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´╗┐Title: A Terrible Coward
Author: Fenn, George Manville, 1831-1909
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Terrible Coward" ***

A Terrible Coward, by George Manville Fenn.


The book is set in a small Cornish fishing village.  There is a
dangerous swimming feat which is used as a rite of passage among the
boys and young men.  One young man, the hero of this short book, has not
yet dared to do this feat.  Another young man, annoyed by the hero's
apparent lack of courage, does something very nasty and unkind which
very nearly drowns our hero.

However, shortly afterwards, events so pan out that the tables are
turned, and it is seen that our hero is not the coward, while his enemy

It's about a two-hour read, but is well-written and in the vintage
Manville Fenn style in which "how does he get out of this?" events
follow closely on one another.





Boom! with a noise like thunder.

_Plash_! directly after; but the sounds those two words express,
multiplied and squared if you like, till the effect upon the senses is,
on the first hearing, one of dread mingled with awe at the mightiness of
the power of the sea.

For this is not "how the waters come down at Lodore," but how they come
in at Carn Du, a little fishing town on the Cornish coast.

There's a black mass of rock standing out like a buttress just to the
west of the little harbour, running right into the sea, and going down
straight like a wall into the deep clear water at its foot, as if to say
to the waves, "Thus far may you come, and no farther."  For hundreds
upon hundreds of years the winds and tides have combined to rid
themselves of this obstacle to their progress, the winds urging the
waves that come rolling in from the vast Atlantic, gathering force as
they increase in speed, like one rushing at a leap; and at last leap
they do, upon the great black mass of shale, tons upon tons in weight,
seeming as if they would sweep it clear away, and rush on in mad ruin to
tumble the fishing luggers together and shatter them like eggs as they
lie softly rubbing together in the harbour.

But no; it is only another of the countless millions of failures on the
part of those Atlantic billows.  They leap and fall with a mighty boom
upon that rock, but only to break up with a hissing plash into a mass of
foam, defeated, churned up with froth that runs hissing back, ready to
give way to another wave advancing to the charge.

They have worn the rock smooth, so that it glistens like glass in the
morning sun, for, as if aware of the folly of urging on its regiments of
well-mounted cavalry to come dashing in upon the wild white-maned
sea-horses, or the more sober lines of heavy infantry in uniforms of
green and blue, the sea has for countless ages bombarded Carn Du with
stone-shot in the shape of great boulders.  These have ground and
polished off every scrap of seaweed, every barnacle, limpet, and
sea-anemone, leaving the rock all smooth and bare, while the boulders
lie piled to the east in a heap, where the waves that try to take the
rock in flank leap amongst them, and roll them over higher and higher,
to come rumbling down as if they were tiny pebbles instead of rounded
masses of granite and spar-veined stone a quarter, half, and a
hundredweight each.

It was an awful place in a storm--Carn Du.  It was there that the great
Austrian full-rigged ship came on, during one black and raging night;
when one minute from the harbour, and off the cliff, the fishermen in
their oilskins could see the lights of a vessel--the next minute,

There were the remains of a few timbers, though, in the morning--torn,
twisted, gnawed, as it were, into fibres and splintering rags.  That was

It was an awful place in a storm, where the spray, broken up into
feathery froth by the battle on the rocks, came flying over the town,
and then away landward, like a fine misty rain; but it was a grand place
in a calm.  It has been said that there was always deep water, even at
low tide, at the foot of the Carn, and here for generations had been the
training place of the swimmers of Carn Du, who were famous for their
prowess all round the coast.

It was too much for the boys, but the performance of the big dive was
looked upon as the passing of a lad from boyhood into the manly stage,
upon which he entered through the Shangles Gate, and then swam back,
coming, as it were, of age amidst the shouts of his companions to swim
ashore and land upon the big boulders, where the boys bathed and learned
to swim in the calm weather, gazing the while in admiration at their
older companions.

For there was something very stirring in the act, and a stranger to the
place would hold his breath in dread as he saw Mark Penelly, who was the
finest swimmer at the port of Carn Du, climb up the side of the great
black rock upon some fine summer evening, then go round along the narrow
shelf of shaley stone, till he stood alone there forty feet above the
sea, his white figure as he rested against the black rock, every muscle
standing out from his well-knit frame, and his arms crossed, looking
like some antique statue in its niche.

There were plenty of young men who could perform the feat, but Mark
Penelly was acknowledged to be the master.

Dotted about the swelling surface there would be the heads of plenty of
swimmers--men and lads--some going smoothly along, mounting the rollers
as they came in, and descending softly into the hollows; others again
swimming to meet each wave, then rising a little, and with a plunge like
a duck or one of the great bronze-black shags, or cormorants, that sat
upon the rock-shelves, diving right through the mass of water, to come
out fairly on the other side.

Some would swim out to the little buoys, rest by them for a time, and
swim back.  Others would make for one of the cinnamon-sailed luggers
lying at anchor, to go round and back, or would get into one of the
boats; while some, more venturesome, or really more confident in their
powers over the water, would go boldly out, perhaps a mile, to meet some
lugger coming in from the fishing-ground, sure of being taken aboard and
riding back abreast of the boulders where they had left their clothes.

To be a good swimmer was everything at Carn Du.  They looked upon it as
a business--as part of their education--for no boy or man was counted
fit to go out in a boat who could not leap overboard and swim alongside,
or, during a capsize, keep himself afloat, and help to turn the boat and
bale her out.

But from the meanest to the best swimmer there, every one paused to
watch Mark Penelly standing statue-like up against the black rock,
waiting till a great ninth wave came majestically rolling in, sweeping
over the outer rocks--the Shangles--and then with a boom leaping at Carn
Du, running up it, as it were, in a mighty column of water, some twenty
feet even on a calm day.

Now was the time, calculated by practised eyes to the moment.

As the wave struck, Mark could be seen to grow suddenly less statuesque.
His arms would drop to his side, and then as it rushed up towards where
he stood, like some mighty sea-monster seeking to make him its prey,
Mark's hands joined above his head, he bent forward slightly, and then
with one tremendous leap seemed to leave the rocky ledge, and plunge
down head foremost into the wave.

The effect was electric, but its daring seemed to savour of madness.
There one moment stood the statuesque figure, white as a cameo cut in
the black rock, the next moment there was a gleam of something flashing
through the air, and passing into the deep blue wave, which, as if by
the contact of the figure, broke into silvery foam, rushing back like a
vast cascade towards the Shangles.

Where all before was smooth heaving water all was now rushing foam, as
the broken wave raced back, as if to pass between two narrow jagged
pieces of rock rising up like a gateway some fifty yards away before the
next wave came in.

The breath of the person who saw it for the first time was held as he
looked in vain for the brave diver, or wondered whether the act he had
seen was not some mad effort to destroy life.  There was the foaming
water, there the black rocks, that were swept over by the roaring wave,
but now showing plainly amidst a sheet of white surf, with beyond them a
comparatively smooth surface, through which a current seems to run.

But there was no diver to be seen, nothing but the racing, hissing foam.

Yes: there he was--that was his head, rising out of the foam thirty or
forty yards away, and being carried to inevitable destruction against
those terrible jagged rocks.

No man could swim against the furious, racing torrent which was now
passing between them.  No one could get out of such a current when once
in.  It was horrible to look at, for the helpless swimmer seemed as if
he would be dashed against the crags and then float, stunned, wounded,
and helpless, out to sea.

That seemed to be Mark Penelly's fate; but no--as he neared the gate in
the Shangles he could be seen to turn over upon his back, keeping his
head well out of the water, paddling with his hands, and feet foremost,
showing from time to time amongst the foam, literally shooting like a
canoe right between the rocks, to float directly after in smooth water,
and calmly swim round towards the shore.

The feat had been seen hundreds of times; every swimmer who had attained
manhood could do it; and at times it was hard work to keep back the
venturesome boys.  But no matter when it was done there was always a
cheer for the brave young fellow who took the leap, and who was now seen
to alter his mind, and make for a fishing lugger a quarter of a mile
away--one which was just coming in from the fishing-ground miles away.

"Huh, Harry Paul," said one of a group of dark, weather-tanned
fishermen, to a fair-haired, clear-skinned young fellow of two or three
and twenty; who had just thrown his straw-hat upon the rocks, showing
his crisp, short, yellowish hair, and broad, white forehead.  "Going to
have a swim?"

