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´╗┐Title: Shifting Winds - A Tough Yarn
Author: Ballantyne, R. M. (Robert Michael), 1825-1894
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 "Shifting Winds - A Tough Yarn" ***

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Shifting Winds, by R.M. Ballantyne

________________________________________________________________________

As so often with Ballantyne's books there are really several tales all
told in parallel in this book.  There is the story of the seaman Gaff
and his son Billy, there is the story of Mrs  Gaff, there is Haco
Barepoles, there is Captain Bingley and his son Gildart, there is the
Stuart family.  All these characters are very well drawn, and their
lives merge together and move apart to a surprising degree.  With a
fundamentally Christian message, this book also depicts the work of the
Shipwrecked Mariners and Fishermen Institution.  Although there are
incidents at sea, most of the action takes place in the small fishing
village of Wreckumoft, and the town of Athenbury.  One of the great
values of Ballantyne's books is the insight he gives into life in
Britain in the nineteenth century, not just the day-to-day lives of the
actors, but the motives that propel them, and the upbringing that these
actors had.  We are, however, mystified by the title, which made one
think that the book might be something to do with ballooning!

Robert Michael Ballantyne was born in 1825 and died in 1894.  He was
educated at the Edinburgh Academy, and in 1841 he became a clerk with
the Hudson Bay Company, working at the Red River Settlement in Northen
Canada until 1847, arriving back in Edinburgh in 1848.  The letters he
had written home were very amusing in their description of backwoods
life, and his family publishing connections suggested that he should
construct a book based on these letters.  Three of his most enduring
books were written over the next decade, "The Young Fur Traders",
"Ungava", "The Hudson Bay Company", and were based on his experiences
with the HBC.  In this period he also wrote "The Coral island" and
"Martin Rattler", both of these taking place in places never visited by
Ballantyne.  Having been chided for small mistakes he made in these
books, he resolved always to visit the places he wrote about.  With
these books he became known as a great master of literature intended for
teenagers.  He researched the Cornish Mines, the London Fire Brigade,
the Postal Service, the Railways, the laying down of submarine telegraph
cables, the construction of light-houses, the light-ship service, the
life- boat service, South Africa, Norway, the North Sea fishing fleet,
ballooning, deep-sea diving, Algiers, and many more, experiencing the
lives of the men and women in these settings by living with them for
weeks and months at a time, and he lived as they lived.

He was a very true-to-life author, depicting the often squalid scenes he
encountered with great care and attention to detail.  His young readers
looked forward eagerly to his next books, and through the 1860s and
1870s there was a flow of books from his pen, sometimes four in a year,
all very good reading.  The rate of production diminished in the last
ten or fifteen years of his life, but the quality never failed.

He published over ninety books under his own name, and a few books for
very young children under the pseudonym "Comus".

For today's taste his books are perhaps a little too religious, and what
we would nowadays call "pi".  In part that was the way people wrote in
those days, but more important was the fact that in his days at the Red
River Settlement, in the wilds of Canada, he had been a little
dissolute, and he did not want his young readers to be unmindful of how
they ought to behave, as he felt he had been.

Some of his books were quite short, little over 100 pages.  These books
formed a series intended for the children of poorer parents, having less
pocket-money.  These books are particularly well-written and researched,
because he wanted that readership to get the very best possible for
their money.  They were published as six series, three books in each
series.

Re-created as an e-Text by Nick Hodson, October 2003.

________________________________________________________________________

SHIFTING WINDS, BY R.M. BALLANTYNE.



CHAPTER ONE.

THE COTTAGE AND ITS INMATES.

The family board was spread; the family kettle--an unusually fat one--
was singing on the fire, and the family chimney was roaring like a lion
by reason of the wind, which blew a hurricane outside, and shook the
family mansion, a small wooden hut, to its foundations.

The hour was midnight.  This fact was indicated by the family clock--a
Dutch one, with a face which had once been white, but was now become
greenish yellow, probably from horror at the profanity of the artist who
had painted a basket of unrecognisable fruit above it, an irate cockatoo
below it, and a blue church with a pink steeple as near to the centre of
it as the hands would admit of.

The family circle, consisting of a stout good-looking woman of thirty or
thereabouts, and a little boy and girl, were of the fisher class,
obviously so to the senses of sight and smell.  They sat by the fire.

It was an unusual hour for supper, but then it was an unusually wild
night, and the frequent glance cast by the woman at the Dutch clock with
the horrified countenance, showed clearly that the board was not spread
for the family meal, but that they waited up for some absent one.

I have said that the family circle sat by the fire, but this is not
strictly correct.  One member of it, the little boy, stood in the middle
of the room, howling!--howling so violently that his fat face had
changed from its wonted bright red to deep purple.  Looking at him--as
he stood there arrayed in his uncle's red night-cap, his own
night-shirt, which was also a day-shirt and much too small, and his
father's pea-jacket, which was preposterously too large--one could not
avoid the alarming surmise that there _might_ be such a thing as
juvenile apoplexy, and that that boy was on the point of becoming a
living, if not a dead, example of the terrible disease.

Oh! it was a sweet child, a charming infant, altogether a delightful
creature to look upon, that son of Stephen Gaff, as it stood there
yelling like a hyena, stamping like a mad bull, washing its dirty hands
in tears on its dirtier cheeks, cramming its little knuckles into its
swollen eyes as if it sought to burst the organs of vision in their
sockets, and presenting, generally, an appearance of rampant rage and
woe that baffles all capacity of conception, and therefore defies all
power of description.

This cherub's name was Billy,--Billy Gaff; more familiarly known amongst
his friends as "The Bu'ster," owing to his tendency to explode into
tears, or laughter, or mischief, or fun, as the case might be.  He was
about eleven years of age.

My own name, reader, is Bingley.  Having retired on half-pay from the
Royal Navy, I reside in a pleasant cottage in the suburbs of the
well-known and important seaport town of Wreckumoft, situate on the east
coast of England.  My front windows command a magnificent view of the
sea; my back windows command an equally magnificent view of landscape.
I have a magnificent wife, and she commands the household, myself
included.  There was a time--I reflect on it with melancholy pride and
subdued satisfaction--when I commanded a British seventy-four.  I
command nothing now but my temper.  That, however, is a stronghold from
which nothing terrestrial can drive me.

My friends style me "The Captain," but I am not the hero of this tale.
No, by no means.  I am altogether unheroic in my nature, commonplace in
my character.  If a novelist were to describe me, he would write me down
a stout little old gentleman, with a bald head and a mild countenance;
mentally weak in expression, active in habits, and addicted to pipes and
loose clothing.

Do not imagine that this is my account of myself; no, it is an ideal
resulting from the oft-repeated assurances of my wife, who is a
strong-minded woman, a few inches taller than myself, somewhat raw-boned
and much more powerful, physically, though less rotund.  In fact, if I
were to attempt a brief comprehensive description of her, I would say,
without the most distant feeling of disrespect of course, that she is
square and skinny--singularly so!

Mrs Bingley's contempt for my intellect is excelled, I might almost say
redeemed, by her love for myself.  How she manages to separate between
myself and my intellect I have never been able to understand; but then
she _is_ strong-minded, which perhaps accounts for her seeing farther
into this millstone than I can.  She tells me, not unfrequently, that I
am weak-minded.  She even goes the length at times of calling me
imbecile; but she is a dear good affectionate woman, and I have no
sympathy with the insolent remark I once overheard made by an
acquaintance of mine, to the effect that it was a pity Mrs Bingley had
not been born with a man's hat and trousers on--no, none whatever.

Before dismissing myself, descriptively at least, (for, being an
honorary agent of the Shipwrecked Fishermen and Mariners' Society, and
an actor in some of the scenes which I am about to describe, I cannot
conveniently dismiss myself altogether); before dismissing myself, I
say, it may be as well to explain that my strong-minded wife, in concert
with a number of variously-minded women, (all more or less strong), and
a good many weak and otherwise minded men, have come to form their
opinion of me in consequence of my holding rather strongly a few
opinions of my own--to the effect that there are a good many wrong
things in this world, (admittedly wrong things); a good many muddles; a
good many glaring and outrageous abuses and shameful things the
continuance of which reflects discredit on the nation, and the wiping
out or putting right of which ought, by all means, to be set about
earnestly and at once.

Now, curiously enough, it is the idea conveyed in the last two words--at
once--which sticks in the throats of my strong-minded opponents!  They
agree with me as to the existence of the evils, they honestly deplore
them, but they charge me with mental imbecility when I suggest that
things should be put right _at once_.  They counsel delay, and when the
dispute reaches a certain stage they smile at me with contempt, or pity,
or they storm, according to individual temperament, and usually wind up
with a rasping reiteration of their original opinions, highly peppered
and salted, and an assurance that I have been born at least a century
before my time.

If the men of the next century are destined to do good, "as their hands
find opportunity," without previous delay until thousands of
opportunities are lost and gone for ever; if those who put their hands
to a piece of work shall carry it out with vigour in their _own_
lifetime; if those who counsel delay shall mean due time for full
consideration by _themselves_, and shall _not_ mean an extended
procrastination which shall free themselves from worry, and leave their
work to be handed down as a legacy to their children, who shall likewise
hand it down to _their_ children, and so on _ad infinitum_ until "delay"
shall become a synonym for death and destruction to tens of thousands of
better men than themselves,--if this shall be the sentiment and practice
of the men of next century, then I confess that my sympathies are with
them, and I really suspect that I must have got into the wrong century
by mistake.  But as the position is irremediable now, I suppose I must,
in an imbecile sort of fashion, go on my way rejoicing--if I can--
sorrowing if I cannot rejoice.

Mrs Bingley having more than once threatened to scratch my face when I
have ventured to express the last sentiment, it may be perhaps as well
to change the subject and return to Billy Gaff, the charming child,
_alias_ the Bu'ster.

Billy deserves to be somewhat particularly introduced, because, besides
being an actor in this tale, he was a boy of strong character.  If I
were to sum him up and reduce the total to a concentrated essence, the
result would be a sentence to the following effect:--Billy Gaff had a
will of his own!  Perhaps I should say a very strong will of his own.
For instance, he, on several different occasions, willed to screw off
the spout of the family tea-pot, a pewter one, and, having willed to do
it, he did it.  Again he willed, more than once, to smash a pane of
glass in the solitary window of the family mansion, and he _did_ smash a
pane of glass in that window; nay, more, in consequence of being
heartily whacked for the deed, he immediately willed to smash, _and_
smashed, a second pane, and was proceeding to will and smash a third
when he was caught up by his mother, beaten almost into the condition of
a mummy, and thrust under the clothes of the family bed, which
immediately creaked as if with convulsions, and tossed its blankets
about in apparent agony.

On the present occasion the Bu'ster had awakened out of a sound sleep to
the conviction that he was hungry.  Observing the loaf on the table, he
immediately willed to have a second supper, and arising, donned his
father's pea-jacket, in order to enjoy the meal more thoroughly.

It was the sudden removal of the said loaf by his mother to an
unreachable shelf that induced the youthful Billy to stand in the middle
of the room and howl, as already described.

He was still engaged in emulating the storm, and Mrs Gaff, utterly
indifferent to him, had cast another glance at the horrified clock, and
remarked to her little girl Tottie, that "Uncle John must have found
work on the shore, for he was long of coming," when a heavy tread was
heard in the little porch outside the door.

"Hold yer noise," said Mrs Gaff sternly.

Billy obeyed, not by any means in consequence of the command, but
because he was curious to know who was about to enter, and meant to
resume yelling immediately after his curiosity on this point should be
satisfied.

The door opened, and a strong-built seaman stepped into the room, and
looked at the family with a quiet smile on his sunburnt face.  His hair
and garments were dripping with water, as if he had just walked out of
the sea.

On beholding him the family rose and stood for a moment speechless.
Billy sat down on the floor in that prompt manner which is peculiar to
young children when they lose their balance; simultaneously with the
shock of being seated the word "faither" burst from his lips.  Mrs Gaff
uttered a suppressed cry, and ran into the wet man's arms.  Tottie and
the Bu'ster each ran at a leg, and hugging it violently, squeezed a
cataract of salt water into their respective bosoms.

"Stephen, lad, is't you?" said the wife, raising her head for a moment
and looking up in the man's face.

"Ay, dear lass, wrecked again; but safe home, thank God."

Mrs Gaff was not wont to give way to the melting mood, but she could
not restrain a few tears of joy.  Tottie, observing this, cried from
sympathy; and the Bu'ster, not to be outdone, willed, began, and carried
into execution, a series of true British cheers, that could not have
been surpassed, perhaps could not have been equalled, by any boy of his
age in or out of the Royal Navy.



CHAPTER TWO.

WRECKED, RESCUED, AND RESUSCITATED--MRS. NIVEN RECEIVES A SURPRISE, ALSO
THE GIFT OF A CHILD.

On the same dark tempestuous night of which I write, a little ship was
wrecked on the east coast of England.

She had sailed from the antipodes, had weathered many a gale, had
crossed the great ocean in safety, had sighted the lights and the cliffs
of "home," and was dashed to pieces at last on the rocks within two
hours' sail of the port to which she was bound.

Hundreds of ships, great and small, were wrecked on the coasts of
Britain during that memorable gale.  The little ship to which I refer
was one of the many in regard to which the newspapers said, "she was
dashed to pieces, and all hands perished."

But in this particular case all hands had not perished: two lives had
been spared, unknown to journalists and coastguardsmen.

It was the dead of night when the vessel struck.  The spot was lonely,
at least a mile distant from human habitations.  No anxious eyes on
shore saw her quiver as each successive billow lifted her up and hurled
her cruelly down; no sorrowing ear heard the shriek of despair that rose
above the yelling storm, when, in little more than ten minutes, the
vessel broke up, and left the crew and passengers to perish within sight
of their native land.

There was one man among the number who did not shriek, who did not
despair.  He was not a hero of romance whose soul raised him above the
fear of sudden death--no, he was only a true-hearted British tar, whose
frame was very strong, whose nerves were tightly strung and used to
danger.  He had made up his mind to save his life if he could; if he
should fail--what then?  He never thought of "what then," because, in
regard to terrestrial matters, he had not been accustomed to cast his
thoughts so far in advance of present exigencies.

Just before the ship broke up, this man was standing on the lee bulwark,
holding by the shrouds of the mainmast, the lower part of which was
still standing.  A lady and gentleman clung to each other, and to the
rigging close beside him.  They were husband and wife.  Both were
comparatively young, and up to that night had been full of hope and high
spirits.  The husband with his right arm encircled his wife, and grasped
the rigging; with his left, he pressed their little girl to his breast
over which flowed the fair hair of the little one, drenched and
dishevelled.

The father was a brave man and strong, but his face was very pale, for
he felt that courage and strength could not avail to save both wife and
child in such a raging sea.  An occasional upward glance of his eye
seemed to indicate that he sought comfort from God in his extremity.

"You'll never manage 'em both, sir; let me have the child," said the
strong seaman, suddenly grasping the little girl, and attempting to
unlock her arms which were tightly clasped round her father's neck.

The father hesitated, but a terrific wave was rushing towards the doomed
ship.  Without even the comfort of a hurried kiss he resigned the child.
The young mother stretched out her arms towards her, uttering a piteous
cry.  At that moment the ship rose on the billow's crest as if it were
no heavier than a flake of the driving foam--a crash followed--it was
gone, and the crew were left struggling in the sea.

The struggle was short with most of them.  Previous exposure and anxiety
had already quite exhausted all but the strongest among the men, and
even these were unable to withstand the influence of the ice-cold water
more than a few seconds.  Some were struck by portions of the wreck and
killed at once.  Others sank without an effort to save themselves.  A
few swam with unnatural vigour for a yard or two, and then went down
with a gurgling cry; but in a very few minutes the work of death was
complete.  All were gone except the strong seaman, who clasped the
little child in his left arm and buffeted the billows with his right.

Once and again were they overwhelmed; but as often did they rise above
the foam to continue the battle.  It was a terrible fight.  A piece of
wreck struck the man on his back and well-nigh broke it; then a wave
arched high above them, fell with a crash, and drove them nearly to the
bottom, so that the child was rendered insensible, and the strong man
was nearly choked before he rose again to the surface to gasp the
precious air.  At last a wave broke behind them, caught them on its
crest, and hurled them on a beach of sand.  To cling to this while the
water retired was the fiercest part of the conflict--the turning-point
in the battle.  The wave swept back and left the man on his hands and
knees.  He rose and staggered forward a few paces ere the next wave
rushed upon him, compelling him to fall again on hands and knees and
drive his bleeding fingers deep down into the shingle.  When the water
once more retired, he rose and stumbled on till he reached a point above
high-water mark, where he fell down in a state of utter exhaustion, but
still clasping the little one tightly to his breast.

For some time he lay there in a state of half-consciousness until his
strength began to revive; then he arose, thanking God in an audible
voice as he did so, and carried the child to a spot which was sheltered
in some degree by a mass of cliff from the blinding spray and furious
gale.  Here he laid her with her face downwards on a grassy place, and
proceeded to warm his benumbed frame.

Vitality was strong in the sailor.  It needed only a few seconds'
working of the human machine to call it into full play.  He squeezed the
water out of his jacket and trousers, and then slapped his arms across
his chest with extreme violence, stamping his feet the while, so that he
was speedily in a sufficiently restored condition to devote his
attention with effect to the child, which still lay motionless on the
grass.

He wrung the water out of her clothes, and chafed her feet, hands, and
limbs, rapidly yet tenderly, but without success.  His anxiety while
thus employed was very great; for he did not know the proper method to
adopt in the circumstances, and he felt that if the child did not revive
within a few minutes, all chance of her recovery would be gone.  The
energy of his action and the anxiety of his mind had warmed his own
frame into a glow.  It suddenly occurred to him that he might make use
of this superabundant heat.  Opening the little frock in front, he
placed the child's breast against his own, and held it there, while with
his right hand he continued to chafe her limbs.

In a few minutes he felt a flutter of the heart, then a gentle sigh
escaped from the blue lips; the eyelids quivered, and finally the child
revived.

"D'ye feel gettin' better, Emmie?" said the man, in a low, soft voice.

A faint "yes" was all the reply.

The seaman continued his efforts to instil warmth into the little frame.
Presently the same question was repeated, and the child looking up,
said--

"Is that 'oo, Gaff?"

"Ay, dear, 'tis me."

"Where am I--where's mamma?" inquired Emmie, looking round in some
degree of alarm.

"Hush, dear; don't speak just now.  I've just brought 'ee ashore fro'
the wreck, an' am goin' to tak 'ee home.  Try to sleep, dear."

Gaff wrapped his jacket round the child, and hurried away in search of
the highroad.  He knew the place well.  He had been wrecked on a reef
within two miles of his native hamlet, and within three of the town of
Wreckumoft.  He soon found the road, and broke from a fast walk into a
run.  The child lay quietly in his arms, either being too much exhausted
to speak, or having fallen asleep.

The man muttered to himself as if in perplexity--

"It'll never do to tak 'er home wi' me.  She'd remember us, and that
would let the secret out.  No, I'll tak 'er straight there."

Gaff reached his native village as he came to this resolve.  It was all
astir.  Three ships had been cast on the rocks there within a hundred
yards of each other.  The lifeboat was out; the rocket apparatus had
that moment arrived from the neighbouring town, and was being dragged on
its waggon through the village to the scene of danger.  All the men, and
many of the women and children of the place, were on the beach, while
eager groups of those who could not face the storm were collected in
doorways and sheltered places, awaiting news from the shore.  Many of
these had anxious faces, for they knew their kinsmen, the fishermen of
the place, to be bold, daring fellows, who would not hesitate to risk
life and limb to save a fellow-creature from death.

Stopping a moment at the outskirts of the village, Gaff laid down his
burden, and tied a large blue cotton kerchief round his neck, so as to
cover his mouth and chin.  By pulling his sou'wester cap well over his
eyes, he concealed his face so effectually that little more than the
point of his nose was visible.  Not satisfied, however, with his
disguise, he climbed a fence and struck into a bypath, which enabled him
to avoid the village altogether.

Setting off at a quick pace, he soon regained the highroad beyond the
village, and did not pause until he came to a large iron gate which
opened into the shrubbery in front of a handsome villa.  He went
straight up to the front door and rang the bell.

Of course, at such an hour, the family had retired to rest, and it is
probable that in ordinary circumstances Gaff would have had to wait a
considerable time before an answer should have been given to his
summons.  But on this night, the only son and heir of the family,
Kenneth by name, knowing that wrecks were likely to occur on the coast,
and being of a bold, romantic, restless disposition, had mounted his
horse and ridden away, accompanied by his groom, in search of adventure.

The housekeeper of the family, usually styled Mrs Niven, being
devotedly attached to this son and heir, had resolved to sit up all
night and await his return.  Mrs Niven had prophesied confidently for
the previous ten years, that "Master Kenneth was certain to be drownded
sooner or later, if 'e didn't come to die before;" and being fully
persuaded of the truth of her prophetic powers, she conscientiously
waited for and expected the fulfilment of her own prophecy.

At the moment when Gaff rang the bell she was awaiting it in a chair in
front of a good fire, with her feet on the fender and sound asleep.  It
would be more correct to say that Mrs Niven was in a state of mixed
sleep and suffocation, for her head hung over the back of the chair,
and, being very stout, there was only just sufficient opening in the
wind-pipe to permit of her breath passing stertorously through her
wide-open mouth.

The first summons passed unheard; the second caused Mrs Niven to open
her eyes and shut her mouth, but she could not rise by reason of a crick
in her neck.  An angry shout, however, of "why don't you answer the
bell?" from the master of the family, caused her to make a violent
struggle, plunge her head into her lap, by way of counteracting the
crick, rush up-stairs, and fling open the door.

"I know'd it," exclaimed Mrs Niven wildly, on beholding a wet sailor
with a bundle in his arms; "I always said he would be--goodness me! it's
only his trunk," she added in horror, on observing that the bundle was a
rough jacket without head or legs!

"Clap a stopper on your jaw, woman," said Gaff impatiently.  "Is this
Seaside Villa--Mr Stuart's?"

"It is," replied Mrs Niven, trembling violently.

Gaff quickly removed the jacket, kissed the child's pale cheek, and laid
her in Mrs Niven's ready arms.

"She ain't dead surely, sir?" inquired the housekeeper.

"No, bin saved from a wreck an' half drownded!  She'll come to in a
bit--tak' care of 'er."

Gaff turned on his heel as he hastily uttered these words, ran down the
garden walk and disappeared, leaving Mrs Niven standing at the open
door in a state of speechless amazement, with the unconscious Emmie in
her arms and pressed, by reason of an irresistible impulse of motherly
sympathy, to her bosom.



CHAPTER THREE.

THE COTTAGE AT COVE INVADED--DAN HORSEY SPEAKS "TOORKO" TO RUSSIANS, AND
FAILS TO ENLIGHTEN THEM.

Retracing his steps hastily to the village of Cove, Stephen Gaff sought
out his own humble cottage, which, during his absence on his frequent
voyages, was left under the charge of his fisherman brother-in-law, John
Furby.  Presenting himself at the door, he created the family sensation
which has been described at the end of the first chapter.

The first violent demonstrations of surprise and joy over, Mrs Gaff
dragged her husband into a small closet, which was regarded by the
household in the light of a spare room, and there compelled him to
change his garments.  While this change was being made the volatile
Bu'ster, indignant at being bolted out, kicked the door with his heel
until he became convinced that no good or evil could result from the
process.  Then his active mind reverted to the forbidden loaf, and he
forthwith drew a chair below the shelf on which it lay.  Upon the chair
he placed a three-legged stool, and upon the stool an eight-inch block,
which latter being an unstable foundation, caused Billy to lose his
balance when he got upon it.  The erection instantly gave way, and fell
with a hideous crash.  Tottie, who stood near, gazing at her brother's
misdeeds, as was her wont, in awe-stricken admiration, was overwhelmed
in the debris.

Nothing daunted, the Bu'ster "returned to the charge," and fell a second
time,--with the loaf, however, in his arms.

"Hah!" exclaimed Mrs Gaff, issuing from the spare room, and rushing at
her offspring with uplifted hand.

"Stop, lass," said Stephen, arresting her, and catching up the boy, whom
he placed on his knee as he sat down in a chair beside the fire.  "How
are 'ee, Billy, my lad?"

Billy, glaring defiance at his mother, who returned the glare with
interest in the shape of a united shake of the fist and head, replied
that he was "fuss'rate."

Tottie having immediately claimed, and been put in possession of the
other knee, divided her father's attention, and while the goodwife
busied herself in preparing the supper, which had been originally
intended for "Uncle John," a quick fire of question and reply of the
most varied and unconnected sort was kept up by the trio at the fire, in
tones, and accompanied by hugs and gestures, which proved beyond all
doubt that Stephen Gaff was a father of the right kind, and that the
little ones hailed him as an inestimable addition to their household
joys.

It would be unjust to Mrs Gaff were I to permit the reader to suppose
that she was a disagreeable contrast to the father.  She was
true-hearted and loving, but she had been born and bred in the midst of
a class of people whose manners are as rough as their calling, and was
by no means tender or considerate.  A terrific scream, or a knock-down
slap, from Mrs Gaff, was regarded both by giver and recipient in much
the same light as is a mild reproof in more polite society.

"Wrecked again, Stephen," said Mrs Gaff, pausing in her occupation, and
recurring to the remark made by her husband when he first entered the
room, "where have 'ee bin wrecked this time?"

"A'most at the door, lass, on the Black Rock."

"Ay, an' was all the rest saved?" inquired the wife.

"No, none of 'em.  A' lost save one, a little child."

"A child, lad!" exclaimed the wife in surprise; "what have 'ee done wi'
it?"

"Took it to its friends."

As he said this the sailor gave his wife a look which induced her to
refrain from further questioning on that subject.

"An' who saved ye, Stephen?"

"God saved me," replied the man, earnestly.

"True, lad; but was there none o' the boys there to lend a hand?"

"No, none.  It puzzled me a bit," said Stephen, "for the lads are wont
to be on the look-out on a night like this."

"It needn't puzzle ye, then," replied the wife, as she set a chair for
her husband at the table, and poured out a cup of tea, "for there's bin
two sloops an' a schooner on the rocks off the pier-head for three hours
past, an' a' the lads are out at them,--Uncle John among the rest.
They've made him coxswain o' the new lifeboat since ye last went to
sea."

Stephen set down the cup, which he had just raised to his lips,
untasted, and rose hastily.

"Wrecks at the pier-head, lass," he exclaimed, "and you let me sit here
idle!"

"Don't go, Stephen," entreated Mrs Gaff; "you're not fit to do anything
after sitch a night, an' its o'er late."

The man paid no attention to the remonstrance, but buttoned up his coat,
and seized his cap.

Mrs Gaff promptly locked the door with an air of thorough
determination, put the key in her bosom, and crossed her arms thereon
tightly.

Stephen smiled slightly as he turned, raised the window, and leaped
through it into the road, followed by a vociferous cheer from Billy,
whose spirit was wildly stirred by the boldness and success of the
movement, and mightily rejoiced at the discomfiture of his mother.

Mrs Gaff relieved her feelings by slapping the Bu'ster's face, and was
about to close the window when her husband quietly stepped through it
again, saying--

"Open the door, lass, you've no need to fear; I'll remain now."

There was a trampling of many feet outside.  The door had scarcely been
unlocked when they were in the passage.  Next moment four fishermen
entered, bearing the figure of a man in their arms.

"He an't drownded, lass, only swownded," said one of the men to Mrs
Gaff, with the view of relieving the good woman's anxiety, as they laid
a seaman on the bed.  "Look alive now, old girl, an' git hot blankets
an' bottles."

While Mrs Gaff obeyed in silent haste, the room was filled with men,
some of whom supported or half-carried others, whose drooping heads,
torn garments, and haggard faces, showed that they had just been rescued
from the angry sea.  None of them were more than partially clothed; some
were nearly naked.  With excited haste the fishermen crowded the wrecked
men round the fire, and spread blankets and sails, or whatever came
first to hand, on the floor for those who were most exhausted to lie
down upon, while Stephen Gaff poured hot tea and hot grog
indiscriminately into cups, saucers, pannikins, and soup-plates, and
urged them to drink with rough but kindly hospitality.

The wrecked men, (there were twelve of them), were Russians, and as a
matter of course could not understand a word that was said to them,
although some of the fishermen asked them, with as much earnestness as
if their lives depended on the answer, "Who--they--wos--an'--whar'--
they--com'd--fro'?"

Receiving for reply a stare and a shake of the head from such of the men
as were able to attend, one of the fishermen tried them again with great
precision and slowness of speech, and with much solemnity of manner,
"What--part--o' the arth--d'ye hail fro',--lads?"

No answer, accompanied by a stare and a shake.

"Oh, it's o' no use," cried one, "let the poor lads a-be."

"Hallo!  Dan," cried another, as a man forced his way through the
crowded room towards the fire, "you've bin in Toorkey, I believe; I say,
try them fellers wi' a screed o' Toorko.  P'raps they'll make _that_
out."

The individual addressed was very different from the men amongst whom he
stood.  He was a thin, slightly-made, yet strong and active young man,
in a very short grey coat, a very long striped vest, and very tight
corduroy trousers--a sort of compound of footman and jockey.  In truth,
Daniel Horsey was both; being at once valet and groom to the romantic
Kenneth, whose fate it was, (according to the infallible Mrs Niven), to
be "drownded."

Dan's first inquiry was as to whether any one had seen his master, and
the tones in which the question was put betokened him, beyond all doubt,
a son of the Green Isle.

Being told that no one had seen his master, he was about to leave the
hut in quest of him when he was collared by several stout men, and
placed forcibly in front of a Russian with a huge red beard, who
appeared to be the least exhausted of the party.

"Come now, Dan, say somethin' to them Roosians."

"Arrah! d'ye think I'll spake a word av ye stick yer great ugly fists
into my jooglar veins like that?  Hands off," he cried indignantly, "or
niver a taste o' spaitch ye'll git from me, bad or good.  Besides, what
duv _I_ know about Roosian?"

"Ye've bin in Toorkey, han't ye?" inquired a fisherman.

"Troth I have, an' what o' that?" replied Dan, as his captors released
their hold of his collar.

"Ye can speak Toorko, can't ye?"

"Maybe I can," he replied cautiously.

"Well, I'm told that Toorkey lies to the suthard o' Roosia, just as
England lies to the suthard o' Scotland, an' so, mayhap, they'll
understand a bit Toorko."

"Faix, av they don't understand Thoorko better nor the English
understand Scotch, it's little speed I'll come wi' them," said Dan with
a leer.  "Howsomediver, I'll give 'em a trial.  I say, Mr Red-beard,
hubba doorum bobble moti squorum howko joski tearum thaddi whak?  Come,
now, avic, let's hear what ye've got to say to that.  An' mind what ye
spake, 'cause we won't stand no blarney here."

Dan uttered this with immense volubility and assurance, and the
fishermen regarded him with deepening respect, as they awaited the
Russian's answer.  He replied by a stare and a shake of the head as
before.

"Hookum daddy," resumed Dan, stooping to gaze earnestly into the man's
face, and placing the thumb of his right hand into the palm of his left,
by way of emphasising his remark, "Hookum daddy, saringo spolli-jaker
tooraloo be japers bang falairo--och!" he added, turning away with a
look of disgust, "he don't understand a word.  I would try him wi'
Frinch, but it's clear as ditch wather that he's half drownded still."

Convinced that Dan Horsey's "Toorko" was of no use, the fishermen at
length allowed him to retire.



CHAPTER FOUR.

THE RESCUE.

While this scene was enacting in the cottage, I was hasting up from the
beach, where the lifeboat men had rendered good service that night.

As the honorary agent for the Shipwrecked Mariners' Society, I had been
summoned by a special messenger as soon as it was known that vessels
were on the rocks off the entrance to our harbour.  I was accompanied by
my niece, Lizzie Gordon, who always joined me on such occasions,
carrying with her a basket in which were a flask of brandy, another of
port wine, a bottle of smelling salts, and several small articles which
she fancied might be of use in cases of emergency.  We had called at the
Sailors' Home in passing, to see that they were astir there, and ready
to receive shipwrecked people.  We afterwards remained on the beach,
under the lee of a boathouse, while the lifeboat men saved the crews of
the wrecked vessels.

The work was nobly done!  John Furby, the coxswain, with a sturdy crew
of volunteers--twelve in all--were ready for action, with cork
life-belts and oilskin coats on, when the team of four stout horses came
tearing along the sands dragging the lifeboat after them, assisted and
cheered on by a large crowd of men and boys.  No unnecessary delay
occurred.  Opposite the first wreck, the carriage was wheeled round, so
that the bow of the boat pointed to the sea.  The crew sprang into their
seats, and, shipping the oars, sat ready and resolute.

Immense breakers thundered on the beach, and rushed inland in fields of
gurgling foam that looked like phosphoric light in the darkness.  Into
this the carriage was thrust as far as it could be with safety by many
strong and willing hands.  Then the men in the surf seized the launching
lines, by means of which the boat could be propelled off its carriage.
A peculiar adaptation of the mechanism enabled them, by _pulling
backward_, to force the boat _forward_.  For a moment they stood
inactive as a towering wave rolled in like a great black scroll coming
out of the blacker background, where the sound of the raging storm could
be heard, but where nothing could be seen, save the pale red light which
proved that the wreck still held together.

The sea flew up, almost overwhelming the carriage.  John Furby, standing
at his post by the steering oar, with the light of the small boat-lamp
shining up into his rugged face, gave the word in a clear, strong voice.

"Hurrah!" shouted the men on shore, as they ran up the beach with the
ends of the launching ropes.

The boat sprang into the surf, the crew bent to their oars with all
their might, and kept pace with the rush of the retreating billow, while
the sea drew them out as if it were hungry to swallow them.

The lifeboat met the next breaker end-on; the men, pulling vigorously,
cleft it, and, passing beyond, gained the deep water and disappeared
from view.

The minutes that followed appeared like hours, but our patience was not
long tried.  The boat soon re-appeared, coming in on the crest of a
towering wave, with six saved seamen in her.  As she struck the beach
she was seized by the crowd on shore, and dragged out of danger by main
force.

Thus far all was well.  But there was stern work still to be done.
Having ascertained that the vessel was a collier, and that none of her
crew were lost, I sent the six men with an escort to the Sailors' Home,
and followed the lifeboat, which was already on its way to the second
wreck, not more than five hundred yards from the first.

Here they were equally successful, three men and a boy being rescued
from the vessel, which also proved to be a small collier.  Then the boat
was conveyed to the third wreck, which turned out to be a brig, and was
nearly a mile removed from the harbour, just opposite the fishing
village of Cove.

The crew of the lifeboat being now much exhausted, were obliged to give
up their oars and life-belts to fresh men, who volunteered for the
service in scores.  Nothing, however, would persuade John Furby to
resign his position, although he was nearly worn out with fatigue and
exposure.

Once more the lifeboat dashed into the sea, and once again returned with
a crew of rescued men, who were immediately led up to the nearest hut,
which chanced to be that of Stephen Gaff.  One of the saved men, being
insensible, was carried up and laid in Stephen's bed, as I have already
described.

There was still some uncertainty as to whether all those on board the
wreck had been rescued, so the boat put off again, but soon returned,
having found no one.  As she struck the shore a larger wave than usual
overwhelmed her, and washed the coxswain overboard.  A loud cry burst
from those who witnessed this, and one or two daring fellows, running
into the surf up to their waists, nearly perished in their brave but
vain efforts to grasp the drowning man.

Furby did not struggle.  He had been rendered insensible by the shock,
and although several ropes were thrown to him, and one actually fell
over him, he could make no effort to save himself, as the waves rolled
him inshore and sucked him back again.

At this moment the sound of horses' hoofs was heard on the sands, and my
young friend Kenneth Stuart dashed past us, at full gallop, into the
sea!

Kenneth was a splendid and a fearless rider.  He kept the finest horses
in the neighbourhood.  On this occasion he was mounted on a large strong
chestnut, which he had trained to gallop into a foaming surf.

Checking his pace suddenly, when about knee-deep in the foam, he took up
such a position that the next billow would wash the drowning man within
his reach.

The wave came on.  When about a hundred yards from the spot where the
young horseman stood, it fell with a prolonged roar, and the foam came
sweeping in like a white wall, with the dark form of Furby tossing in
the midst.  The sea rushed furiously upon horse and rider, and the
terrified horse, rearing almost perpendicular, wheeled round towards the
land.  At the same instant the coxswain was hurled against them.
Kenneth seized the mane of his steed with one hand, and grasping Furby
with the other, held on.  The noble charger, swept irresistibly
landward, made frantic efforts to regain his footing, and partially
succeeded before the full force of the retreating water bore back upon
him.

For one moment he stood quivering with the strength of his effort.
Kenneth was very strong, else he had never maintained his grasp on the
collar of the coxswain.

A moment more, and the horse made a plunge forward; then a dozen hands
caught him by bridle and saddle-girth, and almost dragged the trio out
of the sea, while a loud cheer greeted their deliverance.

I ordered four stout men to carry the coxswain to Gaff's cottage,
remaining behind for a few minutes in order to congratulate my young
friend on his escape and success, as well as to see that no other wrecks
had occurred in the neighbourhood.  Having satisfied myself as best I
could on this latter point, I was about to proceed to the cottage when
Kenneth came forward, leading his good horse by the bridle, and offered
his disengaged arm to my niece.

Lizzie thanked him and declined, observing that, after his gallant and
successful rescue of Furby, he must himself stand in need of assistance,
or something to that effect.  I cannot say what his reply was, but I
observed that she immediately afterwards took the proffered arm, and we
all walked up to the hut together.

On reaching it we met Kenneth's groom coming out, he having failed, as
has been shown, to make any impression on the Russians with his Turkish!

I found the place completely filled with men and women, the latter being
in a state of great excitement.

"Here's the agent! make way, lads! here comes Cap'n Bingley," several
voices exclaimed as I entered.

Going to the bed and seeing how matters stood with poor Furby, who had
been placed on his back, I ordered the people to leave the hut, and had
the half-drowned man turned instantly on his face.  The other
half-drowned man, having recovered, was lying on a blanket before the
fire.

"Clear the room, lads," said I firmly, "the man wants fresh air; open
the window, and take these wrecked men up to the Home in town.
Everything is prepared for them there, hot coffee and beds, and a hearty
welcome.  Away with you, now; carry those who can't walk."

With the assistance of Kenneth and his man the hut was soon cleared,
only a few being allowed to remain to aid me in my efforts to recover
the coxswain.

"You see," said I, as I rolled Furby gently and continuously from his
face to his side, in order to produce what I may term artificial
breathing, "it is not good to lay a half-drowned man on his back,
because his tongue will fall into his throat, and prevent the very thing
we want to bring about, namely, respiration.  Go to the foot of the bed,
Kenneth, put your hands under the blankets, and chafe his legs with hot
flannel.  Hold the smelling salts to his nose, Lizzie.  That's it, now.
Mrs Gaff, put more hot bottles about him; see, he begins to breathe
already."

As I spoke the mysterious vital spark in the man began to revive, and
ere long the quivering eyelids and short fitful gasps indicated that
"Uncle John," as the coxswain of the lifeboat was styled by the
household, had recovered.  We gave him a teaspoonful or two of hot
coffee when he was able to swallow, and then prepared to take our leave.

I observed, while I was busy with Furby, that my niece took Mrs Gaff
aside, and appeared to be talking to her very earnestly.  Lizzie was a
lovely girl.  She was tall and slightly formed, with rich brown hair and
a dark clear complexion that might have been almost styled Spanish, but
for the roses which bloomed on her cheeks.  I could not help admiring
the strong contrast between her and the fair face and portly figure of
worthy Mrs Gaff, who listened to what she said with an air of deep
respect.

Little Tottie had taken Lizzie's hand in both of hers, and was looking
up in her face, and the boy Billy was gazing at her with open-mouthed
admiration.  I observed, too, that Kenneth Stuart was gazing at her with
such rapt attention that I had to address him several times before he
heard me!

This I was not surprised at, for I remember to this day the feelings of
pleasure with which I beheld my pretty niece, when, having lost her
father and mother, poor dear! she came to find a home under my roof, and
it was natural she should inspire admiration in a young man like
Kenneth.

My family and the Stuarts had become acquainted only a few weeks before
the events of which I am now writing, and this was the first time that
the young people had met.  They were not altogether unknown to each
other, however, for Lizzie had heard of Kenneth from the fishermen, who
used to speak with interest of his horsemanship and his daring feats in
rescuing drowning people from the sea during the storms that so
frequently visited our coast, and Kenneth had heard of Lizzie, also from
the fishermen, amongst whom she was a frequent visitor, especially when
sickness entered their cots, or when the storm made their wives widows,
and their little ones fatherless.

I had set my heart on seeing these two married.  My dear wife, for the
first time in her life I believe, thoroughly agreed with me in this
wish.  I mention the fact with unalloyed pleasure, as being what I may
term a sunny memory, a bright spot, in a life of subdued though true
happiness.  We neither of us suspected at that time what bitter
opposition to our wishes we were to receive from Kenneth's father, who,
although in many respects a good man, was very stern--unpleasantly
stern.

Having done all that could be done for the wrecked people, Lizzie and I
returned to our residence in Wreckumoft at about four in the morning.

Kenneth insisted on walking with us, sending his man home with his
horse, which Lizzie patted on the neck, and called a noble creature.  It
was quite evident that Kenneth wished that he himself was his own horse
on that occasion--so evident that Lizzie blushed, and taking my arm
hurriedly urged me to go home as it was "very late."

"Very early would be more correct, my dear," said I, "for it is past
four.  You must be tired, Lizzie; it is wrong in me to allow you to
subject yourself to such storms.  Give her your arm, Kenneth."

"If Miss Gordon will accept of it," said the youth approaching her
promptly, "I shall be--"

"No, thank you," said Lizzie, interrupting him and clinging closer to
me; "I am not in the least tired, and your assistance is quite
sufficient, uncle."

I must confess to being surprised at this, for it was quite evident to
me that Kenneth admired Lizzie, and I was pretty certain--so was my dear
wife--that Lizzie admired Kenneth, although of course she never gave us
the slightest hint to that effect, and it seemed to me such a good and
reasonable opportunity for--well, well, I need not bore you, reader,
with my wild ideas, so peculiarly adapted it would seem for the
twentieth century--suffice it to say, that I _was_ surprised.  But if
truth must be told, I have always lived in a state of surprise in regard
to the thoughts and actions of women, and on this particular night I was
doomed to the unpleasant surprise of being received with a sharp rebuke
from Mrs Bingley, who roundly asserted that she would stand this sort
of thing no longer.  That she had no notion of being disturbed at such
unearthly hours by the noisy advent of a disagreeably damp and cold
husband, and that if I intended to continue to be an agent of the
Shipwrecked Mariners' Society, she would insist upon a separate
maintenance!

I was comforted, however, by finding a good fire and a hot cup of coffee
in the parlour for myself and Lizzie, provided by our invaluable
housekeeper, Susan Barepoles, a girl who was worthy of a better name,
being an active, good-looking, cheerful lass.  She was the daughter of
the skipper of one of our coal sloops, named Haco Barepoles, a man of
excellent disposition, but gifted with such a superabundance of animal
spirits, courage, and recklessness, that he was known in the port of
Wreckumoft as Mad Haco.

Much exhausted by one of the hardest nights of toil and exposure I ever
spent, I retired to my room and sought and found repose.



CHAPTER FIVE.

THE BREAKFAST PARTY AT SEASIDE VILLA.

The morning after the storm was bright and beautiful.  The breakers,
indeed, were still thundering on the shore, but otherwise the sea was
calm, and the sun shone into the breakfast parlour of Seaside Villa with
a degree of intensity that might have warmed the heart of an oyster.  It
certainly warmed the heart of the household cat, which, being an early
riser, was first down-stairs, and lay at full length on the rug,
enjoying at once the heat of the glowing fire which tinged its brown
back with red, and the blazing sun which turned its white breast yellow.

Presently a dark cloud entered the room.  It sat on the brow of George
Stuart, Esquire, of Wreckumoft, the head of the family.  Mr Stuart
walked up to the fire and turned his back to it, as if to offer it a
deliberate insult, while yet he accepted all the benefit it could afford
him on that cold December morning.

The cat being in his way, he moved it out of his way with his foot.  He
did it roughly, but he did not exactly kick it, for he was not a cruel,
or naturally unkind man.

Having disposed of the cat, and looked twice at his watch, and blown his
nose three times--the last twice unnecessarily--Mr Stuart rang the bell
with violence.

Mrs Niven entered.

"Why is breakfast not ready?" said the master with asperity.

"Breakfast _is_ ready, sir," replied the housekeeper with dignity.

"Where is my sister, then, and the rest of them?"  The questioner was
partly answered by the abrupt and somewhat flurried entrance of the
sister referred to.

"What's the meaning of this, Peppy?" demanded Mr Stuart with a frown.

"My dear George," said Miss Peppy, bustling about actively, "I really
_am_ sorry, but you know things can't always be just as one would wish,
and then when things _do_ turn out occasionally as one would _not_ wish,
and as one had no expectation of, and, so to speak, without consulting
one at all, (dear me, where _is_ that key?)--and when one can't help
things turning out so, you know, it's really too much to--to--you know
what I mean, brother; come now, be reasonable."

"I do _not_ know what you mean, Peppy," (the lady's name when
unabbreviated was Penelope, but as she never was so named by any one,
she might as well not have had the name at all), "and," continued Mr
Stuart, emphatically, "I would advise _you_ to be reasonable and explain
yourself."

"Dear George, how _can_ you," said Miss Peppy, who talked with great
volubility, and who never for a moment ceased to bustle about the room
in a series of indescribable, as well as unaccountable, not to say
unnecessary, preparations for the morning meal, which had already been
prepared to perfection by Mrs Niven; "you surely don't forget--things
do happen _so_ surprisingly at times--really, you know, I _can not_ see
why we should be subjected to such surprises.  I'm quite sure that no
good comes of it, and then it makes one look _so_ foolish.  Why human
beings were made to be surprised so, _I_ never could understand.  No one
ever sees pigs, or horses, or cows surprised, and they seem to get
through life a great deal easier than we do, at all events they have
less worry, and they never leave their children at their neighbour's
doors and run away--what _can_ have got it?--I'm quite sure I put it
there last night with the thimble and scissors."

Miss Peppy thrust her right hand deep into that mysterious receptacle of
household miscellanies her pocket, and fingered the contents inquiringly
for a few moments.

"What are you looking for?" inquired her brother impatiently.

"The key of the press," said Miss Peppy with a look of weariness and
disappointment.

"What key is that in your left hand?" said Mr Stuart.

"Why, I declare, that's _it_!" exclaimed his sister with a laugh; "there
_is_ no accounting for things.  My whole life is a series of small
surprises and perplexities.  I _wonder_ what I was born for!  It seems
to me so ridiculous that so serious a thing as life should be taken up
with such little trifles."

"What's that you say about trifles, aunt?" asked Kenneth, who entered
the room at the moment, and saluted Miss Peppy on the cheek.

"Nothing, Kennie, nothing worth mentioning," (she seated herself at the
table and began to pour out the tea): "it seems that you have been
saving more lives last night."

"Well, yes, at least I saved _one_," said Kenneth, with a look of
mingled pride and pleasure; "stout John Furby, the coxswain of the new
lifeboat, was knocked overboard and nearly drowned.  Bucephalus and I
chanced to be near the spot at the time, so we managed to pull him out
between us."

"I don't like Bucephalus," observed Miss Peppy, stirring her tea with
her egg-spoon by mistake.

"Don't you, aunt--why?"

"Because he's so big and strong and fierce.  I wonder you can take
pleasure in riding such a great cart-horse, Kennie."

Miss Peppy at this moment discovered her mistake in regard to the
egg-spoon, and rectified it, observing with a look of resignation, that
there _was_ no accounting for the way in which things happened in this
world.

"Don't call my Bucephalus a cart-horse, aunt," said Kenneth, beginning
to eat languidly; "true, he is uncommonly big and strong, but then I am
unusually big too, so we're well matched; and then his limbs are as
delicately turned as those of a racer; and you should see him taking a
five-barred gate, aunt!--he carries me over as if I were a mere feather.
Think of his swimming powers too.  John Furby is not the first man he
has enabled me to drag out of the stormy sea.  Ah! he's a noble horse--
worthy of higher praise than you seem inclined to give him, believe me."

"Well I'm sure I have no objection to the horse if you have none,
Kennie, and it's a good thing for a beast to be able to save human
lives, though why human lives should require to be saved at all is a
mystery that I never could fathom; surely if men would only agree to
give up going to sea altogether, and never build any more ships, there
would be no more drowning, and no need of lifeboats and cork boots--or
coats, I forget which--that enable them to walk on the water, or float
in it, I don't remember which.  I'm sure with all that I have to
remember it's no wonder--what with ridiculous little trifles to worry
one, such as keys, and thimbles, and scissors, when we should be giving
our minds to the solemn realities of life--and then,--as if that were
not enough for any woman's shoulders,--to have a little child left at
one's door."

"Oh, by the way," interrupted Kenneth, "I had quite forgotten the child.
Mrs Niven told me about it, and I looked into the crib as I went up to
bed last night, or rather this morning, and saw that it was sleeping--
somewhat restlessly I fancied.  Who brought it here?"

Mr Stuart, who had hitherto eaten his breakfast in silence, looked at
his sister as if the reply would interest him.

Before the answer could be given the door opened, and a smart handsome
youth of apparently eighteen years of age entered.  His dress bespoke
him a midshipman in the navy, and the hearty familiarity of his manner
showed that he was on intimate terms with the family.

"Gildart, my boy, how are you?" cried Kenneth, springing up and shaking
the youth warmly by both hands.

"Hearty, old fellow, and happy to see my ancient chum.  How d'ye do,
Miss Penelope?  How are ye, Mr Stuart?"

My son Gildart had been Kenneth's favourite companion when they were
boys at school.  They had not met for many years.

"Sit down," said Kenneth, pressing his friend into a chair; "when did
you arrive; where did you come from; what brought you home?--your
appearance is so unexpected!--hope you've come to stay with _us_.  Had
breakfast?"

"Well, now, such a string of 'em to answer all at once," replied Gildart
Bingley, laughing.  "Suppose I try to reply in the same order--came this
morning; direct from China, where we've been sinking junks and peppering
pirates; got leave of absence for a few weeks to run down here and see
the old folks at home; whether I stay with _you_ will depend on the
treatment I receive; I have had breakfast, and came down here supposing
that yours would have been over--but I'm capable of a second meal at any
time; have tried a third occasionally with reasonable success.  Now,
Kennie--I'm not afraid to call you by the old name, you see, although
you _have_ grown so big and manly, not to say fierce--having answered
your questions, will you be so good as to tell me if it's all true that
I hear of your having saved the life of a fisherman last night?"

"It is true that I pulled him out of the sea, aided and abetted by
Bucephalus, but whether all that you have heard of me is true I cannot
tell, not knowing what you have heard.  Who told you of it?"

"Who? why the household of the Bingleys, to be sure--all speaking at
once, and each louder than the other, with the exception of my pretty
coz, by the way, who did not speak at all until the others were out of
breath, and then she gave me such a graphic account of the affair that I
would certainly have forgotten where I was, and been transported to the
scene of action, had not her pretty flushed face and blazing black eyes
riveted me to the spot where I sat.  I actually gave vent to an
irresistible cheer when she concluded.  D'ye know, Kennie, you seem to
have made an impression in that quarter?  I wish I were you!"

The little midshipman sighed, and helped himself to a second slice of
buttered toast.  Kenneth laughed lightly, glanced askance at his father,
and requested another cup of tea.  Mr Stuart glanced at his son,
frowned at his finished egg, and stuck the spoon through the bottom of
the shell as he would have struck a dagger into the hopes of Kenneth,
had he possessed the power.

"Peppy," he said, pushing his cup from him, "before our young friend
arrived, you were speaking of the little boy who was left mysteriously
here last night--"

"It's a girl," interrupted Miss Peppy, "not but that it might have been
a boy, brother, if it had been born so, but one cannot ignore facts, and
to the best of my belief it was a girl last night.  To be sure I was
very sleepy when I saw it, but it may be a boy this morning for all I
know to the contrary.  I'm sure the perplexities that _do_ surround us
in this world!"  (Here Miss Peppy sighed.) "But if there is any doubt on
the question we had better ring for Mrs Niven, and send her up-stairs
to ascertain."

At that moment Mrs Niven entered, and handed a letter to Mr Stuart.

