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´╗┐Title: The Coxswain's Bride - also, Jack Frost and Sons; and, A Double Rescue
Author: Ballantyne, R. M. (Robert Michael), 1825-1894
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Coxswain's Bride - also, Jack Frost and Sons; and, A Double Rescue" ***

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THE COXSWAIN'S BRIDE, BY R.M. BALLANTYNE.



STORY ONE, CHAPTER 1.

THE RISING TIDE--A TALE OF THE SEA.

The coxswain went by the name of Sturdy Bob among his mates.  Among the
women of the village he was better known as handsome Bob, and, looking
at him, you could not help seeing that both titles were appropriate, for
our coxswain was broad and strong as well as good-looking, with that
peculiar cast of features and calm decided manner which frequently
distinguish the men who are born to lead their fellows.

Robert Massey, though quite young, was already a leader of men--not only
by nature but by profession--being coxswain of the Greyton lifeboat,
and, truly, the men who followed his lead had need to be made of good
stuff, with bold, enthusiastic, self-sacrificing spirits, for he often
led them into scenes of wild--but, hold!  We must not forecast.

Well, we introduce our hero to the reader on a calm September evening,
which blazed with sunshine.  The sun need not have been mentioned,
however, but for the fact that it converted the head of a fair-haired
fisher-girl, seated beside Bob, into a ball of rippling gold, and
suffused her young cheeks with a glow that rudely intensified her
natural colour.

She was the coxswain's bride-elect, and up to that date the course of
their true love had run quite smoothly in spite of adverse proverbs.

"I can't believe my luck," said Bob, gravely.

He said most things gravely, though there was not a man in Greyton who
could laugh more heartily than he at a good joke.

"What luck do you mean, Bob?" asked Nellie Carr, lifting her eyes from
the net she was mending, and fixing them on the coxswain's bronzed face
with an air of charming innocence.  Then, becoming suddenly aware of
what he meant without being told, she gave vent to a quick little laugh,
dropped her eyes on the net, and again became intent on repairs.

"To think," continued Bob, taking two or three draws at his short pipe--
for our hero was not perfect, being, like so many of his class,
afflicted with the delusion of tobacco!--"to think that there'll be no
Nellie Carr to-morrow afternoon, only a Mrs Massey!  The tide o' my
life is risin' fast, Nellie--almost at flood now.  It seems too good to
be true--"

"Right you are, boy," interrupted a gruff but hearty voice, as a burly
fisherman "rolled" round the stern of the boat, in front of which the
lovers were seated on the sand.  "W'en my Moggie an' me was a-coortin'
we thought, an' said, it was too good to be true, an' so it was;
leastwise it was too true to be good, for Moggie took me for better an'
wuss, though it stood to reason I couldn't be both, d'ee see? an' I soon
found her wuss than better, which--"

"Come, come, Joe Slag," cried Bob, "let's have none o' your ill-omened
growls to-night.  What brings you here?"

"I've comed for the key o' the lifeboat," returned Slag, with a knowing
glance at Nellie.  "If the glass ain't tellin' lies we may have use for
her before long."

Massey pulled the key from his pocket, and gave it to Slag, who was his
bowman, and who, with the exception of himself, was the best man of the
lifeboat crew.

"I'll have to follow him," said Bob, rising soon after his mate had
left, "so good-bye, Nellie, till to-morrow."

He did not stoop to kiss her, for the wide sands lay before them with
fisher-boys playing thereon--apparently in their fathers' boots and
sou'-westers--and knots of observant comrades scattered about.

"See that you're not late at church to-morrow, Bob," said the girl, with
a smile and a warning look.

"Trust me," returned Bob.

As he walked towards the lifeboat-house--a conspicuous little building
near the pier--he tried to blow off some of the joy in his capacious
breast, by whistling.

"Why, Slag," he exclaimed on entering the shed, "I do believe you've
been an' put on the blue ribbon!"

"That's just what I've done, Bob," returned the other.  "I thought you'd
'ave noticed it at the boat; but I forgot you could see nothin' but the
blue of Nellie's eyes."

"Of course not.  Who'd expect me to see anything else when I'm beside
_her_?" retorted Bob.  "But what has made you change your mind?  I'm
sure the last time I tried to get you to hoist the blue-peter ye were
obstinate enough--dead against it."

"True, Bob; but since that time I've seed a dear woman that I was fond
of _die_ from drink, an' I've seed Tom Riley, one of our best men, get
on the road to ruin through the same; so I've hoisted the blue flag, as
ye see."

"That's a good job, Slag, but don't you forget, my lad, that the blue
ribbon won't save you.  There's but _one_ Saviour of men.  Nevertheless,
it's well to fight our battles under a flag, an' the blue is a good
one--as things go.  Show your colours and never say die; that's my
motto.  As you said, Slag, the glass _is_ uncommon low to-day.  I
shouldn't wonder if there was dirty weather brewin' up somewhere."

The coxswain was right, and the barometer on that occasion was a true
prophet.  The weather which "brewed up" that evening was more than
"dirty," it was tempestuous; and before midnight a tremendous hurricane
was devastating the western shores of the kingdom.  Many a good ship
fought a hard battle that night with tide and tempest, and many a bad
one went down.  The gale was short-lived but fierce, and it strewed our
western shores with wreckage and corpses, while it called forth the
energies and heroism of our lifeboat and coastguard men from north to
south.

Driving before the gale that night under close-reefed topsails, a small
but well-found schooner came careering over the foaming billows from the
regions of the far south, freighted with merchandise and gold and happy
human beings.  Happy!  Ay, they were happy, both passengers and crew,
for they were used by that time to facing and out-riding gales; and was
not the desired haven almost in sight--home close at hand?

The captain, however, did not share in the general satisfaction.  Out in
"blue water" he feared no gale, but no one knew better than himself that
the enemy was about to assail him at his weakest moment--when close to
land.  No one, however, could guess his thoughts as he stood there upon
the quarter-deck, clad in oil-skins, drenched with spray, glancing now
at the compass, now at the sails, or at the scarce visible horizon.

As darkness deepened and tempest increased, the passengers below became
less cheerful, with the exception of one curly-haired little girl, whose
exuberant spirit nothing could quell.  Her young widowed mother had
given in to the little one's importunities, and allowed her to sit up
late on this the last night at sea, to lend a helping hand while she
packed up so as to be ready for landing next day.  Consent had been the
more readily given that the white-haired grandfather of little Lizzie
volunteered to take care of her and keep her out of mischief.

The other passengers were as yet only subdued, not alarmed.  There were
men and women and little ones from the Australian cities, rough men from
the sheep farms, and bronzed men from the gold mines.  All were busy
making preparations to land on the morrow.  With the exception of those
preparations things on board went on much as they had been going on in
"dirty weather" all the voyage through.

Suddenly there was a crash!  Most of the male passengers, knowing well
what it meant, sprang to the companion-ladder--those of them at least
who had not been thrown down or paralysed--and rushed on deck.  Shrieks
and yells burst forth as if in emulation of the howling winds.  Crash
followed crash, as each billow lifted the doomed vessel, and let her
fall on the sands with a shock that no structure made by man could long
withstand.  Next moment a terrific rending overhead told that one, or
both, of the masts had gone by the board.  At the same time the sea
found entrance and poured down hatchways and through opening seams in
cataracts.  The inclined position of the deck showed that she was
aground.

The very thought of being _aground_ comforted some, for, to their minds,
it implied nearness to land, and _land_ was, in their idea, safety.
These simple ones were doomed to terrible enlightenment.  Little Lizzie,
pale and silent from terror, clung to her grandfather's neck; the young
widow to his disengaged arm.  With the other arm the old man held on to
a brass rod, and prevented all three from being swept to leeward, where
several of the women and children were already struggling to escape from
a mass of water and wrecked furniture.

"Come on deck--all hands!" shouted a hoarse voice, as one of the
officers leaped into the cabin, followed by several men, who assisted
the people to rise.

It is usual to keep passengers below as much as possible in such
circumstances, but the position of the schooner, with her bow high on a
bank, and her stern deep in the water, rendered a different course
needful on this occasion.

With difficulty the passengers were got up to the bow, where they
clustered and clung about the windlass and other points of vantage.
Then it was that the true nature of their calamity was revealed, for no
land was visible, nothing was to be seen around them but a hell of
raging foam, which, in the almost total darkness of the night, leaped
and glimmered as if with phosphoric light.  Beyond this circle of, as it
were, wild lambent flame, all was black, like a wall of ebony, from out
of which continually there rushed into view coiling, curling,
hoary-headed monsters, in the shape of roaring billows, which burst upon
and over them, deluging the decks, and causing the timbers of the ship
to writhe as if in pain.

"We've got on the tail o' the sands," muttered a sailor to some one as
he passed, axe in hand, to cut away the wreckage of the masts, which
were pounding and tugging alongside.

On the sands!  Yes, but no sands were visible, for they had struck on an
outlying bank, far from shore, over which the ocean swept like the besom
of destruction.

It was nearly low water at the time of the disaster.  As the tide fell
the wreck ceased to heave.  Then it became possible for the seamen to
move about without clinging to shrouds and stanchions for very life.

"Fetch a rocket, Jim," said the captain to one of the men.

Jim obeyed, and soon a whizzing line of light was seen athwart the black
sky.

"They'll never see it," muttered the first mate, as he got ready another
rocket.  "Weather's too thick."

Several rockets were fired, and then, to make more sure of attracting
the lifeboat men, a tar-barrel, fastened to the end of a spar, was
thrust out ahead and set on fire.  By the grand lurid flare of this
giant torch the surrounding desolation was made more apparent, and at
the fearful sight hearts which had hitherto held up began to sink in
despair.

The mate's fears seemed to be well grounded, for no answering signal was
seen to rise from the land, towards which every eye was anxiously
strained.  One hour passed, then another, and another, but still no help
came.  Then the tide began to rise, and with it, of course, the danger
to increase.  All this time rockets had been sent up at intervals, and
tar-barrels had been kept burning.

"We had better make the women and children fast, sir," suggested the
mate, as a heavy mass of spray burst over the bulwarks and drenched
them.

"Do so," replied the captain, gathering up a coil of rope to assist in
the work.

"Is this necessary?" asked the widow, as the captain approached her.

"I fear it is," he replied.  "The tide is rising fast.  In a short time
the waves will be breaking over us again, and you will run a chance of
bein' swept away if we don't make you fast.  But don't despair, they
must have seen our signals by this time, an' we shall soon have the
lifeboat out."

"God grant it," murmured the widow, fervently, as she strained poor
little trembling Lizzie to her breast.

But as the moments flew by and no succour came, some gave way altogether
and moaned piteously, while others appeared to be bereft of all capacity
of thought or action.  Many began to pray in frantic incoherence, and
several gave vent to their feelings in curses.  Only a few maintained
absolute self-possession and silence.  Among these were the widow and
one or two of the other women.

They were in this condition when one of the crew who had been noted as a
first-rate singer of sea songs, and the "life of the fo'c's'l," had
occasion to pass the spot where the passengers were huddled under the
lee of the starboard bulwarks.

"Is there never a one of ye," he asked, almost sternly, "who can pray
like a Christian without screechin'?  You don't suppose the Almighty's
deaf, do you?"

This unexpected speech quieted the noisy ones, and one of the women,
turning to a man beside her, said, "You pray for us, Joe."

Joe was one of those who had remained, from the first, perfectly still,
except when required to move, or when those near him needed assistance.
He was a grave elderly man, whose quiet demeanour, dress, and general
appearance, suggested the idea of a city missionary--an idea which was
strengthened when, in obedience to the woman's request, he promptly
prayed, in measured sentences, yet with intense earnestness, for
deliverance--first from sin and then from impending death--in the name
of Jesus.  His petition was very short, and it was barely finished when
a wave of unusual size struck the vessel with tremendous violence, burst
over the side and almost swept every one into the sea.  Indeed, it was
evident that some of the weaker of the party would have perished then if
they had not been secured to the vessel with ropes.

It seemed like a stern refusal of the prayer, and was regarded as such
by some of the despairing ones, when a sudden cheer was heard and a
light resembling a great star was seen to burst from the darkness to
windward.

"The lifeboat!" shouted the captain, and they cheered with as much
hearty joy as if they were already safe.

A few minutes more and the familiar blue and white boat of mercy leaped
out of darkness into the midst of the foaming waters like a living
creature.

It was the boat from the neighbouring port of Brentley.  Either the
storm-drift had not been so thick in that direction as in the
neighbourhood of Greyton, or the Brentley men had kept a better
look-out.  She had run down to the wreck under sail.  On reaching it--a
short distant to windward--the sail was lowered, the anchor dropped, the
cable payed out, and the boat eased down until it was under the lee of
the wreck.  But the first joy at her appearance quickly died out of the
hearts of some, who were ignorant of the powers of lifeboats and
lifeboat men, when the little craft was seen at one moment tossed on the
leaping foam till on a level with the ship's bulwarks, at the next
moment far down in the swirling waters under the mizzen chains; now
sheering off as if about to forsake them altogether; anon rushing at
their sides with a violence that threatened swift destruction to the
boat; never for one instant still; always tugging and plunging like a
mad thing.  "How can we ever get into that?" was the thought that
naturally sprang into the minds of some, with chilling power.

Those, however, who understood the situation better, had more legitimate
ground for anxiety, for they knew that the lifeboat, if loaded to its
utmost capacity, could not carry more than half the souls that had to be
saved.  On becoming aware of this the men soon began to reveal their
true characters.  The unselfish and gentle made way for the women and
children.  The coarse and brutal, casting shame and every manly feeling
aside, struggled to the front with oaths and curses, some of them even
using that false familiar motto, "Every man for himself, and God for us
all!"

But these received a check at the gangway, for there stood the captain,
revolver in hand.  He spoke but one word--"back," and the cravens slunk
away.  The mild man who had offered prayer sat on the ship's bulwarks
calmly looking on.  He understood the limited capacity of the boat, and
had made up his mind to die.

"Now, madam, make haste," cried the mate, pushing his way towards the
widow.

"Come, father," she said, holding out her hand; but the old man did not
move.

"There are more women and little ones," he said, "than the boat can
hold.  Good-bye, darling.  We shall meet again--up yonder.  Go."

"Never!" exclaimed the widow, springing to his side.  "I will die with
you, father!  But here, boatman, save, oh, save my child!"

No one attended to her.  At such terrible moments men cannot afford to
wait on indecision.  Other women were ready and only too glad to go.
With a sense almost of relief at the thought that separation was now
impossible, the widow strained the child to her bosom and clung to her
old father.

At that moment the report of a pistol was heard, and a man fell dead
upon the deck.  At the last moment he had resolved to risk all and
rushed to the side, intending to jump into the boat.

"Shove off," was shouted.  The boat shot from the vessel's side.  The
bowman hauled on the cable.  In a few seconds the oars were shipped, the
anchor was got in, and the overloaded but insubmergible craft
disappeared into the darkness out of which it had come.

The wretched people thus left on the wreck knew well that the boat could
not make her port, land the rescued party, and return for them under
some hours.  They also knew that the waves were increasing in power and
volume with the rising water, and that their vessel could not survive
another tide.  Can we wonder that most of them again gave way to
despair--forgetting that with God "all things are possible?"

They were not yet forsaken, however.  On the pier-head at Greyton their
signals had indeed been observed, but while the Brentley boat, owing to
its position, could run down to the wreck with all sail set, it was
impossible for that of Greyton to reach it, except by pulling slowly
against wind and tide.

The instant that Bob Massey saw the flare of the first tar-barrel he had
called out his men.  One after another they came leaping over the
rocks--eager for the God-like work of saving life.

It is one of the grand characteristics of our lifeboatmen that on being
summoned to the fight there are often far more volunteers than are
required.  Joe Slag, as in duty bound, was first to answer the call.
Then several of the younger men came running down.  Last of all--almost
too late--Tom Riley appeared, buckling on his lifebelt as he ran.  His
gait was not quite steady, and his face was flushed.  The coxswain was
quick to note these facts.

"Take that lifebelt off!" he said, sternly, when Riley came up.

No need to ask why.  The tippler knew the reason why only too well, and
he also knew that it was useless, as well as dangerous, to disobey the
coxswain.  He took off the belt at once, flung it down, and staggered
away back to his grog-shop.

A powerful young fisherman--who had felt almost heart-broken by being
refused permission to go for want of room--gladly put on the belt and
took Riley's place.  Another minute and they were out of the harbour,
battling with the billows and fighting their way inch by inch against
the howling blast.  At last they got out so far that they could hoist
sail and run with a slant for the wreck.



STORY ONE, CHAPTER 2.

It was daylight by the time the Greyton lifeboat arrived at the scene of
action, but the thick, spray-charged atmosphere was almost as bad to see
through as the blackness of night.

"I'm afeared she's gone," shouted Slag to the coxswain, putting his hand
to his mouth to prevent the words being blown bodily away.

"No--I see her bearing sou'-west," was the brief reply, as Bob Massey
plied his steering oar.

A few minutes later, and the despairing people on the wreck, catching
sight of the boat, greeted her with a long, wild cheer of reviving hope.

"What is it?" asked the widow, faintly, for she had been growing
gradually weaker from prolonged exposure.

"The lifeboat, darling," said her father.  "Did I not say that He would
not forsake us?"

"Thank God!" murmured the poor woman, fervently.  "Look up, Lizzie; the
lifeboat is coming to save us!"

The child, who had been comparatively warm and sheltered, at the expense
of her mother, looked up and smiled.

Soon the boat was alongside, and much the same scene that we have
already described was re-enacted; but there were no rebels this time.
By the captain's resolute bearing at first many lives had probably been
saved.

When most of the people had been lowered into the boat--not without
great risk and many bruises--the widow, who, cowering with her father
and child under the forecastle, had been overlooked, was led to the side
with her child.

"Not together, ma'am," said the captain.  "You'd likely drop her.  Let
me lower the child down first; or come first yourself--that will be
better."

"Give Lizzie to me," said the grandfather.  "I'll hold her till you are
safe, and ready to receive her."

"Look alive, ma'am," urged one of the lifeboat men, who had scrambled on
deck to render assistance.

The widow was soon in the boat, and held out her arms for little Lizzie.
Somehow--no one could tell how--the men made a bungle of it.  Perhaps
the very fear of doing so was the cause.  Instead of being caught by the
boatmen, Lizzie slipped between the boat and the vessel into the boiling
sea.  Giving one agonised cry, the grandfather leaped after her, but the
surging boat swept in at the moment, and the old man fortunately fell
into that instead of the sea.  He was not hurt, for strong arms had been
upraised to receive him.  The little child rose above the foam as she
was whirled past the stern of the boat by a swift current.  Bob Massey
saw her little out-stretched arms.  There was no time for thought or
consideration.  With one bound the coxswain was overboard.  Next moment
the crew saw him far astern with the child in his arms.

"Get 'em all aboard _first_!" came back, even against the wind, in Bob's
powerful, deep-toned voice.

Another moment, and he was lost to sight in the boiling waste of waters.
Slag knew well what he meant.  If they should cast off the rope before
rescuing all, for the purpose of picking up the coxswain, there would be
no possibility of getting back again to the schooner, for she was fast
breaking up.  Every current and eddy about these sands was well known to
Joe Slag, also the set of the tides--besides, had not Bob got on his
lifebelt?  He felt, nevertheless, that it was a tremendous risk to let
him go.  But what could poor Slag do?  To cast off at once would have
been to sacrifice about a dozen lives for the sake of saving two.  It
was a fearful trial.  Joe loved Bob as a brother.  His heart well nigh
burst, but it stood the trial.  He did his duty, and held on to the
wreck!

Duty, on that occasion, however, was done with a promptitude, and in a
fashion, that was not usual in one of his sedate nature.  Fortunately,
none but men remained on the wreck by that time.

"Tumble 'em in--sharp!" cried Slag.

The lifeboat men obeyed literally, and tumbled them in with a celerity
that might almost have awakened surprise in a sack of potatoes!

To haul up the anchor would have been slow work.  Slag--economical by
nature--became extravagant for once.  An axe made short work of cable
and anchor.

"Let 'em go!" he growled, as the boat drifted away.

The sail was set with miraculous speed, for now the wind was in their
favour, and the gay lifeboat bounded off in the direction where Bob had
disappeared, as though it felt a lively interest in the recovery of its
coxswain.  It seemed as if the very elements sympathised with their
anxiety, for just then the gale sensibly abated, and the rising sun
broke through a rift in the grey clouds.

"There he is--I see him!" shouted the man in the bow--pointing eagerly
ahead.

"It's on'y a bit o' wreck, boy," cried a comrade.

"Right you are," returned the bowman.

"There he is, though, an' no mistake, this time.  Port!--port!
hard-a-port!"

As he spoke, the boat swept round into a sort of cross-current among the
waves, where an object resembling a man was observed spinning slowly
round like a lazy teetotum.  They were soon alongside.  A dozen
claw-like hands made a simultaneous grasp, and hauled the object on
board with a mighty cheer, for it was, indeed, the coxswain--alive,
though much exhausted--with his precious little curly-haired burden in
his arms.

The burden was also alive, and not much exhausted, for the weather was
comparatively warm at the time, and Bob had thrust her little head into
the luxuriant thicket of his beard and whiskers; and, spreading his
great hands and arms all over her little body, had also kept her well
out of the water--all which the great buoyancy of his lifebelt enabled
him easily to do.

Shall we describe the joy of the widow and the grandfather?  No; there
are some sacred matters in life which are best left to the imagination.
The sunshine which had begun to scatter the clouds, and flood both land
and sea, was typical of the joy which could find no better means than
sobs wherewith to express gratitude to the God of mercy.

We have said that the gale had begun to abate.  When the lifeboat
escaped from the turmoil of cross-seas that raged over the sands and got
into deep water, all difficulties and dangers were past, and she was
able to lay her course for Greyton harbour.

"Let's have another swig o' that cold tea," said Bob Massey, resuming
his rightful post at the helm.  "It has done me a power o' good.  I had
no notion that cold tea was so good for warmin' the cockles o' one's
heart."

Ah!  Bob Massey, it was not the cold tea, but the saving of that little
girl that sent the life's blood careering so warmly through your veins!
However, there's no harm done in putting it down to the credit of the
cold tea.  Had the tea been hot, there might have been some truth in
your fancy.

"What's the time?" asked Bob, with a sudden look of anxiety.

"Just gone ten," said Slag, consulting a chronometer that bore some
resemblance to an antique warming-pan.

The look of anxiety on the coxswain's countenance deepened.

"Ease off the sheet a bit," he said, looking sternly over the weather
quarter, and whistling for a fresher breeze, though most men would have
thought the breeze fresh enough already.

As if to accommodate him, and confirm the crew in the whistling
superstition, the breeze did increase at the moment, and sent the
lifeboat, as one of the men said, "snorin'" over the wild sea towards
the harbour of Greyton.

It was a grand sight to behold the pier of the little port on that
stormy morning.  Of course, it had soon become known that the lifeboat
was out.  Although at starting it had been seen by only a few of the old
salts--whose delight it was to recall the memory of grand stormy times
long past, by facing the gales at all hours in oiled coats and
sou'-westers--the greater part of the fishing village only became aware
of the fact on turning out to work in the morning.  We have said that
the gale had moderated, and the sun had come out, so that the pier was
crowded, not only with fisher-folk, but with visitors to the port, and
other landsmen.

Great was the hope, and sanguine the expectation of the crowd, when,
after long and anxious waiting, the lifeboat was at last descried far
out at sea, making straight for the harbour.

"All right, Bill," exclaimed an old fisherman, who had been for some
time past sweeping the horizon with his glass, "the flag's a-flyin'."

"What does that mean?" asked a smart young lady, who had braved the
blast and run the risk of a salt-wash from the sprays at the pier-end in
her eager desire to see the boat arrive.

"It means, Miss, that they've managed to save somebody--how many, in
course, we can't tell till they come."

There was a strong disposition on the part of the crowd to cheer when
this was said.

After a few minutes' further observation, the old man with the glass
murmured, as if speaking to himself, "I do believe she's chock-full o'
people."

When this was repeated, the suppressed cheer broke forth, and the
excitement increased.  Soon the people with good eyes could see for
themselves that the swiftly approaching boat was as full as she could
hold, of human beings.  At the same time, those who were in the boat
could see the swarms of sympathisers on the pier who awaited their
arrival.

But there was one man who took no note of these things, and seemed
indifferent to everything around him.  The coxswain of the lifeboat was
spiritually absent from the scene.

"You seem to've got the fidgets, Bob," remarked Joe Slag, looking
earnestly at his friend.  "That swim has been too much for 'ee."

"'Taint that, Joe," replied Bob, quickly.  "What's the time now, lad?"

Pulling out the antique warming-pan again, Slag said it was nigh a
quarter past ten, and added that he, (Bob), seemed to be "uncommon
consarned about the time o' day that mornin'."

"And so would you be, lad," returned the coxswain, in a low voice, as he
advanced his mouth to his comrade's ear, "if you was in my fix.  I've
got to be spliced this day before twelve, an' the church is more'n two
miles inland!"

"That's awk'ard," returned Slag, with a troubled look.  "But, I say,
Bob, you've kep' this uncommon close from us all--eh?  I never heerd ye
was to be spliced so soon."

"Of course I kep' it close, 'cos I wanted to give you an' my mates a
surprise, but it strikes me I'll give some other people a surprise
to-day, for there's no time to put on clean toggery."

"You'll never manage it," said Slag, in a sympathetic tone, as he once
more consulted the warming-pan.  "It's gettin' on for half arter ten
now, an' it takes a mortal time to rig out in them go-to-meetin' slops."

"Do I look anything like a bridegroom as I am?" asked the coxswain with
a curious glance.

"Sca'cely," replied Slag, surveying his friend with a grim smile--"(mind
your helm, Bob, there's a awk'ard run on the tide round the pier-head,
you know.)  No; you're not wery much like one.  Even if your toggery was
all ship-shape--which it ain't--it would stand dryin', and your hair
would be the better o' brushin'--to say nothin' o' your beard--an' it do
seem, too, as if a bit o' soap might improve your hands an' face arter
last night's work.  No, Bob, I couldn't honestly say as you're exactly
ship-shape as you stand."

"Listen, Joe Slag," said Bob Massey, with sudden earnestness.  "I've
never yet come in after a rescue without seein' the boat hauled up an'
made snug.  `Dooty first, an' pleasure arter,' that's bin my motto, as
_you_ know.  But dooty lies in another direction _this_ day, so you
promise to see her hauled up, an' cleaned, an' properly housed, won't
you?"

"In coorse I does."

"Well, then," continued Bob, in the same low, earnest tone, "arter
that's done, you'll go an' invite all our mates an' friends to a jolly
blow-out in the big shed alongside o' my old mother's house.  Don't tell
who invites 'em, or anything about it, an' ask as many as like to come--
the shed's big enough to hold 'em all.  Only be sure to make 'em
understand that they'll get no drink stronger than coffee an' tea.  If
they can't enjoy themselves on that, they may go to the grog-shop, but
they needn't come to _me_.  My mother will be there, and she'll keep 'em
in order!"

"What!" exclaimed Slag, with a look of slight surprise.  "Your mother!
Her what's bin bed-ridden for years, an' hasn't got no legs at all--
leastwise not to speak of?"

"Just so, lad.  We'll lift her in, bed an' all.  Now you be off to the
bow.  Oars out, lads; stand by the halyards!"

They were by that time close to the pier-head, where the people were
shouting and cheering, some of them even weeping, and waving hats,
'kerchiefs, sticks, and umbrellas, almost wild with joy at seeing so
many fellow-creatures rescued from the maw of the hungry sea.

The first man who leaped out when the lifeboat touched the pier was the
coxswain, dripping, dirty, and dishevelled.

"Bless you, my gallant fellow!" exclaimed an irrepressible old
enthusiast, stepping forward and attempting to grasp the coxswain's
hand.

But Bob Massey, brushing past him, ran along the pier, leaped a fence,
and sprang up the steep path that led to the cliffs, over the top of
which he was finally seen to bound and disappear.

"Poor fellow!" exclaimed the irrepressible enthusiast, looking aghast at
Slag, "exposure and excitement have driven him mad!"

"Looks like it!" replied Slag, with a quiet grin, as he stooped to
assist the widow and little Lizzie to land, while ready hands were
out-stretched to aid and congratulate the old grandfather, and the rest
of the rescued people.

The coxswain ran--ay, he ran as he had been wont to run when he was a
wild little fisher-boy--regardless alike of appearances and
consequences.  The clock of the village steeple told him that the
appointed hour had almost arrived.  Two miles was a long way to run in
heavy woollen garments and sea-boots, all soaked in sea-water.  But Bob
was young, and strong, and active, and--you understand the rest, good
reader!

The church had purposely been selected at that distance from the village
to prevent Bob's comrades from knowing anything about the wedding until
it should be over.  It was a somewhat strange fancy, but the coxswain
was a man who, having taken a fancy, was not easily turned from it.

In order to her being got comfortably ready in good time, Nellie Carr
had slept the night before at the house of an uncle, who was a farmer,
and lived near the church.  The house was in a sheltered hollow, so that
the bride was scarcely aware of the gale that had been blowing so
fiercely out at sea.  Besides, being much taken up with
cousin-bridesmaids and other matters, the thought of the lifeboat never
once entered her pretty head.

At the appointed hour, arrayed in all the splendour of a fisherman's
bride, she was led to the church, but no bridegroom was there!

"He won't be long.  He's _never_ late," whispered a bridesmaid to
anxious Nellie.

Minutes flew by, and Nellie became alarmed.  The clergyman also looked
perplexed.

"Something must have happened," said the farmer-uncle, apologetically.

Watches were consulted and compared.

At that moment a heavy rapid tread was heard outside.  Another moment,
and Bob Massey sprang into the church, panting, flushed, dirty, wet,
wild, and, withal, grandly savage.

"Nellie!" he exclaimed, stopping short, with a joyful gaze of
admiration, for he had never seen her so like an angel before.

"Bob!" she cried in alarm, for she had never before seen him so like a
reprobate.

"Young man," began the clergyman, sternly, but he got no further; for,
without paying any attention to him whatever, Bob strode forward and
seized Nellie's hands.

"I dursen't kiss ye, Nell, for I'm all wet; but I hadn't one moment to
change.  Bin out all night i' the lifeboat an' saved over thirty souls.
The Brentley boat's done as much.  I'm ashamed, sir," he added, turning
to the clergyman, "for comin' here like this; but I couldn't help it.  I
hope there's nothin' in Scriptur' agin' a man bein' spliced in wet
toggery?"