"Yes," said the young man quietly, as he proceeded to divest himself of
his neckerchief and let loose his thick white throat; "nice night for

"Where are you going, lad?" said another, for somehow they took a great
interest in his proceedings.

"Oh, I thought of swimming out to James's boat and back, or else coming
back in her.  She seems to have plenty of fish."

"Ay, lad, plenty," said another; "they've been signalling that they're
'most full.  But when are you going to take the jump, lad, eh?"

"I don't know," said Harry quietly, as he went on preparing for his
bathe; "perhaps never."

"I wonder at you, Master Harry," said another, a grey-headed old
fisherman.  "Here's you, son of the biggest owner here in Carn Du, a
young chap as can swim like a seal, and yet never had the pluck to take
the big leap."

"Yes," said the first speaker, "a dive as there's dozens of boys o'
fifteen and sixteen ready to do if they'd let 'em."

"Ay," said the grey-haired old fellow, "that they would.  Why, I done it
when I was fourteen and a half."

"Mark.  Penelly says as you're the biggest coward as ever stepped," said
another maliciously.

"Oh! never you mind what Mark Penelly says, Master Harry," said the
grey-haired man.  "He's jealous; that's about what he is.  He's 'feared
you'll go and do the dive better than him.  And it's my opinion, seeing
what a swimmer you are, as you would beat him all to fits."

"So I think," said another, who had not yet spoken; and he winked at his
companions as he thrust his hands a little farther down into his
capacious pockets.

"Go on, and do it to-night, Master Harry," said the old fellow.  "Don't
you be bet.  The tide's just right for it, and if I was you I'd just
show Mark Penelly as he knows nothing about it."

The young man went on calmly divesting himself of his outer clothing
while this talk went on, and though there was a slight flush on his
cheeks he did not speak a word.

"He'll do it," said the man with his hands in his pockets.  "He'll do
it; you see if he don't.  Mas'r Harry's made up his mind.  He's just
made up his mind, he have, and he's going to do it."

"I'll lay a ounce o' baccy he does it better than Mark Penelly.  I wish
he was here to see him do it."

"Ay, to be sure," said the old grey-haired man.  "He's going to do it--
now aren't you, Mas'r Harry?  I feel kinder quite glad of it, lad, for I
taught you to swim."

"To be sure you did, Tom Genna," said the young man, smiling, "and I
hope I haven't disgraced my master."

"Not you, lad; there is not a finer swimmer nowhere," said the old man
enthusiastically; "and I'm glad you've made up your mind at last to take
the dive."

"I've not made up my mind," said the young man coolly.

"Not made up your mind!" cried several.

"No," replied the bather.

"Why, you said just now as you would do it!" cried the man with his
hands in his pockets.

"Ay, so he did," was chorused.

"Not I," said Harry quietly; "and if you will all clear off, and let me
have my swim in peace, I shall be much obliged."

"Why, you are a coward, then," said the man with his hands in his
pockets, and to show his disgust he began to sprinkle the boulders about
with tobacco-juice.

"I suppose I am," said Harry Paul, smiling.  "I can't help it.  I
suppose it is my nature."

"Bah!" growled the grey-haired man, who, as one of the oldest fishermen,
was looked up to as an authority.  "You aren't a coward, Master Harry;
it's only 'cause you want to make a plucky effort, don't you?  Just you
make up your mind to do it, and you'd do it like a shot."

"I daresay I could," replied the young man; "but why should I?"

"Why should you!" sneered the man with his hands in his pockets; "why,
'cause every one does."

"Because everyone goes and risks his life just for the sake of
gratifying his vanity," replied Harry Paul, "I don't see why I should go
and do the same."

"Ah, now you're beginning to talk fine," growled the old fisherman, "and
a-shoving your book-larning at us.  Look here, young 'un; a lad as can't
swim ain't--'cordin' to my ideas--hardly worth the snuff of a candle."

"I don't go so far as you do, Tom," said the young man, smiling; "but I
do hold that every young fellow should be able to swim well, and so I

"Yes, but you can't do the dive," said the man with his hands in his
pockets mockingly.

"Oh, he's going to do it," said the old fisherman.  "The water's just
right, Master Harry.  You go.  Take my advice: you go.  Just wait till
the wave's coming well up, then fall into her, and out you come, and the
current'll carry you out through the Shangles."

"And what the better shall I be if I do?" said the young man warmly.

"What the better, my lad!" said the old fellow, looking aghast.  "Why,
you'll ha' made quite a man o' yourself."

"But I shall have done no good whatever."

"Oh, yes, you would; oh, yes, you would," said the party, sagely shaking
their heads and looking at one another.

"I don't see it," said Harry Paul.  "If it was to do any one good, or to
be of any benefit, perhaps I might try it; but I cannot see the
common-sense of risking my life just because you people have made it a
custom to jump off Carn Du."

As he spoke he ran down over the boulders, and plunged off a rock into
the clear sea, his white figure being traceable against the olive brown
sea-wrack waving far below, as he swam for some distance below the
surface, and then rose, shook the water from his eyes, and struck out
for the lugger lying becalmed in the offing.

The party of fishermen on shore stood growling together, and making
unpleasant remarks about Harry Paul, whom they declared to be a terrible
coward--all but old Tom Genna, who angrily took his part.

"He's not a bad 'un at heart, and I believe he's no coward," growled the
old fellow.

"Then why don't he show as he ar'n't?" said the man with his hands in
his pockets, places they never seemed to leave.

"Ah, that's what no one can't say!" growled old Tom, and sooner than
hear his favourite swimming pupil condemned, he walked away, muttering
that, "he'd give a half-crown silver piece any day to see Mas'r Harry do
that theer dive better than Mark Penelly."

Meanwhile the latter had swum right out to the fishing lugger, where he
was taken on board, and it being one of his father's boats, he was soon
furnished with a blue jersey and a pair of rough flannel trousers, for
he did not care about swimming back.  Then seating himself on the side,
he began talking and chatting to the men, who were shaking mackerel out
of their dark-brown nets, where they hung caught by the gills, which
acted like the barbs to their arrow-like flight through the sea against
the drift-net, and prevented their return.

They were in no hurry to get in, for there was no means of sending their
fish off till morning, hence they took matters coolly enough.

"Did you do the dive to-night, Master Mark?" said the master of the

"Yes, to be sure," said Mark conceitedly.  "Bah! it's mere child's

"And yet Mas'r Harry Paul never does it," said another, in the sing-song
tone peculiar to the district.

"He! a miserable coward!" cried Penelly, contemptuously.  "He hasn't the
spirit of a fly.  Such a fellow ought to be hounded out of the place.
Why, I could pick out a dozen boys of twelve who would do it."

"Yes," said the master of the lugger maliciously, "but he's a beautiful

"Tchah!  I'd swim twice as far," said Penelly.  "He's a wretched coward,
and I hate him."

"What! because he can swim better than you, sir?" said the master.

"I tell you I'm the better swimmer," said Penelly sharply.

"Then it must be because he thrashed you for behaving ill to poor old
Tom Genna?"

"He thrash me!" cried Penelly contemptuously.  "I should like to see him
do it."

"Here's your chance, then," said the master maliciously.  "He's swimming
straight for the boat."

Mark Penelly's face grew a shade more sallow, but he said nothing, only
knelt down by a pile of loose net, and watched the young man, whom he
looked upon as his rival, till Harry, swimming gracefully and well, came
right up and answered the hail of the fishermen with a cheery shout.

"Come aboard, Mas'r Harry; we're going to have the sweeps out soon, and
we'll take you in."

"No, thank you," was the reply.  "I am going round you, and then back."

Mark Penelly had gone over to the other side of the lugger while the
conversation was going on, and he did not face the man he looked upon as
his rival; while Harry, unnoticed by the busy fishers as he swam round,
went on, touching the sides of the lugger as he lightly swam, but only
the next moment to find himself entangled in a quantity of the thin
mackerel net, which seemed somehow to descend upon him like a cloud, and
before he could realise the fact he was under water, hopelessly fettered
by the net, and feeling that if he could not extricate himself directly
he should be a dead man.



At first sight nothing seems more frail than a herring or mackerel net,
one of those slight pieces of mesh-work that, in a continuation of
lengths perhaps half-a-mile long, is let down into the sea to float with
the tide, ready for the shoals of fish that dart against it as it forms
a filmy wall across their way.  The wonder always is that it does not
break with even a few pounds of fish therein, but it rarely does, for
co-operation is power, and it is in the multiplicity of crossing threads
that the strength consists.

