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´╗┐Title: Original Penny Readings - A Series of Short Sketches
Author: Fenn, George Manville, 1831-1909
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.

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Original Penny Readings
A Series of Short Sketches
By George Manville Fenn
Published by George Routledge and Sons, London
This edition dated 1867

Original Penny Readings, by George Manville Fenn.

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________
ORIGINAL PENNY READINGS, BY GEORGE MANVILLE FENN.



CHAPTER ONE.

PAYING THE FOOTING.

Now, it don't matter a bit what sort of clay a pot's made of, if when
it's been tried in the fire it turns out sound and rings well when it's
struck.  If I'm only common red ware, without even a bit of glaze on me,
and yet answer the purpose well for which I'm made, why I'm a good pot,
ain't I, even if I only hold water?  But what I hate is this--to see the
pots that we come against every day of our lives all on the grumble and
murmur system, and never satisfied.  The pot of common clay wishes he
was glazed, and the glazed pot wishes he was blue crockery, and the blue
crock pot wishes he was gilt, and the gilt pot ain't satisfied because
he ain't china; and one and all are regularly blind to the good they
have themselves, and think their neighbours have all the pleasures of
this world.  They're so blind that they can't see the flaws in some of
the china.  "Oh! if I had only been that beautiful vase!" says the
common yellow basin that the missus washes the tea-things up in--"Oh! if
I had only been that beautiful vase!" says the basin, alluding to a
piece of china as stands on our mantel-piece--a vase that I picked up
cheap at a sale.  Why, the jolly old useful basin can't see the cracks,
and flaws, and chips in our aristocratic friend; he can't see the
vein-like marks, where he has been put together with diamond cement, nor
that half-dozen brass rivets let into him with plaster of Paris.  There,
go to, brother yellow basin; and look alive, and learn that old saying
about all not being gold that glitters.  Aristocratic china is very
pretty to look at--very ornamental; but if we put some hot water into
the mended vase, and tried to wash up in it, where would it be, eh?
Tell me that; while you, brother yellow basin, can bear any amount of
hard or hot usage; and then, after a wipe out, stand on your side, dry,
and with the consciousness of being of some use in this world; while the
bit of china--well, it is werry pretty to look at, certainly.  It's
werry nice to look at your heavy swell--the idle man of large means, who
gives the whole of his mind to his tie or his looking-glass; the man
with such beautiful whiskers, and such nice white hands; and when you've
done looking at him you can say he's werry ornamental, werry chinaish,
but he ain't much good after all.  But there; instead of grumbling about
having to work for your living, just thank God for it.  Look at your
dirty, black, horny fists: stretch 'em out and feel proud of them, and
then moisten 'em, and lay hold of whatever tool you work with, and go at
it with the thought strong on you that man had mind, hands, and power
given him to work with; and though toil be hard sometimes, why, the rest
after 's all the sweeter; while over even such poor fare as bread and
cheese and an onion there's greater relish and enjoyment than the china
vase gets over his _entrees_, which often want spice and
_sauce-piquante_ to help them down.  Man wasn't meant to be only
ornamental; so don't grumble any more about being a yellow basin.

But don't mistake me in what I mean; don't think I turn up my nose at
china: it's right enough in it's way, and at times vastly superior to
your common crockery.  I honour and feel proud of the china pots which,
having no occasion to work, throw aside idleness, and with the
advantages of power and position, work, and work hard--work with their
heads, and do great things--men who live not to eat, but eat to live and
benefit their fellows in some way.  Don't mistake my meaning, for I
don't want to make a man look with contempt on those above him; but
learn to see how that, whatever his position in life, he can do some
good, and that he is of service; and above all things, learn to see that
your yellow basin--your working man--is of quite as much value in this
world of ours as the china ornaments of society, whose aim and end is
often to--there I'm almost ashamed to say it--to kill time.