Whether the clergyman consulted his Cruden's Concordance with a view to
clear up that theological question, we have never been able to
ascertain; but it is abundantly clear that he did not allow the
coxswain's condition to interfere with the ceremony, for in the _Greyton
Journal_, of next day, there appeared a paragraph to the following
effect:

  "The marriage of Robert Massey, the heroic coxswain of our lifeboat,
  (which, with all its peculiar attendant circumstances, and the gallant
  rescue that preceded it, will be found in another part of this day's
  issue), was followed up in the afternoon by a feast, and what we may
  style a jollification, which will live long in the memory of our
  fisher-folk.

  "Several circumstances combined to render this wedding-feast unique.
  To say nothing of the singular beauty of the bride, who is well known
  as one of the most thrifty and modest girls in the town, and the
  stalwart appearance of our coxswain, who, although so young, has
  already helped to save hundreds of human lives from the raging sea,
  the gathering was graced by the presence of the bridegroom's
  bed-ridden mother.  Old Mrs Massey had been carried in, bed and all,
  to the scene of festivity; and it is due to the invalid to state that,
  despite rheumatics and the singularity of her position, she seemed to
  enjoy herself exceedingly.  Besides this, the friends and comrades of
  the coxswain--backed by the enthusiastic groomsman, Joe Slag--would
  not permit Massey to don wedding garments, but insisted on his dancing
  himself dry, in the rough garb in which he had effected the rescue.
  This he had no difficulty in doing, having already run himself more
  than half dry in hastening from the lifeboat to the church, which
  latter he reached only just in time.

  "The little girl whom Massey personally saved was also present, with
  her mother and grandfather; and one interesting episode of the evening
  was the presentation to our coxswain of a gold watch and a purse of
  fifty sovereigns by the grateful old grandfather.  Another peculiarity
  of the proceedings was that Massey insisted--although the clergyman
  was present--on his old mother asking God's blessing on the feast
  before it began.  All who are acquainted with our liberal-minded vicar
  will easily understand that he highly approved of the arrangement.

  "To crown all, the feast was conducted on strictly teetotal
  principles.  We have frequently advocated the principles of total
  abstinence in these columns--at least for the young, the healthy, and
  the strong--and we are glad to acknowledge that this wedding has
  greatly helped our cause; for the fun and hilarity in all, the vigour
  of limb in dancing, and of lung in singing--in short, the general
  jollity--could not have been surpassed if the guests had been swilling
  rivers of beer and brandy, instead of oceans of tea.  Yes, as one of
  the Irish guests remarked, `It was a great occasion intoirely,' and it
  will be long before the event is forgotten, for the noble deeds of our
  Greyton lifeboat are, from this day forward, intimately and
  inseparably connected with her coxswain's wedding!"

Thus spake the Greyton oracle; but, prophet though that journal
professed to be, the oracle failed to discern that from that time
forward the names of Robert Massey and Joe Slag would very soon cease to
be connected with the Greyton lifeboat.



STORY ONE, CHAPTER 3.

Soon after the wedding recorded in the last chapter an event occurred
which entirely altered the character and current of our coxswain's
career, at least for a time.  This was the sudden death of the
bed-ridden old mother, who had played such an interesting part at the
wedding-feast.

To our hero, who was a tender-hearted man, and a most affectionate son,
the blow was almost overwhelming, although long expected.

"I don't think I can stay here much longer," he said one evening to his
pretty wife, as they sat together outside their door and watched the
village children romping on the sands; "everything minds me o' the dear
old woman, an' takes the heart out me.  If it wasn't for you, Nell, I'd
have been off to the other side o' the world long before now, but I find
it hard to think o' takin' you away from all your old friends and
playmates--and your Aunt Betty."

A peculiar smile lit up Nellie's face as her husband concluded.

"I should be sorry to leave the old friends here," she replied, "but
don't let that hinder you if ye want to go away.  I'd leave everything
to please you, Bob.  And as to Aunt Betty--well, I'm not ungrateful, I
hope, but--but _she_ wouldn't break her heart at partin' wi' _me_."

"Right you are, Nell, as you always was, and always will be," said
Massey.  He laughed a short, dry laugh, and was grave again.

It was quite evident that Aunt Betty would not be a hindrance to the
departure of either of them and no wonder, for Betty had received Nellie
Carr into her family with a bad grace when her widowed brother, "old
Carr," died, leaving his only child without a home.  From that day Betty
had brought the poor little orphan up--or, rather, had scolded and
banged her up--until Bob Massey relieved her of the charge.  To do Aunt
Betty justice, she scolded and banged up her own children in the same
way; but for these--her own young ones--she entertained and expressed a
species of affection which mankind shares in common with cats, while for
Nellie Carr she had no such affection, and contrived to make the fact
abundantly plain.  As we not infrequently find in such circumstances,
the favoured children--which numbered seven--became heart-breakers,
while the snubbed one turned out the flower of the flock.

"Then you're sure you won't think it hard, Nell, if I ask you to leave
home and friends and go wi' me over the sea?"

"Yes, Bob, I'm quite sure.  I'm willin' to follow you to the end o' the
world, or further if that's possible!"

"Then the thing's settled," said Massey, with decision, rising and
thrusting his short pipe into his vest pocket, the lining of which had
already been twice renewed in consequence of the inroads of that
half-extinguished implement.

In pursuance of his "settled" purpose, our coxswain proceeded to the
lifeboat-shed in search of his bowman, Joe Slag, and found him there.

"Joe," said he, in the quiet tone that was habitual to him, "Nell and I
have made up our minds to go to Australia."

"To Austrailly!" exclaimed Slag, leaning his arms on the mop with which
he had been washing down the lifeboat.

"Ay; I can't settle to work nohow since the dear old woman went away;
so, as Nell is agreeable, and there's nothin' to keep me here, I've
decided to up anchor and bear away for the southern seas."

The bowman had seated himself on a cask while his friend was speaking,
and gazed at him with a bewildered air.

"Are 'ee in arnest, Bob?"

"Ay, Joe, in dead earnest."

"An' you say that you've nothin' to keep you here!  What's this?" said
Slag, laying his strong hand tenderly on the blue side of the boat.

"Well, I'll be sorry to leave _her_, of course, an all my friends in
Greyton, but friends will get along well enough without me, an' as for
the boat, she'll never want a good coxswain while Joe Slag's alive an'
well."

"You're wrong there, mate," returned the bowman, quickly, while a look
of decision overspread his bluff countenance, "there'll be both a noo
cox'n and a noo bowman wanted for her before long, for as sure as the
first goes away the tother follers."

"Nonsense, Joe; you're jokin' now."

"Yes, I'm jokin' if _you're_ jokin'; otherwise, I'm in dead arnest too--
in as dead arnest as yourself, if not deader.  Wasn't you an' me born on
the same day, Bob?  Didn't our mothers crow over us cheek by jowl when
we was babbies?  Haven't we rollicked together on the shore ever since
we was the height of our daddies' boots, an' gone fishin' in company,
fair weather an' foul, to the present hour, to say nothin' o' the times
we've lent a hand to rescue men an' women an' child'n i' the lifeboat?
No, no, Bob Massey! if you lay yer course for Austrailly, Joseph Slag
follers, as sure as a gun."

Finding that his comrade was in downright earnest, and possessed of a
will as inflexible as his own, Bob made no effort to dissuade him from
his purpose.  On the contrary, he approved of the determination, for he
was pleased at the unexpected demonstration of affection which his
announcement had called forth in one who was by nature undemonstrative,
and who, having thus given vent to his aroused feelings, quickly resumed
the reserve from which he had been so suddenly drawn out.  Massey,
therefore, shook hands with him, by way of sealing an unspoken compact
of eternal friendship, and suggested that they should proceed together
to the office of an emigration agent, who had recently made his
appearance in the village.

In the office they found a very small boy, with an air of
self-possession that would have been suitable in his grandfather.

"Is the agent in?" asked the coxswain.

"Yes, but engaged.  Sit down; he'll attend to you directly."

The lifeboat men obeyed, almost sheepishly, the one speculating as to
whether highly developed precocity was not almost criminal, the other
wondering how such a boy would look and act if obliged to undergo the
process of being rescued--say by the hair of his head--from a wreck.

Their minds were diverted from this subject of contemplation by the
entrance of a man and woman.  These, like themselves, were told to sit
down and wait.  The man was long, thin, and lugubrious.  The woman
short, slight, and lackadaisical, though rather pretty.

Evidently the agent was a busy man, for he kept them waiting some time.
When he at length appeared he almost took the breath away from his
visitors, by the rapid and enthusiastic way in which he described the
advantages of the great island on the other side of the globe.  There
was gold--yes, _enormous_ quantities of gold in all directions.  There
was land of the finest quality to be had for next to nothing; work for
all who were blessed with good bone and muscle; a constant demand for
labour--skilled or unskilled--at high wages; a climate such as the
Olympian gods might revel in, and--in short, if all England had heard
the oration delivered by that man, and had believed it, the country
would, in less than a month, have been depopulated of its younger men
and women, and left to the tender mercies of the old and middle-aged.

Our two fishermen were captivated.  So were the lugubrious man and his
mild little wife.  The end of it was that, three weeks later, these
four, with many other men and women of all ranks and conditions, found
themselves on board the good ship _Lapwing_, ploughing their way through
the billows of the broad Atlantic Ocean bound for the sunny isles of the
Antipodes.

Wheels within wheels--worlds within worlds--seems to be the order of
nature everywhere.  Someone has written, with more of truth than
elegance--

  "Big fleas have little fleas upon their legs to bite 'em,
  And little fleas have lesser fleas--and so _ad infinitum_."

One's native land is to millions of people the world in which their
thoughts centre, and by which they are circumscribed.  A farmer's
homestead is the world to him, and one of the farmer's cheeses contains
a mighty world in itself.  But the most complete, compact, and exclusive
world in existence, perhaps, is a ship at sea--especially an emigrant
ship--for here we find an epitome of the great world itself.  Here may
be seen, in small compass, the operations of love and hate, of wisdom
and stupidity, of selfishness and self-sacrifice, of pride, passion,
coarseness, urbanity, and all the other virtues and vices which tend to
make the world at large--a mysterious compound of heaven and hell.

Wherever men and women--not to mention children--are crowded into small
space, friction ensues, and the inevitable result is moral electricity,
positive and negative--chiefly positive!  Influences naturally follow,
pleasant and unpleasant--sometimes explosions, which call for the
interference of the captain or officer in charge of the deck at the time
being.

For instance, Tomlin is a fiery but provident man, and has provided
himself with a deck-chair--a most important element of comfort on a long
voyage.  Sopkin is a big sulky and heedless man, and has provided
himself with no such luxury.  A few days after leaving port Sopkin finds
Tomlin's chair on deck, empty, and, being ignorant of social customs at
sea, seats himself thereon.  Tomlin, coming on deck, observes the fact,
and experiences sudden impulses in his fiery spirit.  The electricity is
at work.  If it were allowable to venture on mental analysis, we might
say that Tomlin's sense of justice is violated.  It is not fair that he
should be expected to spend money in providing comforts for any man,
much less for a man who carelessly neglects to provide them for himself.
His sense of propriety is shocked, for Sopkin has taken possession
without asking leave.  His self-esteem is hurt, for, although Sopkin
knows it is his chair, he sits there doggedly, "like a big brute as he
is," and does not seem to care what Tomlin thinks or how he looks.
Besides, there is thrust upon Tomlin the disagreeable necessity of
claiming his own, and that, too, in a gentlemanly tone and manner--for
it will not do to assume beforehand that Sopkin is going to refuse
restitution.  Tomlin is not aware that he thinks all this, but he knows
that he feels it, and, in spite of himself, demands his property in a
tone and with a look that sets agoing the electrical current in Sopkin,
who replies, in a growling tone, "it is _my_ chair just now."

Ordinary men would remonstrate in a case of this kind, or explain, but
Tomlin is not ordinary.  He is fiery.  Seizing the back of his property,
he hitches it up, and, with a deft movement worthy of a juggler,
deposits the unreasonable Sopkin abruptly on the deck!  Sopkin leaps up
with doubled fists.  Tomlin stands on guard.  Rumkin, a presumptuous
man, who thinks it his special mission in life to set everything wrong
right, rushes between them, and is told by both to "mind his own
business."  The interruption, however, gives time to the captain to
interfere; he remarks in a mild tone, not unmixed with sarcasm, that
rough skylarking is not appropriate in the presence of ladies, and that
there is a convenient fo'c's'l to which the gentlemen may retire when
inclined for such amusement.

There is a something in the captain's look and manner which puts out the
fire of Tomlin's spirit, and reduces the sulky Sopkin to obedience,
besides overawing the presumptuous Rumkin, and from that day forth there
is among the passengers a better understanding of the authority of a sea
captain, and the nature of the unwritten laws that exist, more or less,
on ship-board.

We have referred to an incident of the quarter-deck, but the same laws
and influences prevailed in the forepart of the vessel, in which our
coxswain and his friend had embarked.

It was the evening of the fifth day out, and Massey, Joe Slag, the long
lugubrious man, whose name was Mitford, and his pretty little
lackadaisical wife, whose name was Peggy, were seated at one end of a
long mess-table having supper--a meal which included tea and bread and
butter, as well as salt junk, etcetera.

"You don't seem quite to have recovered your spirits yet, Mitford," said
Massey to the long comrade.  "Have a bit o' pork?  There's nothin' like
that for givin' heart to a man."

"Ay, 'specially arter a bout o' sea-sickness," put in Slag, who was
himself busily engaged with a mass of the proposed remedy.  "It 'ud do
yer wife good too.  Try it, ma'am.  You're not half yerself yit.
There's too much green round your eyes an' yaller about yer cheeks for a
healthy young ooman."

"Thank you, I--I'd rather not," said poor Mrs Mitford, with a faint
smile--and, really, though faint, and called forth in adverse
circumstances, it was a very sweet little smile, despite the
objectionable colours above referred to.  "I was never a great 'and with
victuals, an' I find that the sea don't improve appetite--though, after
all, I can't see why it should, and--"

Poor Mrs Mitford stopped abruptly, for reasons best known to herself.
She was by nature rather a loquacious and, so to speak, irrelevant
talker.  She delivered herself in a soft, unmeaning monotone, which,
like "the brook," flowed "on for ever"--at least until some desperate
listener interrupted her discourteously.  In the present instance it was
her own indescribable feelings which interrupted her.

"Try a bit o' plum-duff, Mrs Mitford," suggested Massey, with
well-intentioned sincerity, holding up a lump of the viand on his fork.

"Oh! please--don't!  Some tea!  Quick!  I'll go--"

And she went.

"Poor Peggy, she never _could_ stand much rough an' tumble," said her
husband, returning from the berth to which he had escorted his wife, and
seating himself again at the table.  "She's been very bad since we left,
an' don't seem to be much on the mend."

He spoke as one who not only felt but required sympathy--and he got it.

"Och! niver give in," said the assistant cook, who had overheard the
remark in passing.  "The ould girl'll be all right before the end o'
this wake.  It niver lasts more nor tin days at the outside.  An' the
waker the patients is, the sooner they comes round; so don't let yer
sperrits down, Mr Mitford."

"Thank 'ee, kindly, Terrence, for your encouragin' words; but I'm
doubtful.  My poor Peggy is so weak and helpless!"

He sighed, shook his head as he concluded, and applied himself with such
energy to the plum-duff that it was evident he expected to find refuge
from his woes in solid food.

"You don't seem to be much troubled wi' sickness yourself," remarked
Massey, after eyeing the lugubrious man for some time in silence.

"No, I am not, which is a blessin'.  I hope that Mrs Massey ain't ill?"

"No; my Nell is never ill," returned the coxswain, in a hearty tone.
"She'd have been suppin' along with us to-night, but she's nursin' that
poor sick lad, Ian Stuart, that's dyin'."

"Is the lad really dyin'?" asked Mitford, laying down his knife and
fork, and looking earnestly into his companion's face.

"Well, it looks like it.  The poor little fellow seemed to me past
recoverin' the day he came on board, and the stuffy cabin, wi' the
heavin' o' the ship, has bin over much for him."

While he was speaking Nellie herself came softly to her husband's side
and sat down.  Her face was very grave.

"The doctor says there's no hope," she said.  "The poor boy may last a
few days, so he tells us, but he may be taken away at any moment.  Pour
me out a cup o' tea, Bob.  I must go back to him immediately.  His poor
mother is so broken down that she's not fit to attend to him, and the
father's o' no use at all.  He can only go about groanin'.  No wonder;
Ian is their only child, Bob--their first-born.  I can't bear to think
of it."

"But you'll break down yourself, Nell, if you go nursin' him every
night, an' all night, like this.  Surely there's some o' the women on
board that'll be glad to lend a helpin' hand."

"I know _one_ who'll be only too happy to do that, whether she's well or
ill," said Mitford, rising with unwonted alacrity, and hastening to his
wife's berth.

Just then the bo's'n's stentorian voice was heard giving the order to
close reef tops'ls, and the hurried tramping of many feet on the deck
overhead, coupled with one or two heavy lurches of the ship, seemed to
justify the assistant cook's remark--"Sure it's durty weather we're
goin' to have, annyhow."



STORY ONE, CHAPTER 4.

The indications of bad weather which had been observed were not
misleading, for it not only became what Terrence O'Connor had termed
"durty," but it went on next day to develop a regular gale, insomuch
that every rag of canvas, except storm-sails, had to be taken in and the
hatches battened down, thus confining the passengers to the cabins.

These passengers looked at matters from wonderfully different points of
view, and felt accordingly.  Surroundings had undoubtedly far greater
influence on some of them than was reasonable.  Of course we refer to
the landsmen only.  In the after-cabin, where all was light, cosy, and
comfortable, and well fastened, and where a considerable degree of
propriety existed, feelings were comparatively serene.  Most of the
ladies sought the retirement of berths, and became invisible, though not
necessarily inaudible; a few, who were happily weather-proof, jammed
themselves into velvety corners, held on to something fixed, and lost
themselves in books.  The gentlemen, linking themselves to articles of
stability, did the same, or, retiring to an appropriate room, played
cards and draughts and enveloped themselves in smoke.  Few, if any of
them, bestowed much thought on the weather.  Beyond giving them,
occasionally, a little involuntary exercise, it did not seriously affect
them.

Very different was the state of matters in the steerage.  There the
difference in comfort was not proportioned to the difference in
passage-money.  There was no velvet, not much light, little space to
move about, and nothing soft.  In short, discomfort reigned, so that the
unfortunate passengers could not easily read, and the falling of tin
panikins and plates, the crashing of things that had broken loose, the
rough exclamations of men, and the squalling of miserable children,
affected the nerves of the timid to such an extent that they naturally
took the most gloomy view of the situation.

Of course the mere surroundings had no influence whatever on the views
held by Bob Massey and Joe Slag.

"My dear," said the latter, in a kindly but vain endeavour to comfort
Mrs Mitford, "rumpusses below ain't got nothin' to do wi' rows
overhead--leastways they're only an effect, not a cause."

"There! there's another," interrupted Mrs Mitford, with a little
scream, as a tremendous crash of crockery burst upon her ear.

"Well, my dear," said Slag, in a soothing, fatherly tone, "if all the
crockery in the ship was to go in universal smash into the lee scuppers,
it couldn't make the wind blow harder."

Poor Mrs Mitford failed to derive consolation from this remark.  She
was still sick enough to be totally and hopelessly wretched, but not
sufficiently so to be indifferent to life or death.  Every superlative
howl of the blast she echoed with a sigh, and each excessive plunge of
the ship she emphasised with a weak scream.

"I don't know what _you_ think," she said, faintly, when two little boys
rolled out of their berths and went yelling to leeward with a mass of
miscellaneous rubbish, "but it do seem to be as if the end of the world
'ad come.  Not that the sea _could_ be the end of the world, for if it
was, of course it would spill over and then we would be left dry on the
bottom--or moist, if not dry.  I don't mean that, you know, but these
crashes are so dreadful, an' my poor 'ead is like to split--which the
planks of this ship will do if they go on creakin' so.  I _know_ they
will, for 'uman-made things can't--"

"You make your mind easy, my woman," said her husband, coming forward at
the moment and sitting down to comfort her.  "Things are lookin' a
little better overhead, so one o' the men told me, an' I heard Terrence
say that we're goin' to have lobscouse for dinner to-day, though what
that may be I can't tell--somethin' good, I suppose."

"Something thick, an' luke-warm, an' greasy, _I_ know," groaned Peggy,
with a shudder.

There was a bad man on board the ship.  There usually is a bad man on
board of most ships; sometimes more than one.  But this one was
unusually bad, and was, unfortunately, an old acquaintance of the
Mitfords.  Indeed, he had been a lover of Mrs Mitford, when she was
Peggy Owen, though her husband knew nothing of that.  If Peggy had known
that this man--Ned Jarring by name--was to be a passenger, she would
have prevailed on her husband to go by another vessel; but she was not
aware of it until they met in the fore-cabin the day after leaving port.

Being a dark-haired, sallow-complexioned man, he soon became known on
board by the name of Black Ned.  Like many bad men, Jarring was a
drunkard, and, when under the influence of liquor, was apt to act
incautiously as well as wickedly.  On the second day of the gale he
entered the fore-cabin with unsteady steps, and looked round with an air
of solemn stupidity.  Besides being dark and swarthy, he was big and
strong, and had a good deal of the bully in his nature.  Observing that
Mrs Mitford was seated alone in a dark corner of the cabin with a still
greenish face and an aspect of woe, he staggered towards her, and,
sitting down, took her hand affectionately.

"Dear Peggy," he began, but he got no further, for the little woman
snatched her hand away, sprang up, and confronted him with a look of
blazing indignation.  Every trace of her sickness vanished as if by
magic.  The greenish complexion changed to crimson, and the woebegone
tones to those of firm resolution, as she exclaimed--

"Ned Jarring, if you ever again dare to take liberties with _me_, I'll
tell my 'usband, I will; an' as sure as you're a-sittin' on that seat
'e'll twist you up, turn you outside in, an' fling you overboard!"

Little Mrs Mitford did not wait for a response, but, turning sharply
round, left the cabin with a stride which, for a woman of her size and
character, was most impressive.

Jarring gazed after her with an expression of owlish and unutterable
surprise on his swarthy countenance.  Then he smiled faintly at the
unexpected and appalling--not to say curious--fate that awaited him; but
reflecting that, although lugubrious and long, Mitford was deep-chested,
broad-shouldered, and wiry, he became grave again, shook his head, and
had the sense to make up his mind never again to arouse the slumbering
spirit of Peggy Mitford.

It was a wild scene that presented itself to the eyes of the passengers
in the _Lapwing_ when the hatches were at last taken off, and they were
permitted once more to go on deck.  Grey was the prevailing colour.  The
great seas, which seemed unable to recover from the wild turmoil into
which they had been lashed, were of a cold greenish grey, flecked and
tipped with white.  The sky was steely grey with clouds that verged on
black; and both were so mingled together that it seemed as if the little
vessel were imbedded in the very heart of a drizzling, heaving, hissing
ocean.

The coxswain's wife stood leaning on her stalwart husband's arm, by the
foremast, gazing over the side.

"It do seem more dreary than I expected," she said.  "I wouldn't be a
sailor, Bob, much as I've bin used to the sea, an' like it."

"Ah, Nell, that's 'cause you've only bin used to the _sea-shore_.  You
haven't bin long enough on blue water, lass, to know that folks'
opinions change a good deal wi' their feelin's.  Wait till we git to the
neighbour'ood o' the line, wi' smooth water an' blue skies an' sunshine,
sharks, and flyin' fish.  You'll have a different opinion then about the
sea."

"Right you are, Bob," said Joe Slagg, coming up at that moment.  "Most
people change their opinions arter gittin' to the line, specially when
it comes blazin' hot, fit to bile the sea an' stew the ship, an' a dead
calm gits a hold of 'e an' keeps ye swelterin' in the doldrums for a
week or two."

"But it wasn't that way we was lookin' at it, Joe," returned Nellie,
with a laugh.  "Bob was explainin' to me how pleasant a change it would
be after the cold grey sea an' sky we're havin' just now."

"Well, it may be so; but whatever way ye may look at it, you'll change
yer mind, more or less, when you cross the line.  By the way, that minds
me that some of us in the steerage are invited to cross the line
to-night--the line that separates us from the cabin--to attend a lectur'
there--an' you'll niver guess the subjec', Bob."

"I know that, Joe.  I never made a right guess in my life, that I knows
on.  Heave ahead, what is it?"

"A lectur' on the `Lifeboat,' no less!  But it aint our lifeboat
sarvice: it's the American one, cause it's to be given by that fine
young fellow, Dr Hayward, who looks as if suthin' had damaged his
constitootion somehow.  I'm told he's a Yankee, though he looks uncommon
like an Englishman."

"He's tall an' 'andsome enough, anyhow," remarked Massey.

"Ay, an' he's good enough for anything," said Nellie, with enthusiasm.
"You should see the kind way he speaks to poor Ian when he comes to see
him--which is pretty much every day.  He handles him, too, so tenderly--
just like his mother; but he won't give him medicine or advice, for it
seems that wouldn't be thought fair by the ship's doctor.  No more it
would, I suppose."

"D'ee know what's the matter wi' him?" asked Mitford, who had joined the
group.

"Not I," returned Massey.  "It seems more like gineral weakness than
anything else."

"I can tell you," said a voice close to them.  The voice was that of
Tomlin, who, although a first-class passenger, was fond of visiting and
fraternising with the people of the fore-cabin.  "He got himself
severely wounded some time ago when protecting a poor slave-girl from
her owner, and he's now slowly recovering.  He is taking a long voyage
for his health.  The girl, it seems, had run away from her owner, and
had nearly escaped into Canada, where of course, being on British soil,
she would be free--"

"God bless the British soil!" interrupted little Mrs Mitford, in a tone
of enthusiasm which caused a laugh all round; but that did not prevent
some of the bystanders from responding with a hearty "Amen!"

"I agree with you, Mrs Mitford," said Tomlin; "but the owner of the
poor slave did not think as you and I do.  The girl was a quadroon--that
is, nearly, if not altogether, white.  She was also very beautiful.
Well, the owner--a coarse brute--with two followers, overtook the
runaway slave near a lonely roadside tavern--I forget the name of the
place--but Dr Hayward happened to have arrived there just a few minutes
before them.  His horse was standing at the door, and he was inside,
talking with the landlord, when he heard a loud shriek outside.  Running
out, he found the girl struggling wildly in the hands of her captors.
Of course, he demanded an explanation, though he saw clearly enough how
matters stood.

"`She's my slave,' said the owner, haughtily.  He would not, perhaps,
have condescended even with that much explanation if he had not seen
that the landlord sympathised with the doctor.

"This was enough, however, for Hayward, who is a man of few words and
swift action.  He was unarmed, but carried a heavy-handled whip, with
this he instantly felled the slave-owner and one of his men to the
ground before they had time to wink, but the third man drew a pistol,
and, pointing it straight at the doctor's head, would have blown out his
brains if the landlord had not turned the weapon aside and tripped the
man up.  Before he could recover Hayward had swung the girl on his
horse, leaped into the saddle, and dashed off at full speed.  He did not
draw rein till he carried her over the frontier into Canada, and had
placed her beyond the reach of her enemies."

"Brayvo! the doctor," exclaimed Slag, heartily.

"Then he found," continued Tomlin, "that he had been wounded in the
chest by the ball that was meant for his head, but made light of the
wound until it was found to be serious.  The ball was still in him, and
had to be extracted, after which he recovered slowly.  The romantic part
of it is, however, that he fell in love with Eva--that was the girl's
name--and she with him, and they were married--"

"Ah, poor thing," said Mitford; "then she died, and he married again?"

"Not at all," returned Tomlin, "she did not die, and he did not marry
again."

"How--what then about that splendid wife that he's got in the
after-cabin _now_?" asked Mitford.

"That's her.  That's Eva, the quadroon.  She's not only as white as Mrs
Massey or Mrs Mitford there, but she's been educated and brought up as
a lady and among ladies, besides having the spirit of a _real_ lady,
which many a born one hasn't got at all."

There were many fore-cabin passengers who "crossed the line" that night
in order to hear the gallant American lecture, but chiefly to see the
beautiful lady who had been so romantically rescued from slavery.

"Not a drop of black blood in her body!" was Mrs Mitford's verdict
after the lecture was over.

"An' what if there was?" demanded Slag, in a tone of indignation.  "D'ee
think that white blood is worth more than black blood in the eyes o' the
Almighty as made 'em both?"

The lecture itself was highly appreciated, being on a subject which Bob
and Joe had already made interesting to the steerage passengers.  And
the lecturer not only treated it well, but was himself such a fine,
lion-like, yet soft-voiced fellow that his audience were quite charmed.

Soon the _Lapwing_ was gliding through the warm waters of the equatorial
seas, and those of the passengers who had never visited such regions
before, were immensely interested by the sight of dolphins, sharks, and
especially flying-fish.

"I _don't_ believe in 'em," said Mrs Mitford to Mrs Massey one day as
they stood looking over the side of the ship.

"I do believe in 'em," said Mrs Massey, "because my Bob says he has
seen 'em."

Not long after this double assertion of opinion there was a sudden cry
that flying-fish were to be seen alongside, and Mrs Mitford actually
beheld them with her own eyes leap out of the sea, skim over the waves a
short distance, and then drop into the water again; still she was
incredulous!  "Flyin'" she exclaimed, "nothin' of the sort; they only
made a long jump out o' the water, an' wriggled their tails as they
went; at least they wriggled something, for I couldn't be rightly sure
they _'ad_ tails to wriggle, any more than wings--never 'avin' seen 'em
except in pictures, which is mostly lies.  Indeed!"

"Look-out!" exclaimed Slag at the moment, for a couple of fish flew over
the bulwarks just then, and fell on deck almost at Mrs Mitford's feet.
When she saw them there floundering about, wings and all, she felt
constrained to give in.

"Well, well," she said, raising her hands and eyes to heaven, as though
she addressed her remarks chiefly to celestial ears, "did ever mortal
see the likes?  Fish wi' wings an' no feathers!  I'll believe _anything_
after that!"

Peggy Mitford is not the first, and won't be the last woman--to say
nothing of man--who has thus bounded from the depths of scepticism to
the heights of credulity.



STORY ONE, CHAPTER 5.

Dr Hayward, who had given great satisfaction with his lecture,
possessed so much urbanity and power of anecdote and song, that he soon
became a general favourite alike with steerage and cabin passengers.