Harry Paul, as he struggled in the water, was like a fly in the web of a
spider, for every effort seemed only to increase the tangle.  He could
not break that which yielded on every side, but with fresh lengths
coming over the lugger's side to tangle him the more.  Even if he had
had an open sharp knife in his hand he could hardly have cut himself
free, and in the horror of those brief moments he found that his
struggles were sending him deeper and deeper, and that unconsciously he
had wound himself still farther in the net, till his arms and legs were
pinioned in the cold, slimy bonds, which clung to and wrapped round him
more and more.

A plunge deep down into the sea is confusing at the best of times.  The
water thunders in the ears, and a feeling of helplessness and awe
sometimes comes over the best of swimmers.  In this case, then, tangled
and helpless as he was, Harry Paul could only think for a few moments of
the time when he swam into the sea-cave at Pen Point at high tide, and
felt the long strands of the bladder wrack curl and twist round his
limbs like the tentacles of some sea-monster; and he realised once more
the chilling sense of helpless horror that seemed to numb his faculties.
He made an effort again and again, but each time it was weaker, and at
last, with the noise of many waters in his ears, and a bewildering rush
of memories through his brain, all seemed to be growing very dark around
him, and then he knew no more.

On board the lugger the fishermen were busily running the net from one
compartment of the vessel into the other, still shaking the fish out as
they went on, for a sudden squall at the fishing-ground had compelled
them to haul in their nets hastily and run for home.  The slimy net grew
into a large brown heap on one side, and the little hill of
brilliantly-tinted mackerel bigger on the other, and in the evening
light it seemed as if the wondrous colours with which the water shone in
ripples far and near had been caught and dyed upon the sides of the

Mark Penelly came over from the other side of the lugger, where he
seemed to have been busy for a moment or two, while the men were bending
over their work, and seated himself upon the low bulwark close to the

"Has he got round?" said the latter, looking up for a moment.

"Whom do you mean?" said Penelly, who was rather pale.

"Young Mas'r Harry.  Didn't you see him?"

"See him?--no.  I thought he had swum back."

"Went round the other side," said the master quietly.  "Here, you Zekle,
don't throw a fish like that on to the heap; the head's half off."

The man advanced, picked the torn mackerel off the heap, where he had
inadvertently thrown it, and the work went on, till as the master raised
his eyes to where Penelly sat, he saw how pale and strange he looked.

"Why, lad," he exclaimed, "you've been too long in the water.  You look
quite cold and blue.  I'd lay hold of one of the sweeps if I were you.
It will warm you to help pullin'.  Here, hallo!" he shouted, "who's let
all that net go trailing overboard?  Here's a mess! we shall have to run
it all through our hands again."

Mark Penelly's eyes seemed starting out of his head as, with a
convulsive gasp, he seized hold of the net, along with the master and
another, and they began to haul in fathom after fathom, which came up
slowly, and as if a great deal of it were sunk.

"Why, there's half the net overboard!" cried the master angrily.  "How
did you manage it?  What have you been about?"

"There can't be much over," said the man who was helping; "she was all
right just now.  There's a fish in it, and a big one."

"Don't talk such foolery, Zekle Wynn," said the master.  "I tell 'ee
half the net's overboard."

"How can she be overboard when she's nigh all in the boat?" said the man

"Zekle's right," cried Mark Penelly, who was hauling away excitedly;
"there's a big fish in it.  Look! you can see the gleam of it down

"Well, don't pull a man's nets in like that, Mas'r Mark!" said the
other, now growing interested and hauling steadily in; "nets cost money
to breed."  [Note.  Cornish.  Making nets is termed "breeding."] "Why,
it's a porpoise, and a good big 'un too!  Steady, lads; steady!  She's
swum into the net that trailed overboard.  Steady, or we shall lose her!
Here, hold on, lads, and I'll get down into the boat and--haul away!"
he roared excitedly, as he had made out clearly what was entangled in
the net.  "Quick, lads! quick!  It's a man!  It's--my word if it ar'n't
young Harry Paul!"

The net was drawn in steadily over the roller at the lugger's side, till
Penelly and the master could lean down and grasp the arms of the
drowning or drowned man, whom they dragged on board, and then, not
without some difficulty, freed from the net that clung to his limbs.  He
had struggled so hard that he had wound it round and round him, and so
tight was it in places that, without hesitation, the master pulled out
his great jack-knife and cut the meshes in three or four places.

"You can get new nets," he said hoarsely, "but you couldn't get a new
Harry Paul.  There's some spirit down in the cabin, Zekle.  Quick, lad,
and bring the blanket out of the locker, and my oilskin.  Poor dear lad!
he must have got tangled as he was swimming round.  I'll break that
Zekle's head with a boat-hook for this job; see if I don't."

The threatened man, however, came just then with the blanket and
spirits, when everything else was forgotten in the effort to restore the
apparently drowned man.  Mark Penelly worked with all his might, and
after wrapping Paul in the blanket and covering him with coats and
oilskins, some of the spirit was trickled between his clenched teeth,
and the men then rubbed his feet and hands.

"Get out the sweeps, lads.  There's no wind, and we must get him ashore.
Poor dear lad!  If he's a drowned man, Zekle Wynn, you've murdered

"I tell 'ee I didn't let no net trail overboard," cried the man angrily,
as he seized a long oar and began to tug at it, dropping it into the
water every time with a heavy splash.

"Don't stand talking back at me!" roared the master, seizing another oar
and dragging at it with all his might, "pull, will 'ee? pull!"

"I am a-pulling, ar'n't I?" shouted back the other, as the man and lad,
who formed the rest of the crew, each got an oar overboard and began to

"Yes, you're a-pulling, but not half pulling!" roared the master, as if
his man were half a mile away instead of close beside him.

Plenty more angry recrimination went on as all tugged at the long oars,
and the lugger began to move slowly through the water towards the little
harbour; but if Harry Paul's life had depended upon the services of the
doctor at Carn Du he would never have seen the sun rise on the morrow's
dawn.  But as it happened, the warmth of the wrapping, the influence of
the spirit that had been poured liberally down his throat, and the
chafing, combined with his naturally strong animal power to revive him
from the state of insensibility into which he had fallen, and long
before they reached the granite pier of the little harbour his eyes had
opened, and he was staring in a peculiarly puzzled way at Mark Penelly,
who still knelt beside him in the double character of medical man and

"Eh! lad, and that's right," cried the master in a sing-song tone; "why,
we thought we was too late.  How came 'ee to get twisted up in the nets
like that?"

Harry Paul did not answer, but lay back on the heap of what had so
nearly proved to be his winding-sheet, trying to think out how it was
that he had come to be lying on the deck of that fishing lugger, with
those men whom he well knew apparently taking so much interest in his

For all recollection of his swim and the conversation that had preceded
it had gone.  All he could make out was that Mark Penelly, who was never
friendly to him, was now kneeling by his side looking in a curious way
into his eyes.

By degrees, though, the cloud that had been over his understanding
seemed to float away, and as they were nearing the harbour he began to
recall the urgings he had received to leap from Carn Du, which now stood
up black and forbidding on his left; the swim out to the lugger and
round; and then--"Well, how do you feel now, lad?" said the master.

"Better," said Harry, forcing a smile.

"How came ye to swim into the net?  Didn't 'ee see it?"

"No," said Harry, thoughtfully; and as he spoke Mark Penelly watched him
very attentively.  "I hardly know how it was, only that it seemed to
come down on me all at once."

"Just what I said," cried the master angrily; "and if I was you I'd have
it out of Zekle Wynn here, somehow--leaves a heap of net so as it falls

"Tell 'ee I didn't," roared Zekle, shouting out his words as if he was
hailing a ship.  "Nets went over o' theirselves."

Mark Penelly seemed to breathe more freely, as he now rose and placed
the spirits on the deck.

"I'd take a taste o' that myself, Mas'r Mark, if I was you," said the
master.  "You don't look quite so blue as you did.  But you seemed quite
scared over this job."

Mark declined, however, saying that he was quite well; and soon after,
in spite of the opposition he met with from the master, who said it was
foolishness, Harry Paul plunged overboard, and swam to the
bathing-place, where he dressed; and, saving that he was suffering from
a peculiar sensation of stiffness, he was not much the worse.

Mark Penelly watched him as he swam ashore easily and well, and the
bitter feelings of dislike which had for the time being lain in abeyance
before the scene of peril of which he had been witness, began once more
to grow stronger, completely changing the appearance of his face as now,
to get rid of the thoughts that troubled him, he took hold of one of the
sweeps and began to row.