"Thou saidst they was good crows, Tommy; and they was nobbut booblins,"
says the old Lincolnshire man who wanted a rook pie, and bought his
rooks without seeing them, when they proved poor half-fledged birds; and
what lots of us believes what others say,--takes things for granted; and
after all only gets "booblins" for our dinner.  If men would only judge
for themselves--look before they leap--turn the china ornament up and
look at the cracks and rivets, or, even if it is sound, consider how
frail, fragile, and useless it is--they would be a little more satisfied
with their own lot in life, and not be so given to grumbling.  Things
are precious hard sometimes, but that's no reason why we should make
them harder by our own folly.  We see and know enough of the misery of
our great towns, and I mean to say that we have ourselves to thank for a
good--no, I mean a bad--half of it.  Now, just take away--I wish we
could--just take away out of London all the dirt, all the drunkenness,
and all the other vice, and how do you think it would look then, eh?
You can't tell me; but I can tell you something: it would ruin half the
doctors, half the undertakers, and three parts of the brewers, and
gin-spinners, and publicans; and that being rather a strong dose for any
man to digest at one sitting, I'll let you think it over without putting
any more on that subject.  I won't go on preaching about the everlasting
pipe that men make a common tunnel or chimney to carry off all the sense
in their heads through the abuse of tobacco; nor yet say anything about
drowning the good feelings of his heart by the abuse of beer; for I want
to get to the way in which yellow basins get jarring together, as if
they were never happy till the fresh one that comes amongst them is
cracked, and on the way to join the rest of the potsherds over whose
dust we walk during our journey of life.

I want to talk about "paying your footing;" for there was a paragraph in
a paper only a few days ago that brought up a good many old thoughts on
old subjects.  Now, this paragraph gave an account of a poor chap--at
Sheffield, I think--being ill-used by his fellow-workmen for not paying
his footing.

Now, I'll just ask any decent, honest, hard-working man, whether he can
imagine anything that comes nearer to dead robbery than making a poor
fellow, just took on at any trade, pull out perhaps his last coin to
find beer for a pack of thoughtless fellows who don't want it, and who
would be better without it.  I've opened my mouth on this subject
before, but it will bear touching again; for I think it a disgrace to
the British workman to keep up such dirty, mean old practices.  I'm not
preaching total abstinence or anything of the kind; let every man take
his own road.  I for one love a good glass of ale at proper time and
place; but sooner than drink at the expense of a poor, hard-up
fellow-worker, I'd drink water to the death.

I've seen it all again and again--in busy London, and in the sweet
country, where you can draw a hearty breath laden with vigour between
every stroke of hammer, or trowel, or brush--and I say that the sooner
the custom is kicked out of the workshop the better.  If it must be kept
up, and men won't turn it out, why, then, let them put the boot on the
other foot, and treat the new comer.

Nice young fellow comes into our shop once, fresh out of the country.
Times had been very flat, and he looked terribly seedy.  He'd come out
of one of your little offices where a man's printer, and bookbinder, and
all; and he was one of your fellows as would take a book, paste end
leaves on, and then leather away with a twelve-pound hammer at the
beating stone till the impression was all gone, and it was solid as a
board, take and nip it in the press, then sew the back, fit up his bands
in the sewing frame, and stitch the whole book; end leaves again, and a
bit o' paste in your first section; then glue your back, round him,
ravel out your bands, lace on your boards, and then sharpen up the
plough-knife, and cut all the edges smooth as glass; sprinkle or marble,
red edge or gilt and burnish--what you will; and then, how's it to be,
cloth?  Well, then, cut out, and glue on.  Half-calf?  Cut up your
leather, pare and trim your corners and back bit; and then, when the
open cartridge paper back is dry, and the head bands firm, pop on your
leather, then again your marble paper; paste down the end leaves; nip
the book in the plough press, and there you are, ready for gilding the
back and lettering to taste; or you may paste down your end leaves when
you've done.

But that ain't our way in town; ours is mostly cheap publication work,
done in fancy cloth; and a country hand might well feel strange to see
gals doing all the folding and stitching; one set of men at the
glue-pot, another set trimming edges with a great carving-knife, another
set rounding backs, another set cutting millboards, others making the
fancy cloth covers, others lettering and gilding with a machine, and so
on--division of labour, you know--when there the books are, stacks of
them--big stacks too; while if it wasn't for this scheming and working
the oracle the binding would never be done.

