  See that you have the tools ready."

So saying the man left the cellar, and the boy, who was much
exasperated, though decidedly sobered, by his treatment, proceeded to
dry himself with a jack-towel, and make preparations for the intended
burglary.

The house in regard to which such interesting preparations were being
made was buried, at the hour I write of, in profound repose.  As its
fate and its family have something to do with my tale, I shall describe
it somewhat particularly.  In the basement there was an offshoot, or
scullery, which communicated with the kitchen.  This scullery had been
set apart that day as the bedroom of my little dog.  (Of course I knew
nothing of this, and what I am about to relate, at that time.  I learned
it all afterwards.)  Dumps lay sound asleep on a flannel bed, made by
loving hands, in the bottom of a soap-box.  It lay under the shadow of a
beer-cask--the servants' beer--a fresh cask--which, having arrived late
that evening, had not been relegated to the cellar.  The only other
individual who slept on the basement was the footman.

That worthy, being elderly and feeble, though bold as a lion, had been
doomed to the lower regions by his mistress, as a sure protection
against burglars.  He went to bed nightly with a poker and a pistol so
disposed that he could clutch them both while in the act of springing
from bed.  This arrangement was made not to relieve his own fears, but
by order of his mistress, with whom he could hold communication at night
without rising, by means of a speaking-tube.

John--he chanced to bear my own name--had been so long subject to night
alarms, partly from cats careering in the back yard, and his mistress
demanding to know, through the tube, if he heard them; partly, also,
from frequent ringing of the night-bell, by persons who urgently wanted
"Dr McTougall," that he had become callous in his nervous system, and
did much of his night-work as a semi-somnambulist.

The rooms on the first floor above, consisting of the dining-room,
library, and consulting-room, etcetera, were left, as usual, tenantless
and dark at night.  On the drawing-room floor Mrs McTougall lay in her
comfortable bed, sound asleep and dreamless.  The poor lady had spent
the first part of that night in considerable fear because of the
restlessness of Dumps in his new and strange bedroom--her husband being
absent because of a sudden call to a country patient.  The speaking-tube
had been pretty well worked, and John had been lively in consequence--
though patient--but at last the drowsy god had calmed the good lady into
a state of oblivion.

On the floor above, besides various bedrooms, there were the night
nursery and the schoolroom.  In one of the bedrooms slumbered the young
lady who had robbed me of my doggie!

In the nursery were four cribs and a cradle.  Dr McTougall's family had
come in what I may style annual progression.  Six years had he been
married, and each year had contributed another annual to the army.

The children were now ranged round the walls with mathematical
precision--one, two, three, four, and five.  The doctor liked them all
to be together, and the nursery, being unusually large, permitted of
this arrangement.  A tall, powerful, sunny-tempered woman of uncertain
age officered the army by day and guarded it by night.  Jack and Harry
and Job and Jenny occupied the cribs, Dolly the cradle.  Each of these
creatures had been transfixed by sleep in the very midst of some
desperate enterprise during the earlier watches of that night, and all
had fallen down in more or less _degage_ and reckless attitudes.  Here a
fat fist, doubled; there a fatter leg, protruded; elsewhere a spread
eagle was represented, with the bedclothes in a heap on its stomach; or
a complex knot was displayed, made up of legs, sheets, blankets, and
arms.  Subsequently the tall but faithful guardian had gone round,
disentangled the knot, reduced the spread eagle, and straightened them
all out.  They now lay, stiff and motionless as mummies, roseate as the
morn, deceptively innocent, with eyes tight shut and mouths wide open--
save in the case of Dolly, whose natural appetite could only be appeased
by the nightly sucking of two of her own fingers.

In the attics three domestics slumbered in peace.  Still higher, a
belated cat reposed in the lee of a chimney-stack.

It was a restful scene, which none but a heartless monster could have
ventured to disturb.  Even Brassey and the Slogger had no intention of
disturbing it--on the contrary, it was their earnest hope that they
might accomplish their designs on the doctor's plate with as little
disturbance as possible.  Their motto was a paraphrase, "Get the plate--
quietly, if you can, but get the plate!"

In the midst of the universal stillness, when no sound was heard save
the sighing of the night-wind or the solemn creaking of an unsuccessful
smoke-curer, there came a voice of alarm down the tube--

"John, do you hear burglars?"

"Oh, dear! no, mum, I don't."

"I'm convinced I hear them at the back of the house!" tubed Mrs
McTougall.

"Indeed it ain't, mum," tubed John in reply.  "It's on'y that little dog
as comed this morning and ain't got used to its noo 'ome yet.  It's
a-whinin', mum; that's wot it is."

"Oh! do get up, John, and put a light beside him; perhaps he's afraid of
the dark."

"Very well, mum," said John, obedient but savage.

He arose, upset the poker and pistol with a hideous clatter, which was
luckily too remote to smite horror into the heart of Mrs McTougall, and
groped his way into the servants' hall.  Lighting a paraffin lamp, he
went to the scullery, using very unfair and harsh language towards my
innocent dog.

"Pompey, you brute!"--the footman had already learned his name--"hold
your noise.  There!"

He set the lamp on the head of the beer cask and returned to bed.

It is believed that poor perplexed Dumps viewed the midnight apparition
with silent surprise, and wagged his tail, being friendly; then gazed at
the lamp after the apparition had retired, until obliged to give the
subject up, like a difficult conundrum, and finally went to sleep--
perchance to dream--of dogs, or me!

It was while Dumps was thus engaged that Brassey and the Slogger walked
up to the front of the house and surveyed it in silence for a few
minutes.  They also took particular observations of both ends of the
street.

"All serene," said Brassey; "now, you go round to the back and use your
key quietly.  Give 'im the bit o' meat quick.  He won't give tongue
arter 'e smells it, and one or two barks won't alarm the 'ouse.  So, get
along, Slogger.  W'en you've got him snug, with a rope round 'is neck
an' 'is head in the flannel bag, just caterwaul an' I'll come round.
Bless the cats! they're a great help to gentlemen in our procession."

Thus admonished, the Slogger chuckled and melted into the darkness,
while Brassey mingled himself with the shadow of a pillar.

The key--lost by the care-taker and found by the burglar--fitted into
the empty lock even more perfectly than that which Mrs McTougall had
conveyed to her mantelpiece some hours before.  It was well oiled too,
and went round in the wards of the lock without giving a chirp, so that
the bolt flew back with one solitary shot.  The report, however, was
loud.  It caused Dumps to return from Dogland and raise his head with a
decided growl.

Nobody heard the growl except the Slogger, who stood perfectly still for
nearly a minute, with his hand on the door-handle.  Then he opened the
door slowly and softly--so slowly and softly that an alarm-bell attached
to it did not ring.

A sharp bow! wow! wow! however, greeted him as he entered, but he was
prompt.  A small piece of meat fell directly under the nose of Dumps, as
he stood bristling in front of his box; and, let me add, when Dumps
bristled it was a sight to behold!

"Good dog--good do-o-og," said the Slogger, in his softest and most
insinuating tone.

Dumps reduced his bark to a growl.

The footman heard both bark and growl, but, attributing them to the
influence of cats, turned on his other side and listened--not for
burglars, innocent man, but for the tube.

It was silent!  Evidently "tired nature" was, in Mrs McTougall's case,
lulled by the "sweet restorer."  Forthwith John betook himself again to
the land of Nod.

"Have another bit?" said the Slogger in quite a friendly way, after the
first bit had been devoured.

My too trusting favourite wagged his tail and innocently accepted the
bribe.

It was good cat's meat.  Dumps liked it.  The enormous supper with which
he had lain down was by that time nearly assimilated, and appetite had
begun to revive.  Going down on his knee the young burglar held out a
third morsel of temptation in his hand.  Dumps meekly advanced and took
the meat.  It was a sad illustration of the ease with which even a dog
descends from bad to worse.

While he was engaged with it the Slogger gently patted his head.

Suddenly Dumps found his muzzle grasped and held tight in a powerful
hand.  He tried to bark and yell, but could produce nothing better than
a scarcely audible whine.  His sides were at the same instant grasped by
a pair of powerful knees, while a rope was twisted round his neck, and
the process of strangulation began.

But strangulation was not the Slogger's intention.  He had been
carefully warned not to kill.

"Mind, now, you don't screw 'im up too tight," Brassey had said, when
giving the boy his instructions before starting.  "Dogs is vurth munny.
Just 'old 'im tight and quiet till you get the flannel bag on 'is head,
and then stand by till I've sacked the swag."

Accordingly, having effected the bagging of the dog's head, the young
burglar went to the door, holding Dumps tight in his arms, and uttered a
pretty loud and life-like caterwaul.  Brassey heard it, emerged from the
shade of his pillar, and was soon beside his comrade.

When Dumps smelt and heard the new-comer, he redoubled his efforts to
free his head and yell, but the Slogger was too much for him.

Few words were wasted on this occasion.  The couple understood their
work.  Brassey took up the lamp.

"Wery considerate of 'em to 'ave a light all ready for us," he muttered,
as he lowered the flame a little, and glided into the kitchen, leaving
the Slogger on guard in the scullery.  Here he found a variety of gins
and snares carefully placed for him--and such as he--by strict orders of
Mrs McTougall.  Besides a swing-bell on the window shutter--similar to
that which had done so little service on the scullery door--there was a
coal-scuttle with the kitchen tongs balanced against it and a tin
slop-pail in company with the kitchen shovel, and a watering-pan,
which--the poker being already engaged to John--was balanced on its own
rose and handle, all ready to fail with a touch.  These outworks being
echelloned along the floor rendered it impossible for an intruder to
cross the kitchen in the dark without overturning one or more of them.
Thanks to the lamp, Brassey steered his way carefully and with a grim
smile.

At John Waters's door he paused and listened.  John's nose revealed his
condition.

Gliding up the stairs on shoeless feet the burglar entered the
dining-room, picked the locks of the sideboard with marvellous celerity,
unfolded a canvas bag, and placed therein whatever valuables he could
lay hands on.  Proceeding next to the drawing-room floor, he began to
examine and appropriate the articles of _vertu_ that appeared to him
most valuable.

Not being a perfect judge of such matters, Mr Brassey was naturally
puzzled with some of them.  One in particular caused him to regard it
with frowning attention for nearly a minute before he came to the
conclusion that it was "vurth munny."  He placed the lamp on the small
table near the window, from which he had lifted the ornament in
question, and sat down on a crimson chair with gilded legs to examine it
more critically.

Meanwhile the Slogger, left in the dark with the still fitfully
struggling Dumps, employed his leisure in running over some of the
salient events of his past career, and in trying to ascertain, by the
very faint light that came from a distant street-lamp, what was the
nature of his immediate surroundings.  His nose told him that the cask
at his elbow was beer.  His exploring right hand told him that the tap
was in it.  His native intelligence suggested a tumbler on the head of
the cask, and the exploring hand proved the idea to be correct.

"Brassey was wery 'ard on me to-night," he thought.  "I'd like to have a
swig."

But Dumps was sadly in the way.  To remove his left hand even for an
instant from the dog's muzzle was not to be thought of.  In this dilemma
he resolved to tie up the said muzzle, and the legs also, even at the
risk of causing death.  It would not take more than a minute to draw a
tumblerful, and any dog worth a straw could hold his wind for a minute.
He would try.  He did try, and was yet in the act of drawing the beer
when my doggie burst his bonds by a frantic effort to be free.  Probably
the hairy nature of his little body had rendered a firm bond impossible.
At all events, he suddenly found his legs loose.  Another effort, more
frantic than before, set free the muzzle, and then there arose on the
still night air a yell so shrill, so loud, so indescribably horrible,
that its conception must be left entirely to the reader's imagination.

At the same instant Dumps scurried into the kitchen.  The scuttle and
tongs went down, the slop-pail and shovel followed suit, also the
watering-pan, into which latter Dumps went head foremost as it fell, and
from its interior another yell issued with such resonant power that the
first yell was a mere chirp by contrast.  The Slogger fled from the
scene like an evil spirit, while John Waters sprang up and grasped the
pistol and poker.

The effect on Brassey in the drawing-room cannot be conceived, much less
described.  He shot, as it were, out of the crimson-gilded chair and
overturned the lamp, which burst on the floor.  Being half full of
paraffin oil it instantly set fire to the gauze window-curtains.  The
burglar made straight for the stairs.  John Waters, observing the light,
dashed up the same, and the two met face to face on the landing,
breathing hate and glaring defiance!



CHAPTER SIX.

RELATES A STIRRING INNOCENT.

Now it was at this critical moment that I chanced to come upon the
scene.

I had just ascertained from the brass plate on the door that Dr
McTougall dwelt there, and was thinking what an ugly unromantic name
that was for a pretty girl as I descended the steps, when Dumps's first
yell broke upon my astonished ears.  I recognised the voice at once,
though I must confess that the second yell from the interior of the
watering-pan perplexed me not a little, but the hideous clatter with
which it was associated, and the sudden bursting out of flames in the
drawing-room, drove all thoughts of Dumps instantly away.

My first impulse was to rush to the nearest fire-station; but a wild
shouting in the lobby of the house arrested me.  I rang the bell
violently.  At the same moment I heard the report of a pistol, and a
savage curse, as a bullet came crashing through the door and went close
past my head.  Then I heard a blow, followed by a groan.  This was
succeeded by female shrieks overhead, and the violent undoing of the
bolts, locks, and chains of the front door.

Thought is quick.  Burglary flashed into my mind!  A villainous-looking
fellow leaped out as the door flew open.  I recognised him instantly as
the man who had sold Dumps to me.  I put my foot in front of him.  He
went over it with a wild pitch, and descended the steps on his nose!

I was about to leap on him when a policeman came tearing round the
corner, just in time to receive the stunned Brassey with open arms, as
he rose and staggered forward.

"Just so.  Don't give way too much to your feelings!  I'll take care of
you, my poor unfortunate fellow," said the policeman, as a brother in
blue came to his assistance.

Already one of those ubiquitous creatures, a street-boy, had flown to
the fire-station on the wings of hope and joy, and an engine came
careering round the corner as I turned to rush up the stairs, which were
already filled with smoke.

I dashed in the first door I came to.  A lady, partially clothed, stood
there pale as death, and motionless.

"Quick, madam! descend! the house is on fire!"  I gasped in sharp
sentences as I seized her.  "Where is your--your (she looked young)
_sister_?"  I cried, as she resisted my efforts to lead her out.

"I've no sister!" she shrieked.

"Your daughter, then!  Quick, direct me!"

"Oh! my darling!" she cried, wringing her hands.

"Where?"  I shouted in desperation, for the smoke was thickening.

"Up-stairs," she screamed, and rushed out, intending evidently to go up.

I caught her round the waist and forced her down the stairs, thrust her
into the arms of an ascending fireman, and then ran up again, taking
three steps at a time.  The cry of a child attracted me.  I made for a
door opposite, and burst it open.  The scene that presented itself was
striking.  Out of four cribs and a cradle arose five cones of
bed-clothes, with a pretty little curly head surmounting each cone, and
ten eyes blazing with amazement.  A tall nurse stood erect in the middle
of the floor with outstretched arms, glaring.

Instantly I grasped a cone in each arm and bore it from the room.
Blinded with smoke, I ran like a thunderbolt into the arms of a gigantic
fireman.

"Take it easy, sir.  You'll do far more work if you keep cool.  Straight
on to front room!  Fire-escape's there by this time."

I understood, and darted into a front room, through the window of which
the head of the fire-escape entered at the same moment, sending glass in
splinters all over us.  It was immediately drawn back a little, enabling
me to throw up the window-sash and thrust the two children into the arms
of another fireman, whose head suddenly emerged from the smoke that rose
from the windows below.  I could see that the fire was roaring out into
the street, and lighting up hundreds of faces below, while the steady
clank of engines told that the brigade was busily at work fighting the
flames.  But I had no time to look or think.  Indeed, I felt as if I had
no power of volition properly my own, but that I acted under the strong
impulse of another spirit within me.

Darting back towards the nursery I met the first fireman dragging with
his right hand the tall nurse, who seemed unreasonably to struggle
against him, while in his left arm he carried two of the children, and
the baby by its night-dress in his teeth.

I saw at a glance that he had emptied the nursery, and turned to search
for another door.  During the whole of this scene--which passed in a few
minutes--a feeling of desperate anxiety possessed me as to the fate of
the young lady to whom I had given up my doggie.  I felt persuaded she
slept on the same floor with the children, and groped about the passage
in search of another door.  By this time the smoke was so dense that I
was all but suffocated.  A minute or two more and it would be too late.
I could not see.  Suddenly I felt a door and kicked it open.  The black
smoke entered with me, but it was still clear enough inside for me to
perceive the form of a girl lying on the floor.  It was she!

"Miss McTougall!"  I shouted, endeavouring to rouse her; but she had
fainted.  Not a moment now to lose.  A lurid tongue of flame came up the
staircase.  I rolled a blanket round the girl--head and all.  She was
very light.  In the excitement of the moment I raised her as if she had
been a child, and darted back towards the passage, but the few moments I
had lost almost cost us our lives.  I knew that to breathe the dense
smoke would be certain suffocation, and went through it holding my
breath like a diver.  I felt as if the hot flames were playing round my
head, and smelt the singeing of my own hair.  Another moment and I had
reached the window, where the grim but welcome head of the escape still
rested.  With a desperate bound I went head first into the shoot, taking
my precious bundle along with me.