"Niven," said Miss Peppy, who spoke so fast, all in one tone, that no
one had a chance of interrupting her,--"Niven, will you be so good as to
go up-stairs and inquire whether the girl--no, the boy--I--I mean the
young human being, that--"

"La! ma'am," exclaimed the housekeeper in surprise, "why do you call her
a boy?  She's as sweet and lovely a girl as ever my two heyes looked on.
I never saw nothink like 'er golden 'air--it's quite 'eavenly, ma'am,
if I may use the hexpression."

"Oh! she _is_ a girl then? ah!  I thought so," said Miss Peppy, with a
sigh of resignation, as if the fact were a perplexity too deep for
investigation, at least at that time.

"It matters nothing to me," said Mr Stuart sternly, "whether she be a
boy or a girl, I mean to send her to the workhouse."

"Workhouse, brother!" exclaimed Miss Peppy in surprise.

"Workhouse, sir!" echoed Mrs Niven in horror.

"Father!" said Kenneth, remonstratively.

"Mrs Niven," said Mr Stuart, breaking the seal of the letter very
slowly, "you may leave the room.  Sister, I do not choose to have my
intentions commented on in such a manner, especially before the
domestics.  This child I have nothing whatever to do with; it has no
claim on me, and I shall certainly hand it over to the parochial
authorities to be dealt with--"

"According to law," suggested the middy.

"Yes, according to law," assented Mr Stuart with much severity,
applying himself to the letter while the rest of the party rose from
table.

"Dear me!" he exclaimed, with an expression of annoyance, as his eye
fell on the first lines, "I find that Emma and her good-for-nothing
husband will, in all likelihood, be here to-night."

"To-night, father!" said Kenneth, with a look of gladness.

"Probably," replied Mr Stuart.  "The vessel in which they sailed from
Australia was seen off the Lizard yesterday, at least my agent writes
that he thinks it was the `Hawk,' but the fog was too thick to permit of
a clear sight being obtained; so, I suppose, we shall be inflicted with
them and their child to-night or to-morrow."

"To-night or to-morrow, it may be so, _if they have weathered the
storm_," muttered Kenneth in a deep, sad tone.



CHAPTER SIX.

KENNETH INDULGES IN SUSPICIONS AND SURMISES.

"Will you walk or ride?" said Kenneth Stuart as he and Gildart issued
from Seaside Villa, and sauntered down the avenue that led to the
principal gate.

"Ride, by all means," said Gildart, "if you have a respectable horse.  I
love to ride, not only on the `bursting tide,' but on the back of a
thoroughbred, if he's not too tough in the mouth, and don't incline to
shy."

Kenneth replied that he had a mount to give him, which, although not
quite thoroughbred, was nevertheless a good animal, and not addicted to
the bad qualities objected to.

As he spoke Daniel Horsey walked up, and, touching his hat, asked if the
horses would be required.

"Yes, Dan.  Is Bucephalus none the worse of last night's work?"

"Niver a taste, sur.  He's like a lark this mornin'."

"Well, saddle him, and also the brown horse.  Bring them both over to
Captain Bingley's as soon as you can."

"Yis, sur."  Dan touched his cap, and walked smartly away.

"Why to my father's?" asked Gildart.

"Because, after your father and Miss Gordon were exposed to such
unwonted fatigue, I wish to inquire for them personally."

"Humph! you're not satisfied with my assurance that they are well?"

"Not quite, my boy," said Kenneth, with a smile; "I wish to have the
assurance from the lips of your sweet cousin."

"Whew! in love!" exclaimed Gildart.

"No; not in love _yet_," replied the other; "but, to change the subject,
did you observe the manner in which my father received the news of the
arrival of the `Hawk?'"

"Well, it did not require a fellow to have his weather eye _very_
wide-open to perceive that your father has a decided objection to his
son-in-law, and does not seem over anxious to meet with him or his wife
or child.  What have they been up to, Kennie--eloped, eh?"

"No, they did not exactly elope, but they married without my father's
consent, or rather against his wishes, and were discarded in
consequence.  You must not think my father is an unkind man, but he was
deeply disappointed at poor Emma's choice; for, to say truth, her
husband was a wild harum-scarum sort of fellow, fond of
steeple-chasing--"

"Like you," interpolated Gildart.

"Like me," assented Kenneth, with a nod, "and also of yachting and
boating, _like you_."

"Like me," assented the middy.

"Nevertheless," resumed Kenneth, "a good-hearted fellow in the main,
who, I am certain, would have acted his part in life well if he had been
better trained.  But he was spoiled by his father and mother, and I must
admit that poor Tom Graham was not over fond of work."

"Ha!" ejaculated Gildart.

"Hum!" responded his friend, "do either of us, I wonder, perceive in
ourselves any resemblance to him in this latter point?  I suppose it
would require a third party to answer that question truly.  But, to
continue--My father gave Emma, (for he would not consent to see Tom), a
thousand pounds, and dismissed her from his presence, as he said, `for
ever,' but I am convinced that he did not mean what he said, for he
paced about his bedroom the whole of the night after his last interview
with poor Emma, and I heard him groan frequently, although the partition
that separates our rooms is so thick that sounds are seldom heard
through it.  Do you know, Gildart, I think we sometimes judge men
harshly.  Knowing my father as I do, I am convinced that he is not the
cold, unfeeling man that people give him credit for.  He acted, I
believe, under a strong conviction that the course he adopted was that
of duty; he hoped, no doubt, that it would result in good to his child,
and that in the course of time he should be reconciled to her.  I cannot
conceive it possible that any one would cast off his child deliberately
and _for ever_.  Why, the man who could do so were worse than the beasts
that perish."

"I agree with you.  But what came of Tom and Emma?" asked Gildart.

"They went to Australia.  Tom got into business there.  I never could
make out the exact nature of it, but he undoubtedly succeeded for a
time, for Emma's letters to me were cheerful.  Latterly, however, they
got into difficulties, and poor Emma's letters were sad, and came less
frequently.  For a year past she has scarcely written to me at all.  Tom
has never written.  He was a high-spirited fellow, and turned his back
on us all when my father cast him and Emma off."

"Humph!" ejaculated Gildart, "nevertheless his high spirit did not
induce him to refuse the thousand pounds, it would seem."

"You wrong him, Gildart; Emma knew him well, and she told me that she
had placed the money in a bank in her own name, without telling him of
it.  Any success that attended him at first was the result of his own
unaided energy and application to business.  It is many years now since
they went away.  Some time ago we heard that they, with their only
daughter, little Emma, were coming back to England, whether in wealth or
in poverty I cannot tell.  The vessel in which they were to sail is
named the `Hawk,' and that is the ship that my father has heard of as
having been seen yesterday."

"How comes it, Kenneth, that you have never opened your lips to me on
this subject during our long acquaintance?  I did not know even that you
had a sister."

"Why, to say truth, the subject was not one on which I felt disposed to
be communicative.  I don't like to talk of family squabbles, even to my
most intimate friends."

"So we may look for some family breezes and squalls ere long, if not
gales," said Gildart with a laugh.

Kenneth shook his head gravely.

"I fear much," said he, "that the `Hawk' was exposed to last night's
gale; she must have been so if she did not succeed in making some
harbour before it came on; but I cannot shake off the feeling that she
is wrecked, for I know the vessel well, and practical men have told me
that she was quite unseaworthy.  True, she was examined and passed in
the usual way by the inspectors, but every one knows that _that_ does
not insure the seaworthiness of vessels."

"Well, but even suppose they _have_ been wrecked," suggested Gildart,
"it does not follow that they have been drowned."

"I don't know," replied the other in a low voice--"I have a strange,
almost a wild suspicion, Gildart."

"What may that be?"

"That the little girl who was left so mysteriously at our door last
night is my sister's child," said Kenneth.

"Whew!" whistled the midshipman, as he stopped and gazed at his friend
in surprise; "well, that _is_ a wild idea, so wild that I would advise
you seriously to dismiss it, Kennie.  But what has put it into your
head?--fancied likeness to your sister or Tom, eh?"

"No, not so much that, as the fact that she told Niven last night that
her name is Emmie."

"That's not Emma," said Gildart.

"It is what I used to call my sister, however; and besides that there is
a seaman named Stephen Gaff, who, I find, has turned up somewhat
suddenly and unaccountably last night from Australia.  He says he has
been wrecked; but he is mysterious and vague in his answers, and do what
I will I cannot get rid of the idea that there is some connexion here."

"It is anxiety, my boy, that has made you think in this wild fashion,"
said Gildart.  "Did I not hear Mrs Niven say that the child gave her
name as Emmie Wilson?"

"True, I confess that the name goes against my idea; nevertheless I
cannot get rid of it, so I mean to canter to-day down to Cove, where
Gaff stays, and have a talk with him.  We can go together by the road
along the top of the cliffs, which is an exceedingly beautiful one.
What say you?"

"By all means: it matters nothing to me what course you steer, so long
as we sail in company.  But pray don't let the fascinating Lizzie detain
you too long.  Oh! you need not laugh as if you were invulnerable.  I'll
engage to say that you'll not come away under an hour if you go into the
house without making me a solemn promise to the contrary."

"Why, Gildart, it strikes me that _you_ must be in love with your
fascinating cousin from the way in which you speak."

"Perhaps I am," said the middy, with a tremendous sigh; "but come, here
we are, and the horses at the door before us; they must have been
brought round by the other road.  Now, then, promise that you'll not
stay longer than half an hour."

Kenneth smiled, and promised.

On entering my residence, which had been named, by Mrs Bingley's
orders, "Bingley Hall," the young men found my pretty niece coming down
the staircase in that most fascinating of all dresses, a riding-habit,
which displayed her neat and beautifully rounded figure to perfection.
Lizzie could not be said to blush as she bowed acknowledgment to
Kenneth's salutation, for a blush, unless it were a _very_ deep one,
usually lost itself among the blush roses that at all times bloomed on
her cheek; but she smiled with great sweetness upon the stalwart youth,
and informed him that, having just been told that John Furby was still
suffering from the effects of his recent accident, she had ordered out
her pony and was about to ride down to Cove to see him.

Kenneth began to remark on the curious coincidence that he too had come
out with the intention of riding down to the same place; but the
volatile middy burst in with--

"Come, Lizz, that's jolly, we're bound for the same port, and can set
sail in company; whether we keep together or not depends on
circumstances, not to mention wind and weather.  I rather think that if
we take to racing, Bucephalus and Kenneth will be there first."

"Bucephalus is always well behaved in the company of ladies, which is
more than I can say of you, Gildart," retorted his friend, as he opened
the door to let Lizzie Gordon pass out.

"And we won't race, good cousin," said Lizzie, "for my uncle is to ride
with me, and you know he is not fond of going very fast."

"How d'ye know that, lass?" said I, coming down-stairs at the moment;
"not a few of my friends think that I go much too fast for this
century--so fast, indeed, that they seem to wonder that I have not
ridden ahead of them into the next!  How d'ye do, Kenneth?  Gildart was
not long of finding you out, I see."

Saying this, I mounted my cob and cantered down the avenue of Bingley
Hall, followed by the young people, whose fresh and mettlesome steeds
curvetted and pranced incessantly.

It may be as well to remark here, good reader, that at the time of which
I write I was unacquainted, as a matter of course, with many of the
facts which I am now narrating: they were made known to me piecemeal in
the course of after years.  I feel that this explanation is necessary in
order to account for my otherwise unaccountable knowledge of things that
were said and done when I was not present.



CHAPTER SEVEN.

LIZZIE GORDON IS RUN AWAY WITH, AND GAFF IS "PUMPED".

The road to the Cove lay along the top of the cliffs, and was in many
parts exceedingly picturesque; now passing, in the form of a mere
bridle-path, along the verge of the precipices, where thousands of
sea-gulls floated around the giddy heights, or darted down into the
waves which fell on shingly beach, or promontory, or bay of yellow sand,
far below; anon cutting across the grassy downs on some bold headland,
or diverging towards the interior, and descending into a woody dell in
order to avoid a creek or some other arm of the sea that had cleft the
rocks and intruded on the land.

The day was sunny and sufficiently warm to render a slow pace agreeable
to my nag, which was a sedate animal, inclined to corpulency like
myself.  My young companions and their horses were incapable of
restraining themselves to my pace, so they dashed on ahead at intervals,
and sometimes came back to me at full gallop.  At other times they
dismounted and stood on the cliffs looking at the view of the sea, which
appeared to them, as it has always been to me, enchanting.

I think a view from a high cliff of the great blue sea, dotted with the
white and brown sails of ships and boats, is one of the grandest as well
as the most pleasant prospects under the sun.

Kenneth Stuart thought so too, for I heard him make use of that or some
similar expression to Lizzie as he stood beside her talking earnestly,
in spite of the light and jocular remarks of my son, who stood at
Lizzie's other side commenting on things in general with that easy
freedom of speech which is characteristic of middies in the British
navy, although not entirely confined to them.

The party had dismounted, and Kenneth held Lizzie's horse by the bridle,
while Gildart held his own.  Bucephalus was roaming at large.  His
master had trained him so thoroughly that he was as obedient as a dog.
He followed Kenneth about, and would trot up to him when he whistled.  I
don't think I ever saw such a magnificent horse, as to size, beauty, and
spirit, coupled with docility, either before or since.

"Why, uncle, we thought you must have gone to sleep," said Lizzie,
turning towards me with a laugh as I rode up.

"Or fallen over the cliffs," added Gildart.

"In either case you would not have taken it much to heart, apparently,"
said I; "come, mount and push on."

Lizzie placed her little foot in Kenneth's hand, and was in the saddle
like a flash of thought, and with the lightness of a rose-leaf.
Gildart, being a little fellow, and his horse a tall one, got into the
saddle, according to his own statement, as a lands-man clambers into the
main-top through the "lubber's hole" in a squall; and I think the idea
was not far-fetched, for, during the process of mounting, his steed was
plunging like a ship in a heavy sea.  Bucephalus came up at once when
whistled to.

"You seem very fond of your horse," said Lizzie, as Kenneth vaulted into
the saddle.

"I _love_ him," replied the youth enthusiastically.

"You love other creatures besides horses," thought I; but the thought
had barely passed through my brain when Lizzie went off like an arrow.
Kenneth sprang forward like a thunderbolt, and Gildart followed--if I
may so speak--like a zig-zag cracker.  Now, it chanced that Lizzie's
horse was in a bad humour that morning, so it ran away, just as the
party came to a grassy slope of half a mile in extent.  At the end of
this slope the road made a sharp turn, and descended abruptly to the
beach.  Kenneth knew that if the horse came to this turn at a furious
gallop, nothing could save Lizzie from destruction.  He therefore took
the only course open to him, which was to go by a short cut close along
the edge of the cliff, and thus overshoot and intercept the runaway.  He
dashed spurs into Bucephalus, and was off like an arrow from a bow.
There was but one point of danger--a place where the bridle-path was
crossed by a fence, beyond which the road turned sharp to the left.  The
risk lay in the difficulty of making the leap and the turn almost at the
same instant.  To fail in this would result in horse and man going over
the cliff and being dashed to pieces.  On they went like the wind, while
my son and I followed as fast as we could.

"Bravo, Kenneth!" shouted Gildart, as Bucephalus took the fence like a
deer, and disappeared.

Gildart did not know the dangers of the leap: I did, and hastened to the
spot with a feeling of intense alarm.  On reaching it I saw Kenneth
flying far down the slope.  He was just in time; a few seconds more, and
Lizzie would have been lost.  But the bold youth reached the road in
time, caught her bridle, reined the horse almost on his haunches, then
turned him gradually aside until he galloped with him to a place of
safety.

This episode induced us to ride the rest of the way in a more leisurely
fashion.

Arrived at Cove, we each went on our several pieces of business,
arranging to meet at the north end of the village in about an hour
afterwards.

Kenneth found Stephen Gaff at home.  Leaving Lizzie to make inquiry as
to the health of John Furby, he took the seaman out and walked towards
the Downs.

"Well, Stephen, you have been wrecked again, I am told?" said Kenneth.

"So I have, sir; it's the sixth time now.  It's quite plain I ain't born
to be drownded.  I only hope as how I won't live to be hanged."

"I hope not, Stephen.  What was the name of the ship?"

"The `Fairy Queen.'"

"The `Fairy Queen,'" echoed Kenneth, with a slight feeling of
disappointment; "from Australia?"

"Yes, from Australia."

"Did she go to pieces?"

"Ay, not an inch of her left.  She was an old rotten tub not fit for
sea."

"Indeed!  That's by no means an uncommon state of things," said Kenneth,
with some degree of warmth.  "It seems to me that until men in power
take the matter up, and get a more rigid system of inspection
instituted, hundreds of lives will continue to be sacrificed every year.
It is an awful thing to think that more than a thousand lives are lost
annually on our shores, and that because of the indifference of those
who have the power, to a large extent, to prevent it.  But that is not
the point on which I want to speak to you to-day.  Was the `Fairy Queen'
bound for this port?"

"No; for the port of London," said Gaff, with a cautious glance at his
questioner.

"Then why did she make for Wreckumoft?" inquired Kenneth.

"That's best known to the cap'n, who's gone to his long home," said Gaff
gravely.

"Were _all_ lost except yourself?" pursued Kenneth, regarding his
companion's face narrowly; but the said face exhibited no expression
whatever as its owner replied simply--

"It's more than _I_ can tell; mayhap some of 'em were carried away on
bits o' wreck and may turn up yet."

"At all events none of them came ashore, to your knowledge?"

"I believe that every mother's son o' the crew wos lost but me," replied
Gaff evasively.

"Were none of the children saved?"

"What child'n?" asked the other quickly.  "I didn't say there was
child'n aboord, did I?"

Kenneth was somewhat confused at having made this slip; and Gaff,
suddenly changing his tactics, stopped short and said--

"I tell 'ee wot it is, young man--seems to me you're pumpin' of me for
some ends of yer own as I'm not acquainted with; now, I tell 'ee wot it
is, I ain't used to be pumped.  No offence meant, but I ain't used to be
pumped, an' if you've got anything to say, speak it out fair and above
board like a man."

"Well, well, Gaff," said Kenneth, flushing and laughing at the same
moment, "to say truth, I am not used to pump, as you may see, nor to be
otherwise than fair and aboveboard, as I hope you will believe; but the
fact is that a very curious thing has occurred at our house, and I am
puzzled as well as suspicious, and _very_ anxious about it."

Here Kenneth related all that he knew about the little girl having been
left at Seaside Villa, and candidly admitted his suspicion that the
child was his niece.

"But," said Gaff, whose visage was as devoid of expression as a fiddle
figure-head, "your brother-in-law's name was Graham, you know."

"True, that's what puzzles me; the child's Christian name is Emma--the
same as that of my niece and sister--but she says her last name is
Wilson."

"Well, then, Wilson ain't Graham, you know, any more nor Gaff ain't
Snooks, d'ye see?"

"Yes, I see; but I'm puzzled, for I _do_ see a family likeness to my
sister in this child, and I _cannot_ get rid of the impression, although
I confess that it seems unreasonable.  And the thought makes me very
anxious, because, if I were correct in my suspicion, that would prove
that my beloved sister and her husband are drowned."

Kenneth said this with strong feeling, and the seaman looked at him more
earnestly than he had yet done.

"Your father was hard on your sister and her husband, if I bean't
misinformed," said Gaff.

"He thought it his duty to be so," answered Kenneth.

"And you agreed with him?" pursued Gaff.

"No, never!" cried the other indignantly.  "I regretted deeply the
course my father saw fit to pursue.  I sympathised very strongly with my
dear sister and poor Tom Graham."

"Did you?" said Gaff.

"Most truly I did."

"Hum.  You spoke of suspicions--wot was your suspicions?"

"To be candid with you, then," said Kenneth, "when I came to see you I
suspected that it was _you_ who left that child at our house, for I
heard of your sudden re-appearance in Cove, but I am convinced now that
I was wrong, for I know you would not tell me a falsehood, Gaff."

"No more I would, sir," said Gaff, drawing himself up, "and no more I
_did_; but let me tell to you, sir, nevertheless, that your suspicions
is c'rect.  _I_ left Emmie Wilson at your house, and Emmie Wilson _is_
Emma Graham!"

Kenneth stopped and looked earnestly at his companion.

"My sister and brother?" he asked in a low suppressed voice.

"Dead, both of 'em," said Gaff.

With a mighty effort Kenneth restrained his feelings, and, after walking
in silence for some time, asked why Gaff had concealed this from his
family, and how it happened that the child did not know her proper name.

"You see, sir," replied the sailor, "I've know'd all along of your
father's ill-will to Mr Graham and his wife, for I went out with them
to Australia, and they tuk a fancy to me, d'ye see, an' so did I to
them, so we made it up that we'd jine company, pull in the same boat, so
to speak, though it _was_ on the land we was goin' and not the sea.
There's a proverb, sir, that says, `misfortin makes strange bed
fellows,' an' I 'spose it's the same proverb as makes strange messmates;
anyhow, poor Tom Graham, he an' me an' his wife, we become messmates,
an' of course we spun no end o' yarns about our kith and kin, so I found
out how your father had treated of 'em, which to say truth I warn't
s'prised at, for I've obsarved for years past that he's hard as nails,
altho' he _is_ your father, sir, an' has let many a good ship go to the
bottom for want o' bein' properly found--"

"You need not criticise my father, Gaff," said Kenneth, with a slight
frown.  "Many men's sins are not so black as they look.  Prevailing
custom and temptation may have had more to do with his courses of action
than hardness of heart."

"I dun know _that_," said Gaff, "hows'ever, I don't mean for to
krittysise him, though I'm bound to say his sins is uncommon dark grey,
if they ain't black.  Well, I wos a-goin' to say that Mr Graham had
some rich relations in Melbourne as he didn't want for to see.  He was a
proud man, you know, sir, an' didn't want 'em to think he cared a stiver
for 'em, so he changed his name to Wilson, an' let his beard an'
mowstaches grow, so that when he put his cap on there was nothin' of him
visible except his eyes and his nose stickin' out of his face, an' when
his hair grew long, an' his face was tanned wi' the sun, his own mother
would have cut him dead if she'd met him in the street.

"Well, we worked a year in Melbourne to raise the wind.  Tom, (he made
me call him Tom, sir), bein' a clever fellow, got into a store as a
clerk, an' I got work as a porter at the quays; an' though his work was
more gentlemanly than mine, I made very near as much as him, so we lived
comfortable, and laid by a little.  That winter little Emma was born.
She just come to poor Tom and his wife like a great sunbeam.  Arter that
we went a year to the diggin's, and then I got to weary to see my old
missus, so I left 'em with a promise to return.  I com'd home, saw my
wife, and then went out again to jine the Grahams for another spell at
the diggin's; then I come home again for another spell wi' the missus,
an' so I kep' goin' and comin', year by year, till now.

"Tom was a lucky digger.  He resolved to quit for good and all, and
return to settle in England.  He turned all he had into gold-dust, and
put it in a box, with which he shipped aboard the `Fairy Queen,' of
which I was one o' the crew at the time.  The `Fairy Queen,' you must
understand, had changed owners just about that time, havin' bin named
the `Hawk' on the voyage out.  We sailed together, and got safe to
British waters, an' wos knocked all to bits on British rocks, 'cause the
compasses wasn't worth a button, as no more wos our charts, bein' old
ones, an' the chain o' the best bower anchor had bin got cheap, and
wasn't fit to hold a jolly-boat, so that w'en we drove on a lee-shore,
and let go the anchor to keep off the reefs, it parted like a bit o'
packthread.  I took charge of Emmie, and, by God's blessin', got safe to
land.  All the rest went down.

"Now, sir," continued Gaff, "it came into my head that if I took the
little gal to her grandfather, he, bein' as hard as nails, an' desp'rit
unforgivin', would swear I wos tellin' a lie, and refuse to take her in.
So I thought I'd just go and put her down in the passage an' leave her,
so that he'd be obleeged to take her in, d'ye see, not bein' able to see
what else to do wi' her.  You know he couldn't throw her out, and let
her die in the street, could he, sir?"

"Not exactly," replied Kenneth, with a sad smile, "nevertheless he would
not find it difficult to dispose of her in some other way; in fact, he
has already spoken of sending her to the workhouse."

"You don't say so, sir?"

"Indeed I do, but keep your mind easy, Gaff, for, without telling my
father who little Emmie is, I will see to it that she is properly cared
for."

Kenneth rode back to town that day with a heart so heavy that the bright
eyes of Lizzie Gordon failed to rouse him to even the semblance of
cheerfulness, and the effervescing small-talk of the volatile Gildart
was almost intolerable.



CHAPTER EIGHT.

DAN HORSEY DOES THE AGREEABLE IN THE KITCHEN.

"Captain Bingley," said Kenneth, entering my study somewhat hastily on
the following morning, "I am going to carry off Gildart for the day to
have a ride with me, and I looked in on you in passing to tell you that
Haco has arrived in his schooner, and that he is going to sail this
evening for London and will take your Russians to their consul if you
wish it."

"Thank you, lad; many thanks," said I, "some of them may be able to go,
but others, I fear, are too much hurt, and may require to be nursed in
the `Home' for some time yet.  I will consider it; meanwhile will you
carry a note to your father for me?"

"With pleasure; at least I will send Dan Horsey with it, if that will do
as well."

"Quite as well, if you can spare him; send him into the kitchen while I
write the note.  Adieu, lad, and see that you don't break Gildart's
neck.  Remember that he is not much accustomed to horses."

"No fear of him," said Kenneth, looking back with a laugh as he reached
the door, "he is well used to riding out hard gales, and that is more
arduous work than steeple-chasing."  When Dan Horsey was told to go to
the kitchen and await further orders, he received the command with a
cheerful smile, and, attaching the bridle of his horse to a post,
proceeded to obey it.

The kitchen of Bingley Hall was the abode of two females who severally
owned a distinct and dissimilar character, both mental and physical.
The first female--first in most senses of the word--was Bounder the
cook, who was fat, as cooks ought to be in order to prove that their
productions agree with them; and self-opinionated, as cooks generally
are, in order, no doubt, to prove that they know their business.

The second female was Susan Barepoles, a slim, graceful housemaid,
apparently modest, (cook did not even pretend to that virtue), and
wonderfully sharp-eyed.  Both females were good-looking and young, and
both were desperately in love with Daniel Horsey.  Each knew the fact,
and so did Dan.  Each was mortally jealous of the other, and Dan was
dreadfully perplexed in consequence.

Not that he was uncertain as to which of the two he preferred, for
Susan's image was "engruven," as he expressed it, deeply on his heart,
to the exclusion of all other images, but he found that the jealousy of
the two interfered somewhat with the course of true love, causing it to
run in its proverbially rough channel.

"It's a fine mornin', my darlints," said Dan, as he entered the kitchen
with a swagger, and laid his hat and riding-whip on the dresser, at the
same time seating himself on the edge of a small table that stood near
the window.  This seat he preferred to a chair, partly because it
enabled him to turn his back to the light, and partly because it
afforded him an opportunity of swinging his legs gently with an easy
motion that was agreeable, and, at the same time, in his opinion,
graceful.

"None o' yer imperance," said cook, stirring the contents of a large pan
carefully.

Susan tossed her head slightly, but admitted that the morning _was_
good.

"He's a-writin' of a letter to Grumpy," said Dan, pointing with his
thumb towards the ceiling, in order to indicate that the "he" referred
to was myself.

"Who's Grumpy?" inquired cook, with a look of interest.

"Arrah, now, don't ye know it's old Stuart?"

Susan laughed, and cook observed that the name seemed to her an
extremely disrespectful one.

"It's not bad enough for him, the old pair o' tongs," said Dan, taking
up his whip with a gentlemanly assumption of ease, and flipping the toe
of his boot with it; "av it wasn't for the love that my master Kenneth
bears me, I'd have left 'em long ago.  But, you see, the young master is
a first-rater, and couldn't get on without me no how, so I'm willin' to
stop.  Besides," continued Dan, with a _very_ small sigh, "I have
private raisons for not carin' to leave just now."

He accompanied the latter remark with a sly glance at Susan, who chanced
quite accidentally to cast a sly glance at Dan, so that their eyes met,
and the result was that Susan blushed and began to rub the silver
tea-pot, which she was cleaning, unmercifully, and Dan laughed.
Whereupon cook looked round hastily and asked what he was laughing at,
to which Dan responded that his own imagination, which happened to be a
brilliant one, had just then suggested a train of comical ideas which
had tickled his risible muscles so that he couldn't help it!

"I don't believe it," said cook, who observed Susan's confusion of face,
and became internally red hot with jealousy, "I b'lieve you was larfin'
at me."

"Och, Miss Bounder!" exclaimed Dan, looking at her with an expression so
awfully reproachful that cook instantly repented and laughed.

"There's bin some strange doin's up at the Villa," said Susan, by way of
changing the subject, while she polished the tea-pot yet more
unmercifully.

"Ah," exclaimed cook, "that's true; what does it all mean, Mr Horsey?"

"That's more nor myself can tell," said Dan; "the facts o' the case is
clear, so far as they come'd under our obsarvation.  But as to the
circumstances o' the case, 'specially those of 'em as hasn't yet
transpired, I don't rightly know myself wot opinions I ought to
entertain."

Susan listened to these remarks with profound admiration, chiefly
because she did not understand them; but cook, who was more
matter-of-fact in her nature, and somewhat demonstrative in her
tendencies, advised Dan not to talk gammon, but to explain what he
meant.

"Explain what I mean, coolinary sunbeam!" said Dan; "isn't it explainin'
that I am as plain as the nose on yer face, (an' a purty wan it is),
though I haven't got the powers of a lawyer, nor yit a praist?  Didn't a
drippin' wet sailor come to our door at the dead o' night an' ring the
bell as bowld as brass, an' when Mrs Niven, whose intellect was niver
much beyond that of a poplypus--"

"What's a poplypus?" interrupted cook.

"Well now," remonstrated Dan, "I ain't 'xactly a walkin' dictionary; but
I b'lieve it's a baist o' the say what hain't got nothin' but a body an'
a stummik, indeed I'm not sure but that it's all stummik together, with
just legs enough to move about with, or may be a fin or two, an' a hole
to let in the wittles; quite in your line, by the way, Miss Bounder."

"Imperance!" ejaculated cook.

"No offence," said Dan; "but `to resoom the thread o' the narrative,' as
the story books say, Mrs Niven she opened the door, and the drippin'
wet sailor he puts a little wet spalpeen in her arms, an' goes right off
without so much as by your lave, an' that's all we know about it.  An'
Grumpy he goes ragin' about the house sayin' he'll have nothin' to do
wi' the poor little thing--who's not so little naither, bein' a
ten-year-old if she's an hour, an' a purty sweet face to boot--an' that
he'll send her to the workus' or pris'n, or anywhere; but in his house
she's not to stop another day.  Well, not havin' the management o' the
whole of this world's affairs, (fort'nately, else a scrubbily managed
world it would be), Grumpy finds out that when he wants to send little
Emmie, (as she calls herself), off, she's knocked down by a ragin'
fever, an' the doctor he says it's as much as her life is worth to move
her.  So Grumpy has to grin and bear it, and there's little Emmie lyin'
at this minit in our best bed, (where Mrs Niven put her the moment she
was took bad), a-tossin' her purty arms in the air, an' makin' her
yellow hair fly over the pillows, and kickin' off the close like a young
angel in a passion, and callin' on her mama in a voice that would make a
stone immage weep, all the while that Miss Penelope is snivellin' on one
side o' the bed, an' Mrs Niven is snortin' on the other."

"Poor dear," said Susan in a low voice, devoting herself with
intensified zeal to the tea-pot, while sympathetic tears moistened her
eyes.

I interrupted the conversation at this point by entering the kitchen
with my note to my friend Stuart.  I had to pass through the kitchen to
my back garden when I wished to leave my house by the back garden gate.
I had coughed and made as much noise as possible in approaching the
cook's domains, but they had been so much engrossed with each other that
they did not hear me.  Dan sprang hastily off the table, and suddenly
assumed a deeply respectful air.

"Dan," said I, "take this note to Mr Stuart as quickly as possible, and
bring me an answer without delay.  I am going to see Haco Barepoles
at--"

"Oh, sir!" exclaimed Susan with a start, and looking at me
interrogatively.

"Oh, I forgot, Susan; your father has just arrived from Aberdeen, and is
at this moment in the Sailors' Home.  You may run down to see him, my
girl, if you choose."

"Thank you, sir," said Susan, with a glow of pleasure on her
good-looking face, as she pushed the tea-pot from her, and dropt the
cloth, in her haste to get away to see her sire.

"Stay, Susan," said I; "you need not hurry back.  In fact, you may spend
the day with your father, if you choose; and tell him that I will be
down to see him in a few minutes.  But I shall probably be there before
you.  You may take Mr Stuart's answer to the Home," I added, turning to
Dan; "I shall be there when you return with it."

"_Yes_, sir," said Dan in a tone so energetic as to cause me to look at
him.  I observed that he was winking towards the kitchen door.  Casting
my eyes thither I saw that Susan's face was much flushed as he
disappeared into the passage.  I also noted that the cook's face was
fiery red, and that she stirred a large pot, over which she bent, with
unnecessary violence--viciously, as it were.

Pondering on these things I crossed my garden and proceeded towards the
Home, which stood on a conspicuous eminence near the docks, at the east
end of the town.



CHAPTER NINE.

THE SAILORS' HOME AND THE MAD SKIPPER.

The Sailors' Home in Wreckumoft was a neat, substantial, unpretending
edifice, which had been built by a number of charitable people, in order
to provide a comfortable residence, with board at moderate terms, for
the numerous seamen who frequented our port.  It also served as a place
of temporary refuge to the unfortunate crews of the numerous wrecks
which occurred annually on our shores.

Here I found Haco Barepoles, the skipper of a coal sloop, seated on the
side of his bed in one of the little berths of the Home, busily engaged
in stuffing tobacco into the bowl of a great German pipe with the point
of his little finger.  Susan, who had outstripped me, was seated beside
him with her head on his shoulder.

"Oh, father!"  I heard Susan say, as I walked along the passage between
the rows of sleeping berths that lined each side of the principal
dormitory of our Home; "I shall lose you some day, I fear.  How was it
that you came so near bein' wrecked?"

Before the skipper could reply I stood in the doorway of his berth.

"Good-day, Haco," said I; "glad to see you safe back once more."

"Thankee, Cap'n Bingley--same to you, sir," said Haco, rising hastily
from the bed and seizing my hand, which he shook warmly, and, I must
add, painfully; for the skipper was a hearty, impulsive fellow, apt to
forget his strength of body in the strength of his feelings, and given
to grasp his male friends with a gripe that would, I verily believe,
have drawn a roar from Hercules.

"I've come back to the old bunk, you see," he continued, while I sat
down on a chest which served for a chair.  "I likes the Home better an'
better every time I comes to it, and I've brought all my crew with me;
for you see, sir, the `Coffin's' a'most fallin' to pieces, and will have
to go into dock for a riglar overhaul."

"The Coffin?" said Susan, interrogatively.

"Yes, lass; it's only a nickname the old tub got in the north, where
they call the colliers coal-coffins, 'cause it's ten to one you'll go to
the bottom in 'em every time ye go to sea."

"Are they _all_ so bad as to deserve the name?" inquired Susan.

"No, not 'xactly all of 'em; but there's a good lot as are not half so
fit for sea as a washin' tub.  You see, they ain't worth repairin', and
owners sometimes just take their chance o' makin' a safe run by keepin'
the pumps goin' the whole time."

I informed Haco that I had called for the purpose of telling him that I
had applied to Mr Stuart, who owned his little coal sloop, to give a
few wrecked Russians a passage to London, in order that they might be
handed over to the care of their consul; but that I would have to find a
passage for them in some other vessel, as the "Coffin" was so
unseaworthy.

"Don't be in too great a hurry, sir," said Haco, with a peculiar smile
and twinkle in his eye; "I'm inclined to think that Mr Stuart will send
her back to London to be repaired there--"

"What!" exclaimed Susan, with a flush of indignation, "an' risk your
life, father?"

"As to that, lass, my life has got to be risked anyhow, and it ain't
much worth, to say the truth; so you needn't trouble yourself on that
pint."

"It's worth a great deal to me," said Susan, drawing herself closer to
the side of her rugged parent.

I could not help smiling as I looked at this curious specimen of a
British seaman shaking his head gravely and speaking so disparagingly of
himself, when I knew, and every one in the town knew, that he was one of
the kindest and most useful of men.  He was a very giant in size, with a
breadth of shoulder that would have made him quite ridiculous had it not
been counterbalanced by an altitude of six feet four.  He had a huge
head of red hair, and a huge heart full of tenderness.  His only fault
was utter recklessness in regard to his own life and limbs--a fault
which not unfrequently caused him to place the lives and limbs of others
in jeopardy, though he never could be brought to perceive that fact.

"Whatever your life may be worth, my friend," said I, "it is to be hoped
that Mr Stuart will not risk it by sending you to sea in the `Coffin'
till it is thoroughly overhauled."

"Come in!" shouted the skipper, in answer to a rap at the door.

The invitation to enter was not accepted, but the rap was repeated.

"Go, Susan," said I, "see who it is."

Susan obeyed--with unusual alacrity, as I fancied, but did not return
with equal quickness.  We heard her whispering with some one; then there
was a sound as if of a suppressed scream, followed by something that was
marvellously like a slap applied to a cheek with an open hand.  Next
moment Susan re-appeared with a letter and a very flushed face.

"A letter, sir," said Susan, dropping her eyes.

"Who brought it?"  I inquired.

"Mr Horsey, sir."  Susan stammered the name, and looked confused.  "He
waits an answer, sir."

Haco Barepoles had been eyeing his daughter gravely the while.  He now
sprang up with the wild energy that was his peculiar characteristic, and
flinging the door wide-open with a crash that shook the whole framework
of the berth, stood face to face with Dan Horsey.

Intense gravity marked the features of the groom, who stood, hat in
hand, tapping the side of his top-boot with a silver-mounted
riding-whip.  He met Haco's steady frown with a calm and equally steady
gaze of his clear grey eyes; and then, relaxing into a smile, nodded
familiarly, and inquired if the weather was fine up there, bekaise,
judgin' from his, (Haco's), face he would be inclined to think it must
be raither cowld!

Haco smiled grimly: "Ye was to wait an answer, was ye?"

"If I may venture to make so bowld as to say so in the presence of your
highness, I was."

"Then wait," said Haco, smiling a little less grimly.

"Thank ye, sir, for yer kind permission," said Dan in a tone and with an
air of assumed meekness.

The skipper returned to the bed, which creaked as if taxed to its
utmost, when he sat down on it, and drew Susan close to his side.

"This is from Mr Stuart, Haco," said I, running my eye hastily over the
note; "he consents to my sending the men in your vessel, but after what
you have told me--"

"Don't mind wot I told ye, Captain Bingley.  I'll see Mr Stuart to-day,
an'll call on you in the afternoon.  The `Coffin' ain't quite so bad as
she looks.  Have 'ee any answer to send back?"

"No," said I, turning to Dan, who still stood at the door tapping his
right boot with a jaunty air; "tell your master, with my compliments,
that I will see him about this matter in the evening."

"And hark'ee, lad," cried Haco, again springing up and confronting the
groom, "d'ye see this young 'ooman?"  (pointing to Susan.)

"Sure I do," replied Dan, with a smile and a nod to Susan, "an' a purty
cratur she is, for the eye of man to rest upon."

"And," shouted Haco, shaking his enormous fist within an inch of the
other's nose, "d'ye see them there knuckles?"

Dan regarded them steadfastly for a moment or two without winking or
flinching.

"They're a purty bunch o' fives," he said at length, drawing back his
head, and placing it a little on one side in order to view the "bunch,"
with the air of a connoisseur; "very purty, but raither too fat to do
much damage in the ring.  I should say, now, that it would get `puffy'
at the fifth round, supposin' that you had wind and pluck left, at your
time of life, to survive the fourth."

"Well now, lad," retorted the skipper, "all I've to say is, that you've
seed it, an' if you don't mind yer eye ye'll _feel_ it.  `A nod's as
good as a wink to a blind horse.'"

Haco plunged the "bunch of fives" into his coat-pocket, and sat down
again beside his agitated daughter.

"I can speak purfessionally," said Dan, "in regard to yer last
obsarvation consarnin' blind hosses, and I belave that ye're c'rect.  It
_don't_ much matter whether ye nod or wink to a blind hoss; though I
can't spake from personal exparience 'caise I niver tried it on, not
havin' nothin' to do with blind hosses.  Ye wouldn't have a weed, would
ye, skipper?" he added, pulling out a neat leather case from which he
drew a cigar!

"Go away, Dan, directly," said I with some asperity, for I was nettled
at the impudence of the man in my presence, and not a little alarmed
lest the angry Haco should kick him down-stairs.

Dan at once obeyed, bowing respectfully to me, and, as I observed,
winking to Susan as he turned away.  He descended the stair in silence,
but we heard him open the door of the public room and address the
Russians, who were assembled there, warming themselves at the fire, and
enjoying their pipes.

"Hooray! my hearties," said Dan; "got yer broken legs rewived I hope,
and yer spurrits bandaged up?  Hey,--och!  I forgot ye can swaller
nothin' but Toorko--cum, squaki lorum ho po, doddie jairum frango
whiskie looro--whack?--eh!  Arrah! ye don't need to answer for fear the
effort opens up yer wounds afresh.  Farewell, lads, or may be it's
wishin' ye fair-wind would be more nat'ral."

So saying he slammed the door, and we heard him switching his boots as
he passed along the street under the windows, whistling the air of "The
girls we left behind us," followed, before he was quite out of earshot,
by "Oh my love is like the red red rose, that's newly sprung in June."

Immediately after Dan's departure I left Haco and Susan together, and
they held the following conversation when left alone.  I am enabled to
report it faithfully, reader, because Susan told it word for word to her
mistress, who has a very reprehensible habit of listening to the gossip
of her maid.  Of course Mrs B told it to me, because she tells
everything to me, sometimes a good deal more than I care to hear.  This
I think a very reprehensible habit also.  I am bound to listen, because
when my strong-minded wife begins to talk I might as well try to stop a
runaway locomotive as attempt to silence her.  And so it comes about
that I am now making the thing public!

"Susan," said Haco, earnestly looking at his daughter's downcast face,
on which the tell tale blood was mantling.  "Are you fond o' that--that
feller?"

"Ye-yes, father," replied Susan, with some hesitation.

"Humph! an' is he fond o' _you_?"

"Oh, isn't he, just," said Susan, with a little confused laugh.

"Susan," continued Haco, with increasing earnestness, "Are ye sure he's
worthy of you?"

"Yes, father, I'm _quite_ sure of that."

"Well then, Susan, you're a sensible girl, and you ought to know best;
but I don't feel easy about ye, 'cause you're just as like as two peas
to your dear mother, what went to the bottom in the last coal-coffin I
commanded, an' you would ha' gone too, darlin', if I hadn't bin spared
to swim ashore with ye on my back.  It was all I could do.  Ah, Susan!
it was a black night for you an' me that.  Well, as I was a sayin',
you're as like yer mother as two peas, and she was as trustful as you
are, an' little knew wot a bad lot she got when she set her heart on
me."

"Father, that's not true."

"Ain't it, lass?  Well, let it pass, but then this feller, this Dan
Hursey--"

"Horsey, father," said Susan.

"Well, well, it ain't much better; this Horsey is an Irishman, an' I
don't like Irishmen."

"Father, you'd get to like 'em if you only knew 'em better," said Susan
earnestly.  "What bell's that?" she added, as a loud ringing echoed
through the house.

"The dinner bell, lass.  Come an' see wot a comf'rable feed they git.  I
can tell 'ee that them Sailors' Homes is the greatest blessin' that was
ever got up for us sea-dogs.  We ain't 'xactly such soft good natur'd
ignorant big babies as some o' your well-meanin' pheelanthropists would
make us out; but we _are_ uncommon hard put to it when we git ashore,
for every port is alive with crimps an' land-sharks to swaller us up
when we come off a long voyage; an' the wust of it is, that we're in a
wild reckless humour for the most part when we git ashore with our
pockets full o' yellow boys, an' are too often quite willin' to _be_
swallered up, so that lots of us are constantly a-goin' to sticks an'
stivers.  An' then before the Homes was set a-goin', the fellers as
wanted to get quiet lodgin's didn't find it easy to know where to look
for 'em, an' was often took in; an' when they wanted to send cash to
their wives or mothers, they didn't well know how to manage it; but now,
wherever there's a Home you can git cheap board, good victuals, help in
the way o' managin' yer cash, an' no end of advice gratis.  It's only a
pity there ain't one or two of 'em in every port in the kingdom.

"See here," continued Haco, warming with his subject as he led Susan
past the dormitories where the Russians, who had been maimed during the
recent wrecks, were being supplied with dinner in their berths, "see
here,--another o' the best o' the institootions o' this land looks arter
them poor fellers, an' pays their shot for 'em as long as they're here,
an' sends them to their homes free of expense--that's the Shipwrecked
Fishermen's and Mariners' Society.  You've heerd o' that Society, Susan,
haven't 'ee?"

"No father, never."

"What, never heerd o' the Shipwrecked Mariners' Society with its
hundreds o' honorary agents all round the coast, who have done more to
dry the tears o' orphans an' comfort widders' hearts than tongue can
tell?--Never heerd o' it, an' you a sailor's daughter?"

"I daresay I'm very stupid for being so ignorant, father; but I never
heard of it.  You know I've spent most o' my life inland with old Auntie
Bess, an' only come here this year.

"Mayhap," continued Haco, shaking his head gravely, "you've never
heer'd, neither, o' the Lifeboat Institootion."

"Never," said Susan meekly.  "I've seen the lifeboat we have here, you
know, but I never heard of the Institootion."

"Well, well, Susan, I needn't be surprised, for, to say truth, there's
many in this country, who think no small beer o' theirselves, that know
precious little about either the one or the other, although they're the
most valooable Institootions in the country.  I'll tell 'ee about 'em,
lass, some other time--how they saves hundreds o' lives, an' relieves no
end o' distress annooally.  It's enough just now to say that the two
Institootions is what I calls brother an' sister--the Lifeboat one bein'
the brother; the Shipwrecked Mariners' one bein' the sister.  The
brother, besides savin' thousands o' pounds worth o' goods, saves
hundreds o' lives every year.  But when the brother has saved the
shipwrecked sailor, his work is done.  He hands him over to the sister,
who clothes him, feeds him, warms him--as you see bein' done to them
there Roosians--and then sends him home.  Every sailor in the country
should be a member o' the Shipwrecked Mariners' Society, say I.  I've
been one myself for many years, an' it only costs me three shillings a
year.  I'll tell 'ee some other time what good it does me; but just now
you an' I shall go an' have some grub."

"Where shall we go to get it, father?"

"To the refreshment room below, lass.  It won't do to take ye to the
dinin' hall o' the Home for three reasons,--first, 'cause ye're a
'ooman, an' they ain't admitted; second, 'cause it wouldn't be pleasant
for ye to dine wi' forty or fifty Jack-tars; and, thirdly, if ye wanted
it ever so much yer old father wouldn't let ye--so come along, lass, to
dinner."



CHAPTER TEN.

THE DINNER IN THE RESTAURANT--HACO MEETS AN OLD FRIEND AND BECOMES
COMMUNICATIVE.

The room to which Haco led his daughter was a small oblong one, divided
off into compartments similar to those with which we are familiar in
eating-houses and restaurants of the poorer class.  It formed part of
the Home, but was used by the general public as well as by seamen, who
wished to order a meal at any time and pay for it.

Haco Barepoles, being at the time a boarder in the home, was entitled to
his dinner in the general mess-room, but being bent on enjoying his meal
in company with Susan, he chose to forego his rights on that occasion.

Being the hour at which a number of seamen, labourers, clerks, and
others were wont to experience the truth of the great fact that nature
abhors a vacuum, the room was pretty full, and a brisk demand was going
on for soup, tea, coffee, rolls, and steaks, etcetera, all of which were
supplied on the most moderate terms, in order to accommodate the
capacities of the poorest purse.

In this temple of luxury you could get a small bowl of good soup for one
penny, which, with a halfpenny roll, might form a dinner to any one
whose imagination was so strong as to enable him to believe he had had
enough.  Any one who was the fortunate possessor of threepence, could,
by doubling the order, really feel his appetite appeased.  Then for
those whose poverty was extreme, or appetite unusually small, a little
cup of tea could be supplied for one halfpenny--and a good cup of tea
too, not particularly strong, it is true, but with a fair average
allowance of milk and sugar.

"Waiter," cried Haco Barepoles in a voice that commanded instant
attention.

"Yessir."

"Soup for two, steaks an' 'taties for ditto to foller."

"Yessir."

"Please, father, I would like a cup of coffee after the soup instead of
a steak.  I don't feel very hungry."

"All right, lass.  Waiter, knock off one o' the steaks an' clap a cup o'
coffee in its place."

"Yessir.  Roll with it, Miss?"

"Of course," said Haco.

"Butter, Miss?"

"Sartinly.  An' double allowance o' milk an' sugar," replied the
skipper.  "S'pose you han't got cream?"

"No sir."

"Never mind.  Look alive now, lad.  Come, Susan, here's a box with only
one man in't, we'll--Hallo! shiver my timbers if it ain't--no--it can't
be--Stephen Gaff, eh! or his ghost?"

"Just so," said Stephen, laying down his knife and fork, and shaking
warmly the hand which Haco stretched across the table to him; "I'm
always turnin' up now an' again like a bad shillin'.  How goes life with
'ee, Haco? you don't seem to have multiplied the wrinkles since I last
saw ye."

"Thank 'ee, I'm pretty comf'rable.  This is my darter Susan," said Haco,
observing that his friend glanced inquiringly at his fair
companion--"The world always uses me much the same.  I find it a
roughish customer, but it finds me a jolly one, an' not easily put out.
When did I see ye last?  Let me see,--two years come Christmas.  Why,
I've been wrecked three times since then, run down twice, an' drownded
at least half-a-dozen times; but by good luck they always manages to
bring me round--rowsussitate me, as the doctors call it."

"Ay, you've had hard times of it," observed Gaff, finishing his last
morsel of meat, and proceeding to scrape up the remains of gravy and
potato with his knife; "I've bin wrecked myself sin' we last met, but
only once, and that warn't long ago, just the last gale.  You coasters
are worse off than we are.  Commend me to blue water, and plenty o'
sea-room."

"I believe you, my boy," responded the skipper.  "There's nothin' like a
good offing an' a tight ship.  We stand but a poor chance as we go
creepin' 'long shore in them rotten tubs, that are well named
`Coal-Coffins.'  Why, if it comes on thick squally weather or a gale
when yer dodgin' off an' on, the `Coal-Coffins' go down by dozens.
Mayhap at the first burst o' the gale you're hove on your beam-ends, an'
away go the masts, leavin' ye to drift ashore or sink; or p'raps you're
sharp enough to get in sail, and have all snug, when, just as ye're
weatherin' a headland, away goes the sheet o' the jib, jib's blowed to
ribbons, an' afore ye know where ye are, `breakers on the lee bow!' is
the cry.  Another gust, an' the rotten foretops'l's blow'd away,
carryin' the fore-topmast by the board, which, of course, takes the
jib-boom along with it, if it an't gone before.  Then it's `stand by to
let go the anchor.'  `Let go!'  `Ay, ay, sir.'  Down it goes, an' the
`Coffin's' brought up sharp; not a moment too soon, mayhap, for ten to
one but you see an' hear the breakers, roarin' like mad, thirty yards or
so astern.  It may be good holdin' ground, but what o' that?--the
anchor's an old 'un, or too small; the fluke gives way, and ye're
adrift; or the cable's too small, and can't stand the strain, so you let
go both anchors, an' ye'd let go a dozen more if ye had 'em for dear
life; but it's o' no use.  First one an' then the other parts; the stern
is crushed in a'most afore ye can think, an' in two minutes more, if not
less, it's all up with ye, unless there's a lifeboat at hand."

"Ah! pity there's not more of 'em on the coast," said Gaff.

"True," rejoined Haco, "many a poor feller's saved every year by them
blessed boats, as would otherwise have gone to the bottom, an' left
widder and childer to weep for him, an' be a burden, more or less, on
the country."

The waiter appeared at this point in the conversation with the soup, so
Haco devoted himself to dinner, while Gaff ordered a plate of bread and
cheese extra in order to keep him company.  For some minutes they all
ate in silence.  Then Haco, during the interval between the courses,
informed Gaff that he expected to return to the port of London in a day
or two; whereupon Gaff said that he just happened to be lookin' out for
a ship goin' there, as he had business to do in the great city, and
offered to work his way.  The skipper readily promised to ship him as an
extra hand, if the owner chose to send the `Coffin' to sea without
repairs, "which," observed Haco, "is not unlikely, for he's a
close-fisted customer."