One sultry forenoon Terrence O'Connor, the assistant steward, went aft
and whispered to him that Ian Stuart, the sick boy, wanted very much to
see him.

"I think he's dying, sor," said Terrence, in a low tone.

"Has the doctor seen him this morning?" asked Hayward, as he rose
quickly and hurried forward.

"He's seed him twice, sor," said Terrence, "an' both times he shook his
head as he left him."

It was evident that the steerage passengers felt death to be hovering
over them, for they were unusually silent, and those who were in the
fore-cabin at the time Hayward passed, cast solemn glances at him as he
descended and went to the berth of the poor boy.  It was a comparatively
large berth, and, being at the time on the weather side of the ship, had
the port open to admit fresh air.

"My poor boy, do you suffer much?" said the doctor, in soothing tones,
as he sat down beside Ian, and took his hand.

It was obvious that Ian suffered, for an expression of weariness and
pain sat on his emaciated countenance, but on the appearance of Hayward
the expression gave place to a glad smile on a face which was naturally
refined and intellectual.

"Oh, thank you--thanks--" said Ian, in a low hesitating voice, for he
was almost too far gone to speak.

"There, don't speak, dear boy," said the doctor, gently.  "I see you
have been thinking about our last conversation.  Shall I read to you?"

"No--no.  Jesus is speaking--to me.  His words are crowding on me.  No
need for--reading when He speaks; `Come--unto Me--I will _never_--
leave--'"

His breath suddenly failed him, and he ceased to speak, but the glad
look in his large eyes showed that the flow of Divine words, though
inaudible, had not ceased.

"Mother--father," he said, after a short pause, "don't cry.  You'll soon
join me.  Don't let them cry, Dr Hayward.  The parting won't be for
long."

The Doctor made no reply, for at that moment the unmistakable signs of
dissolution began to overspread the pinched features, and in a few
minutes it became known throughout the ship that the "King of Terrors"
had been there in the guise of an Angel of Light to pluck a little
flower and transplant it into the garden of God.

Hayward tried to impress this fact on the bereaved parents, but they
would not be comforted.

They were a lowly couple, who could not see far in advance of them, even
in regard to things terrestrial.  The last words of their child seemed
to have more weight than the comfort offered by the doctor.

"Cheer up, David," said the poor wife, grasping her husband's hand, and
striving to check her sobs, "Ian said truth, it won't be long afore we
jine him, the dear, dear boy."

But even as she uttered the words of cheer her own heart failed her, and
she again gave way to uncontrollable grief, while her husband, dazed and
motionless, sat gazing at the face of the dead.

The funeral and its surroundings was as sad as the death.  Everything
was done to shroud the terrible reality.  The poor remains were tenderly
laid in a black deal coffin and carried to the port side of the ship by
kind and loving hands.  A young Wesleyan minister, who had been an
unfailing comforter and help to the family all through the boy's
illness, gave a brief but very impressive address to those who stood
around, and offered up an earnest prayer; but nothing could blind the
mourners, especially the parents, to the harsh fact that the remains
were about to be consigned to a never resting grave, and that they were
going through the form rather than the reality of burial, while, as if
to emphasise this fact, the back fin of a great shark was seen to cut
the calm water not far astern.  It followed the ship until the hollow
plunge was heard, and the weighted coffin sank into the unknown depths
of the sea.

An impression that never faded quite away was made that day on some of
the more thoughtful and sensitive natures in the ship.  And who can say
that even amongst the thoughtless and the depraved no effect was
produced!  God's power is not usually exerted in visibly effective
processes.  Seeds of life may have been sown by that death, which shall
grow and flourish in eternity.  Certain it is that some of the reckless
were solemnised for a time, and that the young Wesleyan was held in
higher esteem throughout the ship from that day forward.

Some of the passengers, however, seemed very soon to forget all about
the death, and relapsed into their usual frames of mind.  Among these
was Ned Jarring.  For several days after the funeral he kept sober, and
it was observed that the Wesleyan minister tried to get into
conversation with him several times, but he resisted the good man's
efforts, and, when one of his chums laughingly remarked that he, "seemed
to be hand and glove wi' the parson now," Black Ned swung angrily round,
took to drinking again, and, as is usually the case in such
circumstances, became worse than before.

Thus the little world of ship-board went on from day to day, gradually
settling down into little coteries as like-minded men and women began to
find each other out.  Gradually, also, the various qualities of the
people began to be recognised, and in a few weeks--as in the greater
world--each man and woman was more or less correctly gauged according to
worth.  The courageous and the timid, the sensible and the vain, the
weak and the strong, the self-sacrificing and the selfish, all fell
naturally into their appropriate positions, subject to the moderate
confusion resulting from favouritism, abused power, and other forms of
sin.  It was observable also that here, as elsewhere, all the coteries
commented with considerable freedom on each other, and that each coterie
esteemed itself unquestionably the best of the lot, although it might
not absolutely say so in words.  There was one exception, namely in the
case of the worst or lowest coterie, which, so far from claiming to be
the best, openly proclaimed itself the worst, gloried in its shame, and
said that, "it didn't care a button," or words, even more expressive, to
the same effect.

Ned Jarring belonged to this last class.  He was probably the worst
member of it.

One night an incident occurred which tested severely some of the
qualities of every one on board.  It was sometime after midnight when
the dead silence of the slumbering ship was broken by perhaps the most
appalling of all sounds at sea--the cry of "Fire!"

Smoke had been discovered somewhere near the fore-cabin.  Fortunately
the captain had just come up at the time to speak with the officer of
the watch on deck.  At the first cry he ran to the spot pointed out,
telling the officer to call all hands and rig the pumps, and especially
to keep order among the passengers.

The first man who leaped from profound slumber into wide-awake activity
was Dr Hayward.  Having just lain down to sleep on a locker, as he
expected to be called in the night to watch beside a friend who was ill,
he was already dressed, and would have been among the first at the scene
of the fire, but for an interruption.  At the moment he was bounding up
the companion-ladder, a young man of feeble character--who would have
been repudiated by the sex, had he been born a woman--sprang down the
same ladder in abject terror.  He went straight into the bosom of the
ascending doctor, and they both went with a crash to the bottom.

Although somewhat stunned, Hayward was able to jump up and again make
for the region of the fire, where he found most of the men and male
passengers working with hose and buckets in the midst of dire confusion.
Fortunately the seat of the conflagration was soon discovered; and,
owing much to the cool energy of the captain and officers, the fire was
put out.

It was about a week after this thrilling event that Mrs Massey was on
the forecastle talking with Peggy Mitford.  A smart breeze was blowing--
just enough to fill all the sails and carry the ship swiftly on her
course, without causing much of a sea.  The moon shone fitfully through
a mass of drifting clouds, mingling its pallid light with the wondrous
phosphoric sheen of the tropical seas.

Mrs Mitford had been regaling her companion with a long-winded and
irrelevant, though well-meant, yarn about things in general and nothing
in particular; and Nellie, who was the personification of considerate
patience, had seated herself on the starboard rail to listen to and
comment on her lucubrations.

"Yes, as I was sayin', Nellie," remarked Peggy, in her soft voice, after
a brief pause, during which a variety of weak little expressions crossed
her pretty face, "I never could abide the sea.  It always makes me sick,
an' when it doesn't make me sick, it makes me nervish.  Not that I'm
given to bein' nervish; an', if I was, it wouldn't matter much, for the
sea would take it out o' me, whether or not.  That's always the way--if
it's not one thing, it's sure to be another.  Don't you think so,
Nellie?  My John says 'e thinks so--though it isn't to be thought much
of what _'e_ says, dear man, for 'e's got a way of sayin' things when 'e
don't mean 'em--you understand?"

"Well, I don't quite understand," answered Mrs Massey, cutting in at
this point with a laugh, "but I'm quite sure it's better to say things
when you don't mean them, than to mean things when you don't say them!"

"Perhaps you're right, Nellie," rejoined Mrs Mitford, with a mild nod
of assent; "I've sometimes thought on these things when I've 'ad one o'
my sick 'eadaches, which prevents me from thinkin' altogether, almost;
an', bless you, you'd wonder what strange idears comes over me at such
times.  Did you ever try to think things with a sick 'eadache, Nellie?"

With a laugh, and a bright look, Mrs Massey replied that she had never
been in a position to try that curious experiment, never having had a
headache of any kind in her life.

While she was speaking, a broad-backed wave caused the ship to roll
rather heavily to starboard, and Mrs Massey, losing her balance, fell
into the sea.

Sedate and strong-minded though she was, Nellie could not help shrieking
as she went over; but the shriek given by Mrs Mitford was tenfold more
piercing.  It was of a nature that defies description.  Its effect was
to thrill the heart of every one who heard it.  But Peggy did more than
shriek.  Springing on the rail like an antelope, she would have plunged
overboard to the rescue of her friend, regardless of her own inability
to swim, and of everything else, had not a seaman, who chanced to be
listening to the conversation--caught her with a vice-like grip.

"Hold on, Peggy!" he cried.

But Peggy shrieked and struggled, thus preventing the poor fellow from
attempting a rescue, while shouts and cries of "man overboard" rang
through the ship from stem to stern, until it became known that it was a
woman.  Then the cries redoubled.  In the midst of the hubbub the strong
but calm voice of the captain was heard to give orders to lower a boat
and port the helm--"hard a-port."

But, alas! for poor Nellie that night if her life had depended on
shouters, strugglers, shriekers, or boatmen.

At the moment the accident happened two men chanced to be standing on
the starboard side of the ship--one on the quarter-deck, the other on
the forecastle.  Both men were ready of resource and prompt in action,
invaluable qualities anywhere, but especially at sea!  The instant the
cry arose each sprang to and cut adrift a life-buoy.  Each knew that the
person overboard might fail to see or catch a buoy in the comparative
darkness.  He on the forecastle, who chanced to see Nellie fall over, at
once followed her with the life-buoy in his arms.  Ignorant of this act
the man near the stern saw something struggling in the water as the ship
flew past.  Without an instant's hesitation he also plunged into the sea
with a life-buoy in his grasp.

The faint light failed to reveal who had thus boldly plunged to the
rescue, but the act had been observed both at bow and stern, and a cheer
of hope went up as the ship came up to the wind, topsails were backed,
and the boat was dropped into the water.

Twenty minutes elapsed before there was any sign of the boat returning,
during which time the ship's bell was rung continually.  It may be
better imagined than described the state of poor Bob Massey, who had
been asleep on a locker in the fore-cabin when the accident occurred,
and who had to be forcibly prevented, at first, from jumping into the
sea when he heard that it was Nellie who was overboard.

At last oars were heard in the distance.

"Stop that bell! boat ahoy!" shouted the captain.

"Ship aho-o-oy!" came faintly back on the breeze, while every voice was
hushed and ear strained to listen, "All right! all saved!"

A loud "Thank the Lord!" burst from our coxswain's heaving chest, and a
wild ringing cheer leaped upwards alike from passengers and crew, while
warm tears overflowed from many an eye that was more intimate with cold
spray, for a noble deed and a life saved have always the effect of
stirring the deepest enthusiasm of mankind.

A few minutes more and three dripping figures came up the gangway.
First came Nellie herself; dishevelled and pale, but strong and hearty
nevertheless, as might be expected of a fisher-girl and a lifeboat
coxswain's wife!  She naturally fell into, or was caught up by, her
husband's arms, and was carried off to the cabin.

Following her came two somewhat exhausted men.

The cheer that greeted them was not unmingled with surprise.

"The best an' the worst men i' the ship!" gasped Joe Slag, amid laughter
and hearty congratulations.

He was probably right, for it was the young Wesleyan minister and Ned
Jarring who had effected this gallant rescue.

The performance of a good action has undoubtedly a tendency to elevate,
as the perpetration of a bad one has to demoralise.

From that day forward Black Ned felt that he had acquired a certain
character which might be retained or lost.  Without absolutely saying
that he became a better man in consequence, we do assert that he became
more respectable to look at, and drank less!

Thus the voyage progressed until the good ship _Lapwing_ sailed in among
some of the innumerable islands of the Southern seas.



STORY ONE, CHAPTER 6.

Darkness, whether physical, mental, or spiritual, is probably the
greatest evil that man has had to contend with since the fall.  At all
events, the physical and mental forms of it were the cause of the good
ship _Lapwing_ sailing one night straight to destruction.

It happened thus.  A pretty stiff breeze, amounting almost to half a
gale, was blowing on the night in question, and the emigrant ship was
running before it under close-reefed topsails.  For some days previously
the weather had been "dirty," and the captain had found it impossible to
obtain an observation, so that he was in the dark as to the exact part
of the ocean, in which he was sailing.

In an open sea this is not of serious moment, but when one is nearing
land, or in the neighbourhood of islands, it becomes cause for much
anxiety.  To make matters worse, the ship had been blown considerably
out of her course, and, worst of all, the night was so intensely dark
that it was not possible to see more than a few yards beyond the flying
jibboom.

The captain and mate, with several of the men, stood on the forecastle
peering anxiously out into the darkness.

"I don't like the look o' things at all," muttered the captain to the
chief mate.

"Perhaps it would be well, sir, to lay-to till daylight," suggested the
mate.

Whether the captain agreed with his chief officer or not was never
known, for just then a dull sound was heard which sent a thrill to the
bravest heart on board.

"Breakers ahead!" cried the look-out, as in duty bound, but he was
instantly contradicted by the mate, who shouted that they were on the
starboard beam, while another voice roared that they were on the
port-bow.

The helm was instantly put hard a-port, and immediately after the order
was given "hard a-starboard," for it was discovered that the sound of
breakers came from both sides of the vessel.  They were, obviously,
either running in a narrow strait between two islands, or into a bay.
In the first case the danger was imminent, in the second case,
destruction was almost inevitable.

"Clear the anchor, and stand by to let go!" cried the captain, in loud
sharp tones, for he felt that there was no room to turn and retreat.
The order was also given to take in all sail.

But before either order could be obeyed, a cry of terror burst from many
throats, for right in front of them there suddenly loomed out of the
darkness an object like a great black cloud, which rose high above and
seemed about to fall upon them.  There was no mistaking its nature,
however, for by that time the roar of the breakers right ahead told but
too plainly that they were rushing straight upon a high perpendicular
cliff.  At this moment the vessel struck a rock.  It was only a slight
touch at the stern, nevertheless it tore the rudder away, so that the
intention of the captain to put about and take his chance of striking on
the rocks to starboard was frustrated.

"Let go," he shouted, in this extremity.

Quick as lightning the anchor went to the bottom but with such way on
the ship, the sudden strain snapped the chain, and the _Lapwing_ rushed
upon her doom, while cries of terror and despair arose from the
passengers, who had by that time crowded on deck.

To the surprise of the captain, and those who were capable of
intelligent observation, the ship did not immediately strike again, but
sailed straight on as if right against the towering cliffs.  Still
onward it went, and as it did so there settled around them a darkness so
profound that no one could see even an inch before his eyes.  Then at
last the ill-fated vessel struck, but not with her hull, as might have
been expected.  High up above them a terrific crash was heard.

"God help us," exclaimed the captain, "we've sailed straight into a
cave!"

That he was right soon became evident, for immediately after the
crashing of the topmasts against the roof of the cave, a shower of small
stones and several large fragments fell on the deck with a rattle like
that of musketry.  Some of the people were struck and injured, though
not seriously so, by the shower.

"Get down below, all of you!" cried the captain, himself taking shelter
under the companion hatchway.  But the order was needless, for the
danger was so obvious that every one sought the shelter of the cabins
without delay.

The situation was not only terrible but exceedingly singular, as well as
trying, for as long as stones came thundering down on the deck it would
have been sheer madness to have attempted to do anything aboveboard, and
to sit idle in the cabins with almost certain death staring them in the
face, was a severe test of endurance.

From the motion of the vessel several facts could be deduced.  Although
the scraping and crashing of the masts overhead told eloquently of
destruction going on in that direction, the heaving of the ship, and her
striking occasionally on either side, proved that there was deep water
below her.  That they were not progressing into an interminable cavern
was made evident by the frequent plunging of the shattered bowsprit
against the inner end of the cave.  This action sent the vessel reeling
backwards, as it were, every time she struck, besides shattering the
bowsprit.  That the cave, also, was open to the full force of the sea
was only too severely proved by the rush of the billows into it, and the
frequent and severe shocks to which they were in consequence subjected.
These shocks had extinguished the lamps, and it was only by the aid of a
few candles that they were delivered from sitting in absolute darkness.

In these awful circumstances the young Wesleyan proved that, besides the
courage that he had already shown in facing danger on a sudden
emergency, he also possessed that far higher courage which can face the
slow and apparently sure approach of death with equanimity and
self-possession.  Moreover, he proved that the Word of God and prayer
are the true resources of man in such extremities.

Calling those who were willing, around him, he led them in prayer, and
then quieted the timid among them, as well as comforted all, not by
reading, but by quoting appropriate passages from Scripture, in which he
was profoundly versed.

"D'ee know when it'll be low water, sir?" asked Joe Slag of the captain,
when the ship gave one of her upward heaves and rasped her timbers again
on the sides of the cave.

"Not for three hours yet, but it's falling.  I expect there will be less
sea on in a short time.  If the ship holds together we may yet be
saved."

There was a murmured "thank God" at these words.  Then Bob Massey
expressed some fear that there might be a danger of striking the rocks
underneath before low water.

"I wish it was the risin' tide," he said, and the words took his mind
back, like a flash of lightning, to the time when he used them in a very
different sense.  Then all was peace, hope, sunshine, and his bride was
sitting like a good angel beside him, with a sweet smile on her fair
face.  Now, something like darkness visible, showed him his poor wife--
still beside him, thank God--but clinging to his arm with looks of
terror amounting almost to despair.  "What a contrast!" he thought, and
for the first time a feeling of rebellion arose in his mind.

"There's no use o' sittin' here to be drowned like rats," he cried,
starting up.  "I'll go on deck an' take a cast o' the lead, an' see what
chances we have."

"No, you won't, Bob," cried Nellie, throwing her arms firmly round him.
"There's big stones falling all about the deck yet.  Don't you hear
them?"

As if to corroborate her words, a piece of rock nearly half a ton in
weight fell on the sky-light at that moment, crashed completely through
it, through the table below, and even sank into the cabin floor.
Fortunately, no one was hurt, though Slag had a narrow escape, but that
worthy was not easily intimidated.  He rose up, and, saying that, "it
was as well to be killed on deck doin' somethin' as in the cabin doin'
nothin'," was about to ascend the ladder when Dr Hayward suddenly
entered, all wet and dishevelled, and with blood trickling down his
face.

"No use going up just now, Joe," he said, as he sat down beside his
wife, and permitted her to tie a kerchief round his head.  "Only a
slight wound, Eva, got while taking soundings.  I find that there are
sixteen fathoms of water under us, and, although I couldn't see my hand
held up before my face, I managed to make out by the flash of a match,
which burned for a moment before being blown out, that the sides of the
cave are quite perpendicular, not the smallest ledge to stand on.  The
tide, however, is ebbing fast, and the water in the cave calming, so
that if no bad leak has been made by all this thumping we may yet be
saved.  Our only chance is to stick to the ship."

While he was speaking the vessel again surged violently against one side
of the cave, and another of the huge masses of rock that were brought
down by the swaying masts came crashing on the deck.

"There is no bad leak as yet," said the captain, re-entering the cabin,
which he had quitted for the purpose of sounding the well.  "If we can
keep afloat for an hour or two we may be able to use the boats.  Just
now it would be useless to attempt launching them."

Although the captain's words were not particularly reassuring, his
confident tone and manner infused hope, and comforted the people
greatly.  Some of the male passengers even volunteered to face the
shower of stones, if need be, and lend a hand in launching the boats,
when the time for doing so arrived.

These boats, three in number, were lying bottom up on deck, and to reach
them involved the risk of death to whoever should attempt it.  They were
therefore compelled to wait.

It is difficult to form even a slight conception of the horrors of that
night.  For several hours they sat in the after-cabin, and the ship
surged and plunged in the wildly-heaving water, striking the sides
continually, while rocks fell at intervals on the deck, thus adding to
the noise of wind and waves as they raged with echoing, deafening noise
in the black cavern.  Each moment it seemed as if the ship must have her
planks stove in and be sunk, but she was a new vessel and strong.  Of
course she leaked considerably, but when the tide went down the sea
calmed a little, the rocks ceased falling from the roof, and they were
enabled to rig the pumps and work them vigorously.  The boats,
meanwhile, were cast loose and got ready to launch at the first glimmer
of daylight!  Fortunately, they had received no serious injury from the
falling rocks.

Oh, how they longed and prayed for the day!  It came at last, a gleam so
faint that it showed nothing of their surroundings save the outline of
the cavern's great mouth.

"Shall we launch the boats now, sir?" asked the first mate, who was
becoming anxious, because the carpenter had just reported that the water
in the hold was increasing dangerously in spite of the pumps.

"Not yet--not yet," returned the captain, hurriedly.  "We must have more
light first.  The loss of a boat would be fatal.  I'm afraid of the
rising tide."

"Afraid of the rising tide!"  Again the words struck strangely on Bob
Massey's ears as he stood wiping the perspiration from his brow after a
long spell at the pumps--and once more carried him back to the sunlit
sands of Old England.

Soon the increase of water in the hold was so great that the getting out
of the boats could no longer be delayed.  The first launched was a small
one.  It was lowered over the stern by means of the studding-sail boom,
with a block and whip, which kept it from dropping too quickly into the
water.  Massey and his friend Slag, being recognised as expert boatmen
in trying circumstances, were sent in it, with two of the crew, to run
out a line and drop an anchor in the sea outside, so that the heavier
boats might be hauled out thereby.  Two hundred and fifty fathoms of
rope were given them--more than sufficient for the purpose.  On getting
outside, Bob and his friend, according to custom as lifeboat men, kept a
sharp look-out on everything around them, and the feeble daylight
enabled them to see that the black cliff which had, as it were,
swallowed up the _Lapwing_, was full six hundred feet high and a sheer
precipice, in some places overhanging at the top, and without the
symptom of a break as far as the eye could reach in either direction.

"A black look-out, Joe," muttered Massey, as he assisted his comrade to
heave the anchor over the side.

"Ay, Bob, an' the worst of it is that the tide's risin'.  A boat can
live here as long as that ridge o' rocks keeps off the seas, but in an
hour or so it'll be rollin' in as bad as ever."

"I knows it, Joe, an' the more need to look sharp."

Returning to the ship, our coxswain made his report, and recommended
urgent haste.  But the captain required no urging, for by that time the
ship's main deck was level with the water, and the seas were making a
clean breach over the stern.  The passengers and crew crowded towards
the port gangway where the large boat was being brought round to receive
the women and children first.  This was such a familiar scene to the two
lifeboat men that they kept cool and self-possessed from the mere force
of habit.  Seeing this, the captain ordered Mitford to get into the boat
first, and help to stow the others, for it would be a tight pack, he
said, to stow them all.  Dr Hayward was ordered to assist.  Ned Jarring
volunteered to help to fend the boat off during the operation, and,
without waiting for permission, jumped into her.

Mitford had consigned his wife to the care of his friend Massey, who at
once undertook the duty by tying a kerchief round Peggy's head to keep
her hair out of her eyes, after which he did the same for Nellie.  Both
women were perfectly quiet and submissive--the first owing to fear and
exhaustion, the last from native courage, which enabled her to rise to
the occasion.  Massey then stripped off all his own clothes, except
shirt and trousers, so as to be ready for swimming, and, catching up a
rope, advanced towards his wife, intending to fasten it round her waist.

"Peggy first, Bob; I'll wait for _you_," said his wife.

"Look sharp!" cried the captain.

Bob turned at once to Peggy, and in a few seconds she was lowered into
the boat.  Mrs Hayward followed.  Then Massey insisted on his wife
going, and the obedient Nellie submitted, but, owing to a lurch of the
ship at the moment, she missed the boat, and dropped into the water.
One of the men attempted to pull her in, but could not, and, as all the
others were engaged at the moment in trying to fend off the rocks,
Massey at once jumped into the sea, and helped to get his wife into the
boat.

At that moment there arose a cry that the ship was sinking, and a wild
rush was made for the long-boat, which had also been successfully
launched.  Of course it was instantly overcrowded, for all discipline
was now at an end.  Before anything else could be done the _Lapwing_
sank in sixteen fathoms of water, carrying the long-boat and all the
people in her along with it, but those in the other boat had shoved off
at the first wild cry, and hauling on the anchored cable, just escaped
being sucked down by the sinking ship.

Bob Massey clung to the boat's gunwale, and thus escaped.  Rowing back
instantly, however, to the spot where the ship had gone down, they
sought eagerly for swimmers.  Only three were discovered and rescued,
but the others--seventy souls in all--found a watery grave in the dark
cavern of that unknown land.



STORY ONE, CHAPTER 7.

So rapidly did the final catastrophe take place that it was difficult
for the rescued party at first to credit the evidence of their senses.
On the spot where the _Lapwing_ had been beating her sides against the
cruel walls of the cavern, and where so many hearts had been throbbing
wildly between hope and fear, no living creature remained; nothing but a
few feet of the shattered masts appearing now and then above the surging
waves, was left to tell of the terrible tragedy that had been enacted
there.

For upwards of an hour the party in the boat hovered about the place,
not so much with the hope of rescuing any of their shipmates as on
account of the difficulty of tearing themselves away from the fatal
spot.  Perhaps the natural tendency of man to hope against hope had
something to do with it.  Then they passed silently out of the cavern
and rowed slowly along the base of the tremendous cliffs.

At length the feeling of self-preservation began to assert itself, and
Bob Massey was the first to break silence with the question--

"Does any one know if there's anything to eat aboard?"

"We'd better see to that," observed Dr Hayward, who was steering.

Bob Massey pulled in his oar, and, without remark, began to search the
boat.  It was found that all the food they had brought away consisted of
nine tins of preserved meat and three pieces of pork, a supply which
would not go far among ten persons.

The ten survivors were Dr Hayward and his wife; Massey and Nellie; Joe
Slag; John Mitford and his wife Peggy; Terrence O'Connor, the assistant
cook; Tomlin, one of the cabin passengers; and Ned Jarring.  All the
rest, as we have said, had perished with the ill-fated _Lapwing_.

Little was said at first, for the hopelessness of their condition seemed
so obvious that the men shrank from expressing their gloomy fears to the
women who sat huddled together, wet and cold, in the bottom of the boat.

As we have said, as far as the eye could see in any direction, the
frowning cliffs rose perpendicularly out of deep water.  There was not
even a strip of sand or a bay into which they could run in case of the
wind increasing.

"There is nothing for it but to push on till we come to an inlet, or
break of some sort in the cliffs, by which we may land," said Hayward,
speaking encouragingly to the women.  "God helping us, we are sure to
find some such place ere long."

"Don't look very like it," muttered Black Ned, gloomily.

"We can see how it looks about as well as you can," retorted John
Mitford, indignantly.  "If ye can't say somethin' to cheer the women,
there's no need for to look blue an' tell us what a mere babby could see
for itself."

This remark, coming as it did from lugubrious Mitford, caused Terrence
O'Connor to smile.

"True for ye," he said, "we can see what's fornint us, but even Black
Ned can't see round the corner."

"Besides, there may be a flat shore on the other side o' the island,"
added Bob Massey in a cheerful tone; "I've often noticed islands o' this
build, and when they're so high on one side they usually are low on the
opposite side; so we'll only have to pull round--an' mayhap there are
people on it--who knows?"

"Ay, natives pr'aps," growled Jarring, "an' cannibals who are fond of
eatin' white folk--specially women!"

"Shut up your black muzzle, or I'll heave ye overboard!" said Mitford,
fiercely, for like many easy-going, quiet men, he was unusually savage
when fairly roused.

Whatever Black Ned may have felt, he gave no expression to his thoughts
or feelings by word or look, but continued calmly to pull his oar.

All that day, and all that night, however, the party pulled steadily
along the shore without finding an opening in the cliffs or any part
which could be scaled by man.  During this period their plight was
miserable in the extreme, for the weather at the time was bitterly cold;
they were drenched through and through with spray, which broke so
frequently over the side as to necessitate constant baling, and, to make
matters worse, towards evening of the second day snow began to fall and
continued to do so the greater part of the night.  Fortunately, before
dark they came to some small rocky islets, on which they could not land
as the waves washed over them, but in the lee of which they cast anchor,
and thus were enabled to ride out a furious gale, which sprang up at
sunset and did not subside till morning.

It need scarcely be said that the men did all that lay in their power to
shelter the poor women, who had exhibited great fortitude and
uncomplaining endurance all that weary time; but little could be done
for them, for there was not even a bit of sail to put over them as a
protection.

"Nellie, dear," said Massey, when the boat was brought up under the lee
of the rocks, "d'ee feel _very_ cold?"

"Not very," replied his wife, raising her head.  "I'm strong, thank God,
and can stand it; but Peggy here is shudderin' awful bad.  I believe
she'll die if somethin' isn't done for her."

"I think if she could only ring the water out of her clothes," whispered
Mrs Hayward to her husband, "it might do her some good, but--"

"I know that, Eva: it would do you all good, and we must have it done
somehow--"

An exclamation in the bow of the boat at that moment attracted
attention.  It was John Mitford, who, having taken off his own coat, and
wrapped it round his shivering wife, had gone to the bow to rummage in a
locker there, and had found a tarpaulin.  Massey had overhauled the
locker for food before him, but the tarpaulin had been so well folded,
and laid so flat in the bottom, that it had escaped his notice.

Retiring aft with this god-send, the lugubrious man speedily, with the
assistance of his comrades, covered over the centre of the boat so
completely that a small chamber was formed, into which the women could
retire.  It was not high enough, indeed, to stand in, but it formed a
sufficient shelter from wind and spray.

"Now, Peggy, my dear," said her husband when it was finished, "get in
there--off wi' your things an' wring 'em out."

"Th-thank you, J-John," replied Peggy, whose teeth chattered like
castanets, "but 'ow am I t-to d-dry 'em?  For wet c-clo'es won't dry
wi-without a fire.  At least I n-never 'eard of--"

The remainder of her remarks were lost to male ears as the tarpaulin
dropped around her after Eva Hayward and Nellie had led, or half-lifted,
her under its sheltering folds.  How they managed to manipulate the
shivering Peggy it is not our province to tell, but there can be no
doubt that the treatment of her two friends in misfortune was the cause
of her emerging from under the tarpaulin the following morning alive and
comparatively well, though still far from dry.