A fireman chanced to be going down the shoot at the time, carefully
piloting one of the maids who had been rescued from the attics, and
checking his speed with outspread legs.  Against him I canonned with
tremendous force, and sent him and his charge in a heap to the bottom.

This was fortunate, for the pace at which I must have otherwise come
down would have probably broken my neck.  As it was, I felt so stunned
that I nearly lost consciousness.  Still I retained my senses
sufficiently to observe a stout elderly little man in full evening
dress, with his coat slit up behind to his neck, his face
half-blackened, and his shaggy hair flying wildly in all directions--
chiefly upwards.  Amid wild cheering from the crowd I confusedly heard
the conversation that followed.

"They're all accounted for now, sir," said a policeman, who supported
me.

The elderly gentleman had leaped forward with an exclamation of earnest
thankfulness, and unrolled the blanket.

"Not hurt!  No, thank God.  Lift her carefully now.  To the same
house.--And who are you?" he added, turning and looking full at me as I
leaned in a dazed condition on the fireman's shoulder.  I heard the
question and saw the speaker, but could not reply.

"This is the gen'leman as saved two o' the child'n an' the young lady,"
said the tall fireman, whom I recognised as the one into whose bosom I
had plunged on the upper floor.

"Ay, an' he's the gen'leman," said another fireman, "who shoved your
missus, sir, into my arms, w'en she was bent on runnin' up-stairs."

"Is this so?" said the little gentleman, stepping forward and grasping
my hand.

Still I could not speak.  I felt as if the whole affair were a dream,
and looked on and listened with a vacant smile.

Just at that moment a long, melancholy wail rose above the roaring of
the fire and clanking of the engines.

The cry restored me at once.

"Dumps! my doggie!"  I exclaimed; and, bursting through the crowd,
rushed towards the now furiously-burning house, but strong hands
restrained me.

"What dog is it?" asked the elderly gentleman.  A man, drenched,
blackened, and bloodstained, whom I had not before observed, here said--

"A noo dog, sir, Dumps by name, come to us this wery day.  We putt 'im
in the scullery for the night."

Again I made a desperate effort to return to the burning house, but was
restrained as before.

"All right, sir," whispered a fireman in a confidential tone, "I know
the scullery.  The fire ain't got down there yet.  Your dog can only
have bin damaged by water as yet.  I'll save 'im sir, never fear."

He went off with a quiet little nod that did much to comfort me.
Meanwhile the elderly gentleman sought to induce me to leave the place
and obtain refreshment in the house of a friendly neighbour, who had
taken in his family.

"You need rest, my dear sir," he said; "come, I must take you in hand.
You have rendered me a service which I can never repay.  What?
Obstinate!  Do you know that I am a doctor, sir, and must be obeyed?"

I smiled, but refused to move until the fate of Dumps was ascertained.

Presently the fireman returned with my doggie in his arms.

Poor Dumps!  He was a pitiable sight.  Tons of hot water had been
pouring on his devoted head, and his shaggy, shapeless coat was so
plastered to his long, little body, that he looked more like a drowned
weazel than a terrier.  He was trembling violently, and whined
piteously, as they gave him to me; nevertheless, he attempted to wag his
tail and lick my hands.  In both attempts he failed.  His tail was too
wet to wag--but it wriggled.

"He'd have saved himself, sir," said the man who brought him, "only
there was a rope round his neck, which had caught on a coal-scuttle and
held him.  He's not hurt, sir, though he do seem as if some one had bin
tryin' to choke him."

"My poor doggie!" said I, fondling him.

"He won't want washin' for some time to come," observed one of the
bystanders.

There was a laugh at this.

"Come; now the dog is safe you have no reason for refusing to go with
me," said the elderly gentleman, who, I now understood, was the master
of the burning house.

As we walked away he asked my name and profession, and I thought he
smiled with peculiar satisfaction when I said I was a student of
medicine.

"Oh, indeed!" he said; "well--we shall see.  But here we are.  This is
the house of my good friend Dobson.  City man--capital fellow, like all
City men--ahem!  He has put his house at my disposal at this very trying
period of my existence."

"But are you sure, Dr McTougall, that _all_ the household is saved?"  I
asked, becoming more thoroughly awake to the tremendous reality of the
scene through which I had just passed.

"Sure! my good fellow, d'you think I'd be talking thus quietly to you if
I were _not_ sure?  Yes, thanks to you and the firemen, under God,
there's not a hair of their heads injured."

"Are you--I beg pardon--are you quite sure?  Have you seen Miss
McTougall since she--"

"Miss McTougall!" exclaimed the doctor, with a laugh.  "D'you mean my
little Jenny by that dignified title?"

"Well, of course, I did not know her name, and she is not _very_ large;
but I brought her down the shoot with such violence that--"

An explosion of laughter from the doctor stopped me as I entered a large
library, the powerful lights of which at first dazzled me.

"Here, Dobson, let me introduce you to the man who has saved my whole
family, and who has mistaken Miss Blythe for my Jenny!--Why, sir," he
continued, turning to me, "the bundle you brought down so
unceremoniously is only my governess.  Ah!  I'd give twenty thousand
pounds down on the spot if she were only my daughter.  My Jenny will be
a lucky woman if she grows up to be like her."

"I congratulate you, Mr Mellon," said the City man, shaking me warmly
by the hand.

"You have acted with admirable promptitude--which is most important at a
fire--and they tell me that the header you took into the escape, with
Miss Blythe in your arms, was the finest acrobatic feat that has been
seen off the stage."

"I say, Dobson, where have you stowed my wife and the children?  I want
to introduce him to them."

"In the dining-room," returned the City man.  "You see, I thought it
would be more agreeable that they should be all together until their
nerves are calmed, so I had mattresses, blankets, etcetera, brought
down.  Being a bachelor, as you know, I could do nothing more than place
the wardrobes of my domestics at the disposal of the ladies.  The things
are not, indeed, a very good fit, but--this way, Mr Mellon."

The City man, who was tall and handsome, ushered his guests into what he
styled his hospital, and there, ranged in a row along the wall, were
five shakedowns, with a child on each.  Seldom have I beheld a finer
sight than the sparkling lustre of their ten still glaring eyes!  Two
pleasant young domestics were engaged in feeding the smaller ones with
jam and pudding.  We arrange the words advisedly, because the jam was,
out of all proportion, too much for the pudding.  The elder children
were feeding themselves with the same materials, and in the same
relative proportions.  Mrs McTougall, in a blue cotton gown with white
spots, which belonged to the housemaid, reclined on a sofa; she was
deadly pale, and the expression of horror was not quite removed from her
countenance.

Beside her, administering restoratives, sat Miss Blythe, in a chintz
dress belonging to the cook, which was ridiculously too large for her.
She was dishevelled and flushed, and looked so pleasantly anxious about
Mrs McTougall that I almost forgave her having robbed me of my doggie.

"Miss Blythe, your deliverer!" cried the little doctor, who seemed to
delight in blowing my trumpet with the loudest possible blast; "my dear,
your preserver!"

I bowed in some confusion, and stammered something incoherently.  Mrs
McTougall said something else, languidly, and Miss Blythe rose and held
out her hand with a pleasant smile.

"Well, if this isn't one of the very jolliest larks I ever had!"
exclaimed Master Harry from his corner, between two enormous spoonfuls.

"Hah!" exclaimed Master Jack.

He could say no more.  He was too busy!

We all laughed, and, much to my relief, general attention was turned to
the little ones.

"You young scamps!--the `lark' will cost me some thousands of pounds,"
said the doctor.

"Never mind, papa.  Just go to the bank and they'll give you as much as
you want."

"More pooding!" demanded Master Job.  The pleasant-faced domestic
hesitated.

"Oh! give it him.  Act the banker on this occasion, and give him as much
as he wants," said the doctor.

"Good papa!" exclaimed the overjoyed Jenny; "how I wis' we had a house
on fire every night!"

Even Dolly crowed with delight at this, as if she really appreciated the
idea, and continued her own supper with increased fervour.

Thus did that remarkable family spend the small hours of that morning,
while their home was being burned to ashes.



CHAPTER SEVEN.

MY CIRCUMSTANCES BEGIN TO BRIGHTEN.

"Robin," said old Mrs Willis from her bed, in the wheeziest of voices.

"Who's Robin, granny?" demanded young Slidder, in some surprise, looking
over his shoulder as he stooped at the fire to stir a pan of gruel.

"You are Robin," returned the old lady following up the remark with a
feeble sneeze.  "I can't stand Slidder.  It is such an ugly name.
Besides, you ought to have a Christian name, child.  Don't you like
Robin?"

The boy chuckled a little as he stirred the gruel.

"Vell, I ain't had it long enough to 'ave made up my mind on the p'int,
but you may call me wot you please, granny, s'long as you don't swear.
I'll answer to Robin, or Bobin, or Dobin, or Nobin, or Flogin--no, by
the way, I won't answer to Flogin.  I don't like that.  But why call me
Robin?"

"Ah!" sighed the old woman, "because I once had a dear little son so
named.  He died when he was about your age, and your kindly ways are so
like his that--"

"Hallo, granny!" interrupted Slidder, standing up with a look of intense
surprise, "are you took bad?"

"No.  Why?"

"'Cause you said suthin' about _my ways_ that looks suspicious."

"Did I, Robin?  I didn't mean to.  But as I was saying, I'd like to call
you Robin because it reminds me of my little darling who is now in
heaven.  Ah!  Robin was so gentle, and loving, and tender, and true, and
kind.  He _was_ a good boy!"

A wheezing, which culminated in another feeble sneeze, here silenced the
poor old thing.

For some minutes after that Slidder devoted himself to vigorous stirring
of the gruel, and to repressed laughter, which latter made him very red
in the face, and caused his shoulders to heave convulsively.  At last he
sought relief in occasional mutterings.

"On'y think!" he said, quoting Mrs Willis's words, in a scarcely
audible whisper, "`so gentle, an' lovin', an' tender, an' true, an'
kind'--an' sitch a good boy too--an' _my_ kindly ways is like _his_, are
they?  Well, well, Mrs W, it's quite clear that a loo-natic asylum must
be your native 'ome arter this."

"What are you muttering about, Robin?"

"Nuffin' partikler, granny.  On'y suthin' about your futur' prospec's.
The gruel's ready, I think.  Will you 'ave it now, or vait till you get
it?"

"There--even in your little touches of humour you're so like him!" said
the old woman, with a mingled smile and sneeze, as she slowly rose to a
sitting posture, making a cone of the bedclothes with her knees, on
which she laid her thin hands.

"Come now, old 'ooman," said Slidder seriously, "if you go on jokin'
like that you'll make me larf and spill your gruel--p'raps let it fall
bash on the floor.  There!  Don't let it tumble off your knees, now; I'd
adwise you to lower 'em for the time bein'.  Here's the spoon; it ain't
as bright as I could wish, but you can't expect much of pewter; an' the
napkin--that's your sort; an' the bit of bread--which it isn't too much
for a 'ealthy happetite.  Now then, granny, go in and win!"

"_So_ like," murmured the old woman, as she gazed in Slidder's face.
"And it is so good of you to give up your play and come to look after a
helpless old creature like me."

"Yes, it _is_ wery good of me," assented the boy, with an air of
profound gravity; "I was used to sleep under a damp archway or in a wet
cask, _now_ I slumbers in a 'ouse by a fire, under a blankit.  Vunce on
a time I got wittles any'ow--sometimes didn't get 'em at all; _now_ I
'ave 'em riglar, as well as good, an' 'ot.  In wot poets call `the days
gone by'--an' nights too, let me tell you--I wos kicked an' cuffed by
everybody, an' 'unted to death by bobbies.  _Now_ I'm--let alone!
'Eavenly condition--let _alone_! sometimes even complimented with such
pleasant greetings as `Go it, Ginger!' or `Does your mother know you're
out?'  Oh yes, granny!  I made great sacrifices, I did, w'en I come 'ere
to look arter _you_!"

Mrs Willis smiled, sneezed, and began her gruel.  Slidder, who looked
at her with deep interest, was called away by a knock at the door.
Opening it he beheld a tall footman, with a parcel in his hand.

"Does a Mrs Willis live here?" he asked.

"No," replied Slidder; "a Mrs Willis don't live here, but _the_ Mrs
Willis--the on'y one vurth speakin' of--does."

"Ah!" replied the man, with a smile--for he was an amiable footman--"and
I suppose you are young Slidder?"

"I am _Mister_ Slidder, sir!  And I would 'ave you remember," said the
urchin, with dignity, "that every Englishman's 'ouse is his castle, and
that neither imperence nor flunkies 'as a right to enter."

"Indeed!" exclaimed the man, with affected surprise, "then I'm afraid
this castle can't be a strong one, or it ain't well guarded, for
`Imperence' got into it somehow when _you_ entered."

"Good, good!" returned the boy, with the air of a connoisseur; "that's
worthy of the East End.  You should 'ave bin one of us.--Now then, old
six-foot! wot's your business?"

"To deliver this parcel."

"'And it over, then."

"But I am also to see Mrs Willis, and ask how she is."

"Walk in, then, an' wipe your feet.  We ain't got a door-mat to-day.
It's a-comin', like Christmas; but you may use the boards in the
meantime."

The footman turned out to be a pleasant, gossipy man, and soon won the
hearts of old Mrs Willis and her young guardian.  He had been sent, he
said, by a Dr McTougall with a parcel containing wine, tea, sugar,
rice, and a few other articles of food, and with a message that the
doctor would call and see Mrs Willis that afternoon.

"Deary me, that's very kind," said the old woman; "but I wonder why he
sent such things to me, and who told him I was in want of 'em?"

"It was a young gentleman who rescued most of the doctor's family from a
fire last night.  His name, I believe, is Mellon--"

"Wot!  Doctor John Mellon?" exclaimed Slidder, with widening eyes.

"Whether he's John or doctor I cannot tell.  All I know is that he's
_Mister_ Mellon, and he's bin rather knocked up by--But, bless me, I
forgot: I was to say nothing about the--the fire till Dr McTougall had
seen you.  How stoopid of me; but things _will_ slip out!"

He stopped abruptly, and placed his brown paper parcel on the bed.

"Now, I say, look here, Mister Six-foot or wotever's your name," said
Slidder, with intense eagerness.  "It's of no use your tyin' up the
mouth o' the bag now.  The cat's got out an' can't be got in again by no
manner o' means.  Just make a clean breast of it, an' tell it all out
like a man,--there's a good feller!  If you don't, I'll tell Dr
McTougall that you gave me an' the old lady a full, true, an' partikler
account o' the whole affair, from the fust bustin' out o' the flames,
an' the calling o' the _ingines_, to the last crash o' the fallin' roof,
and the roastin' alive of the 'ousehold cat.  I will, as sure as you're
a six-foot flunkey!"

Thus adjured and threatened, the gossipy footman made a clean breast of
it.  He told them how that I had acted like a hero at the fire, and
then, after giving, in minute detail, an account of all that the reader
already knows, he went on to say that the whole family, except Dr
McTougall, was laid up with colds; that the governess was in a high
fever; that the maid-servants, having been rescued on the shoulders of
firemen from the attics, were completely broken down in their nerves;
and that I had received an injury to my right leg, which, although I had
said nothing about it on the night of the fire, had become so much worse
in the morning that I could scarcely walk across the room.  In these
circumstances, he added, Dr McTougall had agreed to visit my poor
people for me until I should recover.

"You see," continued the footman, "I only heard a little of their
conversation.  Dr McTougall was saying when I come into the room:
`Well, Mr Mellon,' he said, `you must of necessity remain where you
are, and you could not, let me tell you, be in better quarters.  I will
look after your patients till you are able to go about again--which
won't be long, I hope--and I'll make a particular note of your old
woman, and send her some wine and things immediately.'  I suppose he
meant you, ma'am," added the footman, "but having to leave the room
again owing to some of the children howling for jam and pudding, I heard
no more."

Having thus delivered himself of his tale and parcel, the tall footman
took his leave with many expressions of good-will.

"Now, granny," remarked young Slidder, as he untied the parcel, and
spread its contents on the small deal table, "I've got a wague suspicion
that the 'ouse w'ich 'as gone to hashes is the wery 'ouse in w'ich Dr
Mellon put his little dog last night.  'Cause why?  Ain't it the same
identical street, an' the same side o' the street, and about the same
part o' the street?  An' didn't both him and me forgit to ask the name
o' the people o' the 'ouse, or to look at the number--so took up was we
with partin' from Punch?  Wot more nat'ral than for him to go round on
'is way back to look at the 'ouse--supposin' he was too late to call?
Then, didn't that six-footer say a terrier dog _was_ reskooed from the
lower premises?  To be sure there's many a terrier dog in London, but
then didn't he likewise say that the gov'ness o' the family is a pretty
gal?  Wot more likely than that she's _my_ young lady?  All that, you
see, granny, is what the magistrates would call presumptuous evidence.
But I'll go and inquire for myself this wery evenin' w'en you're all
settled an comf'rable, an' w'en I've got Mrs Jones to look arter you."