"Who is he?" inquired Gaff.

"Stuart of Seaside Villa," said Haco.

"Ha! he _is_ a tough un," observed Gaff, with a significant grin.  "I
knows him well.  He don't much care riskin' fellers' lives, though I
never heard of him riskin' his own."

"He'd very near to answer for mine this voyage," said Haco, as well as
he could through a mouthful of steak and potato.

"How was that?"

"This is how it was," answered the skipper, bolting the mouthful, "you
see the `Coffin's' not in a fit state for sea; she's leaky all over, an'
there's a plank under the starboard quarter, just abaft the cabin
skylight, that has fairly struck work, caulk it and pitch it how you
please, it won't keep out the sea no longer, so when we was about to
take in cargo, I wrote to Mr Stuart tellin' him of it, an' advisin'
repairs, but he wrote back, sayin' it was very awk'ard at this time to
delay that cargo, an' askin' if I couldn't work the pumps as I had used
to do, besides hintin' that he thought I must be gettin' timid as I grew
old!  You may be sure I didn't think twice.  Got the cargo aboard; up
sail an' away.

"Well, it was blowin' a stiff nor'-wester when we got away, an' we
couldn't have beat into port again if our lives depended on it.  So I
calls the crew aft, an' told 'em how the matter stood.  `Now, lads,'
says I, `to speak plain English, the sloop is sinkin' so you had as well
turn to an' pump for yer lives, an' I'll show ye how.'  With that I off
coat an' set to work, an' took my turn the whole voyage.  But it was
touch an' go with us.  We nigh sank in the harbour here, an' I had to
run her ashore to perwent her goin' down in deep water.  They're
patchin' up the rotten plank at this minute, an' if old Stuart won't go
in for a general overhaul, we'll be ready for sea in a day or two, and
you'll have the pleasure o' navigatin' a lot o' wrecked Roosians to
London.  Now, waiter, ahoy!--"

"Yessir."

"Fetch me a pannikin o' tea, for it's dry work tellin' a anikdot.  You
see, Gaff, I'm a reg'lar teetotaller--never go the length o' coffee even
without a doctor's surtificate.  Another cup, Susan?"

"No thank 'ee, father, I couldn't."

"Werry good.  Now, Gaff, what's the 'ticklers o' _your_ case.  Time
about's fair play, you know."

Gaff, feeling a gush of confidence come over him, and having ascertained
that, in regard to secrecy, Susan was as "safe as the bank," related the
circumstances of the wreck, and his having left Emmie at her
grandfather's villa; the relation of all which caused Haco Barepoles to
give vent to a series of low grunts and whistles, expressive of great
surprise.

"Now," said Gaff in conclusion, "there's a land-shark, (by which I means
a lawyer), in London what writes to me that there's somethin' I'll hear
of to my advantage if I calls on him."

"Don't go," said Haco, stoutly, as he struck the table with his fist,
causing the crockery to rattle again; "take the advice of an old friend,
an' _don't go_.  If you do, he'll _do_ you."

"Thank'ee, an' I'd foller yer advice, but I happens to know this
land-shark.  He's an old acquaintance, an' I can trust him."

"Oh, that alters the case--well?"

"Well, but before I go," continued Gaff, "I wants to write a letter to
old Stuart to warn him to look arter Emmie; a very partikler letter."

"Ay, how much partikler a one?" inquired Haco.

"A hambigoo-ous one," replied his friend.

"A ham--what?" said Haco interrogatively.

"A ham-big-oo-ous one."

"What sort of a one may that be, mate?"

"Well," said Gaff, knitting his heavy brows, and assuming altogether a
learned aspect, "it's a one that you can't make head nor tail of nohow;
one as'll read a'rnost as well back'ard as for'ard, an' yet has got a
smack o' somethin' mysterious in it, w'ich shows, so to speak, to what
pint o' the compass your steerin' for--d'ye see?"

"H'm--rather hazy ahead," answered the skipper with a deeply sagacious
look; "a difficult letter to write in my opinion.  How d'ye mean to do
it?"

"Don't mean to do it at all.  Couldn't do it to save my life; but I'll
get a clerk to do it for me, a smart young clerk too; _you_ know who I
mean."

"Ay, who'll it be?  I'll never guess; never guessed a guess in my life."

"You know my darter Tottie?"

"What, blue-eyed Tottie? oh, yer jokin'!"

"Not a bit.  That child's a parfec' cooriosity of intelligence.  She can
write and read most wonderful for her age."

"But she'll never be able to do the ham--what d'ye call it?" suggested
Haco.

"Of course not; she's too young for that, but the wife'll do that.
You've no notion how powerful hambigoo-ous she is now an' again.  We'll
manage it amongst us.  Tottie can write like a parson, my wife can read,
though she can't write, an'll see that it's all c'rect, specially the
spellin' an' the makin' of it hambigoo-ous; an' I'll supply the idees,
the notions like, an' superintend, so to speak, an' we'll make little
Billy stand by wi' the blottin'-paper, just to keep him out o'
mischief."

Haco regarded his friend with deepening admiration.  The idea of
producing a "hambigoo-ous" letter by such an elaborate family
combination, in which each should supply his co-labourer's deficiency,
was quite new and exceedingly interesting to him.  Suddenly his
countenance became grave, as it occurred to him that there was no call
for such a letter at all, seeing that Kenneth Stuart was sure to do his
best to induce his father to take care of the child.  On observing this
to his friend, the latter shook his head.

"I'm not quite sure o' Mister Kenneth," said he, "it's likely that he'll
do the right thing by her, but `like father, like son' is an old
proverb.  He may be a chip o' the old block."

"That he is not," interrupted Haco warmly.  "I know the lad well.  He
takes after his poor mother, and I'm sartin sure ye may trust him."

"Well, I _must_ trust him," said Gaff, "but I've had no experience of
him; so I mean to `make assurance doubly sure,' as the prophet says, if
it wasn't the poet--an' that's why I'll write this letter.  If it don't
do no good, it won't do no harm."

"I'm not so sure o' that," said Haco, shaking his head as they rose to
depart, "hows'ever, you know best.  Now mind, Susan, not a word o' this
to any one."

Susan promised, and in the course of the evening related the whole
affair to Daniel Horsey "_in confidence_;" her conscience being
apparently relieved by the idea that having told it only in strict
confidence she had not broken her word!

Dan made her promise solemnly that she would tell the tale to no one
else on earth, either in confidence or otherwise, and thus he checked
the stream of gossip as close to its fountain-head as possible.



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

THE WRITING OF THE "HAMBIGOO-OUS" LETTER.

When Stephen Gaff approached his own cottage, he beheld his wife
belabouring the Bu'ster with both hands and tongue unmercifully.  What
special piece of mischief Billy had been doing is not of much
consequence.  It is enough to state that he suddenly planted the heel of
his naked foot somewhat effectively on his mother's little toe, which
chanced to be resting on a sharp stone at the moment, burst from her
grasp, and rushed down the steep bank to the beach cheering, weeping,
and laughing all at once, in a sort of hysterical triumph.

Mrs Gaff shouted at the top of her voice to the cherub to come back and
get mauled; but the cherub declined the invitation until he heard his
father's voice, when he returned joyously, and took shelter under his
wing.  Mrs Gaff, who could change at a moment's notice from the extreme
of anger to perfect quiescence, contented herself with shaking her fist
at the Bu'ster, and then relapsed from the condition of a fury into a
quiet, good-looking dame.

This appears to be the normal condition of fisher-folk, who would seem
to require to make use of an excessive amount of moral and physical
suasion in order suitably to impress their offspring.

"Now, Jess," said Gaff, leading his son by the hand; "let's set to work
at once wi' that there letter."

"What's all the hurry, Stephen?"

"I've just seed my old shipmate, Haco Barepoles, an' it's not unlikely
he'll be ready for sea day arter to-morrow; so the sooner we turn this
little job out o' hands the better.  Come, Tottie, you're a good _girl_;
I see you've purvided the paper and ink.  Get the table cleaned, lass,
and you, Billy, come here."

The Bu'ster, who had suddenly willed to have a shy at the household cat
with a small crab which he had captured, and which was just then
endeavouring vainly to ascend the leg of a chair, for a wonder did not
carry out his will, but went at once to his sire.

"Whether would ye like to go play on the beach, lad, or stop here and
hold the blottin'-paper while we write a letter?"

Billy elected to hold the blotting-paper and watch proceedings, being
curious to know what the letter was to be about.

When all was ready--the table cleared of everything except what
pertained to the literary work then in hand--Stephen Gaff sat down at
one end of the table; his wife drew her chair to the other end; Tottie,
feeling very proud and rather nervous, sat between them, with a new
quill in her hand, and a spotless sheet of foolscap before her.  The
Bu'ster stood by with the blot-sheet, looking eager, as if he rather
wished for blots, and was prepared to swab them up without delay.

"Are ye ready, Tot?" asked Gaff.

"Yes, quite," answered the child.

"Then," said Gaff; with the air of a general officer who gives the word
for the commencement of a great fight, "begin, an' fire away."

"But what am I to say, daddy?"

"Ah, to be sure, you'd better begin, Tottie," said Gaff, evidently in
perplexity; "you'd better begin as they teach you to at the school,
where you've larnt to write so butiful."

Here Mrs Gaff advised, rather abruptly, that she had better write,
"this comes hoping you're well;" but her husband objected, on the ground
that the words were untrue, inasmuch as he did not care a straw whether
the person to be written to was well or ill.

"Is't to a man or a 'ooman we're a-writin', daddie?" inquired the
youthful scribe.

"It's a gentleman."

"Then we'd better begin `dear sir,' don't you think?"

"But he an't dear to me," said Gaff.

"No more is he to me," observed his wife.

"Make it `sir,' plain `sir' means nothin' in partickler, I b'lieve,"
said Gaff with animation, "so we'll begin it with plain `sir.'  Now,
then, fire away, Tottie."

"Very well," said Tottie, dipping her pen in the ink-bottle, which was a
stone one, and had been borrowed from a neighbour who was supposed to
have literary tendencies in consequence of his keeping such an article
in his cottage.  Squaring her elbows, and putting her head _very_ much
on one side, to the admiration of her parents, she prepared to write.

The Bu'ster clutched the blotting-paper, and looked on eagerly, not to
say hopefully.

"Oh!" exclaimed Tottie, "it's _red_ ink; see."

She held up the pen to view, and no one could deny the fact, not even
Billy, who, feeling that he had repressed his natural flow of spirits
rather longer than he was accustomed to, and regarding the incident as
in some degree destructive of his mother's peace of mind, hailed the
discovery with an exulting cheer.

Mrs Gaff's palm instantly exploded like a pistol-shot on Billy's ear,
and he measured his length--exactly three feet six--on the floor.

To rise yelling, and receive shot number two from his mother, which sent
him headlong into the arms of his father, who gave him the red
ink-bottle, and bade him cut away and get it changed as fast as he could
scuttle--to do all this, I say, was the work of a moment or two.

Presently Billy returned with the same bottle, and the information that
the literary neighbour had a black-ink-bottle, but as there was no ink
in it he didn't think it worth while to send it.  A kind offer was made
of a bottle of shoe-blacking if the red ink would not do.

"This is awk'ard," said Gaff, rubbing his nose.

"Try some tar in it," suggested Mrs Gaff.

Gaff shook his head; but the suggestion led him to try a little soot,
which was found to answer admirably, converting the red ink into a rich
dark brown, which might pass for black.

Supplied with this fluid, which having been made too thick required a
good deal of water to thin it, Tottie again squared her elbows on the
table; the parents sat down, and the Bu'ster re-mounted guard with the
blotting-paper, this time carefully out of earshot.

"Now, then, `dear sir,'" said Tottie, once more dipping her pen.

"No, no; didn't I say, plain `Sir,'" remonstrated her father.

"Oh, I forgot, well--there--it--is--now, `_Plane sur_,' but I've not
been taught that way at school yet."

"Never mind what you've bin taught at school," said Mrs Gaff somewhat
sharply, for her patience was gradually oozing out, "do you what you're
bid."

"Why, it looks uncommon like _two_ words, Tottie," observed her father,
eyeing the letters narrowly.  "I would ha' thought, now, that three
letters or four at most would have done it, an' some to spare."

"Three letters, daddie!" exclaimed the scribe with a laugh, "there's
eight of 'em no less."

"Eight!" exclaimed Gaff in amazement.  "Let's hear 'em, dear."

Tottie spelled them off quite glibly.  "P-l-a-n-e, that's plane; s-u-r,
that's sur."

"Oh, Tot," said Gaff with a mingled expression of annoyance and
amusement, "I didn't want ye to _write_ the word `plain.'  Well, well,"
he added, patting the child on the head, while she blushed up to the
roots of her hair and all down her neck and shoulders, "it's not much
matter, just you score it out; there, go over it again, once or twice,
an' scribble through it,--that's your sort.  Now, can ye read what it
was?"

"No, daddie."

"Are ye sure?"

"Quite sure, for I've scratched it into a hole right through the paper."

"Never mind, it's all the better."

"Humph!" interjected Mrs Gaff.  "He'll think we began `dear sir,' and
then changed our minds and scratched out the `dear!'"

To this Gaff replied that what was done couldn't be undone, and ordered
Tottie to "fire away once more."

"What next," asked the scribe, a good deal flurried and nervous by this
time, in consequence of which she dipped the pen much too deep, and
brought up a globule of ink, which fell on the paper just under the word
that had been written down with so much pains, making a blot as large as
a sixpence.

The Bu'ster came down on it like lightning with the blot-sheet, and
squashed it into an irregular mass bigger than half-a-crown.

For this he received another open-hander on the ear, and was summarily
dismissed to the sea-beach.

By this time the family tea-hour had arrived, so Mrs Gaff proposed an
adjournment until after tea.  Tottie, who was now blotting the letter
with an occasional tear, seconded the motion, which was carried by
acclamation.  While the meal was being prepared, Gaff fondled Tottie
until she was restored to her wonted equanimity, so that after tea the
task was resumed with spirit.  Words and ideas seemed to flow more
easily, and the letter was finally concluded, amid many sighs of relief,
about bed-time.

Much blotted, and almost unreadable though it was, I think it worthy of
being presented to my readers without correction.

"I beggs to stait that ittle bee for yoor int'rest for to look arter
that air gurl cald Eme as was left yoor doar sum dais bak, if yoo doant
ittle bee wors for yer, yood giv yer eer an noas too to no wot i nos
abowt that gurl, it's not bostin nor yet threttenin I am, no, I'm in
Downrite arnist wen I sais as yool bee sorrie if yoo doant do it."

(This part was at first written, "if you doant look arter the gurl," but
by the advice of Mrs Gaff the latter part was cut out, and "doant do
it" substituted as being more hambigoo-ous and alarming!  The letter
continued:--)

"Now sur, i must cloas, not becaws my papers dun, no nor yet my idees,
but becaws a nods as good as a wink--yoo no the rest.  Wot ive said is
troo as gospl it's of no use tryn to find owt hoo _i_ am, caws whi--yoo
kant, and if yoo cood it wood doo yoo no good.

"Yoors to comand,

"The riter."

When this letter was placed in Mr Stuart's hands the following morning
he was in the act of concluding a conversation with Haco Barepoles.

"Well, Haco," he said, regarding the ill-folded and dirty epistle with
suspicion, as it lay on the table before him; "of course I have no wish
that men should risk their lives in my service, so you may lay up the
sloop in dock and have her overhauled; but I have always been under the
impression until now that you were a fearless seaman.  However, do as
you please."

Mr Stuart knew well the character of the man with whom he had to do,
and spoke thus with design.  Haco fired at once, but he displayed no
temper.

"Very likely I _am_ gittin' summat fusty an' weak about the buzzum," he
said, almost sadly.  "A man can't expect to keep young and strong for
ever, Mr Stuart.  Hows'ever, I'll look at her bottom again, an' if she
can float, I'll set sail with the first o' the ebb day arter to-morrow.
Good-day, sir."  Haco bowed and left the room quite modestly, for he
hated the very appearance of boasting; but when he was in the passage
his teeth snapped together like nut-crackers as he compressed his lips,
and on gaining the street he put on his hat with a bang that would have
ruinously crushed it had it not been made of some glazed material that
was evidently indestructible.

Going straight to the docks he gave orders to the carpenter to have all
tight before next morning--this in a tone that the carpenter knew from
experience meant, "fail if you dare."

Then he went up to the Home, and ordered his men and the Russians to get
ready for sea.  Thereafter he went away at full speed to Cove, with his
red locks and his huge coat-tails flowing in the breeze.  Rapping at the
door he was bid to enter.

"How are 'ee, lad?" said Haco to Uncle John, who was seated at the
fireside smoking.

"Thank'ee, rather shaky.  I must ha' bin pretty nigh finished that
night; but I feel as if I'd be all taught and ready for sea in a few
days."

"That's right!" said Haco heartily.  "Is Gaff hereabouts to-day?"

The man in request entered at the moment.

"Good-day, skipper," said Gaff, "I seed 'ee comin'.  Ony news?"

"Ay, the `Coffin' starts day arter to-morrow.  I just run down to let
you know.  Sink or swim, fair or foul, it's up anchor with the first o'
the mornin' ebb.  I'm goin' up to see Cap'n Bingley now.  Not a moment
to spare."

"Avast heavin'," said Gaff, pulling on a pilot coat; "I'm goin' with
'ee.  Goin' to jine the Shipwrecked Mariners' Society.  Since my last
swim I've bin thinkin' that three shillin's a year is but a small sum,
and the good that they'd do to my widder and childer, if I was drownded,
would be worth while havin'."

"Right, lad, right; every sailor and fisherman should jine it.  But come
along; no time for talkin' here.  My respects to the missus.  Good-bye,
lad."

Shaking hands with Uncle John, the restless skipper once more put on the
imperishable hat with inconceivable violence and left the hut, followed
by his friend.

Returning to Mr Stuart, we find him perusing the ambiguous letter.  His
first glance at the contents called forth a look of indignation, which
was succeeded by one of surprise, and that was followed by a smile of
contempt, mingled with amusement.

"Kenneth," he said, tossing the letter to his son, who entered at the
moment, "can you make anything of that?"

"Not much," replied Kenneth, who at once guessed that it came from Gaff.
"The persons who left the child here would appear to be mad, and
anxious to get rid of their own offspring.  But I came to tell you of
sad forebodings that fill my breast, father."

"Don't give way to forebodings, Kenneth," said the father gravely; "it
is unmanly, unreasonable."

"Well, suspicions, if you think the word more appropriate.  I fear much,
_very_ much, that my dear sister and poor Tom Graham were lost in the
last storm--"

"Why do you omit the child?" asked Mr Stuart quietly, almost coldly.

"I was thinking only of those whom I had known and loved when I spoke,"
replied Kenneth with some emotion.

"There is no _certainty_ that they are lost," observed Mr Stuart.

Kenneth thought there was a slight tremor in his father's voice, but, on
glancing at his stern features, he felt that he must have been mistaken.

"We know that the ship was telegraphed as having been seen in the
Channel; we have heard that they were passengers in her, and nothing has
been heard or seen of her since the night of the storm."

"There is no _certainty_ in all that," reiterated the other; "they may
not have come in that vessel; if they did, some of them may have
escaped.  We cannot tell."

Mr Stuart looked so cold and so sternly immovable as he said this,
while carelessly turning over some papers, that Kenneth, who had come
prepared to reveal all, resolved to keep his secret, believing that
there was no pity left in his father's breast.

As he lay awake and sorrowing that night he heard his father's step
pacing to and fro incessantly during the whole night, and hoped that the
loss he had in all probability sustained would break up the ice; but
next morning at breakfast he was as cold as ever.  He looked very pale,
indeed, but he was sterner and even more irascible than usual in regard
to the merest trifles, so Kenneth's resolution not to confide in his
father was confirmed.



CHAPTER TWELVE.

THE BU'STER WILLS TO ACCOMPLISH MISCHIEF, AND GETS INTO TROUBLE.

"At sea."--How differently do human beings regard that phrase!  To one
it arouses feelings akin to rapture; to another it is suggestive of
heavings and horror.  To him whose physical condition is easily and
disagreeably affected by aquatic motion, "at sea" savours of bad smells
and misery.  To him who sings of the intensity of his love for "a ride
on the fierce, foaming, bursting tide," "at sea" sounds like the sweet
ringing of a silver bell floating towards him, as if from afar, fraught
with the fragrance and melody of distant climes--such as coral isles,
icy mountains, and golden sands.

Let us regard the phrase in its pleasant aspect just now, good reader.

I have always loved the sea myself, from the hour I first set foot on
board a man-of-war and skylarked with the middies, to that sad and
memorable day when, under the strong--I might almost say irresistible--
influence of my strong-minded wife, I bade adieu to the royal navy for
ever, and retired into private life.  Alas!  But what is the use of
sighing?  If a man _will_ get born in his wrong century, he ought to lay
his account with being obliged to suffer much from the strange, I had
almost said childish, fallacies, follies, and inconsistencies peculiar
to the more early period in which his lot has been cast by mistake.

You see, reader, I have accepted my position.  There is a bare
possibility that those who have assigned it to me may be wrong, but I
have long ago ceased to dispute that point.

At sea!  Haco's sloop is there now, just out of sight of land, although
not far from it, and resting on as glassy a sheet of water as is ever
presented by the ocean in a deep dead calm.  Haco himself, big, hairy,
jovial, ruddy, is seated on the after skylight, the sole occupant of the
deck.

To look at him one might fancy that Neptune having found a deserted
ship, had clambered upon deck and sat him down to take a complacent view
of his wide domains, and enjoy a morning pipe.

It is early morning, and the other inhabitants of that floating house
are asleep below.

The "Coal-Coffin," albeit an unseaworthy vessel, is a picturesque
object.  Its dirty sails are of a fine rich colour, because of their
very dirtiness.  Its weather-worn and filthy spars, and hull and
rigging, possess a harmony of _tone_ which can only be acquired by age.
Its cordage being rotten and very limp, hangs, on that account, all the
more gracefully in waving lines of beauty and elegant festoons; the reef
points hang quite straight, and patter softly on the sails--in short,
the _tout ensemble_ of the little craft is eminently picturesque--
draped, as it were, with the mellowness of antiquity; and the whole--
hull, spars, sails, cordage, and reef points,--clearly and sharply
reflected in the depths below.

"Wot a splendid mornin'!" said Stephen Gaff, putting his head and
shoulders out of the after hatchway, and yawning violently.

"So 'tis, shipmet," responded the skipper, "a'most too butiful for this
world."

Both men spoke in subdued tones, as if unwilling to disturb the
delightful stillness of nature.  Gaff, having slowly raised himself out
of the hole in the deck which served as a door to the bandbox, termed,
out of courtesy, the cabin, looked up at the mast-head to see if the
vane indicated any wind; then he gazed slowly round the horizon.
Meeting with nothing particular there to arrest his eyes, he let them
fall on Haco, who was gazing dreamily at the bowl of his German pipe.

"Dead calm," said Gaff.

"Won't last long," said Haco.

"Won't it?"

"No.  Glass fallin' fast."

This seemed to be as much mental food as Gaff could comfortably digest
at that time, for he made no rejoinder, but, drawing a short black pipe
from his vest-pocket, sat down beside his friend, and filled and smoked
it in silence.

"How's the Roosians?" he inquired, after a long pause.

"All square," said the skipper, who was addicted somewhat to figurative
language and hyperbole in the form of slang, "another week in the
doctor's hands, an' the grub of the London Home, will set 'em up taught
an' trim as ever."

"Goin' to blow hard, think 'ee?" asked Gaff.

"Great guns," said Haco, puffing a cloud of smoke from his mouth, which
was at that time not a bad imitation of a _little_ gun.

"Soon?" inquired Gaff.

"P'r'aps yes, p'r'aps no."

Once more the seamen relapsed into a silence which was not again broken
until two of the crew and several Russians came on deck.

Haco gave orders to have the topsail reefed, and then commencing to pace
to and fro on the small deck, devoted himself entirely to smoke and
meditation.

Soon after, there was a loud cheer from Billy Gaff.  The Bu'ster had
suddenly awakened from an unbroken sleep of twelve hours, tumbled
incontinently out of his berth, rushed up the ladder, thrust his head
above the hatchway, and, feeling the sweet influences of that lovely
morning, vented his joy in the cheer referred to.

Billy had begged hard to be taken to London, and his father, thinking
that, the sooner he began the seafaring life to which he was destined,
the better, had consented to take him.

Billy willed to accomplish a great number of pieces of mischief during
the five minutes which he spent in gazing breathlessly round the ship
and out upon the glittering sea; but he was surrounded by so many
distracting novelties, and the opportunities for mischief were so
innumerable, that, for the first time in his life, he felt perplexed,
and absolutely failed to accomplish anything for a considerable time.

This calm, however, like the calm of nature, was not destined to last
long.

"Daddy," said the cherub suddenly, "I'm a-goin' up the shrouds."

"Very good, my lad," said Gaff, "ye'll tumble down likely, but it don't
much matter."

Billy clambered up the side, and seized the shrouds, but missing his
foothold at the first step, he fell down sitting-wise, from a height of
three feet.

There was a sounding thud on the deck, followed by a sharp gasp, and the
boy sat staring before him, considering, apparently, whether it were
necessary or not to cry in order to relieve his feelings.  Finding that
it was not, he swallowed his heart with an effort, got up, and tried it
again.

The second effort was more successful.

"That'll do, lad, come down," said Gaff, when his son had got half-way
up the mast, and paused to look down, with a half-frightened expression.

Contrary to all precedent, Billy came down, and remained quiet for ten
minutes.  Then he willed to go out on the bowsprit, but, being observed
in a position of great danger thereon, was summarily collared by a
sailor, and hauled inboard.  He was about to hurl defiance in the teeth
of the seaman, and make a second effort on the bowsprit, when Haco
Barepoles thrust his red head up the after-hatch, and sang
out--"breakfast!"

"Breakfast, Billy," repeated Gaff.

To which the cherub responded by rushing aft with a cheer, and
descending the square hole after his father.

Having been horribly sea-sick the first day of his voyage, and having
now quite recovered, Billy was proportionably ravenous, and it was a
long time before he ceased to demand and re-demand supplies of biscuit,
butter, and tea.  With appetite appeased at last, however, he returned
to the deck, and, allowing quarter of an hour for digestion and
reflection, began to consider what should next be done.

The opportunity for some bold stroke was a rare one, for the crew,
consisting of five men and a boy, were all forward, earnestly
endeavouring to pick acquaintance by means of signs with the
convalescent Russians, while Gaff and Haco were still below at
breakfast, so that Billy had the after part of the sloop all to himself.

He began operations by attempting to get at the needle of the compass,
but finding that this was secured powerfully by means of glass and
brass, he changed his mind, and devoted himself heart and soul to the
wheel.  Turning it round until the helm was hard down, he looked up at
the sails, and with some curiosity awaited the result, but the vessel
having no motion no result followed.

Failing in this he forced the wheel round with all his might and let it
go suddenly, so that it spun round with the recoil, and narrowly missed
knocking him down!

This was a pleasant source of amusement, uniting, as it did,
considerable effort and some danger, with the prospect of a smash in
some of the steering tackle, so Billy prepared to indulge himself; but
it struck him that the frequent recurrence of the accompanying noise
would bring the skipper on deck and spoil the fun, so on second thoughts
he desisted, and glanced eagerly about for something else, afraid that
the golden opportunity would pass by unimproved.

Observing something like a handle projecting from a hole, he seized it,
and hauled out a large wooden reel with a log-line on it.  With this he
at once began to play, dipping the log into the sea and hauling it up
repeatedly as though he were fishing, but there was want of variety in
this.  Looking about him he espied a lead-line near the binnacle; he cut
the lead from this, and fastening it to the end of the log-line, began
forthwith to take deep-sea soundings.  This was quite to his taste, for
when he stood upon the vessel's side, in order to let the line run more
freely, and held up the reel with both hands, the way in which it spun
round was quite refreshing to his happy spirit.  There must have been a
hitch in the line, however, for it was suddenly checked in its
uncoiling, and the violence of the stoppage wrenched the reel from his
grasp, and the whole affair disappeared beneath the calm water!

The Bu'ster's heart smote him.  He had not meant anything so wicked as
_that_.

"Ha! you young rascal, _I_ saw you," said one of the men coming up at
that moment.

Billy turned round with a start, and in doing so fell headlong into the
sea.

The sailor stood aghast as if paralysed for a moment, then--as Billy
rose to the surface with outstretched hands and staring eyes, and
uttered a yell which was suddenly quenched in a gurgling cry--he
recovered himself, and hastily threw a coil of rope towards the boy.

Now it is a curious and quite unaccountable fact, that comparatively few
sailors can swim.  At all events no one can deny the fact that there are
hundreds, ay, thousands, of our seafaring men and boys who could not
swim six yards to save their lives.  Strange to say, of all the men who
stood on the deck of that sloop, at the time of the accident to Billy,
(Russians included), not one could swim a stroke.  The result was that
they rushed to the stern of the vessel and gazed anxiously over the
side; some shouting one thing, and some another, but not one venturing
to jump overboard, because it was as much as his life was worth to do
so!

Several ropes were instantly thrown over the drowning boy, but being
blinded both by terror and salt water, he did not see them.  Then one of
the men hastily fastened the end of a line round his waist, intending to
spring over and trust to his comrades hauling him on board.  At the same
moment several men rushed to the stern boat, intent on lowering her.
All this occurred in a few brief seconds.  Billy had risen a second time
with another wild cry when his father and the skipper sprang up the
after-hatch and rushed to the side.  Haco dashed his indestructible hat
on the deck, and had his coat almost off, when Gaff went overboard, head
first, hat, coat, and all, like an arrow, and caught Billy by the hair
when he was about four feet below the surface.

Of course Gaff's re-appearance with his son in his arms was greeted with
heartfelt and vociferous cheers; and, of course, when they were hauled
on board, and Gaff handed Billy to the skipper, in order that he might
the more conveniently wring a little of the superabundant water from his
garments, another and a still more hearty cheer was given; but Gaff
checked it rather abruptly by raising himself and saying sternly--

"Shame on you, lads, for not bein' able to swim.  The child might ha'
drownded for all _you_ could do to help him.  A soldier as don't know
how to shoot is not much wuss than a sailor as don't know how to swim.
Why, yer own mothers--yer own _sweet-hearts_--might be a-drownin' afore
yer eyes, an' you'd have to run up an' down like helpless noodles, not
darin' to take to the water, (which ought to be your native element),
any more than a blue-nosed Kangaroo.  Shame on ye, I say, for not bein'
able to swim."

"Amen to that, say I," observed Haco with emphasis.  "Shame on stout
hulkin' fellers like you for not bein' able to swim, and shame on them
as steers the ship o' State for not teachin' ye.  You can put that in
yer pipes and smoke it, lads, an' if it don't smoke well, ye can make a
quid of it, and chew it.  If I could make quids o' them there
sentiments, I'd set up a factory an' send a inexhaustible supply to the
big-wigs in parlymint for perpetooal mastication.  There now, don't
stare, but go for'ard, an' see, two of you take in another reef o' the
mains'l.  If the glass speaks true, we'll be under my namesake--
barepoles--before long; look alive, boys!"

It was something new to the crew of the "Coal-Coffin" to be thus checked
in an enthusiastic cheer, and to be rebuked by the object of their
admiration for _not being able to swim_.

Deep and long was the discussion they had that evening around the
windlass on this subject.  Some held that it was absurd to blame men for
not being able, "when p'raps they couldn't if they wor to try."  Others
thought that they might have tried first before saying that "p'raps they
couldn't."  One admitted that it was nothing but laziness that had
prevented _him_ from learning, whereupon another opined that dirtiness
had something to do with it too.  But all agreed in wishing earnestly
that they had learned the noble and useful art, and in regretting deeply
that they had not been taught it when young.

The boy, who formed one of the crew, silently congratulated himself that
he _was_ young, and resolved in his own mind that he would learn as soon
as possible.

The sun set in the west, and the evening star arose to cheer the world
with her presence, while the greater luminary retired.  Slowly the day
retreated and dusky night came on.  One by one the stars shone out,
faintly at first, as if too modest to do more than glimmer, but stronger
and brighter, and more numerous by degrees, until the whole sky became
like a great resplendent milky way.

Still there was no evidence that a double-reef in the mainsail was
necessary; no indication that the weather-glass had told a truthful
tale.



CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

THE STORM, AND ITS CONSEQUENCES.

It came at length with awful speed and fury.

At first there was a stifling heat in the atmosphere; then clouds began
to dim the sky.  Mysterious and solemn changes seemed to be taking place
in nature--noiselessly for a time.  Ere long the war began with a burst
of heaven's artillery.  It was distant at first; muttering, prolonged,
and fitful, like the rattling musketry of advancing skirmishers.  Soon a
roar of deafening thunder rent the sky.  Another and another followed,
with blinding flashes of lightning between, while rain came down in
torrents.

The order had been given to take in the mainsail, and the little vessel
was almost under bare poles, when the storm burst upon it, and threw it
nearly on its beam-ends.

Righting from the first shock, it sprang away like a living creature
trying to escape from some deadly foe.  Ere long the waves were up and
the storm was raging in all its fury.

"If it holds like this till to-morrow, we'll be in port by noon," said
Haco Barepoles to Gaff as they stood near the wheel, holding on to the
backstays, and turning their backs to the seas that swept heavily over
the side from time to time.

"You speak as if you wor _sure_ o' gettin' in," said Gaff.

"Well, we an't sure o' nothin' in this world," replied the skipper; "if
Providence has willed it otherwise, we can't help it, you know.  We must
submit whether we will or no."

"D'ye know," rejoined Gaff, "it has often bin in my mind, that as
Christian men, (which we profess to be, whether we believe our own
profession or not), we don't look at God's will in the right way.  The
devil himself is obliged to submit to God whether he will or no, because
he can't help it.  Don't 'ee think it would be more like Christians if
we was to submit _because_ it is His will?"

Before Haco could answer, an enormous wave came curling over the stern.

"Mind your helm, lad!"

The words were scarce uttered when a heavy mass of water fell inboard,
almost crushing down the deck.  For some moments it seemed as if the
little vessel were sinking, but she cleared herself, and again rushed
onward.

That night the wind chopped round, and Haco was obliged to lay-to until
daylight, as the weather was thick.  Before morning the gale took off
and at sunrise had moderated into a stiff breeze.  All that day they
beat slowly and heavily against the wind, which, however, continued to
decrease.  At night the wind again veered round to the northward,
enabling the "Coal-Coffin" to spread most of her canvass, keep her
course, and bowl pleasantly along before the breeze.  But the weather
was still thick, necessitating a sharp look-out.

During most of this time our friend Billy was confined, much against his
will, to the bandbox cabin, where he did as much mischief as he could in
the circumstances.

Towards midnight, while Haco and Gaff were standing by the man on the
look-out, who was on the heel of the bowsprit, they fancied they
observed something looming up against the dark sky on the weather bow.

The look-out gave a shout.

"Port! port! hard a-port!" roared the skipper, at the same moment
bounding aft.

"Port it is!" replied the man at the wheel, obeying with promptitude.

The sloop sheered away to leeward.  At the same instant the hull of a
great vessel bore right down upon them.  The yell of the steam-whistle
betrayed her character, while the clanging of the fog-bell, and shouts
of those on board, proved that the sloop had been observed.  At the same
time the seething sea that flowed like milk round her bow, showed that
the engines had been reversed, while the captain's voice was heard
distinctly to shout "starboard! starboard hard!" to the steersman.

The promptitude with which these orders were given and obeyed, prevented
the steamer from running down the sloop altogether.  A collision,
however, was unavoidable.  The crew of the sloop and the Russians,
seeing this, rushed to the place where they expected to be struck, in
order to leap, if possible, into the head of the steamer.  Even the
steersman left his post, and sprang into the weather shrouds in the hope
of catching some of the ropes or chains below the bowsprit.

On came the steamer like a great mountain.  Her way had been so much
checked that she seemed merely to touch the side of the sloop; but the
touch was no light one.  It sent the cutwater crashing through bulwark,
plank, and beam, until the "Coal-Coffin" was cut right down amidships,
within a foot of the water-line.  There was a wild cry from the men as
they leaped towards their destroyer.  Some succeeded in grasping ropes,
others missed and fell back bruised and stunned on the sloop's deck.

Billy had been standing beside his father when the steamer was first
observed, and naturally clung to him.  Gaff put his left arm tight round
the boy, and with the others prepared for a spring, believing, as did
all the rest, that the sloop would be sunk at once.

Not so Haco Barepoles, who went to the wheel of his little vessel, and
calmly awaited the result.

Gaff's spring at the chains of the cutwater was successful, but in
making it he received a blow on the head from one of the swinging blocks
of the sloop which almost stunned him, insomuch that he could only cling
to the chain he had caught with the tenacity of despair.

One of the sailors observed him in this position of danger, and
instantly descending with a rope fastened it under his chest, so that he
and Billy were safely hauled on board, and the former was led below to
have his head examined by the surgeon.

Meanwhile the men in the bow of the steamer shouted to Haco to come on
board.

"No, thank'ee," replied the skipper, "shake yourself clear o' my riggin'
as fast as ye can, and let me continoo my voyage."

"Your sloop is sinking," urged the captain of the steamer.

"Not sinkin' yet; I'll stick to her as long as she can float."

"But you've none of your men left on board, have you?"

"No; better without 'em if they're so easy frightened."

As he said this one of his own men slid quickly down a rope that hung
from the steamer's bowsprit, and dropt on the deck of the sloop,
exclaiming--

"It'll never be said o' Tom Grattan that he forsack his ship so long as
a man wos willin' to stick by her."

Haco took Tom by the hand as he went aft and shook it.

"Any more comin'?" he said, glancing at the faces of the men that stared
down upon him.

There was no reply.

"You can't expect men to volunteer to go to the bottom," said the
captain of the steamer.  "You're mad, both of you.  Think better of it."

"Back your ship off, sir!" said Haco in a deep stern voice.

The order was given to back off, and the vessels were soon clear.  Haco
put his sloop at once on the larboard tack, and looking over the side
observed that the bottom of the yawning gap was thus raised nearly three
feet out of the water.

"Tom," said he, resuming his place at the wheel, "go and nail a bit of
canvas over that hole.  You'll find materials down below.  We'll have to
steer into port on this tack, 'cause if we try to go on the other,
she'll sink like a stone.  I only hope the wind'll hold as it is.  Look
alive now!"

In a few minutes the little craft was away and the captain of the
steamer, seeing that she did not sink, continued his course.

Next day Haco Barepoles steered the "Coal-Coffin" triumphantly into the
port of London, with a hole in her side big enough, if Tom Grattan's
report is to be believed, "to admit of a punt bein' row'd d'rect from
the sea into the hold!"



CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

GAFF AND BILLY BECOME THE SPORT OF FORTUNE, AND SEE STRANGE THINGS.

The steamer which had run down the sloop of Haco Barepoles was a large
iron one, which had just set out on a voyage to the West Indies.

Being anxious to send on shore the men whom he had so unexpectedly
picked up at sea, the captain hailed the first inward-bound vessel he
met with, and put them on board.  It was found, however, that the blow
received by Stephen Gaff had been more severe than was at first
imagined, and the doctor advised that he should not be moved until
farther down the Channel.  He and Billy were therefore retained on
board; but when the steamer passed the Isle of Wight, the weather became
thick and squally, and continued so for several days, so that no vessel
could be spoken with.

In these circumstances the captain was compelled to carry Gaff and his
boy away to sea, much to the regret of the former, who was curious to
know what the news could be that was to be to his advantage in London,
besides being grieved at the anxiety his sudden disappearance with Billy
would cause to his wife.

The Bu'ster did not by any means share the regret or grief of his
father.  To that amiable cherub the whole affair was a piece of
unexpected and unparalleled good fortune.  It was the realisation to
some extent of his rapturous dreams of travel and adventure in foreign
lands, and it freed him, at one fell swoop, from the iron yoke of his
mother.

Billy, although he congratulated himself on the deliverance, did,
strange to say, shed a few tears in memory of his mother, for the boy
had an affectionate disposition, and really loved his mother, and would
have shown his love too if she would have let him.

Gaff feared there was but little prospect of being speedily delivered
from the steamer; nevertheless he begged the captain to put him on board
the first homeward-bound vessel they should meet with.  To this request
the captain agreed.

An opportunity occurred sooner than had been expected.  On the afternoon
of the fifth day out, a large barque hove in sight.  On nearing this
vessel the captain ran up his colours, and the signal was replied to by
the Union Jack.  On being asked as to where they were bound, the port of
Liverpool was signalled in answer.

"You're in luck.  Gaff," said the captain; "I'll put you on board of
that barque if you choose."

"Thank 'ee, sir, I'd like it well."

"I rather think that your little boy would prefer to go with _us_,"
added the captain, laughing.

Billy at once admitted that he would, and begged to be allowed to stay
where he was, but this request could not be granted.

"Now, Gaff," said the captain confidentially, "if you're short o' cash
I'll be happy to--"

"Thank'ee, sir, I've as much as I require."

"Very well, then, you'd better get ready, and I'll order a boat to be
lowered."

Half an hour afterwards Gaff stood on the deck of the barque, waving his
hat to the few friends he had made during his short stay in the steamer.

The barque turned out to be a South Sea whaler from New York, which had
suffered severely in a recent gale which had driven her far out of her
course to the northward.  She was obliged to run to Liverpool for
repairs.  The captain, whose name was Graddy, and who was one of the
most ill-favoured and ill-mannered men that Gaff had ever set eyes on,
agreed to take the newcomer to England on condition that he should work
his way besides paying for his rations.

There was something about this vessel which was very offensive to the
critical eye of Gaff.  The nature of her work might account for her
being so dirty; but that was no reason for the slovenliness of her
rigging and general management, the surliness and tyranny of her
captain, and the semi-mutinous condition of her crew.

The crew was a mixed one.  There seemed to be representatives of at
least half a dozen nations.  The captain himself was of mixed blood, and
no one could have told from his look or speech to what nation he
belonged.  He was a big powerful man, much feared by the crew, who hated
him cordially.  He was well aware of this, and returned the hatred with
interest.  Besides this, being monarch of the ship, he worried them in
every way that lay in his power.

It is awful to think of the ruinous effects of sin, and how nearly men
can come to resemble devils.  This monster actually laid plots to entrap
his men in order that he might have an excuse to vent his hatred on
them.

Gaff soon found that he had got into a nest, so to speak, of evil
spirits.  Before he had been two days with them, he would have given all
he possessed, or ever hoped to possess, in order to escape from the
"Rattlesnake," which was the vessel's name.

As for Billy, his heart sank to a depth of woe he had never hitherto
conceived of.  Every one kicked and cuffed him and swore at him for
being in the way, and when he was wanted he was kicked, cuffed, and
sworn at for being out of the way.  Poor boy! his dreams had never
presented him with _this_ species of adventure.

So bad did the state of things become that the men began to talk among
themselves of deserting the moment they should reach port, no matter
what should be the consequences.  This threat reached the captain's
ears, and he frustrated it by telling the mate that he thought the
needful repairs could be managed on board by the ship's carpenters; and
so gave orders to alter the course for South America!

Deep and fierce were the counsels that went on in the forecastle that
night among the men.  Some hinted darkly at murder.  Others suggested
that the captain should be put on shore on a desert island and left to
his fate.  All agreed that something must be done, that a decisive blow
must be struck, with the exception of Gaff, who remained silent while
his shipmates were discussing the matter.

Observing this they called upon him for his opinion.

"Lads," said he in decided tones, "I've got no opinion to offer.  I am--
at least I strive to be--a Christian man; an', to be plain with ye, I
won't go for to consult or act with murderers, or mutineers, or pirates,
which it appears you intend to become, if you're not that a'ready.  One
opinion I will give ye, however, an' one piece of advice I'll offer.
The opinion is, that if you go on as you've bin a-goin' on since I came
aboard, you'll all live to be hanged.  The advice is, that you should
face yer troubles like men--take things as ye find 'em, an' if ye can't
mend 'em, why grin and bear 'em."

The crew received this in varied mood.  Some laughed, others swore, and
one suggested that Gaff should be thrown overboard.

This latter, who was a big strong man, and a sort of bully among his
mates, shook his fist at Gaff, and said--

"Now, I'll tell ye wot it is, Mister Toogood, if you go for to tell the
cap'n wot we've bin a-talkin' about, I'll knock yer two daylights into
one, so see that ye keep yer tongue in order."

"What's past is past," said Gaff quietly; "but I tell ye plainly, that
if you let _your_ tongues go the same pace again in my hearin', I'll go
aft and report ye.  I'll be no spy, but I give ye fair warnin'."

At this the bully lost command of himself.  Seizing an iron bar that lay
on a chest close by, he rushed at Gaff with the evident intention of
felling him.  But the latter was on his guard.  He was active and
powerful too, besides being quite cool.  Leaping nimbly aside, he
avoided the bully's onset, and at the same moment laid him flat on the
deck with one blow of his fist.

"Sarves him right!"

"So it does!" exclaimed several of the men, who were not sorry to see
one whom they disliked so roughly handled.

"Well, so it does sarve him right," added one who had been a prominent
speaker in the recent debates; "but hark'ee, friend," he said, turning
to Gaff with a scowl, "you can't knock the whole crew down in that
fashion.  I advise ye, for your own sake, to mind what ye're about."

"I means to do so," said Gaff; "I'll stick to my dooty and to the
cap'n."

"Very good," replied the other with a sneer, "then wotiver is the
cap'n's fate you'll have the pleasure of sharin' it with him."

"Tumble up there! tumble up, an' reef tops'ls!" roared the captain down
the hatch at that moment.

The men obeyed, and for the time their mutinous intentions seemed to
have been dismissed.  For many weeks after this Gaff heard nothing that
could lead him to suppose that the men still harboured their dark
designs.  Yet the state of affairs on board became worse and worse.  The
captain cursed and tyrannised more than ever, and the men grew sulkier
and more wretched, but no word of a murderous nature was ever uttered in
the hearing of Gaff or his little son.

As for Billy his small mind had received such a rude shock by the sudden
and terrible change in his circumstances, that he seemed to have lost
all his wonted vivacity as well as his mischief.  In fact, both
qualities, or tendencies, had been thoroughly kicked out of him before
he had been a week on board.  He was protected to some extent by his
father, who one day quietly knocked another of the men down for giving
Billy an undeserved beating; but some of them kicked and cuffed the poor
boy when his father was not present.

Billy was found to be active and useful in small matters and light
duties suited to his age, and in the course of time was appointed to the
position of steward's assistant, in which capacity he became deeply
learned in the matter of washing cups, dishes, etcetera, besides
acquiring a knowledge of baking, pudding-making, and many other useful
arts more or less allied to cookery; in addition to which he had the
inestimable benefit of being taught thoroughly submission and
obedience--a lesson which the Bu'ster found very hard to learn, and
thought particularly grievous, but which at his age, and considering his
previous training, was an absolute blessing.

The way in which that cherub went about that ship in a little blue
jacket, straw hat, and canvas trousers, rubbing and cleaning, and
according prompt obedience at all times to every one, would have charmed
his mother as much as it gratified his father, who was in consequence
somewhat reconciled to his otherwise hard lot.

Now, philosophical reader--if such you be--do not suppose that I
advocate kicking and cuffing as the best possible cure for general
mischievousness and badness in a boy.  By no means.  My strong-minded
wife says I do; but then she always forms, or rather partially forms,
her opinions on assumptions, retains them in confusion, states them at
haphazard, according to her mood at the time being, and, having stated
them, sticks to them like a limpet to a rock.

You will judge differently when I explain my ideas on this point.  I
maintain that Billy Gaff, _alias_ the Bu'ster, was taught to accord
obedience--simple obedience and nothing else--by means of the kicking
and cuffing he received on board of that whaler; and, further, that the
method is a sure one.  I do not say that it is the _best_ one, but that
does not affect the fact that it is almost infallible.  It was reserved
for Billy's father, however, by means of wise counsels, kindly given
advice, and otherwise affectionate treatment, to save Billy from being
turned into an obedient but misanthropic brute, and to lead him to
accord his obedience, not because he could not help it, but because his
father wished him to do it.

This appeal went right home to Billy's heart, because he loved his
father fervently.  He had always loved him in time past, now more than
ever, for the poor boy regarded him much as a drowning man regards the
solitary plank to which he clings as his last hope.  Thus did Billy
practically learn the great truth, that "Love is the fulfilling of the
law."

Weeks rolled on; gales succeeded calms, and calms succeeded gales.  The
"line" was passed; southern seas were reached; new constellations
glittered overhead; strange fish and luminous creatures gambolled in the
sea, and the whalers' fishing-ground was entered.  Latterly the men had
ceased to grumble at the captain, although he had by no means ceased to
swear at and bully the men, and Gaff began to hope that they had got
over their bad fit, and were going to settle down to work peaceably.

The calm, however, was deceitful; it preceded a storm.

One sultry afternoon when Gaff was standing at the helm and the captain
beside him, the men came aft in a body, and two of their number, with
pistols in their hands, advanced to seize the captain.

He saw at once what they meant to do, and, springing back, seized a
handspike.

"Lay that down and surrender, else I'll blow out yer brains," said one
of the two, levelling his pistol.

Instead of obeying, the captain raised the heavy handspike, and the man
pulled the trigger.  At the same instant Gaff struck up the muzzle with
his hand; the ball passed over the captain's head, and the handspike
descended on the seaman's crown felling him at once.

Upon this the entire crew made a rush and overpowered Gaff and the
captain.  The latter, who struggled with the fury of a tiger, was kicked
while down until he was nearly dead.  Gaff at once gave in, knowing that
any attempt at further resistance, besides being hopeless, would only
render matters worse.  He was therefore allowed to rise, and his hands
were tied behind his back.

The captain, being similarly secured, was raised to his feet.

"Now, you tyrant," said the ringleader of the crew with a terrible oath,
"how would you like to have your throat cut?"

The man slowly opened a long clasp-knife as he spoke, and felt its keen
edge with his thumb.  Blood was flowing down his face and breast from
the wound inflicted by the handspike, and the fiendish expression of his
countenance, added to the terribleness of his aspect, while it showed
that his sarcastic question would certainly be followed by the murderous
deed.  But the other mutineers restrained him.

"It's too good for him, make him walk the plank and drown like a dog--as
he is," cried one.

"Hang him up to the yard-arm," said another.

Several voices here expressed dissent, and an elderly seaman stepped
forward and said that they didn't intend to become pirates, so they had
better not begin with murder.

"Hear, hear!" from several voices emphatically.

"What'll we do with him, then?" inquired one in angry excitement.

Upon this they all began to consult noisily, and they were so much
engrossed that they failed to perceive the movements of Billy, who, when
his first alarm at the uproar was over, began to feel deep anxiety in
regard to his father's bound and helpless condition.  His active mind
did not remain long paralysed; pulling out the clasp-knife which he
always carried in his pocket, he quickly cut the cords that fastened
Gaff's wrists.  Before the latter could avail himself of his freedom the
act was discovered, and he was secured again more firmly than before,
while Billy was favoured with a slap on the ear so tremendous that it
threw all those he had ever received from his mother utterly into the
shade!

Recovering from this, he sat down on the deck at his father's feet, and
wept silently.

In a few minutes the mutineers agreed among themselves.  One of the
smallest boats in the ship was lowered, and the captain and Gaff having
been cast loose were ordered to get into it.  The former obeyed at once,
pronouncing a terrible curse on the crew as he went down the side.

One of the men at the same time threw a bag of biscuit into the boat.

"Come along, Billy," said Gaff, as he followed the captain.

The boy was about to do so, when one of the men seized him and pulled
him back.

"No, no," said he, "the lad's useful, and will only eat up your biscuit
faster than need be.  We'll keep him aboard."

Gaff listened to this with an expression of agony on his rugged
features.

"Oh, have mercy on my son!" he cried, as they cast the boat adrift.
Then feeling that an appeal to such desperadoes was useless, he clasped
his hands, and, looking up to Heaven, prayed God, for Christ's sake, to
deliver him from the company of sinful men.

A light breeze was blowing, and the ship, which had been hove-to while
the boat was being lowered, soon gathered way, and left the boat behind.

All of a sudden Billy broke away, and, rushing towards the stern, sprang
wildly into the sea!

"Down with the helm! heave-to!" shouted some of the men.

"No, no, let the whelp go," cried others; "besides, he'd be able to
peach on us."

This last argument was all-powerful.  The ship held on her course, and
Billy was left to his fate.

The moment that Gaff saw him take the leap he seized the oars, and
applying all his strength to them, succeeded in catching hold of his son
before his struggles had ceased.