Well, this young fellow was working aside me; and he was put on at the
trimming--which is the cutting the edges of new books to be bound in
cloth; for if they were pressed too hard the ink would set off on to the
opposite sides; while this being considered as only the first binding
till they get thoroughly dry, only the front and bottom of the book is
cut.  You do the rest with your paper-knives.  Well, we're paid
piecework--fair money, you know--so much a dozen or score, so that a man
has what he earns; and with my hands all corny and hard, I was letting
go at a good rate, while my poor mate aside me was fresh at that work,
and doing precious little good beyond blistering his hands and making
his fingers sore; and I could see with half an eye as his bill would
only be a small one o' Saturday.

Now, the rule in most shops in London is, take care of yourself, and let
others look out o' their own side; but I never found myself any the
worse off for helping a lame dog over a stile: so I kept on giving my
mate a lift in the shape of a word here or there, so that he got on a
little better, but very slowly; for a man can't fall into the knack of
it all at once.  But he'd a good heart, and that "will do it" sorter
stuff that makes men get on in the world and rise above their fellows;
and he stuck at it till I saw him tear a strip off his handkerchief and
bind it round his chafed finger, so that the blood shouldn't soil the
books; and though he didn't say much, I could see by his looks as he
thanked me.

Towards afternoon, while the foreman was out of the way, one of the men
comes up for this new chap's footing; and being a big shop, where good
wages were made, it was five shillings.  I didn't take much notice, for
it warn't my business; but I saw the young fellow colour up and
hesitate, and stammer, as he says,--

"You must let me off till wages are paid;" but my gentleman begins to
bluster, and he says,--

"That comes o' working aside Tom Hodson, a scaly humbug as never paid
his own footings; but we ain't a-going to stand any more o' that sort o'
thing; and if you can't come the reg'lar, you'll soon find the place too
hot to hold you."

I felt as if I should have liked to give my man one for his nob, but
went on with my work; and after a bit more rowing, they left the young
chap alone; for I could see how the wind lay--he hadn't got the money,
and no wonder; but all that afternoon and next morning the chaps were
pitching sneers and jeers about from one to another; about the workus,
and a lot more of it, till, being quite a young chap, I could see more
than once the tears in his eyes.  Everybody cut him, and when he asked a
civil question no one would answer; and after tea the second night, when
I got back, there was a regular chorus of laughter, for the young chap
was standing red and angry by his lot of books, where some one had been
shying a lot o' dirty water over them, so as would spoil perhaps four
shillings' worth of sheets, and get the poor chap into a row as well as
having to pay for them.

Now, when we went to tea that night, I'd on the quiet asked him how he
stood, and lent him the money, thinking it would be better paid, for
they'd always have had a spite against him else; and now seeing this I
felt quite mad and spoke up:--

"Looks like one of that cowardly hound Bill Smith's tricks," I says; and
Bill, being a great hairy, six-foot-two fellow, puts on the bully, and
comes across the shop to me as if he was going to punch my head.

"If you can't pay _your_ footing," he says to me, "don't think as we're
a-goin' to take it in mouth; so just shut up," he says, "and mind your
own business;" and then, afore I knew what was up, that slight little
fellow with cheeks flaming, and eyes flashing, had got hold of Bill, big
as he was, and with his fingers inside his handkerchief, shook away at
him like a terrier does a rat--shook him till his teeth chattered; and
the great cowardly bounceable chap roared for mercy, and at last went
down upon his knees, while, with his teeth set, that young fellow shook
him till the whole shop roared again with laughter.

"Give it him, little 'un," says one; "Stick to him, young 'un," says
another; while big Bill Smith looked as if he was being murdered, till
the young chap sent him over against a plough-tub, where he knocked
against a glue-kettle, and the half-warm stuff came trickling over his
doughy white face, and he lay afraid to move.

"There's your beggarly footing," says the young chap, shying down two
half-crowns on the big bench; and then, without another word, he walked
to his place and tried to go on with his work.