"Nice lad, Harry Paul," said the master to him then.

"Yes, very," said Penelly dryly.

"Good swimmer, too."

"Yes," replied Penelly.

"Narrow 'scape for him, though, poor lad.  Lucky thing we saw that the
nets was overboard in time.  If I was him I'd just give Zekle Wynn there
the very biggest hiding he ever had in his life, that I would.  He ain't
content with doing a thing wrong, but he ain't man enough to own it.  I
haven't patience with such ways!"

Penelly did not speak, and Zekle remained silent, but he was evidently
moved to indignation at what had been said, for he kept lifting his big
oar and chopping it down in the water as if he were trying to take off
the master's head.

The buoy outside the harbour was reached, however, directly after, and
as soon as the oars were laid in all hands were busy for the next two
hours shaking out and landing mackerel ready for basketing and sending
across country to catch the early morning train.

It was soon known all over Carn Du that Harry Paul had had a very narrow
escape from drowning, and knot after knot of fishermen discussed the
matter and joined in blaming Zekle Wynn for letting the net trail

"Still, he must have been a foolish sort of a creature to go and swim
right into a tangle o' net," said the man who always had his hands in
his pockets.

"Not he," said old Tom Genna; "Harry Paul's too clever a swimmer to go
and do such a thing as that."

"Here's Zekle Wynn," cried another eagerly, for such an event caused
plenty of excitement, and was seized upon with avidity.  "Hi!  Zekle! it
was you as left the net trailing, warn't it?"

"Skipper says so," replied Zekle grimly, as he took out some tobacco and
made himself a pill to chew.

"You're a pretty sort of a chap," said another; "why, you'll be running
the lugger on the rocks next."

"Shouldn't wonder," said Zekle.

"Well," said Tom Genna, "if I was Harry Paul, I'd knock you down with
the first thing I could get hold of, capstan-bar or boat-hook, or

"Ah, that's what our old man said!" replied Zekle coolly.

"You ought to be ashamed o' yourself, Zekle Wynn, that you ought, and I
wouldn't sail in the same boat with you."

"No, it wouldn't be safe," said Zekle dryly.

"Yes, you ought to be ashamed of yourself," said someone else angrily.
"I don't like Harry Paul, for he's a regular coward--chap as hasn't had
courage to take the big dive as yet; but that's no reason he should be
drowned by a fellow who can't manage a drift-net no better than to leave
half on it trailing overboard."

"Well, if you come to that," said Tom Genna, who was an authority in the
place, "I think it was the skipper's dooty to ha' seen that his nets was
all in the boat, and not leave it to a fellow like Zekle Wynn here, who
don't seem to have so much brains as a boy."

"Quite right!" said Zekle, "quite right!"

"Yes: what I say's quite right," said Tom Genna; "but as for you, young
fellow, you're quite wrong, and it's my belief you're about half out of
your mind."

Zekle Wynn stared vacantly round at the speakers, and then, putting his
hand to his head, he walked thoughtfully away.

"He is going wrong," said the fishing sage, nodding his head; and this
formed a fresh subject for discussion, especially as one of the knot of
idlers recollected that a second cousin of Zekle Wynn's was an idiot.

But Zekle Wynn was not going out of his mind, but, as soon as it was
dark, straight up to the house where Mark Penelly lived with his father,
and as soon as he had watched Penelly, senior, out of the house, he went
boldly up and asked to see Mark.

The latter came at the end of a few minutes, looking curiously at his

"Sit down, Zekle," he said.  "Brought a message?"

"No!" said Zekle.

"Brought up some fish, then?"

"No!" was the very gruff reply.

"Did you want to see my father?"


"Then what do you want?" exclaimed Penelly sharply.


"What is it, then, my good fellow?" said Penelly, speaking now in a
haughty tone, for the man's way was rude and offensive.

"I want to know something," said Zekle.

"Then why don't you go to somebody else?"

"'Cause you know best what I want to know."

"Speak out, then, quickly, for I am busy," said Penelly, who, while in
an ordinary way ready enough to chat and laugh with the fishermen, was
at times, on the strength of his father's position as a boat-owner,
disposed to treat them as several degrees lower in social standing.

"Busy, eh?" said Zekle scornfully.  "I dessay you are; but you mus'n't
be too busy to talk to me."

"What do you mean?" said Penelly hotly.  "How dare you speak to me in
that insolent way?"

"Insolent, eh?" said the man.  "Ah! you call that insolent, do you?" he
continued, raising his voice.  "What would you call it, then, if I was
to speak out a little plainer?"

"Look here, Zekle Wynn," said Penelly; "there are times when I come down
to the harbour, and into the boats, and go fishing with the men; but
recollect, please, whom you are talking to."

"Oh, I know who I'm talking to," said Zekle; "I ain't blind."

"If you speak to me again like that I'll kick you out of the house.  How
dare you come in here and address me in this way?"

"Where's your father?" said Zekle; "suppose I talk to him."

"Go and talk to him, then; and mind how you speak, sir, or you'll get
different treatment to that you receive from me."

"All right, then!" said Zekle mockingly.  "I shall go to him and tell
him that, while I was busy shaking out fish in our boat to-night, young
Harry Paul come swimming up, and our mas'r says, `Come aboard,' he says;
but Mas'r Harry Paul he says, `No,' he says, `I shall swim round,' he
says, and he swims round our boat."

"Well, he knows that," said Penelly, looking at him strangely.

"And then I'm going to tell him," continued Zekle, "that as soon as ever
a certain person who was aboard our boat sees young Mas'r Harry coming,
he goes and sits on the other side."

"Yes, I did," said Penelly sharply.

"Oh, you did, did you?  You owns to that?"

"Of course," replied Penelly scornfully.  "What then?"

"What then?  Ah!  I'll soon tell you what then," said Zekle.  "You ups
with an armful of net, and just as young Harry Paul comes round under
you, you drops it on top of his head."


Mark Penelly sprang at the speaker and clapped his hand over his lips.

"I thought," said Zekle, freeing himself, "that it was only for a bit of
mischief; I'd forgot all about young Mas'r Harry; but now I know as you
did it to drown--"

"Hush!" cried Penelly again hoarsely, and his face was like ashes.  "I
didn't; indeed I did not, Zekle."

"Why, I see you with my own eyes," said the man.

"Yes, I did drop the net over, but it was only out of mischief.  I did
not think it would do more than duck him well.  I never thought it would
be so dangerous.  I meant it in fun."

"But it _was_ dangerous," said Zekle with a grin; "and as people know
you hate Mas'r Harry, they'll say you meant to mur--"

"Hush!" cried Penelly again; and he clapped his hand once more upon the
speaker's lips.

"Oh, that won't stop me from speaking!" said Zekle.  "I'm going to tell
all I know, and it's my belief as they'll have you up, and bring it in
'tempt to kill young Mas'r Harry."

"But you won't speak about it, Zekle," said Penelly imploringly.

"But I just will," said Zekle, "and I come to ask you what they'll do to
you for it.  I don't want to tell, but you see it's 'bout my dooty."

"I'll give you anything to be silent."

"But I must tell," said Zekle, shaking his head; "it's my dooty to, and
I wouldn't hold my tongue not for twenty pounds."

Penelly gave a gasp, and in those few moments of thought he saw all the
consequences of his escapade--the disgrace and shame--perhaps
prosecution for an attempt at murder, for a magistrate might refuse to
listen to his plea that it was only in fun.

But there was a gleam of hope.  Zekle had mentioned money.  He would not
hold his tongue for twenty pounds he said.  Perhaps he would.  Penelly
had not twenty pounds, nor yet five; but perhaps he could get it.
Turning to Zekle then he said:

"If I give you ten pounds, Zekle, will you swear that you will never say
a word?"

"No," said Zekle stoutly, "nor yet for twenty; and now I'm going to tell
all I know."

As he spoke he turned towards the door, and Mark Penelly made a clutch
at the nearest chair.



Zekle Wynn already had his hand upon the door when, mastering the
strange feeling of dread that had seized him, Mark Penelly caught him by
the arm and held him tightly:

"Look here, Zekle," he said hoarsely; "that was all a bit of fun--a
joke; but I don't want anyone to know.  I'll give you fifteen pounds if
you'll hold your tongue."

"No," said Zekle, stoutly; "it's my duty to tell, and I'm agoing to

"Twenty pounds," cried Penelly.