Billy was none the worse for his adventure beyond the ducking.  Gaff
soon wrung the water out of his garments, and then placing him on his
knee, sat down to watch the ship as it sailed slowly away.

The captain, who sat in the stern with his chin resting in his hand, and
a dark scowl on his face, also watched the retreating vessel.

Soon it glimmered like the wing of a sea-mew on the horizon, and then,
just as night began to set in, it disappeared, leaving the boat a
solitary speck in the midst of the great wide sea.



CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

THE DINNER PARTY--A SUDDEN PIECE OF QUESTIONABLE GOOD FORTUNE BEFALLS
MRS. GAFF.

"It is a most unfortunate piece of good fortune this that has befallen
Mrs Gaff," said Mr George Stuart, "a very unfortunate thing indeed."

"Dear me, do you think so?  Now I don't agree with you at all, brother,"
observed Miss Peppy.  "I think that good fortune is always good fortune,
and never can be bad fortune.  I wish it would only come to me
sometimes, but it never does, and when it does it never remains long.
Only think how she'll flaunt about now, with a coach-and-four perhaps,
and such like.  I really think that fortune made a mistake in this case,
for she has been used to such mean ways, not that I mean anything bad by
mean, you know, but only low and common, including food and domestic
habits, as well as society, that--that--dear me, I don't exactly know
how to express myself, but it's a puzzle to me to know how she'll ever
come to be able to spend it all, indeed it is.  I wonder why we are
subjected to such surprises so constantly, and then it's _so_ perplexing
too, because one will never be able to remember that she's not a
fisherwoman as she used to be, and will call her Jessie in spite of
one's-self; and how it ever came about, that's another puzzle.  But
after all there is no accounting for the surprising way in which things
_do_ come about, dear me, in this altogether unaccountable world.  Take
a little more soup, Captain Bingley?"

The above observations were made by Miss Peppy and my friend Stuart,
from the head and foot respectively of their dinner-table, around which
were assembled my wife, my niece Lizzie Gordon, an elderly spinster
named Miss Eve Flouncer, a Miss Martha Puff, (niece to Miss Flouncer), a
baronet named Sir Richard Doles, my son Gildart, and Kenneth Stuart.

I was seated beside Miss Peppy, opposite to Sir Richard Doles, who was
one of the slowest, dullest, stupidest men I ever met with.  He appeared
to me to have been born without any intellect.  When he told a story
there was no end to it, indeed there seldom was anything worthy the name
of a beginning to it, and it never by the remotest chance had any point.

In virtue of his rank, not his capacity of course, Sir Richard was in
great demand in Wreckumoft.  He was chairman at every public meeting;
honorary member of every society; a director in the bank, the insurance
company, the railway, the poorhouse, and the Sailors' Home; in all of
which positions and institutions he was a positive nuisance, because of
his insane determination to speak as long as possible, when he had not
the remotest notion of what he wished to say, so that business was in
his presence brought almost to a dead lock.  Yet Sir Richard was
tolerated; nay, courted and toadied, because of his title.

My wife was seated opposite to Miss Eve Flouncer, who was one of the
strong-minded women.  Indeed, I think it is but just to say of her that
she was one of the strongest-minded women in the town.  In her presence
the strength of Mrs Bingley's mind dwindled down to comparative
weakness.  In form she was swan-like, undulatory, so to speak.  Her
features were _prononce_; nose, aquiline; eyes, piercing; hair, black as
night, and in long ringlets.

Miss Flouncer was, as I have said, an elderly spinster.  Sir Richard was
an elderly bachelor.  Miss Flouncer thought of this, and often sighed.
Sir Richard didn't think of it, and never sighed, except when, having
finished a good dinner, he felt that he could eat no more.  By the way,
he also sighed at philanthropic meetings when cases of distress were
related, such as sudden bereavement, coupled, perhaps, with sickness and
deep poverty.  But Sir Richard's sighs were all his contributions to the
cause of suffering humanity.  Sometimes, indeed, he gave it his
blessing, though it would have puzzled the deepest philosopher to have
said what that consisted in, but he never gave it his prayers, for this
reason, that he never prayed for himself or anybody else.  He held that
this world was in a sufficiently satisfactory condition, and advised
that men should let well alone, and contended that any attempt to
interfere with its arrangements in the way of prayer was quite
indefensible.  He did indeed read his prayers in church on Sundays, in a
very loud and distinct voice, to the great annoyance and distraction,
not to say irritation, of all who sat within fifty yards of him, but
this he regarded as a commendable institution of the country.  But to
return to Miss Flouncer.

This state of affairs between Sir Richard and herself did not augur much
for her prospects; but then she was a very strong-minded woman, and had
hopes; whereas Sir Richard was a very weak-minded man, and had no hopes
of any kind worth mentioning, being perfectly satisfied--good, easy
man--with things as they then stood.

Miss Martha Puff was niece to Miss Flouncer--age apparently sixteen.  It
struck me, as I sat looking at her placid face, that this young lady was
well named.  Her pink round visage was puffed up with something so soft
that I could scarcely venture to call it fat.  Her round soft arms were
so puffy to look at, that one could not help fearing that an accidental
prick from a pin would burst the skin and let them out.  She seemed so
like trifle in her pink muslin dress, that I could imagine a puff of
wind blowing her away altogether.  She could not be said to be puffed up
with conceit, poor girl; but she dined almost exclusively on puff paste,
to the evident satisfaction of my gallant son Gildart, who paid her
marked attention during dinner.

Miss Puff never spoke except when spoken to, never asked for anything,
never remarked upon anything, did not seem to care for anything, (puff
paste excepted), and never thought of anything, as far as I could judge
from the expression of her countenance.  Gildart might as well have had
a wax doll to entertain.

"To what unfortunate piece of good fortune does your brother refer, Miss
Stuart?" asked Sir Richard when Miss Peppy had concluded her
observations in regard to it.

"Is it possible that you have not heard of it?" exclaimed Miss Peppy in
surprise.  "Why, the town has been ringing with it for a fortnight at
least, and those odious creatures, the gossips, (who never come near me,
however, because they know I will not tolerate them), have got up all
sorts of wild stories, showing that the man must have got the money by
foul means, though I don't know, I'm sure, why he shouldn't have got a
surprise as well as anybody else, for the unaccountable and astonishing
way in which things _do_ happen in this world, at least to human beings,
for I do not believe that cows or sheep or horses ever experience them;
the want of expression on their faces shows that, at all events they
never leave their offspring at people's doors, and then go away
without--"

"You'd better tell Sir Richard what piece of news you refer to, my
dear," interrupted Mr Stuart, somewhat testily.

"Ah yes, I was forgetting--(a little more fowl, Captain Bingley?  May I
trouble you _again_, Sir Richard? thank you--a leg, if you please, I
know that the Captain prefers a leg)--well, as I was saying--let me see,
what _was_ I saying?"

"You had only got the length of forgetting, ma'am," observed the
baronet.

"Ah, to be sure, I was forgetting to tell you that Mrs Gaff has fallen
heir to ten thousand pounds."

Sir Richard exclaimed, with an appearance of what might have been
mistaken for surprise on his face, "Indeed!"

Miss Flouncer, to whom the news was also fresh, exclaimed, "You _don't_
say so!" with strong emphasis, and an immensely swan-like undulation of
her body.

"Indeed I do," continued Miss Peppy with much animation; "Mrs Gaff, the
fisherman's wife, has got a fortune left her amounting to ten thousand
pounds, which, at five per something or other, as my brother tells me,
yields an annual income of 500 pounds."

"But who left it to her, and how?" asked Sir Richard.

"Ah, who left it, and how?" echoed Miss Flouncer.

"What a jolly thing to be left five hundred a year!" whispered Gildart.
"Wouldn't you like some one to leave that to you, Miss Puff?"

"Yes," said Miss Puff.

"Have you any rich East Indian uncle or aunt who is likely to do it?"
inquired Gildart with a desperate attempt at jocularity.

"No," answered Miss Puff.

These two words--yes and no--were the utmost extent to which Miss Puff
had yet ventured into the dreaded sea of conversation.  I could perceive
by the fagged expression of his face that the middy was beginning to
lose heart.

"Brother," said Miss Peppy, "you had better tell Sir Richard how it
happened.  I have _such_ a memory--I really don't remember the details.
I never _could_ remember details of anything.  Indeed I have often
wondered why details were sent into this world to worry one so.  It _is_
so surprising and unaccountable.  Surely we might have got on quite well
without them."

"Well, you know," observed Gildart in a burst of reckless humour, "we
could not get on very well, Miss Stuart, without some sorts of details.
Ox-tails, for instance, are absolutely necessary to the soup which we
have just enjoyed so much.  So, in like manner, are pig-tails to
Chinamen."

"Ay, and coat-tails to puppies," added Kenneth slyly, alluding to a bran
new garment which the middy had mounted that day for the first time.

"Perhaps," interposed Miss Flouncer, "after such bright coruscations of
wit, Mr Stuart may be allowed to go on with his--"

"Wittles," whispered Gildart in Miss Puff's ear, to the alarm of that
young lady, who, being addicted to suppressed laughter, was in horror
lest she should have a fit.

"Allowed to go on," repeated Miss Flouncer blandly, "with his tale of
this unfortunate piece of good fortune, which I am sure Sir Richard is
dying to hear."

"It can hardly be called a tale," said Mr Stuart, "but it is a curious
enough circumstance.  You remember Stephen Gaff, Sir Richard?"

"Perfectly.  He is the man who appeared in the village of Cove rather
mysteriously some months ago, is he not?"

"The same," returned Mr Stuart; "and it was he who accompanied Haco
Barepoles in my sloop, which he persists in naming the `Coffin,'
although its proper name is the `Betsy Jane,' on that memorable voyage
when Haco sailed her into port on the larboard tack after she had been
cut down to the water's edge on the starboard side.  Well, it seems that
Gaff went with him on that occasion in consequence of having received a
letter from a London lawyer asking him to call, and he would hear
something to his advantage.

"You all know the way in which the people were taken out of the sloop by
the steamer which ran into her, and how they were all landed safely
except Gaff and his son William, who were carried away to sea.  You are
aware, also, that the steamer has since then returned to England,
telling us that Gaff and his boy were put on board a barque bound for
Liverpool, and that this vessel has never made its appearance, so that
we have reason to believe that it has perished in one of the great
storms which occurred about that time.

"Well," continued Mr Stuart, helping Mrs Bingley to a glass of sherry,
"not long ago I had occasion to send Haco Barepoles to London, and he
bethought him of the lawyer who had written to Gaff, so he called on him
and told him of his friend's disappearance.  The lawyer then asked if
Gaff's wife was alive, and on being informed that she was, he told Haco
that Gaff had had a brother in Australia who had been a very successful
gold digger, but whose health had broken down owing to the severity of
the work, and he had left the diggings and gone to Melbourne, where he
died.  Before his death this brother made a will, leaving the whole of
his fortune to Stephen.  The will stated that, in the event of Stephen
being dead, or at sea on a long voyage, the money should be handed over
unconditionally to his wife.  About three weeks ago the lawyer came here
to see Mrs Gaff, and make arrangements and inquiries, and in the course
of a short time this poor woman will be in possession of ten thousand
pounds."

"It will be the ruin of her, I fear," said Sir Richard.

"No doubt of it," observed Miss Flouncer, emphatically.

"It is always the way," said my wife.

"D'ye think it would ruin _you_?" whispered Gildart.

This being an impertinent question, Miss Puff blushed, and made no
reply.

"You need not be at all afraid of Mrs Gaff being ruined by prosperity,"
said Lizzie Gordon, with sudden animation.  "I have seen a good deal of
her during her recent sorrows, and I am quite sure that she is a good
sensible woman."

"What sorrows do you refer to, Miss Gordon?" asked Sir Richard.

"To her husband and son's sudden disappearance, and the death of her
brother-in-law John Furby," replied Lizzie.  "Uncle, you can tell more
about the matter than I can."

"Yes," said I; "it has been my lot to witness a good many cases of
distress in my capacity of agent for the Shipwrecked Mariners' Society,
and I can answer for it that this has been a very severe one, and the
poor woman has borne up against it with Christian fortitude."

"How did it happen?  Pray _do_ tell us about it," cried Miss Flouncer,
with an undulating smile.

"How does it happen, Miss Flouncer, that you are not already acquainted
with these things?"

"Because I have been absent from home for more than two months, and, if
I mistake not, Sir Richard's ignorance rests on somewhat similar
foundation."

Miss Flouncer smiled and undulated towards the baronet, who, being thus
pointedly appealed to, smiled and bowed in return, and begged that I
would relate the facts of the case.

I observed that my son Gildart pressed Miss Puff to attempt another
tart, and whispered something impertinent in her ear, for the poor
thing's pink round face suddenly became scarlet, and she puffed out in a
dangerously explosive manner with suppressed laughter.

"Well then," said I, addressing myself to Miss Flouncer, "a month or so
before the lawyer brought Mrs Gaff tidings of her good fortune, her
brother-in-law John Furby was drowned.  The brave fellow, who, you are
aware, was coxswain of our lifeboat, and has helped to save many a life
since he was appointed to that post of danger, went off in his own
fishing-boat one day.  A squall upset the boat, and although the
accident was seen from the shore, and several boats put off at once to
the rescue, four of the crew perished, and Furby was one of these.

"The scene in Gaff's cottage when the body was carried in and laid on
the bed, was heartrending for the woe occasioned to poor Mrs Gaff by
the recent loss of her husband and little boy was, as it were, poured
upon her head afresh, and for some time she was inconsolable.  My good
niece went frequently to read the Bible and pray with her, and I believe
it was the blessed influence of God's word that brought her at length to
a state of calm resignation.  What made her case worse was the fact,
that, both husband and brother-in-law being taken away, she was left in
a state of absolute destitution.  Now, at this point she began to feel
the value of the noble institution of which I have the happiness of
being an honorary agent--I mean the Shipwrecked Fishermen and Mariners'
Society.  Poor Furby had been a member for several years, and regularly
paid his annual sum of three shillings.  Stephen Gaff had also become a
member, just before starting on his last voyage, having been persuaded
thereto by Haco Barepoles, who is a stanch adherent and advocate of our
cause.  Many a sailor has Haco brought to me to enrol as a member, and
many a widow and fatherless child has had occasion to thank God that he
did so.  Although Gaff had only paid his first year's contribution of
three shillings, I took upon me to give the sum of 5 pounds to Mrs Gaff
and her little girl, and the further sum of 3 pounds because of Furby's
membership.  This sum was quite sufficient to relieve her from want at
the time, so that, in the midst of her deep affliction, she was spared
the additional pains and anxieties of destitution."

"The society is a most noble one," said Miss Flouncer, with a burst of
enthusiasm.

"It is," said I, much pleased with her warmth of manner; "I think--at
least if my memory does not play me false--you are a contributor to its
funds, are you not?"

"Well, a--no.  I have not the pleasure--a--"

Miss Flouncer was evidently a little put out.

"Then I trust, my dear madam," said I, hasting to her relief by
affording her an opportunity of being generous, "that you will allow me
to put down your name as an annual subscriber."

Miss Flouncer, being a _very_ strong-minded woman, had recovered herself
very suddenly, and replied with calm deliberation, accompanied by an
undulation--

"No, Captain Bingley, I have made it a rule never to give charity from
impulse; I always give, when I _do_ give--"

"Ahem!" coughed Gildart slightly.

"When I _do_ give," repeated Miss Flouncer, "from principle, and after a
careful examination of the merits of each particular case."

"Indeed!" said Sir Richard, with an appearance of faint surprise; "what
a bore you must find the examination of the cases!"

"By no means, Sir Richard.  _Very_ little time suffices for each case,
for many of them, I find, almost intuitively, merit dismissal on the
spot; and I assure you it saves a great deal of money.  You would be
surprised if you knew how little I find it necessary to give away in
charity in the course of the year."

Miss Flouncer undulated at Sir Richard as she gave utterance to this
noble sentiment, and Mrs Bingley applauded it to Mr Stuart, who took
no notice of the applause, and indicated no opinion on the point
whatever.

"Now," continued Miss Flouncer, firmly, "before I become a subscriber to
your society, Captain Bingley.  I must be quite certain that it
accomplishes much good, that it is worthy of support."

Being somewhat fired by the doubt that was implied in this speech, I
replied with warmth--

"My dear madam, nothing will gratify me more than to enlighten you."

Hereupon I began an address, the substance of which is set down in the
following chapter.



CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

JACK TAR BEFORE AND AFTER THE INSTITUTION OF THE S.F.M.S.

One beautiful evening in autumn, many years ago, a sailor was observed
to approach an English village which lay embosomed among trees, near the
margin of a small stream whose waters gleamed in the rays of the setting
sun.

The village was an inland one, far removed alike from the roar and the
influences of the briny ocean.  It must have cost the sailor some pain
to reach it; for he walked with a crutch, and one of his bare feet was
bandaged, and scarcely touched the ground at each step.  He looked dusty
and fatigued, yet he was a stout, well-favoured, robust young fellow, so
that his hapless condition was evidently the result of recent misfortune
and accident--not of prolonged sickness or want.  He wore the
picturesque blue jacket, wide trousers, and straw hat of a man-of-war's
man; and exposed a large amount of brown chest beneath his blue flannel
shirt, the broad collar of which was turned well over.

Going straight to the inn of the village, he begged for a night's food
and lodging.  Told a sad story, in off-hand fashion, of how he had been
shipwrecked on the western isles of Scotland, where he had lost all he
possessed, and had well-nigh lost his life too; but a brave fisherman
had pulled him out of the surf by the hair of the head, and so he was
saved alive, though with a broken leg, which took many weeks to mend.
When he was able to travel, he had set out with his crutch, and had
walked two hundred miles on his way to Liverpool, where his poor wife
and two helpless children were living in painful ignorance of his sad
fate!

Of course this was enough to arouse all the sympathies of the villagers,
few of whom had ever seen a real sailor of any kind in their lives--much
less a shipwrecked one.  So the poor fellow was received with open arms,
entreated hospitably, lodged and fed at the public expense, and in the
morning sent on his way rejoicing.

All the forenoon of that day the shipwrecked sailor limped on his way
through a populous district of old England in the midst of picturesque
scenery, gathering pence and victuals, ay, and silver and even gold too,
from the pitying inhabitants as he went along.  Towards the afternoon he
came to a more thinly peopled district, and after leaving a small hamlet
in which he had reaped a rich harvest he limped to the brow of the hill
at the foot of which it lay, and gazed for a few minutes at the prospect
before him.

It was a wide stretch of moorland, across which the road went in almost
a straight line.  There were slight undulations in the land, but no
houses or signs of the presence of man.

Having limped on until the village was quite hidden from view, the
sailor quietly put his crutch across his broad shoulder, and brightening
up wonderfully, walked across the moor at the rate of full five miles an
hour, whistling gaily in concert with the larks as he sped along.

An hour and a half of such walking brought him to a small patch of
scrubby underwood, from the neighbourhood of which a large town could be
seen looming against the evening sky in the far distance.  The sailor
entered the underwood with the air of a man who had aimed at the spot as
a goal, and who meant to rest there a while.  He reached an open space,
in the centre of which grew a stunted tree.  Here he sat down, and
taking off his wallet, ate a hearty supper of scraps of excellent bread,
cheese, and meat, which he washed down with a draught of gin.
Afterwards he lit his pipe, and, while enjoying himself thus, reclining
at the foot of the tree, proceeded to increase his enjoyment by counting
out his gains.

While thus agreeably engaged, a rustling of the bushes caused him to
bundle the gains hastily up in a handkerchief, which he thrust into his
pocket, while he leaped nimbly to his feet, and seized his crutch.

"Oh, it's only you, Bill! why, I declare I thought it was--well, well,
never mind.  How have ye got on?"

The individual addressed entered the enclosure, and sat down at the foot
of the tree with a sigh, which might, without much exaggeration, have
been termed a growl.  Bill was also, strange to say, a sailor, and a
wounded one, (doubtless a shipwrecked one), because his left arm was in
a sling.

"It's tough work, Jim, an' little pay," said the newcomer.  "Why, I've
walked twenty mile good, an' only realised two pun' ten.  If it don't
improve, I'll take to a better trade."

"You're a discontented dog," replied Jim, spreading out his treasures.
"Here have I limped the same distance, an' bin an' got five pun' two."

"Whew!" whistled the other.  "You don't say that?  Well--we go 'alves,
so I'm better--'ere pass that bottle.  I'll drink to your good 'ealth.
'Ow did you ever come by it, Bill?"

To this Bill replied that he had fallen in with several ladies, whose
hearts were so touched by his pitiful tale that most of them gave him
crown pieces, while two, who actually shed tears while he spoke, gave
him half a sovereign each!

"I drink to them 'ere two ladies," exclaimed Bill, applying the gin
bottle to his mouth, which was already full of bread and beef.

"So does I," said Jim, snatching the bottle from his comrade, "not so
much for the sake of them there ladies, 'owever, as to get my fair share
o' the tipple afore you."

The remainder of the sentence was drowned by gin; and after they had
finished the bottle, which was only a pint one however, these two men
sat down together to count their ill-gotten gains; for both of them were
vile impostors, who had never been on the salt water in the whole course
of their worthless lives.

"Now, madam," said I, pointedly addressing Miss Flouncer, who had
listened with rapt attention, "this circumstance happened _before_ the
existence of the Shipwrecked Mariners' Society, and similar cases
happened frequently.  In fact, the interior of our land was at that time
constantly visited by shipwrecked sailors of this kind."

"Indeed!" said Miss Flouncer, undulating to me, with a benignant smile.

"Yes, madam," said I.  "Now observe another side of this picture."

Hereupon I resumed my address, the substance of which was as follows:

It chanced that when impostor Jim started away over the moor at the
slapping pace I have already referred to, he was observed by two of the
village boys, who were lying in a hollow by the road-side amusing
themselves.  These urchins immediately ran home, and told what they had
seen.  The gossips of the place congregated round the inn door, and
commented on the conduct of the pretended seaman in no measured terms--
at the same time expressing a wish that they only had him there, and
they would let him smell the peculiar odour of their horse-pond.  At
this point the courage and the ire of three stout young ploughmen, who
had been drinking deeply, was stirred up so much that they vowed to be
revenged, and set off in pursuit of the offender.  As they ran nearly
all the way, they soon came to the spot where Jim and Bill had been
enjoying themselves, and met these villains just as they were issuing
from the underwood to continue their journey.

A fight immediately ensued, but Jim made such play with his crutch that
the ploughmen were driven back.  Bill, too, who had been a London
prize-fighter, unslung his left arm, and used it so vigorously that the
rustics, after having had all their eyes blackened and all their noses
bled, were fain to turn round and fly!

This event, as you may suppose, made a considerable sensation in the
neighbourhood; travellers and carriers conveyed the news of it along the
road from village to village; and the thing was thoroughly canvassed,
and the impostors duly condemned.

Well, about three weeks afterwards a great storm arose; a ship was
wrecked on the coast, and all the crew and passengers drowned except one
man--a powerful seaman, who chanced to be a good swimmer, and who nearly
lost his own life in his gallant efforts to save the life of the only
female who was on board.  This man swam to the shore with one arm, while
with the other he supported the woman.

He could barely crawl up the beach through the heavy surf, dragging his
burden after him.  But he succeeded, and then lay for some time
insensible.  When he recovered, he found that the woman appeared to be
dead.  Anxious, however, to do all in his power to restore her, he tried
to chafe her limbs; but seeing that he could make no impression, he
hastened away to search for human dwellings and send help.  Four miles
did he stagger along before he came to a fishing village.

Here he told his tale; the men of the place hurried away to the scene of
the wreck, but arrived too late to be of any use.

The sailor remained some days with the fishermen, who received him
kindly, and gave him a few pence to help him on his way to the nearest
town, where he received a few shillings from some charitable persons,
and then set off to walk on foot to his native place, which happened to
be on the opposite coast of England.

The poor fellow got on very well until he came to the road which led to
the village where Jim had been so successful.  All along this road he
was scouted as an impostor, and, but for his imposing size and physical
strength, would doubtless have received more kicks than halfpence.  As
it was he was well-nigh starved.

Arriving one afternoon, famishing and almost knocked up, at the village,
he went in despair to the inn door, and began to tell his sorrowful
tale.  He told it to unsympathetic ears.  Among his auditors were the
three ploughmen who had been so roughly handled by Jim and Bill.  These
only heard the first two or three sentences when they rushed upon the
sailor, calling on their comrades, who were numerous, to help them to
duck the rascal in the horse-pond.

The stout tar, although taken by surprise and overpowered, was not
disposed to submit without a struggle.  He was a very Samson in
strength.  Rising up by main force with two of his foes on his back, he
threw them off, drove his right fist into the eye of one, his foot into
the stomach of a second, flattened the nose of a third on his face with
a left-hander, and then wheeling round at random, plunged his elbow into
the chest of another who was coming on behind, and caused him to measure
his length on the ground.  Before the rustics recovered from their
surprise at the suddenness of these movements, two more of their number
were sprawling in the dust, and the rest stood off aghast!

"Now, then," shouted the indignant tar, as he clapped his back to the
side of the inn, "come on! the whole of 'ee.  I hope yer wills is made.
What! ye're afeard, are ye?  Well, if ye won't come on I'll bid ye good
afternoon, ye low minded, cowardly land-lubbers!"

And with that he made a rush at them.  They tumbled over each other in
heaps, trying to get out of his way, so that he could only get a passing
dig at one or two of them, and cleared away as fast as he could run.

They did not follow him far, so Jack soon stopped and sat down on the
road-side, in a very savage state of mind, to wipe the blood from his
face and knuckles.

While he was thus engaged, an elderly gentleman in the garb of a
clergyman approached him.

"What has happened to you, my man?" he asked.

"That's none o' your business," answered Jack with angry emphasis.  "Ax
no questions, an' you'll be told no lies!"

"Excuse me, friend," replied the clergyman gently, "I did not mean to
annoy you; but you seem to have been badly wounded, and I would assist
you if you will allow me."

"I ax yer parding, sir," said Jack, a little softened, though by no
means restored to his wonted good-humour; "no offence meant, but I've
been shamefully abused by the scoundrels in yonder village, an' I am
riled a bit.  It's only a scratch, sir, you don't need to consarn
yerself."

"It is more than a scratch, if I may judge from the flow of blood.
Permit me to examine."

"Oh, it'll be all right d'rectly," said Jack; but as he said so he fell
back on the grass, fainting from loss of blood which flowed from a large
wound on his head.

When the sailor's senses were restored, he found himself in a bed in the
clergyman's dwelling, with his head bandaged up, and his body a good
deal weaker than he had ever before felt it.  The clergyman took care of
him until he recovered; and you may be sure that he did not miss the
opportunity to urge the sailor to think of his soul, and to come to
Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world, whose name is Love, and whose
teaching is all summed up in this, "Do unto others as ye would that they
should do unto you."

When Jack was quite recovered, the clergyman gave him some money to
enable him to reach his home without begging his way.

Now this case also occurred _before_ the Shipwrecked Mariners' Society
was instituted.  I cannot say that such cases of rough handling were
frequent; but cases in which true-blue shipwrecked tars were treated as
impostors were numerous, so that, in those days, knaves and rascals
often throve as wrecked seamen, while the genuine and unfortunate men
were often turned rudely from door to door.  This state of things does
not exist now.  It _cannot_ exist now, for honorary agents of the
society are to be found on every part of our coasts, so that the moment
a wrecked man touches the land, no matter whether he be a Briton or a
foreigner, he is at once taken care of, clothed, housed, fed, supplied
with a little money, and forwarded to his home, or to the nearest consul
of his nation.  The society has therefore accomplished two great and
good objects, for which the entire nation owes it a debt of gratitude;
it has rid the land of begging impostors clad in sailors' clothes, and
it has provided relief and assistance to the shipwrecked among our brave
and hardy seamen who are in every sense the bulwarks of our island, and
without whose labours, in the most perilous of all callings, Great
Britain would be one of the poorest and most uninfluential kingdoms on
the face of the earth.

But the society does a great deal more than that, for it comforts and
assists with money and advice hundreds and thousands of widows and
orphans whose husbands, fathers, or brothers have been drowned; and this
it does from year to year regularly--as regularly as the storms come and
scatter death and destruction on our shores.  It cannot be too earnestly
impressed on the people of England, and especially on those who dwell
inland, that at least a thousand lives are lost, two thousand ships are
wrecked, and two millions sterling are thrown away upon the coasts of
this country _every year_.

It is owing to the untiring energy of the National Lifeboat Institution
that those figures are not much, _very_ much higher; and it is the
Shipwrecked Mariners' Society that alleviates much, _very_ much, of the
woe resulting from storms and wrecks upon our shores.  Sailors and
fishermen know this well, and support both institutions largely.  I
would that ladies and gentlemen knew this better, and felt that they
have a positive duty incumbent on them in regard to these societies, for
they are not local but _national_.

"Now, madam," said I, again addressing myself pointedly to Miss
Flouncer, "would you like to hear a few interesting facts in reference
to the objects of this Society?"

Miss Flouncer smiled and undulated in order to express her readiness to
listen; at the same time she glanced at Sir Richard, who, I observed,
was sound asleep.  I also noticed that Mrs Bingley sniffed impatiently;
but I felt that I had a duty to perform, so with unalterable resolution
I prepared to continue my address, when Miss Peppy, who had been nearly
asleep during the greater part of the time I was speaking, suddenly said
to Miss Flouncer--

"Well, it _is_ a most surprising state of things that people _will_ go
to sea and get wrecked just to let societies like these spring up like
mushrooms all over the land.  For my part, I think I would rather do
without the things that ships bring to us from foreign lands than always
hear of those dreadful wrecks, and--but really one cannot expect the
world to alter just to please one, so I suppose people must go on being
drowned and saved by rocket-boats and lifeboats; so we had better retire
to the drawing-room, my dear."

The last observation was addressed to Mrs Bingley, who responded to it
with a bow of assent as she drew on her gloves.

Immediately after, the ladies rose, and I was thus constrained to
postpone my narration of interesting facts, until another opportunity
should offer.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

MRS. GAFF ENDEAVOURS FRUITLESSLY TO UNDERSTAND THE NATURE OF CASH,
PRINCIPAL, AND INTEREST.

At first, as I have said, poor Mrs Gaff was quite inconsolable at the
bereavements she had sustained in the loss of her husband and son and
brother.  For a long time she refused to be comforted, or to allow her
spirit to be soothed by the visits, (the "angel visits" as she styled
them), of Lizzie Gordon, and the entrance of God's Word into her heart.

Much of the violence of the good woman's character was the result of
training and example on an impulsive and sanguine, yet kindly spirit.
She had loved Stephen and Billy with a true and ardent love, and she
could not forgive herself for what she styled her "cruelty to the dear
boy."  Neither could she prevail on herself to enjoy or touch a single
penny of the money which ought, she said, to have been her husband's.

Night after night would Mrs Gaff sit down by the cottage fireside to
rest after her day of hard toll, and, making Tottie sit down on a stool
at her feet, would take her head into her lap, and stroke the hair and
the soft cheek gently with her big rough hand, while she discoursed of
the good qualities of Stephen, and the bravery of her darling boy, to
whom she had been such a cruel monster in days gone by.

Poor Tottie, being of a sympathetic nature, would pat her mother's knee
and weep.  One evening while they were sitting thus she suddenly seemed
to be struck with a new idea.

"Maybe, mother," said she, "Daddy an' Billy will come back.  We've never
hearn that they's been drownded."

"Tottie," replied Mrs Gaff earnestly, "I've thoughten o' that afore
now."

Little more was said, but from that night Mrs Gaff changed her manner
and her practice.  She set herself earnestly and doggedly to prepare for
the return of her husband and child!

On the day that followed this radical change in her feelings and plans,
Mrs Gaff received a visit from Haco Barepoles.

"How d'ye find yerself to-day, Mrs Gaff?" said the big skipper, seating
himself carefully on a chair, at which he cast an earnest glance before
sitting down.

This little touch of anxiety in reference to the chair was the result of
many years of experience, which told him that his weight was too much
for most ordinary chairs, unless they were in sound condition.

"Well and hearty," replied Mrs Gaff, sitting down and seizing Tottie's
head, which she began to smooth.  She always smoothed Tottie, if she
were at hand, when she had nothing better to do.

"Heh!" exclaimed Haco, with a slight look of surprise.  "Glad to hear
it, lass.  Nothin' turned up, has there?"

"No, nothin'; but I've bin busy preparin' for Stephen and Billy comin'
home, an' that puts one in good spirits, you know."

A shade of anxiety crossed Haco's brow as he looked earnestly into the
woman's face, under the impression that grief had shaken her reason, but
she returned his glance with such a calm self-possessed look that he
felt reassured.

"I hope they'll come, lass," he said sadly; "what makes ye think they
will?"

"I feel _sure_ on it.  I feel it here," replied the woman, placing her
hand on her breast.  "Sweet Miss Lizzie Gordon and me prayed together
that the Lord would send 'em home if it was His will, an' ever since
then the load's bin off my heart."

Haco shook his head for a moment, then nodded it, and said cheerily,
"Well, I hope it may be so for your sake, lass.  An' what sort o'
preparations are ye goin' to make?"

Mrs Gaff smiled as she rose, and silently went to a cupboard, which
stood close to the Dutch clock with the horrified countenance, and took
therefrom a tea-caddy, which she set on the table with peculiar
emphasis.  Tottie watched her with an expression of awe, for she had
seen her mother weeping frequently over that tea-caddy, and believed
that it must certainly contain something very dreadful.

"The preparations," said Mrs Gaff, as she searched her pocket for the
key of the box, "will depend on what I'm able to afford."

"You'll be able to afford a good deal, then, if all that's reported be
true, for I'm told ye've got ten thousand pounds."

"Is that the sum?" asked Mrs Gaff, still searching for the key, which,
like all other keys in like circumstances, seemed to have gone in for a
game of hide-and-seek; "I'm sure I ought to know, for the lawyer took
great pains to teach me that; ay, there ye are," (to the key); "found ye
at last.  Now then, Haco, we'll have a look at the book and see."

To Tottie's surprise and no small disappointment, the only object that
came out of the mysterious tea-caddy was a small book, which Mrs Gaff,
however, seemed to look upon with respect, and to handle as if she
half-expected it would bite.

"There, that's my banker's book.  You read off the figures, Haco, for I
can't.  To be sure if I had wanted to know, Tottie could have told me,
but I haven't had the heart to look at it till to-day."

"Ten thousand, an' no mistake!" said Haco, looking at the figures with
intense gravity.

"Now, then, the question is," said Mrs Gaff, sitting down and again
seizing Tottie's head for stroking purposes, while she put the question
with deep solemnity--"the question is, how long will that last?"

Haco was a good deal puzzled.  He bit his thumb nail, and knit his
shaggy brows for some time, and then said--

"Well, you know, that depends on how much you spend at a time.  If you
go for to spend a thousand pounds a day, now, it'll just last ten days.
If you spend a thousand pounds a year, it'll last ten years.  If you
spend a thousand pounds in ten years, it'll last a hundred years--d'ye
see?  It all depends on the spendin'.  But, then, Mrs Gaff," said the
skipper remonstratively, "you mustn't go for to live on the principal,
you know."

"What's the principal?" demanded Mrs Gaff.

"Why, the whole sum; the money _itself_, you know."

"D'ye suppose that I'm a born fool, Mr Barepoles, that I should try to
live on the money itself?  I never heerd on anybody bilin' up money in a
kettle an' suppin' goold soup, and I'm not a-goin' for to try."

With infinite difficulty, and much futile effort at illustration, did
Haco explain to Mrs Gaff the difference between principal and interest;
telling her to live on the latter, and never on any account to touch the
former, unless she wished to "end her days in a work'us."

"I wonder what it's like," said Mrs Gaff.

"What what's like?" inquired the skipper.

"Ten thousand pounds."

"Well, that depends too, you know, on what it's made of--whether copper,
silver, goold, or paper."

"What! is it ever made o' paper?"

In attempting to explain this point, Haco became unintelligible even to
himself, and Mrs Gaff became wildly confused.

"Well, well," said the latter, "never mind; but try to tell me how much
I'll have a year."

"That depends too--"

"Everything seems to depend," cried Mrs Gaff somewhat testily.

"Of course it does," said Haco, "everything _does_ depend on somethin'
else, and everything will go on dependin' to the end of time: it depends
on how you invest it, and what interest ye git for it."

"Oh, dearie me!" sighed Mrs Gaff, beginning for the first time to
realise in a small degree the anxieties and troubles inseparable from
wealth; "can't ye tell me what it's _likely_ to be about?"

"Couldn't say," observed Haco, drawing out his pipe as if he were about
to appeal to it for information; "it's too deep for me."

"Well, but," pursued Mrs Gaff, becoming confidential, "tell me now,
d'ye think it would be enough to let me make some grand improvements on
the cottage against Stephen and Billy's return?"

"Why, that depends on what the improvements is to be," returned Haco
with a profound look.

"Ay, just so.  Well, here are some on 'em.  First of all, I wants to get
a noo grate an' a brass tea-kettle.  There's nothing like a cheery fire
of a cold night, and my Stephen liked a cheery fire--an' so did Billy
for the matter o' that; but the trouble I had wi' that there grate is
past belief.  Now, a noo grate's indispens'ble."

"Well?" said Haco, puffing his smoke up the chimney, and regarding the
woman earnestly.

"Well; then I want to get a noo clock.  That one in the corner is a
perfit fright.  A noo table, too, for the leg o' that one has bin mended
so often that it won't never stand another splice.  Then a noo tea-pot
an' a fender and fire-irons would be a comfort.  But my great wish is to
get a big mahogany four-post bed with curtains.  Stephen says he never
did sleep in a four-poster, and often wondered what it would be like--no
more did I, so I would like to take him by surprise, you see.  Then I
want to git--"

"Well?" said Haco, when she paused.

"I'm awful keen to git a carpit, but I doubt I'm thinkin' o' too many
things.  D'ye think the first year's--what d'ye call it?"

"Interest," said Haco.

"Ay, interest--would pay for all that?"

"Yes, an' more," said the skipper confidently.

"If I only knew how much it is to be," said Mrs Gaff thoughtfully.

At that moment the door opened, and Kenneth Stuart entered, followed by
his friend Gildart Bingley.  After inquiring as to her welfare Kenneth
said:

"I've come to pay you the monthly sum which is allowed you by the
Shipwrecked Mariners' Society.  Mr Bingley asked me to call as he could
not do so; but from all accounts I believe you won't need it.  May I
congratulate you on your good fortune, Mrs Gaff."

Kenneth took out his purse as he spoke to pay the sum due to her.

Mrs Gaff seemed to be struck with a sudden thought.  She thanked
Kenneth for his congratulations, and then said:

"As to my not needin' the money you've brought me, young man, I take
leave to say that I _do_ need it; so you'll obleege me by handin' it
over."

Kenneth obeyed in surprise not unmingled with disappointment in finding
such a grasping spirit in one whom he had hitherto thought well of.  He
paid the money, however, in silence, and was about to take his leave
when Mrs Gaff stopped him.

"This sum has bin paid to me riglarly for the last three months."

"I believe it has," said Kenneth.

"And," continued Mrs Gaff, "it's been the means o' keepin' me and my
Tottie from starvation."

"I'm glad to hear it," returned Kenneth, who began to wonder what was to
follow; but he was left to wonder, for Mrs Gaff abruptly asked him and
Gildart to be seated, as she was anxious to find out a fact or two in
regard to principal and interest.

Gildart could scarce avoid laughing as he glanced at his companion.

"Now," began Mrs Gaff, seating herself opposite Kenneth, with a hand on
each knee, "I wants to know what a principal of ten thousand pounds
comes to in the way of interest in a twel'month."

"Well, Mrs Gaff," said Kenneth, "that depends--"

"Dear me!" cried Mrs Gaff petulantly, "every mortial thing that has to
do with money seeps to _depend_.  Could ye not tell me somethin' about
it, now, that doesn't depend?"

"Not easily," replied Kenneth with a laugh; "but I was going to say that
if you get it invested at five per cent, that would give you an income
of five hundred pounds a year."

"How much?" inquired Mrs Gaff in a high key, while her eyes widened
with astonishment.

Kenneth repeated the sum.

"Young man, you're jokin'."

"Indeed I am not," said Kenneth earnestly, with an appealing glance at
Gildart.

"True--as Johnson's Dictionary," said the middy.  Mrs Gaff spent a few
moments in silent and solemn reflection.

"The Independent clergyman," she said in a low meditative tone, "has
only two hundred a year--so I'm told; an' the doctor at the west end has
got four hundred, and he keeps a fine house an' servants; an' Sam Balls,
the rich hosier, has got six hundred--so they say; and Mrs Gaff, the
poor critter, has only got five hundred!  That'll do," she continued,
with a sudden burst of animation, "shake out the reefs in yer tops'ls,
lass, slack off yer sheets, ease the helm, an' make the most on it while
the fair wind lasts."

Having thus spoken, Mrs Gaff hastily folded up in a napkin the sum just
given her, and put it, along with the bank-book, into the tea-caddy,
which she locked and deposited safely in the corner cupboard.
Immediately after, her visitors, much surprised at her eccentric
conduct, rose and took their leave.



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN.

MRS. GAFF BECOMES A WOMAN OF BUSINESS, AND FINDS IT AWFULLY HARD WORK.

Soon after the conversation narrated in the last chapter, the clerks in
the bank of Wreckumoft were not a little interested by the entrance of a
portly woman of comely appearance and large proportions.  She was
dressed in a gaudy cotton gown and an enormously large bonnet, which
fluttered a good deal, owing as much to its own magnitude and
instability as to the quantity of pink ribbons and bows wherewith it was
adorned.

The woman led by the hand a very pretty little girl, whose dress was
much the same in pattern, though smaller in proportion.  Both woman and
child looked about them with that air of uncertainty peculiar to females
of the lower order when placed in circumstances in which they know not
exactly how to act.

Taking pity upon them, a clerk left his perch, and going forward, asked
the woman what she wanted.

To this she replied promptly, that she wanted money.

She was much flushed and very warm, and appeared to have come some
distance on foot, as well as to be in a state of considerable agitation,
which, however, she determinedly subdued by the force of a strong will.

"If you go to yonder rail and present your cheque," replied the clerk
kindly, "you'll get the money."

"Present what, young man?"

"Your cheque," replied the clerk.

"What's that?"

"Have you not a cheque-book--or a slip of paper to--"

"Oh! ay, a _book_.  Of course I've got a book, young man."

Saying this, Mrs Gaff, (for it was she), produced from a huge bag the
bank-book that had erstwhile reposed in the mysterious tea-caddy.

"Have you no other book than this?"

"No, young man," replied Mrs Gaff, feeling, but not exhibiting, slight
alarm.

The clerk, after glancing at the book, and with some curiosity at its
owner, then explained that a cheque-book was desirable, although not
absolutely necessary, and went and got one, and showed her the use of
it,--how the sum to be drawn should be entered with the date, etcetera,
on the margin in figures, and then the cheque itself drawn out in words,
"_not in figures_," and signed; after which he advised Mrs Gaff to draw
out a cheque on the spot for what she wanted.

"But, young man," said Mrs Gaff, who had listened to it all with an
expression of imbecility on her good-looking face, "I never wrote a
stroke in my life 'xcept once, when I tried to show my Billy how to do
it, and only made a big blot on his copy, for which I gave him a slap on
the face, poor ill-used boy."

"Well, then, tell me how much you want, and I will write it out for
you," said the clerk, sitting down at a table and taking up a pen.

Mrs Gaff pondered for a few seconds, then she drew Tottie aside and
carried on an earnest and animated conversation with her in hoarse
whispers, accompanied by much nodding and quivering of both bonnets,
leading to the conclusion that what the one propounded the other
heartily agreed to.

Returning to the table, Mrs Gaff said that she wanted a hundred pounds.

"How much?" demanded the clerk in surprise.

"A hundred pound, young man," repeated Mrs Gaff, somewhat sternly, for
she had made up her mind to go through with it come what might; "if ye
have as much in the shop just now--if not I'll take the half, and call
back for the other half to-morry--though it be raither a longish walk
fro' Cove and back for a woman o' my size."

The clerk smiled, wrote out the cheque, and bade her sign it with a
cross.  She did so, not only with a cross, but with two large and
irregular blots.  The clerk then pointed to a partition about five feet
six in height, where she was to present it.  Going to the partition she
looked about for a door by which to enter, but found none.  Looking back
to the clerk for information, she perceived that he was gone.
Pickpockets and thieves instantly occurred to her, but, on searching for
the bank-book and finding that it was safe, she felt relieved.  Just as
she was beginning to wonder whether she was not being made game of, she
heard a voice above her, and, looking up, observed a man's head
stretched over the top of the partition and looking down at her.

"Now, then, good woman, what do you want?" said the head.

"I wants a hundred pound," said Mrs Gaff, presenting her cheque in a
somewhat defiant manner, for she began to feel badgered.

The head put over a hand, took the cheque, and then both disappeared.

Mrs Gaff stood for some time waiting anxiously for the result, and as
no result followed, she began again to think of thieves and pickpockets,
and even meditated as to the propriety of setting up a sudden cry of
thieves, murder, and fire, in order to make sure of the clerk being
arrested before he should get quite clear of the building, when she
became aware of a fluttering of some sort just above her.  Looking up
she observed her cheque quivering on the top of the partition.
Wondering what this could mean, she gazed at it with an expression of
solemn interest.

Twice the cheque fluttered, with increasing violence each time, as
though it were impatient, and then the head re-appeared suddenly.

"Why don't you take your cheque?" it demanded with some asperity.

"Because I don't want it, young man; I wants my money," retorted Mrs
Gaff, whose ire was beginning to rise.

The head smiled, dropped the cheque on the floor, and, pointing with its
nose to a gentleman who stood behind a long counter in a sort of stall
surrounded with brass rails, told her to present it to the teller, and
she'd get the money.  Having said which the head disappeared; but it
might have been noted by a self-possessed observer, that as soon as Mrs
Gaff had picked up the cheque, (bursting two buttons off her gown in the
act), the head re-appeared, grinning in company with several other
heads, all of which grinned and watched the further movements of Mrs
Gaff with interest.

There were four gentlemen standing behind the long counter in brazen
stalls.  Three of these Mrs Gaff passed on her way to the one to whom
she had been directed by the head's nose.

"Now, sir," said Mrs Gaff, (she could not say "young man" this time,
for the teller was an elderly gentleman), "I hope ye'll pay me the money
without any more worrittin' of me.  I'm sure ye might ha' done it at
once without shovin' about a poor ignorant woman like me."

Having appealed to the teller's feelings in this last observation, Mrs
Gaff's own feelings were slightly affected, and she whimpered a little.
Tottie, being violently sympathetic, at once began to weep silently.

"How would you like to have it, my good woman?" asked the teller kindly.

"Eh?" exclaimed Mrs Gaff.

"Would you like to have it in notes or gold?" said the teller.

"In goold, of course, sir."

Tottie here glanced upwards through her tears.  Observing that her
mother had ceased to whimper, and was gazing in undisguised admiration
at the proceedings of the teller, she turned her eyes in his direction,
and forgot to cry any more.

The teller was shovelling golden sovereigns into a pair of scales with a
brass shovel as coolly as if he were a grocer's boy scooping out raw
sugar.  Having weighed the glittering pile, he threw them carelessly out
of the scale into the brass shovel, and shot them at Mrs Gaff, who
suddenly thrust her ample bosom against the counter, under the
impression that the coins were about to be scattered on the floor.  She
was mistaken.  They were checked in their career by a ledge, and lay
before her unbelieving eyes in a glittering mass.

Suddenly she looked at the teller with an expression of severe reproof.

"You've forgot to count 'em, sir."

"You'll find them all right," replied the teller, with a laugh.

Thereupon Mrs Gaff, in an extremely unbelieving state of mind, began to
count the gold pieces one by one into a little cotton bag which had been
prepared by her for this very purpose, and which Tottie held open with
both hands.  In ten minutes, after much care and many sighs, she counted
it all, and found that there were two sovereigns too many, which she
offered to return to the teller with a triumphant air, but that
incredulous man smiled benignantly, and advised her to count it again.
She did count it again, and found that there were four pieces too few.
Whereupon she retired with the bag to a side table, and, in a state of
profuse perspiration, began to count it over a third time with
deliberate care.

Tottie watched and checked each piece like a lynx, and the sum was at
last found to be correct!

Mrs Gaff quitted the bank with a feeling of intense relief, and met
Lizzie Gordon walking with Emmie Wilson just outside the door.

"My dear Miss Gordon," exclaimed the poor woman, kissing Lizzie's hand
in the fulness of her heart, "you've no ideer what agonies I've bin
a-sufferin' in that there bank.  If they're a-goin' to treat me in this
way always, I'll draw out the whole o' my ten hundred thousand pound--if
that's the sum--an' stow it away in my Stephen's sea-chest, what he's
left behind him."

"Dear Mrs Gaff, what have they done to you?" asked Lizzie in some
concern.

"Oh, it's too long a story to tell ye here, my dear.  Come with me.  I'm
a-goin' straight to yer uncle's, Captain Bingley.  Be he to home?  But
stop; did ye ever see a hundred golden pounds?"

Mrs Gaff cautiously opened the mouth of her bag and allowed Lizzie to
peep in, but refused to answer any questions regarding her future
intentions.

Meanwhile Emmie and Tottie had flown into each other's arms.  The former
had often seen my niece, both at the house of Mr Stuart and at my own,
as our respective ladies interchanged frequent visits, and Miss Peppy
always brought Emmie when she came to see us.  Lizzie had taken such a
fancy to the orphan that she begged Miss Peppy to allow her to go with
her and me sometimes on our visits to the houses of distressed sailors
and fishermen.  In this way Emmie and Tottie had become acquainted, and
they were soon bosom friends, for the gentle, dark-eyed daughter of Mrs
Gaff seemed to have been formed by nature as a harmonious counterpart to
the volatile, fair-haired orphan.  Emmie, I may here remark in passing,
had by this time become a recognised inmate of Mr Stuart's house.  What
his intentions in regard to her were, no one knew.  He had at first
vowed that the foundling should be cast upon the parish, but when the
illness, that attacked the child after the ship-wreck, had passed away,
he allowed her to remain without further remark than that she must be
kept carefully out of his way.  Kenneth, therefore, held to his first
intention of not letting his father or any one else know that the poor
girl was indeed related to him by the closest tie.  Meanwhile he
determined that Emmie's education should not be neglected.

Immediately on arriving at my residence, Mrs Gaff was, at her own
request, ushered into my study, accompanied by Tottie.

I bade her good-day, and, after a few words of inquiry as to her health,
asked if I could be of any service to her.

"No, capting, thank 'ee," she said, fumbling with her bag as if in
search of something.

"No news of Stephen or Billy, I suppose?" said I in a sad tone.

"Not yet, capting, but I expect 'em one o' these days, an' I'm a-gettin'
things ready for 'em."

"Indeed! what induces you to expect them so confidently?"

"Well, capting, I can't well tell 'ee, but I do, an' in the meantime
I've come to thank 'ee for all yer kindness to Tottie an' me when we was
in distress.  Yer Society, capting, has saved me an' Tottie fro'
starvation, an' so I've come for to give ye back the money ye sent me by
Mr Stuart, for there's many a poor widder as'll need it more nor I do."

So saying, she placed the money on the table, and I thanked her
heartily, adding that I was glad to be able to congratulate her on her
recent good fortune.

"Moreover," continued Mrs Gaff, taking a small bag from the large one
which hung on her arm, and laying it also on the table, "I feel so
thankful to the Almighty, as well as to you, sir, that I've come to give
ye a small matter o' goold for the benefit o' the Society ye b'longs to,
an' there it be."

"How much is here?" said I, lifting up the bag.

"A hundred pound.  Ye needn't count it, capting, for it's all c'rekt,
though it _was_ shovelled out to me as if it war no better than coals or
sugar.  Good-day, capting."

Mrs Gaff, turning hastily round as if to avoid my thanks, or my
remonstrances at so poor a woman giving so large a sum, seized Tottie by
the wrist and dragged her towards the door.

"Stop, stop, my good woman," said I; "at least let me give you a
receipt."

"Please, capting, I doesn't want one.  Surely I can trust ye, an' I've
had my heart nigh broke with bits o' paper this good day."

"Well, but I am required by the rules of the Society to give a receipt
for all sums received."

Mrs Gaff was prevailed on to wait for the receipt, but the instant it
was handed to her, she got up, bounced out of the room, and out of the
house into the street.  I hastened to the window, and saw her and Tottie
walking smartly away in the direction of Cove, with their enormous
bonnets quivering violently, and their ribbons streaming in the breeze.