That evening, accordingly, when Robin Slidder--as I shall now call him--
was away making his inquiries, Dr McTougall called on Mrs Willis.  She
was very weak and low at the time.  The memory of her lost Edie had been
heavy upon her, and she felt strangely disinclined to talk.  The kindly
doctor did not disturb her more than was sufficient to fully investigate
her case.

When about to depart he took Mrs Jones into the passage.

"Now, my good woman," he said, "I hope you will see the instructions you
heard me give to Mrs Willis carried out.  She is very low, but with
good food and careful nursing may do well.  Can you give her much of
your time?"

"La, sir! yes.  I'm a lone woman, sir, with nothin' to do but take care
of myself; an' I'm that fond of Mrs Willis--she's like my own mother."

"Very good.  And what of this boy who has come to live with her?  D'you
think he is steady--to be depended on?"

"Indeed I do, sir!" replied Mrs Jones, with much earnestness.  "Though
he did come from nowheres in partiklar, an' don't b'long to nobody, he's
a good boy, is little Slidder, and a better nurse you'll not find in all
the hospitals."

"I wish I had found him at home.  Will you give him this card, and tell
him to call on me to-morrow morning between eight and nine?  Let him ask
particularly for me--Dr McTougall.  I'm not in my own house, but in a
friend's at present; I was burnt out of my house last night."

"Oh, sir!" exclaimed Mrs Jones with a shocked expression.

"Yes; accidents will happen, you know, to the most careful among us,
Mrs Jones," said the little doctor, with a smile, as he drew on his
gloves.  "Good evening.  Take care of your patient now; I'm much
interested in her case--because of the young doctor who visits her
sometimes."

"Dr Mellon?" exclaimed the woman.

"Yes.  You know him?"

"Know him!  I should think I do!  He has great consideration for the
poor.  Ah! he _is_ a gentleman, is Mr Mellon!"

"He is more than a gentleman, Mrs Jones," said the little doctor with a
kindly nod, as he turned and hurried away.

It may perhaps seem to savour of vanity and egotism my recording this
conversation, but I do it chiefly for the purpose of showing how much of
hearty gratitude there is for mere trifles among the poor, for the woman
who was thus complimentary to me never received a farthing of money from
my hands, and I am not aware of having ever taken any notice of her,
except now and then wishing her a respectful good-evening, and making a
few inquiries as to her health.

That night Dr McTougall came to me, on returning from his rounds, to
report upon my district.  I was in bed at the time, and suffering
considerable pain from my bruised and swollen limb.  Dumps was lying at
my feet--dried, refreshed, and none the worse for his adventures.  I may
mention that I occupied a comfortable room in the house of the "City
man," who insisted on my staying with him until I should be quite able
to walk to my lodgings.  As Dr McTougall had taken my district, a brief
note to Mrs Miff, my landlady, relieved my mind of all anxieties,
professional and domestic, so that my doggie and I could enjoy ourselves
as well as the swollen leg would permit.

"My dear young friend," said the little doctor, as he entered, "your
patients are all going on admirably, and as I mean to send my assistant
to them regularly, you may make your mind quite easy.  I've seen your
old woman too, and she is charming.  I don't wonder you lost your heart
to her.  Your young _protege_, however, was absent--the scamp!--but he
had provided a good nurse to take his place in the person of Mrs
Jones."

"I know her--well," said I; "she is a capital nurse.  Little Slidder
has, I am told, been here in your absence, but unfortunately the maid
who opened the door to him would not let him see me, as I happened to be
asleep at the time.  However, he'll be sure to call again.  But you have
not told me yet how Miss Blythe is."

"Well, I've not had time to tell you," replied the doctor, with a smile.
"I'm sorry to say she is rather feverish; the excitement and exposure
to the night air were a severe trial to her, for although she is
naturally strong, it is not long since she recovered from a severe
illness.  Nothing, however, surprises me so much as the way in which my
dear wife has come through it all.  It seems to have given her quite a
turn in the right direction.  Why, she used to be as timid as a mouse!
Now she scoffs at burglars.  After what occurred last night she says she
will fear nothing under the sun.  Isn't it odd?  As for the children,
I'm afraid the event has roused all that is wild and savage in their
natures!  They were kicking up a horrible shindy when I passed the
dining-room--the hospital, as Dobson calls it--so I opened the door and
peeped in.  There they were, all standing up on their beds, shouting
`Fire! fire! p'leece! p'leece!--engines! escapes!  Come qui-i-i-ck!'

"`Silence!'  I shouted.

"`Oh, papa!' they screamed, in delight, `what _do_ you think we've had
for supper?'

"`Well, what?'

"`Pudding and jam-pudding and jam--nearly _all_ jam!'

"Then they burst again into a chorus of yells for engines and
fire-escapes, while little Dolly's voice rang high above the rest
`Pudding and dam!--_all_ dam!--p'leece! p'leece! fire and feeves!' as I
shut the door.

"But now, a word in your ear before I leave you for the night.  Perhaps
it may not surprise you to be told that I have an extensive practice.
After getting into a new house, which I must do immediately, I shall
want an assistant, who may in course of time, perhaps, become a partner.
D'you understand?  Are you open to a proposal?"

"My dear sir," said I, "your kindness is very great, but you know that I
am not yet--"

"Yes, yes, I know all about that.  I merely wish to inject an idea into
your brain, and leave it there to fructify.  Go to sleep now, my dear
young fellow, and let me wish you agreeable dreams."

With a warm squeeze of the hand, and a pleasant nod, my new friend said
good-night, and left me to my meditations.



CHAPTER EIGHT.

LITTLE SLIDDER RESISTS TEMPTATION SUCCESSFULLY, AND I BECOME ENSLAVED.

"Pompey," said I, one afternoon, while reclining on the sofa in Dobson's
drawing-room, my leg being not yet sufficiently restored to admit of my
going out--"Pompey, I've got news for you."

To my surprise my doggie would not answer to that name at all when I
used it, though he did so when it was used by Miss Blythe.

"Dumps!"  I said, in a somewhat injured tone.

Ears and tail at once replied.

"Come now, Punch," I said, rather sternly; "I'll call you what I
please--Punch, Dumps, or Pompey--because you are _my_ dog still, at
least as long as your mistress and I live under the same roof; so, sir,
if you take the Dumps when I call you Pompey, I'll punch your head for
you."

Evidently the dog thought this a very flat jest, for he paid no
attention to it whatever.

"Now, Dumps, come here and let's be friends.  Who do you think is coming
to stay with us--to stay altogether?  You'll never guess.  Your old
friend and first master, little Slidder, no less.  Think of that!"

Dumps wagged his tail vigorously; whether at the news, or because of
pleasure at my brushing the hair off his soft brown eyes, and looking
into them, I cannot tell.

"Yes," I continued, "it's quite true.  This fire will apparently be the
making of little Slidder, as well as you and me, for we are all going to
live and work together.  Isn't that nice?  Evidently Dr McTougall is a
trump, and so is his friend Dobson, who puts this fine mansion at his
disposal until another home can be got ready for us."

I was interrupted at this point by an uproarious burst of laughter from
the doctor himself, who had entered by the open door unobserved by me.
I joined in the laugh against myself, but blushed, nevertheless, for man
does not like, as a rule, to be caught talking earnestly either to
himself or to a dumb creature.

"Why, Mellon," he said, sitting down beside me, and patting my dog, "I
imagined from your tones, as I entered, that you were having some
serious conversation with my wife."

"No; Mrs McTougall has not yet returned from her drive.  I was merely
having a chat with Dumps.  I had of late, in my lodgings, got into a way
of thinking aloud, as it were, while talking to my dog.  I suppose it
was with an unconscious desire to break the silence of my room."

"No doubt, no doubt," replied the doctor, with a touch of sympathy in
his tone.  "You must have been rather lonely in that attic of yours.
And yet do you know, I sometimes sigh for the quiet of such an attic!
Perhaps when you've been some months under the same roof with these
miniature thunderstorms, Jack, Harry, Job, Jenny, and Dolly, you'll long
to go back to the attic."

A tremendous thump on the floor overhead, followed by a wild uproar,
sent the doctor upstairs--three steps at a stride.  I sat prudently
still till he returned, which he did in a few minutes, laughing.

"What d'you think it was?" he cried, panting.  "Only my Dolly tumbling
off the chest of drawers.  My babes have many pleasant little games.
Among others, cutting off the heads of dreadful traitors is a great
favourite.  They roll up a sheet into a ball for the head.  Then each of
them is led in turn to the scaffold, which is the top of a chest of
drawers.  One holds the ball against the criminal's shoulders, another
cuts it off with a wooden knife, a basket receives it below, then one of
them takes it out, and, holding it aloft shouts `Behold the head of a
traitor!'  It seems that four criminals had been safely decapitated, and
Dolly was being led to the fatal block, when she slipped her foot and
fell to the ground, overturning Harry and a chair in her descent.  That
was all."

"Not hurt, I hope?"

"Oh no!  They never get hurt--seriously hurt, I mean.  As to
black-and-blue shins, scratches, cuts, and bumps, they may be said to
exist in a perpetually maimed condition."

"Strange!" said I musingly, "that they should like to play at such a
disagreeable subject."

"Disagreeable!" exclaimed my friend, "pooh! that's nothing.  You should
see them playing at the horrors of the Inquisition.  My poor wife
sometimes shudders at the idea that we have been gifted with five
monsters of cruelty, but any one can see with half an eye that it is a
fine sense of the propriety of retributive justice that influences
them."

"Any one who chooses to go and look at the five innocent faces when they
are asleep," said I, laughing, "can see with a _quarter_ of an eye that
you and Mrs McTougall are to be congratulated on the nature of your
little ones."

"Of course we are, my dear fellow," returned the doctor with enthusiasm.
"But--to change the subject--has little Slidder been here to-day?"

"Not that I know of."

"Ah! there he is" said the doctor, as, at that instant, the door-bell
rang; "there is insolence in the very tone of his ring.  He has pulled
the visitor's bell, too, and there goes the knocker!  Of all the imps
that walk, a London street-boy is--" The sentence was cut short by the
opening of the door and the entrance of my little _protege_.  He had
evidently got himself up for the occasion, for his shoeblack uniform had
been well brushed, his hands and face severely washed, and his hair
plastered well down with soap-and-water.

"Come in, Slidder--that's your name, isn't it?" said the doctor.

"It is, sir--Robin Slidder, at your sarvice," replied the urchin, giving
me a familiar nod.  "'Ope your leg ain't so cranky as it wos, sir.
Gittin' all square, eh?"

I repressed a smile with difficulty as I replied--"It is much better,
thank you.  Attend to what Dr McTougall has to say to you."

"Hall serene," he replied, looking with cool urbanity in the doctor's
face, "fire away!"

"You're a shoeblack, I see," said the doctor.

"That's my purfession."

"Do you like it?"

"Vell, w'en it's dirty weather, with lots o' mud, an' coppers goin', I
does.  W'en it's all sunshine an' starwation, I doesn't."

"My friend Mr Mellon tells me that you're a very good boy."

Little Slidder looked at me with a solemn, reproachful air.

"Oh! _what_ a wopper!" he said.

We both laughed at this.

"Come, Slidder," said I, "you must learn to treat us with more respect,
else I shall have to change my opinion of you."

"Wery good, sir, that's _your_ business, not mine.  I wos inwited here,
an' here I am.  Now, wot 'ave you got to say to me?--that's the p'int."

"Can you read and write?" resumed the doctor.

"Cern'ly not," replied the boy, with the air of one who had been
insulted; "wot d'you take me for?  D'you think I'm a genius as can read
an' write without 'avin' bin taught or d'you think I'm a monster as wos
born readin' an' writin'?  I've 'ad no school to go to nor nobody to
putt me there."

"I thought the School Board looked after such as you."

"So they does, sir; but I've been too many for the school-boarders."

"Then it's your own fault that you've not been taught?" said the doctor,
somewhat severely.

"Not at all," returned the urchin, with quiet assurance.  "It's the
dooty o' the school-boarders to ketch me, an' they can't ketch me.
That's not my fault.  It's my superiority."

My friend looked at the little creature before him with much surprise.
After a few seconds' contemplation and thought, he continued--"Well,
Slidder, as my friend here says you are a good sort of boy, I am bound
to believe him, though appearances are somewhat against you.  Now, I am
in want of a smart boy at present, to attend to the hall-door, show
patients into my consulting-room, run messages--in short, make himself
generally useful about the house.  How would such a situation suit you?"

"W'y, doctor," said the boy, ignoring the question, "how could any boy
attend on your 'all-door w'en it's burnt to hashes?"

"We will manage to have another door," replied Dr McTougall, with a
forbearing smile; "meanwhile you could practise on the door of this
house.--But that is not answering my question, boy.  How would you like
the place?  You'd have light work, a good salary, pleasant society below
stairs, and a blue uniform.  In short, I'd make a page-in-buttons of
you."

"Wot about the wittles?" demanded this remarkable boy.

"Of course you'd fare as well as the other servants," returned the
doctor, rather testily, for his opinion of my little friend was rapidly
falling; I could see that, to my regret.

"Now give me an answer at once," he continued sharply.  "Would you like
to come?"

"Not by no manner of means," replied Slidder promptly.

We both looked at him in amazement.

"Why, Slidder, you stupid fellow!" said I, "what possesses you to refuse
so good an offer?"

"Dr Mellon," he replied, turning on me with a flush of unwonted
earnestness, "d'you think I'd be so shabby, so low, so mean, as to go
an' forsake Granny Willis for all the light work an' good salaries and
pleasant society an' blue-uniforms-with-buttons in London?  Who'd make
'er gruel?  Who'd polish 'er shoes every mornin' till you could see to
shave in 'em, though she don't never put 'em on?  Who'd make 'er bed an'
light 'er fires an' fetch 'er odd bits o' coal?  An' who'd read the noos
to 'er, an'--"

"Why, Slidder," interrupted Dr McTougall, "you said just now that you
could not read."

"No more I can, sir but I takes in a old newspaper to 'er every
morning', an' sets myself down by the fire with it before me an'
pretends to read.  I inwents the noos as I goes along; an you should see
that old lady's face, an' the way 'er eyes opens we'n I'm a tapin' off
the murders an' the 'ighway robberies, an' the burglaries an' the fires
at 'ome, an' the wars an' earthquakes an' other scrimmages abroad.  It
do cheer 'er up most wonderful.  Of course, I stick in any hodd bits o'
real noos I 'appens to git hold of, but I ain't partickler."

"Apparently not," said the doctor, laughing.  "Well, I see it's of no
use tempting you to forsake your present position--indeed, I would not
wish you to leave it.  Some day I may find means to have old Mrs Willis
taken better care of, and then--well, we shall see.  Meanwhile, I
respect your feelings.  Good-bye, and give my regards to granny.  Say
I'll be over to see her soon."

"Stay," said I, as the boy turned to leave, "you never told me that one
of your names was Robin."

"'Cause it wasn't w'en I saw you last; I only got it a few days ago."

"Indeed!  From whom?"

"From Granny Willis.  She gave me the name, an' I likes it, an' mean to
stick by it--Good arternoon, gen'lemen.  Ta, ta, Punch."

At the word my doggie bounced from under my hand and began to leap
joyfully round the boy.

"I say," said Robin, pausing at the door and looking back, "_she's_ all
right I 'ope.  Gittin' better?"

"Who do you mean?"

"W'y, the guv'ness, in course--my young lady."

"Oh, yes!  I am happy to say she is better," said the doctor, much
amused by the anxious look of the face, which had hitherto been the
quintessence of cool self-possession.  "But she has had a great shake,
and will have to be sent to the country for change of air when we can
venture to move her."

I confess that I was much surprised, but not a little gratified, by the
very decided manner in which Slidder avowed his determination to stand
fast by the poor old woman in whom I had been led to take so strong an
interest.  Hitherto I had felt some uncertainty as to how far I could
depend on the boy's affection for Mrs Willis, and his steadiness of
purpose; now I felt quite sure of him.

Dr McTougall felt as I did in the matter, and so did his friend the
City man.  I had half expected that Dobson would have laughed at us for
what he sometimes styled our softness, because he had so much to do with
sharpers and sharp practice, but I was mistaken.  He quite agreed with
us in our opinion of my little waif, and spoke admiringly of those who
sought, through evil and good report, to rescue our "City Arabs" from
destruction.  And Dobson did more than speak: he gave liberally out of
his ample fortune to the good cause.

That evening, just after the gas was lighted, while I was lying on the
sofa thinking of these things, and toying with Dumps's ears, the door
opened and Mrs McTougall entered, with Miss Blythe leaning on her arm.
It was the first time she had come down to the drawing-room since her
illness.  She was thin, and pale, but to my mind more beautiful than
ever, for her brown eyes seemed to grow larger and more lustrous as they
beamed upon me.

I leaped up, sending an agonising shoot of pain through my leg, and
hastened to meet her.  Dumps, as if jealous of me, sprang wildly on
before, and danced round his mistress in a whirlwind of delight.

"I am so glad to see you, Miss Blythe," I stammered; "I had feared the
consequences of that terrible night--that rude descent.  You--you--are
better, I--"

"Thank you; _very_ much better," she replied, with a sweet smile; "and
how shall I ever express my debt of gratitude to you, Mr Mellon?"