I never did see a set of men look more foolish in my life than ours did
that night; and first one and then another slipped into his work, till
all were busy; while them two half-crowns lay on the table winking and
shining in the gaslight, and not a man had the face to come forward to
pick them up and send for the beer.

Last of all, it was getting towards seven, when, now quite cool, the
young chap beckons one of the boys and sends him out for two gallons and
a half of sixpenny; and when it came, goes himself and pours for the
whole shop, even offering the pot to Bill Smith; but he wouldn't take
it, but growled out something, when the whole shop laughed at him again,
and the rest of that evening he got chaffed awfully.

Next morning I'd been thinking how to get some fresh sheets stitched in
the young chap's books, so as to be as little expense as possible, and
when I got to the shop he was there looking at his heap, when I found
that though working men do wrong sometimes, there's the real English
grit in them; and here, before we came, if the chaps hadn't walked off
the damaged copies, shared them amongst 'em, and put fresh ones from
their own heaps, so as it never cost my young mate a shilling.

But it's a bad system, men.  Have your beer if you like, but don't ask a
poor hard-up fellow to rob self, wife, and child to pay his footing.



CHAPTER TWO.

ABOARD A LIGHT-SHIP.

Goes in for salvage, sir; and when a ship's going on to the sands, where
she must be knocked to pieces in no time, and a party of our company
goes off and saves her, why we deserves it, don't we?  That's our place,
you see; and them's old names of ships and bits o' wreck nailed up again
it.  We keeps oars, and masts, and sails in there; ropes, and anchors,
and things as don't want to be lying out on the beach; and then, too, it
serves for a shelter and lookout place.  Them's our boats--them two--
yawls we call 'em; and I mean to say that, lifeboat, or other boat,
you'll never find aught to come anigh 'em for seaworthiness.  There's a
build! there's fine lines!  Why, she goes over the water like a duck;
and when we've a lot of our chaps in, some o' them sand-bags and irons
at the bottom for ballast, the two masts, and a couple o' lug sails up,
it'll be such a storm as I ain't seen yet as'll keep us from going out.
Why, we've gone out, when in five minutes--ah! less than that--you
couldn't see the shore--nought but wild sea and spray all round; but
there, we're used to it, you see; and when we get to a ship in trouble,
and save her, why, there's some satisfaction in it.  And, after all,
'tain't half so bad as being in a light-ship.

Light-ship? yes, there's one out yonder.  No, not that--that's one o'
the harbour lights.  Out more to sea.  There, you can't see her now; but
if you take a look you'll see her directly.  Not the ship, o' course,
but the light.  There; that's her, bo.  Don't you see her?  That's a
revolving light.  Goes round and round, you know, so that sometimes you
see it, and sometimes you don't; and that's on the top of a mast aboard
a light-ship, moored head and starn on the sands, two mile out; and
sooner than spend a night aboard her when there's a storm on, I'd go out
to fifty wrecks.

Pretty sight that, ain't it?  Surprises many people as comes to the
sea-side.  Seems as if the sea's on fire, don't it?  There now, watch
that boat as the oars dip--quite gives flashes o' light.  But that ain't
nothing, that ain't, to what I've seen abroad.  I was in one of the
Queen's frigates out in the Pacific, and when we lay in the harbour at
Callao one night, the officers had a ball on board, and we chaps had
plenty to do taking the ladies backwards and forwards.  Well, when it
was over we in the first cutter were taking a party ashore--officers and
ladies--when they were singing, and so on, and they made us pull slowly,
for it was just as if the whole bay was afire, and when we dipped the
flash was enough to light up all our faces with the soft pale light.

But you should be out in the light-ship there for a night when there's a
heavy sea on and the waves makes a clean breach over you.  It's a dull
life out there at any time, for there's not much to do--only the light
to keep trimmed and the glass and reflectors well polished.  When I was
there we used to pass the time away making models of ships and rigging
them, or doing any little nick-nack jobs as took our fancies.  Four of
us used to be there at a time; and when the dark winter's night was
setting in, and the wind and sea getting up, you couldn't help feeling
melancholy and low.  The place we were in, you see, was a dangerous one,
and one where there had been no end of wrecks; while in more than one
place you could see the timbers of a half broke-up ship, lying stuck in
the sands.  Then, as it got dark, and you stood on deck, you could
almost fancy the tall white waves were the ghosts of them as had gone
down and been lost there--hundreds upon hundreds of them; and that puts
me in mind of one night when a full-rigged ship came on the sands.