Half an hour afterwards, Dan Horsey, who had been sent to me with a note
from my friend Stuart, went down into my kitchen, and finding Susan
Barepoles there alone, put his arm round her waist.

"Don't," said Susan, struggling unsuccessfully to get free.  "What d'ye
think Mrs Gaff has bin an' done?"

"Don't know, my jewel, no more nor a pig as has niver seen the light o'
day," said Dan.

"She's bin--and gone--and given--" said Susan, with great deliberation,
"one--hundred--gold sovereigns--to the Shipwrecked thingumbob Society!"

"How d'ye know that, darlint?" inquired Dan.

"Master told Miss Lizzie, Miss Lizzie told missis, and missis told me."

"You don't say so!  Well, I wish I wor the Shipwrecked thing-me-bob
Society, I do," said Dan with a sigh; "but I an't, so I'll have to cut
my stick, clap spurs to my horse, as the story books say, for Capting
Bingley towld me to make haste.  But there's wan thing, Susan, as I
wouldn't guv for twice the sum."

"An' what may that be?" asked Susan shyly.

"It's _that_," said Dan, imprinting a kiss on Susan's lips, to the
dismay of Bounder, who chanced to be in the back scullery and heard the
smack.

Cook rushed to the kitchen, but when she reached it Dan was gone, and a
few minutes later that worthy was cantering toward Seaside Villa,
muttering to himself:

"Tin thousand pound!  It's a purty little bit o' cash.  I only wish as a
brother o' mine, (if I had wan), would leave me half as much, an' I'd
buy a coach and six, an' put purty Susan inside and mount the box
meself, an' drive her to Africay or Noo Zealand, (not to mintion
Ottyheity and Kangaroo), by way of a marriage trip!  Hey!  Bucephalus,
be aisy now.  It isn't Master Kenneth that's on yer back just now, so
mind what yer about, or it'll be wus for ye, old boy."



CHAPTER NINETEEN.

THE OPEN BOAT ON THE PACIFIC--GAFF AND BILLY IN DREADFUL CIRCUMSTANCES--
A MESSAGE FROM THE SEA, AND A MADMAN'S DEATH.

While these events are taking place in the busy seaport of Wreckumoft,
let us return to the little boat which we left floating, a solitary
speck, upon the breast of the great Pacific Ocean.

As long as the whale-ship continued visible, the three occupants of the
boat sat immovable, gazing intently upon her in deep silence, as if each
felt that when she disappeared his last hold upon earth was gone.

Billy was the first to break silence.

"She's gone, father," he whispered.

Both men started, and looked round at the boy.

"Ay, she's gone," observed Gaff with a sigh; "and now we'll have to pull
for it, night an' day, as we are able."

He began slowly to get out one of the oars as he spoke.

"It would have been better if they had cut our throats," growled Captain
Graddy with a fierce oath.

"You'd have been worse off just now if they had, captain," said Gaff,
shaking off his depression of spirits by a strong effort of will.
"Come, Cap'n Graddy, you an' I are in the same fix; let's be friends,
and do our best to face the worst, like men."

"It makes little matter how we face it," said the captain, "it'll come
to the same thing in the long run, if we don't manage to make it a short
run by taking strong measures.  (He touched the hilt of a knife which he
wore at all times in his belt.)  However, we may as well pull as not."

He rose and sulkily took an oar, while Gaff took another.

"Now, captain," said Gaff, "you know better than me how far we be fro'
land, an' which is the way to pull."

"I should think we're five hundred miles from the nearest land," said
Graddy, "in a nor'-east direction, an' there's no islands that I know of
between us an' South America, so we may just pull about for exercise
till the grub's done, an' then pull till we're dead."

The captain burst into a loud, fierce laugh, as if he thought the last
remark uncommonly witty.

Presently he said, "You may as well see how much we've got to eat an'
drink before beginnin' our work."

"All right, my hearty!" cried Gaff, rising with alacrity to examine
their store of provisions; "here's a small bag o' biscuit as'll last us
three days, mayhap, on half allowance, so we'll be able to do with
quarter allowance for the first few days, an' then reduce to an eighth,
which'll make it spin out a few days longer.  By that time we may fall
in with a sail, who knows?"

"We're far beyond the track o' ships," said the captain bitterly.  "Is
there never a drop o' water in the boat?"

"Not a drop," replied Gaff, "I've searched all round, an' only found a
empty bottle."

"Ay, meant for to smuggle brandy aboard when they got the chance, the
brutes!" said the captain, referring to his recent crew.  "Well, it
don't matter.  We've now the prospect of dyin' o' thirst before we die
of starvation.  For my part, I prefer to die o' starvation, so ye may
put yourself an' your brat on full allowance as long as it lasts."

Poor Billy's horror at the prospect before him was much aggravated by
the fierce and brutal manner of Graddy, and he would fain have gone and
hid his face in his father's bosom; but he had been placed at the helm
while the two were pulling, so he could not forsake his post.

It was a calm evening when they were thus cast adrift on the boundless
sea, and as night advanced the calm deepened, so that the ocean became
like a sea of ink, in which the glorious host of stars were faithfully
mirrored.

Hour after hour the two men pulled at the oars with a slow-measured
steady stroke, while Billy sat at the helm, and kept the boat's head in
the direction of a certain star which the captain pointed out to him.
At length the star became like a moon to Billy's gazing eyes; then it
doubled itself, and then it went out altogether as the poor boy fell
forward.

"Hallo, Billy! mind your helm!" cried his father.

"I felled asleep, daddy," said the Bu'ster apologetically, as he resumed
his place.

"Well, well, boy; lie down and take a sleep.  It's too hard on you.  Eat
a biscuit first though before you lie down, and I'll keep the boat's
head right with the oar."

The captain made no remark, but the moon, which had just arisen, shone
on his hard features, and showed that they were more fierce and lowering
than at the beginning of the night.

Billy gladly availed himself of the permission, and took a biscuit out
of the bag.  Before he had eaten half of it he fell back in the
stern-sheets of the boat, dropt into a sound sleep, and dreamed of home
and his mother and Tottie.

Hour after hour the men pulled at the oars.  They were strong men both
of them, inured to protracted exertion and fatigue.  Still the night
seemed as if it would never come to an end, for in those high southern
latitudes at that time of the year the days were very short and the
nights were long.

At last both men stopped rowing, as if by mutual consent.

"It's a pity," said Gaff, "to knock ourselves up together.  You'd better
lie down, cap'n, an' I'll pull both oars for a spell."

"No, no, Gaff," replied Graddy, with sudden and unaccountable urbanity;
"I'm not a bit tired, and I'm a bigger man than you--maybe a little
stronger.  So do you lie down beside the boy, an' I'll call ye when I
want a rest."

Gaff remonstrated, protesting that he was game to pull for hours yet,
but the captain would take no denial, so he agreed to rest; yet there
was an uneasy feeling in his breast which rendered rest almost
impossible.  He lay for a long time with his eyes fixed on the captain,
who now pulled the two oars slowly and in measured time as before.

At last, in desperation, Gaff gave Billy a poke in the ribs which roused
him.

"Come, boy," said his father almost sternly, "you've slept long enough
now; get up an' steer.  Don't you see the cap'n's pullin' all alone!"

"All right, daddy," said Billy, uttering a loud yawn and stretching
himself.  "Where am I?  Oh! oh!"

The question was put before he had quite recovered consciousness; the
terminal "oh!" was something like a groan of despair, as his eye fell on
the forbidding countenance of the captain.

Billy took the tiller in silence.  After a little while Gaff drew his
son's ear near to his mouth, and said in a low whisper--

"Billy, my lad, I _must_ have a sleep, but I dursn't do it unless you
keep a sharp eye on the captain.  He's after mischief, I'm quite sure o'
that, so give me a tremendous dig in the ribs if he offers to rise from
his seat.  Mind what I say now, lad.  Our lives may depend on it."

Billy promised to be watchful, and in less than two minutes afterwards
Gaff was sunk in deep repose.

The boy was faithful to his trust.  Without appearing to be watching
him, he never for one moment removed his eyes so far from where the
captain sat labouring at the oars as to give him a chance of moving
without being seen.  As time passed by, however, Billy found it
difficult to keep awake, and, in proportion as this difficulty
increased, his staring at the captain became more direct and intense.
Of course Graddy perceived this, and the sneering smile that crossed his
visage showed that he had made a shrewd guess at the cause of the lad's
attentions.

By degrees Billy's eyes began to droop, and he roused himself frequently
with a strong effort, feeling desperately alarmed lest he should be
overcome.  But nature was not to be denied.  Again and again did his
head fall forward, again and again did he look up with a startled
expression to perceive that Graddy was regarding him with a cold
sardonic smile.  Gradually Billy's eyes refused to convey a correct
impression of what they rested on.  The rower's head suddenly became
twice as large as his body, a sight which so alarmed the boy that he
started up and could scarce restrain a cry, but the head had shrunk into
its ordinary proportions, and the sardonic smile was there as before.

Oh! what would not Billy have given at that time to have been thoroughly
wide-awake and fresh!  He thought for a moment of awaking his father,
but the thought was only half formed ere sleep again weighed down his
spirit, causing his eyelids to blink despite his utmost efforts to keep
them open.  Presently he saw Graddy draw the right oar quietly into the
boat, without ceasing to row with the left one, and slowly draw the
knife which hung at his belt.

The boy tried to shout and arouse his father, but he was paralysed with
horror.  His blood seemed to curdle in his veins.  No sound would issue
from his lips, neither could he move hand or foot while the cold glassy
eye of the captain rested on him.

Suddenly Graddy sprang up, and Billy's voice found vent in a shrill cry.
At the same moment Stephen Gaff awoke, and instinctively his hand
grasped the tiller.  He had no time to rise, but with the same force
that drew the tiller from its socket in the helm he brought it forward
with crashing violence on the forehead of Graddy, who was stooping to
plunge the knife into his breast.  He staggered beneath the blow.
Before he could recover himself it was repeated, and he fell heavily
back into the bottom of the boat.

"Thank the Lord," murmured Gaff, as he leaned over his fallen foe, "the
villain's hand has bin stopped short this time.  Come, Billy, help me to
lift him up."

Gaff's blows had been delivered with such vigour that Graddy's head was
much damaged, and it was a long time before the two could get him
restored sufficiently to sit up.  At length, however, he roused himself
and looked with a bewildered air at the sun, which had just risen in a
flood of golden light.  Presently his eyes fell on Gaff, and a dark
scowl covered his face, but being, or pretending to be unable to
continue long in a sitting posture, he muttered that he would lie down
and rest in the bow of the boat.  He got up and staggered to the spot,
where he lay down and soon fell fast asleep.

"Now, Billy lad, we'll let him rest, an' I'll take the oars.  You will
lie down and sleep, for you've much need of it, my poor boy, and while
I'm pullin' I'll consider what's best for to be done in the
circumstances."

"Better let me take one o' the oars, daddy.  I'm wide-awake now, and not
a bit tired."

"No, boy, no.  Lay down.  The next time I require to sleep I must have
you in a more wakeful condition--so turn in."  Gaff said this in a tone
of command that did not admit of remonstrance; so Billy lay down, and
soon fell into a deep slumber.

For a long time Gaff rowed in silence, gazing wistfully up into the sky,
which was covered with gorgeous piles of snowy clouds, as if he sought
to forget his terrible position in contemplating the glories of heaven.
But earth claimed the chief share of his thoughts.  While he rowed with
slow unflagging strokes during these calm morning hours, he did indeed
think of Eternity; of the time he had mis-spent on earth; of the sins he
had committed, and of the salvation through Jesus Christ he had for so
many years neglected or refused to accept.

But invariably these thoughts diverged into other channels: he thought
of the immediate danger that menaced himself and his son; of death from
thirst and its terrible agonies--the beginning of which even at that
moment were affecting him in the old familiar way of a slight desire to
drink!  He thought, too, of the fierce man in the bow of the boat who
evidently sought his life--why, he could not tell; but he surmised that
it must either be because he had become deranged, or because he wished
to get all the food in the boat to himself, and so prolong for a few
days his miserable existence.  Finally, his thoughts reverted to his
cottage home, and he fancied himself sitting in the old chimney-corner
smoking his pipe and gazing at his wife and Tottie, and his household
goods.

"I'll maybe never see them agin," he murmured sadly.

For some minutes he did not speak, then he again muttered, while a
grieved look overspread his face, "An' they'll never know what's come o'
me!  They'll go on thinkin' an' thinkin', an' hopin' an' hopin' year
after year, an' their sick hearts'll find no rest.  God help them!"

He looked up into the bright heavens, and his thoughts became prayer.

Ah! reader, this is no fancy sketch.  It is drawn after the pattern of
things that happen every year--every month--almost every week during the
stormy seasons of the year.  Known only to Him who is Omniscient are the
multitudes of heartrending scenes of protracted agony and dreary death
that are enacted year by year, all unknown to man, upon the lonely sea.
Now and then the curtain of this dread theatre is slightly raised to us
by the emaciated hand of a "survivor," and the sight, if we be
thoughtful, may enable us to form a faint conception of those events
that we never see.  We might meditate on those things with advantage.
Surely _Christians_ ought not to require strong appeals to induce them
to consider the case of those "who go down into the sea in ships, who do
business in the great waters!"  And here let me whisper a word to you
ere I pass on, good reader:--Meditation, unless it results in action, is
worse than useless because it deepens condemnation.

While Gaff was gazing upward a bright look beamed in his eyes.

"That's not a bad notion," he muttered, drawing in both oars, and
rising.  "I'll do it.  It'll give 'em a chance, an' that's better than
nothin'."

So saying he put his hand into the breast-pocket of his jacket, and drew
out a letter, which he unfolded, and tore off a portion of the last leaf
which was free from writing.  Spreading this upon the thwart, he sought
for and found a pencil which he was in the habit of carrying in his
vest-pocket, and prepared to write.

I have shown elsewhere that Gaff could neither read nor write.  Yet it
does not follow that he had no knowledge whatever of these subjects.  On
the contrary, he understood the signification of capital letters when
printed large and distinct, and could, (with inconceivable pains and
difficulty no doubt), string a few simple words together when occasion
required.  He could also sign his name.

After much deep thought he concocted the following sentence:--

  AT SEE IN PASIFIK.  NO LAND FOR 5000 MILES.  OPN BOET.  THE SKIPER,
  BILLY, AND MEES KAST ADRIFT BY KREW.  SKIPER MAD, OR ELSE A VILIN.
  FOAR OR FIVE DAIS BISKIT; NO WATTER.  JESS, DEAR LAS, MY LAST THOATS
  ARE OF YOO.

  STEPHEN GAFF.

He meant to put down 500, and thought that he was right!

Having completed his task, he folded up the letter carefully, and
addressed it to "Mrs Gaff, sailor's wife, The Cove, England."  Then he
inserted it into the empty bottle to which reference has been made, and
corking it up tight committed it to the waves with an earnest prayer for
its safe arrival at its destination.  He then resumed his oars with a
feeling of great relief, as if a heavy weight had been taken off his
mind, and watched the precious bottle until it was out of sight astern.

By this time the face of nature had changed somewhat.  With the
advancing day the wind arose, and before noon it was blowing a stiff
breeze.  The rolling of the boat awoke Billy, who looked up anxiously.

"Ay, it'll be all over sooner than I thought on," murmured Gaff, as he
glanced to windward.

"What'll be all over, daddy?" inquired the boy, who, being accustomed to
boating in rough weather, thought nothing of the threatening appearance
of things.

"Nothin', lad, nothin'; I was only thinkin' aloud; the wind's
freshenin', Billy, an' as you may have to sit a long spell at the tiller
soon, try to go to sleep agin.  You'll need it, my boy."

In spite of himself, Gaff's tone contained so much pathos that Billy was
roused by it, and would not again try to sleep.

"Do let me pull an oar, daddy," he said earnestly.

"Not yet, lad, not yet.  In a short time I will if the breeze don't get
stiffer."

"Why don't _he_ pull a bit, daddy?" inquired Billy pointing with a frown
at the figure that lay crouched up in the bow of the boat.

Just then a wave sent a wash of spray inboard and drenched the skipper,
who rose up and cursed the sea.

"You'd better bale it out than curse it," said Gaff sternly; for he felt
that if there was to be anything attempted he must conquer his desperate
companion.

The man drew his knife.  Gaff, noticing the movement, leaped up, and
catching hold of the tiller, which Billy handed to him with alacrity,
faced his opponent.

"Now, Graddy," he said, in the tone of a man who has thoroughly made up
his mind, "we'll settle this question right off.  One of us must submit.
If fair means won't do, foul shall be used.  You _may_ be bigger than
me, but I don't think ye're stronger: leastwise ye'll ha' to prove it.
Now, then, pitch that knife overboard."

Instead of obeying, Graddy hurled it with all his force into Gaff's
chest.  Fortunately the handle and not the point struck him, else had
the struggle been brief and decisive.  As it was, the captain followed
up his assault with a rush at his opponent, who met him with a heavy
blow from the tiller, which the other received on his left arm, and both
men closed in a deadly struggle.  The little boat swayed about
violently, and the curling seas came over her edge so frequently that
Billy began to fear they would swamp in a few moments.  He therefore
seized the baling-dish, and began to bale for his life while the men
fought.

Gaff soon proved to be the better man, for he finally flung the captain
over the middle thwart and almost broke his back.

"Now, do ye give in?" he shouted fiercely, as he compressed the other's
throat with both hands.

Graddy gasped that he did; so Gaff allowed him to rise, and bade him
take the baling-dish from the boy and set to work without delay.

The wretched man was so thoroughly cowed that he thereafter yielded
instant obedience to his companion.

The wind was blowing furiously by this time, and the waves were running
high, so that it required constant baling, and the utmost care in
steering, to keep the boat from being swamped.  Fortunately the storm
was accompanied by heavy rain, so that by catching a little of this in
their jackets and caps, they succeeded in quenching their thirst.
Hunger they had scarcely felt up to this time, but soon the cravings of
nature began to be imperious, and Gaff served out the first ration, on
the short allowance scale, which was so small that it served only to
whet their appetites.  There was no need to row now.  It was absolutely
necessary to run before the wind, which was so strong that a single oar,
set up in the place where the mast should have been, was sufficient to
cause the light craft to fly over the waves.

Each took the helm for a couple of hours by turns.  Thus employed they
spent the day, and still thus employed the dark night found them.

Bad though things looked when there was light enough to enable them to
see the rush of the black clouds overhead, the bursts of the driving
spray and the tumultuous heavings of the wild sea, it was inconceivably
worse when the darkness settled down so thick that they could barely see
each other's faces, and the steering had to be done more by _feeling_,
as it were, than sight.  Gaff took the helm during the greater part of
the night, and the other two baled incessantly; but the gale increased
so much that the water at last came in faster than it could be thrown
out, and they expected to be swamped every instant.

"We're goin' down, daddy," said Billy, while a strong inclination to
burst into tears almost choked him.

"Here, lad," shouted Gaff in a loud voice, for the noise of the wind and
waves rendered any other sound almost inaudible, "take the helm and keep
her right before the wind.  Ye used to steer well; do yer best now, my
boy."

While he spoke Billy obeyed, and his father sprang into the middle of
the boat, and grasped the three oars and boat-hook with which the boat
was supplied.  There were two small sails, which he wrapped hastily
round these, and then tied them all together tightly with a piece of
rope.  In this operation he was assisted by Graddy, who seemed to
understand what his comrade meant to do.

The boat was now half full of water.

"Down the helm--hard down," roared Gaff.

"Ay, ay, sir," responded Billy, with the ready promptitude of a seaman.

The boat flew round; at the same moment Gaff hurled the bundle of sails
and spars overboard, and eased off the coil of rope to the end of which
it was attached.  In a few seconds it was about forty yards away to
windward, and formed a sort of floating breakwater, which, slight though
it was, proved to be sufficient to check the full force of the seas, so
that the little boat found partial shelter to leeward.

The shelter was terribly slight, however; only just sufficient to save
them from absolute destruction; and it was still necessary for one of
their number to be constantly employed in baling out the water.

During the night the clouds cleared away, but there was no abatement of
the wind; and having no water they were obliged to eat their allowance
of biscuit either in a dry state or moistened in the sea.

Next day the sun rose in a cloudless sky, and all day it shone upon them
fiercely, and the wind moderated enough to render baling unnecessary,
but still they did not dare to haul in their floating bulwark.

Extreme thirst now assailed them, and Graddy began in an excited state
to drink copiously of salt water.

"Don't go for to do that, cap'n," remonstrated Gaff.

A derisive laugh was the only reply.

Presently Graddy arose, and going into the head of the boat, took up the
baling-dish and again drank deeply of the sea-water.  "Ha! ha!" he
laughed, tossing his arms wildly in the air, and gazing at Gaff with the
glaring eyes of a maniac, "that's the nectar for me.  Come, boys, I'll
sing you a ditty."

With that he burst into a roaring bacchanalian song, and continued to
shout, and yell, and drink the brine until he was hoarse.  But he did
not seem to get exhausted; on the contrary, his eyes glared more and
more brightly, and his face became scarlet as the fires that were raging
within him increased in intensity.

Billy clung to his father, and looked at the captain in speechless
horror.  Even Gaff himself felt an overpowering sense of dread creep
over him, for he now knew that he had to deal with a raving maniac.  Not
knowing what to do, he sat still and silent in the stern of the boat
with the tiller in his hand, and his eyes fixed immovably on those of
the madman, who seemed to feel that it was a trial as to which should
stare the other down, for he soon gave up singing and drinking, and
devoted all his energies of body and soul to glaring at his enemy.

Thus they continued until the sun began to set.  Then Gaff's heart sank
within him, for he felt sure that, whenever it was too dark for each to
see the other, the madman would summon up courage to make a sudden
attack.

The attack, however, was precipitated by Gaff inadvertently glancing
over his shoulder to observe how far the sun had yet to descend.

Instantly, with the leap of a panther, Graddy was upon him with both
hands grasping tightly at his throat.  Down, down, he pressed him, until
Gaff lay on his back with his head over the gunwale.  His strength now
availed him nothing, for unnatural energy nerved the madman's arm.

Billy sprang up and tried to disengage him from his grasp.  As well
might the rabbit try to unlock the boa's deadly coil.  Wrenching the
tiller from his father's grasp he hit the madman on the head with all
his might; but the poor boy's might was small.  The blow seemed to have
no effect at all.  Again and again he brought it down in an agony of
haste lest his father should be strangled before the other was felled.
At last he hit him with all his force behind the ear, and Graddy's grasp
relaxed as he fell prone on the body of his insensible victim.

To pull him off and haul his father into a more convenient position was
the work of a few seconds.

"O daddy, daddy, speak to me," he cried, loosening his father's
neckcloth and unbuttoning his shirt.  "Oh, quick! get better before _he_
does," cried Billy wildly, as he shook his father and laved water on his
face; "oh! he'll get well first and kill you."

In order to do all that lay in his power to prevent this, Billy suddenly
sprang up, and, seizing the tiller, dealt the prostrate Graddy several
powerful blows on the head.  It is not improbable that the frightened
boy would have settled the question of his recovery then and there had
not his father revived, and told him to stop.

For some minutes Gaff sat swaying about in a confused manner, but he was
roused to renewed action by seeing Graddy move.

"We must hold him now, Billy.  Is there a bit of rope about?"

"Not a inch, you tied it all round the oars."

"It's awkward.  However, here's my necktie.  It an't strong, but it's
better than nothin'."

Gaff was about to take it off when Graddy recovered suddenly and
attempted to rise.  The others sprang on him and held him down; but they
did so with difficulty, for he was still very strong.

All that night did they sit and hold him, while he raved and sang or
struggled as the humour seized him.  They did not dare to relax their
hold for a moment; because, although he lay sometimes quite still for a
lengthened period, he would burst forth again without warning and with
increased fury.

And still, while they sat thus holding down the maniac, the wind blew
fiercely over the raging sea, and the waves curled over and burst upon
their tiny breakwater, sending clouds of spray over their head, insomuch
that, ere morning, the boat was nearly half full of water.

When morning at last broke, father and son were so much exhausted that
they could scarcely sit up, and their cramped fingers clung, more by
necessity than by voluntary effort, to the garments of the now dying
man.

Graddy was still active and watchful, however.  His face was awful to
look upon, and the fire of his restless eyes was unabated.  When the sun
rose above the horizon both Gaff and Billy turned their weary eyes to
look at it.  The madman noted the action, and seized the opportunity.
He sprang with an unearthly yell, overturned them both, and plunged head
foremost into the sea.

Twice he rose and gave vent to a loud gurgling cry, while Gaff and his
son seized the rope attached to the oars, intending to pull them in and
row to his assistance, for he had leaped so far out that he was beyond
their reach.  But before they had pulled in half of the cable the
wretched man had disappeared from their view for ever.

Slacking off the rope they let the boat drift astern again to its full
extent.  Then, without a word, without even a look, father and son lay
down together in the stern-sheets, and were instantly buried in a
profound deathlike slumber.



CHAPTER TWENTY.

THE VOYAGE OF THE BOTTLE.

The little fragile craft which Stephen Gaff sent adrift upon the world
of waters freighted with its precious document, began its long voyage
with no uncertainty as to its course, although to the eye of man it
might have appeared to be the sport of uncertain waves and breezes.

When the bottle fell upon the broad bosom of the South Pacific, it sank
as if its career were to end at the beginning; but immediately it
re-appeared with a leap, as if the imprisoned spirit of the atmosphere
were anxious to get out.  Then it settled down in its watery bed until
nothing but the neck and an inch of the shoulder was visible above the
surface.  Thus it remained; thus it floated in the deep, in storm and
calm, in heat and cold; thus it voyaged more safely, though not more
swiftly, than all the proud ships that spread their lofty canvas to the
breeze, night and day, for weeks and months, ay, and years together--not
irregularly, not at haphazard, but steadily, perseveringly, in strict
obedience to the undeviating laws which regulate the currents in the
ocean and the air as truly and unchangeably as they do the circulation
of the blood in the human frame.

The bottle started from that part of the South Pacific which is known to
mariners as the Desolate Region--so called from the circumstance of that
part of the sea being almost entirely destitute of animal life.  Here it
floated slowly, calmly, but surely, to the eastward with the great
oceanic current, which, flowing from the regions of the antarctic sea,
in that part sweeps round the southern continent of America, and makes
for the equator by way of the southern Atlantic Ocean.

Now, reader, allow me to screw up a little philosophy here, and try to
show you the why and the wherefore of the particular direction of our
bottle's voyage.

Man has been defined by some lexicographer as a "cooking animal."  I
think it would be more appropriate to call him a _learning animal_, for
man does not always cook, but he never ceases to learn--also to unlearn.

One of the great errors which we have been called on, of recent years,
to unlearn, is the supposed irregularity and uncertainty of the winds
and waves.  Nothing is more regular, nothing more certain--not even the
rising and setting of the sun himself--than the circulation of the
waters and the winds of earth.  The apparent irregularity and
uncertainty lies in our limited power and range of perception.  The laws
by which God regulates the winds and waves are as fixed as is the law of
gravitation, and every atom of air, every drop of water, moves in its
appointed course in strict obedience to those laws, just as surely as
the apple, when severed from the bough, obeys the law of gravitation,
and falls to the ground.

One grand and important fact has been ascertained, namely, that all the
waters of the sea flow from the equator to the poles and back again.

Disturbed equilibrium is the great cause of oceanic currents.  Heat and
cold are the chief agents in creating this disturbance.

It is obvious that when a portion of water in any vessel sinks, another
portion must of necessity flow into the space which it has left, and if
the cause which induced the sinking continue, so the flow to fill up
will continue, and thus a current will be established.

Heat at the equator warms the sea-water, and makes it light; cold at the
poles chills it, and makes it heavy.  Hot water, being light, rises;
cold water, being heavy, sinks.

Here, then, is a sufficient cause to produce the effect of currents in
the sea.

But there are other causes at work.  Excessive evaporation at the
equator carries off the water of the sea, but leaves the salt behind,
thus rendering it denser and heavier; while excessive influx of fresh
water at the poles, (from rain and snow and melting ice), renders the
sea light;--in addition to which corallines and shell-fish everywhere
abstract the lime that is in the sea, by secreting it on their bodies in
the form of shells, and thus increase the lightness of those particles
of water from which the lime has been abstracted.  The other particles
of water being generous in their nature, hasten to impart of their lime
and salt to those that have little or none.

Here, then, we have perpetual motion rendered absolutely certain, both
as to continuance and direction.

But the latter causes which I have named are modifying causes which tend
to counteract, or rather to deflect and direct currents in their flow.
Besides which, the rotation of the earth, the action of the winds, and
the conformation of continents and islands, have a powerful influence on
currents, so that some flow at the bottom of ocean, some on the surface,
some from east to west or west to east, or aslant in various directions,
while, where currents meet there is deflection, modification, or
stagnation, but there is no confusion; all goes on with a regularity and
harmony which inconceivably excels that of the most complex and
beautiful mechanism of man's constructing, although man cannot perceive
this order and harmony by reason of his limited powers.

Now, these are facts, not theories founded on speculation.  They have
been arrived at by the slow but sure method of induction.  Hundreds of
thousands of practical men have for many years been observing and
recording phenomena of every kind in connexion with the sea.  These
observations have been gathered together, collated, examined, and deeply
studied by philosophers, who have drawn their conclusions therefrom.
Ignorance of these facts rendered the navigation of the sea in days of
old a matter of uncertainty and great danger.  The knowledge of them and
of other cognate facts enables man in these days to map out the
so-called trackless ocean into districts, and follow its well-known
highways with precision and comparative safety.

Our bottle moved along with the slow but majestic flow of one of those
mighty currents which are begotten among the hot isles of the Pacific,
where the corallines love to build their tiny dwellings and rear their
reefs and groves.

In process of time it left the warm regions of the sun, and entered
those stormy seas which hold perpetual war around Cape Horn.  It passed
the straits where Magellan spread his adventurous sails in days of old,
and doubled the cape which Byron, Bougainville, and Cook had doubled
long before it.

Ah! well would it be for man if the bottle had never doubled anything
but that cape!  And alas for man when his sight is doubled, and his
crimes and woes are doubled, and his life is halved instead of doubled,
by--"the bottle!"

Off Cape Horn our adventurous little craft met with the rough usage from
winds and waves that marked the passage of its predecessors.  Stormy
petrels hovered over it and pecked its neck and cork.  Albatrosses
stooped inquiringly and flapped their gigantic wings above it.  South
Sea seals came up from Ocean's caves, and rubbed their furred sides
against it.  Sea-lions poked it with their grizzly snouts; and penguins
sat bolt upright in rows on the sterile islands near the cape, and gazed
at it in wonder.

Onward it moved with the north-western drift, and sighted on its left,
(on its port bow, to speak nautically), the land of Patagonia, where the
early discoverers reported the men to be from six to ten feet high, and
the ladies six feet; the latter being addicted to staining their eyelids
black, and the former to painting a red circle round their left eyes.
These early discoverers failed, however, to tell us why the right eyes
of the men were neglected; so we are forced to the conclusion that they
were left thus untouched in order that they might wink facetiously with
the more freedom.  Modern travellers, it would seem, contradict, (as
they usually do), many of the statements of ancient voyagers; and there
is now reason to believe that the Patagonians are not _much_ more
outrageous in any respect than ordinary savages elsewhere.

Not long after doubling the Cape, the bottle sailed slowly past the
Falkland Islands, whose rugged cliffs and sterile aspect seemed in
accordance with their character of penal settlement.  Sea-lions,
penguins, and seals were more numerous than ever here, as if they were
the guardians of the place, ready to devour all hapless criminals who
should recklessly attempt to swim away from "durance vile."

Indeed, it was owing to the curiosity of a sea-lion that at this point
in its long voyage the bottle was saved from destruction.  A storm had
recently swept the southern seas, and the bottle, making bad weather of
it in passing the Falklands, was unexpectedly driven on a lee-shore in
attempting to double a promontory.  Whether promontories are more
capable of resisting the bottle than human beings, I know not; but
certain it is that the promontory arrested its progress.  It began to
clink along the foot of the cliffs at the outermost point with alarming
violence; and there can be no reasonable doubt that it would have become
a miserable wreck there, if it had not chanced to clink right under the
nose of a sea-lion which was basking in the sunshine, and sound asleep
on a flat rock.

Opening its eyes and ears at the unwonted sound, the lion gazed
inquiringly at the bottle, and raised its shaggy front the better to
inspect it.  Apparently the sight stimulated its curiosity, for, with a
roar and a gush of ardent spirit, it plunged into the sea and drove the
bottle far down into the deep.

Finding, apparently, that nothing came of this terrific onslaught, the
lion did not reappear.  It sneaked away, no doubt, into some coral cave.
But the force of the push sent the bottle a few yards out to sea, and
so it doubled the promontory and continued its voyage.

Shortly after this, however, a check was put to its progress which
threatened to be permanent.

In a few places of the ocean there are pools of almost stagnant tracts,
of various sizes, which are a sort of eddies caused by the conflicting
currents.  They are full of seaweed and other drift, which is shoved
into them by the currents, and are named Sargasso seas.  Some of these
are hundreds of miles in extent, others are comparatively small.

They bothered the navigators of old, did those Sargasso seas,
uncommonly.  They are permanent spots, which shift their position so
little with the very slight changes in the currents of the sea, that
they may be said to be always in the same place.

Columbus got into one of these Sargassos--the great Atlantic one that
lies between Africa and the West Indies,--and his men were alarmed lest
this strange weedy sea should turn out to be the end of the world!
Columbus was long detained in this region of stagnation and calm, and so
were most of the early navigators, who styled it the "Doldrums."
Now-a-days, however, our knowledge of the currents of ocean and
atmosphere enables us to avoid the Sargasso seas and sail round them,
thereby preventing delay, facilitating trade, saving time, and greatly
improving the condition of mankind.

Now, our bottle happened to get entangled in the weed of the Sargasso
that exists in the neighbourhood of the Falkland Islands, and stuck fast
there for many months.  It was heaved up and down by the undulations,
blown about a little by occasional breezes, embraced constantly by
seaweed, and sometimes tossed by waves when the outskirts of a passing
gale broke in upon the stagnant spot; but beyond this it did not move or
advance a mile on its voyage.

At last a hurricane burst over the sea; its whirling edge tore up the
weed and swept the waters, and set the bottle free, at the same time
urging it into a north-easterly current, which flowed towards the coast
of Africa.  On its way it narrowly missed entanglement in another
Sargasso,--a little one that lies between the two continents,--but
fortunately passed it in safety, and at last made the Cape of Good Hope,
and sighted the majestic Table Mountain which terminates the lofty
promontory of that celebrated headland.

Here the bottle met with the wild stormy weather that induced its
Portuguese discoverer, Bartholomew Diaz, to name it the "Cape of
Tempests," and which cost him his life, for, on a succeeding voyage, he
perished there.  King John the Second of Portugal changed its name into
the Cape of Good Hope, and not inappropriately so, as it turned out;
for, a few years after its discovery in 1486, Vasco de Gama doubled the
Cape of Good Hope and discovered the shores of India, whence he brought
the first instalment of that wealth which has flowed from east to west
ever since in such copious perennial streams.

There was a perplexing conflict of currents here which seemed to
indicate a dispute as to which of them should bear off the bottle.  The
great Mozambique current, (which, born in the huge caldron of the Indian
Ocean, flows down the eastern coast of Africa, and meets and wars with
the currents coming from the west), almost got the mastery, and
well-nigh swept it into an extensive Sargasso sea which lies in that
region; in which case the voyage might have been inconceivably delayed;
but an eccentric typhoon, or some such turbulent character, struck in
from the eastward, swept the bottle utterly beyond Mozambique influence,
and left it in the embrace of a current which flowed northward toward
the equator.

Thus the bottle narrowly missed being flung on "India's coral strand,"
and voyaged slowly northward in a line parallel with that coast where
"Afric's sunny fountains roll down their golden sands,"--where slavers,
too, carried off the blacks in days happily gone by, to toil in slavery
among the fields of cotton and sugar-cane, and where British cruisers
did their best, (but that wasn't much!) to prevent the brutal traffic.

The chief point of interest in this part of the voyage was touching at
Saint Helena, touching so sharply on the western promontory of that
dreary islet, that the bottle again nearly made ship-wreck.

Admirably well chosen was this prominent, barren, isolated rock to be
the prison of "Napoleon the Great," for he was a conspicuous, isolated
specimen of humanity, barren of those qualities that constitute real
greatness.  Great he undoubtedly was in the art of shedding human blood
and desolating myriads of hearths and hearts without any object whatever
beyond personal ambition; for the First Napoleon being a Corsican, could
not even urge the shallow plea of patriotism in justification of his
murderous career.

So, let the bottle pass!  Its career has not been more deadly,
perchance, than was his during the time that the earth was scourged with
his presence!

On reaching the hot region of the equator, our little craft was again
sadly knocked about by conflicting currents, and performed one or two
deep-sea voyages in company with currents which dived a good deal in
consequence of their superior density and inferior heat.  At one time it
seemed as if it would be caught by the drift which flows down the east
coast of South America, and thus get back into the seas from which it
set out.

But this was not to be.  Owing to some cause which is utterly beyond the
ken of mortals, the bottle at last got fairly into the great equatorial
current which flows westward from the Gulf of Guinea.  It reached the
north-west corner of South America, and progressing now at a more rapid
and steady rate, progressed along the northern shore of that continent--
passed the mouth of the mighty Amazon and the Orinoco, and, pushing its
way among the West India Islands, crossed the Carribean Sea, sighted the
Isthmus of Darien, coasted the Bay of Honduras, and swept round the Gulf
of Mexico.

Here the great current is diverted from its westward course, and,
passing through the Gulf of Florida, rushes across the Atlantic in a
north-easterly direction, under the well-known name of the Gulf Stream.
Men of old fancied that this great current had its origin in the Gulf of
Mexico; hence its name; but we now know that, like many another stream,
it has many heads or sources, the streams flowing from which converge in
the Gulf of Mexico, and receive new and united direction there.

With the Gulf Stream the bottle pursued its voyage until it was finally
cast ashore on the west of Ireland.  Many a waif of the sea has been
cast there before it by the same cause, and doubtless many another shall
be cast there in time to come.

An Irishman with a jovial countenance chanced to be walking on the beach
at the moment when, after a voyage of two years, our bottle touched the
strand.

He picked it up and eyed it curiously.

"Musha! but it's potheen."

A more careful inspection caused him to shake his head.

"Ah, then, it's impty."

Getting the bottle between his eyes and the morning sun, he screwed his
visage up into myriads of wrinkles, and exclaimed--

"Sure there _is_ something in it."

Straightway the Irishman hurried up to his own cabin, where his own
wife, a stout pretty woman in a red cloak, assisted him to reach the
conclusion that there was something mysterious in the bottle, which was
at all events not drinkable.

"Oh, then, I'll smash it."

"Do, darlint."

No sooner said than done, for Pat brought it down on the hearthstone
with such force that it was shivered to atoms.

Of course his wife seized the bit of paper, and tried to read it,
unsuccessfully.  Then Pat tried to read it, also unsuccessfully.  Then
they both tried to read it, turning it in every conceivable direction,
and holding it at every possible distance from their eyes, but still
without success.  Then they came to the conclusion that they could "make
nothing of it at all at all," which was not surprising, for neither of
them could read a word.

They wisely resolved at length to take it to their priest, who not only
read it, but had it inserted in the _Times_ on the week following, and
also in the local papers of Wreckumoft.

Thus did Mrs Gaff, at long last, come to learn something of her husband
and son.  Her friends kindly told her she need not entertain any hope
whatever, but she heeded them not; and only regarding the message from
the sea as in some degree a confirmation of her hopes and expectations,
she continued her preparations for the reception of the long absent ones
with more energy than ever.



CHAPTER TWENTY ONE.

THE FORTUNES OF GAFF AND BILLY CONTINUED.

Now, while the bottle was making its long voyage, Stephen Gaff and his
son Billy were exposed to the vicissitudes of strange and varied
fortune.

We left them sound asleep in the stern of the little boat, tossed on the
troubled breast of the Pacific.

They never knew how long they slept on that occasion, but when they
awoke the sun was high in the heavens, and the breeze had considerably
abated.

Gaff was the first to shake off the lethargy that had oppressed him.
Gazing round for some time, he seemed to hesitate whether he should lie
down again, and looked earnestly once or twice in the face of his
slumbering boy.

"'Tis pity to rouse him," he muttered, "but I think we must ha' had a
long sleep, for I feel rested like.  Hallo, Billy boy, how are 'ee?"

Billy did not respond to the greeting.  Indeed, he refused to be moved
by means of shouts of any kind, and only consented to wake up when his
father took him by the coat-collar with both hands, and shook him so
violently that it seemed as if his head were about to fall off.

"Hallo! faither," he cried in a sleepy voice, "wot's up?"

"Ha! you're roused at last, lad, come, it's time to have a bit
breakfast.  It ain't a heavy un you'll git, poor boy, but 'tis better
than nothin', and bigger men have throve upon less at times."

Billy was awake and fully alive to his position by this time.  He was
much depressed.  He would have been more than mortal had he been
otherwise, but he resolved to shake off the feeling, and face his
fortune like a man.

"Come along, daddy, let's have a spell at the oars before breakfast."

"No, lad, take a bit first," said Gaff, opening the sack which contained
the biscuit, and carefully measuring out two small portions of the
crumbs.  One of the portions was rather larger than the other.  Billy
observed this, and stoutly refused to take his share when Stephen pushed
the larger portion towards him.

"No, daddy," said he, "you're not a fair divider."

"Am I not, lad?" said Stephen meekly.  "I thought I'd done it pretty
eekal."

"No, my half is the biggest, so you'll have to take some of it back."

Gaff refused, but Billy insisted, and a small piece of the precious
biscuit was finally put back into the bag.  The meal was then eaten with
much display of satisfaction by father and son, (a blessing having been
first asked on it), and it was prolonged as much as possible in order to
encourage the idea that it was not such a small one after all.

Billy had not been particular as to his crusts and fragments of victuals
in days of yore, but it was wonderful how sharp his eye was on this
occasion to note and pick up every minute crumb, and transfer it to his
hungry mouth.

"Now, daddy, I'm ready."

He swelled out his little chest, and gave it a sounding thump as he
rose, and, rolling up his shirt-sleeves to the shoulder, seized an oar.
Gaff took the other, and both sat down to the slow, dreary, monotonous
toil of another day.

At first the Bu'ster was chatty, but by degrees his tongue flagged, and
ere long it became quite silent.

For six or eight hours they pulled without intermission, except for a
few minutes at a time, every hour or so, and Gaff directed the boat's
head in the direction to which the captain had pointed when he said the
land might be about five hundred miles off.

When the sun was getting low on the horizon, Billy stopped with a sigh--

"Ain't it time for dinner, daddy, d'ye think?"

"Hold on a bit, lad, I'm goin' to let ye tak' a sleep soon, an' it'll be
best to eat just afore lyin' down."

No more was said, and the rowing was continued until the sun had set,
and the shades of night were beginning to descend on the sea.

"Now, lad, we'll sup," said Stephen, with a hearty air, as he pulled in
his oar.

"Hooray!" cried Billy faintly, as he jumped up and went to the stern,
where his father soon produced the biscuit-bag and measured out the two
small portions.

"Cheatin' again, daddy," cried the Bu'ster with a remonstrative tone and
look.

"No, I ain't," said Gaff sharply, "eat yer supper, you scamp."

Billy obeyed with alacrity, and disposed of his portion in three
mouthfuls.  There was a small quantity of rain-water--about half a
pint--which had been collected and carefully husbanded in the
baling-dish.  It was mingled with a little spray, and was altogether a
brackish and dirty mixture, nevertheless they drank it with as much
relish as if it had been clear spring water.

"Now, boy, turn in," said Gaff earnestly; "you'll need all the sleep ye
can git, for, if I know the signs of the sky, we'll have more wind afore
long."

Poor Billy was too tired to make any objection to this order, so he laid
his head on a fold of the wet sail, and almost immediately fell asleep.

Gaff was right in his expectation of more wind.  About two hours after
sunset it came on to blow so stiffly that he was obliged to awaken Billy
and set him to bale out the sprays that kept constantly washing over the
gunwale.  Towards midnight a gale was blowing, and Gaff put the boat
before the wind, and drove with it.

Hour after hour passed away; still there was no abatement in the
violence of the storm, and no relaxation from baling and steering, which
the father and son took alternately every half hour.

At last Billy's strength was fairly exhausted.  He flung down the
baling-dish, and, sitting down beside his father, laid his head on his
breast, and burst into tears.  The weakness, (for such Billy deemed it),
only lasted a few moments however.  He soon repressed his sobs.

"My poor boy," said Gaff, patting his son's head, "it'll be soon over
wi' us, I fear.  May the good Lord help us!  The boat can't float long
wi' such sprays washin' over her."

Billy said nothing, but clung closer to his father, while his heart was
filled with solemn, rather than fearful, thoughts of death.

Their danger of swamping now became so imminent that Gaff endeavoured to
prepare his mind to face the last struggle manfully.  He was naturally
courageous, and in the heat of action or of battle could have faced
death with a smile and an unblanched cheek; but he found it much more
difficult to sit calmly in the stern of that little boat hour after
hour, and await the blow that seemed inevitable.  He felt a wild, almost
irresistible, desire to leap up and vent his feelings in action of some
kind, but this was not possible, for it required careful attention to
the helm to prevent the little craft from broaching-to and upsetting.
In his extremity he raised his heart to God in prayer.

While he was thus engaged the roar of the storm increased to such a
degree that both father and son started up in expectation of
instantaneous destruction.  A vivid flash of lightning glared over the
angry sea at the moment, and revealed to their horrified gaze a reef of
rocks close ahead, on which the waves were breaking with the utmost
fury.  Instant darkness followed the flash, and a deafening peal of
thunder joined in the roar of breakers, intensifying, if possible, the
terrors of the situation.

Gaff knew now that the crisis had certainly arrived, and for the next
few moments he exerted every power of eye and ear in order to guide the
boat into a channel between the breakers--if such existed.

"Jump for'ard, lad," he shouted, "and keep yer eye sharp ahead."

Billy obeyed at once, with the seamanlike "Ay, ay, sir," which he had
acquired on board the whaler.

"Port, port! hard-a-port!" shouted the boy a moment after taking his
place in the bow.

"Port it is," answered Gaff.

Before the boat had time, however, to answer the helm, she was caught on
the crest of a breaker, whirled round like a piece of cork, and,
balancing for one moment on the foam, capsized.

The moment of hesitation was enough to enable Gaff to spring to his
son's side and seize him.  Next instant they were buffeting the waves
together.

It is not necessary to remind the reader that Gaff was an expert
swimmer.  Billy was also first-rate.  He was known among his companions
as The Cork, because of his floating powers, and these stood him in good
stead at this time, enabling him to cling to his father much more
lightly than would have been the case had he not been able to swim.

At first they found it impossible to do more than endeavour to keep
afloat, for the surging of the breakers was so great, and the darkness
so intense, that they could not give direction to their energies.  But
the increasing roar of the surf soon told them that they were near the
rocks, and in a few seconds they were launched with tremendous force
amongst them.

Well was it for them at that moment that the wave which bore them on its
crest swept them through a gap in the reef, else had they been
inevitably dashed to pieces.  As it was, they were nearly torn asunder,
and Gaff's shoulder just grazed a rock as he was whirled past it; but in
a few seconds they found themselves in comparatively still water, and
felt assured that they had been swept through an opening in the reef.
Presently Gaff touched a rock and grasped it.

"Hold on, Billy my lad!" he exclaimed breathlessly, "we'll be safe
ashore, please God, in a short bit."

"All right, daddy," gasped the boy; for to say truth, the whirling in
the foam had well-nigh exhausted him.

Soon the two were out of the reach of the waves, clinging to what
appeared to be the face of a precipice.  Here, although safe from the
actual billows, they were constantly drenched by spray, and exposed to
the full fury of the gale.  At first they attempted to scale the cliff,
supposing that if once at the top they should find shelter; but this
proved to be impossible.  Equally impossible was it to get round the
promontory on which they had been cast.  They were therefore compelled
to shelter themselves as they best might, in the crevices of the exposed
point, and cling to each other for warmth.

It was a long long night to those castaways.  Minutes appeared to pass
like hours, and it seemed to them as if night had finally and for ever
settled down on the dreary world.  The wind too, although not very cold,
was sufficiently so to chill them, and long before day began to break
they were so much benumbed as to be scarcely able to maintain their
position.

During all this time they were harassed by uncertainty as to the nature
of the rock on which they were cast.  It might be a mere barren islet,
perhaps one which the sea covered at high-water, in which case there was
the possibility of their being swept away before morning.

When morning came, however, it revealed to them the fact that they were
upon a small promontory, which was connected by a narrow neck of sand
with the land.

As soon as the light rendered this apparent, Gaff put his hand on
Billy's head and spoke softly to him--

"Now then, lad, look up--ye an't sleepin', sure, are ye?"

"No, daddy, only dozin' and dreamin'," said Billy, rousing himself.

"Well, we must stop dreamin', and git ashore as fast as we can.  I think
there's dry land all the way to the beach; if not, it'll only be a short
swim.  Whether it's an island or what, I don't know; but let's be
thankful, boy, that it looks big enough to hold us.  Come, cheer up!"

To this Billy replied that he was quite jolly, and ready for anything;
and, by way of proving his fitness for exertion, began to crawl over the
rocks like a snail!

"That'll never do," said Gaff with a short laugh; "come, wrestle with
me, youngster."

The Bu'ster accepted the challenge at once by throwing his arms round
his father's waist, and endeavouring to throw him.  Gaff resisted, and
the result was that, in ten minutes or so, they were comparatively warm,
and capable of active exertion.

Then they clambered over the rocks, traversed the neck of sand, and
quickly gained the shore.

Ascending the cliffs with eager haste, they reached the summit just as
the sun rose and tinged the topmost pinnacles with a golden hue.
Pushing on towards an elevated ridge of rock, they climbed to the top of
a mound, from which they could obtain a view of the surrounding country,
and then they discovered that their place of refuge was a small solitary
island, in the midst of the boundless sea.



CHAPTER TWENTY TWO.

THE ISLAND-HOME EXAMINED.

For a long time father and son stood on the elevated rock gazing in
silence on the little spot of earth that was to be their home, it might
be, for months, or even years.

The island, as I have said, was a solitary one, and very small--not more
than a mile broad, by about three miles long; but it was covered from
summit to shore with the richest tropical verdure, and the trees and
underwood were so thick that the cliffs could only be seen in places
where gaps in the foliage occurred, or where an aspiring peak of rock
shot up above the trees.  In order to reach the ridge on which they
stood, the castaways had passed beneath the shade of mangrove, banana,
cocoa-nut, and a variety of other trees and plants.  The land on which
these grew was undulating and varied in form, presenting in one
direction dense foliage, which not only filled the little valleys, but
clung in heavy masses to rocks and ridges; while in other places there
were meadows of rich grass, with here and there a reedy pond, whose
surface was alive with wild ducks and other water-fowl.  Only near the
top of the island--which might almost be styled a mountain ridge--was
there any appearance of uncovered rock.  There were two principal peaks,
one of which, from its appearance, was a volcano, but whether an active
one or not Gaff could not at that time determine.  Unlike the most of
the South Sea islands, this one was destitute of a surrounding coral
reef, so that the great waves caused by the recent storm burst with
thunderous roar on the beach.

At one point only was there a projecting point or low promontory, which
formed a natural harbour; and it was on the outer rocks of this point
that the father and son had been providentially cast.  The whole scene
was pre-eminently beautiful; and as the wind had gone quite down, it
was, with the exception of the solemn, regular, intermittent roar of the
breakers on the weather side, quiet and peaceful.  As he sat down on a
rock, and raised his heart to God in gratitude for his deliverance, Gaff
felt the spot to be a sweet haven of rest after the toils and horrors of
the storm.

A single glance was sufficient to show that the island was uninhabited.

The silence was first broken by Billy, who, in his wonted sudden and
bursting manner, gave vent to a resonant cheer.

"Hallo! ho! hooray!" he shouted, while a blaze of delight lit up his
face; "there's the boat, daddy!"

"Where away, lad?" demanded Gaff, rising and shading his eyes from the
sun, as he looked in the direction indicated.

"There, down i' the cove; bottom up among the rocks; stove in, I
daresay.  Don't 'ee see'd, faither?"

"Ay, lad; and mayhap it bean't stove in; leastwise we'll go see."

As the two hastened down to the beach to ascertain this important point,
Gaff took a more leisurely survey of things on the island, and Billy
commented freely on things in general.

"Now, daddy," said the Bu'ster, with a face of beaming joy, "this is the
very jolliest thing that ever could have happened to us--ain't it?"