"No, I said afore that I wouldn't do it for twenty pounds," said Zekle,
with a very virtuous shake of the head; and as he made an effort to get
away, Penelly, who felt desperate, offered him twenty-five pounds.

"Yes, twenty-five pounds, Zekle; I'll give you twenty-five," he cried.

"It ain't no use to try and tempt me, Mas'r Mark--it ain't indeed.  I
didn't ought to hold my tongue about it.  No, I'll go and do my duty."

"But it will nearly drive my father mad," said Penelly imploringly;
while Zekle's little sharp eyes twinkled as their owner wondered whether
his victim could muster twenty-five pounds.

"I'm very sorry, of course," said Zekle; "but you see a man must do his
duty.  No, no, Mas'r Mark, you mustn't tempt me."

"I'll get you the money at once, Zekle," said Penelly, who saw that his
visitor was trembling in the balance--that is, he appeared to be; but
Zekle had make up his mind to have twenty-five pounds down before he
entered the house.

"I didn't ought to take it, you know," said Zekle, hesitating.

"But you will, Zekle, and I'll never forget your goodness," said Penelly
imploringly; and then hastily locking the door to make sure that his
visitor did not go, he went out of the room straight to a desk in his
father's office, which he opened with a key of his own, and returned
directly with four five-pound notes and five sovereigns.

"I oughtn't to take this, Mas'r Mark," Zekle grumbled; "it ar'n't my
duty, you know; and I wish you'd give me sov'rins instead of them

"I cannot," said Penelly sharply.  "It has been hard work to get that."

"Then I s'pose I must take them," said Zekle, "but it don't seem like my
duty to;" and as he spoke he carefully wrapped up the notes and placed
them with the gold in his pocket.

"Now, you'll swear you'll never say a word to a soul about this, Zekle."

"Of course I won't, Mas'r Mark.  But it goes again the grit.  I wouldn't
do it for anyone, you know; but as you say it would be hard on your poor
father, I won't tell."

Penelly bit his lips and said nothing, while Zekle went maundering on
about his duty, and how unwilling he was to take the money, till, seeing
an awkward look in his victim's eyes, he concluded that he had better
go, and went out, turning at the door to tell Penelly that he might be
quite comfortable now, and wishing him good-night.

"Comfortable, you scoundrel!" cried Penelly as soon as he was alone.  "I
shall never be comfortable till the news comes in that you have been
lost overboard in a storm.  I've been a fool.  I was a fool to do such a
thing.  I only thought it would give him a ducking; and I'm a greater
fool to try and bribe that scoundrel.  He'll be always bleeding me now.
I'd far better have set him at defiance and bid him do his worst.  Bah!
I wish I was not such a coward."

"If I don't make him pay me pretty heavy for all this," said Zekle,
chuckling to himself, "I'll know the reason why.  Five-and-twenty pounds
earned right slap off by just seeing that net pitched overboard!  That's
cleverness, that is.  Now I'll just go up to Mas'r Harry Paul and see
what he has got to say.  P'r'aps there's a five or a ten to be made
there.  It's better than fishing by a long way."

Harry Paul's home was a pleasant cottage on the cliff-side, and on Zekle
knocking the door was opened by Harry's widowed mother, who fetched her
son and left the two together.

"Ah, Zekle!" cried Harry frankly, as he held out his hand, "I'm afraid I
did not half thank you for helping to save my life."

"Oh! it don't matter, Mas'r Harry," said the fellow, smiling and
shuffling about.

"But it does matter," said Harry warmly; "and I am very grateful to you.
I am going into Penzance to-morrow, Zekle, and when I come back I'm
going to ask you to accept a silver watch to keep in remembrance of what
you did."

"Oh, you needn't do that, Mas'r Harry," replied Zekle; "but I thought
I'd like to tell you, don't you know, all about like how it happened.  I
kinder felt it to be my duty, you see, and then if you liked to say to
me, `Here, Zekle Wynn, here's five or ten pounds for you for what you
did,' why you could, you know; but if you didn't, why it wouldn't matter
a bit, for I always feel as if it was a man's duty not to take no money
'less he's earned it."

"Ah!" said Harry, looking at him with quite an altered expression.

"You see, you don't know all," said Zekle mysteriously, as he went
softly to the door, peeped out, and then spoke in a whisper.

"Know all!" said Harry.  "Why, I know I was nearly drowned."

"Yes," said Zekle, going closer to him and taking hold of his pilot
jacket, "you was nearly drownded; but how was it?"

"Some of your pile of mackerel net fell overboard and covered me up.  It
was very careless of you people."

"Mack'rel nets don't tumble overboard and nigh upon drownd people
without somebody makes 'em," said Zekle with a cunning leer.

"Somebody makes them!" said Harry with his eyes flashing.  "Why, you
don't mean to say that anybody threw that net over me as I swam round!"

"Oh, no!" said Zekle, "I wouldn't say such a thing of nobody.  Oh, no!
'tain't my duty to go about telling tales."

"Look here," said Harry sharply, "if you expect to earn any reward from
me, Zekle Wynn, for telling how it was that that net came over me--and I
own that it was very strange that it should just as I was swimming by--
speak out like a man."

"Oh, no!  I can't go accusing people of what they p'r'aps didn't do,"
said Zekle; "but look here, Mas'r Harry, have you got any enemies?"

"Enemies! no," said the young man.  "Perhaps Mark Penelly is not very
fond of me since we had that quarrel, but I've no enemies."

"Ho!" said Zekle with a peculiar grin.  "Who was aboard our boat?"

"I did not see him as I swam up, but I suppose Mark Penelly was there."

Zekle nodded.

"Yes, and he walked round to the side; and I saw him, as I was shaking
out the fish, go and stand by them mack'rel nets."

"And do you dare to say that he threw them over me?"

"Oh, no!" said Zekle, "I wouldn't say such a thing of anybody, Mas'r
Harry; no, 'tain't my duty.  I wouldn't accuse no one; but them nets was
safe aboard one minute, and the next minute twenty fathom was atop of
you; and if we hadn't hauled you out you wouldn't have been talking to
me just now."

Harry Paul jumped up and began to walk about the room, his face flushed
and his hands twitching.

"Look here, Zekle Wynn!" he said sharply, "I'm plain-spoken, and I like
people to be plain-spoken with me.  Now, mind what you are saying."

"Oh, yes!  Mas'r Harry, I am very careful what I say, and I'll go now;
but I thought it was my duty to come, and I said to myself, `If he likes
to say to me, "There's five or ten pound for you, Zekle Wynn," why, he
could,' but of course I don't expect nothing for doing my duty."

"Oh, you don't expect anything?" said Harry sharply.

"Oh, no, Mas'r Harry, sir; I never expect to receive anything for doing
my duty."

"And you thought it was your duty to come and tell me that Mark Penelly
tried to drown me?"

"Oh, no!  Mas'r Harry, sir--oh dear, no!  I never said nothing o' that
sort; I only said as the net was in the boat one minute and the next
minute it was all over you."

"Same thing, Zekle," said Harry sharply.  "And you didn't expect
anything for coming and telling me this?"

"Oh dear, no!  Mas'r Harry, sir," replied Zekle.

"Then you'll be disappointed," said Harry, smiling pleasantly, "for I
shall give you something."

"Oh, thank you!  Mas'r Harry, sir," said Zekle, whose face expanded with
pleasure.  A moment before he had not liked the way in which Harry had
taken his hints; but now this declaration of an intention to give him
something was pleasant, and he smiled quite broadly as the young man
went to a cupboard.

"Will it be five or ten pound?" said Zekle to himself.  "I'm making a
good night of it this time, and if I don't--Don't you hit me with that
there, Mas'r Harry! don't you hit me with that there!" he roared
suddenly.  "Don't you hit me with that there, or I'll have the law of

"Get out of the place, you contemptible, tale-bearing sneak!" said
Harry; and he accompanied his words with lash after lash of a big
old-fashioned dog-whip.  "How dare you come here with your miserable
stories!  Out with you, you dog, or I'll lash you till you are blue!"

There could be no doubt but that some of the strokes administered would
leave blue weals, though Zekle did not get many.  Four or five fell upon
his back and sides, however, before he got out of the door; and he was
just turning to shake his fist and vow vengeance when a tremendous lash
curled round him, inflicting so much pain that he uttered a loud yell
and ran as hard as he could to a safe distance, where he turned once to
shout, "Yah, coward!" and then disappeared.