The aspect of things had changed greatly for the better when the
unfortunates resumed their voyage.  The wind had abated, the sea,
although still heaving, was smooth.  The snow had ceased, and the sun
arose in a cloudless sky, so that when poor Mrs Mitford raised her
dishevelled head and felt the sun's cheering rays she exclaimed, with a
sigh of relief: "La! if the sun ain't blazin' 'ot!  An' I'm so 'ungry.
Dear, dear, 'ave you bin rowin' all night, John?  'Ow tired you must be;
an' your 'ands blistered, though you are pretty tough in the 'ands, but
you couldn't 'old a candle to Bob Massey at that--Yes, yes, Nellie, I
'ear you, but la! what does it matter 'ow your 'air an' things is
deranged w'en you're wrecked at sea and--"

The abrupt disappearance of the dishevelled head at that moment
suggested the idea that Mrs Mitford had either fallen backward suddenly
or been pulled under cover by her companions.

"She's all right, anyhow," said O'Connor, adjusting his oar.

"She's always all right," remarked Mitford in a funereal tone, which,
however, was meant to be confidential.  "Bless your heart, I've seen
that woman under all circumstances, but although she's timid by nature,
an' not over strong in body, I've never seen her give in or fairly cast
down.  No doubt she was pretty low last night, poor thing, but that was
'cause she was nigh dead wi' cold--yet her spirit wasn't crushed.  It's
my solemn conviction that if my Peggy ever dies at all she'll die game."

With a profound sigh of satisfaction at having thus borne testimony to
the rare and admirable qualities of his wife, the worthy man applied
himself to his oar with redoubled vigour.

It is quite a pleasure in this censorious world to see any man
absolutely blind to his wife's faults, and thoroughly awake to her good
qualities.  The opinion formed of Peggy--by Mrs Massey and Mrs Hayward
respectively, did not quite coincide with that of John Mitford.

"How did you get on with poor Peggy last night, Eva?" asked Dr Hayward
of his wife, in an undertone, as they breakfasted that forenoon beside
the tiller, while the rest of their companions were similarly engaged in
the middle of the boat, and at the bow.

"Pretty well, Tom, but she's troublesome to manage.  She is so unusually
timid, poor creature, so prone to give way to despair when things look
bad, yet so sweetly apt to bound into high spirits when things are
looking hopeful,--and withal, so amusingly garrulous!"

Strange to say, at the very moment that this was uttered, Nellie was
remarking to her husband in a low tone that, "poor Peggy was quite a
puzzle, that she was all but dead at one moment, and quite lively at
another, that she professed to be all submission, but was as obstinate
as a pig, and that her tongue--soft though it was--went like the clapper
of a mill!"

We have referred to breakfast, but the meal spread before the castaways
hardly merits that name, for it consisted of only a small slice of pork
to each; a few pieces of ship's biscuit that Slag had discovered in his
pockets; and a cup of water drawn from the pond which had accumulated in
a hollow of the tarpaulin during the night.

"It is lucky that one of the pieces of pork happened to be cooked,"
observed Dr Hayward, as he served out the allowance, "for I would have
been sorry to break into the preserved meat tins till forced to do so.
We must keep these as a reserve as long as possible."

"Right you are, sir!" said Slag, with his mouth full, while with a
clasp-knife he carefully cut off another morsel to be ready, "right you
are!  That 'minds me when we was starvin', me and my shipmates in the
Arctic regions, so as our ribs was all but comin' through our skins, an'
we was beginnin' to cast an evil eye on the stooard who'd kep' fatter
than the rest of us somehow, an' was therefore likely to prove a more
satisfyin' kind o' grub, d'ee see--"

"I say, Joe," said Hayward, interrupting, for he feared that Slag's
anecdote might not tend to render the pork breakfast more palatable.

"Sir?" said Slag.

"Will you just go to the bow and take a squint ahead?  I think there
seems to be something like an end o' the cliffs in view--your eyes are
better than mine."

Slag swallowed the mouthful on which he was engaged, thrust after it the
morsel that was ready to follow, wiped the clasp-knife on his thigh, and
went forward to "take a squint."

It turned out that the "end" of the cliffs which the doctor had only
supposed possible, was a reality, for, after a long gaze, Slag turned
and said--

"Your eyes are better than you think, sir, for the end o' the cliff is
visible, an' a spit o' sand beyond is quite plain."

As this report was corroborated by Bob Massey, and then by all the other
men, it sent a thrill of gratitude into the hearts of most of the
party--especially the women, who, having lain so long wet and almost
motionless, were nearly benumbed in spite of the sunshine.  Longer
exposure, indeed, would probably have proved fatal to poor Mrs Mitford,
possibly also to Mrs Hayward, who was by no means robust.  As for our
coxswain's wife, having been reared among the health-giving breezes of
the sea-shore, and inured from infancy to exposure and hard work, she
suffered much less than her female companions, and busied herself a
great part of the time in chafing their cold limbs.  In doing this she
reaped the natural advantage of being herself both warmed and
invigorated.  Thus virtue not only "is," but inevitably brings, its own
reward!  Similarly, vice produced its natural consequences in the case
of Black Ned, for that selfish man, being lazy, shirked work a good
deal.  It is possible to pull an oar in such a way that, though the
rower may be apparently doing his best, he is, in reality, taking the
work very lightly and doing next to nothing.  Acting in this way, Ned
Jarring became cold when the sleet and spray were driving in his face,
his blood flowed sluggishly in his veins, and his sufferings were,
consequently, much more severe than those of his comrades.  Towards the
afternoon of that day, they rounded the spit of sand mentioned by Joe
Slag, and came upon a low-lying coast.  After proceeding a considerable
distance along which, they discovered a good harbour.  This was
fortunate, for grey clouds had again covered the sun and a bitter east
wind began to blow.

"Thank God, Eva," said Hayward, as he steered into the bay, "for if we
had not come upon this harbour, your strength and that of poor Peggy, I
fear, would have failed, but now you'll be all right in a short time."

"Oh, no, sir, I don't think as _my_ strength would fail," said Peggy, in
a feeble voice, for she had overheard the remark.  "Not that I shouldn't
be thankful all the same, I allow--for thankfulness for mercies received
is a dooty, an' most on us do fail in that, though I say it that
shouldn't, but my strength ain't quite gone yet--"

"Stand by, Slag, to fend off with your oar when we get close in," said
the doctor, interrupting Peggy's discourse.

"Have any of you got matches in your pockets?" asked Massey, clapping
his hands suddenly to the various receptacles about his person, with a
look of unwonted anxiety.

"Ye may well ax that, Bob," said O'Connor, using his own hands in the
same way.  "Cold, wet weather, and no house!  It 'ud be death to the
women, sure, av--"

"Here you are!" shouted Tomlin in a burst of triumph, in spite of his
naturally reserved disposition.

He held up a box of vestas which, being a smoker, he fortunately had in
his pocket.

"I hope they ain't wet," remarked Black Ned, suggestively.

"Wrap 'em well up," said Slag.

Tomlin drew out his handkerchief and proceeded to do so.  At the same
moment the boat's keel grated softly on the shingly shore.



STORY ONE, CHAPTER 8.

Seldom have the mysterious sparks of life been sought for more
anxiously, or tended and nursed with greater care, than were the little
sparks of fire which were evoked with difficulty from Tomlin's
match-box.

Drizzling rain had commenced just as the wrecked party landed.  The
tarpaulin had been set up as a slight, though very imperfect, shelter;
the ground underneath had been strewn with twigs and grass, and a large
pile of dead branches had been arranged to receive the vital spark
before any attempt was made to create it.

"Everything must be quite ready, first," said Hayward to Tomlin, "for
our very lives depend, under God, on our securing fire; so keep the
matches snug in your pocket till I ask for them."

"I will," replied Tomlin, "D'you know it never occurred to me before how
tremendously important the element of fire is?  But how will you ever
manage to make the branches catch, everything being so thoroughly
soaked?"

"You shall see.  I have had to make a fire in worse circumstances than
the present," returned Hayward, "though I admit they are bad enough.
Have you got the small twigs broken and ready, Slag?"

"All ready, sir."

"Now look here, Tomlin."

As he spoke, the doctor picked up a dead but wet branch, and, sheltering
himself under the tarpaulin, began to whittle it with his penknife.  He
found, of course, that the interior of the branch was dry.  The thin
morsels which he sliced off were handed to Slag, who placed them with
great care in the heart of a bundle of very small twigs resembling a
crow's nest.  A place had been reserved for this bundle or nest, in the
heart of the large pile of branches lying on the ground.  Meanwhile,
Slag held the nest ready in his hands.

"Now, Tomlin, get out your matches," said the doctor.

With the utmost care the anxious man unfolded the kerchief, and, opening
the box, looked into it earnestly.

"Wet?" asked Hayward.

Tomlin shook his head.  "I fear they are."  He took one out, while the
whole party assembled round him to note the result.

The first match dropped its head like a piece of soft putty when scraped
on the lid.  The second did the same, and a suppressed groan escaped
from the little group, for it could be seen that there were not more
than ten or twelve matches in the box altogether.  Again and again a
match was struck with similar result.  The fifth, however, crackled a
little, and rekindled, sinking hope in the observers, though it failed
to kindle itself.  The seventh burst at once into a bright blaze and
almost drew forth a cheer, which, however, was checked when a puff of
wind blew out the new-born flame.

"Och! let Bob Massey try it!" cried O'Connor.  "Sure he's used to
workin' in throublesome weather."

"Right, boy," said Slag, "hand it to the coxs'n."

Tomlin readily obeyed, only too glad to get some of the failure shifted
to other shoulders.

Massey readily undertook the task, and success attended his first
effort.

"I knowed it!" said Nellie, in a quiet tone, as she saw the bright flame
leap up and almost set her husband's beard on fire.  "Bob never fails!"

The burning match was quickly plunged into Hayward's handful of
shavings, which blazed up as he thrust it into Slag's nest; and Slag,
holding the nest with the tender care of a loving sick-nurse, and the
cool indifference of a salamander, till it was a flaming ball, crammed
it into the heart of the pile of sticks.  Tremendous was the volume of
smoke that arose from the pile, and anxious were the looks riveted on
it.

"Sure ye've smothered it intirely," gasped O'Connor.

"Oh, me!" sighed Peggy in a voice of mild despair.

"No fear, it's all right," said Massey, in a confident tone, while Joe
Slag, on his knees, with cheeks inflated and nose all but kindling, blew
at the glowing heart with unwearied determination, regardless alike of
friend and foe.

"It's going to do," remarked John Mitford in his most dismal tone.

"Any child might tell that," said Nellie, with a light laugh.

The laugh seemed infectious, for the whole party joined in as a glorious
gush of flame rushed among the sticks, dried up the dampness, and
effectually changed the pillar of smoke into a pillar of fire.

The fire thus kindled was rightly deemed of such vital importance that
it was not permitted to go out thereafter for many months, being watched
night and day by members of the party appointed to the duty by turns.
It had, indeed, not a few narrow escapes, and more than once succeeded
in reaching what appeared to be its last spark, but was always caught in
time and recovered, and thus was kept burning, until a discovery was
made which rendered such constant attendance and care unnecessary.

"Now," said Dr Hayward, when the fire was safely established, "we have
not much daylight left, so it behoves us to make the most of it.  You
are a man of action and experience, Robert Massey, what would you advise
us to do first?"

"Well, doctor, since you're good enough to ask me, I would advise that
we should appoint a leader.  You see, mates," he continued, addressing
himself to the company in general, "there's no possibility of a ship
gettin' along without a captain, or an army without a general.  If we
was going off to a wreck now, with or without a lifeboat, I would claim
a sort o' right to be coxswain in virtue o' past experience; but, as
we've now begun a sort o' shore-goin' business, which requires a deal o'
general knowledge, besides seamanship, an' as Dr Hayward has got that
by edication, I move that we make him our leader."

"Right you are, Bob," said Joe Slag.  ("As he always is," said Nellie,
_sotto voce_.) "So I second the move--if that's the reg'lar way to do
it."

"Hear, hear!" said every one with right good will, and a gleam of pride
flashed from Eva's pretty brown eyes as her husband was thus unanimously
appointed leader of the shipwrecked band.

Like a sensible man, knowing his capacity, he at once accepted the
command without any display of undue modesty, and proved his fitness by
at once going to work.

"The first thing, then, is to thank God for our deliverance, which we
all do, I am sure, most heartily."

This was received with a responsive "Amen" from every one--not even
excepting Black Ned.

"Next, we must find fresh water and boil a bit of pork--"

"Ah, then, we haven't a kittle!" exclaimed O'Connor.

"Haven't we a big baling-dish, Terrence?" said Hayward.

"Sure we have, sor, an' it's a tin wan as'll stand fire," returned
Terrence with a reproved look.

"Well, then, you go fetch it; wash it well out, and get the pork ready.
Jarring and Tomlin will gather as much dead wood as they can find and
pile it beside the fire.  Mitford will search for fresh water--there
must be a spring or brook not far off--and Massey and I will rig up some
sort of shelter for the night."

"Please, sir, may I go with Mitford to seek for water?" asked Nellie.

"By all means, if you wish to."

"And I will keep you company, Nell," said Mrs Hayward energetically.

"So will I," chimed in little Mrs Mitford, feebly.  "I was always fond
of water.  As a child I used to paddle about in it continually, an'
sometimes tumbled into it, for of course young people will--"

"No, Peggy, you must sit by the fire with my wife," said the doctor.
"Neither of you is fit for work of any kind yet, so sit down and warm
yourselves."

Eva was too wise, and Peggy too weak, to offer objection, so these two
sat by the fire while the others went to work.

Energy of action tends to lighten the burdens that may be laid on human
spirits, and to induce the most favourable view of the worst
circumstances.  The toil which the party now undertook was such a
blessed relief to them after the prolonged exposure to cold and
comparative inaction in the boat, that all returned to the camp-fire in
a much more cheerful state of mind than they left it.  The searchers for
water came back first, having found what they sought close at hand; and
Terrence, filling his baling-dish, soon had the pork boiling, along with
some mysterious herbs gathered by the doctor to convert the liquid into
soup.  Tomlin and Black Ned returned heavily laden with firewood, and
Bob Massey discovered a tree with branches sufficiently spreading and
leafy to protect them to some extent from rain.

"'Tis as well we have found overhead protection, Massey," said the
doctor, when our coxswain led him to the spot, "for I have been thinking
that as we have no blankets, we shall be obliged to use our tarpaulin as
a quilt rather than an umbrella."

"That's true, sir," returned Massey, "but how about the women?"

"Well, I've been thinking about that," said Hayward, "and I've devised a
plan for to-night at least; to-morrow I hope to hit on a better
arrangement.  First of all, we'll spread in front of a fire, which we
will kindle beneath this tree, a layer of branches and grass.  In the
middle of this the women will lie down side by side, after having dried
and warmed themselves thoroughly at the fire.  Then we'll take two of
the floor planks from the boat, and put one on each side of them--
partially frame them, as it were.  Then one half of us men will lie down
on one side of the frame, the other half on the other side, and we'll
draw the tarpaulin over us all."

"Hm! not very comfortable," said Massey, "for the poor women to be
framed like that."

"Admitted; but what else can we do?" said Hayward.  "It would risk our
lives to sleep without covering of any kind in such cold weather, and
with sleet falling as it does now.  Better have the sheet spread upon us
than merely over our heads.  So now let's kindle another fire, and do
you arrange our couch, Bob."

In spite of the cold and the sleet, things looked much more cosy than
persons unacquainted with "roughing it" could believe possible, and they
became comparatively happy when the couch was spread, and they were
seated under the sheltering tree, with the fire blazing and crackling in
front of them, suffusing their faces and persons and the leaf-canopy
overhead with a deep red glare, that contrasted well with the
ebony-black surroundings, while a rich odour of pork soup exhaled from
the baling-dish.

"Ah! now there's nothin' wantin' to produce parfit felicity but a pipe,"
said O'Connor with a sigh.

"That's so, lad," assented Tomlin, echoing the sigh, and feeling in his
pocket from force of habit, though he knew too well that nothing was to
be found there.

"Here, Terrence," said Massey, handing him an empty pipe, at the same
time asking him to shut his eyes and draw, and try to imagine himself
smoking, but Terrence shook his head.

"I couldn't do that, Bob," he said, "but I'll sing ye a stave in praise
o' the weed."

Without waiting for permission, the jovial Irishman at once began:

  "Oh! it's 'baccy as is my chief joy,
  At mornin', noon and night;
  An' it's verily my belief, boy,
  That I love it with all my might.
  If your liver an' lungs are squeakin',
  An' your head is growin' cracky,
  There's nothin' so sure to kill or cure,
  As fumes o' the strongest 'baccy."

"If it would improve your voice, Terrence," observed Mr Mitford,
meekly, "I'm sure I wish ye had pounds of it, for it's that harsh--
though, of course, I make no pretence to music myself, but--"

"Just listen to that now, `Harsh!' an' that to a man whose own mother,
by the father's side, towld him he shud make music his purfession!
Arrah, howld on, Black Ned, ye spalpeen; ye've had two helpin's
already!"

This latter remark had reference to the baling-dish of soup which was
being passed round the party, so that each might help himself to two
mouthfuls of soup before passing it on.  As they had no spoons, the
doctor had extemporised ladles of folded bark, which served the purpose
pretty well.

"Haven't ye a small bit o' 'baccy in the corner o' wan o' yer pockets,
doctor, dear?" asked Terrence, insinuatingly.  "May be ye'd find a
morsel if ye'd try."

"Quite useless to try, my poor fellow," returned the doctor, with a look
of affected pity, "for I'm a non-smoker.  I never indulge in such an
absurdity."

"Sure, it's a true proverb that says `doctor's differ,'" retorted
O'Connor, "for most o' the saw-bones of my acquaintance have smoked like
lime kilns."

"More's the pity, Terrence, but if you'll heave on some more firewood
you'll have a smoke that may do as a substitute at present."

By heaping quantities of fresh branches on the fire till it was large
enough to roast an ox, the party managed to pass the night in
comparative comfort, in spite of cold and sleet.  Hayward watched the
fire during the first part of the night.  Then he was relieved by our
coxswain, who was succeeded by Joe Slag, and no Vestal virgins ever
tended their fire with more anxious solicitude than those three men
guarded theirs during that first night on the island.

As if to make up for the sufferings of the past few days, the morning
that followed broke with unclouded splendour, and the rising sun shone
upon as beautiful a scene as could well be imagined, for it revealed an
island richly clothed with verdure, which, rising out of a calm blue
sea, sloped gradually upwards, until its western ridge met the bright
sky.  Evidently that terminating ridge was the place whence descended
the precipitous cliffs, along which they had sailed immediately after
leaving the cave of the wreck.

There is no accounting for the eccentricities of weak-minded females,
whether pretty or plain.  The first thing that pretty little Mrs
Mitford exclaimed on opening her eyes and beholding the glorious view
was--

"Oh!  I _do_ so wish that we had oysters for breakfast!"

If she had expressed a desire for elephant chops, she could not have
taken Eva Hayward more by surprise.  As for Nell Massey, she went off
into a hilarious giggle.

"I fear there are no oysters hereabouts," said Hayward, "but I shouldn't
wonder if we were to find mussels and things of that sort.  Come, lads,
we'll go and have a search for them, while the ladies fill and boil our
kettle."

Limpets, mussels, and other shell-fish were found in great abundance.
With these warm soup was soon made, and after a hearty breakfast,
Hayward organised the party in two bands which were sent off in
different directions to explore the island, Peggy and her husband being
left behind to cook the dinner and keep up the fire.



STORY ONE, CHAPTER 9.

For several days the shipwrecked party continued to live chiefly on
limpets and mussels gathered on the sea-shore.  Only a very little of
the pork was used, for the purpose of converting the food into soup.  As
they could not tell, of course, how long they might be compelled to live
there, it behoved them to be very careful of the food-supply already in
possession.  Fortunately, the weather continued fine, though cold, so
that it was not necessary at first to make any alteration in their camp
arrangements.

During this period much of their time was necessarily spent in laying in
a stock of shell-fish, and in attempting to bring down with stones some
of the gulls which flew inquisitively about and very temptingly near to
the camp, but none of the party was a good marksman with stone
ammunition, and it soon became evident that unless some other means of
obtaining food were discovered there was every prospect of starvation
ending their career.

In this emergency Dr Hayward organised an exploring expedition on a
more extended scale.  He divided the party into three bands--one
consisting of Ned Jarring, Tomlin, and himself, to examine the shores;
another comprising Joe Slag, John Mitford, and O'Connor, to penetrate
the interior and higher lands; while it was appointed to Bob Massey, who
had by that time come to be more frequently addressed by his old title
of "coxswain," to stay at the camp, keep the all-important fire going,
and guard the women.

"You see, we must go about this business thoroughly," said the doctor,
when they were all assembled in the camp one day after their frugal
meal, excepting O'Connor, who was a short distance off, trying, with
unwearied perseverance and unvaried failure, to kill gulls with stones.
"And for this purpose, we must hold a council of war.  Where's
Terrence?"

"He's pelting the gulls as usual," said Black Ned.

"A-missin' of 'em, you mean," suggested Mitford.

"Hallo, Terrence!" shouted Hayward, catching sight of the Irishman at
that moment.  "Here! we want you."

"Comin', sor, jist wan more shot at this baste.  He's bin flyin' round
me hid for half-an-hour at laste, winkin' at the stones as they go by
him.  Och! missed again--bad luck to ye!"

As he uttered the malediction the disappointed man heaved a last stone,
angrily and without an attempt at an aim.  He did not even look up to
observe the result, but turned sharply round towards the camp.

That stone, however, was like the arrow shot at a venture.  It hit the
bird full on the breast and brought it down, which fact was made known
to the sportsman by a cheer from the camp and a heavy thud behind him.

"Well done, Terrence!" cried Hayward as he came up with his prize.  "I
regard it as a good omen--a sort of turn in the tide which will
encourage us on our contemplated expedition."

The leader then gave minute instructions as to how long they were to be
away; how much food they were to take; the direction to be followed, and
the work to be done.

"In short," said the doctor in conclusion, "we must use our eyes, ears,
and limbs to the best advantage; but bear in mind that the grand object
of the expedition is--"

"Grub," suggested O'Connor.

"Just so.  Grub is our first and greatest necessity.  Meanwhile, Peggy,
Nell, and Eva will do what they can to make our camp comfortable: gather
mussels and other shell-fish and see that the coxswain does not eat more
than a fair share of victuals, and conducts himself in all respects like
an obedient and trusted servant."

With such and similar touches of pleasantry Hayward sought to cheer the
spirits of the party, and divert their minds from dwelling too much on
the fact that their case was a very serious one--almost desperate, for
they were on a comparatively small island, far to the southward of the
usual track of ships, without food or shelter, and without any of the
ordinary means of procuring either.

The remainder of that day was spent in making preparation for the
projected expedition.  As they had no offensive or defensive arms,
except two gully knives, their first business was to provide each man
with a spear.  Fortunately, some of the surrounding trees had very
straight branches of various sizes, so they had only to cut down such as
were suitable, and peel the bark off.  But the formation of hard points
gave them some anxiety, until Tomlin hit upon the idea of utilising the
bones of their pork.

"The very thing!" said Mitford, with a look of melancholy satisfaction.

Having no turn whatever for mechanics, he never saw difficulties till
they met and overcame him, and was always ready to rush in where
mechanical angels--if we may say so--feared to tread.

"And how would you propose to cut the bones, John?" asked Slag, with an
air of modest simplicity.

"Cut 'em? eh! well--wi' the knife, of course."

It was found, however, that the knife made but slight impression on the
bones, and after one or two vain attempts, they turned to a more
effective method.  Finding a huge boulder of some kind of sandstone they
broke it up, and on the rough surface thus produced, ground the bones
into sharp points, and by an ingenious method known to Slag, who learned
it from the Eskimos, they fixed these firmly on the ends of their
spears.

Thus armed, and with a small quantity of cold pork, and a large
allowance of cold boiled limpets and mussels in their wallets, they set
out on their explorations.

It is impossible to accompany two parties at once.  Let us follow just
now the one composed of Joe Slag, Terrence O'Connor, and John Mitford.
These, with Joe as their leader, proceeded along the shore some miles in
a northerly direction; and then, turning into the bush, which was
nowhere thick, they pushed into the interior of the island.  After
advancing about ten miles they came on a wide stretch of sandhills or
downs, and found that, having crossed a sort of isthmus, they had come
out again on the sea-shore.

"This won't do," said Slag, on making the discovery.  "We'll have to
steer d'rect for the highest land."

"That's so, Joe," said Mitford, "and yonder's a height away there, right
in the wind's eye, that will act as a beacon to us."

"I sees it, John--but, I say, what's the matter wi' Terrence?"

This question was drawn forth by the action of the Irishman, who had
walked on about fifty yards in advance of his comrades.  He was standing
in the attitude of an ancient Roman about to discharge a javelin.
Stooping low as if to render themselves less conspicuous, Mitford
muttered, "hallo!" and his comrade whispered, "Sh! he sees suthin'!"

Whatever it was he saw, O'Connor evidently felt too far off to act
effectively, for, after standing a moment in the classic position just
referred to, he suddenly lowered his spear, dropped on hands and knees,
and made a slow, undignified advance of a few yards.  Then he rose
again, became classic once more and discharged his spear, in a manner
that would have done credit to Achilles himself.

The growl that followed, and the "bad luck to ye," that came faintly
back on the breeze, told too plainly that the result was a miss.

"Sure it's a rabbit I saw," he said, returning to his companions, "an'
if I'd only sent it two yards more to the left, I'd have hit the baste!"

To the satisfaction of the explorers, it was found that the sandhills
were burrowed all over by rabbits, and that there existed there a large
colony of them.  Cheered by this--in spite of their bad javelin play--
they made for the high ground, and soon found themselves threading a
belt of wood, after crossing which they reached the foot of the range of
hills that bounded the island to the westward.

It was a weird, rugged spot, covered with great boulders that had rolled
down the hill-sides, and with gaps and chasms here and there of
considerable depth, that suggested the idea of volcanic action having
visited the place at some remote period.  These chasms or rents in the
earth were overgrown with trees or bushes in many places, and obliged
the travellers to make wide detours in some places to avoid them.

Thus they were so much delayed that night was upon them before they had
reached the higher parts of the hill-range where they had intended to
encamp.

The difference between blanketing and gossamer is great, yet it is
inconceivably slight compared with the difference between gossamer and
nothing!  In the pride of their strength the members of the exploring
party lay down to sleep without covering of any kind, for the good
reason that they possessed none, and before morning they would gladly
have given a fabulous price for even a gossamer coverlet.

"It's freezin' I am, if not froze," said Terrence O'Connor at the end of
the second sleepless hour.  "If we could have only brought away some o'
the fire in our pockets, what a comfort it would have bin!"

He got up, shook himself, and slapped his arms across his breast
vigorously.

Slag and Mitford followed his example.

"I'm beginnin' to feel better on the outside," continued O'Connor,
pausing, "but my spinal marrow isn't properly warm yet."

"'Minds me o' Baffin's Bay," growled Slag, with a mighty slap of the
arms between each word.

Mitford seemed to think any remark superfluous, for he only groaned.

"Pity it's too dark to see yer face, John," said Terrence.  "It must be
a sight worth seein'.  Och, av I only had a good-sized pocket-han'kicher
I'd wrap me feet in it, anyhow."

"Suppose we cut some grass and try that?" suggested Mitford.

The suggestion was acted on.

It was slow work cutting grass with a clasp-knife; tearing it up in
handfuls was still slower, but the labour warmed the tired explorers,
and when they lay down again under this Adam-an'-Eveic bedding, they
fell asleep almost immediately, and did not waken till the sun was
pretty well up in the eastern sky.

"Breakfast fust," said Slag, on completing a tremendous stretch and
yawn.  "It's always bin my way since I was a babby--business first;
pleasure to foller.  Grub is business, an' work is pleasure--leastwise,
it ought to be to any man who's rated `A.  One' on the ship's books.
Hallo! sorrowful-monkey-face, clap a stopper on yer nose an' tumble
up,--d'ye hear?"

Mitford did not hear, but a touch of Slag's toe caused him to feel and
to rise.

O'Connor was already astir, preparing breakfast.  Cold boiled mussels
and a bit of pork may be good food, but it is not appetising.
Consequently they did not linger long over the meal, but were soon
striding up the mountain-side rejoicing in the fresh air and sunshine.

There was a certain phase in John Mitford's character which had not yet
been discovered by his friends, and was known only to his wife.  He was
romantic--powerfully so.  To wander through unknown lands and be a
discoverer had been the dream of his youth.  He was naturally reticent,
and had never said so to any one but Peggy, who, being the reverse of
romantic, was somewhat awe-stricken by the discovery, and, in an
imbecile way, encouraged him to hope that, "one of these days he'd 'ave
'is desires gratified, as there was nothink to prevent 'im from goin' to
Novazealand--if that was the right way to pronounce it--or to Van Demons
land--not in a sinful way of course, for they had given up transportin'
people there now--though wherever they transported 'em to she couldn't
imagine--anyhow, there was nothink to prevent his tryin'."  And John did
try, which was the primary cause of his being a member of the exploring
party now under consideration.

Influenced by his romantic spirit, Mitford betrayed a troublesome
tendency to wander from his comrades in pursuit of the Unknown.
O'Connor, with the straightforward simplicity of his nation, set it down
to pig-headedness.  Slag, being a man of feeling, opined that it was
absence of mind.

"The spalpeen! he's off again," said O'Connor, turning round as they
halted to rest a minute, after breasting the hill for half-an-hour.
"Hallo, John!  Where are ye, boy?"

"Here--all right," shouted a voice in the distance, "I'm exploring
behind the knoll here.  Go ahead; I'll meet ye at the top o' the hill."

By that time they were within about an hour's walk of the highest ridge
of the island, so they pushed on without delay, expecting to find their
lugubrious friend there before them, or not far behind them.  It turned
out as had been supposed.  The mountain ridge formed the summit of the
great precipice, along the foot of which they had sailed after quitting
the cavern, or, as they had come to call it, the wreck-cave.  For some
time the two stood on the giddy edge, looking in silence on the
tremendous depths below, and the sublime spectacle of illimitable sea
beyond, with its myriad facets gleaming in the sunshine.