She extended her delicate hand.  I grasped it; she shook mine heartily.

That shake fixed my fate.  No doubt it was the simple and natural
expression of a grateful heart for a really important service; but I
cared nothing about that.  She blushed as I looked at her, and stooped
to pat the jealous and impatient Dumps.

"Sit here, darling, on this easy-chair," said Mrs McTougall; "you know
the doctor allows you only half an hour--or an hour at most--to-night;
you may be up longer to-morrow.  There; and you are not to speak much,
remember.--Mr Mellon, you must address yourself to me.  Lilly is only
allowed to listen.

"Yes, as you truly said, Mr Mellon," continued the good lady, who was
somewhat garrulous, "her descent was rough, and indeed, so was mine.
Oh!  I shall never forget that rough monster into whose arms you thrust
me that awful night; but he was a brave and strong monster too.  He just
gathered me up like a bundle of clothes, and went crashing down the
blazing stair, through fire and smoke--and through bricks and mortar
too, it seemed to me, from the noise and shocks.  But we came out safe,
thank God, and I had not a scratch, though I noticed that my monster's
hair and beard were on fire, and his face was cut and bleeding.  I can't
think how he carried me so safely."

"Ah! the firemen have a knack of doing that sort of thing," said I,
speaking to Mrs McTougall, but looking at Lilly Blythe.

"So I have heard.  The brave, noble men," said Lilly, speaking to Mrs
McTougall, but looking at me.

I know not what we conversed about during the remainder of that hour.
Whether I talked sense or nonsense I cannot tell.  The only thing I am
quite sure of is that I talked incessantly, enthusiastically, to Mrs
McTougall, but kept my eyes fixed on Lilly Blythe all the time; and I
know that Lilly blushed a good deal, and bent her pretty head frequently
over her "darling Pompey," and fondled him to his heart's content.

That night my leg violently resented the treatment it had received.
When I slept I dreamed that I was on the rack, and that Miss Blythe,
strange to say, was the chief tormentor, while Dumps quietly looked on
and laughed--yes, deliberately laughed--at my sufferings.



CHAPTER NINE.

ON THE SCENT, BUT PUZZLED.

It was a considerable time after the fire before my leg permitted me to
resume my studies and my duties among the poor.  Meanwhile I had become
a regularly-established inmate of Mr Dobson's house, and was
half-jocularly styled "Dr McTougall's assistant."

I confess that I had some hesitation at first in accepting such generous
hospitality, but, feeling that I could not help myself till my leg
should recover, I became reconciled to it.  Then, as time advanced,
the doctor--who was an experimental chemist, as well as a
Jack-of-all-trades--found me so useful to him in his laboratory, that I
felt I was really earning my board and lodging.  Meanwhile Lilly Blythe
had been sent to visit an aunt of Dr McTougall's in Kent for the
benefit of her health.

This was well.  I felt it to be so.  I knew that her presence would have
a disturbing influence on my studies, which were by that time nearly
completed.  I felt, also, that it was madness in me to fall in love with
a girl whom I could not hope to marry for years, even if she were
willing to have me at all, which I very much doubted.

I therefore resolved to put the subject away from me, and devote myself
heartily to my profession, in the spirit of that Word which tells us
that whatsoever our hands find to do we should do it with our might.

Success attended my efforts.  I passed all my examinations with credit,
and became not only a fixture in the doctor's family, but as he
earnestly assured me, a very great help to him.

Of course I did not mention the state of my feelings towards Lilly
Blythe to any one--not being in the habit of having confidants--except
indeed, to Dumps.  In the snug little room just over the front door,
which had been given to me as a study, I was wont to pour out many of my
secret thoughts to my doggie, as he sat before me with cocked ears and
demonstrative tail.

"You've been the making of me, Dumps," said I, one evening, not long
after I had reached the first round of the ladder of my profession.  "It
was you who introduced me to Lilly Blythe, and through her to Dr
McTougall, and you may be sure I shall never forget that!  Nay, you must
not be too demonstrative.  When your mistress left you under my care she
said, half-jocularly, no doubt that I was not to steal your heart from
her.  Wasn't that absurd, eh?  As if any heart could be stolen from
_her_!  Of course I cannot regain your heart, Dumps, and I will not even
attempt it--`Honour bright,' as Robin Slidder says.  By the way, that
reminds me that I promised to go down to see old Mrs Willis this very
night, so I'll leave you to the tender mercies of the little
McTougalls."

As I walked down the Strand my last remark to Dumps recurred to me, and
I could not help smiling as I thought of the "tender mercies" to which I
had referred.  The reader already knows that the juvenile McTougalls
were somewhat bloodthirsty in their notions of play.  When Dumps was
introduced to their nursery--by that time transferred from Dobson's
dining-room to an upper floor--they at once adopted him with open arms.
Dumps seemed to be willing, and, fortunately, turned out to be a dog of
exceptionally good-nature.  He was also tough.  No amount of squeezing,
bruising, pulling of the ears or tail, or falling upon him, either
accidentally or on purpose, could induce him to bite.  He did, indeed,
yell hideously at times, when much hurt, and he snarled, barked, yelped,
growled, and showed his teeth continually, but it was all in play, for
he was dearly fond of romps.

Fortunately, the tall nurse had been born without nerves.  She was wont
to sit serene in a corner, darning innumerable socks, while a tornado
was going on around her.  Dumps became a sort of continual sacrifice.
On all occasions when a criminal was to be decapitated, a burglar
hanged, or a martyr burned, Dumps was the victim; and many a time was he
rescued from impending and real death by the watchful nurse, who was too
well aware of the innocent ignorance of her ferocious charges to leave
Dumps entirely to their tender mercies.

On reaching Mrs Willis's little dwelling, I found young Slidder
officiating at the tea-table.  I could not resist watching him a moment
through a crack in the door before entering.

"Now then," said he, "'ere you are!  Set to work, old Sneezer, with a
will!"

The boy had got into a facetious way of calling Mrs Willis by any term
of endearment that suggested itself at the moment, which would have been
highly improper and disrespectful if it had not been the outflow of pure
affection.

The crack in the door was not large enough to permit of my seeing Mrs
Willis herself as she sat in her accustomed window with the
spout-and-chimney-pot view.  I could only see the withered old hand held
tremblingly out for the smoking cup of tea, which the boy handed to her
with a benignant smile, and I could hear the soft voice say--"Thank you,
Robin--dear boy--so like!"

"I tell you what it is, granny," returned Slidder, with a frown, "I'll
give you up an' 'and you over to the p'leece if you go on comparin' me
to other people in that way.--Now, then, 'ave some muffins.  They're all
'ot and soaked in butter, old Gummy, just the wery thing for your teeth.
Fire away, now!  Wot's the use o' me an' Dr McTougall fetchin' you
nice things if you won't eat 'em?"

"But I _will_ eat 'em, Robin, thankfully."

"That ain't the way, old 'ooman," returned the boy, helping himself
largely to the viands which he so freely dispensed; "it's not
thankfully, but heartily, you ought to eat 'em."

"Both, Robin, both."

"Not at all, granny.  We asked a blessin' fust, now, didn't we?  Vell,
then, wot we've to do next is to go in and win heartily.  Arter that
it's time enough to be thankful."

"What a boy it is!" responded Mrs Willis.

I saw the withered old hand disappear with a muffin in it in the
direction of the old mouth, and at this point I entered.

"The wery man I wanted to see," exclaimed Slidder, jumping up with what
I thought unusual animation, even for him.

"Come along, doctor, just in time for grub.  Mrs W hain't eat up all
the muffins yet.  Fresh cup an' saucer; clean plate; ditto knife; no
need for a fork; now then, sit down."

Accepting this hearty invitation, I was soon busy with a muffin, while
Mrs Willis gave a slow, elaborate, and graphic account of the sayings
and doings of Master Slidder, which account, I need hardly say, was much
in his favour, and I am bound to add that he listened to it with pleased
solemnity.

"Now then, old flatterer, w'en you've quite done, p'raps you'll tell the
doctor that I wants a veek's leave of absence, an' then, p'raps you'll
listen to what him an' me's got to say on that p'int.  Just keep a
stuffin' of yourself with muffins, an' don't speak."

The old lady nodded pleasantly, and began to eat with apparently renewed
appetite, while I turned in some surprise.

"A week's leave of absence?" said I.

"Just so--a veek's leave of absence--furlow if you prefers to call it
so.  The truth is, I wants a 'oliday wery bad.  Granny says so, an' I
thinks she's right.  D'you think my constitootion's made o' brass, or
cast-iron, or bell-metal, that I should be able to york on an' on for
ever, black, black, blackin' boots an' shoes, without a 'oliday?  W'y,
lawyers, merchants, bankers--even doctors--needs a 'oliday now an' then;
'ow much more shoeblacks!"

"Well," said I, with a laugh, "there is no reason why shoeblacks should
not require and desire a holiday as much as other people, only it's
unusual--because they cannot afford it, I suppose."

"Ah! `that's just w'ere the shoe pinches'--as a old gen'leman shouted to
me t'other day, with a whack of his umbreller, w'en I scrubbed 'is corns
too hard.  `Right you are, old stumps,' says I, `but you'll have to pay
tuppence farden hextra for that there whack, or be took up for assault
an' battery.'  D'you know that gen'leman larfed, he did, like a 'iaena,
an' paid the tuppence down like a man.  I let 'im off the farden in
consideration that he 'adn't got one, an' I had no change.--Vell, to
return to the p'int--vich was wot the old toper remarked to his wife
every night--I've bin savin' up of late."

"Saving up, have you?"

"Yes, them penny banks 'as done it.  W'y, it ain't a wirtue to be savin'
now-a-days, or good, or that sort o' thing.  What between city
missionaries, an' Sunday-schools, an' penny banks, an cheap wittles, and
grannies like this here old sneezer, it's hardly possible for a young
feller to go wrong, even if he was to try.  Yes, I've bin an' saved
enough to give me a veek's 'oliday, so I'm goin' to 'ave my 'oliday in
the north.  My 'ealth requires it."

Saying this, young Slidder began to eat another muffin with a degree of
zest that seemed to give the lie direct to his assertion, so that I
could not refrain from observing that he did not seem to be particularly
ill.

"Ain't I though?" he remarked, elongating his round rosy face as much as
possible.  "That's 'cause you judge too much by appearances.  It ain't
my body that's wrong--it's my spirit.  That's wot's the matter with
_me_.  If you only saw the inside o' my mind you'd be astonished."

"I thoroughly believe you," said I, laughing.  "And do you really advise
him to go, granny?"

"Yes, my dear, I do," replied Mrs Willis, in her sweet, though feeble
tones.  "You've no idea how he's been slaving and working about me.  I
have strongly advised him to go, and, you know, good Mrs Jones will
take his place.  She's as kind to me as a daughter."

The mention of the word _daughter_ set the poor creature meditating on
her great loss.  She sighed deeply, and turned her poor old eyes on me
with a yearning, inquiring look.  I was accustomed to the look by this
time, and having no good news to give her, had latterly got into a way
of taking no notice of it.  That night, however, my heart felt so sore
for her that I could not refrain from speaking.

"Ah! dear granny," said I, laying my hand gently on her wrist, "would
that I had any news to give you, but I have none--at least not at
present.  But you must not despair.  I have failed up to this time, it
is true, although my inquiries have been frequent, and carefully
conducted; but you know, such a search takes a long time, and--and
London is a large place."

The unfinished muffin dropped from the old woman's hand, and she turned
with a deep sigh to the window, where the blank prospect was a not inapt
reflection of her own blank despair.

"Never more!" she said, "never more!"

"Hope thou in God, for thou shalt yet praise Him, who is the health of
thy countenance, and thy God," was all that I could say in reply.  Then
I turned to the boy, who sat with his eyes cast down as if in deep
thought, and engaged him in conversation on other subjects, by way of
diverting the old woman's mind from the painful theme.

When I rose to go, Slidder said he would call Mrs Jones to mount guard,
and give me a convoy home.

No sooner were we in the street than he seized my hand, and, in a voice
of unusual earnestness, said--

"I've got on 'er tracks!"

"Whose tracks?  What do you mean?"

"On Edie's, to be sure--Edie Willis."

Talking eagerly and fast, as we walked along, little Slidder told me how
he had first been put on the scent by his old friend and fellow-waif,
the Slogger.  That juvenile burglar, chancing to meet with Slidder,
entertained him with a relation of some of his adventures.  Among
others, he mentioned having, many months before, been out one afternoon
with a certain Mr Brassey, rambling about the streets with an eye to
any chance business that might turn up, when they observed a young and
very pretty girl looking in at various shop windows.  She was obviously
a lady, but her dress showed that she was very poor.  Her manner and
colour seemed to imply that she was fresh from the country.  The two
thieves at once resolved to fleece her.  Brassey advised the Slogger "to
come the soft dodge over her," and entice her, if possible, into a
neighbouring court.  The Slogger, agreeing, immediately ran and placed
himself on a doorstep which the girl was about to pass.  Then he covered
his face with his hands, and began to groan dismally, while Mr Brassey,
with native politeness, retired from the scene.  The girl, having an
unsuspicious nature, and a tender heart, believed the tale of woe which
the boy unfolded, and went with him to see "his poor mother," who had
just fallen down in a fit, and was dying at that moment for want of
physic and some one to attend to her.  She suggested, indeed, that the
Slogger should run to the nearest chemist, but the Slogger said it would
be of no use, and might be too late.  Would she just run round an' see
her?  The girl acted on the spur of the moment.  In her exuberant
sympathy she hurried down an alley, round a corner, under an archway,
and walked straight into the lion's den!

There Mr Brassey, the lion, promptly introduced himself, and requested
the loan of her purse and watch!  The poor girl at once understood her
position, and turned to fly, but a powerful hand on her arm prevented
her.  Then she tried to shriek, but a powerful hand on her mouth
prevented that also.  Then she fainted.  Not wishing to be found in an
awkward position, Mr Brassey and the Slogger searched her pockets
hastily, and, finding nothing therein, retired precipitately from the
scene, taking her little dog with them.  As they did so the young girl
recovered, sprang wildly up, and rushing back through the court and
alley, dashed into the main thoroughfare.  The two thieves saw her
attempt to cross, saw a cab-horse knock her down, saw a crowd rush to
the spot and then saw no more, owing to pressing engagements requiring
their immediate presence elsewhere.

"There--that's wot the Slogger told me," said little Slidder, with
flushed cheeks and excited looks, "an' I made him give me an exact
description o' the gal, which was a facsimilar o' the pictur' painted o'
Miss Edie Willis by her own grandmother--as like as two black cats."

"This is interesting, _very_ interesting, my boy," said I, stopping and
looking at the pavement; "but I fear that it leaves us no clew with
which to prosecute the search."

"Of course it don't," rejoined Robin, with one of his knowing looks;
"but do you think I'd go an aggrawate myself about the thing if I 'adn't
more to say than that?"

"Well, what more have you to say?"

"Just this, that ever since my talk wi' the Slogger I've bin making wery
partikler inquiries at all the chemists and hospitals round about where
he said the accident happened, an' I've diskivered one hospital where I
'appens to know the porter, an' I got him to inwestigate, an' he found
there was a case of a young gal run over on the wery day this happened.
She got feverish, he says, an' didn't know what she was sayin' for
months, an' nobody come to inquire arter her, an when she began to git
well she sent to Vitechapel to inquire for 'er grandmother, but 'er
grandmother was gone, nobody knowed where.  Then the young gal got wuss,
then she got better, and then she left, sayin' she'd go back to 'er old
'ome in York, for she was sure the old lady must have returned there.
So _that's_ the reason w'y I'm goin' to recruit my 'ealth in the north,
d'ye see?  But before I go wouldn't it be better that you should make
some inwestigations at the hospital?"

I heartily agreed to this, and went without delay to the hospital,
where, however, no new light was thrown on the subject.  On the
contrary, I found, what Slidder had neglected to ascertain, that the
name of the girl in question was _not_ Edie Willis, but Eva Bright, a
circumstance which troubled me much, and inclined me to believe that we
had got on a false scent; but when I reflected on the other
circumstances of the case I still felt hopeful.  The day of Edie's
disappearance tallied exactly with the date of the robbing of the girl
by Brassey and the Slogger.  Her personal appearance, too, as described
by the Slogger, corresponded exactly with the description given of her
granddaughter by Mrs Willis; and, above all, the sending of a messenger
from the hospital by the girl to inquire for her "grandmother, Mrs
Willis," were proofs too strong to be set aside by the mystery of the
name.

In these circumstances I also resolved to take a holiday, and join Robin
Slidder in his trip to York.



CHAPTER TEN.

A DISAPPOINTMENT, AN ACCIDENT, AND A PERPLEXING RETURN.

But the trip to York produced no fruit!  Some of the tradespeople did,
indeed, remember old Mrs Willis and her granddaughter, but had neither
seen nor heard of them since they left.  They knew very little about
them personally, and nothing whatever of their previous history, as they
had stayed only a short time in the town, and had been remarkably shy
and uncommunicative--the result, it was thought, of their having "come
down" in life.

Much disappointed, Slidder and I returned to London.