"Coward!" said Harry bitterly.  "Well, people say I am.  Don't be
frightened, dear," he continued as his mother entered the room in haste.

"But I am, my dear," she cried excitedly.  "What does all this mean?"

"I only used the dog-whip to a scoundrel--that's all," he said, with a
reassuring smile; and as soon as he had pacified her he went outside to
walk up and down and think about his late escape.

"No," he said at last after a long thought, during which he had gone
well over his adventures that evening; "I will not believe that a man
could be such a wretch."

He felt better after this and went in; but that night the excitement of
the adventure and the effects of his immersion were sufficient to keep
him awake hour after hour, while when he dropped off into an uneasy
slumber it was for his mind to be haunted by dreams in which he was
being dragged down into the depths of the sea by a strange monster that
clung to his limbs and writhed about him, making him shudder as he felt
the chilling embrace.

Again and again he awoke and tried to shake off the unpleasant
sensation, but no sooner did he drop off to sleep again than the
horrible dream came back, gathering in intensity as the time wore on.

Then came a variation.  Mark Penelly was the creature that was trying to
drown him; and as he dragged him down and down, lower and lower, into
the depths, he kept telling him that it was because he was such a
terrible coward, but that if he would dive off Carn Du into a ninth wave
he would let him live.

This went on till it grew unbearable, so, leaping out of bed, Harry went
to the window, drew up the blind, and threw open the casement, to lean
out and gaze at the grey sea, that looked so dark in the early dawn of

It was as smooth as a pond, except where, with a low moan, it heaved up
and beat against Carn Du, falling back with an angry hiss as if of
disappointment, while all above looked calm and dark and starlit.

Away to the east, though, there was a faint light, telling of the coming
day; and as Harry Paul stood there, with the soft fresh morning breeze
blowing in his hair, he made up his mind that he would go and fish for
three or four hours before breakfast, as he could not sleep.

A good wash made him feel fresher.  Then dressing, he took a couple of
lines from a cupboard down-stairs, and went out.

He had no difficulty in getting half-a-dozen damaged mackerel down in
the harbour--fish that had been torn by the nets; but he was only just
in time, for in the soft grey light he could see the gulls already busy
floating down on their ghostly-looking wings in the gloom, uttering a
mournful, peevish wail, and carrying off fragments of fish for their
morning meal.

"Another ten minutes, and there would not have been one left," muttered
Harry, as he strode along the rock-strewn shore to where his boat was
drawn up high and dry.  He, however, soon had her afloat, and, taking
one of the oars, he stood up in the stern and sculled her out with that
peculiar fish-tail motion which is so puzzling to one not used to the

Half an hour's sculling took him out to a great buoy close by some
sunken rocks; and having made fast his boat to the rusty,
barnacle-encrusted ring, he proceeded to bait his lines, and lowered
down the leads into the deep water below.

"What's it to be this morning?" he said.  "They ought to bite on such a
tide as this."

He held one line in his hand, twisted the other round one of the
thole-pins of the boat, and then sat waiting.  There was black Carn Du
right in front, with the waters rising up dark and glistening, to fall
back fringed with pale ghostly white.

Then, as no fish bit to take up his attention, he began to think of the
great black mass of rock, and to ask himself whether it was worth his
while to go that or the next evening, and, climbing up, take the plunge
as he had seen so many young men take it before.

"If I did," he said, "it would please a good many people, and they would
no longer look upon me as a coward.  I think I could--I feel sure I
could.  But if I did take the dive how people would triumph after all,
and say that I was stung into doing it by what they had said!"

"No," he added, after a little more consideration; "they may say what
they like.  I'll hold to my determination.  Coward or no, I'm not going
to prove my courage for the sake of gratifying busy tattling people.
Better remain a coward all my--Ah, that's one!"

A sharp snatch at his line, followed by a long peculiar drag, told him
what was at his bait; and after a little giving and taking, he drew a
heavy twining conger eel over the boat's edge, having no little
difficulty in preventing it from tangling his line, for it was quite a
yard in length, and proportionately thick.

His captive was, however, soon safe in the large basket, and he had
hardly closed the lid and placed a boulder used as ballast upon it
before a tug at his other line made the thole-pin rattle, and after a
little hauling he dragged in a gloriously-coloured gurnard, whose
outspread fins looked like the wings of some lovely butterfly.  Then he
drew in, one after the other, a couple of wrasse, all grey and green and
gold, with their protuberant mouths and curious teeth, after which there
was a pause, and, drawing up one of his lines, Harry placed thereon a
much larger hook, bound with wire right up the cord that held it.  Upon
this he placed quite half a mackerel, secured it well to the hook with a
piece of string, and then, throwing it over the side, he waited, after
feeling the lead touch the rock below, and wondered whether he should
capture what he believed to be lurking amongst the ledges of the piece
of rock.

"I may either get a conger or a good hake," he thought to himself.
"There's always someone glad of a good hake."

He waited with all a fisherman's patience, and, used as he was to such
scenes, he could not help feeling gladdened at the glorious sight that
met his gaze, for, one by one, the stars had paled, till only that named
after the morning shone out resplendent in the now grey west; while to
eastward all was blushing with bright red and gold and purple and
orange, tints so wondrously beautiful and rich that Nature had enough to
spare for sea as well as sky.  While the latter was growing moment by
moment more refulgent, the former caught the wondrous dyes, till the
water seemed everywhere like molten gold with ruddy and empurpled
reflections where the sea gave a gentle heave.  Even the gulls and shags
that floated on the tide seemed to be glorified by the wondrous colour,
till Harry, as he sat there with the stout cord of his fishing-line
twisted round his hand, felt how majestic and awe-inspiring was the
coming of the new-born day, and involuntarily exclaimed:

"Who would stay in bed if they knew what the dawn is like on such a morn
as this!"

So rapt was he in the grandeur of the scene that he had forgotten all
about the object of his journey, but he was brought back to the
matter-of-fact present by a tremendous snatch which jerked his arm
hanging over the side, and made the cord cut so violently into his hand
that he was glad to give the line a twist and set it free to run for
some distance before he began to check it a little.

"It's a monster," he said, as he felt the struggles of the fish, which
dragged so heavily that, to save his line from breaking, as it was, in
spite of giving and taking, nearly run out, he cast the boat loose and
let it drift as the fish tugged.

It was not big enough to drag it along, but it had some influence on the
boat, moving it slowly, and this eased the line, which Harry had hauled
upon, so that he kept getting in fathom after fathom ready for the
captive's next run.

This was not long in coming, for after keeping up a steady strain for
about a minute, and drawing the fish, whatever it might be, nearer and
nearer to the surface, there was a sudden snatch, and away it went again
straight for the bottom like an arrow, and then right away.

"The line will break directly," thought Harry.  "It must be either a
great conger or a monster hake, or else it's a small shark.  Small!--no,
that it isn't!" he exclaimed as he felt himself steadily drawn along
with the current; "I shall never get it."

Now he was able to haul in a little, the fish coming towards the surface
in obedience to his steady drag; now it turned and went off again to the
last yard of line, and then the boat was steadily drawn along, while
Harry's wonder was that the strands did not break or the hook drag out.

"This comes of having good new tackle," he said; and then, "Ah, I must
lose it if it pulls like this."

For the fish made so furious a strain upon the line that he felt that it
must break; no such line could bear it.

He felt in despair, for he was all eagerness now to see the monster he
had hooked, when a happy thought suggested itself, and in an instant he
had made three or four hitches round one of the oars with the end of the
line, and cast it overboard.

"There," he said, "you may tug at that, and I'll follow you."

Away went the light oar over the surface, bobbing down at one end, and
raising the blade in the air, while, putting the other over the stern,
Harry stood up, full of excitement, and began sculling after the novel
travelling float, when a wild cry for help, that seemed to send a
shudder through his frame, came from behind him over the surface of the



Hake, conger, shark, whatever it might be, forgotten as Harry Paul heard
that cry repeated.  He had already begun turning his little boat, and
then, bending to his task, he forced it through the water as he stood up
in the stern, making the rippling waves rattle and splash against her
bows as a line of foam parted on either side.

He could see nothing for the moment, but he knew that some one must be
in deadly peril in the direction in which he had heard the cry, and,
exerting all his strength, he made for the place whence he thought it
must have come.