Then they bethought them of their comrade, and turned back to look for
him; hallooing now and then as they went, and expecting every moment to
see him emerge from one of the gorges that led to the ridge.  But there
was no answering shout, or any sign of his having been there.  Soon,
becoming anxious and then alarmed, the two men set to work in earnest to
search for their lost comrade, but they sought in vain.  Returning to
the spot where they had last heard his voice, they continued the search
in that direction, and made the rocks echo with their shouting.  Still
no John Mitford was to be found, and the curious thing was that there
seemed to be no very rugged or precipitous formation of land where he
could easily have met with an accident.  At last, evening approached.

"We must go back at wance," said O'Connor, with anxious looks, "an'
rouse all the men out to seek for him wi' torches."

Without another word they turned and made for the camp as fast as they
could go.

Meanwhile, Dr Hayward and his party had been successful in their
exploration, for they not only discovered a rabbit-warren, but had
observed seals basking on the rocks, and found the tracks of goats, or
some animal of that kind with divided hoofs.  They had even succeeded in
getting between a young seal and the water and speared it, so that there
was something like jubilation in the camp on their return at the
prospect of a fresh meal and better fare in future.

But this was abruptly put an end to by the arrival of Slag and his
comrade with the news of Mitford's disappearance.  Poor Mrs Mitford was
thrown into a state of terrible alarm, and at first insisted on
accompanying the search party, but under the united entreaties of Eva
and Nelly she was prevailed on to remain behind.

With torches made of resinous wood, which burnt admirably, they searched
all that night, and, taking only a few hours' rest, continued the search
all the following day, but without success.  Day after day the search
was continued, even after all hope of ever again seeing their comrade
alive had died out, but at last they were compelled to give it up and
devote themselves to the urgent duty of procuring better shelter and
food.

As for poor Mrs Mitford, she sank into a state of helpless and hopeless
despair.



STORY ONE, CHAPTER 10.

Men in straits cannot afford to sit down to grieve and mope over their
sorrows.  Although a deep gloom had been cast over the shipwrecked party
by the loss of one whom they had learned to respect, the urgent need of
obtaining better food and shelter compelled them, as we have said, to
give their whole mind and attention to this work.

They pitied poor Peggy sincerely, however, and endeavoured to comfort
her a little by raising the hope that her husband might have merely lost
himself in the woods of the island, and would yet, perhaps, be found
alive and well.  But, although their intentions were kindly, they could
comfort neither Peggy nor themselves with such a hope; for their
experience convinced them that the woods, although thick and tangled,
were not extensive enough for any one to be permanently lost in them,
and it seemed quite certain that if the lost man had not met with some
fatal accident, he would certainly have made his way to the coast, by
following which he could have easily found the camp.

"It is very sad to give over our search for poor Mitford," said Dr
Hayward one morning, while seated on a ledge of rock near the beach,
taking counsel with his male companions as to the order of procedure for
the day, "but we cannot afford to delay our operations longer.  This
poor fare of mussel soup, with such a small allowance of pork, is
beginning to injure the health of our women, not to mention ourselves;
besides, the pork won't last long, even though we put ourselves on the
shortest possible allowance; so I think that to-day we must go on an
expedition after the seals we saw the last time we went to the southern
end of the island.  What say you, comrades?"

"All right, cap'n," answered Massey.  "You've only got to say the word.
But who's to stop at home to mind the camp-fire and the women?"

"I'm afraid," returned Hayward, with a deprecatory smile, "that it's
your own turn, Bob.  I would say that I'm sorry for you, were it not
ungallant to pity a man for being condemned for a day to female
society."

The way in which the coxswain received this showed that he did not
repine at his fate.  He did not even object to O'Connor's remark that,
"Faix, he might consider himself the luckiest man o' the lot!"

Accordingly, Massey remained at the camp while the doctor, Slag,
O'Connor, Tomlin, and Jarring set out on a hunting expedition with two
days' cooked provisions in their wallets.  The doctor and Tomlin armed
themselves with spears, but Jarring and Slag preferred clubs.

"You see," said the latter, "I've heard--though I can't rightly say I've
seed it done myself--that the seal-hunters o' the north do their work
wi' clubs; so, if one man can kill a seal wi' such a thing, I don't see
why another shouldn't."

And, truly, there was some reason for this covert boast; for Joe,
besides possessing arms of prodigious power, had cut and shaped for
himself a knotted club which might have suited the hand of Hercules
himself.

It turned out that Bob Massey's satisfaction at being left behind that
day was not altogether the result of regard for female society.  While
he was sauntering back to the camp, after his comrades had left, he
congratulated himself aloud on having at last a chance of making his
experiment without being laughed at during the trial.  "That is--if
Nellie has got enough of line made."

At that moment Nell was busy with the line in question, and at the same
time doing her best to comfort Mrs Mitford--Mrs Hayward being engaged
in preparing dinner; by no means a difficult duty, which the women
undertook day about.

"Keep up your spirits, dear Peggy," said Nell, in that sweet, cosy
tone--if we may say so--which played such havoc in Bob's bosom at the
time when she was known as the coxswain's bride.  "I feel _sure_ that
your dear husband will return to us.  No doubt, some sort o' misfortune
has come to him; but he's such a sensible, handy man, is John, that I
can't help feelin' he'll come back to us; an' when I _feel_ anything
very strongly, d'ee know, I've almost always found it come true.  Do you
believe in strong feelin', Peggy?"

Poor Mrs Mitford, who had been sitting with her hands clasped in her
lap, and an utterly woebegone expression on her pale face, raised her
head with a troubled look on being thus directly appealed to.

"Believe in strong feelin's, Nellie?  I should just think I do.  Not to
mention my own feelin's--which are so strong that I never felt nothink
like 'em before--any one who has been married to my John must know well
what st-strong--oh! no, I shall never see 'im again; dear Nellie, don't
tell me," she said, beginning to cry.  "I know--I know--"

"There, now--there's a good soul.  Don't go off again.  Look!  D'ee know
what this is for?"

As she spoke, Nellie held up a ball of what appeared to be twine, and
her companion--whose mind resembled that of a child, in that it could be
easily diverted--said no, she didn't know what it was for, and that she,
(Peggy), had seen her making it when the men were off excursioning, and
had asked about it; and why didn't she, (Nellie), relieve her curiosity
before, upon the point, instead of waitin' till now?

"Well, you see, Peggy," replied her friend, with the confidential air of
one who has a secret to tell, "my Bob has took it into his head to give
his mates a surprise by fishin' for albatrosses."

"Lawks!  Nellie, an' that _will_ give 'em a surprise!" interrupted Mrs
Mitford, drying her eyes.  "How ever can any man _fish_ for a bird--
unless, indeed, it goes under water an' changes its nature, which no
creetur can do; though, now I come to think of it, I have seen flyin'
fish, an' so, perhaps, there may be albytresses, or other birds, that--"

"Hallo!  Nellie, hard at the twine, lass?  You've made about enough of
it now," cried our coxswain, entering the camp at that moment, sitting
down beside his wife, and examining the ball of cord which she had been
so busily spinning.

"I'm glad you think there's enough, Bob, for I've come to the end o' the
stuff you gathered for me."

"Plenty more where that came from, Nell; but there's no need to gather
more than enough; for enough, you know, is as good as a feast.  Well,
Peggy," he added, turning to the poor woman, and patting her gently on
the shoulder, "has Nell been tellin' you what I'm goin' to try?"

"She was beginnin' to tell me, Mr Massey, when you came in, something
about fishin' for albytresses, an' I always thought albytresses was
birds, and--"

"Quite right, Peggy.  See, this is how it is: you bait a hook--but
come," said the coxswain, rising suddenly, and taking up the ball of
twine, "they do say example's better than precept.  Come along wi' me
an' Nell, an' we'll show you how to do it."

So saying, Massey led the two women down to the boat, telling Mrs
Hayward, whom they passed on the way, to heave some more sticks on the
fire, as it was getting low.

"Never fear," said Eva, who carried the baling-dish full of shell-fish
in her hands.  "I shall never forget the fright we got that time Joe let
it get so low that it was almost at the last spark.  You won't be long
away, will you?"

"Not long.  Anyhow, we'll be sure to turn up for dinner."

During their short residence on the island, the coxswain had observed
that albatrosses paid them frequent visits.  The giant birds had
exhibited some signs of curiosity as to the doings of the new arrivals
on the island; so he resolved to capture one of them, with a view to
soup!

Embarking in the boat, he rowed towards a point of rocks jutting out
into the sea, over which albatrosses had been seen hovering many times.
On the way, Nellie, who had previously been taught what to do, fastened
a small bit of wood to the end of the line she had spun.  Hanging from
this was a hook that the coxswain had made from a gull's breast-bone.
It was baited with a piece of pork.  Before arriving at the point of
rocks, they saw that an albatross was soaring over it on its mighty
outspread wings.  On observing the boat, it flew away and disappeared in
the distance; but Bob was not much concerned about that.

"Now, Nell," he said, on landing, "carry this bait out to sea as far as
the line will let you, lay it on the water, an' then pull back into yon
cove, and see that you hide the boat an' yourselves well, and keep
quiet.  You mustn't even talk, Peggy!  Yon fellow will soon be back."

Nellie did exactly as she was directed; and then her husband, holding
the shore-end of the line, concealed himself among the rocks.

He was right about the bird.  Ere long, it was seen returning, and soon,
on motionless, expanded wings, it hovered over the rocky point.  Then it
caught sight of the floating bait.  With a majestic swoop, it dived,
caught it up, and next moment was flouncing wildly about, hooked by the
tongue, while Bob Massey hauled in the line.  He had provided himself
with a stick, and when the huge bird came within reach he felled it, to
the immense delight of the watchers in the cove, who had already begun
to smell savoury soup by anticipation!

While these were thus engaged, the sealing party was even more
successful in the opposite direction.  They had not gone half-a-dozen
miles when they sighted a group of seals, sleeping--or sunning
themselves--on a flat rock, near high-water mark.

"Now, then, Hercules, lead the way with your club," said the doctor to
Joe Slag, in a whisper.  Joe at once shouldered his weapon and led the
party round by some sheltering rocks, so as to get between the seals and
the sea; then, rushing forward in a body, they took the creatures by
surprise, and intercepted two of them.  On coming to close quarters,
however, they found that the seals were much more formidable to look at
than anything that any of them had ever seen in the Arctic Seas; and
when Joe brought his club down on the skull of the foremost with a
terrible thwack, it refused to tumble over, but continued to splutter
and flounder towards the sea.  Dr Hayward, however, used his spear at
this moment with such effect that the seal fell, and another blow from
the Herculean club finished its career.

As this animal was about half-a-ton in weight, they left it on the beach
with the intention of cutting off some steaks on their return, and
sending the boat round afterwards to fetch the remainder of the carcass.

Considerably elated by their success, they pushed on.  In a valley which
led towards the interior hills they found fresh tracks of goats, and saw
one of those animals in the distance.  Rabbits were also seen, but none
killed at that time.  They had not gone far into this valley, when a
most interesting discovery was made.  On opening up a new turn in the
valley they came on the ruins of a hut.

With feelings of profound interest, they entered--for there was no door
to bar their progress--and gazed around on the silent, mouldering walls.

"Good luck!" exclaimed O'Connor, springing forward, and grasping an
object which lay on the ground.  It was a hatchet, covered with red
rust.  "Here is something else that will be useful," said Tomlin,
picking up a file, which was also covered with rust.

The party at once began an eager search in the hope of finding other
things that might be of use to them, and they were not altogether
disappointed; for Jarring found a clasp-knife--much rust-eaten, of
course, but still fit for use.  Slag found a much-battered frying-pan,
and Tomlin discovered a large cast-iron pot behind the hut, with a chip
out of its rim.  A bottle was also found, and the party crowded round to
watch while the doctor examined it.

"Gin, I hope," said Jarring, in a low tone.

"Physic, I think," murmured Slag.

"A paper!" exclaimed the doctor, holding it up to the light; then,
breaking the bottle, he unfolded the paper, but much of the writing on
it had been obliterated by water which had leaked in.  The few
sentences, however, that were more or less legible, conveyed the fact
that a vessel had been wrecked on the island in 1848; that the crew had
lived there eighteen months when a ship, chancing to pass that way,
rescued them; that they had no provisions to leave for the use of
unfortunates who might chance to be cast away there in future; and that
there was a garden, with some vegetables in it, about--

Here the writing became quite illegible.

"Now, we must find that garden," said the doctor, "and as we've not much
daylight left, we must begin at once.  Come along, lads."

In half an hour they found the garden, with potatoes growing in it, and
a few other roots that were new to them.

Rejoicing over their discoveries the party started back without delay
for the camp, carrying the pot, the frying-pan, etcetera, along with
them, and not forgetting a good slice of the seal in passing.  Arriving
late that night, they found Bob Massey and the women already enjoying a
supper of albatross soup.

"Hooroo, Bob!" exclaimed O'Connor, flourishing the frying-pan in his
excitement, "we've found some praties, boy!  Shovel out some o' that
into this, honey, an' I'll soon let ye smell the smell of an Irish
stew!"

Next day the party removed from the camp and took up their abode in the
old hut, which was soon repaired sufficiently to keep out wind and rain,
and the skin of the seal--with that of another killed next day--was
large enough to screen off part of the hut as a separate chamber for the
women.

From that time forward they had no lack of food, for they succeeded in
killing plenty of seals, and in snaring a great many rabbits, though
they failed entirely to kill any of the goats.  And thus they lived for
several months in comparative comfort, though suffering considerably
from cold and bad weather.

During all that time the poor women were kept pretty busy cooking,
looking after domestic matters, and mending the garments of the men.
This last they accomplished by means of needles made from albatross
bones and the finely divided sinews of various animals, instead of
thread.  When the European garments were worn out--which they were, long
before deliverance was sent to them--Nell Massey proved her fitness for
a Robinson Crusoe life, by actually splitting the sealskins--which were
as thick as sole leather--so as to obtain material thin enough for
clothing.

Of course, a flagstaff had been among the first things erected.  It
stood on a prominent hill, and a seal-skin flag was hoisted thereon, to
attract any vessel that might chance to pass that way, but the flag
fluttered in vain, for, as we have said, the island lay far out of the
usual track of commerce.

Although poor Mrs Mitford appeared to become resigned to her great loss
as time passed by, it was evident to her kind-hearted female companions
that she was not recovering from the shock she had received.  In spite
of their care of her she grew thinner and older-looking every day, and
although she quietly took her share of the work, she had become sad and
silent--caring little apparently for what was going on around her, and
never indulging in those prolonged observations of an irrelevant nature,
to which she had been addicted before her husband's disappearance.

Things were in this state when, about two months after their landing, a
boat-voyage to the western cliffs of the island was arranged for
purposes of further exploration.



STORY ONE, CHAPTER 11.

Within the dark recesses of a great cavern in the western cliffs, in the
midst of a mass of wreckage, there sat one morning a man whose general
appearance might have suggested to a beholder "the wild man of the
cave"--or, at the least, an unhappy maniac--for his grey locks were long
and unkempt, his eyes bloodshot and wild, his garments torn, so that his
wasted limbs were exposed in numerous places, and his beard and
moustache dishevelled and bristling.

No one looking at that gaunt creature--not even the mother who bore
him--would have easily recognised John Mitford; yet it was he.

On the day when he mysteriously disappeared he had come upon a great
hollow, or hole, of about sixty yards in diameter, which appeared to
descend into the very depths of the earth.  The sides of the hollow
sloped towards the centre, and were covered with bushes.  Noting this,
our romantic friend resolved to explore the spot.  He descended
cautiously till he came to a place where the hole had narrowed to about
twenty feet in diameter, and the herbage ceased because of the absence
of the earth to sustain it.  Filled with eager curiosity, the reckless
man held on to a branch and stretched his head over the edge of the
hole.  He saw nothing but blackness.  He soon felt something, however,
for the branch suddenly broke off, and John went headlong down into that
hole!

Then and there he would certainly have paid for his curiosity with his
life, had not a mass of earth, a few feet further down, and against
which he struck, broken his fall in some measure, and shunted him off to
the opposite wall of the rock.  This latter proved to be a slope so
steep that it let him slide, like lightning, to the bottom, a depth of
about thirty feet or more, where he was stopped with such violence that
he lay stunned for a considerable time.

Recovering, he found that no bones were broken, and that, indeed, he was
not much damaged considering the violence of the fall; but the
satisfaction and thankfulness that this undoubtedly caused him were
diminished by the fact that he was in total darkness, and at the bottom
of a hole of unknown depth.  A feeling of horror rushed over him at the
thought of being thus, as it were, buried alive.  Springing up, he felt
all round the walls of his prison for some inequalities or projections,
by which he might climb out, but none such could he find.  The place was
like a well of not more than about ten feet wide, with smooth rocky
sides, which were almost perpendicular as far up as he could reach.  On
looking upward, he could see the mouth of the hole, through which he had
fallen, glimmering like a little star above him.

After a fruitless search of nearly half-an-hour the poor man sat down on
a piece of fallen rock, over which he had stumbled several times in his
search, and a deep groan burst from him as he began to realise the fact
that escape from the place was impossible, and that a lingering death
awaited him--for he could scarcely hope that his companions would find
him in such a place.  Hope, however, is hard to kill in the human
breast.  Perhaps they might hear him if he shouted.  Immediately he
began to shout for help with all the strength of his lungs.  Then, as no
answering shout came down from the little star above--at which he
continuously gazed--a feeling of wild despair took possession of him,
and he yelled and shrieked in mortal agony until his vocal chords
refused to act, and nothing but a hoarse whisper passed his parched
lips.  Overcome at last, alike with horror and exhaustion, he fell to
the ground and became partially unconscious.

How long he lay thus he could not tell; but, on recovering and looking
up, he found that the star was gone--telling plainly that night had set
in.

Then it was, when all hope of delivering himself, or of being delivered
by others, had fled, that a word which had been uttered by Dr Hayward
to a dying man on board the ship, leaped into John Mitford's mind like a
gleam of light.  "Call upon Me in the time of trouble and I will deliver
thee, and thou shalt glorify Me."  He had seen this invitation accepted
by the dying man and deliverance obtained--if a happy smile and a
triumphant gaze across the river of death were to be regarded as
testimony.  "But, then," thought John Mitford, "that was spiritual
deliverance.  Here it is a hard physical fact, from which nothing short
of a miracle can deliver me.  No--it is impossible!"

Was it a voice within him, or an old memory, that immediately whispered
the words, "With God all things are possible?"  At all events, the poor
man rose up slowly in a somewhat calmer frame of mind, and began once
more to feel round the walls of his narrow prison.  He found nothing
mew, save that once he narrowly escaped falling down what seemed to be a
still deeper hole among the fallen rocks already referred to.  Then he
lay down--or rather fell on the floor exhausted--and slept till morning.
The fact that another day had begun was only ascertainable by the
shining of the star-like mouth of the hole.  He attempted again to
shout, but found that his voice had left him, and that even if his
comrades should return to the place he could not make them hear!  In the
fit of despair which followed he went round and round his living tomb
like some wild beast in a cage.  During one of these perambulations, he
stumbled again over the fallen rocks, dropped into the hole behind them,
and slid a few feet downwards, but not rapidly, for the slope was
gradual, and it terminated on a flat floor.  Looking cautiously round,
on reaching this lower depth, he saw what appeared to be a faint light
far beneath him, and considerably in advance of the spot where he stood,
or rather to which he clung.

Gradually his mind calmed, and, resolving to make for this light, he
groped his way downward.  It was a long and wearisome scramble,
involving many a slip and slide, and not a few falls, (for it was made,
of course, in total darkness), and the distant light did not appear to
become stronger or nearer.  At last it seemed as though it were growing.
Then John found himself on ground over which he could walk, guiding
himself by touching perpendicular walls of rock on either side with his
hands.  It was a great split in the mountain, caused perhaps by those
mighty subterranean forces, which some men recognise as volcanic action,
whilst others, admitting--but passing beyond--second causes, recognise
them as tools with which God is moulding this world according to His
will.

"Strange!" thought the man, as he moved slowly forward.  "Was this split
made hundreds--perhaps thousands--of years ago, for the purpose of
enabling me to escape?"

"Certainly not--absurd, presumptuous idea," answered Unbelief, smartly.

"It was," remarked Faith, slowly, "made, no doubt, for hundreds--it may
be millions--of other purposes, but among these purposes the saving of
your life was certainly in the mind of Him who `knows all things from
the beginning,' and with whom even the falling of a sparrow is a matter
for consideration."

We do not assert that John Mitford's reasoning took the precise form of
these words, for many minds can think somewhat profoundly without being
able to express themselves clearly; but some such thoughts undoubtedly
coursed through John's mind, as he moved through that subterranean
labyrinth, and finally emerged--through a narrow crack, not so large as
an ordinary door--upon the inner margin of a stupendous cavern.

With a fervent "Thank God!" and a hopeful leap of the heart, the poor
man beheld the waters of the sea rushing up to his very feet; and beyond
the cave's mouth lay the grand ocean itself, like a bright picture in a
black frame.  But what was that projecting from the water, not twenty
yards from where he stood?  The broken mast of a sunken wreck!
Mitford's heart almost stood still, for he became aware that he had made
his way to the very cavern, in which the ill-fated _Lapwing_ had met her
doom, and around him were masses of wreckage that had been washed up and
thrown on the rocks at the inner end of the cave where he stood.

An involuntary shudder passed through the man's frame as he glanced
round expecting to see the dead bodies of his late shipmates.  But
nothing of the kind was visible, and the spars, masts, and other
wreckage which had reached the rocks had been shattered into "matchwood"
by frequent gales.

John Mitford now hastened in eager hope along the sides of the cave
towards its mouth, intending to go out to the base of the cliffs,
forgetting, in his eagerness, that the mouth could not be reached
without a boat.  He soon discovered this, and was then thrown into
another fit of despair by remembering that he could not swim.

Oh! how bitterly he blamed himself for having neglected to acquire such
a simple accomplishment.  He might have learnt it when young, had he not
been indifferent, or lazy about it.  Often had he been advised to learn
it by companions, but had treated the matter lightly and let the chance
go by--and now, only fifty yards or so of deep water intervened between
the end of the ledges of rock and the outside of the cavern, where he
might perhaps find foothold enough to scramble along the base of the
cliffs--but those fifty yards were equal to the Atlantic to him, he
could not swim that distance to save his life.  Once or twice, in a fit
of desperation, he had almost plunged in to attempt it, and take his
chance.  Fortunately his courage failed.  Had he taken the plunge his
fate would no doubt have been sealed.

Returning to the inner end of the cave he searched among the wreckage
for wood, with which to make a raft, but it was so shattered that he
found no pieces large enough to be thus used.  He found, however, a
barrel of pork and another of pease jammed into a crevice.  These proved
an immense relief to his feelings, for they secured him against absolute
starvation, which he had begun to think stared him in the face.

From that time forward the unfortunate man made incessant and wild
efforts to get out of the cave.  He climbed and scrambled about until
his clothes were almost torn off his back.  He gathered the largest
masses of wood he could find and tied them together in bundles, until he
had made something like a raft; but John was not a handy workman; his
raft overturned the first time he tried it, and went to pieces, and he
would have been drowned at that time if he had not been within grasping
distance of the rocks.  As it was, he got a fright which made him
finally turn from that method of escape in despair.

Then the raw pork and hard pease tried him severely, and brought on a
complaint which lasted a considerable time and greatly reduced his
strength, but John was tough, and recovered--though not much more than
the skeleton of his former self remained.

Thus he continued to exist in that cavern, during all the time that his
wife and friends were mourning him as dead; and in this condition was he
there seated, on the morning in which this chapter opens.

"Weary, weary--desolation!" moaned the unfortunate man, lifting his head
and gazing round, with the air of one from whom all hope has long since
departed.

It is said, or supposed, that when a spoke in Fortune's wheel is at the
lowest, there must needs be a rise.  Mitford's experience at this time
would seem to give ground for belief in the saying; for the word
"desolation" had scarcely passed his lips, when distant voices of men
were heard, causing his heart to bound violently.  Next moment a boat
glided in front of the cave's mouth.

John Mitford sprang up and gave vent to a yell!

Hope raised to strong life after being long deferred; despair suddenly
trampled in the dust; joy bounding as from the tomb into rampant being--
and a host of indescribable sentiments and passions found vent in that
tremendous, that inconceivable howl!

And its effect on those in the boat?--Well--

That morning our exploring party had resumed their voyage with somewhat
saddened hearts, for they remembered the look of the coast well, and
knew that an hour or so would bring them to the cave where the _Lapwing_
had gone down.  Even Black Ned had become sentimental, and given vent to
a few expressions of a semi-religious nature!

"We can't be far from it now," said Dr Hayward, as the men ceased
rowing, and the boat glided slowly, silently along.

"It's a gruesome place," remarked Black Ned, in a low voice.

"To think that so many lives were lost here--or hereabouts," murmured
Tomlin.

"An' their ghost, maybe, hangin' about!" suggested Slag, with a
superstitious glance over his shoulder.

Just then Hayward bade O'Connor get up and stand in the bow with the
boat-hook, ready to fend off,--an order which the Irishman, having been
somewhat awed by the tone of the conversation, obeyed in silence.

It was at this point that they glided in front of the cave, and drew
forth the yell which burst upon them like a clap of thunder.  The shock
to the nervous system of each was terrific.  In the case of O'Connor it
was visible, for he fell flat back into the bottom of the boat and
fetched Jarring a tremendous whack on the head with the boat-hook in
falling.  Afterwards, Terrence asserted stoutly that a slip of the foot
as he stood on the th'ort was the cause, but those who knew him best
held that it was "a case of nerves."

Need it be said that, on recovering nervous equilibrium, the joy of
rescuers and rescued was intense?

"Come along, let's take 'im home at wanst," cried the Irishman, when
they had got the poor dazed man into the boat.  "Isn't it Peggy that'll
open her eyes an' screech for joy when she sots her eyes on ye!"

"We'll have to wash and comb an' clothe him first," said Tomlin.

He did not say "shave," for they had no razors,--and by that time the
beards of most of the party were as long as Mitford's; but their locks
had been trimmed by means of a clasp-knife super-sharpened, whereas
Mitford's were in wildest disorder.

That night they encamped in the wreck-cave, made a fire, and prepared a
splendid supper of pork and pea-soup for John and themselves, after
which they subjected their recovered comrade to a scrubbing and cropping
and repairing of habiliments that almost proved fatal to his
constitution.  Next day they loaded the boat with all the pork and pease
they could find, as well as portions of cordage that might be useful.
Then they started off on the return journey.

It was a fine day when they reached the encampment, where the coxswain
and the women were on the look-out.  Massey, of course, was the first to
observe, as the boat approached, that an extra hand was in it; but he
wisely said nothing at first.  Then his heart began to beat as it used
to do when he brought in rescued men and women from wrecks, for the
truth suddenly flashed upon him.  He glanced at Peggy.  Poor thing, her
sad eyes had wandered from the approaching boat and were resting
wistfully on the horizon beyond.

"Nell," murmured the coxswain in a deep, earnest whisper to his wife,
who stood at his elbow, "the tide's a-goin' to rise again wi' poor
Peggy, if my eyes are tellin' truth."

"What d'ee mean, Bob?" asked Nellie, with a quick, anxious look.

"Five men went away, Nell; _six_ are comin' back!"

As he spoke, a tall figure rose up in the stern of the boat and waved a
hand.

Nellie glanced quickly at her friend.  She was standing with glaring
eyes, parted lips, and a deathly pallor on her worn face.

"Peggy!"

The familiar word came rolling to the shore, and a piercing shriek
replied to it as the poor woman threw up both hands and fell backward
into the ready arms of the coxswain's wife, who had sprung to her side
in anticipation of some such catastrophe.

There was the voice of prayer and thanksgiving that night in the hut on
the lonely shore--such thanksgiving as we might conceive filled the
hearts of Jairus and of the widow of Nain in the days of old.



STORY ONE, CHAPTER 12.

The state of things on the island was now considerably improved.  Peggy,
under the influence of gratitude for restored felicity, became more
helpful than she had formerly been, and more loquacious than ever.  Her
female companions, being amiable and easily pleased, were rather amused
than otherwise, at the continuous flow of discursive, sometimes
incomprehensible, and always good-natured small talk--particularly small
talk--with which she beguiled the hours that might have otherwise hung
heavily on their minds while their hands were busily engaged with the
bone-needles and sinew threads which the coxswain had manufactured for
them.  For the clothes with which they had landed on the island--
especially those of the men--had begun to wear out after eight or ten
months, and new garments had to be made, while repairs never ceased.

Meanwhile, the men were fully occupied each day in hunting seals or
fishing, cutting firewood with the axe they had found in the hut, and in
making their home more comfortable.  A door was fitted to the hut; a
wooden partition was put up to cut off more effectually the women's
apartment from that of the men; the open crevices in the walls were
stopped up with moss, and many other improvements were made.  A few
nails extracted from the walls of the hut were converted into
fish-hooks, by means of the file which had been found, and Nellie spun
some excellent fishing-lines from flax found growing wild in abundance.
The file also enabled them to strike fire with broken flints picked up
on the shore.  The ash of burnt cotton, as the doctor knew, makes good
tinder; so in the public interest, John Mitford agreed to part with the
ragged remains of the cotton shirt he had long worn--quite
unnecessarily--over his woollen jersey.  Thus they could afford to let
the fire go out, and were relieved from constant watching, as well as
anxiety in regard to it.

They did not, however, cease their nocturnal vigils, for the hope of
deliverance never died out, though it at last sank very low.  Besides
keeping their seal-skin flag flying, they kindled a beacon-fire every
night, to guard and replenish which became the nightly duty of one or
other of the men--watch and watch about--all the time they stayed on the
island.

During the earlier part of each night, however, the beacon-fire was not
watched.  It was merely lighted and left for some hours to look after
itself.  During this period, after supper, the whole party were wont to
draw round the blazing fire in the hut, and each contributed his or her
share to the entertainment of the social circle.  Then it was that
lugubrious John Mitford developed amazing powers of inventive
story-telling, and Joe Slag came out strong with thrilling lifeboat
tales, every word of which Bob Massey corroborated, while Terrence
O'Connor displayed powers of sarcastic criticism of the highest order,
and Tomlin, Black Ned, and the women proved an intensely appreciative
audience.  But the latter were not merely listeners.  True, Peggy did
nothing for the general good.  Having quite exhausted her lungs with
incessant talk during each day, she was fortunately almost incapable of
speech in the evening, but Nellie, who possessed a voice as sweet as
herself, and clear and true as that of a nightingale, was induced to
"favour the company"--chiefly with pathetic or patriotic ditties and
hymns--while Eva thrilled her audience with terrible tales of slavery,
in many of which she had acted a part.  Of course Dr Hayward lent his
aid, both with song and story; but, like a true leader, he devoted
himself chiefly to drawing out the powers of his companions, directing
or diverting the flow of conversation, and keeping order.  He also
instituted what may be truly styled family worship at night, by
repeating from memory portions of the word of, God and engaging in
prayer just before retiring to rest.  Bob Massey and Tomlin were induced
to help him in this, and never was a prayer put up from that hut in
which there was not an earnest petition that a ship might be sent for
their deliverance.