It was a horribly rough afternoon, with a heavy gale blowing; cold, and
dark, and dismal it looked all round, and there we were watching this
here ship trying hard to give the sands a wide berth, but all to no
good, for there she was slowly drifting down nearer and nearer--now lost
to sight almost in the fog and spray, and now when it lifted, plain
again before us, till she seemed close in amongst the heavy surf.

At times our light-ship, heavily moored and strong-built as she was,
pitched and strained dreadful, so that it seemed as she must drag or
break away, while every now and then a wave would come with such a shock
that the heavy timbers quivered again; and of us four men there, every
one would have gladly been ashore, and out of those fierce roaring
breakers.  But no one showed the white feather, and there we were, as I
said, watching the big ship, till just as the gloomy winter's night set
in, and the gale came shouting by as though the storm meant to make a
night of it, we saw the ship for a moment, lost sight of her again, and
then, just as there was a bit of an opening in the fog, there she came
with a regular leap starn on to the sands, and "snap, snap," two of her
masts went overboard in an instant.

We had to hold on pretty tightly ourselves, I can tell you, and the
water that came aboard at times almost choked us; but with such a scene
as that before us, not a man could have gone below, and we stood
straining our eyes and trying to make out what was going on.

She was too far off for us to make out anything very plainly; but as we
looked, up went a rocket, rush into the air, and, leaving its fiery
train behind, broke into a shower of sparks.  Then there was another and
another sent up, and in the flashes of light we could make out as one
mast crowded with people still stood, while a regular shudder went
through one to think what it would be if that fell.

What seemed so cruel was that though we were only a quarter of a mile
off we couldn't help the poor creatures; all the good we were was to
keep our light burning brightly to warn ships off, but once they were on
the sands, with a heavy sea running, the stoutest shoremen shook their
heads, and when the lifeboat was run out knew well enough that the
chances were ever so much against the lives being all saved.

"Hooray!" says Bob Gunnis all at once; "here they come."

"Where?"  I says; "and who's coming?"

Looking where he pointed, for the wind swept his words away, I held on
my tarpaulin hat, and peered out to leeward, where every now and then I
could just see the white and blue sides of the lifeboat with her sail
up, and seeming to dance like a gull on the top of the water.  Now she'd
be quite hid in the dim misty clouds that kept flying across, half rain,
half spray.  Now she'd be seen plainer and nearer, coming on between us
and the wreck; and then it would come over so dark again we could make
nothing out.  But the lightly-painted boat and her white sail soon
showed again quite pale and ghost-like, now getting fast on towards the
vessel; though I couldn't help giving my head a shake as I held on and
looked.

"What water is there where she lies?"  I says to Bob Gunnis--for, you
see, he was a chap as knew to a foot what water there was anywhere for
far enough round.

"Let's see," he says, "it's about low water now, or should be if there
warn't this gale on, but she won't go down no lower anyhows.  Let's see,
there'll be just enough to float the lifeboat over, and that's all;
while if they give a scrape or a bump once it won't be no wonder."

And now we could just make out the lifeboat lay out for a bit, and then
let go her kedge and drop down towards the ship, as seemed at times to
be completely buried under water.  It made your eyes ache to watch, for
the spray came dashing into your face, while the lanthorn looked quite
dull and dripping, with the water splashing and beating against it.

All at once we had a grand view of the lifeboat, for she lay just where
the light from our lanthorn fell.  All four of us saw her as we hung
together by the bulwarks, and then there seemed something wrong, for she
was lifted on a great wave; and then one's heart seemed to come in one's
mouth, for she capsized.

I remember it all so well--the white frothy water, with the strong light
from our lanthorn upon it, and the pale, ghostly-looking boat capsizing,
while we held our breath to see her come right again; but she didn't,
but lay tossing in the water, for there was not depth enough for the
mast to pass under, or else the boat, being made self-righting, would
have come up again all right.