"It is fortunate that we did not tell granny the object of our trip, so
that she will be spared the disappointment that we have met with," said
I, as the train neared the metropolis.

My companion made no reply; he had evidently taken the matter much to
heart.

We were passing rapidly through the gradually thickening groups of
streets and houses which besprinkle the circumference of the great city,
and sat gazing contemplatively on back yards, chimney cans, unfinished
suburban residences, pieces of waste ground, back windows, internal
domestic arrangements, etcetera, as they flew past in rapid succession.

"Robin," said I, breaking silence again, and using the name which had by
that time grown familiar, "have you made up your mind yet about taking
service with Dr McTougall?  Now that we have got Mrs Jones engaged and
paid to look after granny, she will be able to get on pretty well
without you, and you shall have time to run over and see her
frequently."

"H'm!  I don't quite see my way," returned the boy, with a solemn look.
"You see, sir, if it was a page-in-buttons I was to be, to attend on
_my_ young lady the guv'ness, I might take it into consideration; but to
go into buttons an' blue merely to open a door an' do the purlite to
wisitors, an' mix up things with bad smells by way of a change--why,
d'ee see, the prospec' ain't temptin'.  Besides, I hate blue.  The
buttons is all well enough, but blue reminds me so of the bobbies that I
don't think I could surwive it long--indeed I don't!"

"Robin," said I reproachfully, "I'm grieved at your indifference to
friendship."

"'Ow so, sir?"

"Have you not mentioned merely your objections and the disadvantages,
without once weighing against them the advantages?"

"Vich is--?"

"Which are," said I, "being under the same roof with _me_ and with
Punch, to say nothing of your young lady!"

"Ah, to be sure!  Vell, but I did think of all that, only, don't you
see, I'll come to be under the same roof with you all in course o' time
w'en you've got spliced an' set up for--"

"Slidder," said I sternly, and losing patience under the boy's
presumption, "you must never again dare to speak of such a thing.  You
know very well that it is quite out of the question, and--and--you'll
get into a careless way of referring to such a possibility among
servants or--"

"No; honour bright!" exclaimed Slidder, with, for the first time, a
somewhat abashed look in his face; "I wouldn't for the wealth of the
Injies say a word to nobody wotsomever.  It's only atween ourselves that
I wentur's to--"

"Well, well; enough," said I; "don't in future venture to do it even
between ourselves, if you care to retain my friendship.  Now.  Robin," I
added, as the train slowed, "of course you'll not let a hint of our
reason for going north pass your lips to poor granny or any one; and
give her the old message, that I'll be along to see her soon."

It was pleasant to return to such a hearty reception as I met with from
the doctor's family.  Although my absence had been but for a few days,
the children came crowding and clinging round me, declaring that it
seemed like weeks since I left them.  The doctor himself was, as usual,
exuberant, and his wife extremely kind.  Miss Blythe, I found, had not
yet returned, and was not expected for some time.

But the reception accorded me by the doctor and his family was as
nothing to the wild welcome lavished upon me by Dumps.  That loving
creature came more nearly to the bursting-point than I had ever seen him
before.  His spirit was obviously much too large for his body.  He was
romping with the McTougall baby when I entered.  The instant he heard my
voice in the hall he uttered a squeal--almost a yell--of delight, and
came down the two flights of stairs in a wriggling heap, his legs taking
comparatively little part in the movement.  His paws, when first applied
to the wax-cloth of the nursery floor, slipped as if on ice, without
communicating motion.  On the stairs, his ears, tail, head, hair, heart,
and tongue conspired to convulse him.  Only when he had fairly reached
me did the hind-legs do their duty, as he bounced and wriggled high into
air.  Powers of description are futile; vision alone is of any avail in
such a case.  Are dogs mortal?  Is such overflowing wealth of affection
extinguished at death?  Pshaw! thought I, the man who thinks so shows
that he is utterly void of the merest rudiments of common sense!

I did not mention the object of my visit to York to the doctor or his
wife.  Indeed, that natural shyness and reticence which I have found it
impossible to shake off--except when writing to you, good reader--would
in any case have prevented my communicating much of my private affairs
to them, but particularly in a case like this, which seemed to be
assuming the aspect of a wildly romantic hunt after a lost young girl,
more like the plot of a sensational novel than an occurrence in
every-day life.

It may be remarked here that the doctor had indeed understood from Mrs
Willis that she had somehow lost a granddaughter; but being rather fussy
in his desires and efforts to comfort people in distress, he had failed
to rouse the sympathy which would have drawn out details from the old
woman.  I therefore merely gave him to understand that the business
which had called me to the north of England had been unsuccessful, and
then changed the subject.

Meanwhile Dumps returned to the nursery to resume the game of romps
which I had interrupted.

After a general "scrimmage," in which the five chips of the elder
McTougall had joined, without regard to any concerted plan, Dolly
suddenly shouted "'Top!"

"What are we to stop for?" demanded Harry, whose powers of
self-restraint were not strong.

"Want a 'est!" said Dolly, sitting down on a stool with a resolute
plump.

"Rest quick, then, and let's go on again," said Harry, throwing himself
into a small chair, while Job and Jenny sprawled on an ottoman in the
window.

Seeing that her troops appeared to be exhausted, and that a period of
repose had set in, the tall nurse thought this a fitting opportunity to
retire for a short recreative talk with the servants in the kitchen.

"Now be good, child'n," she said, in passing out, "and don't 'urt poor
little Dumps."

"Oh no," chorused the five, while, with faces of intense and real
solemnity, they assured nurse that they would not hurt Dumps for the
world.

"We'll be _so_ dood!" remarked Dolly, as the door closed--and she really
meant it.

"What'll we do to him now?" asked Harry, whose patience was exhausted.

"Tut off him's head," cried Dolly, clapping her fat little hands.

"No, burn him for a witch," said Jenny.

"Oh no! ve'll skeese him flat till he's bu'sted," suggested Job.

But Jenny thought that would be too cruel, and Harry said it would be
too tame.

It must not be supposed that these and several other appalling tortures
were meant to be really attempted.  As Job afterwards said, it was only
play.

"Oh!  I'll tell you what we'll do," said Jack, who was considerably in
advance of the others in regard to education, "we'll turn him into Joan
of Arc."

"What's Joan of Arc?" asked Job.

"It isn't a what--it's a who," cried Jack, laughing.

"Is it like Noah's Ark?" inquired Dolly.

"No, no; it's a lady who lived in France, an' thought she was sent to
deliver her country from--from--I don't know all what, an' put on men's
clo'es an' armour, an' went out to battle, an' was burnt."

"Bu'nt!" shouted Dolly, with sparkling eyes; "oh, what fun!--We're goin'
to bu'n you, Pompey."  They called him by Lilly Blythe's name.

Dumps, who sat in a confused heap in a corner, panting, seemed
regardless of the fate that awaited him.

"But where shall we find armour?" said Harry.

"_I_ know," exclaimed Job, going to the fireplace, and seizing the lid
of a saucepan which stood on the hearth near enough to the tall fender
to be within reach, "here's somethin'."

"Capital--a breastplate!  Just the thing!" cried Jack, seizing it, and
whistling to Dumps.

"And here's a first-rate helmet," said Harry, producing a toy drum with
the heads out.

The strong contrast between my doggie's conditions of grigginess and
humiliation has already been referred to.  Aware that something unusual
was pending, he crawled towards Jack with every hair trailing in lowly
submission.  Poor Joan of Arc might have had a happier fate if she had
been influenced by a similar spirit!

"Now, sir, stand up on your hind-legs."

The already well-trained and obedient creature obeyed.

"There," he said, tying the lid to his hairy bosom; "and there," he
continued, thrusting the drum on his meek head, which it fitted exactly;
"now, Madame Joan, come away--the fagots are ready."

With Harry's aid, and to the ineffable joy of Jenny, Job, and Dolly, the
little dog was carefully bound to the leg of a small table, and bits of
broken toys--of which there were heaps--were piled round it for fagots.

"Don't be c'uel," said Dolly tenderly.

"Oh no, we won't be cruel," said Jack, who was really anxious to
accomplish the whole execution without giving pain to the victim.  The
better to arrange some of the fastenings he clambered on the table.
Dolly, always anxious to observe what was being done, attempted to do
the same.  Jenny, trying to prevent her, pulled at her skirts, and among
them they pulled the table over on themselves.  It fell with a dire
crash.

Of course there were cries and shouts from the children, but these were
overtopped and quickly silenced by the hideous yellings of Dumps.  Full
many a time had the poor dog given yelp and yell in that nursery when
accidentally hurt, and as often had it wagged its forgiving tail and
licked the patting hands of sympathy; but now the yells were loud and
continuous, the patting hands were snapped at, and Dumps refused to be
comforted.  His piercing cries reached my study.  I sprang up-stairs and
dashed into the nursery, where the eccentric five were standing in a
group, with looks of self-condemning horror in their ten round eyes, and
almost equally expressive round mouths.

The reason was soon discovered--poor Dumps had got a hind-leg broken!

Having ascertained the fact, alleviated the pain as well as I could, and
bandaged the limb, I laid my doggie tenderly in the toy bed belonging to
Jenny's largest doll, which was quickly and heartily given up for the
occasion, the dispossessed doll being callously laid on a shelf in the
meantime.

It was really quite interesting to observe the effect of this accident
on the tender-hearted five.  They wept over Dumps most genuine tears.
They begged his pardon--implored his forgiveness--in the most earnest
tones and touching terms.  They took turn about in watching by his
sick-bed.  They held lint and lotion with superhuman solemnity while I
dressed his wounded limb, and they fed him with the most tender
solicitude.  In short, they came out quite in a new and sympathetic
light, and soon began to play at sick-nursing with each other.  This
involved a good deal of pretended sickness, and for a long time after
that it was no uncommon thing for visitors to the nursery to find three
of the five down with measles, whooping-cough, or fever, while the
fourth acted doctor, and the fifth nurse.

The event however, gave them a lesson in gentleness to dumb animals
which they never afterwards forgot, and which some of my boy readers
would do well to remember.  With a laudable effort to improve the
occasion, Mrs McTougall carefully printed in huge letters, and
elaborately illuminated the sentence, "Be kind to Doggie," and hung it
up in the nursery.  Thereupon cardboard, pencils, paints, and scissors
were in immediate demand, and soon after there appeared on the walls in
hideously bad but highly ornamental letters, the words "Be kind to
Cattie."  This was followed by "Be kind to Polly," which instantly
suggested "Be kind to Dolly."  And so, by one means or another, the
lesson of kindness was driven home.

Soon after this event Dr McTougall moved into a new house in the same
street; I became regularly established as his partner, and Robin Slidder
entered on his duties as page in buttons.  It is right to observe here
that, in deference to his prejudices, the material of his garments was
not blue, but dark grey.

It was distinctly arranged, however, that Robin was to go home, as he
called it, to be with Mrs Willis at nights.  On no other condition
would he agree to enter the doctor's service; and I found, on talking
over the subject with Mrs Willis herself, that she had become so fond
of the boy that it would have been sheer cruelty to part them.  In
short, it was a case of mutual love at first sight!  No two individuals
seemed more unlikely to draw together than the meek, gentle old lady and
the dashing, harum-scarum boy.  Yet so it was.

"My dear,"--she always spoke to me now as if I had been her son--"this
`waif,' as people would call him, has clearly been sent to me as a
comfort in the midst of all but overwhelming sorrow; and I believe, too,
that I have been sent to draw the dear boy to Jesus.  You should hear
what long and pleasant talks we have about Him, and the Bible, and the
`better land' sometimes."

"Indeed!  I am glad to hear you say so, granny, and also surprised,
because, although I believe the boy to be well disposed, I have seldom
been able to get him to open his lips to me on religious subjects."

"Ah! but he opens his dear lips to me, doctor, and reads to me many a
long chapter out of the blessed Word!"

"Reads!  Can he read?"

"Ay can he!--not so badly, considering that I only began to teach him
two or three months ago.  But he knew his letters when we began, and
could spell out a few words.  He's very quick, you see, and a dear boy!"

Soon afterwards we made this arrangement with Robin more convenient for
all parties, by bringing Mrs Willis over to a better lodging in one of
the small back streets not far from the doctor's new residence.

I now began to devote much of my time to the study of chemistry, not
only because it suited Dr McTougall that I should do so, but because I
had conceived a great liking for that science, and entertained some
thoughts of devoting myself to it almost exclusively.

In the various experiments connected therewith I was most ably, and, I
may add, delightedly, assisted by Robin Slidder.  I was also greatly
amused by, and induced to philosophise not a little on the peculiar cast
of the boy's mind.  The pleasure obviously afforded to him by the
uncertainty as to results in experiments was very great.  The
probability of a miscarriage created in him intense interest--I will not
say hope!  The ignorance of what was coming kept him in a constant
flutter of subdued excitement, and the astounding results (even
sometimes to myself) of some of my combinations, kept him in a perpetual
simmer of expectation.  But after long observation, I have come to the
deliberate conclusion that nothing whatever gave Robin such ineffable
joy as an explosion!  A crash, a burst, a general reduction of anything
to instantaneous and elemental ruin, was so dear to him that I verily
believe he would have taken his chance, and stood by, if I had proposed
to blow the roof off Dr McTougall's mansion.  Nay, I almost think that
if that remarkable waif had been set on a bombshell and blown to atoms,
he would have retired from this life in a state of supreme satisfaction.

While my mind was thus agreeably concentrated on the pursuit of science,
it received a rude, but pleasing, yet particularly distracting shock, by
the return of Lilly Blythe.  The extent to which this governess was
worshipped by the whole household was wonderful--almost idolatrous.
Need I say that I joined in the worship, and that Dumps and Robin
followed suit?  I think not.  And yet--there was something strange,
something peculiar, something unaccountable, about Miss Blythe's manner
which I could by no means understand.



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

RELATES GENERALLY TO THE DOINGS AND SAYINGS OF ROBIN SLIDDER.

"My dear," said Mrs McTougall one evening to the doctor, "since that
little boy Slidder came to stay with us things have become worse and
worse; in fact, the house is almost unbearable."

"My dear," responded Dr McTougall, "you amaze me; surely the boy has
not dared to be rude--insolent to you?"

"Oh no, it's not that; but he must really be forbidden to enter the
nursery.  Our darlings, you know, were dreadful enough before he came,
but since then they have become absolute maniacs."

"You don't mean to say that the little rascal has been teaching them bad
words or manners, I hope?" returned the doctor, with a frown.

"Dear me, no, papa; don't get angry," answered the anxious lady--"far
from it.  On the contrary, I really believe that our darlings have
greatly improved his language and manners by _their_ example; but
Robin's exuberant spirits are far too much for them.  It is like putting
fire to gunpowder, and they are _so_ fond of him.  That's the
difficulty.  The boy does not presume, I must say that for him, and he
is very respectful to nurse; but the children are constantly asking him
to come and play with them, which he seems quite pleased to do, and then
his mind is so eccentric, so inventive.  The new games he devises are
very ingenious, but so exceedingly dangerous and destructive that it is
absolutely necessary to check him, and I want you to do it, dear."

"I must know something about the nature of the mischief before I can
check it," said the doctor.

"Oh, it's indescribable," returned the lady; "the smell that he makes in
the nursery with his chemical experiments is awful; and then poor
Pompey, or Dumps, or whatever they call him--for they seem very
undecided about his name--has not the life of--I was going to say--a dog
with them.  Only last night, when you were out, the ridiculous boy
proposed the storming of an ogre's castle.  Nurse was down-stairs at the
time, or it could never have happened.  Well, of course, Robin was the
ogre, darling Dolly was a princess whom he had stolen away, Jack was a
prince who was to deliver her, and the others were the prince's
retainers.  A castle was built in one corner of all the tables and
chairs in the room piled on each other, with one particular chair so
ingeniously arranged that the pulling of it out would bring the castle
in ruins to the ground.  The plan of attack, as far as I could make out,
was that the prince should ring our dinner-bell at the castle gates and
fiercely demand admittance, the demand to be followed by a burst from
the trumpets, drums, and gongs of his soldiers.  The ogre, seated on the
castle top with the princess, after a few preliminary yells and howls,
was to say, in a gruff voice, that he was too much engaged just then
with his dinner--that three roast babies were being dished.  When they
were disposed of, the princess would be killed, and served up as a sort
of light pudding, after which he would open the castle gate.  A horrible
smell was to be created at this point to represent the roasting of the
babies.  This was to be the signal for a burst of indignation from the
prince and his troops, who were to make a furious assault on the door--
one of our largest tea-trays--and after a little the prince was to pull
away the particular chair, and rush back with his men to avoid the
falling ruin, while the ogre and princess were to find shelter under the
nursery table, and then, when the fall was over, they were to be found
dead among the ruins.  I am not sure whether the princess was to be
revived, or she was to have a grand funeral, but the play never got that
length.  I was sitting here, listening to the various sounds overhead,
wondering what they could be about, when I heard a loud ringing--that
was the castle bell.  It was soon followed by a burst of toy trumpets
and drums.  A most disgusting smell began to permeate the house at the
same time, for it seems that the ogre set fire to his chemicals too
soon.