"But a ship is long, long o' comin'," said Slag to Jarring as he
accompanied the latter part of the way to the beacon-fire one night when
it was Black Ned's turn to watch.

"A ship'll come, Joe, when God sees fit to send it," said Ned.

Slag glanced at his comrade in surprise, the reply was so very unlike
Ned's usual style of speech that he felt uncertain whether it was
uttered in earnest.

"The only thing I feel an awful longin' for now, at times, is a bit o'
'baccy," continued Ned.

"So does I, Ned, an' I sometimes think Dr Hayward has got the advantage
of us there, for he never smoked, so he says, an' in coorse it stands to
reason that he can't have no longin' for a thing he don't want--an' he
seems as jolly an' happy as the best of us without it!"

"Ay, jollier and happier!" replied Ned, shortly.

"But, I say, Ned, don't ye ever feel a longin' for grog?  Ye used to be
raither fond of it."

"No--not now, Joe.  It's the best thing as ever happened to me, bein'
cast on this here island--wi' Dr Hayward to give a feller a word of
advice."

Slag, who felt a sort of self-righteous superiority over his comrade,
inasmuch as _he_ had never given way to drink, said, "You should be
thankful for that, Ned."

"I _am_ thankful," returned the other in a tone that induced Slag to say
no more.

It was a very dark night, and cold, so that Black Ned involuntarily
shuddered as he approached the beacon-fire alone--Joe having left him--
and commenced to heap on fuel.  Then rain began to fall heavily.  There
was no shelter, and the watchman was soon drenched to the skin.  Heaping
on more logs till the fire roared again, he tried to warm himself, and
stood so close to the blaze that his garments smoked--they would have
burnt had they not been wet--but no heat seemed to penetrate the
shivering frame of Black Ned.

Next morning the poor man was smitten with a raging fever.  From the
first the doctor had little hope of his recovery.  With a constitution
fatally injured by dissipation and drink, his chance was very small; but
of course every effort was made to save him.  He was laid on a soft bed
of moss in the warmest corner of the hut, and the women took their turn
in nursing him, night and day--the coxswain's wife, however, being the
chief nurse; for, besides being sympathetic and tender by nature, she
had been trained in a rough school where self-reliance and capacity were
constantly called into action in circumstances of difficulty, so that
she was better fitted for the post than either of her companions.  But
their efforts were of no avail.  After a week, Black Ned died, with a
smile of gratitude on his dark face as he gazed in Hayward's eyes, and
held his hand until the spirit returned to God who gave it.

The gloom cast over the little community by this sudden appearance of
the King of Terrors lasted for many days, and had the good effect of
turning the thoughts of all of them to those subjects which are
obviously and naturally distasteful to fallen man--the soul and the
world to come.  But gradually the gloom passed away, though it left in
the party a greater longing than ever to escape from their island
prison.

One day, while some of them were at breakfast, Terrence O'Connor rushed
into the hut with the news that a ship was in sight!  Instantly the boat
was manned, and they rowed with all their might towards the vessel,
which was seen like a white speck on the horizon.  They rowed to within
four miles of her, with an oar set up as a mast, and a jacket attached
thereto as a flag, but a breeze sprang up, and the strange sail actually
passed on without taking the slightest notice of them--though the people
on board could not have failed to see the boat!

Profound was the disappointment, and violent the indignation, that
filled the thoughts of the castaways as they rowed slowly back to land.

"Sure it's devils that must live in the bodies o' some men," growled
O'Connor, in the bitterness of his soul.

"You're too hard on the devils, Terrence," said Bob Massey.  "Some men
in this world do the worst _that they can_, an' surely devils can do no
more than that."

This incident, however, aroused the hopes and expectations of the party
to a high pitch, so that the beacon-fire was kept burning more steadily
and brightly than before, and the look-out hill was more frequently
visited; still, weeks and months passed by, and no deliverance came to
them.

During this period, the seal-hunting, fishing, clothes-mending,
etcetera, were carried on with unflagging energy, and the nightly
entertainments became more and more entertaining, by reason of use and
effort developing new capacities and talents that might in less
favourable circumstances have lain altogether dormant.  All this was due
very much to their leader; for, besides being a God-fearing man, Hayward
was pre-eminently cheery, and full of fun as well as vigour.  The
coxswain, too, was like-minded, and of great capacity in every way;
while his wife's voice was so charming that the party became almost
dependent on it.  They could scarcely have gone to rest at last without
Nellie's hymn or song as a lullaby!  We must state, however, that Tomlin
did not share in this pleasure.  That poor man had been born musically
deaf, as some people are born physically blind.  There was no musical
inlet to his soul!  There was, indeed, a door for sound to enter, and
music, of course, sought an entrance by that door; but it was
effectually destroyed, somehow, in passing through the doorway, so that
poor Tomlin showed no symptom of pleasure.  What he heard, and how he
heard it, is known only to himself!

Once or twice during this time they visited the cavern of the wreck,
with the view, if possible, of recovering something from the sunk
vessel, but though most of the men could swim, none of them could dive,
therefore the result was failure.

They succeeded, however, in making soap by boiling wood-ash and seal's
fat in their cast-iron pot.  Those who are accustomed to the celebrated
"Pears" can scarcely understand what an addition to cleanliness and
comfort resulted from this coarsely manufactured article.

Gulls' eggs were found in great quantity on the cliffs, and the
discovery and capture of wild pigs added to the luxury of their table--
which latter, by the way, was an ingenious contrivance of Joe Slag.
Binding four sticks together in the form of a stout oblong frame, Joe
had covered this--filled it in as it were--with straight branches about
a finger thick, laid side by side and tied to the frame.  This he fixed
on four posts driven into the ground, and thus formed an excellent, if
not an elegant, table.

One morning at breakfast, Terrence O'Connor was observed to be unusually
busy with a large hook.

"Are you goin' to fish for sharks to-day?" asked Slag.

"Faix, no; it's to the woods I'll go fishin' to-day, Joe.  Now, Nell,
gi' me the stoutest line ye've got on hand, mavourneen."

"Will that do?  I made it the other day specially for sharks--or
whales!" said Nellie, with a light laugh, for she expected him to reject
the line she held up.

"The very thing, Nell.  Hand it over.  Now, boys, I'm off to try my luck
i' the woods, for I'm gittin' tired o' the say."

O'Connor went off alone, bestowing a mysterious wink on Peggy Mitford as
he left.

The Irishman had observed that the wild pigs were particularly fond of a
certain root which was plentiful in a valley about three miles distant
from the hut.  Repairing to that valley, he dug up one of the roots,
baited his hook with it, hung it from a low branch to attract attention,
fastened the other end of the line to a tree, and went off to hide and
bide his time.  Before half-an-hour had elapsed, a gay young pig visited
the scene of its former festivities, saw the pendent bait, smelt it,
took it in its mouth, and straightway filled the woods with frantic
lamentations.  The struggle between the Irishman and that pig was worthy
of record, but we prefer leaving it to the reader's imagination.  The
upshot was, that the pig was overcome, carried--bound, and shrieking--to
the hut, and tamed by Peggy.  In a short time, other pigs were caught
and tamed.  So, also, were rabbits.  These bred and multiplied.  The
original pig became the mother of a large family, and in a short time
something like the sounds and aspects of a farm began to surround the
old hut.  Still further--by means of the cast-iron pot, which already
boiled their soup and their soap--they managed to boil sea-water down
into salt, and with this some of the pigs were converted into salt
pork--in short, the place began to assume the appearance of a busy and
thriving backwoods settlement.

"It's risin' tide with us again, after a fashion, Nell," said the
coxswain to his wife, as they stood one evening on the sea-shore
watching the sunset.

Nellie sighed.  "It is, Bob," she said, "and I'm very thankful; but--but
I'd rather be at home in Old England among kith and kin, even though the
tide was low!"

"What! alongside o' Aunt Betty?"

"Yes, even alongside o' Aunt Betty; for if this voyage has taught me
anything at all, it has taught me that, after all, `there's no place
like home!'"

"Right you are, Nell," said Joe Slag, who came up at that moment,
"there's no place like home--when it's a happy one; but if it ain't a
happy one, there may be difference of opinion even on that pint, d'ee
see?"

That very night, a great ocean steamer, bound from the Antipodes to Old
England, chanced to diverge from her true course, and sighted the
beacon-fire which Tomlin--on duty at the time--was stirring up to
fervent heat.  The Captain was not one of those whom Terrence O'Connor
credited with diabolic possession.  He was a good man; and, knowing that
men did not light beacon-fires on lonely islands merely for amusement,
he resolved to lay-to till daylight, which was due in about an hour from
the time the island was sighted.  Meanwhile, he sounded his steam
whistle.

At the sound, the hut instantly disgorged its male inmates, who,
recognising the familiar noise and the steamer's lights, sent up a shout
of mingled joy and thanksgiving.

"Get out the boat, boys!" cried Hayward, as he ran back to the hut to
rouse the women.

"Get ready, quick!  Eva; a steamer at last, thank God, in the offing!
Don't lose a moment.  They may have little time to wait.  Boat will be
ready in a few minutes."

"Ay, an' pack up all you want to carry away," cried the coxswain,
crossing the threshold at that moment.

"So it is all going to end suddenly like a dream!" said Eva, as she
hastened to obey orders.

"Home, sweet home!" murmured Nellie, trembling with joy at the prospect.

"Wherever you are, my dear, the home will be sweet," said Peggy.
"Though of course it wouldn't be that without your 'usband, for it takes
two to make a fight, you know, an' it takes two no less, I think, to
make things pleasant, but--dear, dear, what a disagreeable thing it is
to 'ave to dress in a 'urry, though one shouldn't--"

"Look alive, there! look al-i-ve!" roared O'Connor, putting his head in
at the door.  "Daylight's a-breakin', an' they won't--"

"Oh!  Terrence, that reminds me--don't forget our pets," cried Nellie,
who had steadily declined to speak of them as "live stock."

"All right, missis.  It's lookin' after them I am this minnit."

The Irishman ran, as he spoke, to the styes and hutches where the pigs
and rabbits were kept and opened the doors.

"Out wid ye!" he cried, "the Act of Emancipation's passed, and ye're all
free--ivery mother's son of ye."

Accustomed to his voice and his caressing hand, the astonished creatures
seemed to look up at him in surprise.

"Be aff, at wance, hooroo!" cried the excited man, with a clap of his
hands and a Donnybrook yell that sent all the "pets" leaping and
squealing into their native jungle.

Soon after that the boat was bounding out to sea under the impulse of
strong arms and willing hearts.  A few minutes more, and they were
receiving the warm congratulations of the passengers and crew of the
steamer.  Then the order was given to go ahead full speed, and the
engine's great heart seemed to throb sympathetically within the hearts
of the rescued ones as the vessel cut her way swiftly through the
Southern Ocean--homeward bound for Old England!  Nevertheless, there was
a touch of sadness in the breasts of all as they turned their farewell
gaze on the receding island and thought of the pets, the old hut, the
long period of mingled pleasure and suffering, and the lonely grave.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

We cannot part from the friends whose footsteps we have followed so long
and so far without a parting word or two.

On returning to his native village, Bob Massey found that his successor
as coxswain had died, and that another man had not yet been appointed to
the lifeboat--he was therefore installed, with much rejoicing, in his
old position as a rescuer of human lives.  Joe Slag, naturally and
pleasantly, also fell into his old post at the bow.  Nellie found that
Aunt Betty had had what the villagers called "a stroke" during her
absence; which crushing blow had the effect of opening her eyes to many
things regarding herself and others, to which she had been particularly
blind before.  It also had the effect--indirectly--of subduing much of
the evil in her character and bringing out much of the good.  As evil
begets evil, so good begets good; and one result of this law was, that
the seven children, whom she had brought--or banged--up, became seven
repentant and sympathetic and reasonably good creatures when they saw
the old mother, whom they used to think so harsh and so physically
strong, reduced to amiable helplessness.  Thus it came to pass that
there was not in all the village an old woman who was so well looked
after by her progeny as Aunt Betty.

Terrence O'Connor continued to rove about the world in the capacity of a
ship's cook till near the end of his days.  John Mitford and Peggy
unexpectedly came into a small inheritance soon after returning home,
and settled down for life close to the coxswain's cottage.  Tomlin went
to New Zealand to seek his fortune.  Whether he found it or not, we
cannot tell!  Last, but not least, Dr Hayward and his wife returned to
their native land, and for many years afterwards kept up a steady
correspondence with Nell Massey, in which, you may be sure, there were
frequent and pleasant allusions to the time which they had spent
together on the lonely isle in the southern seas.

One morning, Nellie presented her husband with a baby boy.  Bob was out
with the lifeboat rescuing a shipwrecked crew at the time the
presentation was made.  On his return, he opened the door and stood
before his wife dripping wet.

"Fifteen saved this time, Nell," he began, but the nurse stopped him by
exhibiting the baby boy.

"Thank the Lord!" he said, with a glad look in his wet eyes.

"You mustn't come near us," said the nurse, with a look of warning.
"Only a look just now."

"The tide has risen to the flood now, Bob," murmured the young mother,
softly.

"Ay," said the coxswain in a deep voice, "an' it's a high spring tide
too.  God bless you, Nell!"

THE END.



STORY TWO, CHAPTER 1.

JACK FROST AND SONS--A SHORT STORY.

One year in the last quarter of the present century John Frost, Esquire,
of Arctic Hall, paid an unusually long visit to the British Islands.

John, or Jack, Frost, as he was familiarly called by those who did not
fear him, was a powerful fellow; an amazingly active, vigorous,
self-willed fellow, whom it was difficult to resist, and, in some
circumstances, quite impossible to overcome.

Jack was a giant.  Indeed, it is not improbable that he was also a
"giant-killer,"--an insolent, self-assertive, cold-hearted giant, who
swaggered with equal freedom into the palaces of the rich and the
cottages of the poor; but he did not by any means meet with the same
reception everywhere.

In palaces and mansions he was usually met in the entrance hall by a
sturdy footman who kicked him out and slammed the door in his face,
while in cottages and lowly dwellings he was so feebly opposed that he
gained entrance easily--for he was a bullying shameless fellow, who
forced his way wherever he could--and was induced to quit only after
much remonstrance and persuasion, and even then, he usually left an
unpleasant flavour of his visit behind him.

But there were some abodes in which our hero met with no opposition at
all, where the inmates scarcely made any attempt to keep him out, but
remained still and trembled, or moaned feebly, while he walked in and
sat down beside them.

Jack was somewhat of a deceiver too.  He had, for the most part, a
bright, beaming, jovial outward aspect, which made the bitter coldness
of his heart all the more terrible by contrast.  He was most deadly in
his feelings in calm weather, but there were occasions when he took
pleasure in sallying forth accompanied by his like-minded sons, Colonel
Wind and Major Snow.  And it was a tremendous sight, that few people
cared to see except through windows, when those three, arm-in-arm, went
swaggering through the land together.

One Christmas morning, at the time we write of, Jack and his two sons
went careering, in a happy-go-lucky sort of way, along the London
streets towards the "west end," blinding people's eyes as they went,
reversing umbrellas, overturning old women, causing young men to
stagger, and treating hats in general as if they had been black
footballs.  Turning into Saint James's Park they rushed at the royal
palace, but, finding that edifice securely guarded from basement to
roof-tree, they turned round, and, with fearless audacity, assaulted the
Admiralty and the Horse-Guards--taking a shot at the clubs in passing.
It need scarcely be recorded that they made no impression whatever on
those centres of wealth and power.

Undismayed--for Jack and his sons knew nothing either of fear or
favour--they went careering westward until they came to a palatial
mansion, at the half-open front door of which a pretty servant girl
stood peeping out.  It was early.  Perhaps she was looking for the
milkman--possibly for the policeman.  With that quick perception which
characterises men of war, Major Snow saw and seized his opportunity.
Dashing forward he sprang into the hall.  Colonel Wind, not a whit less
prompt, burst the door wide open, and the three assailants tumbled over
each other as they took possession of the outworks of the mansion.

But "Jeames" was not far distant.  The screams of Mary drew him forth,
he leaped into the hall, drove out the intruders, and shut the door with
a crash, but with no further damage to the foe than the snipping off
part of Major Snow's tails, which Mary swept up into a dust shovel and
deposited in the coal-hole, or some such dark region below.

Our trio possessed neither fear nor pride.  They were also destitute of
taste, and had no respect for persons.  Treating their repulse as a good
joke, they turned round and went hilariously along the Strand, embracing
every one they met, young and old, rich and poor, pretty and plain, with
pointed impartiality, until they reached the City.  There we will leave
them to revel amongst the poor, while we return to the mansion at the
west end.

In two snug bedrooms thereof two young men lay in their comfortable
beds, partially awake and yawning--the one flat on his back as if laid
out for his last sleep; the other coiled into a bundle with the
bedclothes, as if ready to be carried off to the laundry with the next
washing.  The rooms were connected by a door which stood open, for the
occupants were twin brothers; their united ages amounting to forty
years.

"Ned," said the straight one to the bundle.

"Well, Tom," (sleepily).

"Did you hear that noise--like a cannon-shot?"

"Ya-i-o-u yes--som'ing tumbled--door bang'd," (snore).

"Hallo, Ned!" cried Tom, suddenly leaping out of bed and beginning to
dress in haste; "why, it's Christmas morning!  I had almost forgot.  A
Merry Christmas to you, my boy!"

"M'rry Kissm's, ol' man, but don' waken me.  What's use o' gettin' up?"

"The use?" echoed Tom, proceeding rapidly with his toilet; "why, Ned,
the use of rising early is that it enables a man to get through with his
work in good time, and I've a deal of work to do to-day at the
east-end."

"So 'v' I," murmured Ned, "at th' wes' end."

"Indeed.  What are you going to do?"

"Sk-t."

"Sk-t?  What's that?"

"Skate--ol' man, let m' 'lone," growled Ned, as he uncoiled himself to
some extent and re-arranged the bundle for another snooze.

With a light laugh Tom Westlake left his brother to enjoy his repose,
and descended to the breakfast-room, where his sister Matilda, better
known as Matty, met him with a warm reception.

Everything that met him in that breakfast-parlour was warm.  The fire,
of course, was warm, and it seemed to leap and splutter with a
distinctly Christmas morning air; the curtains and carpets and
arm-chairs were warm and cosy in aspect; the tea-urn was warm, indeed it
was hot, and so were the muffins, while the atmosphere itself was
unusually warm.  The tiny thermometer on the chimney-piece told that it
was 65 degrees of Fahrenheit.  Outside, the self-registering thermometer
indicated 5 degrees below zero!

"Why, Matty," exclaimed Tom, as he looked frowningly at the instrument,
"I have not seen it so low as that for years.  It will freeze the Thames
if it lasts long enough."

Matty made no reply, but stood with her hands clasped on her brother's
arm gazing contemplatively at the driving snow.

"What are you thinking about?" asked Tom.

"About the poor," answered Matty, as she went and seated herself at the
breakfast-table.  "On such a terrible morning as this I feel so
inexpressibly selfish in sitting down to an overflowing meal in the
midst of such warmth and comfort, when I know that there are hundreds
and thousands of men and women and children all round us who have
neither fire nor food sufficient--little clothing, and no comfort.  It
is dreadful," added Matty, as an unusually fierce gust dashed the snow
against the windows.

Tom was like-minded with his sister, but he could not suppress a smile
as he looked into her pretty little anxious face.

"Yes, Matty, it _is_ dreadful," he replied, "and the worst of it is that
we can do so little, so very little, to mend matters.  Yet I don't feel
as you do about the selfishness of enjoying a good breakfast in
comfortable circumstances, for it is God who has given us all that we
have, as well as the power to enjoy it.  I grant, that if we simply
enjoyed our good things, and neither thought of nor cared for the poor,
we should indeed be most abominably selfish, but happily that is not our
case this morning.  Have we not risen an hour earlier than usual to go
out and do what we can to mitigate the sorrows of the poor?  Are we not
about to face the bitter blast and the driving snow on this Christmas
morning for that very purpose? and should we not be rendered much less
capable of doing so, if we were to start off on our mission with cold
bodies and half-filled--I beg pardon, pass the muffins, dear.  Besides,
sister mine, if you were to go out on such a morning cold and underfed,
would it not be probable that I should have to go and fetch a doctor for
you instead of taking you out to help me in aiding and comforting poor
people?"

"That may be all very true, Tom," returned Matty, with a dissatisfied
and puzzled look, "but I cannot help feeling that I have so much, so
_very_ much, more than I need of everything, while the thousands I speak
of have so little--so very little.  Why could not rich people like us be
content with plainer things, and use fewer things, and so have more to
give to the poor?"

"You have broached a very wide and profound subject, Matty, and it would
probably take us a week to go into it exhaustively, but a few words may
suffice to show you that your remedy would not meet the case.  Suppose
that all the people in England were all at once smitten with your desire
to retrench in order to have more to spare to the poor--and were to act
upon their convictions; to determine that henceforth they would live on
the plainest food, such as potatoes, mutton, and bread; what, I ask you,
would become of the great army of confectioners?  Would they not be
thrown out of employment, and help, perhaps, to swell the ranks of the
poor?  If the rich ceased to buy pictures, what would become of
painters?  If they gave up books, (horrible to think of!) what would be
the consequences to authors, and what the result to themselves?  If
carriages and horses were not kept, what would become of coachmen and
grooms and ostlers--to say nothing of coach-makers, saddlers,
harness-makers, and their innumerable dependants?  No--living plainly or
simply is not what is wanted, but living reasonably--according to one's
means.  Then, as to your having, as you say, much more than you need--
that does not injure the poor, for nothing of it is wasted.  Does not
part of the surplus go to Mary and James and the other servants, and
much of what they do not consume goes in charity, directly, to the poor
themselves?"

"Well, but," returned Matty, with the distressed and puzzled look still
unabated, "though all you tell me may be quite true, it does not in the
least degree alter the fact that there _is_ something quite wrong in the
condition of the poor of our great cities, which _ought_ to be
remedied."

"Of course it does not, little woman, but it relieves my mind, and it
ought to relieve yours, as to the selfishness of enjoying a good
breakfast."

"But, surely," resumed Matty, with a slightly indignant look and tone,
"surely you don't mean to tell me that there is no remedy for the
miserable condition of the poor, and that the rich must just sigh over
it, or shut their eyes to it, while they continue to revel in luxury?"

"How you fly to extremes, sister!" said Tom, with a laugh, as he neatly
cut the top off a fourth egg.  "I combat your erroneous views, and
straightway you charge me, by implication, with having no views at all!
A remedy there surely is, but the wisest among us are not agreed as to
_what_ it is--chiefly, I think, because the remedy is not simple but
extremely complex.  It cannot be stated in a few words.  It consists in
the wise and prompt application of multiform means--"

"Brother," interrupted Matty with a smile, "do you think I am to be
turned from my quest after this great truth by the stringing together of
words without meaning--at least words vague and incomprehensible?"

"By no means, Matty.  I hope that nothing will ever turn you from your
quest after the best method of helping the poor.  But my words are not
meant to be vague.  By multiform means I would indicate legislation in
numerous channels, and social effort in all its ramifications, besides
the correction of many erroneous modes of thought--such, for instance,
as the putting of the less before the greater--"

"Tom," again interrupted Matty, "I think it is about time to go and put
on my things."

"Not so, sister dear," said Tom impressively; "I intend that you shall
hear me out.  I think that you put the less before the greater when you
talk of `giving' to the poor instead of `considering' the poor.  The
greater, you know, includes the less.  Consideration includes judicious
giving, and the teaching of Scripture is, not to give to, but to
_consider_, the poor.  Now you may be off and get ready--as quickly as
you can, too, for it would never do to keep the poor waiting breakfast!"

With a light laugh and a vigorous step--the result of goodwill to
mankind, good intentions, good feeding, and, generally, good
circumstances--Matilda Westlake ran upstairs to her room at the top of
the house to put on a charming little winter bonnet, a dear little cloak
lined with thick fur, and everything else to match, while Tom busied
himself in meditating on the particular passage of God's Word which he
hoped, by the Spirit's influence, to bring home to the hearts of some of
the poor that Christmas morning.

Half an hour after these two had gone forth to do battle with John Frost
and Sons, Edward Westlake sauntered into the breakfast-room, his right
hand in his pocket and his left twirling the end of an exceedingly
juvenile moustache.

Turning his back to the fire he perused the morning paper and enjoyed
himself thoroughly, while James re-arranged the table for another
sumptuous meal.

Ned was by no means a bad fellow.  On the contrary, his companions
thought and called him a "jolly good fellow."  His father was a jolly,
though a gouty old widower.  Perhaps it was owing to the fact that there
was no mother in the household that Ned smoked a meerschaum in the
breakfast-room while he read the paper.

"Have my skates been sharpened?" he asked, looking over the top of the
paper.

James said that they had been sharpened, and were then lying ready on
the hall table.

Sauntering to the window Ned looked out, and, James having retired, he
made a few remarks himself, which showed the direction of his thoughts.

"Capital!  Ice will be splendid.  Snow won't matter.  Lots of men to
sweep it.  Looks as if the wind would fall, and there's a little bit of
blue sky.  Even if it doesn't clear, the pond is well sheltered.  I do
like a sharp, stinging, frosty day.  Makes one's blood career so
pleasantly!"

With such agreeable thoughts and a splendid appetite Ned Westlake sat
down to breakfast.  Thereafter he put on a thick overcoat, edged with
sable, a thick pair of boots and softly lined gloves, and went out with
the skates swinging on his arm.

Jack Frost and his two sons were still holding high revelry outside.
They met him with impartial violence, but Ned bent forward with a smile
of good-humoured defiance, and went on his way unchecked.

Not so a stout and short old female of the coster-monger class, who,
after a series of wild gyrations that might have put a dancing dervish
to shame, bore down on Ned after the manner of a fat teetotum, and
finally launched herself into his arms.

"Hallo old girl--steady," exclaimed Ned, holding her up with an effort.
"You carry too much sail to venture abroad in such weather."

"Which it were my only one!" gasped the old woman, holding out her
umbrella that had been reversed and obviously shattered beyond repair.
Then, looking up at Ned, "You'd better leave a-go of me, young man.
What will the neighbours think of us?"

Which remark she uttered sternly--all the more that she had securely
hooked herself to the railings and could afford to cast off her friend.

With a solemn assurance that he esteemed her, "the sweetest of the
fair," Ned went smilingly on his way, receiving in reply, "La, now,
who'd 'a' thought it!"

Having twisted this lady's bonnet off, blown her unkempt hair straight
out, and otherwise maltreated her, Colonel Wind, with his father and
brother, went raging along the streets until he came to the
neighbourhood of Whitechapel.  The three seemed rather fond of this
region, and no wonder; for, although never welcomed, they found
themselves strong enough to force an entrance into many a poor home, and
to remain in possession.

Swaggering, in their own noisy and violent manner, into several courts
and blind alleys, they caught up all the lighter articles of rubbish
that lay about, hurled them against the frail and cracked windows--some
of which they broke, and others of which they could not break by reason
of their having been broken already.  They did what was next best,
however,--drove in the old hats and coats and other garments, with which
the square holes had been inefficiently stopped.

"Jolly! ain't it?" remarked a street boy, with a ruddy face and hair
blown straight on end all round, to another street boy with a cast-iron
look and a red nose--both being powerfully robust.

"Prime!" asserted the knight of the red nose.

And then both went eagerly to take liberties with a neighbouring pump,
from the spout of which hung an icicle like a stalactite, the droppings
from which, at an earlier period, had formed a considerable stalagmite
on the stones below.

It is probable that the sick old man on the poor bed in the small room
close to the pump did not think the state of matters either "jolly" or
"prime," for, besides being very old, he was very weak and thin and cold
and hungry; in addition to which Jack Frost had seated himself on the
rickety chair beside the empty grate, and seemed bent on remaining--the
colonel having previously blown open the door and removed a garment
which had sheltered the old man's head, thus permitting the major to
sprinkle a miniature drift on his pillow.

"I hardly like to leave you, gran'father, in such blustery weather,"
said a little maiden of about ten years of age, with filthy garments and
a dirty face, who, if she had been washed and dressed, would have been
distinctly pretty, but who, in the circumstances, was rather plain.  As
she spoke she re-adjusted the garment-screen and removed the snowdrift.

"Don't say that, Martha," replied the old man in a thin weak voice--it
had been strong and deep and resonant once, but Time and Want and
Disease play sad havoc with strong men.

"You _must_ go, darling," resumed the old man after a few seconds' pause
to recover breath.  "You've no chance of a breakfast otherwise.  And--
perhaps--they may give you a bit to bring home for--"

Martha eagerly interrupted the hesitating voice,--and it was easily
interrupted!  "Yes, yes, gran'father.  They'll be sure to let me bring
home some for you.  I'll be quite, _quite_ sure to do it."

She made the promise with great decision, as well she might, for she had
made up her mind to pocket all the food that was given to her except
just a small morsel, which she would nibble in order to make believe
that she was feeding!

"Lock the door and put the key in your pocket," said the old man, while
the child tucked in about him the thin torn counterpane which formed the
only covering to his straw bed.  "An' don't fear for me, darling.  The
Lord is with me.  Be sure to eat as much as you can."

Having regard to her secret intentions, Martha refrained from pledging
herself, but she laughed and nodded significantly as she quitted the
cold, dismal, and shabby room.

It was little Martha's first experience of a "free breakfast."  She had,
indeed, heard of such a thing before, but had not up to that time met
with anything of the kind, so she advanced to "the hall" with some
timidity and much expectation.

The hall was very full, and, as poor little Martha was rather late, she
could not manage to crush in much beyond the door.  Besides, being
small, she could see nothing.  In these depressing circumstances her
heart began to sink, when her attention was attracted by a slight stir
outside the door.  A lady and gentleman were coming in.  It so happened
that the lady in passing trod upon one of Martha's cold little toes, and
drew from the child a sharp cry.