He was puzzled, for, save a few luggers swinging from the little buoys
that dotted the surface of the sea, there was not a sign of an accident
by the upsetting of a boat, or of any one struggling in the water.
Everything looked bright and cheerful in the morning sun, and after
sculling along for some time he was beginning to think that the cry must
have been uttered by some sea-bird, seeming weird and strange in the
early morning, when he suddenly recalled the fact that sound travels far
over a smooth, calm sea.

Had he felt any further doubt it was solved on the instant by a
repetition of the cry, this time clearer, and plainly to be interpreted
into that agonising appeal that thrills the hearts of weak and strong
alike--the one word "_Help_!"

And now, plainly enough, he could see the head of some one whose hands
appeared at intervals above the water, evidently in a fierce struggle
for life.

Whoever it was had lost his nerve and was in some peril, for though not
above a hundred yards or so from the shore he was in the race of a
fierce current that at certain periods of the tide ran so swiftly
amongst the rocks that a strongly-manned boat could not stem its force.

"It must be some stranger," thought Harry, as he exerted himself more
and more.  "Poor fellow!  I shall never get to him in time."

And then, with the big drops standing upon his forehead, he toiled on,
his eyes fixed upon the drowning figure, and the feeling strong upon him
of how awful it was for anyone to be called upon to yield up his life on
such a glorious morning as this.

At times his heart seemed to stand still with the chilling influence of
the horror he felt, for, in spite of his efforts, the boat seemed to
crawl over the surface of the water.

He was now near enough to see that it was a man--evidently a bather--who
was struggling for his life and in terrible danger.  The poor fellow
seemed to have gone out too far, and, in his ignorance, had been drawn
into the fierce current--one that no one dwelling about Carn Du would
have ventured to approach; and, unless help were soon afforded, there
would be a dead body cast up somewhere by a weedy cove just about the
turn of the tide.

Harry Paul's thoughts were busy, coward as he was, while his heart was
beating so painfully that he seemed ready to choke.

"I can only do one thing," he thought--"try to reach him with the boat.
If I jump over and swim, I shall get there no faster, but if I do he
will seize me in a drowning clutch, and we shall both go down."

A curious shuddering sensation ran through him, and the remembrance of
what he had gone through on the previous day came back with a strange
exactness, in which he seemed to feel once more the cold clinging touch
of the net upon his bare skin, and for the moment he felt as if he were

He shook off the horrible sensation, though, and, toiling away at his
oar, sent the boat rapidly on, so as to get into the current at right
angles to its course, and be swept on towards the drowning man.

The help must come quickly if it was to be of use, for the swimmer was
becoming a swimmer no longer.  The horror of his position had robbed
him, as it were, of his knowledge, and instead of striking out slowly
and calmly, almost without effort, and keeping his head as low down in
the water as possible, he was making frantic efforts to raise himself
from time to time, and beating the water with his hands.

Then Harry could see an effort of the reason made over the animal
faculties, and for a few moments the drowning man took a few steady
strokes, but only to utter a gurgling cry and throw up his hands, beat
the water again, and go under.

The moment before Harry Paul seemed to have been exerting his full
strength to force the boat through the water, but an accession of
strength came to him, and with a few fierce thrusts he drove her bows
into the edge of the current, which gave it so quick a snatch that it
was whirled round, and its occupant nearly lost his footing; but he was
too practised a boatman for that.  Recovering himself directly, he
planted a foot on either side, the oar bent in the water, and, getting
the boat's head right, he forced her along farther and farther into the
current, with which she seemed to race onward towards the drowning man.

He was quite a hundred yards from him yet; but rapidly diminishing the
distance now, for the boat seemed to tear along; but Harry's heart sank
lower and lower, and the chilly feeling of despair grew more strong as,
just when he had reduced the distance to about fifty yards, he saw a
hand appear for a moment above the water, and then disappear, leaving
the glistening surface perfectly blank.

Harry uttered a hoarse cry as he still sculled along, his eyes fixed
upon the spot where the hand had disappeared, and then tracing in
imagination the course the drowning man would take as he was swept along
beneath the surface, he made for the place.

It was in imagination, but his mental calculation was not far wrong, for
within a few yards of where it might be expected, and not ten from where
he was now sculling, he saw something roll up as it were to the surface,
there was a gleam of white in the sunlit water, and then it was
disappearing again, when, acting upon the impulse of the moment, Harry
loosened his hold of the oar, took two steps forward over the thwarts,
and leaped into the sea.

As Harry Paul disappeared in the swift current the boat rocked and
danced, and was sent many feet away by the impulse it received; but as
he rose to the surface, regardless of everything but the drowning man he
was striving to save, the boat swept by him, lightened of its load, and
was whirled slowly round and round.

It was a matter of impulse, and Harry Paul's experience should have
taught him that keeping perfectly cool, and urging the boat along to
where he had last seen the body, was the surest way of rendering help.
But there are times when even those of the strongest mental capacity
find it is difficult to retain their presence of mind.

It was so here.  Led away by his feelings and the gallant desire he felt
to succour someone in distress, Harry had as it were kicked away what
meant life for both; but he did not realise the danger then.

As he plunged beneath the surface of the racing current he recalled the
fact that he was almost fully dressed, for the thick flannel jersey he
wore seemed to cling to his arms and impede his action, but that was
forgotten directly, as he rose in the water and looked around.

There was nothing visible.  He was too late, so it seemed; but he swam
strongly on, the cold immersion seeming to lend additional vigour to his

Now there was something!

No; it was only a bunch of seaweed floating by, with its long streamers
spreading out in the clear water like a woman's hair.  He was too late,
too late, and--Yes, that was something white down in the water rising
now, and--Yes, he had it--a man's wrist, and the next moment he had
given it a drag which brought its owner's head above the surface.

He was not dead, for, as Harry Paul turned him so that he floated on his
back with his face above water, the drowning man began to make frantic
clutches with his hands, so that it was only by loosing his hold and
getting behind that Harry Paul avoided what would have been a deadly

He knew well enough what he ought to do, namely, seize the drowning man
by the hair, and then turn upon his own back and float, drawing the
other after him; but on trying this a difficulty met him at the offset:
the man's hair was very short; but he got over it by grasping his ears,
and then, throwing himself back, he struck out with his legs so as to
keep afloat and go with the racing current.



Harry Paul had been so busily employed in avoiding the drowning man's
grasp that, for the moment, the boat was forgotten.  Now, however, that
he had mastered him, he raised his head a little to look; but the boat
was far away beyond his reach, and progressing at such a rate that he
could not have overtaken it even had he been alone.

A feeling of dread would have mastered him now, but for the strong nerve
that he brought to bear.  There was no help there.  They were several
hundred yards now from the shore, and every moment being carried farther
away.  The part they were in was hidden by the great black pile of rocks
by Carn Du from the little town and harbour, so that their peril could
not be seen.  It was evident, too, that the loud cries for help had not
reached the ears of those about the harbour, and that no one was
anywhere about the boats that swung from the buoys.  On the one side
there was the open sea, on the other the piled-up granite, which rose up
like hand-built buttresses, composed of vast squared masses rising tier
upon tier.  At their foot the foam fretted and beat, and the forests of
seaweed washed to and fro, presenting an almost impenetrable barrier to
any one wishing to land; though here it was impossible, for the racing
current formed another barrier, which a boat propelled by stout rowers
would hardly have passed.

The act of his keeping the drowning man's face slightly above the water
had a bad effect for Harry Paul, inasmuch as it made him he was trying
to succour struggle and endeavour to clutch at the arms that held him.
Once he could do this, Harry knew that his case would be hopeless, for
from that death-grapple there could be no escape.  He held the man then
firmly and swam on, feeling himself moment by moment grow more weary,
for he was swimming in his clinging clothes, and unless help soon came
he knew that he must loosen his grasp and strive to save his own life.

Terrible coward as he was deemed, though, this was not in Harry Paul's
disposition.  He possessed all the stern, dogged determination of the
true Englishman--that determination which has made our race renowned
throughout the length and breadth of the world.  He had determined to
save this drowning man; he felt that it was incumbent upon him to give
his best efforts to that end; so, setting his teeth, he cleverly managed
to elude every clutch made at him, and swam on.

He did not know where he was going, but he felt that his only chance was
to go with the current till he should be swept near some of the outlying
rocks, when they might be drawn into an eddy, and so be able to climb up
on to the shell-covered stones, and wait there till they were seen.