"Then I heard roaring and yelling, which really alarmed me--it was so
gruff.  When it stopped, there was a woeful howl--that was the burst of
indignation.  The assault came off next, and as the shouting of the
troops was mingled with the hammering of the large tea-tray, the ringing
of the dinner-bell, and the beating of the gong, you may fancy what the
noise was.  In the midst of it there was a hideous crash, accompanied by
screams of alarm that were too genuine to be mistaken.  I rushed up, and
found the furniture lying scattered over the room, with darling Dolly in
the midst, the others standing in solemn silence around, and Robin
Slidder sitting on the ground ruefully rubbing his head.

"The truth was that the particular chair had been pulled away before the
proper time, and the castle had come down in ruins while the ogre and
princess were still on the top of it.  Fortunately Robin saved Dolly, at
the expense of his own head and shoulder, by throwing his arms round her
and falling undermost; but it was a narrow escape, and you really must
put a stop to such reckless ongoings."

The doctor promised to do so.

"I have to send Robin a message this forenoon, and will administer a
rebuke before sending him," he said; but it was plain, from the smile on
the doctor's face, that the rebuke would not be severe.

"Robin," he said, with much solemnity, when the culprit stood before
him, "take this bottle of medicine to Mr Williams; you know--the old
place--and say I want to know how he is, and that I will call to-morrow
afternoon."

"Yes, sir," said the boy, taking the bottle with an unusually subdued
air.

"And Robin--stop," continued the doctor.  "I am told that the children
were visited by an ogre last night."

"Yes, sir," answered the boy, with an uncertain glance at his
questioner's grave face.

"Well, Robin, you know where that ogre lives.  Just call and tell him
from me that if he or any of his relations ever come here again I'll
cause them to undergo extraction of the spinal marrow, d'you
understand?"

At first little Slidder felt inclined to laugh, but the doctor's face
was so unusually stern that he thought better of it, and went away much
impressed.

Now Robin Slidder was no loiterer on his errands, nevertheless he did
not deem it a breach of fidelity to cast an occasional glance into a
picture-shop window, or to pause a few seconds now and then to chaff a
facetious cabby, or make a politely sarcastic remark to a bobby.  His
connection with what he termed "'igh life" had softened him down
considerably, and given a certain degree of polish to his wit, but it
had in no degree repressed his exuberant spirits.

The distance he had to go being considerable, he travelled the latter
part of the way by omnibus.  Chancing to be in a meditative frame of
mind that day, he climbed to the roof of the 'bus, and sat down with his
hands thrust deep into his pockets, and his eyes deep into futurity.
Whether he saw much there I cannot tell, but after wandering for some
time in that unknown region, his eyes returned to surrounding things,
and, among other objects, alighted on the 'bus conductor, whose head was
within a few inches of his toe.  It was the head of the Slogger!

That eccentric individual, having sprung up in a few months from the
condition of a big boy to that of an exceedingly young man, had obtained
a situation as conductor to a 'bus.  He was so busy with his fares when
Robin mounted the 'bus that he failed to observe him until the moment
when the latter returned from futurity.  Their eyes met simultaneously,
and opened to such an extent that if size had counted for numbers they
might have done for four boys.

"Hallo, Buttons!" was the Slogger's exclamation.

"Hallo, Slogger!" was that of Robin.

"Well, now, this _is_ a pleasure! who'd a thought it?" said the
conductor, reaching up his hand.

"Is that for your fare or a shake, Slogger?" demanded Robin.

"A shake, of course, old feller," replied the other, as Robin grasped
the proffered hand;--"but I say," he added in a lower key, "there's no
Slogger now in this 'ere world; he's dead an' buried long ago.  My name
is Villum Bowls--no connection wotever with Slogger.  Oh no! we never
mention 'im;--but, I say, w'en did you go into the genteel line? eh,
Slidder?"

"Robin--Robin is my name _now_, Villum Bowls.  I've changed it since we
met last, though I hain't cut old friends like you.  Robin an' Slidder
'ave been united, an' a pretty pair they make, don't they?"

"Middlin'.  'Old on till I get that ancient stout party shoved in.
Looks like as if he was a goin' in the opposite direction, but it don't
matter so long as we can get 'im in.--Now, then, sir, mind the step.
All right?  I say, Slid--Robin, I mean--"

"Vell, Slog--Villum, I mean; why don't you say wot you mean, eh?"

"'Ow d'you like grey tights an' buttons?" said the Slogger, with a bland
smile.

"So--so," replied Robin, with a careless air; "the grey is sober
enough--quite suitable to my character--an' I confess I'm fond o' the
buttons."

"There's enough of 'em to form a goodish overcoat a'most," said the
Slogger with a critical grin, "but I should 'ave thought 'em not
sufficiently waterproof in wet weather."

"Vell, they ain't much use for that, Slog--eh, Villum; but you should
see the dazzling display they makes in sunshine.  W'y, you can see me
half a mile off w'en I chance to be walking in Regent Street or drivin'
in the Park.  But I value them chiefly because of the frequent and
pleasant talks they get me with the ladies."

"You don't mean for to say, Robin, that the ladies ever holds you by the
button-'oles?"

"No, I don't; but I holds _them_ wi' the buttons.  This is the way of
it.  W'en I chance to see a wery pretty lady--not one o' your beauties,
you know; I don't care a dump for them stuck-up creatures! but one o'
your sweet, amiable sort, with souls above buttons, an' faces one likes
to look at and to kiss w'en you've a right to; vell, w'en I sees one o'
these I brushes up again' 'er, an' 'ooks on with my buttons to some of
'er togs.

"If she takes it ill, looks cross, and 'alf inclined to use strong
language, I makes a 'umble apology, an' gets undone as fast as possible,
but if she larfs, and says, `Stoopid boy; w'y don't you look before
you?' or suthin o' that sort, I just 'ooks on another tag to another
button w'en we're a fumblin' at the first one, and so goes on till we
get to be quite sociable over it--I might almost say confidential.  Once
or twice I've been the victim of misjudgment, and got a heavy slap on
the face from angelic hands that ought to 'ave known better, but on the
'ole I'm willin' to take my chance."

"Not a bad notion," remarked the Slogger; "especially for a pretty
little chap like you, Robin."

"Right you are," replied the other, "but you needn't try on the dodge
yourself, for it would never pay with a big ugly grampus like you,
Villum."

Having thus run into a pleasant little chat, the two waifs proceeded to
compare notes, in the course of which comparison the Slogger gave an
outline of his recent history.  He had been engaged in several
successful burglaries, but had been caught in the act of pocket-picking,
for which offence he had spent some weeks in prison.  While there a
visitor had spoken to him very earnestly, and advised him to try an
honest life, as being, to say the least of it, easier work than
thieving.  He had made the attempt.  Through the influence of the same
prison-visitor he had obtained a situation, from which he had been
advanced to the responsible position which he then held.

"And, d'you know, Robin," said the Slogger, "I find that honesty pays
pretty well, and I means to stick to it."

"An' I suppose," said Robin, "if it didn't pay pretty well you'd cut
it?"

"Of course I would," returned the Slogger, with a look of surprise;
"wot's the use o' stickin' to a thing that don't pay?"

"Vell, if them's your principles you ain't got much to 'old on by, my
tulip," said Robin.

"An' wot principles may _you_ 'old on by, my turnip?" asked the Slogger.

"It would puzzle me, rather, to tell that," returned Robin, "'specially
talkin' down to the level of my own toes on the top of a 'bus; but I'll
tell you what, Villum, if you'll come to Number 6 Grovelly Street,
Shadwell Square, just back of Hoboy Crescent, w'ere my master lives, on
Sunday next at seven in the evenin', you'll hear an' see somethin' as'll
open your eyes."

"Ah! a meetin'-'ouse'?" said the Slogger, with a slight smile of
contempt.

"Music-'alls and publics is meetin'-'ouses, ain't they?"

"Ah, but they ain't prayer-meetin' 'ouses," rejoined the Slogger.

"Not so sure o' that Villum.  There's a deal o' prayer in such places
sometimes, an' it's well for the wisitors that their prayers ain't
always answered.  But _our_ meetin'-'ouse is for more than prayer--a
deal more; and there's my young missus--a _real_ angel--comes in, and
'olds forth there every Sunday evening to young fellers like you an' me.
You just come an' judge for yourself."

"No thankee," returned the Slogger.

As he spoke a lady with a lap-dog made powerful demonstrations with her
umbrella.  The 'bus stopped, and the conductor attended to his duties,
while Robin, who really felt a strong desire to bring his old comrade
under an influence which he knew was working a wonderful change in
himself, sat meditating sadly on the obstinacy of human nature.

"I say, Robin," said the Slogger, on resuming his perch, "d'you know
I've found traces o' that young gal as you took such a interest in, as
runned away from the old 'ooman, an' was robbed by Brassey an' me?"

"You don't mean that!" exclaimed Robin eagerly.

"Yes I do.  She's in London, I believe, but I can't exactly say where.
I heard of her through Sal--you know Sal, who 'angs out at the vest end
o' Potter's Lane.  I expect to see Sal in 'alf an hour, so if you're
comin' back this way, I'll be at the Black Bull by two o'clock, and tell
you all I can pump out of 'er."

"I'll be there sharp," said Robin promptly; "an now pull up, for I must
take to my legs here."

"But I say, Robin, if we do find that gal, you won't split on me, eh?
You won't tell 'er who I am or where I is?  You won't wictimise your old
friend?"

"D'you take me for a informer?" demanded Robin, with an offended look.

"Hall right," cried the Slogger, giving the signal to drive on.

Robin sped quickly away, executed his mission, and returned to the Black
Bull in a state of considerable excitement and strong hope.

Slidder was doomed to disappointment.  He reached the Black Bull at two
o'clock precisely.

"Vell, my fair one," he said, addressing a waiting-maid who met him in
the passage, "it's good for sore eyes to see the likes o' you in cloudy
weather.  D'you 'appen to know a young man of the name of Sl--I mean
Villum Bowls?"

"Yes I do, Mr Imp'rence," answered the girl.

"You couldn't introdooce me to him, could you, Miss Sunshine?"

"No, I couldn't, because he isn't here, and won't likely be back for two
hours."

This reply took all the humour out of Robin's tone and manner.  He
resolved, however, to wait for half an hour, and went out to saunter in
front of the hotel.

Half an hour passed, then another, then another, and the boy was fain to
leave the spot in despair.

Poor Slidder's temperament was sanguine.  Slight encouragement raised
his hopes very high.  Failure depressed him proportionally and woefully
low, but, to do him justice, he never sorrowed long.  In the present
instance, he left the Black Bull grinding his teeth.  Then he took to
clanking his heels as he walked along in a way that drew forth the
comments of several street-boys, to whom, in a spirit of liberality, he
returned considerably more than he received.  Then he began to mutter
between his teeth his private opinion as to faithless persons in
general, and faithless Villum, _alias_ the Slogger, in particular, whose
character he painted to himself in extremely sombre colours.  After
that, a heavy thunder-shower having fallen and drenched him, he walked
recklessly and violently through every puddle in his path.  This seemed
to relieve his spirit, for when he reached Hoboy Crescent he had
recovered much of his wonted equanimity.

The Slogger was not however, so faithless as his old friend imagined.
He had been at the Black Bull before two o'clock, but had been sent off
by his employer with a note to a house at a considerable distance in
such urgent haste that he had not time even to think of leaving a
message for his friend.

In these circumstances, he resolved to clear his character by paying a
visit on the following Sunday to Number 6 Grovelly Street, Shadwell
Square.



CHAPTER TWELVE.

BEGINS WITH LOVE, HOPE, AND JOY, AND ENDS PECULIARLY.

It may not perhaps surprise the reader to learn that after Lilly
Blythe's return to town, I did not prosecute my studies with as much
enthusiasm as before.  In fact I divided my attentions pretty equally
between Lilly and chemistry.

Now, I am not prone to become sentimentally talkative about my own
affairs, but as courtship, and love, and that sort of thing are
undoubted and important elements in the chemistry of human affairs, and
as they influenced me and those around me to some extent, I cannot avoid
making reference to them, but I promise the reader to do so only as far
as appears necessary for the elucidation of my story.

First, then, although I knew that my prospects of success as a partner
of Dr McTougall were most encouraging, I felt that it would be foolish
to think of marriage until my position was well established and my
income adequate.  I therefore strove with all my might to check the flow
of my thoughts towards Miss Blythe.  As well might I have striven to
restrain the flow of Niagara.  True love cannot be stemmed!  In my case,
however, the proverb was utterly falsified, for my true love _did_ "run
smooth."  More than that, it ran fast--very fast indeed, so much so that
I was carried, as it were, on the summit of a rushing flood-tide into
the placid harbour of Engagement.  The anchorage in that harbour is with
many people uncertain.  With Lilly and me it was not so.  The
ground-tackle was good; it had caught hold of a rock and held on.

It happened thus.  After many weeks of struggling on my part to keep out
of Miss Blythe's way, and to prevent the state of my feelings from being
observed by her--struggles which I afterwards found to my confusion had
been quite obvious to her--I found myself standing alone, one Sunday
afternoon, in the doctor's drawing-room, meditating on the joys of
childhood, as exemplified by thunderous blows on the floor above and
piercing shouts of laughter.  The children had been to church and were
working off the steam accumulated there.  Suddenly there was a dead
silence, which I knew to be the result of a meal.  The meal was, I may
add, the union of a late dinner with an early tea.  It was
characteristic of Sundays in the McTougall nursery.

The thought of this union turned my mind into another channel.  Just
then Miss Blythe entered.  She looked so radiant that I forgot myself,
forgot my former struggles, my good resolutions--everything except
herself--and proposed on the spot!

I was rejected--of course!  More than that, I was stunned!  Hope had
told me many flattering tales.  Indeed, I had felt so sure, from many
little symptoms, that Lilly had a strong regard for me--to say the
least--that I was overwhelmed, not only by my rejection, but by the
thought of my foolish self-assurance.

"I don't wonder that you look upon me as a presumptuous, vain,
contemptible fellow," said I, in the bitterness of my soul.

"But I do not regard you in that light," said Lilly, with a faint smile,
and then, hesitatingly, she looked down at the carpet.

"In what light do you regard me, Miss Blythe?" said I, recovering a
little hope, and speaking vehemently.

"Really, Dr Mellon, you take me by surprise; your manner--so abrupt--
so--"

"Oh! never mind manner, dear Miss Blythe," said I, seizing her hand, and
forcibly detaining it.  "You are the soul of truth; tell me, is there
any hope for me?--_can_ you care for me?"

"Dr Mellon," she said, drawing her hand firmly away, "I cannot, should
not reply.  You do not know all the--the circumstances of my life--my
poverty, my solitary condition in the world--my--my--"

"Miss Blythe," I exclaimed, in desperation, "if you were as poor as a--
a--church rat, as solitary as--as--Adam before the advent of Eve, I
would count it my chief joy, and--"

"Hallo!  Mellon, hi!  I say! where are you?" shouted the voice of the
doctor at that moment from below stairs.  "Here's Dumps been in the
laboratory, and capsized some of the chemicals!"

"Coming, sir!"  I shouted; then tenderly, though hurriedly, to Miss
Blythe, "You will let me resume this subject at--"

"Hallo! look sharp!" from below.

"Yes, yes, I'll be down directly!--Dear Miss Blythe, if you only knew--"

"Why, the dog's burning all over--help me!" roared the doctor.

Miss Blythe blushed and laughed.  How could she help it?  I hastily
kissed her hand, and fled from the room.

That was the whole affair.  There was not enough, strictly speaking, to
form a ground of hope; but somehow I knew that it was all right.  In the
laboratory I found Dumps smoking, and the doctor pouring water from the
tap on his dishevelled body.  He was not hurt, and little damage was
done; but as I sat in my room talking to him that evening, I could not
help reproaching him with having been the means of breaking off one of
the most important interviews of my life.

"However, Dumps," I continued, "your good services far outweigh your
wicked deeds, and whatever you may do in the future, I will never forget
that you were the means of introducing me to that angel, Lilly Blythe."

The angel in question went that Sunday evening at seven o'clock, as was
her wont, to a Bible class which she had started for the instruction of
some of the poor neglected boys and lads who idled about in the dreary
back streets of our aristocratic neighbourhood.  The boys had become so
fond of her that they were eager to attend, and usually assembled round
the door of the class-room before the hour.

My _protege_, Robin Slidder, was of course one of her warmest adherents.
He was standing that night apart from the other boys, contemplating the
proceedings of two combative sparrows which quarrelled over a crumb of
bread on the pavement, and had just come to the conclusion that men and
sparrows had some qualities in common, when he was attracted by a low
whistle, and, looking up, beheld the Slogger peeping round a
neighbouring corner.

"Hallo!  Slog--Villum I mean; how are you?  Come along.  Vell, I _am_
glad to see you, for, d'you know, arter you failed me that day at the
Black Bull, I have bin givin' you a pretty bad character, an' callin'
you no end o' bad names."

"Is that what your `angel' teaches you, Robin?"

"Vell, not exactly, but you'll hear wot she teaches for yourself
to-night, I 'ope.  Come, I'm right glad to see you, Villum.  What was it
that prevented you that day, eh?"

When the Slogger had explained and cleared his character, Robin asked
him eagerly if he had ascertained anything further about the girl whom
he and Brassey had robbed.