"Oh, my dear, _dear_ little girl!" cried the shocked lady, with a gush
of self-reproach and sympathy, "I'm _so_ sorry--so _very, very_ sorry.
It was so stupid of me!  Have I hurt you much, _dear_ little girl?
Come--come with me."

"Bring her to the stove, Matty, there's more room there to have it
looked to," said the gentleman, in a kind voice.

Much consoled by all this, though still whimpering, little Martha
suffered herself to be led to the front seats, and set on a bench just
below the platform, where she began to bloom under the genial influence
of the stove, and to wonder, with inexpressible surprise, at the mighty
sea of upturned faces in front of her.  As for the toe, it was utterly
forgotten.  The lady's foot, you see, being almost as light as her
heart, had done it no serious injury.  Nevertheless, she continued for a
few minutes to inspect it earnestly and inquire for it tenderly,
regardless of dirt!

"You're _sure_ it is better, dear little child?"

"Oh yes, ma'am, thank you.  I don't feel it at all now.  An' it's _so_
nice to feel warm again!"

What a depth of meaning was unwittingly given to the last two words by
the emphasis of the child-voice.--"Warm"--"Again!"  The lady almost
burst into tears as she thought of all that they implied.  But her
services were required at the harmonium.  With a parting pat on Martha's
curly head, and a bright smile, she hurried away to ascend the platform.

The preliminaries of a feast at which most of the feasters are cold and
hungry--some of them starving--should not be long.  Full well did Tom
Westlake know and appreciate this truth, and, being the donor,
originator, and prime mover in the matter, he happily had it all his own
way.

In the fewest possible words, and in a good loud voice which produced
sudden silence, he asked God to give His blessing with the food
provided, and to send His Holy Spirit into the hearts of all present, so
that they might be made to hunger and thirst for Jesus, the Bread and
Water of Life.  Then the poor people had scarcely recovered from their
surprise at the brevity of the prayer, when they were again charmed to
silence by the sweet strains of the harmonium.  You see, they had not
yet become _blase_ and incapable of enjoying anything short of an organ.
Indeed, there were some among them who deliberately said they preferred
a harmonium to an organ!

But no instrument either of ancient or modern invention could drown the
clatter that ensued when enormous mugs of earthenware were distributed
to the company, by more or less rich and well-off "workers"; so the
clatter and the hymns went on together until each lung was filled with
some delectable fluid, smoking hot, and each mouth crammed with
excellent bread and meat.  Then comparative quiet ensued, during which
temporary calm Tom read a few verses of the Word of God, commenting on
them briefly in language so forcible that it went right home to many
hearts, yet so simple that even little Martha understood it.

True to her intention, little Martha, although much surprised and
charmed and perplexed by all that was going on around her, did not
forget to pocket something for gran'father.  She was met, however, by an
exasperating difficulty at the very outset.  Her pocket was not large
enough to contain the huge roll which, with some meat, had been put
hastily into her small hand by a lady with a red rose in her bonnet.  To
achieve her object with the roll and meat in one hand and the mug in the
other was, she found, impossible, so she set the mug on the floor
between her feet and proceeded to wrestle with the loaf and pocket,
having previously torn off a very small portion of the bread for her own
use.  Still the loaf was too large; so she tore off another morsel, and
finally, after a severe struggle, succeeded in getting it and the bit of
meat in.

"You'll go for to kick it over, if you don't mind," said a small boy
near her, referring to the mug.

"You mind your own business--Imperence!" replied Martha, sharply.  It
must be remembered that she was a child of the "slums."

"Wot a cheeky little shrimp it is," retorted the boy, with as much of a
grin as a stuffed mouth would admit of.

Just then Matilda Westlake, having finished a hymn, and being mindful of
the little toe, came quietly down to where Martha was sitting.

"Why, dear child," she said, in surprise, "have they not given you
something to eat?"

"Oh yes, ma'am.  But I've--"

She was going to say, "I've eaten it," but gran'father had so earnestly
impressed on her mind the sinfulness of telling lies, that she felt
constrained to hesitate, and, with a trembling lip, finished by saying
she had eaten _some_ of it.

"And what has become of the rest, dear?"

"Please, miss, she've putt it in 'er pocket," said "Imperence" promptly.

Without noticing the remark, Matty moved so as to make herself an
effectual screen between Imperence and Martha.

"Tell me, dear child," she said, stooping low and putting a gentle hand
on Martha's shoulder, "are you not hungry?"

"Oh yes," answered the little one quickly; "I'm so 'ungry.  You can't
think 'ow 'ungry; but I promised to--to--"

At this point her lip quivered, and she began to cry quietly.

"Stay, don't tell me anything more about it, dear, till you have
breakfasted.  Here, eat _this_ before you say another word."

She took a roll from the basket of a passing "worker" and put it in the
child's hand.  Nothing loth, Martha began to eat and drink, mingling a
warm tear or two with the hot soup, and venting a sob now and then as
she proceeded.

Watching her for a few moments, Matty left her.

In passing she stopped and said to Imperence, in a whisper of terrible
intensity, "If you speak to that girl again you shall have--_no more_."

No more!  To be "hanged by the neck till you are dead" would not have
sounded so appalling just at that time.  So Imperence collapsed.

It is not our purpose to go much further into the details of the feast.
Suffice it to say that the poorest of the poor were there; that they
were encouraged to eat as much as possible, and allowed to carry away
what they could not eat, and there is reason to believe that, judging
from the prominence of pockets, a considerable quantity found its way to
hungry mouths which had been found incapable of attending the feast.

Among those who did great execution in the pocketing line was, as you
may well believe, little Martha.  Finding, to her ineffable joy, that
there was no limit assigned to consumption, and that pocketing was not
esteemed a sin, she proceeded, after stuffing herself, to stuff to
overflowing the pocket with which she had previously wrestled, as
already described, and then attempted to fill the pocket on the other
side.  She did so in utter and child-like forgetfulness of the fact that
she had recently lost several small articles in consequence of the
condition of that pocket, and her memory was not awakened until, having
just completed the satisfactory filling of it, she beheld, or rather
felt, the entire mass of edibles descending to the floor, proving that
the pocket was indeed a very bottomless pit.

"Never mind, little one," said Tom Westlake, coming forward at the
moment, for he had just closed the meeting; "I'll find a bag for you to
put it in.  I hope the toe is all right."

"Oh yes, sir, thank you, it's quite well," answered Martha, blushing
through the dirt on her face, as she eyed the fallen food anxiously.

"Tell me now, little one," continued Tom, sitting down on the bench and
drawing the child gently towards him, "whom are you pocketing all these
good things for?--not for yourself, I'm quite sure of that."

"Oh dear, no, sir; it's for gran'father."

"Indeed.  Is grandfather very poor?"

"Oh yes, sir, very, _very_ poor; an' he's got nobody but me to take care
of him."

"If that be so, who is taking care of him just now?" asked Matty, who
had joined her brother, leaving another "worker" at the harmonium to
play the people out,--a difficult thing to do, by the way, for the
people seemed very unwilling to go.

You see, among other things, Jack Frost and Sons could gain no footing
in that hall, and the people knew only too well that the firm was in
great force awaiting them outside.

"Nobody's takin' care on 'im, ma'am," replied Martha, somewhat shyly.
"I locked 'im in, an' he's takin' care of hisself."

"Would you like to give grandfather anything in particular, little
woman, if a fairy were to offer to give it you?"

"Oh, wouldn't I just?"

"Yes?  What would you ask for?"

Martha pursed her little mouth and knitted her brows in thought for a
minute.  Then she said slowly, "I'd ask for a mug of hot soup, an' a
blanket, an' some coals, and--oh!  I forgot, a teapot, for ours is
cracked an' won't 'old in now."

"Do you live far from this hall?" asked Tom.

"No, sir, quite close."

"Come, Matty, you and I will go with this little one and see
grandfather.  What is your name, child?"

"Martha Burns, sir."

"Well, Martha, give me your hand, and come along."

They were soon in the shabby little room,--for Martha was eager to give
the food to the old man.  Of course Jack Frost and Sons were still in
possession, but there had come another visitor during the child's
absence, whom they were scarce prepared to meet.

Death sat beside the lowly bed.  He had not yet laid his hand on his
victim, but his chill presence was evidently felt.

"Darling, I'm glad you've come," said the old man, faintly.  "I've been
longing so for you.  Give me your hand, dear.  I'm so cold--so cold."

He shivered as he spoke until the miserable bed shook.  Poor Martha
forgot the food in her anxiety, for a striking change had come over
gran'father--such as she had never seen before.  She took his thin hand
in hers, and began to weep softly.

But Matilda Westlake did not forget the food.  She took up the tin can
in which it had been brought there, and poured some of the still warm
contents into a cracked soup plate that stood on the table.  Finding a
pewter spoon, she at once put her hand under the pillow, and raising the
old man's head gently, began to feed him like a child.  Meanwhile Tom
Westlake took off his thick overcoat and spread it over the bed.  Then
he went out, bought some sticks and coal from a neighbour, and,
returning, soon kindled a fire in the rusty grate.

The old man did not seem surprised.  His face wore a dazed, yet
thoroughly pleased, look as he quietly accepted these attentions.  All
the time he kept fast hold of Martha's hand, and smiled to her once or
twice.  It was evident that he relished the soup.  Only once he broke
silence to thank them and say, "Jesus sent you, I suppose?"

"Yes, Jesus sent us," replied Matty, thoroughly meaning what she said.

At that moment Death raised his hand and laid it gently on the old man's
brow.  The hoary head bowed to the summons, and, with a soft sigh, the
glad spirit fled to that region where suffering cannot enter.

Oh, it was sad to witness the child-grief when Martha at last came to
understand that gran'father was really gone.  And it required no little
persuasion to induce her to leave the lowly sordid room that she had
known as "home."

While his sister comforted the child, Tom went to the "authorities" to
inform them that an old pauper had gone the way of all flesh.

When at last Martha permitted her new friends to remove her, she was led
by Miss Westlake to the not far distant house of a lady friend, whose
sympathies with the suffering, the sorrowful, and the fallen were so
keen that she had given up all and gone to dwell in the midst of them,
in the sanguine hope of rescuing some.  To this lady's care Martha was
in the meantime committed, and then Tom and his sister went their way.

Their way led them to a very different scene not far from the same
region.

"We're rather late," remarked Tom, consulting his watch as they turned
into a narrow street.

"Not too late, I think," said his sister.

"I hope not, for I should be sorry to go in upon them at dinner-time."

They were not too late.  David Butts, whom they were about to visit, was
a dock-labourer.  In early youth he had been a footman, in which
capacity he had made the acquaintance of the Westlakes' nursery-maid,
and, having captivated her heart, had carried her off in triumph and
married her.

David had not been quite as steady as might have been desired.  He had
acquired, while in service, a liking for beer, which had degenerated
into a decided craving for brandy, so that he naturally came down in the
world, until, having lost one situation after another, he finally, with
his poor wife and numerous children, was reduced to a state bordering on
beggary.  But God, who never forgets His fallen creatures, came to this
man's help when the tide with him was at its lowest ebb.  A
humble-minded city missionary was sent to him.  He was the means of
bringing him to Jesus.  The Saviour, using one of the man's companions
as an instrument, brought him to a temperance meeting, and there an
eloquent, though uneducated, speaker flung out a rope to the struggling
man in the shape of a blue ribbon.  David Butts seized it, and held on
for life.  His wife gladly sewed a bit of it on every garment he
possessed--including his night-shirt--and the result was that he got to
be known at the docks as a steady, dependable man, and found pretty
constant employment.

How far Matilda Westlake was instrumental in this work of rescue we need
not stop to tell.  It is enough to say that she had a hand in it--for
her heart yearned towards the nurse, who had been very kind to her when
she was a little child.

Jack Frost and his sons, with their usual presumption, were in close
attendance on the Westlakes when they knocked at David's door, and when
it was opened they rudely brushed past the visitors and sought to enter,
but a gush of genial heat from a roaring fire effectually stopped Jack
and the major on the threshold, and almost killed them.  Colonel Wind,
however, succeeded in bursting in, overturning a few light articles,
causing the flames to sway, leap, and roar wildly, and scattering ashes
all over the room, but his triumph was short-lived.  The instant the
visitors entered he was locked out, and the door shut against him with a
bang.

"It do come rather awkward, sir, 'avin' no entrance 'all," said David,
as he made the door fast.  "If we even 'ad a porch it would 'elp to keep
the wind and snow hout, but I ain't complainin', sir.  I've on'y too
good reason to be thankful."

"Dear Miss Matilda," said the old nurse, dusting a wooden chair with her
apron, and beaming all over with joy, "it's good for sore eyes to see
you.  Don't mind the child'n, miss, an' do sit down near the fire.  I'm
sure your feet must be wet--such dreadful weather."

"No, indeed, nurse,--thank you," said Miss Westlake, laughing as she sat
down, "my feet are not a bit wet.  The frost is so hard that everything
is quite dry."

"Now it's no use to tell me that, Miss Matty," said Mrs Butts, with the
memory of nursing days strong upon her.  "You was always such a dear,
thoughtless child!  Don't you remember that day when you waded in baby's
bath, an' then said you wasn't wet a bit, only a _very_ little, an' you
rather liked it?  Indeed she did: you needn't laugh, Master Tom, I
remember it as well as if it happened yesterday."

"I don't in the least doubt you, Mrs Butts," said Tom, "I was only
laughing at my sister's idea of dryness.  But you must not let us
interrupt you in your cooking operations, else we will go away directly.
Just go about it as if we were not here, for I have some business
matters to talk over with your husband."

"Go away?" echoed Mrs Butts; "you must not talk of going away till
you've had a bite of lunch with us.  It's our dinner, you know, but
lawks! what do it matter what you calls it so long as you've got it to
eat?  An' there's such a splendid apple dumplin' in the pot, miss; you
see, it's Tommy's birthday, for he was born on a Christmas Day, an' he's
very fond of apple dumplin', is Tommy."

The six children, of various ages and sizes scattered about the small
room, betrayed lively interest in this invitation--some hoping that it
would be accepted; others as evidently hoping that it would be declined.
As for Tommy, his fear that the dumpling would be too small for the
occasion, filled his heart with anxiety that showed itself strongly in
his face, but he was promptly relieved by Miss Matty assuring his mother
that to stay was impossible, as they had other visits to pay that day.

Thus the lady and nurse chatted of past and present days, while Tom
Westlake talked "business" with the dock-labourer.

"You seem to be getting on pretty comfortably now," remarked Tom.

"Yes, sir, thank God I am.  Ever since I was enabled to cry, `God be
merciful to me a sinner,' things 'as gone well with me.  An' the puttin'
on o' the blue ribbon, sir, 'as done me a power o' good.  You see,
before that I was sorely tempted by comrades offerin' me a glass, and by
my own wish to _'ave_ a glass, but when I mounted the blue I was let
alone, though they chaffed me now an' then, an' I felt it was no use
thinkin' about it, 'owever much I might wish for it.  The missus, bless
'er 'art, sewed a bit o' blue on my night-shirt in fun, but d'ee know,
sir, I do believe it's that 'as cured me o' dreamin' about it, as I used
to do."

"I'm glad to hear that, Butts," said Tom, with a laugh.  "Now, tell me;
how long is it since you tasted strong drink?"

"Six months this very day, sir."

"And are you satisfied that you are better without it?"

"Better without it, sir," repeated Butts, with energy, "in course I am--
better in body and better in soul, also in pocket.  Of course you know,
sir, we don't carry on every day with such fires an' dinners as we're
a-goin' in for to-day--for Christmas on'y comes once a year, and
sometimes we've been slack at the docks, an' once or twice I've bin laid
up, so that we've bin pinched a bit now an' then, but we've bin able to
make the two ends meet, and the older child'n is beginnin' to turn in a
penny now an' again, so, you see, sir, though the fires ain't always
bright, an Jack Frost do manage to git in through the key 'ole rather
often just now, on the whole we're pretty comfortable."

"I'm glad to hear it, Butts; very glad to hear it indeed," said Tom,
"because I'm anxious to help you, and I make it a point only to help
those who help themselves.  Six months of steadiness goes a long way to
prove that your craving for drink has been cured, and that your
reformation is genuine; therefore, I am able now to offer you a
situation as porter in a bank, which for some time I have kept open on
purpose to be ready for you.  How will that suit you--eh?"

Whatever David Butts replied, or meant to reply, could only be gathered
from his gratified expression, for at that moment his voice was drowned
by a shriek of delight from the youngest children, in consequence of
Mrs Butts, at Matilda's request, having removed the lid of the pot
which held the dumpling, and let out a deliciously-scented cloud of
steam.  It was almost too much for the little ones, whose mouths watered
with anticipation, and who felt half inclined to lay violent hands on
the pot and begin dinner without delay.

"Now, I know by the smell that it is quite ready, so we will say
good-bye at once," said Matilda, getting up with a smile, and drawing
her warm cloak round her.  "Be sure to send your eldest girl to me
to-morrow along with your husband."

"And come early, Butts," said Tom Westlake, buttoning up his coat.

"You may depend on me, sir."

"Stand by to shut the door quickly after us," added Tom as he grasped
the handle, "else the wind will get in and blow the fire about."

The brother and sister, being young and active, were pretty smart in
making their exit, and David Butts, being used to doors, was not slow to
shut his own, but they could not altogether baffle the colonel, for he
was waiting outside.  Indeed, he had been whistling with furious
insolence through the keyhole all the time of the visit.  Sliding in
edgewise, at the moment of opening, he managed to scatter the ashes
again, and whirl about some of the light articles before he was fairly
expelled.

Thereafter, along with his father and brother, he went riotously after
Tom and Matilda Westlake, sometimes shrieking over their heads; now and
then dashing on in front, and, whirling round in an eddy, plunging
straight back into their faces, but they could make nothing of it.  The
brother and sister merely laughed at them, and defied them to do their
worst, even, in the joy of their hearts, going the length of saying to
several utter but beaming strangers, that it was "splendid Christmas
weather."  And so it was,--to the young and strong.  Not so, alas! to
the old and feeble.

It almost seemed as if Colonel Wind and Major Snow had taken offence at
this last sally, for about that time of the day they forsook their
father and left London--probably to visit the country.  At all events,
the clouds cleared away, the sky became blue, and the sun shone out
gloriously--though without perceptibly diminishing the frost.

After spending another hour or two in paying visits, during which they
passed abruptly, more than once, from poverty-stricken scenes of
moderate mirth to abodes of sickness and desolation, Tom and Matilda, by
means of 'bus and cab, at last found themselves in the neighbourhood of
the Serpentine.

"What say you to a turn on the ice, Matty?"

"Charming," cried Matty.

Society on the Serpentine, when frozen over, is not very select, but the
brother and sister were not particular on that point just then.  They
hired skates; they skimmed about over the well-swept surface; they
tripped over innumerable bits of stick or stone or orange-peel; they ran
into, or were run into by, various beings whose wrong-headedness induced
a preference for skating backwards.  In short, they conducted themselves
as people usually do on skates, and returned home pretty well exhausted
and blooming.

That evening, after a family dinner, at which a number of young cousins
and other relatives were present, Tom and his sister left the festive
circle round the fire, and retired to a glass conservatory opening out
of the drawing-room.  There was a sofa in it and there they found Ned
Westlake extended at full length.  He rose at once and made room for
them.

"Well, Ned, how have you enjoyed yourself to-day?" asked Tom.

"Oh, splendidly!  There was such a jolly party in Wharton's grounds--
most of them able to skate splendidly.  The pond is so sheltered that
the wind scarcely affected us, and a staff of sweepers cleared away the
snow as fast as it fell.  Afterwards, when it cleared up and the sun
shone through the trees, it was absolutely magnificent.  It's the
jolliest day I've had on the ice for years, though I'm almost knocked up
by it.  Jovially fatigued, in fact.  But where have you been?"

"We also have been skating," said Matilda.

"Indeed!  I thought you had intended to spend the day somewhere in the
east-end attending some of those free breakfasts, and visiting the poor,
or something of that sort--as if there were not enough of city
missionaries, and sisters of mercy, or charity, or whatever you call
them, to look after such things."

"You are right, Ned," said Tom, "such was our intention, and we carried
it out too.  It was only at the end of the day that we took to skating
on the Serpentine, and, considering the number of people we have run
into, or overturned, or tumbled over, we found a couple of hours of it
quite sufficient."

From this point Tom Westlake "harked back" and related his experiences
of the day.  He possessed considerable power of graphic delineation, and
gradually aroused the interest of his gay and volatile but
kindly-disposed brother.

"Ned," said he, at last, "do you really believe in the truth of these
words, `Blessed are they that consider the poor?'"

"Yes, Tom, I do," replied Ned, becoming suddenly serious.

What Tom said to his brother after that we will not relate, but the
result was that, before that Christmas evening closed, he succeeded in
convincing Ned that a day of "jolly good fun" may be rendered
inexpressibly more "jolly," by being commenced with an effort to cheer
and lighten the lot of those into whose sad lives there enter but a
small amount of jollity and far too little fun.



STORY THREE, CHAPTER 1.

A DOUBLE RESCUE--INTRODUCTION.

It is a curious and interesting fact that Christmas-tide seemed to have
a peculiar influence on the prospects of our hero Jack Matterby, all
through his life.  All the chief events of his career, somehow, happened
on or about Christmas Day.

Jack was born, to begin with, on a Christmas morning.  His father, who
was a farmer in the middle ranks of life, rejoiced in the fact,
esteeming it full of promise for the future.  So did his mother.  Jack
himself did not at first seem to have any particular feeling on the
subject.  If one might judge his opinions by his conduct, it seemed that
he was rather displeased than otherwise at having been born; for he
spent all the first part of his natal day in squalling and making faces,
as though he did not like the world at all, and would rather not have
come into it.

"John, dear," said his mother to his father, one day not long after his
birth, "I'm so glad he is a boy.  He might have been a girl, you know."

"No, Molly; _he_ could never have been a girl!" replied the husband, as
he gently patted his wife's shoulder.

"Now, don't laugh at me, John, dear.  You know what I mean.  But what
shall we call him?"

"John, of course," replied the farmer, with decision.  "My father was
called John, and _his_ father was called John, and also his grandfather,
and so on back, I have no doubt, to the very beginning of time."

"Nay, John," returned his wife, simply, "that could hardly be; for
however many of your ancestors may have been Johns, the first, you know,
was Adam."

"Why, Molly, you're getting to be quite sharp," returned the farmer.
"Nevertheless this little man is to be John, like the rest of us."

Mrs Matterby, being meek, gave in; but she did so with a sigh, for she
wished the little one to be named Joseph, after her own deceased father.

Thus it came to pass that the child was named John.  The name was
expanded to Johnny during the first period of childhood.  Afterwards it
was contracted to Jack, and did not attain to the simple grandeur of
John till the owner of it became a man.

In the Johnny period of life our hero confined his attention almost
exclusively to smashing and overturning.  To overturn and to destroy
were his chief amusements.  He made war on crockery to such an extent
that tea-cups and saucers were usually scarce in the family.  He
assaulted looking-glasses so constantly, that there was, ere long,
barely enough of mirror left for his father to shave in.  As to which
fact the farmer used to say, "Never mind, Molly.  Don't look so
down-hearted, lass.  If he only leaves a bit enough to see a corner of
my chin and the half of my razor, that will do well enough."  No window
in the family mansion was thoroughly whole, and the appearance of a fat
little fist, on the wrong side of a pane of glass, was quite a familiar
object in the nursery.

As for toys--Johnny had none, so to speak.  He had only a large basket
full of bits, the misapplication of which to each other gave him many
hours of profound recreation.  Everything that would turn inside out was
so turned.  Whatever was by nature straight he bent, whatever bent he
straightened.  Round things he made square when possible, and square
things round; soft things hard, and hard things soft.  In short, nothing
was too hard for Johnny.  Everything that came into his clutches, was
subjected to what we may style the influence of experimental philosophy;
and if Farmer Matterby had been a poor man he must soon have been
ruined, but, being what is styled "well-to-do," he only said, in
reference to these things--

"Go ahead, my boy.  Make hay while the sun shines.  If you carry on as
you've begun, you'll make your mark _somewhere_ in this world."

"Alas!" remarked poor Mrs Matterby, "he has made his mark already
_everywhere_, and that a little too freely!"

Nevertheless she was proud of her boy, and sought to subdue his spirit
by teaching him lessons of self-denial and love out of the Word of God.
Johnny listened intently to these lessons, gazing with large wondering
eyes, though he understood little of the teaching at first.  It was not
all lost on him, however; and he thoroughly understood and reciprocated
the deep love that beamed in his mother's eyes.

Soon after Johnny had slid into the Jack period of life he became
acquainted with a fisher-boy of his own age, whose parents dwelt in a
cottage on the sea-shore, not a quarter of a mile from his own home, and
close to the village of Blackby.

Natty Grove was as fine a little fellow as one could wish to see: fair,
curly-headed, blue-eyed, rough-jacketed, and almost swallowed up in a
pair of his father's sea-boots, which had been cut down in the legs to
fit him.  As to the feet!--well, as his father Ned Grove remarked, there
was plenty of room for growth.  Natty had no mother, but he had a little
sister about three years of age, and a grandmother, who might have been
about thirty times three.  No one could tell her age for certain; but
she was so old and wrinkled and dried up and withered and small, that
she might certainly have claimed to be "the oldest inhabitant."  She had
been bed-ridden for many years because of what her son called
rum-matticks and her grandson styled rum-ticks.

The name of Natty's little sister was Nellie; that of his grandmother,
Nell--old Nell, as people affectionately called her.

Now it may perhaps surprise the reader to be told that Jack Matterby, at
the age of nine years, was deeply in love.  He had, indeed, been in that
condition, more or less from the age of three, but the passion became
more decided at nine.  He was in love with Nell--not blue-eyed little
Nellie, but with wrinkled old Nell; for that antiquated creature was
brimming over with love to mankind, specially to children.  On our hero
she poured out such wealth of affection that he was powerfully attracted
to her even in the period of Johnny-hood, and, as we have said, she
captured him entirely when he reached Jack-hood.

Old Nell was a splendid story-teller.  That was one of the baits with
which she was fond of hooking young people.  It was interesting to sit
in the fisherman's poor cottage and watch the little ones sitting
open-mouthed and eyed, gazing at the withered little face, in which
loving-kindness, mingling with fun, beamed from the old eyes, played
among the wrinkles, smiled on the lips, and asserted itself in the
gentle tones.

"Jack," said Mrs Matterby, on the Christmas morning which ushered in
her boy's ninth birthday, "come, I'm going to give you a treat to-day."

"You always do, mammy, on my birthdays," said Jack.

"I want you to go with a message to a poor woman," continued the mother.

"Is that all?" exclaimed Jack, with a disappointed look.

"Yes, that's all--or nearly all," replied his mother, with a twinkle in
her eye, however, which kept her son from open rebellion.  "I want you
to carry this basket of good things, with my best love and Christmas
good-wishes, to old Nell Grove."

"Oho!" exclaimed Jack, brightening up at once, "I'm your man; here, give
me the basket.  But, mother," he added with a sudden look of perplexity,
"you called old Nell a _poor_ woman, and I've heard her sometimes say
that she has _everything_ that she needs and _more_ than she deserves!
She can't be poor if that's true, and it _must_ be true; for you know
that old Nell never, _never_ tells lies."

"True, Jack; old Nell is not poor in one sense: she is rich in faith.
She has got `contentment with godliness,' and many rich people have not
got that.  Nevertheless she has none too much of the necessaries of this
life, and none at all of the luxuries, so that she is what people
usually call poor."

"That's a puzzler, mammy--poor and rich both!"

"I daresay it is a puzzler," replied Mrs Matterby, with a laugh, "but
be off with your basket and message, my son; some day you shall
understand it better."

Pondering deeply on this "puzzler," the boy went off on his mission,
trudging through the deep snow which whitened the earth and brightened
that Christmas morning.

"She's as merry as a cricket to-day," said Natty Grove, who opened the
cottage door when his friend knocked.

"Yes, as 'erry as a kiket," echoed flaxen-haired Nellie, who stood
beside him.

"She's always 'erry," said Jack, giving the little girl a gentle pull of
the nose by way of expressing good will.  "A merry Christmas both!  How
are you?  See here, what mother has sent to old Nell."

He opened the lid of the basket.  Nattie and Nellie peeped in and
snuffed.

"Oh!  I _say_!" said the fisher-boy.  He could say no more, for the
sight and scent of apples, jelly, roast fowl, home-made pastry, and
other things was almost too much for him.

"I expected it, dearie," said old Nell, extending her withered hand to
the boy as he set the basket on the table.  "Every Christmas morning,
for years gone by, she has sent me the same, though I don't deserve it,
and I've no claim on her but helplessness.  But it's the first time she
has sent it by you, Jack.  Come, I'll tell ye a story."

Jack was already open-eyed with expectancy and he was soon open-mouthed,
forgetful of past and future, absorbed entirely in the present.  Natty
and Nelly were similarly affected and like-minded, while the little old
woman swept them away to the wilds of Siberia, and told them of an
escape from unjust banishment, of wanderings in the icy wilderness, and
of starvation so dire that the fugitives were reduced to gnawing and
sucking the leathern covers of their wallets for dear life.  Then she
told of food sent at the last moment, almost by miracle, and of
hair-breadth escapes, and final deliverance.  Somehow--the listeners
could not have told how--old Nell inserted a reference to the real
miracle of Jesus feeding the five thousand, and she worked round to it
so deftly, that it seemed an essential part of the story; and so indeed
it was, for Nell intended the key-stone of the arch of her story to be
the fact that, when man is reduced to the last extremity God steps in to
save.

It is certain that little Nellie did not understand the moral of the
story, and it is uncertain how far the boys appreciated it; but it was
old Nell's business to sow the seed beside all waters, and leave the
rest to Him who gave the command.

"Yes, dearies," she said in conclusion, laying her hand on the basket,
"I expected this gift this morning; but many a time does our Father in
heaven send a blessin' when an' where we _don't_ expect it.  Mind
that--_mind ye that_."

Jack had more than enough of mental food to digest that morning as he
retraced his steps homeward through the deep snow; for he found that old
Nell, not less than his mother, had treated him to a few puzzlers.  Poor
boy, he little knew as he plodded on that he was that day about to enter
into one of the darkest clouds of his young life.

During his absence a letter had been received by his father, intimating
that through the failure of a bank he was a ruined man.  The shock had
paralysed the farmer, and when Jack entered his home he found him lying
on his bed in a state of insensibility, from which he could not be
rallied.  A few days later the old man died.