"Well, I'm not so sure o' that, lad.  To be cast away on a lone desert
island in the middle o' the Pacific, with little or no chance o' gittin'
away for a long bit, ain't quite the jolliest thing in the world, to my
mind."

"Wot's a _desert_ island, daddy?"

"One as ain't peopled or cultivated."

"Then _that's_ no objection to it," said Billy, "because we two are
people enough, and we'll cultivate it up to the mast-head afore long."

"But what shall we do for victuals, lad?" inquired Gaff, with a smile.

The Bu'ster was posed.  He had never thought of food, so his countenance
fell.

"And drink?" added Gaff.

The Bu'ster was _not_ posed at this, for he remembered, and reminded his
father of, the pond which they had seen from the ridge.

"Aha!" he added, "an' there was lots o' ducks on it too.  We can eat
them, you know, daddy, even though we han't got green peas or taties to
'em."

"We can have other things to 'em though," said Gaff, pointing to a tall
palm-tree; "for there are cocoa-nuts; and farther on, to this side o'
the hollow there, I see banana-trees; and here are yams, which are
nearly as good as taties."

"I told ye it would be jolly," cried Billy, recovering his delight, "an'
no doubt we'll find lots of other things; and then we'll have it all to
ourselves--you and me.  You'll be king, daddy, or emperor, and I'll be
prince.  Won't that be grand?--Prince of a South Sea island!  What would
Tottie and mother say?  And then the boat, you know--even if it do be
stove in, we can patch it up somehow, and go fishin'."

"Without hooks or lines?" said Gaff.

Billy was posed again, and his father laughed at the perplexed
expression on his countenance, as he said, "Never mind, boy, we'll find
somethin' or other that will do instead o' hooks an' lines."

"To be sure we will," assented the other encouragingly; "an' that'll be
one of the jolliest bits of it all, that we'll spend lots of our time in
tryin' to find out things that'll do instead o' other things, won't we?
And then--hallo! was that a grump?"

"It sounded uncommon like one."

"An' that's a squeal," said Billy.

In another moment both "grump" and "squeal" were repeated in full chorus
by a drove of wild pigs that burst suddenly out of a thick bush, and,
rushing in mad haste past the intruders on their domain, disappeared,
yelling, into a neighbouring thicket.

"Pork for our ducks, daddy!" shouted Billy, when the first burst of his
surprise was over; "we'll have plenty of grub now; but how are we to
catch them?"

"Ha! we must find that out," replied Gaff cheerfully; "it'll give us
summat to think about, d'ye see?  Now then, here we are at the beach,
an' as far as I can see we have bright prospects in regard to victuals
of another sort, for here be crabs an' oysters an' no end o' cockles.
Come, we'll not be badly off, if we only had a hut o' some sort to sleep
in; but, after all, we can manage to be comfortable enough under a tree.
It will be better than the housin' we've had for the last few nights,
anyhow."

To their great delight they found that the boat had been cast ashore on
a sandy place, and that it was uninjured.  A short way beyond it, too,
the oars were found stranded between two rocks.

This was a piece of great good fortune, because it placed within their
reach the means of an immediate circumnavigation of their island.  But
before entering on this voyage of discovery they resolved to explore the
woods near the place where they had landed, in search of a cavern, or
some suitable place in which to fix their home.

Acting on this resolve they pulled the boat up the beach, placed the
oars within it, and returned to the woods.  As they went they picked up
a few shell-fish, and ate them raw.  Thus they breakfasted; but although
the meal was a poor one it was unusually pleasant, because of the hunger
which had previously oppressed them, and which Billy, in a fit of
confidential talk with his father, compared to having his "interior
gnawed out by rats!"

Passing through the woods they found a quantity of ripe berries, of
various kinds, of which they ate heartily, and then came to a spring of
clear cold water.  Gaff also climbed a cocoa-nut tree and brought down
two nuts, which were clothed in such thick hard shells that they
well-nigh broke their hearts before they succeeded in getting at the
kernels.  However, they got at them in course of time, and feasted
sumptuously on them.

It was half an hour, or perhaps three-quarters of an hour, after the
gathering of the cocoa-nuts, that they came suddenly on a spring of
water above which there was a cloud of vapour resembling steam.

"It's bilin'," exclaimed Billy, as he ran forward and eagerly thrust his
hand into the water.

Billy had said this in joke, for he had never conceived of such a thing
as a spring of hot water, but he found that his jest might have been
said in earnest, for the spring was almost "bilin'," and caused the
Bu'ster to pull his hand out again with a roar of surprise and pain.

Just beyond the hot spring they found a small cavern in the face of a
cliff, which appeared to them to be quite dry.

"Here's the very thing we want, daddy," cried Billy in gleeful surprise.

"Don't be too sure, lad; p'raps it's damp."

"No, it's dry as bone," said the boy, running in and placing his hands
on the floor; "it's wide inside too, and the entrance is small, so we
can put a door to it; and look there! see--an't that a hole leadin' to
some other place?"

Billy was right.  A small hole, not much larger than was sufficient to
admit of a man passing through, conducted them into a larger cave than
the first one, and here they found another hole leading into a third,
which was so large and dark that they dared not venture to explore it
without a light.  They saw enough, however, to be convinced that the
caverns were well ventilated and free from damp, so they returned to the
entrance cave and examined it carefully with a view to making it their
home.

Billy's romantic spirit was filled to overflowing with joy while thus
engaged, insomuch that Gaff himself became excited as well as interested
in the investigation.  They little knew at the time how familiar each
rock and crevice of that cave was to become, and how long it was
destined to be their island-home!



CHAPTER TWENTY THREE.

RELATING TO IMPROVEMENTS IN THE HUT, AND MRS. GAFF'S PERPLEXITIES.

While Stephen Gaff and his son were busy preparing their residence in
the South Sea island, Mrs Gaff was equally busy in preparing her
residence for their reception on their return to Cove.

The little cottage had undergone so many changes during the past few
months that it is doubtful whether its rightful owner would have
recognised his own property,--internally at least; externally it
remained unaltered.

Having, with much pains, ascertained that she might venture to launch
out pretty freely in the way of expenditure without becoming absolutely
bankrupt, Mrs Gaff had supplied herself with a handsome new grate, a
large proportion of which was of polished brass, that cost herself and
Tottie much of their time to keep clean and brilliant; there were also
fender and fire-irons to match, adorned with brass knobs and points,
which latter were the special admiration of Tottie.  There was a carpet,
too, straight from the looms of Turkey--as the man who sold it informed
Mrs Gaff--which was the admiration of all Cove, for it was divided into
squares of brilliant colours, with huge red roses in the centre of each.
It was positively a superb, a resplendent, carpet, and rejoiced the
hearts and eyes of Mrs Gaff and her child every time they looked at it,
which you may be sure was pretty often.  It kept them indeed in a
constant state of nervous dread lest they should spill or capsize
anything upon it, and in this respect might almost be said to have
rendered their lives a burden, but they bore up under it with surprising
cheerfulness.

There was also a new eight-day clock, with a polished mahogany case and
a really white face, which by contrast made the old Dutch clock more
yellow and bilious than ever, and if possible more horrified in its
expression.  Mrs Gaff had allowed the old clock to retain its corner,
wisely concluding that it would be a pleasantly familiar sight and sound
to her husband and son when they returned.  It was quite apparent to the
meanest capacity that there was a rivalry between the two timepieces;
for, being both rather good timekeepers, they invariably struck the
hours at the same time, but the new clock struck with such a loud
overbearing ring that the old one was quite overpowered.  The latter had
the advantage, however, of getting the first two strokes before the
other began, besides which it prefaced its remarks every hour with a
mysterious hissing and whirring sound that the new clock could not have
got up to save its life.

There were also half-a-dozen new cane chairs.  The shopman who had sold
Mrs Gaff the carpet told her that they would look more elegant and
drawing-room-like than the six heavy second-hand mahogany ones, with the
hair-cloth seats, on which she had set her heart.  Mrs Gaff would not
at first agree to take the cane chairs, observing truly that they "was
too slim," but she was shaken in her mind when the shopman said they
were quite the thing for a lady's boudoir.

She immediately demanded to know what a "boodwar" was.  The shopman told
her that it was an elegant apartment in which young ladies were wont to
sit and read poetry, and think of their absent lovers.

On hearing this she retired into a corner of the shop, taking refuge
behind a chest of drawers, and held a long whispered conversation with
Tottie, after which she came forth and asked the shopman if married
ladies ever used boodwars where they might sit and think of their absent
husbands.

The shopman smiled, and said he had no doubt they did--indeed, he was
sure of it; for, said he, there was a certain apartment in his own house
in which his own wife was wont to sit up at night, when he chanced to be
absent, and think of _him_.

The uncandid man did not add that in the same apartment he was in the
habit of being taken pretty sharply to task as to what had kept him out
so late; but, after all, what had Mrs Gaff to do with that?  The result
was that the six cane chairs were ordered by Mrs Gaff, who remarked
that she never read "poitry," but that that wouldn't matter much.
Thenceforth she styled the cottage at Cove the Boodwar.

It is worthy of remark that Mrs Gaff, being a heavy woman, went through
the bottom of the first of the cane chairs she sat down on after they
were placed in the boudoir, and that her fisher-friends, being all more
or less heavy, went successively through the bottoms of all the rest
until none were left, and they were finally replaced by the six heavy
mahogany chairs, with the hair seats, which ever afterwards stood every
test to which they were subjected, that of Haco Barepoles' weight
included.

But the chief ornament of the cottage was a magnificent old mahogany
four-poster, which was so large that it took up at least a third of the
apartment, and so solidly dark and heavy that visitors were invariably,
on their first entrance, impressed with the belief that a hearse had
been set up in a corner of the boudoir.  The posts of this bed were
richly carved, and the top of each was ornamented with an imposing ball.
The whole was tastefully draped with red damask so dark with age as to
be almost black.  Altogether this piece of furniture was so grand that
words cannot fully describe it, and it stood so high on its carved legs
that Mrs Gaff and Tottie were obliged to climb into it each night by a
flight of three steps, which were richly carpeted, and which folded into
a square box, which was extremely convenient as a seat or ottoman during
the day, and quite in keeping with the rest of the furniture of the
"boodwar."

In addition to all these beautiful and expensive articles, Mrs Gaff
displayed her love for the fine arts in the selection and purchase of
four engravings in black frames with gold slips, one for each wall of
the cottage.  The largest of these was the portrait of a first-rate
line-of-battle ship in full sail, with the yards manned, and dressed
from deck to trucks with all the flags of the navy.  Another was a head
of Lord Nelson, said to be a speaking likeness!

This head had the astonishing property of always looking at you, no
matter what part of the room you looked at it from!  Tottie had
expressed a wish that it might be hung opposite the new clock, in order
that it might have something, as it were, to look at; but although the
eyes looked straight out of the picture, they refused to look at the
clock, and pertinaciously looked at living beings instead.  Mrs Gaff
asserted that it had a squint, and that it was really looking at the
Dutch clock, and on going to the corner where that timepiece stood she
found that Lord Nelson _was_ gazing in that direction!  But Tottie, who
went to the opposite corner of the room, roundly asseverated that the
head looked at _her_.

There was no getting over this difficulty, so Mrs Gaff gave it up as an
unsolvable riddle; but Tottie, who was fond of riddles, pondered the
matter, and at length came to the conclusion that as Lord Nelson was a
great man, it must be because of his greatness that he could look in two
directions at the same moment.

Mrs Gaff furthermore displayed her taste for articles of _vertu_ in her
selection of chimney-piece ornaments.  She had completely covered every
inch of available space with shells of a brilliant and foreign aspect,
and articles of chinaware, such as parrots and shepherds, besides
various creatures which the designer had evidently failed to represent
correctly, as they resembled none of the known animals of modern times.

From this abode of elegance and luxury Mrs Gaff issued one forenoon in
her gay cotton visiting dress and the huge bonnet with the pink bows and
ribbons.  Tottie accompanied her, for the two were seldom apart for any
lengthened period since the time when Stephen and Billy went away.
Mother and daughter seemed from that date to have been united by a new
and stronger bond than heretofore; they walked, worked, ate, slept, and
almost thought together.  On the present occasion they meant to pay a
business visit at the house of Mr Stuart.

While they were on their way thither, Miss Penelope Stuart was engaged
in the difficult and harassing work of preparing for a journey.  She was
assisted by Mrs Niven, who was particularly anxious to know the cause
of the intended journey, to the great annoyance of Miss Peppy, who did
not wish to reveal the cause, but who was so incapable of concealing
anything that she found it absolutely necessary to take the housekeeper
into her confidence.

"Niven," she said, sitting down on a portmanteau, which was packed,
beside one which was packing.

"Yes, ma'am."

"I may as well tell you why it is that I am going to visit my
brother-in-law--"

"Oh, it's to your brother-in-law you're goin', is it?"

"Yes, I forgot that you did not know, but to be sure I might have known
that you could not know unless you were told, although it's difficult to
understand why people shouldn't know what others are thinking of, as
well as what they are looking at.  We can see them looking, but we can't
hear them thinking--really it is very perplexing--dear me, where can
they be?"

"What, ma'am?"

"My thick walking-shoes.  I'm quite sure that I had them in my hand a
minute ago."

"Ho! ma'am," exclaimed Mrs Niven suddenly, "if you aren't bin an' put
'em into your bonnet-box among the caps."

"Well now, that _is_ odd.  Put them into the bag, Niven.  Well, as I was
saying--where was I?"

"You was goin' to tell me why you are goin' to your brother, ma'am,"
observed the housekeeper.

"Ah! to be sure; well then--.  But you must never mention it, Niven."

Miss Peppy said this with much solemnity, as if she were administering
an oath.

"On my honour, ma'am; trust me.  I never mentions hanythink."

Mrs Niven said this as though she wondered that the supposition could
have entered into Miss Peppy's head for a moment, that she, (Mrs
Niven), could, would, or should tell anything to anybody.

"Well then, you must know," resumed Miss Peppy, with a cautious glance
round the room, "my brother-in-law, Colonel Crusty, who lives in the
town of Athenbury, is a military man--"

"So I should suppose, ma'am," observed Mrs Niven, "he being called
Kurnel, w'ich is an army name."

"Ah, yes, to be sure, I forgot that; well, it is two hours by train to
Athenbury, which is a dirty place, as all seaports are--full of fishy
and sailory smells, though I've never heard that such smells are bad for
the health; at least the Sanitary Commissioners say that if all the
filth were cleaned away the effluvia would be less offensive, and--
and--.  But, as I was saying, for those reasons I mean to pay my
brother-in-law a short visit."

"Beg parding, ma'am," said Mrs Niven, "but, if I may remark so, you
'ave not mentioned your reasons as yet."

"Oh, to be sure," said the baffled Miss Peppy, who had weakly hoped that
she could escape with an indefinite explanation; "I meant to say, (and
you'll be sure not to tell, Niven), that the Colonel has a remarkably
pretty daughter, with _such_ a sweet temper, and heiress to all her
father's property; though I never knew rightly how much it was, for the
Crustys are very close, and since their mother died--"

"Whose mother, ma'am? the Colonel's or his daughter's?"

"His daughter's, of course--Bella, she is called.  Since she died, (not
Bella, but her mother), since then I've never heard anything about the
family; but now that Bella is grown up, I mean to get her and Kenneth to
see each other, and I have no doubt that they will fall in love, which
would be very nice, for you know Kenneth will have a good income one of
those days, and it's as well that the young people should be--be married
if they can, and indeed I see nothing in the way; though, after all,
they would probably be happier if they were _not_ to marry, for I don't
believe the state to be a happy one, and that's the reason, Niven, that
I never entered into it myself; but it's too late now, though I cannot
conceive why it should ever be too late, for if people can be happy at
all, any time, what's to hinder?"

Miss Peppy paused abruptly here, and Mrs Niven, supposing that she
awaited a reply, said--

"Nothing whatever, ma'am."

"Exactly so, Niven, that's just what I think.  Kenneth is young and tall
and handsome, Bella is young and small and pretty, and that's the reason
the match is so suitable, though, to be sure, there are many people
similarly situated whose union would not be suitable; dear me, this
world of perplexities!  No one can read the riddle, for this world is no
better than a big round riddle, flattened a little at the poles, to be
sure, like an orange, though to _my_ eyes it seems as flat as a pancake,
except in the Scotch Highlands, where it's very irregular, and the
people wear kilts; still, upon the whole, I think the match will be a
good one, so I am going to try to bring it about."

"But are you sure, ma'am, that Master Kenneth will go to visit Colonel
Crusty?"

"O yes, he has promised to escort me there, and then he'll see Bella,
and, of course, he won't wish to leave after that."

Mrs Niven shook her head, and observed that she rather feared Miss
Lizzie Gordon's image was already indelibly impressed on Master
Kenneth's heart, but Miss Peppy replied that that was all nonsense, and
that, at all events, her brother, Mr Stuart, would never permit it.
She did not find it difficult to gain over Mrs Niven to her views, for
that worthy woman, (like many other worthy women in this world), held
the opinion that a "good match" meant a match where money existed on one
or both sides, and that love was a mere boyish and girlish idea, which
should not be taken into consideration at all.

The two were still discussing this important subject when Mrs Gaff laid
violent hands on the door-bell.

On being admitted to the presence of Miss Peppy, Mrs Gaff sat down on
the packed trunk, and all but stove in the lid; whereupon she rose
hastily with many apologies, and afterwards in her confusion sat down on
the bonnet-box, which she stove in so completely as to render it
_hors-de-combat_ for all future time.

"I'm awful sorry," she began.

"Oh, no harm; at least no matter," said Miss Peppy, "it's quite a
useless sort of thing," (this was literally true), "and I mean to get a
new one immediately."

Mrs Gaff became suddenly comforted, and said, with a bland smile, that,
having heard only that morning of her intention to visit the town of
Athenbury, she had called to ask her to do her a great favour.

"With the greatest pleasure; what can I do for you?" said Miss Peppy,
who was the essence of good-nature.

"Thank 'ee, ma'am, it's to take charge o' a bit parcel, about the size
of my head, or thereaway, and give it to a poor relation o' mine as
lives there when he an't afloat."

"A seaman?" said Miss Peppy.

"Yes, ma'am."

"Very well; but," continued Miss Peppy, "you say the parcel is the size
of your head: do you mean your head with or without the bonnet?  Excuse
me for--"

"La! ma'am, _without_ the bonnet, of course.  It may perhaps be rather
heavy, but I an't quite sure yet.  I'll let you know in an hour or so."

Mrs Gaff rose abruptly, left the house, with Tottie, precipitately, and
made her way to the bank, where she presented herself with a defiant air
to the teller who had originally supplied her with a hundred pounds in
gold.  She always became and looked defiant, worthy woman, on entering
the bank, having become unalterably impressed with the idea that all the
clerks, tellers, and directors had entered into an agreement to throw
every possible difficulty in the way of her drawing out money, and
having resolved in her own determined way that she wouldn't give in as
long as, (to borrow one of her husband's phrases), "there was a shot in
the locker!"

"Now, sir," she said to the elderly teller, "I wants twenty pounds, if
there's as much in the shop."

The elderly teller smiled, and bade her sit down while he should write
out the cheque for her.  She sat down, gazing defiance all round her,
and becoming painfully aware that there were a number of young men
behind various screened rails whose noses were acting as safety-valves
to their suppressed feelings.

When the cheque was drawn out and duly signed, Mrs Gaff went to the
rails and shook it as she might have shaken in the face of her enemies
the flag under which she meant to conquer or to die.  On receiving it
back she returned and presented it to the elderly teller with a look
that said plainly--"There! refuse to cash that at your peril;" but she
said nothing, she only snorted.

"How will you have it?" inquired the teller blandly.

"In coppers," said Mrs Gaff stoutly.

"Coppers!" exclaimed the teller in amazement.

"Yes, coppers."

"My good woman, are you aware that you could scarcely lift such a sum in
coppers."

"How many would it make?" she inquired with an air of indecision.

"Four thousand eight hundred pence."

Mrs Gaff's resolution was shaken; after a few moments' consideration
she said she would take it in silver, and begged to have it mixed--with
a good number of sixpences amongst it.

"You see, my lamb," she whispered to Tottie, while the teller was
getting the money, "my poor cousin George is a'most too old to go to sea
now, and he han't got a penny to live on, an' so I wants to gladden his
heart and astonish his eyes wi' a sight o' such a heap o' silver.  Mix
it all together, sir," she said to the teller.

He obeyed, and pushed the pile towards Mrs Gaff, who surveyed it first
with unmixed delight; but gradually her face was clouded with a look of
concern as she thought of the counting of it.

If the counting of the gold was terrible to her, the counting of the
silver was absolutely appalling, for the latter, consisting as it did of
half-crowns, shillings, and sixpences, numbered nearly five hundred
pieces.

The poor woman applied herself to the task with commendable energy, but
in ten minutes she perceived that the thing was utterly beyond her
powers, so she suddenly exclaimed to Tottie, who stood looking on with
tears in her eyes,--"Surely the elderly teller must be an honest man,
and would never cheat me;" having come to which conclusion she swept the
silver into the bag previously prepared for it, and consigned that to
the basket which was the inseparable companion of her left arm.
Thereafter she left the bank and hastened to a grocer in the town with
whom she was acquainted, and from whom she obtained brown paper and
twine with which she made the money up into a parcel.  Her next act was
to purchase a new bonnet-box, which she presented to Miss Peppy with
many earnest protestations that she would have got a better if she
could, but a better was not to be had in town for love or money.

Having executed all her commissions, Mrs Gaff returned to Cove and
spent an hour or two with Tottie in the four-poster--not by any means
because she was lazy, but because it afforded her peculiar and
inexpressible pleasure to stare at the damask curtains and wonder how
Gaff would like it, and think of the surprise that he would receive on
first beholding _such_ a bed.  So anxious did the good woman become in
her desire to make the most of the new bed, that she once or twice
contemplated the propriety of Stephen and herself, and the Bu'ster and
Tottie, spending the first night, "after their return," all together in
it, but on mature consideration she dismissed the idea as untenable.



CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR.

MISS PEPPY UNDERTAKES A JOURNEY.

The scene is changed now to the railway station at Wreckumoft, where
there is the usual amount of bustle and noise.  The engines are
shrieking and snorting as if nothing on earth could relieve their
feelings but bursting.  Bells are ringing; porters are hurrying to and
fro with luggage on trucks, to the risk of passengers' shins and toes;
men, women, and children, young and old, high and low, rich and poor,
are mixed in confusion on the platform, some insanely attempting to
force their way into a train that is moving off, under the impression
that it is _their_ train, and they are too late "after all!"  Others are
wildly searching for lost luggage.  Many are endeavouring to calm their
own spirits, some are attempting to calm the spirits of others.  Timid
old ladies, who _cannot_ get reconciled to railways at all, are
convinced that "something is going to happen," and testy old gentlemen
are stumping about in search of wives and daughters, wishing that
railways had never been invented, while a good many self-possessed
individuals of both sexes are regarding the scene with serene composure.

When Miss Peppy made her appearance she was evidently not among the
latter class.  She was accompanied by Kenneth, and attended by Mrs
Niven.

Neither mistress nor maid had ever been in a railway station before.
They belonged to that class of females who are not addicted to
travelling, and who prefer stage-coaches of the olden times to railways.
They entered the station, therefore, with some curiosity and much
trepidation--for it chanced to be an excursion day, and several of the
"trades" of Athenbury were besieging the ticket-windows.

"It is very good of you to go with me, Kennie," said Miss Peppy, hugging
her nephew's arm.

"My dear aunt, it is a pleasure, I assure you," replied Kenneth; "I am
quite anxious to make the acquaintance of Colonel Crusty and his pretty
daughter."

"O dear! what a shriek!  Is anything wrong, Kennie?"

"Nothing, dear aunt; it is only a train about to start."

"What's the matter with you, Niven?" inquired Miss Peppy with some
anxiety, on observing that the housekeeper's face was ashy pale.

"Nothink, ma'am; only I feels assured that _everythink_ is a-goin' to
bu'st, ma'am."

She looked round hastily, as if in search of some way of escape, but no
such way presented itself.

"Look-out for your legs, ma'am," shouted a porter, as he tried to stop
his truck of luggage.

Mrs Niven of course did not hear him, and if she had heard him, she
would not have believed it possible that he referred to _her_ legs, for
she wore a very long dress, and was always scrupulously particular in
the matter of concealing her ankles.  Fortunately Kenneth observed her
danger, and pulled her out of the way with unavoidable violence.

"It can't 'old on much longer," observed Niven with a sigh, referring to
an engine which stood directly opposite to her in tremulous and
apparently tremendous anxiety to start.

The driver vented his impatience just then by causing the whistle to
give three sharp yelps, which produced three agonising leaps in the
bosoms of Miss Peppy and Mrs Niven.

"_Couldn't_ it all be done with a little less noise," said Miss Peppy to
Kenneth, "it seems to me so aw--oh! look! surely that old gentleman has
gone mad!"

"Not he," said Kenneth with a smile; "he has only lost his wife in the
crowd, and thinks the train will start before he finds her; see, she is
under the same impression, don't you see her rushing wildly about
looking for her husband, they'll meet in a moment or two if they keep
going in the same direction, unless that luggage-truck should
interfere."

"Look-out, sir!" shouted the porter at that moment.  The old gentleman
started back, and all but knocked over his wife, who screamed,
recognised him, and clung to his arm with thankful tenacity.

A bell rang.

The crowd swayed to and fro; agitated people became apparently insane;
timid people collapsed; strong people pushed, and weak folk gave way.
If any man should be sceptical in regard to the doctrine of the thorough
depravity of the human heart, he can have his unbelief removed by going
into and observing the conduct of an eager crowd!

"What a hinfamous state of things!" observed Mrs Niven.

"Yell!--shriek!" went the engine whistle, drowning Miss Peppy's reply.

"Take your seats!" roared the guard.

The engine gave a sudden snort, as if to say, "You'd better, else I'm
off without you."

"Now aunt," said Kenneth, "come along."

In another moment Miss Peppy was seated in a carriage, with her head out
of the window, talking earnestly and rapidly to Mrs Niven.

It seemed as if she had reserved all the household directions which she
had to give to that last inopportune moment!

"Now, take good care of Emmie, Niven, and don't forget to get her--"

The remainder was drowned by "that irritating whistle."

"Get her what, ma'am?"

"Get her shoes mended before Sunday, and remember that her petticoat was
torn when she--bless me! has that thing burst at last?"

"No, ma'am, not yet," said Niven.

"Now then, keep back; show your tickets, please," said the inspector,
pushing Niven aside.

"Imperence!" muttered the offended housekeeper, again advancing to the
window when the man had passed.

As the train was evidently about to start, Miss Peppy's memory became
suddenly very acute, and a rush of forgotten directions almost choked
her as she leaned out of the window.

"Oh!  Niven, I forgot--the--the--dear me, what is it?  I know it so well
when I'm not in a flurry.  It's awful to be subjected so constantly to--
the Child's History of England! that's it--on the top of my--my--which
trunk _can_ it be?  I know, oh yes, the leather one.  Emmie is to read--
well now, that is too bad--"

As Miss Peppy stopped and fumbled in her pocket inquiringly, Mrs Niven
asked, in some concern, if it was her purse.

"No, it's my thimble; ah! here it is, there's a corner in that pocket
where everything seems to--well," (shriek from the whistle), "oh! and--
and--the baker's book--it must be--by the bye, that's well remembered,
you must get money from Mr Stuart--"

"What _now_, ma'am," inquired Mrs Niven, as Miss Peppy again paused and
grew pale.

"The key!"

"Of the press?" inquired Niven.

"Yes--no; that is, it's the key of the press, and not the key of my
trunk.  Here, take it," (she thrust the key into the housekeeper's hand,
just as the engine gave a violent snort.) "What shall I do?  My trunk
won't open without, at least I suppose it won't, and it's a new lock!
what shall--"

"Make a parcel of the key, Niven," said Kenneth, coming to the rescue,
"and send it by the guard of next train."

"And oh!" shrieked Miss Peppy, as the train began to move, "I forgot
the--the--"

"Yes, yes, quick, ma'am," cried Niven eagerly, as she followed.

"Oh! can't they stop the train for a moment?  It's the--it's--dear me--
the pie--pie!"

"What pie, ma'am?"

"There's three of them--for my brother's dinner--I forgot to tell cook--
it'll put him out so--there's three of 'em.  It's not the--the--two but
the--the--_other_ one, the what-d'ye-call-it pie."  Miss Peppy fell back
on her seat, and gave it up with a groan.  Suddenly she sprang up, and
thrust out her head--"The _deer_ pie," she yelled.

"The dear pie!" echoed the astonished Mrs Niven interrogatively.

Another moment and Miss Peppy vanished from the scene, leaving the
housekeeper to return home in despair, from which condition she was
relieved by the cook, who at once concluded that the "dear pie" must
mean the venison pasty, and forthwith prepared the dish for dinner.



CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE.

PERPLEXITIES AND MUSICAL CHARMS.

My son Gildart, with his hands in his pockets and his cap very much on
one side of his head, entered my drawing-room one morning with a
perplexed air.

"What troubles you to-day?" asked Lizzie Gordon, who was seated at the
window winding up a ball of worsted, the skein of which was being held
by Miss Puff, who was at that time residing with us.

"What troubles me?--everything troubles me," said the middy with a stern
air, as he turned his back to the fire; "the world troubles me,
circumstances trouble me, my heart troubles me, my pocket troubles me,
my friends and relations trouble me, and so do my enemies; in fact, it
would be difficult to name the sublunary creature or thing that does
_not_ trouble me.  It blows trouble from every point of the compass, a
peculiarity in moral gales that is never observed in physical breezes."

"How philosophically you talk this morning," observed Lizzie with a
laugh.  "May it not be just possible that the trouble, instead of
flowing from all points to you as a centre, wells up within and flows
out in all directions, and that a warped mind inverts the process?"

"Perhaps you are right, sweet cousin!  Anyhow we can't be both wrong,
which is a comfort."

"May I ask what is the heart-trouble you complain of?" said Lizzie.

"Love and hatred," replied Gildart with a sigh and a frown.

"Indeed!  Is the name of the beloved object a secret?"

"Of course," said the middy with a pointed glance at Miss Puff, who
blushed scarlet from the roots of her hair to the edge of her dress,
(perhaps to the points of her toes--I am inclined to think so); "of
course it is; but the hated object's name is no secret.  It is Haco
Barepoles."

"The mad skipper!" exclaimed Lizzie in surprise.  "I thought he was the
most amiable man in existence.  Every one speaks well of him."

"It may be so, but I hate him.  The hatred is peculiar, though I believe
not incurable, but at present it is powerful.  That preposterous giant,
that fathom and four inches of conceit, that insufferable disgrace to
his cloth, that huge mass of human bones in a pig-skin--he--he bothers
me."

"But how does he bother you?"

"Well, in the first place, he positively refuses to let his daughter
Susan marry Dan Horsey, and I have set my heart on that match, for Susan
is a favourite of mine, and Dan is a capital fellow, though he is a
groom and a scoundrel--and nothing would delight me more than to bother
our cook, who is a perfect vixen, and would naturally die of vexation if
these two were spliced; besides, I want a dance at a wedding, or a
shindy of some sort, before setting sail for the land of spices and
niggers.  Haco puts a stop to all that; but, worse still, when I was
down at the Sailors' Home the other day, I heard him telling some
wonderful stories to the men there, in one of which he boasted that he
had never been taken by surprise, nor got a start in his life; that a
twenty-four pounder had once burst at his side and cut the head clean
off a comrade, without causing his nerves to shake or his pulse to
increase a bit.  I laid him a bet of ten pounds on the spot that I could
give him a fright, and he took it at once.  Now I can't for the life of
me think how to give him a fright, yet I _must_ do it somehow, for it
will never do to be beat."

"Couldn't you shoot off a pistol at his ear?" suggested Lizzie.

Miss Puff sniggered, and Gildart said he might as well try to startle
him with a sneeze.

"Get up a ghost, then," said Lizzie; "I have known a ghost act with
great effect on a dark night in an out-of-the-way place."

"No use," returned Gildart, shaking his head.  "Haco has seen ghosts
enough to frighten a squadron of horse-marines."

Miss Puff sniggered again, and continued to do so until her puffy face
and neck became extremely pink and dangerously inflated, insomuch that
Gildart asked her somewhat abruptly what in the world she was laughing
at.  Miss Puff said she wouldn't tell, and Gildart insisted that she
would; but she positively declined, until Gildart dragged her forcibly
from her chair into a window-recess, where she was prevailed on to
whisper the ideas that made her laugh.

"Capital!" exclaimed the middy, chuckling as he issued from the recess;
"I'll try it.  You're a charming creature, Puff, with an imagination
worthy the owner of a better name.  There, don't pout.  You know my
sentiments.  Adieu, fair cousin!  Puff, good-bye."

So saying, the volatile youth left the room.

That afternoon Gildart sauntered down to the Sailors' Home and entered
the public hall, in which a dozen or two of sailors were engaged in
playing draughts or chatting together.  He glanced round, but, not
finding the object of his search, was about to leave, when Dan Horsey
came up, and, touching his hat, asked if he were looking for Haco
Barepoles.

"I am," said Gildart.

"So is meself," said Dan; "but the mad skipper an't aisy to git howld
of, an' not aisy to kape howld of when ye've got him.  He's goin' to
Cove this afternoon, I believe, an'll be here before startin', so I'm
towld, so I'm waitin' for him."

As he spoke Haco entered, and Dan delivered a letter to him.

"Who from?" inquired the skipper sternly.

"Mr Stuart, _alias_ the guv'nor," replied Dan with extreme affability;
"an' as no answer is required, I'll take my leave with your highness's
permission."

Haco deigned no reply, but turned to Gildart and held out his hand.

"You've not gone to stay at Cove yet, I see," said Gildart.

"Not yet, lad, but I go to-night at nine o'clock.  You see Mrs Gaff is
a-goin' to visit a relation for a week, an' wants me to take care o' the
house, the boodwar, as she calls it, though why she calls it by that
name is more than I can tell.  However I'll be here for a week yet, as
the `Coffin' wants a few repairs, (I wonder if it ever didn't want
repairs), an' I may as well be there as in the Home, though I'm bound to
say the Home is as good a lodgin' as ever I was in at home or abroad,
and cheap too, an' they looks arter you so well.  The only thing I an't
sure of is whether the repairs is to be done here or in Athenbury."

"The letter from Mr Stuart may bear on that point," suggested Gildart.

"True," replied the skipper, opening the letter.

"Ha! sure enough the repairs _is_ to be done there, so I'll have to cut
my visit to Cove short by four days."

"But you'll sleep there to-night, I suppose?" asked Gildart, with more
anxiety than the subject seemed to warrant.

"Ay, no doubt o' that, for Mrs G and Tottie left this mornin', trustin'
to my comin' down in the evenin'; but I can't get before nine o'clock."

"Well, good-day to you," said Gildart; "I hope you'll enjoy yourself at
Cove."

The middy hastened away from the Sailors' Home with the air of a man who
had business on hand.  Turning the corner of a street he came upon a
brass band, the tones of which were rendering all the bilious people
within hearing almost unable to support existence.  There was one
irascible old gentleman, (a lawyer), under whose window it was braying,
who sat at his desk with a finger in each ear trying to make sense out
of a legal document.  This was a difficult task at any time, for the
legal document was compounded chiefly of nonsense, with the smallest
possible modicum of sense scattered through it.  In the circumstances
the thing was impossible, so the lawyer rose and stamped about the
floor, and wished he were the Emperor of Russia with a cannon charged
with grape-shot loaded to the muzzle and pointed at the centre of that
brass band, in which case he would--.  Well, the old gentleman never
thought out the sentence, but he stamped on and raved a little as the
band brayed below his window.

There was a sick man in a room not far from the old lawyer's office.  He
had spent two days and two nights in the delirium of fever.  At last the
doctor succeeded in getting him to fall into a slumber.  It was not a
very sound one; but such as it was it was of inestimable value to the
sick man.  The brass band, however, brayed the slumber away to the
strains of "Rule Britannia," and effectually restored the delirium with
"God Save the Queen."

There were many other interesting little scenes enacted in that street
in consequence of the harmonious music of that brass band, but I shall
refrain from entering into farther particulars.  Suffice it to say that
Gildart stood listening to it for some time with evident delight.

"Splendid," he muttered, as an absolutely appalling burst of discord
rent the surrounding air and left it in tatters.  "Magnificent!  I think
that will do."

"You seem fond of bad music, sir," observed an elderly gentleman, who
had been standing near a doorway looking at the middy with a quiet
smile.

"Yes, on the present occasion I am," replied Gildart; "discord suits my
taste just now, and noise is pleasant to my ear."

The band ceased to play at that moment, and Gildart, stepping up to the
man who appeared to be the leader, inasmuch as he performed on the
clarionet, asked him to turn aside with him for a few minutes.

The man obeyed with a look of surprise, not unmingled with suspicion.

"You are leader of this band?"

"Yes, sir, I ham."

"Have you any objection to earn a sovereign or two?"

"No, sir, I han't."

"It's a goodish band," observed Gildart.

"A fus'-rater," replied the clarionet.  "No doubt the trombone is a
little cracked and brassy, so to speak, because of a hinfluenza as has
wonted him for some weeks; but there's good stuff in 'im, sir, and
plenty o' lungs.  The key-bugle is a noo 'and, but 'e's capital,
'ticklerly in the 'igh notes an' flats; besides, bein' young, 'e'll
improve.  As to the French 'orn, there ain't his ekal in the country;
w'en he does the pathetic it would make a banker weep.  You like
pathetic music, sir?"

"Not much," replied the middy.

"No! now that's hodd.  _I_ do.  It 'armonises so with the usual state o'
my feelin's.  My feelin's is a'most always pathetic, sir."

"Indeed!"

"Yes, 'cept at meal-times, w'en I do manage to git a little jolly.  Ah!
sir, music ain't wot it used to be.  There's a general flatness about it
now, sir, an' people don't seem to admire it 'alf so much as w'en I
first began.  But if you don't like the pathetic, p'raps you like the
bravoory style?"

"I doat on it," said Gildart.  "Come, let's have a touch of the
`bravoory.'"

"I've got a piece," said the clarionet slowly, looking at the sky with a
pathetic air, "a piece as I composed myself.  I don't often play it,
'cause, you know, sir, one doesn't 'xactly like to shove one's-self too
prominently afore the public.  I calls it the `Banging-smash Polka.'
But I generally charge hextra for it, for it's dreadful hard on the
lungs, and the trombone he gets cross when I mention it, for it nearly
bu'sts the hinstrument; besides, it kicks up sich a row that it puts the
French 'orn's nose out o' jint--you can't 'ear a note of him.  I flatter
myself that the key-bugle plays his part to parfection, but the piece
was written chiefly for the trombone and clarionet; the one being deep
and crashing, the other shrill and high.  I had the battle o' Waterloo
in my mind w'en I wrote it."

"Will that do?" said Gildart, putting half-a-crown into the man's hand.

The clarionet nodded, and, turning to his comrades, winked gravely as he
pronounced the magic word--"Banging-smash."

Next moment there was a burst as if a bomb-shell had torn up the street,
and this was followed up by a series of crashes so rapid, violent, and
wildly intermingled, that the middy's heart almost leapt out of him with
delight!

In a few seconds three doors burst open, and three servant-girls rushed
at the band with three sixpences to beseech it to go away.

"Couldn't go under a shillin' a head," said the clarionet gravely.

A word from Gildart, however, induced him to accept of the bribe and
depart.

As they went along the street Gildart walked with the clarionet and held
earnest converse with him--apparently of a persuasive nature, for the
clarionet frequently shook his head and appeared to remonstrate.
Presently he called on his comrades to stop, and held with them a long
palaver, in which the French horn seemed to be an objector, and the
trombone an assenter, while the key-bugle didn't seem to care.  At last
they all came to an agreement.

"Now," said the middy, taking out his purse, "that's all fixed; here is
five shillings in advance, and twenty shillings will follow when the
performance is over.  Don't forget the time and place: the village of
Cove, the rear of Stephen Gaff's cottage--everybody knows it--and eight
o'clock precisely."



CHAPTER TWENTY SIX.

MAD HACO STARTLED AT LAST.

That evening Haco Barepoles was seen on the road to Cove, with his
coat-skirts, his cravat-ends, and his hair streaming in the breeze.

An hour previously, however, a brass band was seen walking towards the
same place, and, half an hour after that, a young midshipman was
observed posting rapidly in the same direction.

It was dark when Gildart entered the village, and all the inhabitants
were in their dwellings, so that he reached Gaff's cottage unperceived.

The village was a primitive one.  Locks were deemed unnecessary in most
of the cottages, probably because there was nothing worth stealing
within them.  Gildart lifted the latch and entered.  A fire, nearly out,
with a large piece of coal on it, burned in the grate.  The flicker of
this was sufficient to illuminate the boudoir faintly.

Having surveyed the apartment, examined the closet, and looked under the
bed, he went out, and, going to the back of the cottage, found the band
waiting in some anxiety.

"Now, lads, come this way," said Gildart; "and there's only one piece of
advice I've got to give you: don't stir hand or foot after Haco enters
the cottage.  He's as big as an elephant, and strong as a lion.  If you
stir, and he finds you out, he won't spare you."

"But you promise to come to the rescue, master," said the French horn in
some alarm.

"Ay, that will I; but he'll have two of you floored, another strangled,
and the fourth half-skinned before I can get him to stop."

"I don't half like it," said the clarionet anxiously.

"Pooh! pooh!" exclaimed the key-bugle, "we'll be more than a match for
him; come on; it's worth riskin' for twenty-five bob."

"Hear! hear!" cried the trombone.

"Well, then, enter," said Gildart, pushing open the door, and holding it
while the band filed into the passage.  He followed them and closed the
door.

In a short time Haco Barepoles made his appearance.  He also passed
through the village unobserved, and, entering the cottage, closed the
door.  Thereafter he proceeded to make himself comfortable.  The
"boodwar" was empty--at least of human beings, though there was the
Dutch clock with the horrified countenance in the corner, and the new
clock near it, and the portraits and the great four-poster, and all the
other articles of elegance and luxury with which Mrs Gaff had filled
her humble dwelling.

"A queer place," muttered the mad skipper in a soft voice to himself, as
he moved about the room, poked up the fire, and made preparations for
spending the night.  "Gaff wouldn't know the old cabin--humph! but it's
all done out o' kindness; well, well, there's no accountin' for women,
they're paridoxies.  Hallo! this here closet didn't use to be bolted,
but it's bolted now.  Hows'ever here's the loaf and the tea-pot an' the
kettle.  Now, Mrs Gaff, you're an attentive creetur, nevertheless
you've forgot bilin' water, an', moreover, there an't no water in the
house.  Ah, here's a bucket; that'll do; I'll go to the well an' help
myself; it's _well_ that I can do it," said Haco, chuckling at his own
pun with great satisfaction as he went out to the back of the house.

There was a sudden, though not loud, sound of hollow brass chinking
under the four-post bed.

"Now then, _can't_ you keep still?" said the clarionet in a hoarse
whisper.

"It's cramp in my leg," growled the trombone.  "I'd have had to come out
if he hadn't guv me this chance."

"_Won't_ you hold your tongues?" whispered Gildart from the closet, the
door of which he opened slightly.

He shut it with a sudden clap, and there was another clanking of brass
as Haco's footsteps were heard outside, but dead silence reigned within
the hut when the skipper re-entered, and set down on the floor a large
bucket full of water.

"Now then for tea," said Haco, rubbing his hands, as he set about the
preparation of that meal.  Being acquainted with the ways and localities
of the cottage, he speedily had the board spread, and the tea smoking
thereon, while the fire flared cheerfully on the walls, casting fine
effects of light and shade on the pictures, and sprinkling the
prominences of the clocks, bed, and furniture with ruddy gleams.

Having devoured his meal with an appetite and gusto worthy of his size,
Haco filled his much-loved German pipe, and, selecting the strongest
chair in the room, sat cautiously down on it beside the fire to enjoy a
smoke.

Meanwhile the brass band endured agonies unutterable.  The trombone
afterwards vowed that he "wouldn't for fifty sovs" again go through what
he had suffered during the hour that the mad skipper sat by that fire
enjoying his evening pipe!

At last the pipe was smoked out, and Haco began to divest himself of his
upper garments.  Being an active man, he was soon undressed and in bed,
where he lay for a long time perfectly still.  Presently he gave vent to
a deep sigh, and turned on his back, in which position he lay quite
still for at least five minutes.  At last he gave a soft puff with his
lips, and followed it up with a mild snort from his nose.

This was immediately followed by a light single tap at the closet door.

Instantly the first bar of the Banging-Smash Polka burst from beneath
the bed with such startling suddenness and energy that Gildart was
himself rendered almost breathless.  Haco awoke with a yell so dreadful
that the brass band stopped for a single instant, but it burst forth
again with a degree of fury that almost rent the trombone in twain!

The appalled skipper uttered another yell, and sprang up into the air.
The four-poster could not stand the test.  Haco went crashing through
the bottom of the bed, flattened the French horn, and almost killed the
trombone, while the broken ends of the planking of the bed pinned them
to the floor.  Escape was impossible.

Haco perceived the joke, and instantly recovered his self-possession.
Springing from the bed, he seized the bucket of water which he had
recently drawn, and dashed its contents on the struggling band.
Thereafter he hauled the trombone out of the _debris_ by the neck,
flattened his instrument on his head, and twisted it round his neck.
The key-bugle, who had struggled to his feet, fell before a well-aimed
backhander, and the French horn was about to perish, when Gildart
succeeded in restraining and pacifying the giant by stoutly asserting
that he had won his bet, and insisted on having payment on the spot!

Haco burst into a loud laugh, flung the key-bugle from his grasp, and
pulled on his nether garments.

"I confess that you've won it, lad, so now I'll have another pipe."

He proceeded to fill the German pipe, and stirred up the fire while the
band made good its retreat.  Gildart paid the clarionet the stipulated
sum of twenty shillings outside the door, after which he returned and
seated himself beside the mad skipper.

Haco's laugh had changed into a good-humoured smile as he gazed into the
fire and puffed volumes of smoke from his lips.

"It was a risky thing to do, lad," he observed, as Gildart sat down;
"it's well for that feller wi' the long trumpet that the brass was so
thin and his head so hard, for my blood was up, bein' taken by surprise,
you see, an' I didn't measure my blows.  Hows'ever, `it's all well that
ends well,' as I once heard a play-actor say."

"But it's not ended yet," said Gildart with decision.

"How so, lad?"

"You've got to pay up your bet."

Haco's brow became a little clouded.  The bet had been taken more than
half in joke, for he was not given to betting in earnest; but he was too
proud to admit this on finding that Gildart took it in earnest.

"You'll not want it for a short while, I daresay?" he asked.

"Captain Barepoles--"

"Skipper, lad, I don't like to be cap'ned."

"Well, Skipper Barepoles," said the middy with much solemnity, "I always
pay my debts of honour on the spot, and I expect gentlemen who bet with
me to do the same."

Haco grinned.  "But I an't a gentleman," said he, "an' I don't set up
for one."

"Still, as a man of honour you must feel bound--"

"No, lad, not as a man of honour," interrupted the skipper, "but as a
British seaman I'll hold the debt due; only, not bein' in the habit o'
carrying the Bank of England in my weskit-pocket, you see, I must ask
you to wait till to-morrow mornin'."

Haco said this with a slightly disappointed look, for he thought the
middy rather sharp, and had formed a better opinion of him than his
conduct on this occasion seemed to bear out.

"Now, skipper, I'll tell you what it is.  I am not fond of betting, and
this bet of mine was taken in jest; in fact my usual bet is ten thousand
pounds, sometimes a million!  Nevertheless, you have admitted the debt
as due, and although I do not mean to claim payment in the usual way, I
don't intend to forego my rights altogether.  I'll only ask you to do me
a favour."

"What may it be, lad?"

"Will you grant it?"

"Well, that depends--"

"No, it doesn't; say Yes, or I'll claim the ten pounds."

"Well, yes, if it's right and proper for me to do it.  Now, what d'ye
want?"

"Humph!  Well then," said Gildart, "I want you to let your daughter
Susan get spliced to Dan Horsey."

Haco frowned, and said, "Unpossible."

"Come now, don't be hard on them, skipper; Dan is a good fellow and a
first-rate groom."

"He's an Irish blackguard," said Haco, "and not worth a pinch of his
namesake."

"You're quite mistaken," said Gildart, who went on to speak so highly of
the groom, that Haco, if not made to change his opinion, was so much
impressed as to agree at least to take the whole subject once again into
consideration.

"Another thing I wish you to do, skipper, which is to give me a passage
in your sloop to Athenbury.  You spoke of running round there for
repairs soon, and I would rather go by sea than by that snorting
railway.  Will you do it?"

"With pleasure, lad."

"Thank'ee; now I'll bid you good-night.  You may depend upon it that you
won't be disturbed again by a band," said Gildart, laughing.

"I know that," replied Haco with a grin; "it's my opinion they've had
enough of me for one night.  But won't ye stop an' share the
four-poster, lad?  It's big enough, an' we'll soon repair the damage to
its bottom-timbers.  There's a knuckle o' ham too, an' a flask o'
claret.  I brought it with me, 'cause I never drink nothin' stronger
than claret--vang ordinair they calls it in France.  What say you;
you'll stop?"

"No, thank'ee, skipper, much obliged, but I've business on hand
elsewhere.  Good-night, old boy."



CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN.

PLOT AND COUNTERPLOT, ENDING IN A LONG CHASE.

One day, not long after his arrival at Athenbury, Kenneth Stuart was
seated in Colonel Crusty's drawing-room, awaiting the summons to dinner.

Pretty Bella sat beside him, endeavouring to get up a flirtation--for
Bella was an inveterate flirt.  Besides being pretty, she was sprightly
and full of life--a giddy gay thing, much addicted to that dangerous
practice of fluttering round improprieties with cheerful recklessness.
She was one of those human moths whose wings, alas! are being constantly
singed, sometimes burned off altogether.

Kenneth was not so stern as to object to a little of what the world
calls innocent flirtation, but he did not like Bella's style of
procedure; for that charming piece of wickedness made it her aim in life
to bring as many lovers to her feet as she could, and keep them there.
She never had too many of them, never tired of conquering them.  In the
language of pugilists, "One down another come on," was her motto.

She had just floored a captain of dragoons, who was expected that day to
dinner, and was now engaged at her fortieth round with Kenneth; but he
was too strong for her--at least she began to suspect so, and felt
nettled.

"I never met with such a provoking man as you," said Bella, pouting;
"you _promised_ to go round by Simpson's and bring me a bouquet, and now
you tell me you had not time.  That is not what I would have expected of
_you_.  Sir Kenneth."

Bella had knighted him with the poker the evening before!

"Well, really, I am sorry," said Kenneth in a deprecating tone, "but I'm
sure you will forgive me when I tell you that--"

"I won't forgive you," interrupted Bella pettishly.  "You are a false
man.  _Nothing_ should have prevented you from walking round by
Simpson's, as you said you would do."

"Indeed!" said Kenneth, smiling, "suppose I had broken my leg, now,
would that not have--"

"No, it wouldn't have been any excuse at all.  You would have hopped
there if you had been a good and true man, like the knights of the olden
time.  Oh! how I love that olden time, and wish that I had been born in
it."

Captain Bowels was announced at this moment.  He was a tall handsome
man, with a heavy dark moustache and a set of brilliant teeth.  Bella
instantly put the question to him whether, in the event of his being
interrupted in the fulfilment of a promise to a lady by the accident of
having his leg broken, he would not deem it his duty, as a man of
honour, to _hop_ out the engagement.

The captain expressed his earnest belief that that would be his duty,
and added that if both legs happened to be broken, he would deem it his
duty to walk out the engagement on his hands and knees, always assuming
that the lady to whom the promise was made should be young and
beautiful, and that the engagement did not involve dancing!

From this point Bella and the captain of dragoons cantered off into a
region of small-talk whither it is not necessary that we should follow
them.  They were interrupted by the entrance of Colonel Crusty and Miss
Peppy.

The former shook hands with the captain somewhat stiffly, and introduced
him to Miss Peppy.

"Dinner late as usual, Bella," said the colonel, taking out his watch.

"Now, papa, don't begin," cried Bella, running up to her father and
kissing his cheek, "because when you do begin to scold you never stop,
and it takes away your appetite.  Dinners were meant to be late--it's
the nature of such meals.  No dinner that is ready at the appointed time
_can_ be good; it _must_ be underdone."

The colonel was prevented from replying by the entrance of the footman
with a letter, which he presented to Kenneth.