"Of course I have," said the Slogger, "and it's a curious suckumstance
that 'er place of abode--so Sally says--is in the Vest End, not wery far
from here.  She gave me the street and the name, but wasn't quite sure
of the number."

"Vell, come along, let's hear all about it," said Robin impatiently.

"Wy, wot's all your 'urry?" returned the Slogger slowly; "I ain't goin'
away till I've heerd wot your angel's got to say, you know.  Besides, I
must go arter your meeting's over an watch the 'ouse till I see the gal
an' make sure that it's her, for Sally may have bin mistook, you know."

"You don't know her name, do you?" asked Robin; "it wasn't Edie Willis,
now, was it?"

"'Ow should _I_ know 'er name?" answered the Slogger.  "D'you think I
stopped to inquire w'en I 'elped to relieve 'er of 'er propity?"

"Ah, I suppose not.  Vell, I suppose you've no objection to my goin' to
watch along wi' you."

"None wotsomever; on'y remember, if it do turn out to be 'er, you won't
betray me.  Honour bright!  She may be revengeful, you know, an' might
'ave me took up if she got 'old of me."

Robin Slidder faithfully and earnestly pledged himself.  While he was
speaking there was a general movement among the lads and boys towards
the class-room, for Miss Blythe was seen coming towards them.  The two
friends moved with the rest.  Just as he was about to enter the door,
Robin missed his companion, and, looking back, saw him bending down, and
holding his sides as if in pain.

"Wot's wrong now?" he inquired, returning to him.

"Oh!  I'm took so bad," said the Slogger, looking very red, and rubbing
himself; "a old complaint as I thought I was cured of.  Oh, dear! you'll
'ave to excuge me, Robin.  I'll go an' take a turn, an' come in if I
gits better.  If not, I'll meet you round the corner arter it's over."

So saying, the Slogger, turning round, walked quickly away, and his
little friend entered the class-room in a state of mind pendulating
between disgust and despair, for he had no expectation of seeing the
slippery Slogger again that night.

When the meeting was over, Miss Blythe returned home.  I saw her enter
the library.  No one else was there, I knew.  The gas had not yet been
lighted, and only a faint flicker from the fire illumined the room.
Unable to bear the state of uncertainty under which my mind still
laboured, I resolved to make assurance doubly sure, or quit the house--
and England--for ever!

I spare the reader the details.  Suffice it to say that after much
entreaty, I got her to admit that she loved me, but she refused to
accept me until she had told me her whole history.

"Then I'm sure of you now," said I, in triumph; "for, be your history
what it may, I'll never give you up, dearest Lilly--"

"Don't call me Lilly," she said in a low, quiet tone; "it is only a pet
name which the little ones here gave me on my first coming to them.
Call me Edith."

"I will," said I, with enthusiasm, "a far more beautiful name.  I'll--"

"Hallo! hi!  Mellon, are you there?"

For the second time that day Dr McTougall interrupted me, but I was
proof against annoyance now.

"Yes, I am here," I shouted, running downstairs.  "Surely Dumps is not
burning himself again--eh?"

"Oh no," returned my friend, with a laugh--"only a telegram.  However,
it's important enough to require prompt attention.  The Gordons in
Bingley Manor--you know them--telegraph me to run down immediately; old
lady ill.  Now, it unfortunately happens that I have an engagement this
evening which positively cannot be put off, so I must send you.
Besides, I know well enough what it is.  They're easily alarmed, and I'm
convinced it is just the old story.  However, the summons must be
obeyed.  You will go for me.  The train starts in half an hour.  You
will have plenty of time to catch it, if you make haste.  You'll have to
stay all night.  No return train till to-morrow, being an out-of-the-way
place.  There, off with you.  Put the telegram in your pocket for the
address."

So saying, the doctor put on his hat and left the house.

Summoning Robin Slidder, I bade him pack a few things into my
travelling-bag while I wrote a note.  When he had finished he told me of
his interview with the Slogger.  I was greatly interested, and asked if
he had gone to see his friend after the meeting.

"No, sir, I didn't.  I meant to, but Miss Blythe wanted me to walk 'ome
with 'er, it was so dark, an' w'en I went back he had gone."

"Pity, Robin--a great pity," said I, hastily strapping up my bag, "but
no doubt he'll come here again to see you.--Now, don't forget to take
over that parcel of tea and sugar, etcetera, to Mrs Willis.  Go as soon
as you can."  Saying this, I left the house.

The new residence of the old woman being now so near to Hoboy Crescent
the parcel was soon delivered, and Robin officiated at the opening of
it, also at the preparing and consuming of some of its contents.  Of
course he chatted vigorously, as was his wont, but was particularly
careful to make not the most distant allusion to the Slogger or his
reports, being anxious not to arouse her hopes until he should have some
evidence that they were on a true scent.  Indeed, he was so fearful of
letting slip some word or remark on the subject and thereby awakening
suspicion and giving needless pain, that he abstained from all reference
to the meeting of that evening, and launched out instead into wonderful
and puzzling theological speculations, of which he was very fond.

Meanwhile I was carried swiftly into the country.  The lamp in my
carriage was too dim to permit of reading; I therefore wrapped myself in
my rug and indulged in pleasant meditations.

It was past midnight when I arrived at the station for Bingley Manor,
where I found a gig awaiting me.  A sharp drive of half an hour and I
was at the mansion door.

Dr McTougall was right.  There was little the matter with old Mrs
Gordon, but the family were nervous, and rich--hence my visit.  I did
what was necessary for the patient, comforted the rest by my presence,
had a sound night's rest, an early breakfast, a pleasant drive in the
fresh frosty air, and a brief wait of five minutes, when the punctual
train came up.

There is something inexpressibly delightful in a ride, on a sharp frosty
morning, in an express train.  I have always felt a wild bounding
sensation of joy in rapid motion.  The pace at which we went that
morning was exceptionally charming.  Had I known that the engine-driver
was intoxicated perhaps it might not have been quite so exhilarating,
but I did not know that.  I sat comfortably in my corner thinking of
Edith, and gazing with placid benignity at the frosted trees and bushes
which sparkled in the red wintry sun.

Yes, it was a glorious ride!  I never had a better.  The part of the
country through which we passed was lovely.  One can always gaze
comfortably at the _distant_ landscape from a railway carriage, however
great the speed.  As for the immediate foreground, it reminded me of a
race--houses, trees, farms, towns, villages, hamlets, horses, sheep,
cattle, poultry, hayricks, brickfields, were among the competitors in
that race.  They rushed in mad confusion to the rear.  I exulted in the
pace.  Not so a stout elderly gentleman in the opposite corner, who
evidently disliked it--so true is it that "one man's meat is another's
poison."

"There is no reason to fear, sir," said I, with a smile, by way of
reassuring him.  "This is a most excellently managed line--one never
hears of accidents on it."

"Too fast just now, anyhow," returned the elderly gentleman testily.

Just then the whistle was heard sounding violently.

"That is a sign of safety," said I; "shows that they are on the alert."

A severe application of the brakes caused me to stop abruptly, and the
elderly man to seize the arms of his seat with a convulsive grasp.

Suddenly there was a mighty crash.  The sensations in my mind that
followed were suggestive of cannons, rockets, bombs, fireworks,
serpents, shooting-stars, and tumbling _debris_.  Then--all was dark and
silent as the grave!



CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

A WONDERFUL DISCOVERY.

Slowly recovering consciousness, I found myself lying on the floor of a
waiting-room, with a gentleman bending over me.  Instantly recollecting
what had occurred, I endeavoured to start up, but was obliged to fall
back again.

"You must lie quiet sir," said the gentleman.  "You're not much hurt.
We will send you on, if you choose, by the train that is expected in a
few minutes."

"Is the elderly gentleman safe?"  I asked eagerly.

"Which elderly gentleman?  There were several in the train, but none are
injured, I believe, though some are much shaken.  Nobody has been
killed.  It has been quite a miraculous escape."

"Merciful--call it merciful, my dear sir," said I, looking upwards and
thanking God with all my heart for sparing my life.

Two days after that I lay on the drawing-room sofa in Hoboy Crescent.
Mr and Mrs McTougall had gone out.  So had the children, the forenoon
being fine.  Edith had remained at home, for reasons which she did not
see fit to divulge.  She sat beside me with one of her hands in mine.
It was all arranged between us by that time.

"Edith," said I after a short pause in our conversation, "I have long
wanted to tell you about a dear little old lady with whom Robin Slidder
and I have had much to do.  She's one of my poor patients, whom I have
not mentioned to you before, but I've heard something about her lately
which makes me wish to ask your advice--perhaps your aid--in a rather
curious search which I've been engaged in for a long time past."

"I will go for my work, John, and you shall tell me all about it," she
replied, rising.  "I shall be five or ten minutes in preparing it.  Can
you wait patiently?"

"Well, I'll try, though of course it will be like a separation of five
or ten years, but Dumps and I will solace each other in your absence.--
By the way, touch the bell as you pass.  I should like to see Robin, not
having had a talk with him since the accident."

When Robin appeared I asked him if he had seen the Slogger.

"No, sir, I 'aven't," replied Robin, with a somewhat cross look.  "That
there Slogger has played me false these two times.  Leastwise, though he
couldn't 'elp it the fust time, he's got to clear 'isself about the
second."

"You know where the Slogger lives, don't you?"  I asked.

"Oh yes, but it's a long, long way off, an' I durstn't go without leave,
an' since you was blowed up i' the train I've scarce 'ad a word with the
doctor--he's bin that busy through 'avin' your patients on 'is 'ands as
well as is own."

"Well, Robin, I give you leave to go.  Be off within this very hour, and
see that you bring me back some good news.  Now that we have reason to
believe the poor girl is in London, perhaps near us, I cannot rest until
we find her--or prove the scent to have been a false one.  Away with
you!"

As the boy went out, Edith came back with her work basket.

"I've been thinking," said I, as she sat down on a stool beside me,
"that before beginning my story, it would be well that you should
unburden your dear little heart of that family secret of yours which you
thought at first was a sufficient bar to our union.  But before you
begin, let me solemnly assure you that your revelations, whatever they
are, will utterly fail to move me.  Though you should declare yourself
to be the daughter of a thief, a costermonger, or a chimpanzee monkey--
though you should profess yourself to have been a charwoman, a
foundling, a Billingsgate fish-woman, or a female mountebank--my
feelings and resolves will remain the same.  Sufficient for me to know
that you are _you_, and that you are _mine_!--There, go on."

"Truly, then, if such be your feelings, there is no need of my going on,
or even beginning," she replied, with a smile, and yet with a touch of
sadness in her tone which made me grasp her hand.

"Ah, Edith!  I did not mean to hurt you by my jesting, and yet the
spirit of what I say is true--absolutely true."

"You did not hurt me, John; you merely brought to my remembrance my
great sorrow and--"

"Your great sorrow!"  I exclaimed in surprise, gazing at her smooth
young face.

"Yes, my great sorrow, and I was going to add, my loss.  But you shall
hear.  I have no family mystery to unfold.  All that I wished you to
know on that head was that I am without family altogether.  All are
dead.  I have no relation on earth--not one."

She said this with such deep pathos, while tears filled her eyes, that I
could not have uttered a word of comfort to save my life.

"And," she continued, "I am absolutely penniless.  These two points at
first made me repel you--at least, until I had explained them to you.
Now that you look upon them as such trifles I need say no more.  But the
loss to which I have referred is, I fear, irreparable.  You won't think
me selfish or tiresome if I go back to an early period of my history?"

"Selfish! tiresome!"  I repeated, "oh, Edith!"

"Well, then, many years ago my father and mother lived by the seashore
not far from Yarmouth.  They were poor.  My father gave lessons in
French, my mother taught music.  But they earned sufficient to support
themselves and my grandmother and me in comfort.  We were a _very_ happy
family, for we all loved God and tried to follow in the footsteps of
Jesus.  I gave them, indeed, a great deal of trouble at first, but He
overcame my stubborn heart at last, and then there was nothing to mar
the happiness of our lives.  But sickness came.  My father died.  My
mother tried to struggle on for a time, but could not earn enough; I
tried to help her by teaching, but had myself need of being taught.  At
last we changed our residence, in hopes of getting more remunerative
employment, but in this we failed.  Then my mother fell sick and died."

She stopped at this point.

"Oh, Edith! this makes you doubly dear," said I, drawing her nearer to
me.

In a few minutes she continued--

"Being left alone now with my grandmother, I resolved to go to London
and try to find employment in the great city.  We had not been long
here, and I had not yet obtained employment when an extraordinary event
occurred which has ever since embittered my life.  I went out for a walk
one day, and was robbed."

"How strange!"  I exclaimed, half rising from the sofa.  "What a curious
coincidence!"

"What!  How?  What do you mean?" she asked, looking at me in surprise.

"Never mind just now.  When I come to tell you _my_ story you will
understand.  There is a robbery of a young girl in it too.--Go on.--"

"Well, then, as I said, I was robbed by a man and a boy.  I had dear
little Pompey with me at the time, and that is the way I came to lose
him.  But the terrible thing was that an accident befell me just after I
was robbed, and I never saw my darling grandmother again--"

"Coincidence!"  I exclaimed, starting up, as a sudden thought was forced
upon my mind, and my heart began to beat violently, "this is _more_ than
a coincidence; and yet--it cannot be--pooh! impossible! ridiculous!  My
mind is wandering."

I sank back somewhat exhausted, for I had been considerably weakened by
my accident.  Edith was greatly alarmed at my words and looks, and
blamed herself for having talked too much to me in my comparatively weak
condition.

"No, you have not talked too much to me.  You cannot do that, dear
_Edie_," I said.

It was now her turn to look bewildered.

"_Edie_!" she echoed.  "Why--why do you call me Edie?"

I covered my eyes with my hand, that she might not see their expression.

"There can be no doubt _now_," I thought; "but why that name of Blythe?"
Then aloud:

"It is a pretty contraction for Edith, is it not?  Don't you like it?"

"Like it?  Yes.  Oh, how much!  But--but--"

"Well, Edie," I said, laying powerful restraint on myself, and looking
her calmly in the face, "you must bear with me to-night.  You know that
weakness sometimes causes men to act unaccountably.  Forgive me for
interrupting you.  I won't do it again, as the naughty boys say.--Go on,
dear, with your story."

I once more covered my eyes with my hand, as if to shade them from the
light, and listened, though I could scarcely conceal my agitation.

"The name of Edie," she continued, "is that by which my darling granny
always called me, and it sounded so familiar--yet so strange--coming
from your lips.  But, after all, it is a natural abbreviation.  Well, as
I said, an accident befell me.  I had burst away from the thieves in a
state of wild horror, and was attempting to rush across a crowded
thoroughfare, when a cab knocked me down.  I felt a sharp pang of pain,
heard a loud shout and then all was dark.

"On recovering I found myself lying in one of the beds of a hospital.
My collar-bone had been broken, and I was very feverish--scarcely
understood where I was, and felt a dull sense of oppression on my brain.
They spoke to me, and asked my name.  I don't remember distinctly how I
pronounced it, but I recollect being somewhat amused at their
misunderstanding what I said, and calling me Miss Eva Bright!  I felt
too ill to correct them at the time, and afterwards became so accustomed
to Eva--for I was a very long time there--that I did not think it worth
while to correct the mistake.  This was very foolish and unfortunate,
for long afterwards, when I began to get well enough to think
coherently, and sent them to let granny know where I was, they of course
went with the name of Eva Bright.  It was very stupid, no doubt, but I
was so weak and listless after my long and severe illness that this
never once occurred to me.  As it turned out, however, there would have
been no difference in the result, for my darling had left her lodging
and gone no one knew where.  This terrible news brought on a relapse,
and for many weeks, I believe, my life hung on a thread.  But that
thread was in the hand of God, and I had no fear."

"What is the name, Edie, of the grandmother you have lost?"  I asked, in
a low, tremulous voice.

"Willis--but--why do you start so?  Now I am quite _sure_ you have been
more severely hurt than you imagine, and that my talking so much is not
good for you."

"No--Edie--no.  Go on," I said firmly.

"I have little more to tell," she continued.  "Dear Dr McTougall had
attended me in the hospital, and took a fancy to me.  When I was well
enough to leave, he took me home to be governess to his children.  But
my situation has been an absolute sinecure as yet, for he says I am not
strong enough to work, and won't let me do anything.  It was not till
after I had left the hospital that I told my kind friend the mistake
that had been made about my name, and about my lost grandmother.  He has
been very kind about that, and assisted me greatly at first in my search
for her.  But there are so many--so many people of the name of Willis in
London--old ladies too!  We called together on so many that he got tired
of it at last.  Of course I wrote to various people at York, and to the
place where we had lived before going there, but nothing came of it, and
now--my hopes have long ago died out--that is to say, almost--but I
still continue to make inquiries."

She paused here for some time, and I did not move or speak, being so
stunned by my discovery that I knew not what to say, and feared to
reveal the truth to Edith too suddenly.  Then I knew by the gentle way
in which she moved that she thought I had fallen asleep.  I was glad of
this, and remained quietly thinking.

There was no doubt now in my mind that Edie Blythe was this lost
granddaughter of old Mrs Willis, but the name still remained an
insoluble mystery.

"Edie," said I abruptly, "_is_ your name Blythe?"