Farmer Matterby's widow had few relatives, and none of these were in
circumstances to help her in the day of trial.  They and her numerous
friends did indeed what they could.  Besides offering sincere sympathy,
they subscribed and raised a small sum to enable the bereaved woman and
her only child to tide over present difficulties, but they could not
enable her to continue to work the farm, and as most of her late
husband's kindred had migrated to Canada, she had no one from whom she
could naturally claim counsel or aid.  She was therefore thrown entirely
on God; and it was with strange and solemn feelings that Jack kneeled by
her side, and heard her pray in tones of anguish for help, light, and
guidance, and especially that, whatever might become of herself, her
dear boy might be preserved from evil and guided in ways of
righteousness.

A few months later, and the widow, gathering the small remnant of her
possessions together, set off with her little boy to seek employment in
London.  How many poor souls, in various ranks of life, must have turned
their steps, in days gone by, towards that giant city in the sanguine
hope of bettering their condition!  Mrs Matterby had no friends to whom
she could go in London; but she could paint and draw and sing, and was
fairly educated.  She would teach.  In the meantime she had a little
money to start with.  Entertaining a suspicion that it might be
considered a wildish scheme by her friends and neighbours, she resolved
to say nothing about her plans to any one, save that she was going to
London for a time.

It was a touching scene, the parting of Jack and the Grove family.  The
sturdy fisherman was at sea at the time, but old Nell was in her
accustomed corner in the lowly bed with the ragged counterpane, where
her uneventful, yet happy, life was spent; and little curly-headed
Nellie was there, playing with the cat; and Natty was there, cutting out
a first-rate man of war with a huge knife.

"Granny," (Jack always called her "granny" like the rest), "granny, I've
come to say good-bye.  I am going away f-f-for ever an' ever!"

"Amen!" responded Natty, from the mere force of habit, for he was a
constant responder at granny's family worship.

"Ye don't know that, darlin'," replied old Nell.  "The Lord leads us in
ways that we know not, an' it may be His good pleasure to bring you here
again."

"N-no; I'm quite _sure_ I'll never see you again," returned the boy,
giving way to the sobs which he could not restrain.  "M-mother says we
will never come back again,--n-never, _never_ more--"

He broke down entirely at this point, and a few silent tears trickled
over the kind old face of Nell.  Natty was too much of a man to give way
out and out, but he snivelled a little in spite of himself.  As for
Nellie, she stood there in open-eyed wonder, for she failed to quite
understand the situation.  We will not prolong the painful scene.  When
at length Jack had taken leave of them all--had kissed the two Nells and
shaken hands with Natty--the younger Nell seemed to realise the facts of
the case; for Jack saw her, as he glanced back for the last time,
suddenly shut her large blue eyes, throw back her curly little head,
open wide her pretty little mouth, and howl miserably.



STORY THREE, CHAPTER 2.

LOST IN LONDON.

London in a fog is too well known to require description.  In an
uncommonly thick fog, on a day in December of the following year, Mrs
Matterby hurried along Fleet Street in the direction of the city,
leading Jack by the hand.  Both were very wet, very cold, ravenously
hungry, and rather poorly clad.  It was evident that things had not
prospered with the widow.

"Dear Jack," she said in a choking voice, as they hurried along the
streets towards the wretched abode in the Tower Hamlets, to which they
had been at length reduced, "dear Jack, my last human hope has failed.
Mr Block has told me that I need not go there again; he has no more
work for me."

Jack's experience of life was too limited to enable him to understand
fully the depth of distress, to which his mother had fallen--with health
broken, money expended, and work not to be had except on terms which
rendered life a misery, and prolonged existence almost an impossibility.
But Jack's power of sympathy was strong and his passions were vehement.

"Mother," he said, with tearful eyes, as he clung closer to her side, "I
would _kill_ Mr Block if I could!"

"Hush, dear boy!  You know that would be wrong and could do no good.  It
is sinful even to feel such a desire."

"How can I help it, mother!" returned Jack indignantly.  Then he asked,
"What are we going to do now, mother?"

For some time the poor widow did not reply; then she spoke in a low
tone, as if murmuring to herself, "The last sixpence gone; the cupboard
empty; nothing--nothing left to pawn--"

She stopped short, and glanced hastily at her marriage ring.

"Mother," said Jack, "have you not often told me that God will not
forsake us?  Does it not seem as if He _had_ forsaken us now?"

"It only seems like it, darling," returned the widow hurriedly.  "We
don't understand His ways.  `Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him!'"

It seemed as if God were about to test the faith of His servant, for at
that moment a cab drove furiously round the corner of a street and
knocked her down.  Jack was overturned at the same time.  Recovering
himself, instantly, he found his mother in a state of unconsciousness,
with blood flowing from a deep cut in her forehead.  In a state of
semi-bewilderment the poor boy followed the stretcher, on which Mrs
Matterby was carried to the nearest hospital, where he waited while his
mother's injuries were examined.

"My boy," said a young surgeon, returning to the waiting room, and
patting Jack's head, "your mother has been rather badly hurt.  We must
keep her here to look after her.  I daresay we shall soon make her well.
Meanwhile you had better run home, and tell your father--if, that is--
your father is at home, I suppose?"

"No, sir; father's dead."

"Well then your sister or aunt--I suppose there's some relative at home
older than yourself?"

"No, sir; none but mother an' me," whispered Jack.

"No relations of any kind at all in London?"

"None, sir.  We know nobody--at least not many, and they're all
strangers."

"A sad case," murmured the surgeon.  "Your mother is poor, I suppose?"

"_Very_ poor, sir."

"But of course you have a home of some sort, somewhere?"

"Yes, it's not far from here."

"Well, them, you'd better go home just now, for you can't see your
mother to-night.  We dare not let her speak, but come back early
to-morrow, and you shall hear about her--perhaps see her.  Here, put
that in your pocket."

Poor Jack took the shilling which the sympathetic surgeon thrust into
his hand, and ran home in a state bordering on distraction; but it was
not till he entered the shabby little room which he had begun to
consider "home" that he realised the full weight of the calamity that
had befallen him.  No mother's voice to welcome him; no bit of fire in
the grate to warm; no singing kettle to cheer, or light of candle to
dispel the gloom of rapidly approaching night.

It was Christmas Day too.  In the morning he had gone forth with his
mother--she in the sanguine hope of renewing an engagement in a
clothier's shop, which terminated that day; he in the expectation of
getting a few jobs of some sort--messages to run or horses to hold.
Such were the circumstances to which they had been reduced in twelve
months, Jack had arranged to call for his mother and walk home with her.
On the way they were to invest a _very_ small part of the widow's
earnings in "something nice" for their Christmas supper, and spend the
evening together, chatting about the old home in Blackby, and father,
and Natty Grove, and Nellie, and old Nell, in the happy days gone by.

"And now!" thought Jack, seating himself on his little bed and glancing
at that of his mother, which stood empty in the opposite
corner--"now!--"

But Jack could think no more.  A tremendous agony rent his breast, and a
sharp cry escaped from him as he flung himself on his bed and burst into
a passion of tears.

Child-like, he sobbed himself to sleep, and did not awake till the sun
was high next morning.  It was some time before he could recall what had
occurred.  When he did so he began to weep afresh.  Leaping up, he was
about to rush out of the house and make for the hospital, when he was
checked at the door by the landlord--a hard, grinding, heartless man,
who grew rich in oppressing the poor.

"You seem to be in a hurry, youngster," he said, dragging the boy back
by the collar, and looking hurriedly round the room.  "I've come for the
rent.  Where's your mother?"

In a sobbing voice Jack told him about the accident.

"Well, I don't really believe you," said the man, with an angry frown;
"but I'll soon find out if you're telling lies.  I'll go to the hospital
and inquire for myself.  D'ee know anything about your mother's
affairs?"

"No, sir," said Jack, meekly, for he began to entertain a vague terror
of the man.

"No; I thought not.  Well, I'll enlighten you.  Your mother owes me
three weeks' rent of this here room, and has got nothing to pay it with,
as far as I knows, except these sticks o' furniture.  Now, if your
mother is really in hospital, I'll come back here and bundle you out,
an' sell the furniture to pay my rent.  I ain't a-goin' to be done out
o' my money because your mother chooses to git run'd over."

The landlord did not wait for a reply, but went out and slammed the
door.

Jack followed him in silent horror.  He watched him while he inquired at
the gate of the hospital, and, after he had gone, went up timidly, rang
the bell, and asked for his mother.

"Mrs Matterby?" repeated the porter.  "Come in; I'll make inquiry."

The report which he brought back fell like the blow of a sledge-hammer
on the poor boy's heart.  His mother, they told him, was dead.  She had
died suddenly in the night.

There are times of affliction, when the human soul fails to find relief
in tears or cries.  Poor Jack Matterby stood for some time motionless,
as if paralysed, with glaring eyes and a face not unlike to that of
death.  They sought to rouse him, but he could not speak.  Suddenly,
observing the front door open, he darted out into the street, and ran
straight home, where he flung himself on his mother's bed, and burst
into an uncontrollable flood of tears.  By degrees the passion subsided,
leaving only a stunned feeling behind, under the influence of which he
lay perfectly still.

The first thing that roused him was the sound of a heavy foot on the
stair.  The memory of the landlord flashed into his mind and filled him
with indescribable dread--dread caused partly by the man's savage aspect
and nature, but much more by the brutal way in which he had spoken about
his mother.  The only way in which to avoid a meeting was to rush past
the man on the stair.  Fear and loathing made the poor boy forget, for
the moment, his crushing sorrow.  He leaped up, opened the door, and,
dashing downstairs, almost overturned the man who was coming up.  Once
in the street, he ran straight on without thought, until he felt that he
was safe from pursuit.  Then he stopped, and sat down on a door-step--to
think what he should do; for, having been told that the furniture of his
old home was to be sold, and himself turned out, he felt that returning
there would be useless, and would only expose him to the risk of meeting
the awful landlord.  While he was yet buried in thought, one of those
sprightly creatures of the great city, known as street arabs, accosted
him in a grave and friendly tone.

"My sweet little toolip," he said, "can I do anythink for you?"

Despite his grief Jack could scarcely forbear smiling at the absurdity
of the question.

"No, thank you," he replied.

"Well now, look 'ere, my toolip," returned the arab in a confidential
tone, "I've took quite a fancy to you; you've got such a look, some'ow,
of my poor old grandmother.  Now, if you've no objection, I'd like to
give you your breakfast.  You're 'ungry, I suppose?"

Jack admitted that he was, and, after a moment's hesitation, accepted
this surprisingly kind and liberal offer.  Taking him promptly by the
arm his new friend hurried him to a pastry-cook's shop, and bade him
"smell that," referring to the odours that ascended through a grating.

"Ain't it 'eavenly?" he asked, with sparkling eyes.

Jack admitted that it was very nice.

"_So_ green, an' yet so fair!" murmured the arab, casting a look of
admiration on his companion.  "Now I means to go into that there shop,"
he added, returning to the confidential tone, "an' buy breakfast for
you--for both on us.  But I couldn't go in, you know, with this 'ere
shabby coat on, 'cause they wouldn't give me such good wittles if I did.
Just change coats with me for a few minutes.  What!  You doubt me?  No
one ever doubted Bob Snobbins without--without a-'urtin' of his
feelin's."

Whatever might have caused Jack to hesitate, the injured look on young
Snobbins' countenance and the hurt tone were too much for him.  He
exchanged coats with the young rascal, who, suddenly directing Jack's
attention to some imaginary object of interest at one end of the street,
made off at full speed towards the other end.  Our hero was, however, a
famous runner.  He gave chase, caught the arab in a retired alley, and
gave him an indignant punch in the head.

But although Jack had plenty of courage and a good deal of strength, he
was no match for a street warrior like Bob Snobbins, who turned about
promptly, blackened both his opponent's eyes, bled his nose, swelled his
lips, and finally knocked him into a pool of dirty water, after which he
fled, just as a policeman came on the scene.

The constable was a kindly man.  He asked Jack a few questions, which,
however, the latter was too miserable to answer.

"Well, well, my boy," said the constable gently, "you'd as well give up
fightin'.  It don't pay, you see, in the long run.  Besides, you don't
seem fit for it.  Cut away home now, and get your mother to clean you."

This last remark caused Jack to run away fast enough with a bursting
heart.  All day he wandered about the crowded streets, and no one took
any notice of him, save a very few among the thousands, who cast on him
a passing glance of pity.  But what could these do to help him?  Were
not the streets swarming with such boys?

And in truth Jack Matterby was a very pitiable object, at least
according to the report of shop-mirrors, which told him that his face
was discoloured and bloody, his coat indescribably dirty and ragged,
besides being out of harmony with his trousers, and that his person
generally was bedaubed with mud.  Hunger at last induced him to overcome
his feelings of shame so far that he entered a baker's shop, but he was
promptly ordered to be off.  Later in the day he entered another shop,
the owner of which seemed to be of a better disposition.  Changing his
shilling, he purchased a penny roll, with which he retired to a dark
passage and dined.

When night came on he expended another penny and supped, after which he
sought for some place of shelter in which to sleep.  But wherever he
went he found the guardians of the public requiring him to "move on."
Several street arabs sought to make his acquaintance, but, with the
memory of Bob Snobbins strong upon him, he declined their friendship.
At last, wearied out and broken-hearted, he found a quiet corner under
an archway, where he sat down and leaned his head against the wall,
exclaiming, "I'm lost--lost!"  Then he wept quietly, and sought to find
temporary relief in slumber.

He was indeed lost, and more completely so, in the feeling of lonely
isolation, perhaps, than he would have been if lost in the backwoods of
America.  Yet he was not utterly lost, for the tender Shepherd was on
his track.  Some such thought seemed to cross his mind; for he suddenly
began to pray, and thoughts about the old home in Blackby, and of the
Grove family, comforted him a little until he fell asleep on his hard
bed.

But, for the time being, the poor boy _was_ lost--lost in London!  His
disreputable face and discreditable coat argued a dissipated character--
hence no one would employ him.  Ere long necessity compelled him to
accept the society of street arabs, and soon he became quite as sharp,
though not quite as wicked, as they.  But day by day he sank lower and
lower, and evil at which he would have shuddered at first became at last
familiar.

He did not sink without a struggle, however, and he would have returned
to the place where his mother had died, to ask help of the young surgeon
who had expressed sympathy with him, but, with the carelessness of
boyhood, he had forgotten the name of the hospital, and did not know
where, in the great wilderness of bricks and mortar, to search for it.
As for the home from which he had fled, the memory of the landlord still
kept him carefully clear of that.

But Jack's mother was _not_ dead!  In hospitals--as in the best of
well-regulated families--mistakes will sometimes happen.  The report
which had proved so disastrous to our poor hero referred to another
woman who had died.  A messenger had been at once sent, by the young
surgeon before mentioned, to tell Jack of the error; but when the
messenger arrived the boy had flown--as already described.  Indeed, it
was he whom Jack had passed on the stair.

It was long before Mrs Matterby recovered, for the disappearance of her
boy caused a relapse; and when at last she left the hospital, feeble and
homeless, she went about for many months, searching at once for work and
for her lost treasure.

Christmas came again, and found Jack Matterby at nearly the lowest point
in his downward career.  It is due to him to say, however, that he had
not up to that time, been guilty of any criminal act that could bring
him with the grasp of human law; but in word and deed he had begun, more
and more, to break the law of God: so that if poor Mrs Matterby had at
that time succeeded in finding her son, it is probable that her joy
would have been overwhelmed with terrible grief.

It was not exactly Christmas morning, but it was the Christmas season of
the year, when our little hero, wearied in spirit and body with the hard
struggle for life, sauntered down the now familiar Strand in the hope of
finding some odd job to do.  He paused before a confectioner's shop,
and, being very hungry, was debating with himself the propriety of
giving up the struggle, and coolly helping himself to a pie!  You may be
sure that bad invisible spirits were at his elbow just then to encourage
him.  But God sent a good angel also, and she was visible--being in the
form of a thin little old lady.

"You'd like a bun, I know," she said, putting a penny into Jack's hand.

"God bless you, ma'am--yes," burst from the astonished boy.

"Go in and buy one.  Then, come and tell me all about you."

The thin little old lady was one of those followers of the Lamb who do
not wait for Christmas to unlock their sympathies.  The river of her
love and pity was _always_ overflowing, so that there was no room for
increase to a deluge at Christmas time--though she rejoiced to note the
increase in the case of others, and wished that the flood might become
perennial.  To this lady Jack laid bare his inmost heart, and she led
him back to the Saviour.

"Now, Jack, let me ask you one question," she said; "would you like to
go to Canada?"

With tremendous energy Jack answered, "_Wouldn't_ I!"

"Then," said the old lady, "to Canada you shall go."



STORY THREE, CHAPTER 3.

THE DOUBLE RESCUE.

And Jack Matterby went!  But before he went he had to go through a
preliminary training, for his regular schooling had ceased when his
father died, and he had learned no trade.

In those days there were no splendid institutions for waifs and strays
such as now exist, but it must not be supposed that there was no such
thing as "hasting to the rescue."  Thin little old Mrs Seaford had
struck out the idea for herself, and had acted on it for some years in
her own vigorous way.  She took Jack home, and lodged him in her own
house with two or three other boys of the same stamp--waifs.  Jack
elected to learn the trade of a carpenter, and Mrs Seaford, finding
that he had been pretty well grounded in English, taught him French, as
that language, she told him, was much spoken in Canada.  Above all, she
taught him those principles of God's law without which a human being is
but poorly furnished even for the life that now is, to say nothing of
that which is to come.

In a few months Jack was ready for exportation!  A few months more, and
he found himself apprenticed to a farmer, not far from the shores of
that mighty fresh-water sea, Ontario.  Time passed, and Jack Matterby
became a trusted servant and a thorough farmer.  He also became a big,
dashing, and earnest boy.  More time passed, and Jack became a handsome
young man, the bosom friend of his employer.  Yet a little more time
winged its silent way, and Jack became John Matterby, Esquire, of Fair
Creek Farm, heir to his former master's property, and one of the
wealthiest men of the province--not a common experience of poor emigrant
waifs, doubtless, but, on the other hand, by no means unprecedented.

It must not be supposed that during all those years Jack forgot the
scenes and people of the old land.  On the contrary, the longer he
absented himself from the old home the more firmly and tenderly did the
old memories cling and cluster round his heart; and many a story and
anecdote did he relate about these, especially during the Christmas
season of each year, to his old master and to Nancy Briggs, in the log
homestead of Ontario.

Nancy was a waif, who had been sent out by the same thin little old lady
who had sent Jack out.  She was very pretty, and possessed of
delightfully amiable domestic qualities.  She grew up to be a very
handsome girl, and was a very bright sunbeam in the homestead.  But Jack
did not fall in love with her.  All unknown to himself his heart was
pre-occupied.  Neither did Nancy fall in love with Jack.  All
unwittingly she was reserving herself for another lot.  Of course our
hero corresponded diligently with the thin little old lady, and
gladdened her heart by showing and expressing strong sympathy with the
waifs of the great city; more than once, in his earlier letters,
mentioning one named Bob Snobbins, about whose fate he felt some
curiosity, but in regard to whose home, if such existed, he could give
no information.

Twice during those years Jack also wrote to the Grove family; but as he
received no answer on either occasion, he concluded that the father must
have been drowned, that old Nell was dead, and the family broken up.
Need we add that the memory of his dear mother never faded or grew dim?
But this was a sacred memory, in regard to which he opened his lips to
no one.

At last there came a day when John Matterby, being in the prime of life,
with ample means and time to spare, set his heart on a holiday and a
visit to the old country--the thin little old lady being yet alive.  It
was not so easy, however, for our hero to get away from home as one
might imagine; for, besides being a farmer, he was manager of a branch
bank, secretary to several philanthropic societies, superintendent of a
Sunday-school, and, generally, a helper of, and sympathiser with, all
who loved the Lord and sought to benefit their fellow-men.  But, being a
man of resolution, he cut the cords that attached him to these things,
appointed Miss Briggs to superintend the Sunday-school in his absence,
and set sail for England--not in a steamer, as most rich men would have
done, but in a sailing ship, because the vessel happened to be bound for
the port of Blackby, the home of his childhood.

It was winter when he set sail, and the storms of winter were having
high jinks and revels on the deep in the usual way at that season of the
year.  Jack's vessel weathered them all till it reached the shores of
old England.  Then the storm-fiend broke loose with unwonted fury, and,
as if out of spite, cast the good ship on the rocks lying a little to
the eastward of the port of Blackby.

It was a tremendous storm!  The oldest inhabitant of Blackby said, as
well as his toothless gums would let him, that, "it wos the wust gale as
had blow'd since he wos a leetle booy--an' that warn't yesterday--no,
nor yet the day before!"

The gale was at its height, in the grey of early morning, when the ship
struck, and all the manhood of the port and neighbouring village were
out to render aid, if possible, and to gaze and sympathise.  But who
could render aid to a vessel which was rolling on those black rocks in a
caldron of white foam, with a hundred yards of swirling breakers that
raged and roared like a thousand lions between it and the base of the
cliffs?  Even the noble lifeboat would have been useless in such a
place.  But hark! a cry is raised--the coastguardmen and the rocket!
Yes, there is one hope for them yet--under God.  Far below the men are
seen staggering along over the shingle, with their life-saving apparatus
in a hand-cart.

Soon the tripod is set up, and the rocket is fired, but the line falls
to leeward.  Another is tried; it falls short.  Still another--it goes
far to windward.  Again and again they try, but without success, until
all their rockets are expended.  But these bold men of the coastguard
are not often or easily foiled.  They send for more rockets to the next
station.  Meanwhile the terrible waves are doing their awful work,
dashing the ship on the rocks as if she were a mere toy--as indeed she
is, in their grasp.  Can nothing be done?

"She'll never hold together till the rockets come," said a young seaman
stepping out from the crowd.  "Here, let me have the line, and stand by
to pay out."

"Don't try it, lad, it'll be your death."

The youth paid no regard to this advice.  "A man can only die once," he
remarked in a low voice, more as if speaking to himself than replying to
the caution, while he quickly tied the end of the light rope round his
waist and dashed into the sea.

Oh! it is grand and heart-stirring to see a stalwart youth imperilling
life and limb for the sake of others; to see a powerful swimmer
breasting the billows with a fixed purpose to do or die.  But it is
terrible and spirit-crushing to see such a one tossed by the breakers as
if he were a mere baby, and hurled back helpless on the sand.  Twice did
the young sailor dash in, and twice was he caught up like a cork and
hurled back, while the people on shore, finding their remonstrances
useless, began to talk of using force.

The man's object was to dive _through_ the first wave.  If he could
manage this--and the second--the rest would not be beyond the power of a
strong man.  A third time he leaped into the rushing flood, and this
time was successful.  Soon he stood panting on the deck of the stranded
vessel, almost unable to stand, and well he knew that there was not a
moment to lose, for the ship was going to pieces!  Jack Matterby,
however, knew well what to do.  He drew out the hawser of the rocket
apparatus, fixed the various ropes, and signalled to those on shore to
send out the sling life-buoy, and then the men of the coastguard began
to haul the passengers and crew ashore, one at a time.

The young sailor, recovering in a few minutes, lent a hand.  Jack knew
him the instant he heard his voice, but took no notice of him, for it
was a stern matter of life or death with them all just then.

When Jack and the captain stood at last awaiting their turn, and
watching the last of the crew being dragged over the boiling surf, our
hero turned suddenly, and, grasping the young sailor's hand with the
grip of a vice, said, "God bless you, Natty Grove!"

Nat gazed as if he had been stunned.  "_Can_ it be?" he exclaimed.  "We
had thought you dead years ago!"

"Thank God, I'm not only alive but hearty.  Here comes the life-buoy.
Your turn next.  But one word before--old Nell; and--Nellie?"

"Both well, and living with your mother--"

"My--" Jack could not speak, a tremendous shock seemed to rend his
heart.  Young Grove felt that he had been too precipitate.

"Your mother is alive, Jack, and--"

He stopped, for the captain said quickly, "Now, then, get in.  No time
to lose."

But Jack could not get in.  If he had not been a strong man he must have
fallen on the deck.  As it was, he felt stunned and helpless.

"Here, captain," cried Nat Grove, leaping into the life-buoy, "lift him
into my arms.  The ropes are strong enough for both."

Scarce knowing what he did, Jack allowed himself to be half-lifted into
the buoy, in which his old friend held him fast.  A few minutes more,
and they were dragged safely to land and the ringing cheers and
congratulations of the assembled multitude.  The captain came last, so
that, when the ship finally went to pieces, not a human life was lost--
even the ship's cat was among the number of the saved, the captain
having carried it ashore in his arms.

Now, there are some scenes in this life which will not bear description
in detail.  Such was the meeting of our hero with his long-lost mother.
We refrain from lifting the curtain here.  But there is no reason why we
should not re-introduce the joyful and grateful pair at a later period
of that same eventful day, when, seated together by the bedside of old
Nell, they recounted their experiences--yes, the same old woman, but
thinner and wrinkleder, and smaller in every way; and the same bed, as
far as appearance went, though softer and cosier, and bigger in all
ways.  On the other side of the bed sat the manly form of Natty Grove.
But who is that fair girl with the curling golden hair, whose face
exhibits one continuous blush, and whose entire body, soul and spirit is
apparently enchained by an insignificant piece of needlework?  Can that
be Nellie Grove, whom we last saw with her eyes shut and her mouth
open--howling?  Yes, it is she, and--but let Mrs Matterby explain.

"Now, Jack," said that lady in a firm tone, "it's of no use your asking
question after question of every one in this way, and not even waiting
for answers, and everybody speaking at once--"

"Excuse me, dearest mother, Miss Nellie Grove has not yet spoken at
all."

"_Miss_ Nellie, indeed!  Times are changed,"--murmured Natty, with a
look of surprise.

"Her not speaking proves her the wisest of us all," resumed the widow,
looking at Old Nell, who with tremulous head nodded violent approval.
You must know, old Nell had become as deaf as a post, and, being
incapable of understanding anything, she gratified her natural
amiability by approving of everything--at least everything that was
uttered by speakers with a visible smile.  When they spoke with gravity,
old Nell shook her tremulous head, and put on a look of alarmingly
solemn sympathy.  On the present occasion, however, the antique old
thing seemed to have been affected with some absolutely new, and
evidently quaint, ideas, for she laughed frequently and immoderately,
especially when she gazed hard at Jack Matterby after having looked long
at Nellie Grove!

"Now, Jack," resumed the widow for the fiftieth time, "you must know
that after I lost you, and had given you up for dead, I came back here,
feeling an intense longing to see once more the old home, and I began a
school.  In course of years God sent me prosperity, notwithstanding the
murmurings of rebellion which rose in my heart when I thought of _you_.
The school became so big that I had to take a new house--that in which
you now sit--and sought about for a teacher to help me.  Long before
that time poor Ned Grove had been drowned at sea.  Your old friend Natty
there had become the first mate to a merchantman, and helped to support
his grandmother.  Nellie, whose education I had begun, as you know, when
you were a boy, had grown into a remarkably clever and pretty girl, as,
no doubt, you will admit.  She had become a daily governess in the
family of a gentleman who had come to live in the neighbourhood.  Thus
she was enabled to assist her brother in keeping up the old home, and
took care of granny."

At this point our hero, as he looked at the fair face and modest
carriage of his old playmate heartily admitted, (to himself), that she
was much more than "pretty," and felt that he now understood how a
fisherman's daughter had, to his intense surprise, grown up with so much
of gentle manners, and such soft lady-like hands.  But he said never a
word!

"Most happily for me," continued Mrs Matterby, "Nellie lost her
situation at the time I speak of, owing to the death of her employer.
Thus I had the chance of securing her at once.  And now, here we have
been together for some years, and I hope we may never part as long as we
live.  We had considerable difficulty in getting old Nell to quit the
cottage and come here.  Indeed, we should never have succeeded, I think,
had it not been for Natty--"

"That's true," interrupted Nat, with a laugh.

"The dear old woman was too deaf to understand, and too obstinate to
move: so one day I put the bed clothes over her head, gathered her and
them up in my arms, and brought her up here bodily, very much as I
carried _you_ ashore, Jack, in the life-buoy, without asking leave.  And
she has been content and happy ever since."

What more of this tale there is to tell shall be told, reader, by
excerpts from our hero's Christmas letter to thin little Mrs Seaford,
as follows:--

  "Pardon my seeming neglect, dear old friend.  I meant to have run up
  to town to see you the instant I set foot in England, but you must
  admit that my dear, long-lost mother had prior claims.  Pardon, also,
  my impudence in now asking you to come and see _me_.  You _must_ come.
  I will take no denial, for I want you to rejoice at my wedding!  Yes,
  as old Nell once said to me, `God sends us a blessing sometimes when
  we least expect it.'  He has not only restored to me my mother, but
  has raised me from the lowest rung in the ladder to the very highest,
  and given me the sweetest, and most--.  But enough.  Come and see for
  yourself.  Her name is Nellie.  But I have more to astonish you with.
  Not only do I take Nellie back with me to my home in the new world,
  but I take my mother also, and Natty Grove, and _old Nell herself_!
  How we got her to understand what we want her to do, could not be told
  in less than four hundred pages of small type.  Nat did it, by means
  of signs, symbols, and what _he_ styles facial-logarithms.  At all
  events she has agreed to go, and we hope to set sail next June.
  Moreover, I expect to get _you_ to join us.  Don't laugh.  I mean it.
  There is good work to be done.  Canada needs philanthropic Christians
  as well as England.

  "You will scarcely credit me when I say that I have become a
  match-maker--not one of those `little' ones, in whose welfare you are
  so much interested, but a real one.  My deep design is upon your
  partner, Natty Grove.  Yes, your _partner_--for were not _you_ the
  instrument used in rescuing my soul, and _he_ my body? so that you
  have been partners in this double rescue.  Well, it is my intention to
  introduce Natty Grove to Nancy Briggs, and abide the result!  Once on
  a time I had meant her for Bob Snobbins, but as you have failed to
  hunt him up, he must be left to suffer the consequences.  D'you know I
  have quite a pathetic feeling of tenderness for the memory of that too
  sharp little boy.  Little does he know how gladly I would give him the
  best coat in my possession--if I could only find him!

  "Now, dearest of old friends, I must stop.  Nellie is sitting on one
  side of me, mother on the other, and old Nell in front--which will
  account to you, in some degree, for the madness of my condition.

  "Once more, in the hope of a joyful meeting, I wish you `a merry
  Christmas and a happy New Year.'"

THE END.





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