"No letters for me!" cried Miss Peppy, with a slight look of
disappointment; "but, to be sure, I'm not at home, though, after all,
letters might come to me when I'm away if they were only rightly
addressed, but letters are never legible on the back; it is a perfect
mystery to me how the postmen ever find out where to go to with letters,
and they are such illiterate men too!  But what can one expect in a
world of inconsistencies, where things are all topsy-turvy, so to speak,
though I don't like slang, and never use it except when there is a want
of a proper what-d'ye-call-it to express one's thingumy-jigs.  Don't you
think so, Captain Bowels?"

"Certainly; I think your observations are very just, and much to the
point."

Kenneth Stuart retired to a window and read his letter, which ran as
follows:--

"Wreckumoft, _etcetera_.

"My Dear Kenneth--Since you left I have been thinking over your affairs,
and our last conversation, (which you must allow me to style
disagreeable), in regard to Miss Gordon.  I trust that you have now seen
the impropriety of thinking of that portionless girl as your wife.  At
all events, you may rest assured that on the day you marry her you shall
be disinherited.  You know me well enough to be aware that this is not
an idle threat.

"In the hope and expectation that you will agree with me in this matter,
I venture to suggest to you the propriety of trying to win the
affections of Miss Crusty.  You already know that her fortune will be a
large one.  I recommend this subject to your earnest consideration.

"Your affectionate father, George Stuart."

"Deary me, Kennie," said Miss Peppy, in some alarm, "I hope that nothing
has happened!  You seem so troubled that--"

"Oh! nothing of any consequence," said Kenneth with a laugh, as he
folded the letter and put it in his pocket.

"Ha! your lady-love is unkind," cried Bella; "I know it is from _her_."

"The writing is not lady-like," replied Kenneth, holding up the back of
the letter for inspection.  "It is a gentleman's hand, you see."

"Ladies sometimes write what I may call a masculine hand," observed the
captain.

"You are quite right, Captain Bowels," said Miss Peppy; "some write all
angles and some all rounds.  One never knows how one is to expect one's
correspondents to write.  Not that I have many, but one of them writes
square, a most extraordinary hand, and quite illegible.  Most people
seem to be proud of not being able to write, except schoolboys and
girls.  There is no accounting for the surprising things that are
scratched on paper with a pen and called writing.  But in a world of
things of that sort what is one to expect?  It is just like all the
rest, and I have given up thinking about it altogether.  I hope _you_
have, Captain Bowels?"

"Not quite, but very nearly," replied the gallant captain.

"Dinner at last," said Colonel Crusty, as the gong sounded its hideous
though welcome alarm.  "Captain Bowels, will you take my daughter?  Miss
Stuart, allow me.  Sorry we've got no one for _you_, Mr Stuart."

Kenneth fancied there was a touch of irony in the last observation, but
he did not feel jealous, for two reasons--first, he knew, (from Miss
Peppy), that the captain was no favourite with Colonel Crusty, and was
only tolerated because of having been introduced by an intimate friend
and old school companion of the former; and, second, being already in
love with another, he did not wish to have the honour of handing Bella
down to dinner at all.

During dinner Miss Peppy reminded Kenneth that he had promised to go to
the Sailors' Home that evening with the parcel which Mrs Gaff wished to
be delivered to her cousin George Dollins.  Bella remarked, in a sweet
voice, that Sir Kenneth's promises were not to be relied on, and that it
would be wiser to transfer the trust to Captain Bowels, a proposal which
the gallant captain received with a laugh and a _sotto voce_ remark to
Bella that his fidelity to promises depended on the youth and beauty of
the lady to whom they were made.

Soon after the ladies retired Kenneth rose, and, apologising for leaving
the table so early, set forth on his mission.

The night was calm and pleasant, but dark--a few stars alone rendering
the darkness visible.  Kenneth had to pass through the garden of the
colonel's house before reaching the road that led to the heart of the
town where the Sailors' Home was situated.  He felt sad that evening,
unusually so, and wandered in the grounds for some time in a meditative
mood.

There was a bower at the extremity of the garden to which, during the
few days of his visit, he had frequently repaired with the volatile
Bella.  He entered it now, and sat down.  Presently there was a rustle
among the leaves behind him, and a light hand was laid on his shoulder.

"Faithless man!" said Bella in a tremulous voice, "I have been expecting
you for half-an-hour at least.  My portmanteau is packed, and I only
await the word from you, dearest Charles--"

"Charles!" exclaimed Kenneth, starting up.

Bella uttered a suppressed scream.

"Oh!  Mr Stuart, you won't tell my father?  I mistook you for capt--."

"Hold, Miss Crusty; do not speak hastily.  I know nothing of that of
which you seem desirous that I should not speak.  Pray be calm."

"Of course I know that you don't know," cried Bella passionately, "but
you are capable of guessing, and--and--"

The poor girl burst into a flood of tears, and rushed from the bower,
leaving Kenneth in a most unenviable state of perplexity.

The words that she had uttered, coupled with what he had seen of the
intimacy subsisting between her and Captain Bowels, and the fact that
the name of the captain was Charles, were quite sufficient to convince
him that an immediate elopement was intended.  He entertained a strong
dislike to the captain, and therefore somewhat hastily concluded that he
was a villain.  Impressed with this conviction, his first impulse was to
return to the house, and warn the colonel of his daughter's danger; but
then he felt that he might be mistaken, and that, instead of doing good,
he might lay himself open to severe rebuke for interfering in matters
with which he had nothing to do.  After vacillating therefore, a few
minutes, he at last made up his mind first to execute his errand to the
cousin of Mrs Gaff, and then consider what should next be done.  He
resolved on this course all the more readily that he was sure the
mistake Bella had made would frustrate the elopement, at least on that
night.

Kenneth carried the parcel, which Mrs Gaff had put up with so much care
and anxiety, under his arm, and a thick stick in his right hand.  He was
so passionately fond of the sea and all connected with it, that he liked
to dress in semi-sailor costume, and mingle with seamen.  Consequently
he went out on this occasion clad in a rough pea-jacket and a sailor's
cap.  He looked more like a respectable skipper or first-mate than a
country gentleman.

Passing rapidly through the streets of Athenbury, he soon reached the
docks, where he made inquiry for the Sailors' Home.  He found it in a
retired street, near the principal wharf.

A group of seamen were collected round the door, smoking their pipes and
spinning yarns.  The glare of a street-lamp shone full upon them,
enabling Kenneth to observe their faces.  He went up to one, and asked
if a sailor of the name of Dollins was in the Home at the time.

The man said Dollins had been there that day, but he was not within at
the present time.  He was usually to be found at the tavern of the "Two
Bottles."

Kenneth being directed to the "Two Bottles," made his way thither
without delay.

It was a low public-house in one of the dirtiest localities of the
town,--a place to which seamen were usually tempted when they came off a
voyage, and where they were soon fleeced of all their hardly-earned
money.  Sounds of dancing, fiddling, and drinking were heard to issue
from the doorway as Kenneth approached, and, as he descended the stair,
he could not help wondering that any man should prefer such a place of
entertainment to the comfortable, clean, and respectable Home he had
just left.

He was met by the landlord, a large, powerful, and somewhat jovial man,
whose countenance betrayed the fact that he indulged freely in his own
beverages.

"Is there a sailor here of the name of Dollins?" inquired Kenneth.

The landlord surveyed the questioner with a look of suspicion.  Being
apparently satisfied that he might be trusted, he replied that Dollins
was not in the house at that moment, but he was expected in a few
minutes.  Meanwhile he advised that the visitor should wait and enjoy
himself over "a pot o' beer, or a glass o' brandy and water, 'ot."

Kenneth said he would wait, and for this purpose entered one of the
numerous drinking-stalls, and ordered a pot of porter, which he had no
intention whatever of drinking.

Seated in the dirty stall of that disreputable public-house, he leaned
his head on his hand, and began to meditate how he should act in regard
to Bella Crusty on his return to the colonel's house.

His meditations were interrupted by the entrance of three men into the
adjoining stall.  Two of them belonged to the class of men who are
styled roughs; one being red-haired, the other bearded; the third was a
gentlemanly sort of man, about forty years of age, with a dissipated
aspect.

They did not observe Kenneth, who had placed himself in the darkest
corner of his stall.

"Now, lads, we'll talk it over here, and settle what's to be done; for
whatever we do it must be done to-night."

This much he heard of the conversation, and then his mind wandered away
to its former channel.  How long he might have meditated is uncertain,
but he was suddenly aroused by the sound of his own name.

"We'll have to do it to-night," said a voice which Kenneth knew belonged
to the gentlemanly man of dissipated aspect; "the young fellow won't
likely go back for a day or two, and the old 'un an't over stout.
There's only one man in the house besides him, and he ain't much worth
speakin' of; a groom, not very big, sleeps in the lower part o' the
house.  Old Stuart himself sleeps in a wing, a good bit off from the
servants.  In fact, there's nothing easier than to get into the house,
and there's no end of silver plate.  Now, what say you to start by the
nine o'clock train to-night?  We'll get there by eleven, and have supper
before goin' to work.  You see, I think it's always well to feed before
goin' at this sort o' thing.  It don't pay on an empty stomach.  Shall
we go?"

Kenneth's heart beat fast as he listened for the reply.

"Wall, I doan't much loik it," said one of the roughs, in a coarse
Yorkshire dialect; "but I'm hard oop for tin, so I says Yes."

"Agreed," said the other rough, who was evidently not a man of many
words.

For some time Kenneth sat listening to the plans of the burglars, and
considering how he should best frustrate their designs.  He at length
made up his mind to return the parcel to his aunt, say that unexpected
and pressing business called him home, and start by the same train with
the burglars for Wreckumoft.  His intentions, however, were interfered
with by the abrupt entrance of Dollins, who was drunk, and who, on being
told that a friend wanted to see him within, came forward to Kenneth,
and asked, "Wot it wos 'e wanted?"

Kenneth explained that he had been sent by a lady to deliver a parcel,
which he presented, and, having fulfilled his mission, was about to
return when the man caught him by the sleeve--

"Wot, are you Mister Stuart?  Jess Gaff wrote me a letter a day or two
ago, tellin' me you and yer aunt, Miss Peppy, as they calls her, wos
a-comin' here, and would send me a parcel."

"Never mind, my good fellow, who I am," said Kenneth sharply; "I've
delivered the parcel, so now I'll bid ye good-night."

"It's just him!" said one of the burglars in a hoarse whisper, as
Kenneth reached the door.  The latter could not avoid turning round at
this.

"Yes," he cried sternly; "and I'll spoil your game for you to-night."

"Will you?" shouted the gentlemanly house-breaker, as Kenneth sprang
into the street, closely followed by the three men.

Kenneth regretted deeply that he had so hastily uttered the threat, for
it showed that he knew all, and set the men upon their guard.

He looked over his shoulder, and observed that they had stopped as if to
consult, so he pushed on, and, soon reaching one of the principal
thoroughfares, walked at a more leisurely pace.  As he went along he was
deeply perplexed as to what course he ought to pursue, and while
meditating on the subject, he stopped almost unintentionally in front of
a brilliantly lighted window, in which were hanging a rich assortment of
watches, gold chains, and specimens of jewellery.

The gentlemanly house-breaker, who had followed him up, observed this.
A sudden thought flashed across his mind, and he at once acted upon it.
Stepping quickly up to Kenneth's side he stumbled violently against him,
at the same time smashed a pane of glass in the shop-window with his
gloved hand, turned quickly round, seized Kenneth by the collar, and
shouted "Thief! help!" at the full pitch of his voice.

The red-haired and bearded accomplices at once responded to the call,
came up behind, and also collared him, while a policeman, who chanced to
be passing at the moment, seized him in front.  The shopman ran out in a
frantic state, and at once swore that he was the man, for he had seen
him looking through the window a moment before.  The whole scene passed
in a few seconds, and Kenneth, thoroughly taken by surprise, stood in
motionless and speechless amazement.

It is said, and apparently with truth, that thought flashes through the
mind more rapidly than lightning darts through the sky.  Kenneth had
only a few moments to think, for the policeman was applying that gentle
force to his collar which was meant as a polite hint to "come along"
quietly, else stronger force should be applied; yet, before he had taken
the first step towards the police-office, the extreme awkwardness of his
position was fully impressed on him.

He perceived that he should certainly be locked up for the night and
brought before a magistrate next morning, and that, although his
accusers would of course not appear against him, and his friends would
be there to testify to his character and get him off, the consequence
would be that the burglars would be able to start by the nine o'clock
train and accomplish their purpose while he was in jail.  It did occur
to him that he could warn the authorities, but he feared that they might
refuse to believe or act upon the statements of a supposed thief.

The occasion was not a favourable one to correct or clear reasoning
however, and as the policeman had applied a second persuasive pull to
his collar, he suddenly made up his mind what he would do.  Grasping the
gentlemanly house-breaker by the waist, he suddenly hurled that
unfortunate heels over head into the kennel, tripped up the policeman,
knocked the bearded accomplice into the arms of the jeweller, the
red-haired one into the broken window, and bolted!

Instantly a wild chase began.  The crowd that had assembled on the first
sound of the smash ran yelling after him, headed by the gentlemanly
house-breaker, whose fall had been partially broken by a little boy.
The accomplices were too much damaged to do more than keep up with the
tail of the crowd.

At first Kenneth ran without regard to direction, and with the simple
view of escaping, but as he neared the head of the main street he
determined to make for the house of Colonel Crusty.  Being fleet of foot
he soon left behind the mass of the crowd that followed in full cry,
with the exception of a few young men who were more of a match for him.
Ahead of all these ran the gentlemanly house-breaker and the policeman,
both of whom were strong and supple.

The roar of the augmenting crowd, however, soon became so great that
people in advance of him heard it, and some of these made demonstrations
of a wish to try to stop him as he passed, but most of them wisely
concluded that it would be nearly as safe to place themselves in the way
of a runaway locomotive engine.  One man proved an exception.  He was a
butcher, of great size and strength, who, being accustomed to knock down
horned cattle with a hammer, naturally enough thought it not impossible
to knock down a man with his fist, so he tried it.

Standing in the doorway of his own shop when Kenneth came tearing along,
he waited until he was within four yards of him, and darted out.
Kenneth had fortunately observed the man.  He stooped, without
slackening his pace, to let the blow delivered by his opponent pass over
his head, and drove his right shoulder into the butcher's broad chest.
The shock was so great as to completely check his career, while it sent
the butcher back into his shop, over his own bench, and prostrated him
on the carcase of a slaughtered ox which had been carried in just two
minutes before, as if to form a bloody and congenial bed for its owner.

Kenneth instantly started off again and doubled suddenly down a
by-street which led to the colonel's residence.  Here he was smitten
with a feeling of shame at the idea of appearing before his friends in
such a plight, so, changing his mind, he doubled again into another
by-street.

This chanced to be an unfortunate turn, for the policeman saw him take
it, and, knowing every intricacy of the town, he was enabled to take a
cross cut by a lane, accompanied by several of his brother constables,
who had joined him by this time, and by such of the crowd as were good
runners.

The worst runners now came in for an unexpected share of the sport in
consequence of this new turn of affairs, for the by-road conducted
Kenneth back to the main street, and when he debouched into it he ran
into and overturned a number of those who had just made up their minds
that it was useless for them to run any farther.

The tide was now turned.  The head of the crowd came rushing back, led
by the policeman and the gentlemanly burglar.  Kenneth thus found
himself between two fires, so, like a wise general, he made a flank
movement, crossed the street, and darted down a dark lane.  Here the
crowd gave in, but the policeman and the burglar continued the pursuit.

The lane led to the suburbs of the town, and the fugitive soon gained
the open country, which in that part was a sort of uncultivated
moorland.

The excitement of the chase and the suddenness of it had told upon the
youth at first so much that he had been somewhat distressed while
running; but this feeling now began to wear off.  Like a true
thoroughbred, he improved in condition the longer he ran, and when at
last the perspiration began to pour over his cheeks he felt as if he
could have run on for ever!

To some extent this feeling was also experienced by a few of his
pursuers, who kept him well in view.

On passing over a rising ground which for some minutes concealed him,
Kenneth suddenly resolved to strike aside from the high road and cross
the moor.  It was sufficiently light, he thought, to enable him to do
this with safety.  He was wrong, however, for he had not run a hundred
yards when he went splashing into a boggy place, and his pursuers, who
had again caught sight of him, instantly followed.

The running now became very severe, and tested Kenneth's powers to the
utmost.  Of course it also proved as hard on the others, and he had at
least the satisfaction of hearing them shout and gasp as they tumbled
over stones and into hollows.  Still they held on with unflagging
vigour, until they were almost exhausted and quite covered with mud.

To Kenneth's relief he unexpectedly stumbled on the high road again.
Here he sat down for a few seconds to recover breath on one of the grey
boulder stones with which the whole country was covered, and while
wiping the perspiration from his brow his thoughts were busy.  Having
left his pursuers far behind, he felt sure that he could afford to rest
for a few moments.

It occurred to him that even although he should succeed in escaping,
there was no chance of his being able to get away by the train from
Athenbury, for the burglars and police would certainly be at the station
on the look-out for him.  He remembered suddenly that there was a
station twenty miles from Athenbury at which the ten o'clock train
usually stopped.  It was two hours yet to the starting of the train, so
that he might count on nearly three to get to the station.

"I'll do it!" he exclaimed, starting up with animation, and looking in
the direction of the moor.  The pursuers were now pretty close to him.
They panted much and ran very heavily.  A quiet smile lit up Kenneth's
countenance, for he felt his strength recruited even with the few
minutes' rest he had obtained.

"Now, then, let the memory of Eton days come over me," he muttered, as
he tied his pocket-handkerchief tightly round his waist.

Pulling his hat firmly down over his brows, he prepared to start, just
as the policemen and the gentlemanly burglar stumbled on to the road, in
a state of complete exhaustion, and covered from head to foot with mud!

Kenneth could not repress a cheer as he waved his hat to them and
shouted farewell.

He then turned, and, stooping low, sped over the country like a
greyhound.

He had not gone above four miles when he overtook a stout countryman in
a smock-frock and slouch-hat plodding heavily along the road.

A new idea flashed into Kenneth's mind.  He resolved to change costumes
with this man; but felt that he had no time to waste in talking over the
subject or explaining why he wanted to do so.  He therefore stopped
abruptly when close to him, and said--

"My man, I've a fancy for your clothes."

"You'll ha' to foight for 'em then."

"Very well, begin at once," said Kenneth, buttoning his coat, and
suddenly seizing the countryman by the throat with a grip that made his
eyes almost start out of their sockets.  "How shall it be, wrestling or
fisticuffs?  But let me advise you to do it at once without fighting,
for I _don't_ want to hurt you, and I _do_ mean to have your clothes.
Besides, I'll give you mine in exchange.  There now, strip!"

There was a fiery vehemence about Kenneth's manner and look, and a tone
of command in his voice that there was no resisting, especially when it
was coupled with such physical strength, so the countryman heaved a sigh
and took off his smock-frock and hob-nailed boots, while the supposed
highwayman took off his coat and shoes.

"That'll do, you needn't mind the stockings," said Kenneth, as he pulled
on his new garments.  "You'll find that you gain considerably by the
exchange.  That's it; now here's a sovereign for you, my fine fellow,
and many thanks."

He finished by lifting the slouch-hat off the countryman's head and
placing his own thereon in its stead.

"Now, good-night."

"Good-noight," replied the man, from the sheer force of innate
politeness, for he stood in such a condition of open-mouthed amazement
that it was quite plain he did not very well know what he said or did.

In another minute Kenneth was again coursing along the road at full
speed.



CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT.

PLOTTERS COUNTERPLOTTED.

Meanwhile the gentlemanly house-breaker, returning to Athenbury,
rejoined his rude colleagues, and these three choice spirits, after
partaking of some refreshment, and treating the policeman who first came
to their aid to a glass of gin, betook themselves to the railway
station.

"He won't come here, you may depend on't," observed the policeman to the
gentlemanly burglar, when he had taken his ticket, "he's too wide-awake
for that."

"Perhaps not; but it's as well to watch."

"Yes, it's as well to watch," assented the policeman.

"Besides, wide-awake fellows over-reach themselves sometimes," continued
the other.  "I shouldn't wonder, now, if he had the impudence to come
straight here and denounce _me_ as a thief, just by way o' stoppin' me
from goin' by the train, and so having some sort o' revenge."

"Ha!" exclaimed the policeman, in a tone and with a slight but peculiar
look that made the gentlemanly man feel a little uneasy.

The fugitive did not appear, however.  Every face that came on the
platform was carefully scrutinised without any result, and at length the
bell rang.

"Good-night, friend," said the burglar, slipping a half-crown into the
policeman's hand as he was about to jump into the carriage.  "It was no
fault of yours that we didn't catch him.  You did your best."

"Yes, I did my best."

"Hallo! are _you_ going by this train?" exclaimed the burglar.

"Yes, I've got business in Wreckumoft, so we'll have the pleasure o'
travellin' together."

The gentlemanly man felt that the pleasure would be entirely confined to
one side.  However, he expressed much joy at the prospect of such good
company, as the policeman sat down beside him.

The train gave a pant, then a snort, then an impatient whistle.  Then
the bell rang a second time, the whistle sounded a single note, and the
carriages moved slowly away.  A moment more, and they were sweeping out
of the station; a moment more and they were rushing over the moor;
another moment, and they were dashing through space, setting all
terrestrial things at naught, until a station came in view; then the
whistle uttered a prolonged shriek, and the train began to slow.  Up to
this point the policeman and his friends had sat together in comparative
silence.

The former put his head out of the window, and remarked that, "there was
a feller as would be too late for the train."

The moonlight enabled him to perceive that the late man was a labourer
of some sort.

The train ran into the station and stopped.

"Tickets ready!" shouted the guard.

"That'll give him a chance," observed the gentlemanly burglar.

"All right?" inquired the guard.

"All right," replied the ticket-inspector.  The bell rang, the guard
whistled, so did the engine; it puffed too, and the train began to move.

"Look sharp now," cried the station-master eagerly to some one outside
the office.  "Athenbury?  Here you are--four shillings; run!"

The guard knew that it was a late passenger, and, being a good-hearted
fellow, held the door of a carriage open, even although the train was on
the move.

A man in a smock-frock and slouch-hat rushed across the platform at this
moment, and made for the door which the guard held open.

"Jump!" said the guard.

The gentlemanly burglar and the policeman lent their aid to pull the man
into the train; the door banged, and they were away.

"You've all but missed it," said the burglar.

The man in the smock-frock pulled his slouch-hat well over his eyes, and
admitted that it was a "close shave."  Then he laid his head on the side
of the carriage and breathed hard.

"Take a drop o' gin," said the burglar in a patronising way, "it'll
bring you to in a minute."

Kenneth knew by his manner that he did not guess who it was that sat
beside him, so he resolved to accept the offer.

"Thank'ee, I loik gin.  It waarms the cockles o' yer 'art, it do," said
Kenneth.

"Goin' far?" inquired the policeman.

"To Wreckumoft."

"You seems to have got on yer Sunday trousers?" observed the policeman.

"Wall, there an't no sin in that," replied the supposed labourer,
somewhat sharply.

"Certainly not," said the policeman.  "It's a fine night, an't it?"

"It _is_ a foine night," responded the labourer, putting his head out of
the window.

"Yes, a very fine night," repeated the policeman, also thrusting his
head out at the same window, and holding a _sotto voce_ conversation
with Kenneth, the result of which was that he became very merry and
confidential, and was particularly polite to the burglars, insomuch that
they thought him one of the jolliest policemen they had ever had to do
with--and this was not the first they had had to do with by any means!

In course of time the train ran into the station at Wreckumoft, and the
occupants poured out on the platform, and took their several ways.  The
three friends kept together, and observed that the policeman, after
bidding them good-bye, went away alone, as if he had urgent business on
hand, and was soon lost to view.  This was a great relief to them,
because they could not feel quite at ease in his presence, and his going
off so promptly showed, (so they thought), that he had not the remotest
suspicion of their errand.

As for the country fellow in the smock-frock, they took no further
notice of him after quitting the carriage.  Had they known his business
in Wreckumoft that night, they might, perchance, have bestowed upon him
very earnest attention.  As it was, they went off to the Blue Boar
Tavern and ordered three Welsh rabbits and three pots of porter.

Meanwhile Kenneth took the road to Seaside Villa.  On the way he had to
pass Bingley Hall, and rang the bell.  The door was opened by Susan
Barepoles.

"Is Maister Gildart to hoam?"

Susan said he was, and Kenneth was delighted to find that his change of
voice and costume disguised him so completely that Susan did not
recognise him.

"I wants to see him."

Susan bade him wait in the lobby.  In a few minutes Gildart came down,
and the country fellow asked to have a word with him in private!

The result of this word was that the two sallied forth immediately
after, and went towards Seaside Villa.

Here, strange to say, they found the policeman standing at the outer
gate.  Kenneth accosted him as if he had expected to meet him.

"They ain't abed yet," observed the policeman.

"No; I see that my groom is up, and there is a light in my father's
study.  I'll tap at the groom's window."

"Come in av yer feet's clean," was Dan's response to the tap, as he
opened the shutters and flattened his nose against a pane of glass in
order to observe the intruder.

"Dan, open the back door and let me in!"

"Hallo!  Mister Kenneth!"

Dan vanished at once, and opened the door.

"Hush, Dan; is my father at home?"

"He is, sur."

"Come in, Gildart.  Take care of that constable, Dan; give him his
supper.  There's work both for him and you to-night.  He will explain it
to you."

Saying this Kenneth took Gildart to the drawing-room, and left him there
while he went to his father's study.

At first Mr Stuart was alarmed by the abrupt entrance of the big
labourer; then he was nettled and disgusted at what he deemed a silly
practical joke of his son.  Ultimately he was astonished and somewhat
incredulous in regard to the prospects of housebreaking which his son
held out to him.  He was so far convinced, however, as to allow Kenneth
to make what preparations he pleased, and then retired to rest, coolly
observing that if the burglars did come it was evident they would be
well taken care of without his aid, and that if they did _not_ come
there was no occasion for his losing a night's rest.

Between two and three o'clock that morning three men climbed over the
garden wall of Seaside Villa, and, having deposited their shoes in a
convenient spot, went on tiptoe to the dining-room window.  Here they
paused to consult in low whispers.

While they were thus engaged, three other men watched their movements
with earnest solicitude from a neighbouring bush behind which they lay
concealed.

After a few moments one of the first three went to the window and began
to cut out part of a pane of glass with a glazier's diamond.  At the
same time, one of the second three--a tall stout man in a smock-frock--
advanced on tiptoe to watch the operation.

When the piece of glass was cut out the first three put their heads
together for farther consultation.  Immediately their respective throats
were seized and compressed by three strong pair of hands, and the heads
were knocked violently together!

Gildart addressed himself to the red-haired man; the policeman devoted
himself to the one with the beard; and Kenneth paid particular attention
to the gentlemanly burglar, whose expression of countenance on beholding
into whose hands he had fallen, may be conceived, but cannot be
described.

Dan Horsey, who had also been on the watch, suddenly appeared with three
pair of handcuffs, and applied them with a degree of prompt facility
that surprised himself and quite charmed the policeman.

Thereafter the three astounded burglars were led in triumph into Mr
Stuart's study, where that sceptical individual received them in his
dressing-gown and slippers, and had his unbelieving mind convinced.
Then they were conveyed to the lockup, where we shall now leave them in
peace--satisfied that they are safely in the hands of justice.



CHAPTER TWENTY NINE.

DREADFUL SUSPICIONS AROUSED IN ANXIOUS BOSOMS.

When Miss Peppy came down to breakfast next morning she found that she
was the first of the household to make her appearance.  This, however,
was the natural consequence of her commendable desire to be always in
good time--a desire which resulted in her being at least a quarter of an
hour too soon for everything, except on those occasions, of course, when
she over-slept, or was detained by unavoidable circumstances.

On the present occasion Miss Peppy, having had a remarkably good night's
rest, felt placid, and looked serene.  She passed the spare quarter of
an hour in perambulating the room, looking at the books and pictures,
smoothing her cuffs, arranging her cap, and paying marked attention to a
beautiful little dog which was Bella's own particular pet, and the
colonel's particular abhorrence, because of its tendency to bark
suddenly, sharply, and continuously at every visitor who entered the
house.

Rosebud, (for thus was it misnamed), seemed to be, however, in no mood
to receive attentions that morning.  It was evidently ill at ease,
without apparently knowing why.

"Did it growl, then?" said Miss Peppy in a reproachful tone, as she
stooped to pat the head of the spoiled creature.  "Ah, it mustn't growl,
for that is naughty, you know, darling Rosebud.  Eh! doing it again?
Oh! bad little snarley-warley, growly-wowly.  Doesn't it know that the
poet says `dogs delight to bark and bite?' and that--that--he means that
they shouldn't delight to do such naughtinesses, although, after all,
why they shouldn't when it's natural to them _I_ don't know; and,
besides, how does _he_ know that they delight to do it?  I never saw
them look delighted in my life; on the contrary, they're very fierce,
are they not, Rosebud? especially the big ones that sometimes try to
worry you.  How they can ever want to worry such a pitty-itty, dear,
naughty growly-wowly, snarley-warley as you, is quite beyond my
comprehension; but then, you see, we live in a world of puzzles, you and
I, Rosebud, and so it's of no use being puzzled, because that does no
good, and only worries one.  Don't it, deary sweety petty?  Well, you
can't answer of course, though I _know_ that you understand every word I
say."

Miss Peppy suddenly shrieked, for the "sweety petty" bit her with
sufficient force to show that he was not in a mood to be played with,
and would do it harder next time.

Just then the colonel entered, and Rosebud at once received him with a
tornado of maddening yelps, so that for at least five minutes it had the
entire monopoly of the conversation, and Miss Peppy was obliged to say
good-morning in dumb show.  At the same time, the colonel frowned
fiercely at Rosebud, and said something which Miss Peppy could not hear
because of the noise, but which, from the abrupt motion of the lips, she
suspected must be something very wicked indeed.

When the darling creature at last consented to hold its tongue, the
colonel said--

"Are you aware, Miss Stuart, that your nephew has been out all night?"

"No, colonel, I was not aware of it," said Miss Peppy with a slight
elevation of her eyebrows; "I wonder at it, for although he often goes
out all night to ride wild horses into the sea, and save drowned people,
and things of that sort, he never goes out without telling Niven, and
saying whether or not he's likely to be back soon.  Besides, he always
has the door-key in his pocket, when he doesn't forget it, which is
pretty often.  Perhaps he had _your_ door-key in his pocket, but after
all, even if he had, that wouldn't alter the fact that he's been out all
night.  But maybe he's in bed--did you look?"

"Yes, I looked, and he has evidently not lain on the bed at all last
night."

"Under it?" suggested Miss Peppy.

The colonel smiled slightly, and said that it had not occurred to him to
look under the bed.

At that moment the door burst open, and Bella's maid, rushing in, flung
herself on her knees at the colonel's feet, and, clasping her hands,
cried in piteous tones--

"Oh! sir, please, mercy please."

"Are you mad, girl?" said the colonel, with a look of mingled
displeasure and anxiety.

"Oh, sir, no sir, but,"--(sob),--"she's gone."

"Who's gone, girl; speak!"

"Miss Bella, sir; oh sir, run away, sir, with Mr Stuart!"

Colonel Crusty turned pale, and Miss Peppy fell flat down on the rug in
a dead faint, crushing Rosebud almost to death in her fall.

Instantly the entire house was in confusion.  Every one rushed into
every room, up and down every stair, looked into every closet and
cupboard, and under every bed, as well as into every hole and crevice
that was not large enough to conceal a rabbit, much less a young lady,
but without avail.  There could be no doubt whatever on the subject:
Bella and Kenneth were both gone--utterly and absolutely.

Miss Peppy alone did not participate in the wild search.

That worthy lady lay in a state of insensibility for about five minutes,
then she suddenly recovered and arose to a sitting posture, in which
position she remained for a few minutes more, and became aware of the
fact that her cap was inside the fender, and that her hair was
dishevelled.  Wondering what could have caused such an unwonted state of
things, she gazed pensively round the room, and suddenly remembered all
about it!

Up she leaped at once, pulled on her cap with the back to the front, and
rushed up to her own room.  On her way, and once or twice afterwards she
met various members of the household, but they were much too wild and
reckless to pay any regard to her.  She was therefore left unmolested in
her farther proceedings.

Having tied on her bonnet very much awry, and put on her shawl
exceedingly askew, Miss Peppy went out into the street, and going
straight up to the first man she saw, asked the way to the railway
station.

Being directed, she ran thither with a degree of speed that any
school-girl might have envied.  A train was on the point of starting.

"Ticket to Wreckumoft," she almost screamed into the face of the
ticket-clerk.

"Which class?" demanded the clerk, with the amiable slowness of a man
whose interests are not at stake.

"First!" exclaimed Miss Peppy, laying down her purse and telling the
calm-spirited clerk to help himself.

He did so, returned the purse, and Miss Peppy rushed to the train and
leaped into the first open door.  It happened to be that of a third
class, which was full of navvies and mechanics.

"You seems to be in a 'urry, ma'am," said one of the former, making way
for her, and wiping the seat beside him with the sleeve of his coat.

Miss Peppy could only exclaim, "Ho, yes!" and cover her face with her
handkerchief, in which position she remained immovable until the train
arrived at Wreckumoft, despite the kindly efforts at consolation made by
the navvy, who arranged her shawl and offered her a glass of gin from
his own private bottle; and, finally, seeing that all his efforts were
fruitless, wound up by patting her on the shoulder, and advising her to
cheer up, for "wotever it was that ailed her, there was sure to be
better luck next time."

Arrived at Wreckumoft, Miss Peppy hastened to her brother's residence.
On the way she had to pass Bingley Hall, and, feeling that it would be
an unutterable relief to her feelings to tell somebody something, or,
more correctly, to tell anybody anything, she darted in and met my niece
Lizzie, to whom she stated wildly that Bella Crusty had run off with
Kenneth Stuart, and that in all probability the colonel was mad or dead
by that time.

Having thus let off a little steam, the worthy lady rushed out of my
house, entered the dining-room of Seaside Villa, where she found Kenneth
and his father seated at breakfast, and related to them in wild surprise
how that Bella and Kenneth had run away together the night before, and
that she had come in hot haste to tell them so, but how it happened that
Kenneth was there and Bella not there, she could not understand at all;
and concluding that the incomprehensibilities of the world were
culminating, and that the sooner she prepared for the final winding up
of all terrestrial things the better, she ran to her own room, embraced
the wondering Emmie, burst into a flood of tears, rummaged her pocket
for her thimble, scissors, and key, and, not finding them there, fell
into the arms of Mrs Niven, and fainted dead away for the second time
that morning.



CHAPTER THIRTY.

STRANGE SCENES AND DOINGS FAR AWAY.

Let us turn, now, to a very different region of the world from that in
which the events just narrated took place.

It is an island of the sea.  Nature has been bountiful to that island,
for there is redundant verdure on every side.  Paradise of old may have
been something like it,--could not have been much better, physically,
although it was so in a moral point of view.  Yet, even in that aspect
our island is superior to many others, for there are only two human
beings upon it, and these are less sinful specimens of humanity than one
usually meets with.  They are peculiar, too.

One is an athletic middle-aged man, whose clothing is goat-skin,
evidently home-made, and cut in sailor fashion.  Magnificent shaggy
locks fall in heavy masses from his head, lip, and chin.  Robinson
Crusoe himself could not have looked grander or more savage in outward
aspect.

The other is a boy--a lad.  He is a stout well-grown fellow, neither so
tall nor so muscular as his companion, but giving promise that he will
excel him in due time.  In the matter of hair, his head exhibited locks
if possible more curly and redundant, while the chin and lip are not yet
clothed with young manhood's downy shadow.

Both, the middle-aged man and the youth, have a pensive expression of
countenance; but there is a gleam of fire in the eye of the latter, and
a spice of fun about the corners of his mouth, which are wanting in his
companion.

"Faither," said the lad, rising from the rock on which they were seated,
"what are 'ee thinkin' on?"

"I've bin thinkin', Billy, that it's nigh five years sin' we come here."

"That's an old thought, daddy."

"May be so, lad, but it's ever with me, and never seems to grow old."

There was such a tone of melancholy in the remark of our old friend
Gaff, that Billy forbore to pursue the subject.

"My heart is set upon pork to-day, daddy," said the Bu'ster with a
knowing smile.  "We've had none for three weeks, and I'm gettin' tired
o' yams and cocoa-nuts and crabs.  I shall go huntin' again."

"You've tried it pretty often of late, without much luck."

"So I have, but I've tried it often before now with pretty fair luck,
an' what has happened once may happen again, so I'll try.  My motto is,
`Never say die.'"

"A good one, Billy; stick to it, lad," said Gaff, rising.  "And now,
we'll go home to supper.  To-morrow we'll have to mend the fence to keep
these same wild pigs you're so anxious to eat, out of our garden.  The
nets need mendin' too, so you'll have to spin a lot more o' the
cocoa-nut fibre, an' I'll have to make a fish-hook or two, for the bones
out o' which I made the last were too small."

Father and son wended their way down the steep cliffs of the mountain at
the foot of which was their cavern home.

"What's that?" exclaimed Gaff in a low whisper, as they passed along the
top of a precipice.

"Pigs," said Billy with glee; "hold on now, daddy, and let me go at
'em."

The Bu'ster was no longer the little boy whom I introduced to the reader
at the commencement of this narrative.  Five years' residence in the
desert island had made him such a strapping young fellow that he seemed
much more fitted to cope with a lion than a wild pig!  He was not indeed
tall, but he was unusually strong.

Gaff sat down on a ledge of rock while Billy crept cautiously to the
edge of the precipice and looked down.

A smile of satisfaction lit up the lad's countenance as he beheld a big
sow and six young pigs busily engaged in digging up roots directly below
him.  To seize a large stone and drop it into the centre of the group
was the work of a moment.  The result was in truth deadly, for the heavy
stone hit one of the little pigs on the nape of the neck, and it sank to
the ground with a melancholy squeak which proved to be its last.

The crash of the stone and the squeak of the pig caused the rest of the
family to turn and fly from the fatal spot with porcine haste, filling
the air as they ran with shrieks and yells, such as only pigs--and bad
babies--know how to utter.

"Got him, daddy--Hooray!" shouted the Bu'ster, as he leaped up and ran
by a circuitous route to the foot of the precipice, whence he speedily
returned with the pig under his arm.

"A fat 'un, daddy," he observed, holding it up by the tail.

"Capital!" said Gaff, pinching the pig's sides, "we shall grub well for
some days to come."

"I should think so, daddy; why, we've more than we know what to do wi';
for, what with the crab-pies you made this mornin', and the cocoa-nut
soup and yams and dove-hash left fro' yesterday's dinner, an' this
little grumpy, we stand a good chance o' aperplexy or somethin' o' that
sort."

"Was there many more o' 'em, lad?"

"Ay, five moloncholly brothers and sisters, an' a hideously fat mother
left to mourn the loss o' this chap.  I'll be after them to-morrow.
They won't go far, for I've noticed that when pigs take a fancy to a
spot they don't leave it for a good while.  Here we are at home, an' now
for a splendid roast.  There's nothin' like grub when ye're hungry."

"'Xcept drink when ye're dry," observed Gaff.

"Of coorse, an' a snooze when ye're sleepy; but don't let's git too
pheelosophical, daddy; it an't good for digestion to argufy on a empty
stummik.  An' I see ye wants me to argue, but I won't do it; there now!"

It was one of Billy's devices to keep himself and his father cheery in
their prolonged exile, to pretend that he didn't like to argue, and to
stoutly assert that he would not do it, while at the same time he led
his parent into all sorts of discussions.

On the present occasion, while he was engaged in preparing the pig for
the spit, and his father was mending the handle of a fish-spear of his
own fabrication, the discussion, or rather the conversation, turned upon
the possibility of two people living happily all their days on a desert
island.

Billy thought it was quite possible if the grub did not fail, but Gaff
shook his head, and said it would be a blue look-out if one of them
should get ill, or break his leg.  Billy did not agree with this at all;
he held that if one should get ill it would be great fun for the other
to act the part of nurse and doctor, while the sick one would learn to
value his health more when he got it back.  As to breaking a leg, why,
it was no use speculating how things would feel if that should occur; as
well speak of the condition of things if both of them should break their
necks.

The discussion diverged, as such discussions usually did, to home and
its inmates, long before any satisfactory conclusion was come to, and it
was brought to a close in consequence of Billy having to go out of the
cave for firewood to roast the pig.

The cavern home had assumed a very different aspect from that which it
presented when Gaff and his son took possession of it five years before.
It now bore, externally and internally, the appearance of an old
much-used dwelling.  The entrance, which was an irregular archway of
about ten feet in diameter, had been neatly closed up with small trees,
over which strong banana leaves were fastened, so as to make it
weather-tight.  In this screen two holes were left--a small one for a
door, and a still smaller one for a window.  Both were fastened with a
goat-skin curtain, which could be let down and fastened at night.  In
the daytime both door and window were always left wide-open, for the
island on which our friends had been cast was one of a group of
uninhabited islets, the climate around which is warm and delightful
during the greater part of the year.

The ground outside of the cave was trodden by long use to the hardness
of stone.  The small vegetable garden, close to the right of the door,
was enclosed by a fence, which bore evidence of having been more than
once renewed, and frequently repaired.  Some of the trees that had been
cut down--with stone hatchets made by themselves--when they first
arrived, had several tall and sturdy shoots rising from the roots.
There was a flat stone deeply hollowed out by constant sharpening of the
said hatchet.  There was a rustic seat, the handiwork of Billy, that
bore symptoms of having been much sat upon.  There were sundry
footpaths, radiating into the woods, that were beginning to assume the
hardness and dimensions of respectable roads; while all round the place
there were signs and symptoms of the busy hand of man having been at
work there for years.

High up, on a mighty cliff that overlooked and almost overhung the sea,
a rude flagstaff had been raised.  This was among the first pieces of
work that Gaff and his son had engaged in after landing.  It stood on
what they termed Signal Cliff, and was meant to attract the attention of
any vessel that might chance to pass.

To Signal Cliff did Gaff and Billy repair each morning at daylight, as
regularly as clockwork, to hoist their flag, made from cocoa-nut fibre;
and, with equal regularity, did Billy go each night at sunset to haul
the ensign down.

Many an anxious hour did they spend there together, gazing wistfully at
the horizon, and thinking, if not talking, of home.  But ships seldom
visited that sea.  Twice only, during their exile, did they at long
intervals descry a sail, but on both occasions their flag failed to
attract attention, and the hopes which had suddenly burst up with a
fierce flame in their breasts were doomed to sink again in
disappointment.

At first they had many false alarms, and frequently mistook a sea-gull
in the distance for a sail; but such mistakes became less frequent as
their hopes became less sanguine, and their perceptions, from practice,
more acute.  Sometimes they sat there for hours together.  Sometimes,
when busy with household arrangements, or equipped for fishing and
hunting, they merely ran to hoist the flag; but never once did they fail
to pay Signal Cliff a daily visit.

On Sundays, in particular, they were wont to spend the greater part of
their time there, reading the New Testament.

It happened that, just before Gaff left Cove in the sloop of Haco
Barepoles, Lizzie Gordon had presented him with a Testament.  Being a
seriously-minded man, he had received the gift with gratitude, and
carried it to sea with him.  Afterwards, when he and poor Billy were
enduring the miseries of the voyage in the whale-ship, Gaff got out the
Testament, and, aided by Billy, tried to spell it out, and seek for
consolation in it.  He thus got into a habit of carrying it in his
coat-pocket, and it was there when he was cast on the desert island.

Although, of course, much damaged with water, it was not destroyed, for
its clasp happened to be a very tight one, and tended greatly to
preserve it.  When father and son finally took up their abode in the
cavern, the former resolved to devote some time night and morning to
reading the Testament.  He could spell out the capital letters, and
Billy had, before quitting home, got the length of reading words of one
syllable.  Their united knowledge was thus very slight, but it was quite
sufficient to enable them to overcome all difficulties, and in time they
became excellent readers.

The story of Christ's redeeming love wrought its legitimate work on
father and son, and, ere long, the former added prayer to the morning
and evening reading of the Word.  Gradually the broken sentences of
prayer for the Holy Spirit, that light might be shed upon what they
read, were followed by earnest confessions of sin, and petitions for
pardon for Christ's sake.  Friends, too, were remembered; for it is one
of the peculiar consequences of the renewal of the human heart that the
subjects of this renewal begin to think of the souls of others as well
as of their own.  Unbelievers deem this presumptuous and hypocritical,
forgetting that if they were called upon to act in similar
circumstances, they would be necessarily and inevitably quite as
presumptuous, and that the insulting manner in which the efforts of
believers are often received puts hypocrisy out of the question.

Be this as it may, Gaff prayed for his wife and child at first, and,
when his heart began to warm and expand, for his relatives and friends
also.  He became more earnest, perhaps, when he prayed that a ship might
be sent to take them from the island, (and in making this and his other
petitions he might have given an instructive lesson to many divines of
the present day, showing how wonderfully eloquent a man may be if he
will only strive after _nothing_ in the way of eloquence, and simply use
the tones and language that God has given him); but all his prayers were
wound up with "Thy will be done," and all were put up in the name of
Jesus Christ.

To return from this digression.  The inside of the cavern bore not less
evidence of long-continued occupation than the outside.  There was a
block of wood which served father and son for a seat, which had two
distinct and highly-polished marks on it.  There was a rude table, whose
cut, scratched, and hacked surface suggested the idea of many a culinary
essay, and many a good meal.  There was a very simple grate composed of
several stones, which were blackened and whitened with soot and fire.
There was no chimney, however, for the roof of the cave was so high that
all smoke dissipated itself there, and found an exit no one knew how!
In a recess there was a sort of small raised platform, covered with soft
herbage and blankets of cocoa-nut fibre, on which, every night, father
and son lay down together.  The entrance to the inner cave, which formed
a store-room and pantry, was covered with a curtain, so that the
habitation with its rocky walls, earthen floor, and stalactite roof had
quite a snug and cosy appearance.

Soon Billy returned with an armful of dry wood.

"Have ye got a light yet, daddy?"

Gaff, who had been endeavouring to produce a light by using his knife on
a bit of flint for five or ten minutes, said he had "just got it," and
proved the truth of his assertion by handing his son a mass of smoking
material.  Billy blew this into a flame, and applied it to the wood,
which soon kindled into a roaring fire.

"Now, then," cried the Bu'ster, "where's the spit?  Ah! that's it; here
you go; oh dear, how you would yell just now, Mister Grumpy, if you were
alive!  It's a cruel thought, but I can't help it.  There, now, frizzle
away, and I'll go clean up my dishes while you are roasting."

No sooner had the pig been put on the spit, and the first fumes arisen,
than there was a loud yell in the forest, followed immediately by the
pattering of small feet, as if in tremendous haste.

"Aha!  Squeaky, I knew _you_ would smell out the supper double quick,"
cried Billy with a laugh, as he looked towards the door.

"He never misses it," said Gaff with a quiet smile.  Next moment a small
pig came scampering into the cave and rushed up to the fire, where it
sat down promptly as if the sole object it had in view were to warm
itself!

And this was indeed its only object, for that pig was passionately,
ludicrously fond of the fire!  It was a pet pig.

One day when Billy was out hunting, he had caught it in a somewhat
singular fashion.  He usually went out hunting with a bow and arrow of
his own making, and was very successful in bringing down white doves,
parroquets, and such creatures, but could make nothing of the pigs,
whose skins were too tough for his wooden and unshod arrows.  He let fly
at them, nevertheless, when he got a chance.

Well, on the day referred to, Billy had shot nothing, and was returning
home in a somewhat pensive mood when he heard a squeak, and at once
fitted an arrow to his bow.  A rush followed the squeak, and dreadful
yells accompanied the rush--yells which were intensified, if possible,
when Billy's arrow went into an old sow's ear after glancing off the
back of one of her little ones.

Billy ran after them in wild despair, for he knew that the shot was
thrown away.  One of the pigs had sprained its ankle, apparently, for it
could only run on three legs.  This pig fell behind; Billy ran after it,
overtook it, fell upon it, and almost crushed it to death--a fact which
was announced by an appalling shriek.

The mother turned and ran to the rescue.  Billy gathered up the pig and
ran for his, (and its), life.  It was a hard run, and would certainly
have terminated in favour of the sow had not the greater part of the
chase been kept up among loose stones, over which the lad had the
advantage.  In a few minutes he descended a steep cliff over which the
bereaved mother did not dare to run.

Thus did Billy become possessed of a live pig, which in a few weeks
became a remarkably familiar and fearless inmate of the cavern home.

Billy also had a pet parroquet which soon became tame enough to be
allowed to move about at will with a cropped wing, and which was named
Shrieky.  This creature was a mere bundle of impudent feathers, and a
source of infinite annoyance to the pig, for, being possessed of
considerable powers of mimicry, it sometimes uttered a porcine shriek,
exciting poor Squeaky with the vain hope that some of its relations had
arrived, and, what was far worse, frequently imitated the sounds of
crackling fire and roasting food, which had the effect of causing
Squeaky to rush into the cave, to meet with bitter disappointment.

"Now, Squeaky," said the Bu'ster, hitting the pig on its snout with a
bit of firewood, "keep your dirty nose away from yer cousin."

Squeaky obeyed meekly, and removed to another spot.

"Isn't it a strange thing, daddy, that you and I should come to feel so
homelike here?"

"Ay, it is strange," responded Gaff with a sigh, as he laid down the
hook he was working at and glanced round the cavern.  "Your mother would
be astonished to see us now, lad."

"She'll hear all about it some day," said Billy.  "You've no notion what
a splendid story I'll make out of all this when we get back to Cove!"

It was evident that the Bu'ster inherited much of his mother's sanguine
disposition.

"P'raps we'll never git back to Cove," said Gaff sadly; "hows'ever,
we've no reason to complain.  Things might ha' bin worse.  You'd better
go and haul down the flag, lad.  I'll look arter the roast till ye come
back."

"The roast'll look after itself, daddy," said the Bu'ster; "you look
after Squeaky, however, for that sly critter's always up to mischief."

Billy hastened to the top of Signal Cliff just as the sun was beginning
to descend into the sea, and had commenced to pull down the flag when
his eye caught sight of a sail--not on the far-off horizon, like a
sea-gull's wing, but close in upon the land!

The shout that he gave was so tremendous that Gaff heard it in the cave,
and rushed out in great alarm.  He saw Billy waving a shred of cocoa-nut
cloth frantically above his head, and his heart bounded wildly as he
sprang up the hill like a stag.

On reaching the flagstaff he beheld the vessel, a large full-rigged
ship, sailing calmly, and, to his eye, majestically, not far from the
signal cliff.

His first impulse was to wave his hand and shout.  Then he laid hands on
the halliards of the flag and gave it an extra pull to see that it was
well up, while Billy continued to stamp, cheer, yell, and wave his arms
like a madman!

Only those who have been long separated from their fellow-men can know
the wild excitement that is roused in the breast by the prospect of
meeting with new faces.  Gaff and Billy found it difficult to restrain
themselves, and indeed they did not try to do so for at least ten
minutes after the discovery of the ship.  Then a feeling of dread came
suddenly upon the former.

"Surely they'll never pass without takin' notice of us."

"Never!" exclaimed Billy, whose sudden fall of countenance belied the
word.

Gaff shook his head.

"I'm not so sure o' that," said he; "if she's a whaler like the one we
came south in, lad, she'll not trouble herself with us."

Billy looked very grave, and his heart sank.

"My only consolation is that she looks more like a man-o'-war than a
whaler."

"I wish we had a big gun to fire," exclaimed Billy, looking round in
perplexity, as if he half hoped that a carronade would spring up out of
the ground.  "Could we not make a row somehow?"

"I fear not," said Gaff despondingly.  "Shoutin' is of no use.  She's
too far-off for that.  Our only chance is the flag."

Both father and son stood silent for some moments earnestly gazing at
the ship, which was by this time nearly opposite to their flagstaff, and
seemed to be passing by without recognising the signal.  This was not to
be wondered at, for, although the flag was visible enough from landward,
being well defined against the bright sky, it was scarce perceptible
from seaward, owing to the hills which formed a background to it.

"_I_ know what'll do it!" exclaimed Billy, as he leaped suddenly to one
side.  "Come along, daddy."

A few yards to one side of the spot on which the flagstaff was reared
there was a part of the precipice which sloped with a steep descent into
the sea.  Here there had been a landslip, and the entire face of the
cliff was laid bare.  At the top of this slope there was a great
collection of stones and masses of rock of considerable size.  At
various points, too, down the face of the steep, masses of rock and
_debris_ had collected in hollows.