"Of course it is," she said, in startled surprise, "why should you doubt
it?"

"I _don't_ doubt it," said I, "but I'm sorely puzzled.  Why is it not
Willis?"

"Why?" exclaimed Edie, with a little laugh, "because I am the daughter
of Granny Willis's daughter--not of her son.  My father's name was
Blythe!"

The simplicity of this explanation, and my gross stupidity in quietly
assuming from the beginning, as a matter of course, that the lost Edie's
name was the same as her grandmother's, burst upon me in its full force.
The delusion had been naturally perpetuated by Mrs Willis never
speaking of her lost darling except by her Christian name.  For a few
seconds I was silent, then I exploded in almost an hysterical fit of
laughter, in the midst of which I was interrupted by the sudden entrance
of my doggie, who had returned from a walk with Robin, and began to
gambol round his mistress as if he had not seen her for years.

"Oh, sir!  I say!  I've diskivered all about--"

Little Slidder had rushed excitedly into the room, but stopped abruptly
on observing Miss Blythe, who was looking from him to me with intense
surprise.

Before another word could be said, a servant entered:--

"Please, Miss Blythe, Doctor McTougall wishes to see you in his study."

She left us at once.

"Now, Robin," said I, with emphasis, "sit down on that chair, opposite
me, and let's hear all about it."

The excited boy obeyed, and Dumps, leaping on another chair beside him,
sat down to listen, with ears erect, as if he knew what was coming.

"Oh, sir! you never--such a go!" began Robin, rubbing his hands together
slowly as he spoke.  "The Slogger! he twigged 'er at once.  You'll open
your eyes so wide that you'll never git 'em shut again, w'en you hears.
No, I never _did_ see such a lark!  Edie's found!  I've seen her!  She
ain't the Queen--oh no; nor yet one o' the Queen's darters--by no means;
nor yet a duchess--oh dear no, though she's like one.  Who d'ye think
she is?  But you'll never guess."

"I'll try," said I, with a quiet smile, for I had subdued myself by that
time.

"Try away then--who?"

"Miss Edith Blythe!"

On hearing this, little Slidder's eyes began to open and glisten till
they outshone his own buttons.

"Why--how--ever--did you come to guess it?" gasped the boy, on
recovering himself.

"I did not guess it, I found it out.  Do you suppose that nobody can
find out things except Sloggers and pages in buttons?"

"Oh, sir, _do_ tell!" entreated the boy.

I did tell, and after we had each told all that we knew, we mentally
hugged ourselves, and grew so facetious over it that we began to address
Dumps personally, to that intelligent creature's intense satisfaction.

"Now, Robin," said I, "we must break this _very_ cautiously to the old
lady and Miss Blythe."

"Oh, in course--we-r-y cautiously," assented the urchin, with
inconceivable earnestness.

"Well, then, off you go and fetch my greatcoat.  We'll go visit Mrs
Willis at once."

"At vunce," echoed Robin, as he ran out of the room, with blazing cheeks
and sparkling eyes.

"Lilly," said Dr McTougall, as Edith entered his consulting-room.  "I'm
just off to see a patient who is very ill, and there is another who is
not quite so ill, but who also wants to see me.  I'll send you to the
latter as my female assistant, if you will go.  Her complaint is chiefly
mental.  In fact, she needs comfort more than physic, and I know of no
one who is comparable to you in that line.  Can you go?"

"Certainly, with pleasure.  I'll go at once."

"Her name," said the doctor, "is Willis.--By the way, that reminds me of
your loss, dear girl," he continued in a lower tone, as he gently took
her hand, "but I would not again arouse your hopes.  You know how many
old women of this name we have seen without finding her."

"Yes, I know too well," returned poor Edith, while the tears gathered in
her eyes.  "I have long ago given up all hope."

But notwithstanding her statement Edith had not quite given way to
despair.  In spite of herself her heart fluttered a little as she sped
on this mission to the abode of _another_ old Mrs Willis.



CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

THE LAST.

When Robin and I reached the abode of our old friend--in a state, let me
add, of almost irrepressible excitement--we found her seated in the old
arm-chair by the window, gazing sadly out on the prospect.

It was not now the prospect of red brick and water-spout, with a remote
distance of chimney--cans and cats, which had crushed the old lady's
spirit in other days--by no means.  There was a picturesque little
court, with an old pump in the centre to awaken the fancy, and frequent
visits from more or less diabolical street-boys, to excite the
imagination.  Beyond that there was the mews, in which a lively scene of
variance between horses and men was enacted from morning till night--a
scene which derived much additional charm from the fact that Mrs
Willis, being short-sighted, formed fearfully incorrect estimates of
men, and beasts, and things in general.

"Well, granny, how are you?" said I, seating myself on a stool beside
her, and thinking how I should begin.

"Pretty griggy--eh?" inquired little Slidder.

"Ah! there you are, my dear boys," said the old lady, who had latterly
got to look upon me and my _protege_ as brothers.  "You are always sure
to come, whoever fails me."

"Has any one failed you to-day, granny?"  I asked.

"Yes, Dr McTougall has," she replied as petulantly as it was possible
for her to speak.  "I've been feeling very low and weak to-day, and sent
for him; but I suppose he thinks it's only imagination.  Well, well,
perhaps it is," she added, after a pause, and with a little sigh.  "I'm
very foolish, no doubt."

"No, granny," said I, "you're not foolish,"--("Contrariwise, wery much
the reverse," interrupted Slidder)--"and I'm glad that I chanced to come
in, because, perhaps, I may be able to prescribe for you as well as he."

"Better, dear boy, better"--("That's it, cheer up!" from Slidder)--"and
it always does me a world of good to see your handsome face."

"Well, granny," said I, with a flutter at my heart, as I looked up at
her thin careworn face, and began to break the ice with caution, "I've
come--I--there's a little piece of--of--"

"Now then, dig in the spurs, doctor, an' go at it--neck or nuffin',"
murmured my impatient companion.

"What are you saying, Robin?" asked Mrs Willis, with a slightly anxious
look.  "There's nothing wrong, I hope?"

"No, no; nothing wrong, granny," said I, hastening to the point; "very
much the reverse.  But--but--you heard of my accident, of course?"  I
said, suddenly losing heart and beating about the bush.

"Stuck again!" murmured Slidder, in a tone of disgust.

"Yes, yes; I heard of it.  You don't mean to say that you're getting
worse?" said the old lady, with increasing anxiety.

"Oh no!  I'm better--much better.  Indeed, I don't think I ever felt so
well in my life; and I've just heard a piece of good news, which, I'm
quite sure, will make you very glad--very glad indeed!"

"Go it, sir!  Another burst like that and you'll be clear out o' the
wood," murmured Slidder.

"In fact," said I, as a sudden thought struck, "I'm going to be
married!"

"Whew! you never told _me_ that!" exclaimed Slidder, with widening eyes.

"_Will_ you be quiet, Robin?" said I, rather sternly; "how can I get
over this very difficult matter if you go on interrupting me so?"

"Mum's the word!" returned the boy, folding his hands, and assuming a
look of ridiculous solemnity.

At that moment we heard a noise of pattering feet on the landing
outside.  The door, which had not been properly closed, burst open, and
my doggie came into the room all of a heap.  After a brief moment lost
in apparently searching for his hind-legs, he began to dance and frisk
about the room as if all his limbs were whalebone and his spirit
quicksilver.

"Oh, there's that dog again!  Put it out! put it out!" cried Mrs
Willis, gathering her old skirts around her feet.

"Get out, Dumps! how dare you come here, sir, without leave?"

"_I_ gave him leave," said a sweet voice in the passage.

Next moment a sweeter face was smiling upon me, as Edith entered the
room.

There was a feeble cry at the window.  I observed that the sweet smile
vanished, and a deadly pallor overspread Edith's face, while her eyes
gazed with eager surprise at the old lady for a few seconds.  Mrs
Willis sat with answering gaze and outstretched arms.

"Edie!"

"Granny!" was all that either could gasp, but there was no need for
more--the lost ones were mutually found!  With an indescribable cry of
joy Edith sprang forward, fell on her knees, and enfolded granny in her
arms.

"'Ere you are, doctor," whispered Robin, touching me on the elbow and
presenting a tumbler of water.

"How?  What?"

"She'll need it, doctor.  I knows her well, an' it's the on'y thing as
does her good w'en she's took bad."

Slidder was right.  The shock of joy was almost too much for the old
lady.  She leaned heavily on her granddaughter's neck, and if I had not
caught her, both must have fallen to the ground.  We lifted her gently
into bed, and in a few minutes she recovered.

For some time she lay perfectly still.  Edith, reclining on the lowly
couch, rested her fair young cheek on the withered old one.

Presently Mrs Willis moved, and Edith sat up.

"John," said the former to me, looking at the latter, "this is my Edie,
thanks be to the Lord."

"Yes, granny, I know it, and she's my Edie too!"

A surprised and troubled look came on her old face.  She evidently was
pained to think that I could jest at such a moment.  I hastened to
relieve her.

"It is the plain and happy truth that I tell you, granny.  Edith is
engaged to marry me.--Is it not so?"

I turned towards the dear girl, who silently put one of her hands in
mine.

Old Mrs Willis spoke no word, but I could see that her soul was full of
joy.  I chanced to glance at Robin, and observed that that waif had
retired to the window, and was absolutely wiping his eyes, while Dumps
sat observant in the middle of the room, evidently much surprised at,
but not much pleased with, the sudden calm which had succeeded the
outburst.

"Come, Robin," said I, rising, "I think that you and I will leave them--
Good-bye, granny and Edie; I shall soon see you again."

I paused at the door and looked back.

"Come, Dumps, come."

My doggie wagged his scrumpy tail, cocked his expressive ears, and
glanced from me to his mistress, but did not rise.

"Pompey prefers to remain with me," said Edie; "let him stay."

"Punch is a wise dog," observed Robin, as we descended the stairs
together; "but you don't ought to let your spirits go down, sir," he
added, with a profoundly sagacious glance, "'cause, of course, he can't
'elp 'isself now.  He'll 'ave to stick to you wotever 'appens--an' to me
too!"

I understood the meaning of his last words, and could not help smiling
at the presumptuous certainty with which he assumed that he was going to
follow my fortunes.

Is it needful to say that when I mentioned what had occurred to Dr
McTougall that amiable little man opened his eyes to their widest?

"You young dog!" he exclaimed, "was it grateful in you to repay all my
kindness by robbing me in this sly manner of my governess--nay, I may
say, of my daughter, for I have long ago considered her such, and
adopted her in my heart?"

"It was not done slily, I assure you," said I; "indeed, I fought against
the catastrophe with all my might--but I--I could not help it at last;
it came upon me, as it were, unexpectedly--took me by surprise."

"Humph!" ejaculated the doctor.

"Besides," I added, "you can scarcely call it robbery, for are not you
and I united as partners, so that instead of robbing you, I have, in
reality, created another bond of union between you and Edie?"

"H'm!" said the doctor.

"Moreover," I continued, "it happens most opportunely just now that the
house opposite this one is to let.  It is a much smaller and
lower-rented house than this, and admirably suited for a very small
family, so that if I secure it we will scarcely, I may say, have to quit
your roof."

"Ah! to be sure," returned the doctor, falling in with my humour, "we
will have the pleasure of overlooking and criticising each other and our
respective households.  We may sit at the windows and converse across
the street in fine weather, or flatten our noses on the glass, and make
faces at each other when the weather is bad.  Besides, we can have a
tunnel cut under the street and thus have subterranean communication at
any time of the day or night--and what a charming place that would be
for the children to romp in!  Of course, we would require to have it
made of bricks or cast-iron to prevent the rats connecting it with the
sewers, but--"

A breeze of pattering feet overhead induced the doctor to pause.  It
increased to a gale on the staircase, to a tempest in the lobby.  The
door was burst open, and Jack, and Harry, and Job, and Jenny, and Dolly,
with blazing cheeks and eyes, tumbled tumultuously into the room.

"Oh papa!" screamed Harry, "Lilly's been out an' found her mother!"

"No, it's not--it's her gan-muver," shrieked Dolly.

"Yes, an' Dr Mellon's going to marry her," cried Jenny.

"Who?--the grandmother?" asked the doctor, with a surprised look.

"No--Lilly," they all cried, with a shout of laughter, which Jack
checked by stoutly asserting that it was her great-grandmother that
Lilly had found.  This drew an emphatic, "No, it's not," from Job, and a
firmly reiterated assertion that it was "only her gan-muver" from Dolly.

"But Robin said so," cried Jack.

"No, he _didn't_," said Job.

"Yes, he _did_," cried Harry.

"Robin said she's found 'er _gan-muver_," said Dolly.

"I'll go an' ask him," cried Jenny, and turning round, she rushed out of
the room.  The others faced about, as one child, and the tempest swept
back into the lobby, moderated to a gale on the staircase, and was
reduced to a breeze--afterwards to a temporary calm--overhead.

Before it burst forth again the doctor and I had put on our hats and
left the house.

From that date forward, for many weeks, the number of lost grandmothers
that were found in the McTougall nursery surpasses belief.  They were
discovered in all sorts of places, and in all imaginable circumstances--
under beds, tables, upturned baths, and basin-stands; in closets,
trunks, and cupboards, and always in a condition of woeful weakness and
melancholy destitution.  The part of grandmother was invariably assigned
to Dolly, because, although the youngest of the group, that little
creature possessed a power of acting and of self-control which none of
the others could equal.  At first they were careful to keep as close to
the original event as possible; but after a time, thirsting for variety,
they became lax, and the grandmothers were found not only by
granddaughters, but by daughters, and cousins, and nieces, and nephews;
but the play never varied in the points of extreme poverty and woe,
because Dolly refused, with invincible determination, to change or
modify her part.

After a time they varied the performance with a wedding, in which
innumerable Dr Mellons were united to endless Lilly Blythes; but after
the real wedding took place, and the cake had been utterly consumed,
they returned to their first love--Lost and Found, as they termed it or,
the Gan-muver's Play.

So, in course of time, the house over the way was actually taken and
furnished.  Edie was installed therein as empress; I as her devoted
slave--when not otherwise engaged.  And, to say truth, even when I _was_
otherwise engaged I always managed to leave my heart at home.
Anatomists may, perhaps, be puzzled by this statement.  If so--let them
be puzzled!  Gan-muver was also installed as queen-dowager, in a suite
of apartments consisting of one room and a closet.

It was not in Dr McTougall's nursery alone that the game of Lost and
Found was played.

In a little schoolroom, not far distant from our abode, that game was
played by Edie--assisted by Robin Slidder and myself--with considerable
success.

Robin crossed the street to me--came over, as it were--with Edith the
conqueror and our doggie, and afterwards became a most valuable ally in
searching for, drawing forth, tempting out and gathering in the lost.
He and I sought for them in some of the lowest slums of London.  Robin's
knowledge of their haunts and ways, and, his persuasive voice, had
influence where none but himself--or some one like him--could have made
any impression.  We tempted them to our little hall with occasional
feasts, in which buns, oranges, raisins, gingerbread, and tea played
prominent parts, and when we had gathered them in, Edith came to them,
like an angel of light and preached to them the gospel of Jesus, at once
by example, tone, look, and word.

Among others who came to our little social meetings was the Slogger.
That unpunished criminal not only launched with, apparently, heart and
soul into the good cause, but he was the means of inducing many others
to come, and when, in after years, his old comrade, Mr Brassey,
returned from his enforced residence in foreign parts, the Slogger
sought for and found him, and stuck to him with the pertinacity of his
bulldog nature until he fairly brought him in.

Thus that good work went on with us.  Thus it is going on at the present
time in many, many parts of our favoured land, and thus it will go on,
with God's blessing, until His people shall all be gathered into the
fold of the Good Shepherd--until that day when the puzzlements and
bewilderments of this incomprehensible life shall be cleared up; when we
shall be enabled to understand _why_ man has been so long permitted to
dwell in the midst of conflicting good and evil, and why he has been
required to live on earth by faith and not by sight, trusting in the
unquestionable goodness and wisdom of Him who is our Life and our Light.

In all our work, whether temporal or spiritual, we had the help and
powerful sympathy of our friend Dr McTougall and his family; also of
_his_ friend Dobson, the City man, who was a strong man in more ways
than one, and a zealous champion of righteousness--or "rightness," as he
was fond of calling it, in contradistinction to wrongness.

I meant to let fall the curtain at this point but something which I
cannot explain induces me to keep it up a few minutes longer, in order
to tell you that the little McTougalls grew up to be splendid men and
women; that dear old granny is still alive and well, insomuch that she
bids fair to become a serene centenarian; that my sweet Edie is now
"fair, fat, and forty;" that I am grey and hearty; that Dumps is greyer,
and so fat, as well as stiff, that he wags his ridiculous tail with the
utmost difficulty; that Brassey and the Slogger have gone into
partnership in the green-grocery line round the corner; and that Robin
Slidder is no longer a boy, but has become a man and a butler.  He is
still in our service, and declares that he will never leave it.  My firm
conviction is that he will keep his word as long as he can.

So now, amiable reader, with regret and the best of wishes, we make our
final bow-"wow"--and:

  Bid you good-bye,
  My doggie and I.

THE END.





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