Try how he would, after some struggle with his captive it was impossible
to help feeling a chill of dread, for he knew that he was swimming more
laboriously, and that his limbs were like so much lead; but still he
struggled on.  Every now and then, too, the water washed over his face,
telling him that his position was lower, and at last, when all seemed to
be over and his strength was ebbing away, he raised his head for a last
farewell look-out for help, and one of his hands struck against a rock.

Almost as he touched it the stream bore him by, but there was another
mass close at hand, hung with tresses of seaweed and thickly strewed
with mussels, and here he got a hold for a few moments, in spite of the
drag of the rushing water.

It required no little effort to hold on and support the drowning man as
well, but even a few moments' rest gave him some return of power, and he
was helped now by his companion, who in a feeble struggle to get at and
clutch something, caught at the seaweed, into which his fingers
convulsively wound themselves, and thus gave Harry Paul a hand at
liberty for his own use.

It was some time, though, before he dared to do more than cling to the
rock.  He was too weak and helpless.  At the end of a few minutes,
however, he felt stronger, and summoning up his energies for the effort,
he got one hand higher, then the other, and clung there half out of the

There was less drag upon him here from the stream; his breath came more
freely, and with it returning strength, sufficient to enable him to
climb right out of the water, lie face downwards upon the rock, and,
stretching down his hands, clasp the wrists of his companion, whose
fingers seemed to have grown into the tough weed to which they clung.

This act brought his face within a foot or so of his companion's
countenance.  Their eyes met, and in his surprise Harry Paul nearly let
go, for he now for the first time realised the fact that he had been
risking his life in an endeavour to save that of the man whom he had
heard accused of an attempt to destroy him the night before.

It was a strange position, and Harry Paul, as he bent down holding
Penelly there, recalled all he had heard, and, in spite of his manly
feelings, he could not help believing that in a sudden fit of dislike,
or under a momentary temptation, Penelly had thrown the nets over him,
though evidently repenting the next moment of what he had done.

Penelly, too, was fast recovering his strength, and with it the horrible
sense of confusion was passing away.  He, too, realised that the man
whom he had so cruelly assailed was now sustaining him after evidently
swimming to his aid.

He gazed for a few moments straight into Harry's eyes, and in their
stern gaze as they seemed to read him through and through, he saw, or
fancied that he saw, his own condemnation, and that Harry was going to
thrust him from his hold.

It was a strange reaction as he hung there--he, the brave and daring
swimmer, famed for his dives off Carn Du, held up by the man he had
always denounced as a terrible coward; whom he had hated from boyhood
almost, without cause, and whom really, under the impulse of a horrible
temptation, he had on the previous night tried to hamper in his
swimming, though not really to drown.

Neither spoke, neither stirred for some time.  There was no great strain
upon Harry's hands now, since Penelly's grasp was desperate.  The former
was content to lie there gazing into his enemy's eyes, for his strength
was returning with every breath; that breathing was less laboured, and,
in place of his heart throbbing and jumping, sending hot gushes of
blood, as it were, choking to his throat, it began to settle steadily
down to its ordinary labours in the breast of a strongly-built, healthy,
temperate man.

"Conscience makes cowards of us all;" so the great writer has said; and
truer words never stood out bold and striking from the paper on which
they were written.

In his abject misery and dread, Mark Penelly saw, in the stern gaze
before him, anger and a vindictive desire for revenge; he saw therein
fierce hate, and an implacable, unchanging condemnation; he felt that
Harry was sustaining him there where he had dragged him to make his
sufferings more acute, and that, after holding him up for a while, he
would loosen his hold, causing him to sink at once into the deep water
by the rocks, and be swept away by the tremendous current.

He judged Harry Paul, in fact, by the same measure as he would have
meted out to an enemy himself; and so terrible were his thoughts, so
horrifying to him was the thought of the death from which he had
escaped, that he was robbed of all energy; he had not strength to do
more than hang there clinging to the weeds with desperate clutch, and,
with only his head out of water, gaze up in Harry's stern eyes.

And they were stern, for strange thoughts had intruded themselves,
seeming to take possession of the young man's mind, and making him speak
and act contrary to his wont.

At last he spoke, and the trembling wretch beneath him shivered and
uttered a despairing cry.

"How came you in the water?" said Harry sternly.

"Oh, in mercy, spare me, Harry Paul," shrieked the miserable wretch,
"and I'll tell you all."

"Then he _did_ throw the nets over me," thought Harry, in spite of
himself; and he began to wonder why it was he did not make an effort to
drag Penelly on to the rock.

"Tell me, then," he said in a low hoarse voice, that he did not know for
his own.

"I will--yes, I will tell you," said Penelly; "only promise me you'll
spare me."

"Tell me this moment," said Harry sternly.

"You are going to let me sink down," cried Penelly in horror-stricken
tones.  "Oh, Harry Paul, my good, brave fellow! help me out--save me--
save me!"

A curious smile curled the young man's lip, one which horrified Penelly,
who shrieked out:

"Yes, yes; I'll confess all.  Zekle Wynn threatened to tell--to tell--"

"That you threw the net over me last night?"

"Yes--yes--I did; but it was an accident--an ac--"

"What?" roared Harry.

"No, no--I confess," said Penelly feebly, for he felt that his last hour
had come.  "I did it.  I felt tempted to do it when you swam round; but
Heaven's my witness, Harry, I only meant to duck you.  I meant to help
drag you out after a minute, and so I did."

"How came you in the race this morning?" said Harry, in a cold, cutting

"I'll--I'll confess all," said Penelly faintly, "only help me out and
save my life.  I'll go away from Carn Du, Harry Paul.  I'll be like your
dog in future, only save me."

"The dog of a terrible coward?" said Harry coldly.

"Oh, no; but you are not a coward, Harry.  Help!"

"How came you in the race?"

"I--I--swam off to the lugger.  I meant to swim off and cut her adrift--
the lugger Zekle was in--he said he'd tell you.  I got into the water
this side of Carn Du, and meant to swim to the buoy, cut her adrift, and
swim back, but I was caught in the race.  Help me out--I'm dying!  Oh!
help me, Harry! help!"

Harry Paul made no effort to drag the wretched man out, but gazed
thoughtfully downward into his eyes, while, under the influence of that
stern gaze, Penelly quailed and shuddered, his blue lips parted, his
eyes seem to start, but he could not speak.

"Mark Penelly," said Harry at length; and his voice sounded deep and
angry, and like the utterance of a judge, to the despairing wretch
beneath him--"Mark Penelly, I never did you any harm."

Penelly stared at him wildly, but he could not answer.

"You have always made yourself my enemy, and tried to ruin me in the
sight of others.  It is to you I owe the character of being the greatest
coward in Carn Du.  You said I was a miserable cur--a dog.  Every dog
has his day, and now it is mine.  It is my turn now, and I mean to have

As he spoke his hands tightened round the shivering man's wrists till
they seemed like iron bands.  He changed his position rapidly, and as
Penelly closed his eyes, lowered the miserable wretch down till the
water covered his lips, and then, by one strong effort, dragged him out
on to the weedy rock, where he lay motionless and half dead, his eyes
fixed upon Harry, and evidently waiting for the end.

"Poor wretch!" said Harry to himself, as he gazed down at the helpless
man, and, loosening and taking off his woollen jersey, he wrung it
tightly, getting out as much water as he could, and then drew it on the
stony cold figure lying in the washed-up dry brown weed.  This, too, he
dragged over him, piling it up in a heap, to try and give him some
warmth, while the exertion sent a thrill of heat through his own
half-naked frame.

Fortunately, the sun's rays came down hot and bright, and the rock grew
warmer, so that by degrees the terribly void look began to leave Mark
Penelly's face, and at last, when Harry held out his hand, saying, "Do
you feel better?"  Mark Penelly caught it in both of his, clung to it,
and, turning half over on his face, laid his forehead against it, and,
forgetting his years of manhood, lay there in his weakness, and sobbed
and cried like a child.

They were on that rock till nightfall, when a passing lugger bound for
the fishing-ground answered their hail, and sent a boat to take them
off, giving them the news that Harry's boat had been found ashore, with
only one oar, and Mark Penelly's clothes beyond Carn Du, and that they
were mourned as lost.

This mourning was soon, however, turned into joy; but before the two
young men parted at the harbour Mark said humbly:

"Forgive me, Harry, and I'll try to be another man."

With a frank smile on his face Harry held out his hand, and giving the
other's a hearty grip he exclaimed:

"Ask God to forgive you, Mark; I am going to forget the past.  I thank
Him that I saved your life."

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Terrible Coward" ***

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