Billy now went to work to roll big stones over the edge of this cliff,
and he did it with such good-will that in a few minutes masses of a
hundred weight were rolling, bounding, and crashing down the steep.
These, in many cases, plunged into the collections of _debris_, and
dislodged masses of rock that no efforts of which Billy was capable
could have otherwise moved.

The rattling roar of the avalanche was far more effective than a salvo
of artillery, because, besides being tremendous, it was unceasing, and
the result was that the vessel ran up a flag in reply to the strange
salute.  Then a white puff of smoke from her side preceded the roar of a
heavy gun.  Immediately after, the vessel's head came round, and she
lay-to.

"It's a man-o'-war," cried Billy excitedly.

"Ay, and a British one too," exclaimed Gaff; "let's give him a cheer,
lad."

Billy complied with a will!  Again and again did they raise their strong
voices until the woods and cliffs became alive with full, true, ringing
British cheers!



CHAPTER THIRTY ONE.

DELIVERED, WRECKED, AND RESCUED.

It is unnecessary, indeed impossible, to describe the feelings with
which Gaff and Billy descended from Signal Cliff to the beach to meet
the boat which put off from the man-of-war and made for the little creek
just below the cave.

As the boat's keel grated on the sand, the midshipman in command leaped
ashore.  He was a particularly small and pert midshipman, a smart
conceited vigorous little fellow, who delighted to order his big men
about in the voice of a giant; and it was quite interesting to observe
how quietly and meekly those big men obeyed him, just as one sometimes
sees a huge Newfoundland dog or mastiff obey the orders of a child.

"Why, where on earth did you come from, and what are you doing here?"
demanded the little middy, as he approached Gaff, and looked up in that
man's rugged and unshorn countenance.

Poor Gaff could scarce command himself sufficiently to reply--

"We're Englishmen--bin cast away--five years now--"

He could go no farther, but, seizing the boy's hand, shook it warmly.
The Bu'ster, being equally incapable of speaking, seized the hand of the
sailor next him, and also shook it violently.  Then he uttered a cheer,
and turning suddenly round ran along the beach for half a mile like a
greyhound, after which he returned and asserted that his feelings were
somewhat relieved!

Meanwhile the middy continued to question Gaff.

"What! d'ye mean to say you've been five years here--all alone?"

"Ay, all but a few days," said Gaff, looking round on the men with a
bewildered air.  "How strange yer voices sound!  Seems as if I'd a'most
forgotten what men are like!"

"Well, you _are_ a queer fish," said the boy with a laugh.  "Are there
no more here but you two?"

"No more; just Billy and me--also Squeaky and Shrieky."

Gaff said this quite gravely, for nothing was farther from his thoughts
at that time than jesting.

"And pray, who may Squeaky and Shrieky be?"

"Squeaky's a pig, and Shrieky's a little parrot."

"Well," observed the middy with a laugh, "that's better than no company
at all."

"Yours is an English man-o'-war, I think?" said Gaff.

"You're right, old fellow; she's the `Blazer,' 74, Captain Evans, bound
for England.  Took a run farther south than usual after a
piratical-looking craft, but missed her.  Gave up the chase, and came to
this island to get water.  Little thought we should find _you_ on it.
Astonish the captain rather when we go back.  Of course you'll want us
to take you home.  Will you go off with me at once?"

Gaff and Billy hesitated, and both looked back with a strange mixture of
feelings at their island-home.

"Oh, we won't hurry you," said the boy, with a kindly and patronising
air; "if there are any traps you want to pack up, we'll wait for you.
It'll take us some time to get the breakers filled.  Can you show me a
good spring?"

"Ay, an' we can show you a hot one," cried Billy, with a smile.  "But
come up to the cave with us and have some grub."

The midshipman expressed his readiness to comply, and ordered one of the
men to stay and watch the boat.

"You needn't leave any one with the boat," said Gaff; "there's nobody
here to touch it."

"Nevertheless I will leave a guard.  Now, then show us the way."

It is needless to describe the surprise of the sailors at everything
they saw and heard; and the mixed feelings that agitated the breasts of
Gaff and his son--anxiety to return to England, with regret to quit the
cavern home where they had spent so many quiet and comparatively happy
years.

Suffice it to say that they, and the few things they possessed, were
speedily transferred to the "Blazer," on board of which they received
the most considerate attention and kindness.  And you may be sure,
reader, that Billy did not forget to take the pig and the parroquet
along with him.

Fair winds sprang up, and for many weeks the "Blazer" bowled along
steadily on her course.  It seemed as if the elements had agreed to be
favourable, and expedite the return of the exiles.  But this state of
things did not last.

Towards the end of the voyage fogs and gales prevailed, and the "Blazer"
was driven considerably out of her course to the northward, insomuch
that she finally made the land on the north-western coast of Scotland.
This induced the captain to run through the Pentland Firth, after
passing through which they were beset by calms.

One day a small steamer passed close alongside the "Blazer."

"That's an Aberdeen steamer," said the captain; "would you like to be
put on board, Gaff?"

Gaff said that he would, as it was probable he should reach home sooner
by her than if he were to accompany the "Blazer" to London.

Accordingly the steamer was signalled, and Gaff and Billy were put on
board.

Scarcely had this been done when a stiff easterly gale set in, and
before morning a heavy sea was running, before which the steamer rolled
heavily.

It seemed as if Gaff and his son were doomed to be drowned, for disaster
by sea followed them wherever they went.  At last, however, the morning
broke bright and clear, and the wind abated, though the sea was still
running very high.

That forenoon the steamer sighted the coast of Aberdeenshire and the
tall column of the Girdle-ness lighthouse came into view.

"We'll be home soon now, daddy," said Billy, as they walked the
quarter-deck together.

"P'raps, but we an't there yet," said Gaff; "an' I never count my
chickens before they are hatched."

Gaff and his son no longer wore the rough skin garments which had
clothed them while in their island-home.  They had been rigged out in
man-o'-war habiliments by the kindness of those on board the "Blazer,"
but they had steadily refused to permit the barber to operate upon them,
and still wore their locks shaggy and long.  They were, perhaps, as fine
specimens of a hardy and powerful man and boy as could be found
anywhere; for Gaff, although past his prime, was not a whit less
vigorous and athletic than he had been in days of yore, though a little
less supple; and Billy, owing probably to his hardy and healthy style of
life on the island, was unusually broad and manly for his age.

In a few hours the steamer made the harbour of Aberdeen.  The
passengers, who had been very busy all the morning in packing up the
things they had used on the voyage, were now assembled in groups along
the side of the vessel trying to make out objects on shore.  The captain
stood on the bridge between the paddles giving directions to the
steersman, and everything gave promise of a speedy and happy landing.

A heavy sea, however, was still running, filling the bay to the
northward of the harbour with foaming breakers, while the pier-head was
engulfed in clouds of spray as each billow rolled past it and fell in
thunder on the bar.

Every one on board looked on with interest; but on that clear bright
day, no one thought of danger.

Just as the steamer came close up to the bar, a heavy sea struck her on
the port bow, driving her a little too near the pier.  The captain
shouted to the steersman, but the man either did not understand him, or
did not act with sufficient promptitude, for the next wave sent them
crashing on the portion of bulwark or breakwater that juts out from the
head of the Aberdeen pier.

The consternation and confusion that ensued is beyond description.  The
women screamed, the men shouted.  The captain ordered the engines to be
reversed, and this was done at once, but the force of the next billow
was too great.  It lifted the vessel up and let her fall heavily again
on the pier, where she lay hard and fast with her back broken.  Another
wave lifted her; the two halves of the vessel separated and sank on each
side of the pier, leaving the passengers and crew in the waves.

It would be difficult to say whether the shouts of the multitudes who
stood on the pier-head or the shrieks of the wrecked people were
loudest.

Instantly every exertion was made to save them.  Boats were launched,
ropes were thrown, buoys were cast into the sea, and many of the people
were saved, but many were also drowned before assistance reached them.

Gaff and Billy, being expert swimmers, seized the persons nearest to
them, and took them safe to the pier, where ready hands were stretched
out to grasp them.  The former saved a lady, the latter a little girl.
Then they plunged back into the sea, and saved two more lives.

While this was going on, several of the passengers were swept round into
the bay, where they would have perished but for the prompt and able
assistance of a man who was known as "The Rescue."

This man was so named because he undertook the dangerous and trying duty
of watching the bathers during the summer months, and rescuing such of
them as got out of their depth.

In this arduous work that heroic man had, during five years of service,
saved with his own hands between thirty and forty lives--in some cases
with a boat, but in most cases by simply swimming out and seizing the
drowning persons, and without using corks or floats of any kind.  When
asked why he did not use a lifebelt, he said that it would only impede
his motions and prevent him from diving, which he was often compelled to
do when the drowning persons had sunk.  His usual method was to swim off
when there was a shout for help, and make for the struggling man or boy
so as to come up behind him.  He then seized him under the armpits, and
thus effectually prevented him from grasping him in any way.  Drawing
him gently upon his breast while he lay over on his back, he then made
for the shore, swimming on his back and using his feet only.

On the present occasion the "Rescue" saved four or five of those who
were washed into the bay, and then ran out to the end of the pier to
render assistance there.

In height he was not above the middle size, but he had a very muscular
and well-knit frame.  Just as he drew near, Gaff, who was bearing a
little boy through the surf in his arms, was hurled against the stones
of the pier, rendered insensible, and sucked back by the retreating
water.  Billy was farther out at the moment, and did not see what had
occurred.

The shout of alarm from those in front of the crowd was almost
immediately answered by a cry from behind of:

"The Rescue!  The Rescue!  This way!"

Without checking his speed, the Rescue sprang into the sea, caught Gaff
by the hair of the head, and was next moment hurled on the breakwater.
He was prepared for the shock, and caught the hands of two men, who,
with ropes round their waists, waded into the water as far as they
dared.  Billy was washed ashore at the same moment, almost in a state of
helpless exhaustion, and all were hauled out of the sea amid the wild
cheers of the excited crowd.

Gaff, being laid under the lee of the pier-wall, soon recovered, and
then he and Billy were led tenderly up to the town, where they were
kindly entertained and cared for during several days, by the hospitable
Rescue, in whose house they lodged during their stay in the fair city of
Aberdeen.

Most of the cattle that happened to be on board the ill-fated steamer
were saved, and among them was Squeaky.  Shrieky, too, managed to
escape.  His cage having been smashed in the general confusion he was
set free, and flew wildly towards the pier, where he took refuge in the
bosom of a sailor, who took care of him.  Ultimately he and his
companion in distress were restored to their friends.



CHAPTER THIRTY TWO.

HOME AGAIN.

A few days after the events narrated in the last chapter, Gaff and his
son arrived by stage-coach in the town of Wreckumoft, and at once
started off for the village of Cove.

It was night.  There was no moon, but the stars shone brightly in a
clear sky, affording sufficient light to show them their road.

Neither of them spoke.  Their minds were filled with anxiety, for the
thought that was uppermost and ever-present in each was, "Are they well?
are they _alive_?"  They did not utter the thought, however.

"It's a long bit since you an' I was here, Billy," observed Gaff in a
low voice.

"Ay, very long," replied the lad.

They walked on again at a smart pace, but in silence.

Presently they heard footsteps approaching, and a man soon came up from
the direction of Cove.

"Foine noight," said the man.

"Fine night it is," responded Gaff and Billy in the same breath.

Gaff suddenly turned and accosted the stranger just as he had passed
them.

"D'ye belong to Cove?"

"No, I doan't; only stoppin' there a bit."

"Ye don't happen to know a 'ooman o' the name o' Gaff, do ye?"

"Gaff--Gaff," repeated the man, meditating; "no, I niver heern on her."

"Hm; thought pr'aps ye might--good-night."

"Good-noight."

And the man went his way.

"Ah!  Billy, my heart misgives me, boy," said Gaff after a pause.

It was evident that Billy's heart misgave him too, for he made no reply.

The distance to Cove being only three miles, they were not long in
reaching the cottage, although their pace had become slower and slower
as they approached the village, and they stopped altogether when they
first came in sight of their old home.

A light shone brightly in the little window.  They glanced at each other
on observing this, but no word escaped them.  Silently they approached
the cottage-window and looked in.

Gaff started back with a slight exclamation of surprise, for his eye
fell on the new and strange furniture of the "boodwar."  Billy looked
round with a searching eye.

"There's nobody in," he said at length, "but look, daddy, the old
clock's there yet."

Gaff did not know whether this was a good or a bad omen, for any one who
had taken and refurnished the cottage might have bought the old clock
and kept it as a sort of curiosity.

While they were gazing, the door of the closet opened and Mrs Gaff came
out.  She was a little stouter, perhaps, than she had been five years
before, but not a whit less hale or good-looking.

"Mother--God bless her!" murmured Billy in a deep earnest voice.

"Where can Tottie be?" whispered Gaff anxiously.

"Maybe she's out," said Billy.

The lad's voice trembled while he spoke, for he could not but reflect
that five years was a long long time, and Tottie might be dead.

Before Gaff spoke again, the closet door once more opened, and a slender
sprightly girl just budding into womanhood tripped across the room.

"Hallo!" exclaimed Billy, "who can that--surely! impossible! yes it is,
it _must_ be Tot, for I could never mistake her mouth!"

"D'ye see any sign of--of--a man?" said Gaff in a voice so deep and
peculiar, that his son turned and looked at him in surprise.

"No, daddy--why? what d'ye ask that for?"

"'Cause it's not the first time a sailor has comed home, after bein'
many years away, and found that his wife had guv him up for dead, an'
married again."

Gaff had often thought of the possibility of such a thing during his
prolonged residence on the island, and the thought had cost him many a
bitter pang, but he had never mentioned it to Billy, on whom the idea
fell for the first time like a thunderbolt.  He almost staggered, and
put his hand quickly on the window-sill.

"But come, lad, let's bear up like men.  I'll go in first.  Don't let
on; see if they'll remember us."

So saying, Gaff lifted the latch of the door and stood before his wife
and child.  Billy also entered, and stood a pace behind him.

Mrs Gaff and Tottie, who were both engaged about the fireplace at the
time, in the preparation of supper, turned and looked at the intruders
in surprise, and, for a few seconds, in silence.

The light that fell upon father and son was not very strong, and the
opening of the door had caused it to flicker.

"Come in, if ye wants a word wi' me," said Mrs Gaff, who was somewhat
uneasy at the rugged appearance of her visitors, but was too proud to
show it.

"Hast forgotten me, Jess?"

Mrs Gaff rushed at once into his arms.

"`Bless the Lord, O my soul,'" murmured Gaff, as he smoothed the head
that lay on his shoulder.

Tottie recognised her brother the instant he advanced into the full
light of the fire, and exclaiming the single word "Billy," leaped into
his open arms.

"Not lost after all, thank God," said Gaff, with a deep prolonged sigh,
as he led his wife to a chair and sat down beside her.

"Lost, Stephen, what mean ye?"

"Not married again," said Gaff with a quiet smile.

"Married again! an' _you_ alive! oh, Stephen!"

"Nay, lass, not _believin'_ me alive, but ye've had good reason to think
me dead this many a year."

"An' d'ye think I'd ha' married agin even though ye was dead, lad?"
asked the wife, with a look of reproach.

"Well, I believe ye wouldn't; but it's common enough, ye must admit, for
folk to marry a second time, an' so, many and many a long day I used to
think p'raps Jess'll ha' found it hard to keep herself an' Tottie, an'
mayhap she'll have married agin arter givin' me up for dead."

"Never!" exclaimed Mrs Gaff energetically.

"Well, forgive me for thinkin' it, lass.  I've been punished enough, for
it's cost me many a bitter hour when I was on the island."

"On the island!" exclaimed Tottie in surprise.

"Ay, Tot, but it's an old story that, an' a long one."

"Then you'll have to tell it to me, daddy, and begin at once," said
Tottie, leaving the Bu'ster--who was more entitled to his nickname on
that evening than he had ever been in all his life,--and sitting down
beside her father on the floor.

"Come, let's have fair exchange," said Gaff, pushing his wife towards
Billy, who grasped his mother round her ample waist, and pulled her down
upon his knee!

"You're so big and strong an' handsome," said Mrs Gaff, running her
fingers through her son's voluminous locks, while a few tears tumbled
over her cheeks.

"Mother," said Billy with a gleeful look, "give me a slap on the face;
do, there's a good old woman; I want to feel what it's like now, to see
if I remember it!"

"There!" cried Mrs Gaff, giving him a slap, and no light one--a slap
that would have floored him in days of yore; "you deserve it for calling
me an old woman."

Mrs Gaff followed up the slap with a hug that almost choked her son.

"Make less noise, won't you?" cried Tottie.  "Don't you see that daddy's
going to begin his story?"

Silence being with difficulty obtained, Gaff did begin his story,
intending to run over a few of the leading facts regarding his life
since he disappeared, but, having begun, he found it impossible to stop,
all the more so that no one wanted to stop him.  He became so excited,
too, that he forgot to take note of time, and his audience were so
interested that they paid no attention whatever to the Dutch clock with
the horrified countenance, which, by the way, looked if possible more
horrified than it used to do in the Bu'ster's early days.  Its
preliminary hissing and frequent ringings were unheeded; so were the
more dignified admonitions of the new clock; so was the tea-kettle,
which hissed with the utmost fury at being boiled so long, but hissed in
vain, for it was allowed to hiss its entire contents into thin air, and
then to burn its bottom red hot!  In like manner the large pot of
potatoes evaporated its water, red-heated its bottom, and burned its
contents to charcoal.

This last event it was that aroused Mrs Gaff.

"Lauks! the taties is done for."

She sprang up and tore the pot off the fire.  Tottie did the same to the
kettle, while Gaff and Billy looked on and laughed.

"Never mind, here's another kettle; fill it, Tot, fro' the pitcher,"
said Mrs Gaff; "it'll bile in a few minutes, an' we can do without
taties for one night."

On examination, however, it was found that a sufficient quantity of
eatable potatoes remained in the heart of the burned mass, so the
misfortune did not prove to be so great as at first sight it appeared to
be.

"But now, Jess, let me pump _you_ a bit.  How comes it that ye've made
such a 'xtraornary affair o' the cottage?"

Mrs Gaff, instead of answering, hugged herself, and looked unutterably
sly.  Then she hugged Billy, and laughed.  Tottie laughed too, much more
energetically than there was any apparent reason for.  This caused Billy
to laugh from sympathy, which made Mrs Gaff break out afresh, and Gaff
himself laughed because he couldn't help it!  So they all laughed
heartily for at least two minutes--all the more heartily that half of
them did not know what they were laughing at, and the other half knew
particularly well what they were laughing at!

"Well, now," said Gaff, after a time, "this may be uncommonly funny, but
I'd like to know what it's all about."

Mrs Gaff still looked unutterably sly, and giggled.  At length she
said--

"You must know, Stephen, that I'm a lady!"

"Well, lass, you an't 'xactly a lady, but you're an uncommon good woman,
which many a lady never wos, an' never will be."

"Ay, but I _am_ a lady," said Mrs Gaff firmly; "at least I'm rich, an'
that's the same thing, an't it?"

"I'm not so sure o' that," replied Gaff, shaking his head; "seems to me
that it takes more than money to make a lady.  But what are ye drivin'
at, Jess?"

Mrs Gaff now condescended on explanation.  First of all she made Gaff
and Billy go round the apartment with her, and expounded to them the
signification of the various items, after the manner of a showman.

"Here, you see," said the good woman, pointing to the floor, "is a
splendid carpit strait fro' the looms o' Turkey; so the man said as sold
it to me, but I've reason to believe he told lies.  Hows'ever, there it
is, an' it's a fuss-rater as ye may see.  The roses is as fresh as the
day it was put down, 'xceptin' that one where Tottie capsized a saucepan
o' melted butter an' eggs last Christmas day.  This," (pointing to the
bed), "is a four-poster.  You've often said to me, Stephen, that you'd
like to sleep in a four-poster to see how it felt.  Well, you'll git the
chance now, _my_ man!  This here is a noo grate an' fire-irons, as cost
fi' pun' ten.  The man I got it fro' said it wos a bargain at that, but
some knowin' friends o' mine holds a different opinion.  Here is a noo
clock, as goes eight days of his own accord, an' strikes the halves an'
quarters, but he's not so good as he looks, like many other showy
critters in this world.  That old farmiliar face in the corner does his
dooty better, an' makes less fuss about it.  Then this here is a noo set
o' chimbley ornaments.  I don't think much o' them myself, but Tot says
they're better than nothing.  Them six cheers is the best I ever sat on.
Nothin' can smash 'em.  Mad Haco even can't--"

"Ah! is Haco alive still?" interrupted Gaff.

"Alive, I should think so.  Nothin' 'll kill that man.  I don't believe
buryin' him alive would do it.  He's up at the Sailors' Home just now.
But I'm not done yet.  Here's a portrait o' Lord Nelson, as can look all
round the room.  See, now, git into that corner.  Now, an't he lookin'
at ye?"

"That he is, an' no mistake," replied Gaff.

"Well, git into this other corner; now, an't he lookin' at ye still?"

"To be sure he is!"

"Well, well, don't go for to puzzle yer brains over it.  That pictur'
has nearly druv all the thinkin' men o' Cove mad, so we'll let it alone
just now.  Here's a man-o'-war, ye see; an' this is the steps for
mountin' into the four-poster.  It serves for a--a--some sort o' _man_,
I forget--Tot, _you_ know--"

"An ottoman," said Tottie.

"Ay, a ottyman by day, an' steps-an'-stairs at night.  Look there!"

Mrs Gaff opened up the steps and said, "What d'ye think o' that?"

Gaff said, "Wonderful!" and Billy exclaimed, "Hallo!"

"Yes, Stephen," resumed Mrs Gaff, going to the cupboard and fetching
the tea-caddy, from which she extracted her banker's book, "all them
things was bought for you with your own fortin', which is ten thousand
pound, (an' more, for I've not lived up to the interest by no manner o'
means); an' that there book'll show ye it's all true."

Having reached this point, Mrs Gaff was seized with a fit of laughter,
which she stifled on her husband's breast, and then, flinging herself
into the four-poster, she burst into a flood of tears.

This was the first time in her life that she had given way to such
weakness, and she afterwards said to Tottie, in reference to it, that
she couldn't help it, and had made up her mind to have a good cry once
for all, and be done with it.

Gaff and his son examined the bank-book, and listened with wonder to
Tottie's account of the manner in which their wealth had come to them.
Before the recital was completed, Mrs Gaff had had her cry out, and
dried her eyes.

"What think ye of that, Stephen?" she said, pointing to the book.

Gaff shook his head slowly, and looked very grave.

"I don't much like it, Jess."

"What, don't like money?"

"Too much of it is dangerous.  I hope it won't harm us, lass."

"It's done no harm to me yet, as I knows of," said Mrs Gaff firmly.

"What says the Bible, Tot, about that?" asked Gaff.  "Money's the root
o' all evil, an't it?"

"No, daddy, it's _the love_ o' money that's the root of all evil."

"Ah, to be sure.  Well, there's a difference there.  Hows'ever, we can't
help it, so we must larn to bear it.  Come along now, Jess, and let us
have supper."

To supper they sat down, and long they sat over it, and a hearty one
they ate.  It was not till they began to think of retiring for the night
that it was remembered that there was no possibility of putting up Billy
in the cottage, for Tottie occupied the closet of the "boodwar."  The
Bu'ster relieved his parents from their difficulty, however, by
asserting that he had taken a wild desire to see Mad Haco that night;
so, declining the offer of a shake-down made up under the four-poster,
he started for Wreckumoft, and took up his quarters in the Sailors'
Home.



CHAPTER THIRTY THREE.

THE SAILORS' HOME AND THE NEW SECRETARY.

Great changes had taken place in the Sailors' Home at Wreckumoft since
Billy Gaff last saw it.  A new wing had been added to it, and the
original building had been altered and repaired, while every convenience
in the way of ventilating and heating had been introduced, so that the
sailors who frequented this admirable Home found themselves surrounded
by comforts and luxuries such as, in former days, they had never dreamed
of.

Fortunately for this valuable institution, Sir Richard Doles, Bart, had
not been made a director, consequently the business of the Home was not
impeded.

Fortunately, also, the secretary who had been recently appointed to the
Home was a man of ability and energy, being none other than our friend
Kenneth Stuart.

That incorrigible young man had ventured one day to say to his father
that he could not make up his mind to give up the "portionless girl,"
Lizzie Gordon; that he considered her anything but portionless, seeing
that she possessed an earnest, loving, Christian heart, and a wise
thoughtful mind; qualities which wealth could not purchase, and compared
with which a fortune was not worth a straw.

Mr Stuart, senior, thereupon dismissed Mr Stuart, junior, from his
presence for ever, and told him to go and beg his bread where he chose!

Curiously enough, Mr Stuart, senior, happened to dine that day with
Colonel Crusty at the club where the latter put up when in town, and the
valiant colonel told him that he had that morning dismissed his daughter
from his presence for ever, she having returned to the parental home as
Mrs Bowels.  The two, therefore, felt a peculiar sort of sympathy,
being, as it were, in the same boat, and cracked an additional bottle of
claret on the strength of the coincidence.  When they had finished the
extra bottle, they ordered another, and became exceedingly jocose,
insomuch that one vowed he would leave his fortune to the Church, but
the other preferred to leave his to a Lunatic Asylum.

On receiving his dismissal, Kenneth left his father's house with words
of regret and good-will on his lips, and then went to tell Lizzie, and
seek his fortune.

He had not to seek long or far.  Being a director of the Sailors' Home,
I chanced to be in search of a secretary.  A better man than Kenneth
could not be found, so I proposed him, and he was at once appointed.

The salary being a good one, he was enabled to retain Dan Horsey and
Bucephalus.  He also obtained permission to remove Emmie to his house,
having told his father who the child was, and having been told in return
that he, (the father), had become aware of the fact long ago, and that
he was welcome to her!  Kenneth then set himself earnestly to work to
promote the interests of the Sailors' Home, and to prepare his house for
the reception of Lizzie, who had agreed to marry him whenever he felt
himself in a position to ask her.

Lizzie was a peculiar girl.  She had, indeed, permitted Kenneth to visit
her as a lover; but she resolutely refused to accept him as long as his
father continued adverse to the union.  The moment, however, that she
heard of his being cast off and disinherited, she agreed, with tears in
her eyes, to marry him whenever he pleased.

But to return from this digression: the new secretary of the Sailors'
Home of Wreckumoft became the guardian spirit of the place.  He advised
all the arrangements which the Board made.  He drew up all the rules
that the Board fixed.

An "Address" which he issued to officers and seamen frequenting the port
of Wreckumoft, wound up with the following words:

"The Directors of the Sailors' Home are anxious that seamen should
clearly understand that the institution was designed for their sole
benefit, and established with the view of protecting them from the
systematic extortion of crimps and other snares, to which their
circumstances and calling render them peculiarly liable; and, above all,
to promote their moral elevation, social improvement, and religious
instruction.  The rules by which the institution is governed are, as far
as practicable, adapted to meet the habits of all who participate in its
benefits, and to further their best interests.  It is conducted on
principles of order, comfort, and liberality; and no restraint is
exercised beyond that which common prudence and mutual interest require.
In the `Home' thus provided; which embraces security, freedom of
action, and social enjoyment, the Directors desire to create and sustain
mutual sympathy, trust, and good-will, and to employ those agencies
which tend most to mature habits of frugality, self-respect, and the
love of God."

Immediately after the appearance of this address, seamen flocked to the
"Home" for lodgings, and those who did so found the place so uncommonly
pleasant that they brought their messmates, so that for months
afterwards not only was every bed taken, but the very stairs and
landings of the building were occupied by men who preferred to sleep
there, and enjoy the advantages of the Institution, rather than go back
to the dens which they had frequented in former days.

On the night when Billy went to the Home it was very full, and he
stumbled over more than one recumbent seaman on the landings before he
reached the hall, where, late though it was, a number of men were
playing chess, draughts, and bagatelle, or reading books and papers.
Here he found Haco Barepoles, as rugged as ever, seated by the fire and
deeply engaged in a copy of the "Pilgrim's Progress."

"Wonderful book; wonderful book!" exclaimed Haco, laying the volume on
the table and scratching his head, as if to stir up the brain inside.
Just then Billy came up.

"Hallo, Haco!"

"Hallo, stranger!  You've the advantage of me, lad, for I don't know
ye."

"Yes, ye do."

"Eh! do I?  Let me see."

Here the mad skipper scrutinised the lad's face earnestly.

"Well, I _have_ seen ye afore now, but you've 'scaped from me,
youngster."

"I'm Billy, _alias_ the Bu'ster, _alias_ the Cork, _alias_ Gaff--"

"What, Billy Gaff?  Dead and come alive again!" cried Haco, springing up
and seizing the youngster's hand.

Having wrung Billy's arm almost off his shoulder, Haco took him up to
his berth, where he made him sit down on the bed and recount all his and
his father's adventures from beginning to end.

When Billy had concluded the narrative, which of course he gave only in
brief outline, Haco said--

"Now, lad, you and I shall go have a pipe outside, and then we'll turn
in."

"Very good; but I have not yet asked you about your daughter Susan.  Is
she still with Captain Bingley?"

"Ay, still with him, and well," replied Haco, with a look that did not
convey the idea of satisfaction.

"Not goin' to get married?" inquired Billy with caution.

Haco snorted, then he grunted, and then he said--

"Yes, she _was_ goin' to get married, and he wished she wasn't, that was
all."

"Who to?" inquired the other.

"Why, to that Irish scoundrel Dan Horsey, to be sure," said Haco with a
huge sigh of resignation, which, coming from any other man, would have
been regarded as a groan.  "The fact is, lad, that poor Susan's heart is
set upon that fellow, an' so it's no use resistin' them no longer.
Besides, the blackguard is well spoken of by his master, who's a trump.
Moreover, I made a kind o' half promise long ago that I'd not oppose
them, to that scapegrace young Lieutenant Bingley, who's on his way home
from China just now.  An' so it's a-goin' to be; an' they've set their
hearts on havin' the weddin' same week as the weddin' o' Master Kenneth
and Lizzie Gordon; so the fact is they may all marry each other, through
other, down the middle and up again, for all I care, 'cause I'm a-goin'
on a whalin' voyage to Novy Zembly or Kumskatchkie--anywheres to git
peace o' mind--there!"

Saying this Haco dashed the ashes out of his big German pipe into his
left palm, and scattered them to the winds.

"Now, lad," he said, in conclusion, "we'll go turn in, and you'll sleep
with me to-night, for ye couldn't get a bed in the Home for love or
money, seein' that it's choke full already.  Come along."



CHAPTER THIRTY FOUR.

FAILURES AND HOPES DEFERRED, AND CONSEQUENCES.

Now, it chanced that, about the time of which I write, a noted bank
failed, and a considerable sum of money which had been temporarily
deposited in it by the committee of the Sailors' Home at Wreckumoft was
lost.

This necessitated retrenchment.  All the salaries of officials were
lowered--among them Kenneth's, although the directors assured him that
it would be again raised as soon as the Institution recovered from the
shock of this loss.

Meanwhile, however, the secretary was compelled to postpone his marriage
indefinitely.

Perhaps the shortest way to convey a correct idea of the dire effects of
this failure to my reader will be to detail several conversations that
took place in regard to it by various parties.

Conversation first was held between the head cook and head waiter of the
Sailors' Home.  These worthies were seated on one of the dressers in the
kitchen of the establishment;--and a wonderful kitchen it was, with
culinary implements so huge as to suggest the idea of giant operators.
There was a grate that might have roasted an ox whole.  There were pots
big enough to have boiled entire sheep, caldrons of soup that a little
boy might have swum in, rolls and loaves that would, apparently, have
made sandwiches for an army, and cups and saucers, plates and dishes
that might have set up any reasonable man for life in the crockery line.
But the most astounding vessels in that amazing place were the tea-pot
and coffee-pot of the establishment.  They stood side by side like giant
twins; each being five feet high by a yard in diameter, and the pounds
of tea and gallons of water put into these pots night and morning for
tea and breakfast seemed almost fabulous.  (See note 1.)

"It's werry unfortinet, werry," said the presiding spirit of this
region.

"So 'tis," observed the head waiter.

"Werry hard, too," said the cook, "on a man like me, with a wife and six
childer, to have his wages docked."

"So 'tis--even for a man with a wife and four child'n like me," said the
head waiter; "but it comes hardest on the secretary, poor feller.  He
was just a-goin' to get spliced, an' there he's 'bliged to put it off.
He's such a good feller too."

"Ah--it's werry hard," said the cook.

"Werry," said the head waiter.

Having shaken their heads in concert, these worthies dropped the subject
as being an unpleasant one.

In Mr Stuart's drawing-room, referring to the same subject, Miss
Penelope Stuart said to Mr George Stuart--

"Well, I'm sure, George, it seems to me that it would be only right and
proper to forgive poor Kenneth, not that he's done anything exactly
wrong, but forgiveness is a Christian duty, whether it's an enemy you've
hurt, or a friend who has hurt you, that--that, how could he help it,
you know, brother, now do be reasonable, and only think of the poor boy
having to part with that great cart-horse--though it'll be the death of
him some day whether he parts with it or not, for it's a dreadful
creature, and Dan too--I'm sure the perplexities people are put to by
banks failing.  Why don't people prevent them from failing?  But the
worst is his marriage being put off, and it so near.  I do think,
brother, you might take him back and--"

"Pray hold your tongue, Peppy," said Mr Stuart, who was attempting to
read the _Times_, "I'm not listening to you, and if you are pleading for
my son Kenneth, let me say to you, once for all, that I have done with
him for ever.  I would not give him a sixpence if he were starving."

"Well, but," persevered the earnest Miss Peppy, "if he were to repent,
you know, and come and ask pardon, (dear me, where are those scissors?
ah, here they are), surely you would not refuse, (the thimble next--what
a world of worries!) to--to give him--"

"Peppy, I have stated my sentiments, pray do not trouble me further in
regard to this matter.  _Nothing_ can move me."

Miss Peppy sighed, and retired to pour her regrets into the sympathetic
ear of Mrs Niven.

Gaff sat in the chimney-corner of the "Boodwar" smoking his pipe and
staring at Shrieky, which, having survived the voyage home, had been
hung up in a cage in the little window, and was at that time engaged in
calling loudly for Squeaky, who, having also survived the voyage, was
grubbing up stones and mud at the front door.  Mrs Gaff was seated
opposite to him, with Tottie's head in her lap; for she still solaced
herself by smoothing her hair.  Billy was sitting on one of the six
chairs whittling a piece of wood.

"It's a bad business," said Gaff; "bad for everybody consarned; but wust
for Mr Stuart."

"An' his man," said Billy.

"And Susan," said Tottie.

"Gaff," said Mrs Gaff, "it's my advice to you to go up to the bank, ask
them for a thousand pounds, (if they have as much in the shop at the
time, if not, ye can take what they have, and call again for the rest),
give it all to Miss Lizzie Gordon, and tell her to go and get married
right off.  We won't miss it, Gaff.  In fact it seems to me that the
more we give away the more we have to give.  It's an _awful_ big fortin'
we've comed into.  But that's what I advise."

"I doubt she wouldn't take it," said Gaff.

"Oh yes, she would," cried his better half.

Billy and Tottie being of the same opinion, Gaff laid aside his pipe,
got out the tea-caddy, from which he took his cheque-book, and made
Tottie write out a cheque for 1000 pounds, payable to Miss Lizzie
Gordon.

"She deserves it well o' me," observed Gaff, as he slowly printed his
signature on the cheque, "for she gave me the Noo Testament, that's bin
o' more valley to me than thousands o' gold an' silver--God bless her."

The cheque was taken up and presented by Gaff on the following morning,
but to the honest man's dismay, Lizzie declined it positively, though
she accompanied her refusal with many earnest expressions of gratitude,
and kissed the seaman's hard hand at parting.

Gaff returned to the "Boodwar," lit his German pipe with the cheque, and
said, "I _knowed_ she wouldn't tak' it--dear girl."

Kenneth was standing in the bower at the foot of my garden, looking
pensively on the distant landscape, which was bathed in the rich glow of
the setting sun.  His right arm embraced the slender waist of Lizzie--
his left encircled the shoulder of Emmie Graham.

"We must have patience, darling," said Kenneth, with an effort at
cheerfulness.

"Our hopes were as bright as that lovely sky some days ago," said
Lizzie.

While she was speaking the sun descended behind a bank of heavy clouds.

"And thus have our hopes gone down," murmured Kenneth sadly.

"But, uncle," observed Emmie, "the sun is still shining behind the
clouds."

"Thank you, Emmie, for the comforting word," said Lizzie, "and our sun
is indeed shining still."

The trio left off contemplating the sky, and returned in improved
spirits to Bingley Hall, where my strong-minded wife had just delivered
herself of the following oration:--

"It's of no use talking to me," (she was right; I never found it to be
of the least use to talk to her.) "Old Stuart is a monster--nobody will
convince me to the contrary.  I only wish I had the making of the laws,
and I would have powerful cures got up for such as he.  And his
brother-in-law is no better--Crusty indeed, bad though it is, the name
is too good for him.  Don't interrupt me.  He is _not_ like many of his
neighbours, for he has had no provocation.  The captain of dragoons has
turned out a very good husband, and poor Bella is as happy with him as
such a flirt could expect to be."

I ventured to remark at this point that my wife was wandering from the
subject from which she started, but she became extremely angry, and
finally put me down and snuffed me out by assuring me that I had been
born at least a generation before my time.

Dan Horsey sat on the dresser of my kitchen, switching his boot with a
riding-whip, and looking at Susan with an extremely melancholy
expression of countenance.  Susan was cleaning a silver tea-pot--her
usual occupation when Dan was present.  Cook--now resigned to her fate--
was sighing and peeling potatoes in the scullery.

"Och! darlint, me heart's heavier than a cart o' coals," said Dan.
"Bucephalus is to be sowld next week, and I'm to quit in a month!"

Susan sighed.

"To be sure, I'd aisy git another place, but in the meantime that'll put
off our weddin', jewel, till I don' know when."

Susan sighed again, and Dan hit his boot somewhat smartly, as if he were
indignant with Fate.

"But it's wus," continued Dan, "for masther an' Miss Gordon than for us,
darlint--there, now, don't toss yer head, mavourneen, ye know we can git
spliced av we like whenever I git a noo sitiwation; but masther can't
well throw up the wan he's got, an' yit it won't kape him an' his wife.
Och! worse luck!  Av we could only diskiver a goold mine now, or
somethin' o' that sort."

"Well, I _am_ sorry for them," said Susan, with another sigh; "an' I'm
sure I hope that we'll get over our troubles, all of us, though I don't
see very well how."

"Arrah! now, don't look so blue, me angel," said Dan, rising and putting
his arm round Susan.  "Me heart is lighter since I comed here and saw
yer sweet face.  Sure there's midcine in the glance o' yer purty blue
eye.  Come now, cheer up, an' I'll ventur a prophecy."

"What may that be?" asked Susan with a smile.

"That you and I shall be spliced before two months is out.  See if we
won't."

Susan laughed; but Dan stoutly asserted that his prophecies always came
true, and then, saying that he was the bearer of a letter to Miss Peppy,
he bade Susan adieu, and took himself off.

I turn now to Miss Puff, who happened about this time to be on a visit
to us.  She was seated one forenoon alone in the dining-room of Bingley
Hall, when a loud ring came to the door-bell; a quick step was heard on
the stair, and next moment the dining-room door burst open, and my son
Gildart rushed into the room.

Gildart was wonderfully changed since the day he had sailed for China.
He had grown tall and stout.  Moreover he had whiskers--not very bushy,
perhaps, but, undeniable whiskers.

"Hallo!  Puff!" he exclaimed, rushing towards his old friend with the
intention of kissing her; but when Miss Puff rose to receive him, he
felt constrained to check himself.

"Why, how you are grown, and _so_ changed!" he said, shaking her hand
warmly.

Miss Puff was indeed changed, so much so that her old friends who had
not seen her for some time could scarcely have known her.  She was no
longer fat and inane.  Her figure had become slim and graceful; her face
had become expressive and remarkably pretty, and her manners were those
of a well-bred and self-possessed lady.  Gildart felt that he could no
more have taken the liberties he had ventured on in former years than he
could have flown.

He soon became very chatty, however, and speedily began to question her
in regard to his father and mother, (who, she told him, were not at
home), and old friends.

"And what of my friend Kenneth Stuart?" said he.

"He is well, poor fellow," replied Miss Puff; "but he is in unhappy
circumstances just now."

Here she related the circumstances of the bank failure, and the evil
consequences that followed, and were still pending over Kenneth and many
of their other friends in Wreckumoft.

"That's a sad business," said Gildart; "but I don't see how it can be
mended.  I fear me it is a case of `grin and bear it.'  And your aunt,
Miss Puff, what of the adorable Miss Flouncer?"

"She is now Lady Doles."

"You _don't_ say so!  Well, I had given Sir Richard credit for more
sense.  How long is it since they married?"

"About two years."

"Is Sir Richard dead?"

"No, why should you think so?"

"Because if it had been me, I should have succumbed in three months.
It's an awful thing to think of being married to a she-griffin."

"She is my aunt, Mr Bingley," said Miss Puff.

"Ah, to be sure, forgive me.  But now I must go and search for my
father.  Adieu.  Miss Puff--_au revoir_."

Gildart left the room with a strange sensation of emptiness in his
breast.

"Why, surely--it _cannot_ be that I--I--am in love with that girl, that
stupid, fat--but she's not stupid and not fat _now_.  She's graceful and
intelligent and pretty--absolutely beautiful; why, botheration, I _am_
in love or insane, perhaps both!"

Thus soliloquising my son entered my study.

The last conversation that I shall record, took place between Mr Stuart
senior and Colonel Crusty.  It occurred about two weeks after those
conversations that have just been narrated.  The colonel had been
suddenly summoned to see his brother-in-law, "on his death-bed,"--so the
epistle that summoned him had been worded by Miss Peppy.

That dinner at which these two friends had enjoyed themselves so much
happened to disagree with Mr George Stuart, insomuch that he was thrown
into a bilious fever--turned as yellow as a guinea and as thin as a
skeleton.  He grew worse and worse.  Wealth was at his command--so was
everything that wealth can purchase; but although wealth procured the
best of doctors in any number that the patient chose to order them, it
could not purchase health.  So Mr Stuart pined away.  The doctors shook
their heads and gave him up, recommending him to send for his clergyman.

Mr Stuart scorned the recommendation at first; but as he grew worse he
became filled with an undefinable dread, and at last did send for his
pastor.  As a big cowardly boy at school tyrannises over little boys and
scoffs at fear until a bigger than he comes and causes his cheek to
blanch, so Mr Stuart bullied and scorned the small troubles of life,
and scoffed at the anxieties of religious folk until death came and
shook his fist in his face; then he succumbed and trembled, and
confessed himself, (to himself), to be a coward.  One result of the
clergyman's visit was that Mr Stuart sent for Colonel Crusty.

"My dear Stuart," said the colonel, entering the sick man's room and
gently taking his wasted hand which lay outside the counterpane, "I am
distressed to find you so ill; bless me, how thin you are!  But don't
lose heart.  I am quite sure you have no reason to despond.  A man with
a constitution like yours can pull through a worse illness than this.
Come, cheer up and look at the bright side of things.  I have seen men
in hospital ten times worse than you are, and get better."

Mr Stuart shook, or rather rolled, his head slowly on the pillow, and
said in a weak voice--

"No, colonel, I am dying--at least the doctors say so, and I think they
are right."

"Nonsense, my dear fellow," returned the colonel kindly, "doctors are
often mistaken, and many a man recovers after they have given him up."

"Well, that may be or it may not be," said Mr Stuart with a sudden
access of energy, "nevertheless I believe that I am a dying man, and I
have sent for you on purpose to tell you that I am an ass--a consummate
ass."

"My dear Stuart," remonstrated the colonel, "really, you are taking a
very warped view of--"

"I--am--an--ass," repeated the sick man, interrupting his friend; "more
than that, _you_ are an ass too, colonel."

The colonel was a very pompous and stately man.  He had not been
honoured with his true title since he left school, and was therefore a
good deal taken aback by the plain-speaking of his friend.  He
attributed the words, however, to the weak condition of Mr Stuart's
mind, and attempted to quiet him, but he would not be quieted.

"No, no, colonel; it's of no use trying to shut our eyes to the fact.
You and I have set our hearts on the things of this world, and _I_ have
now come to see that the man who does that is a fool."

"My dear fellow," said the colonel soothingly, "it is bodily weakness
that induces you to think so.  Most people speak thus when they are
seriously ill; but they invariably change their opinion when they get
well again."

"You are wrong, colonel.  I am now convinced that they do _not_ change
their opinions.  They may change their _wills_, but their opinions
_must_ remain the same.  The conclusion which I have now come to has
been forced upon me by cool, logical reasoning; and, moreover, it has
more than once flashed upon me in the course of my life, but I shut my
eyes to it.  The approach of death has only opened them to see _very_
clearly what I was more than half aware of before.  Do not suppose that
I make this confession of my folly to you in order to propitiate the
Deity.  I do not for a moment expect that the God whom I have neglected
all my life can be humbugged in this way.  No, I have deliberately cast
Him off in time past, and I recognise it as my due that He should cast
_me_ off now.  It is too late to repent, so I suppose that there is no
hope for me."

Mr Stuart paused here a few minutes.  The shade of doubt expressed in
his last words was occasioned by the recollection of the clergyman's
assurance that it was _never_ too late to repent; that the finished work
of Jesus Christ, (which leaves nothing for a man to do but to "believe
and live"), would avail the sinner at the latest hour.

The colonel sat gazing at his friend in silence.  Presently the sick man
resumed as though he had not paused:--

"Therefore what I say to you now is not intended as a propitiatory
offering, but is the result of clear and calm conviction.  Now listen to
me, for I feel getting weak.  Let me entreat you to forgive your
daughter.  Will you take that entreaty into earnest consideration?  I do
not ask you to promise.  It is folly to make men promise what they don't
want to do.  The chances are that they'll break the promise.  I only ask
you to take this subject into your serious consideration.  It is the
request of a dying man.  Will you grant it?"

The colonel coughed, and looked troubled.

"Colonel," said Mr Stuart, "I have forgiven Kenneth--that is to say, we
are reconciled; for I can scarcely be said to forgive one who never
offended me.  The gladness that has ensued on that reconciliation is
worth more to me than all the gold I ever made."

"Stuart," said the colonel, somewhat suddenly, "I'll do what you ask."

"Thank you; you're a good fellow.  Squeeze my hand--there now, go away;
I'll sleep for a little.  Stay, perhaps, I may never waken; if so,
farewell.  You'll find a fire in the library if you choose to wait till
it's over.  God bless you."

The sick man turned on his side with a sigh, and fell into a sleep so
deep and quiet that the colonel left the room with some uncertainty as
to whether his friend were still in the land of the living.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  If the reader would see a somewhat similar kitchen, let him
visit the Sailors' Home, Well Street, London Docks.



CHAPTER THIRTY FIVE.

CONCLUSION.

Gladness is a source of life.  It is probable that the joy which filled
Mr Stuart's heart, in consequence of being reconciled to Kenneth, and
having induced his brother-in-law to promise to consider the possibility
of forgiving Bella, was the cause of a favourable turn in his malady.
At all events he did recover, to the surprise of every one, and the
utter discomfiture of the doctors who had given him up!

The sentiments which Mr Stuart had expressed when, as was supposed, in
a dying state, did not forsake him when he was restored to health, for,
whereas in former days all his time, health, and wealth, were dedicated
to himself, now they were all devoted to God.  Mr Stuart's face, so to
speak, had been turned south before his illness; after his illness it
was turned north.  There was no other change than this.  He did not
change his nature, nor did he change his pursuits.  Even those of them
which were sinful were not changed--they were given up.  He did not
cease to be an irascible man, but he fought against his temper, (which
he had never done before), and so became less irascible.  He did not
give up his profession, but he gave up the evils which he had before
permitted to cling to it.  He did not cease to make money, but he ceased
to hoard it, and devoted the money made to higher ends than heretofore.
He did not think of the world and its affairs less, but he thought of
his Maker more, and in so doing became a better man of the world than
ever!  Gloom and asceticism began to forsake him, because the Bible told
him to "rejoice evermore."  Philanthropy began to grow, because the
Bible told him to "look not upon his own things, but upon the things of
others."  He had always been an energetic man, but he became more so
now, because the Bible told him that "whatever his hand found to do, he
ought to do it with his might."

In short, Mr Stuart became a converted man, and there was no mystery
whatever in his conversion.  Great though its effects were, it was
simply this,--that the Holy Spirit had enabled him to believe on the
Lord Jesus Christ.

Many results followed from this change in the old man.  One of the first
was that Kenneth and Lizzie Gordon were married, Bucephalus was not
sold, and Dan Horsey was retained in the service of his young master.

Miss Peppy came out very strong on that occasion of Kenneth's marriage.
She laughed, and then she wept, and then, by way of variety, she did
both at once.  She kissed everybody that came within arm's-length of
her, partly because her heart was very full, partly because her tears
blinded her, so that she could not easily distinguish who was who.  She
made an effort once or twice to skip, and really, considering her age
and infirmities, the efforts were wonderfully successful.  She also sang
a little; attempted to whistle, but failed, and talked straight on for
several days without cessation, (except when asleep and at meals), the
most extraordinary amount of nonsense that ever came from the lips of
woman.

True to their resolve, Dan Horsey and Susan Barepoles were married at
the end of the same week.  And it is worthy of remark that mad Haco
danced at their wedding, and by so doing, shook to its foundation the
building in which it occurred.

Strange to say, my son, Lieutenant Bingley, arrived from China on the
morning of the wedding, so that he had the unexpected pleasure of
dancing at it too, and of chaffing Haco on being "done out of his
daughter!"

The "Boodwar" was the scene of the festivities at Dan's wedding.  It was
more; it was also the locality in which the honeymoon was spent.  Mrs
Gaff had insisted on taking a little jaunt to Ramsgate, with her
husband, son, and daughter, in order that she might give up her abode to
Dan and Susan, who were favourites with her.

Thus it came to pass that when the festivities of the wedding drew to a
close, the bride and bridegroom, instead of leaving their friends, were
left by their friends in possession of the "Boodwar."

It now remains for me, reader, to draw this veracious narrative to a
close.

My son Gildart married Miss Puff, and ultimately became a commander in
the navy.  My wife's strength of mind gave way before increasing years,
and she finally became as gentle as she was when I first paid my
addresses to her!

Emmie Graham became a permanent inmate of Kenneth's home.  The shock
that she had sustained when Gaff saved her life told upon her
constitution so severely that she fell into bad health, but there was a
sunny cheerfulness of disposition about her which induced those with
whom she came in contact to regard her as a sunbeam.  Lady Doles became
stronger-minded day by day, and finally reduced Sir Richard to the
condition of a mere human machine, with just enough spirit left to
enable him to live and do her bidding.

Colonel Crusty forgave Bella, and, as is not infrequently the case in
similar circumstances, he and his son-in-law the major, (for he rose to
that rank), became bosom friends.  When the latter retired on half-pay
they all took up their abode in Wreckumoft.

Kenneth retained his old post, for, although independent of its salary,
he would not eat the bread of idleness.  As Secretary to the Sailors'
Home he frequently met me while I was going about in my capacity of
honorary agent of the Shipwrecked Mariners' Society.

Billy Gaff went to sea, and ultimately became captain of an East
Indiaman, to his mother's unspeakable delight.

Gaff and his wife and Tottie remained in the "Boodwar" for many years.
They did not find their fortune too much for them, being guided in the
use thereof by the Bible.

In regard to the state of things that had come about, Miss Peppy used to
say confidentially, to Mrs Niven, that she never knew anything like it.
It beat all the novels she had ever read, not that she had read novels
much, although some of them were good as well as bad, but she felt that
too many of them were hurtful; of course, she meant if taken
immoderately, but people were always taking things _so_ immoderately.
How could it be otherwise in a world where surprise was the chronic
condition of the mind, and events were always happening in a way that
led one to expect that everything would likely turn out in a manner that
was most improbable, if not impossible, which she wouldn't wonder at,
for it was enough to fill the lower animals themselves with amazement to
see the way in which scissors and thimbles and keys worried people whose
whole beings ought to be bent on far higher matters--not to mention
people being left at other people's doors by people whom one didn't know
at the time, but came to know afterwards, as well as--dear! dear! it was
of no use talking; for things had gone on so, no doubt, ever since Adam
and Eve walked about in Eden, and doubtless things would continue to go
on so, more or less, to the end of time.

THE END.





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