Just then, the light turning round, all was darkness again, and whether
it was fancy, or only the wind rushing by, there came one of the wildest
and most awful shrieks I ever heard in my life.  Then the light worked
round again, and shone down towards where the lifeboat and the ship lay;
but we could see nothing but the tremendous sea beating upon the sands,
boiling up and rising like mountains of foam, whilst our light-ship
rolled and plunged and tugged at her moorings, so that we could not keep
our feet.

Bound come the light again, and we strained our eyes to look, but there
was nothing but the tumbling sea in one great froth; and then darkness,
and light once more as the lanthorn revolved; and we then fancied that
in the dark part, between where the light fell and our ship, we could
make out the lifeboat drifting along on one side, with here and there
something dark clinging to it; but we couldn't be sure, and even if they
had floated close by us, we could have done nothing to help them, for
the sea on was something fearful.

There wasn't a man of us that night as didn't feel sure as the old
light-ship would be dragging her anchors and going ashore somewhere,
when, "Lord ha' mussy upon us," I says.  Of course, it was watch and
watch of a night; but, there, who could go and turn in with the sea
thundering on deck, and washing over you--the chain cables groaning and
creaking; the wind shrieking by, and the mast, atop of which stood the
lanthorn, quivering and jarring and shaking, as though it would snap off
by the deck?  Sleep!  No, not much of that; for we all stayed on deck,
talking when there was a lull, and holding on so as to keep from being
swept overboard.

Ah! it's a nice berth--tenter of a light-ship, moored at the end of the
dangerous sands--a place too bad for other vessels to come; so, fair
weather or foul, there you are, to keep your light bright and trimmed so
that you may warn other folks off.

We could see the lights ashore now and then, and knew how the folks
would be looking out for the lifeboat, and the very thought of it all
gave one a shudder, for it seemed that they were all lost--ship's crew
and lifeboat's crew--while we four had been looking idly on.

I'd crept along to the bows of the ship, and was trying to peer out into
the thick haze ahead, when all at once I gave a start, for I seemed to
hear a cry like some one hailing very faintly.

I looked out again and again on both sides, and then settled as it was
fancy, for the noise of the wind and water was deafening; but just as
I'd made up my mind that it was nothing I hears the cry again, and this
time it made me shiver, for I knew that any one of the ship's crew, or
the lifeboat's crew, must have been swept away half an hour before.  So,
as I said, I gave quite a shiver and crept back to where my mates stood,
and shouts in Bob Gunnis's ear, "There's some one a hailing of us!"

"Don't be a fool," he says, quite crusty; but I stuck out as there was,
and then he crept forward too, and stood listening.  "Now then," he
says, "where's your hailin' now?  Why, it was the--"

"Help!" came a faint cry from somewhere ahead, and Bob stopped short
with his mouth open, and his hand over his eyes, gazing out to sea.

"Say, mate," he says, ketching hold of my arm, and whispering in my ear,
with his mouth quite close--"say, mate, let's get back; 'taint nat'ral."

Well, feeling a bit queer after hearing that wild cry from somewhere off
the water, and knowing that nothing could live in the sea then on, we
thought it was what Alick Frazer, another of our chaps, called "No
canny," and we crept back along the bulwarks to where t'other two stood,
and "I say, bo," says Bob to Alick, "you can hear 'em drowning out there
now;" and Bob was obliged to shout it all.

"Ah!" says Alick, "and so we shall every storm night as comes, laddie;
and I'll no stay in the ship if we do."

"Help!" came the cry again off the water--such a long low cry, heard in
the lull, that it seemed to go through us all, and we stood there
trembling and afraid to move.

"'Tain't human," says Alick--"it's a sperrit;" but somehow or other we
all went up to the ship's head again, and stood trying to make something
out as the light turned round.  All just in front of us was dark, for it
was some little way out before the light struck the water; but we could
see nothing; and shaking our heads, we were about going back again, when
a sea came aboard with a rush, and made us hold on for dear life; and
then directly after came very faintly the cry, "Help!" so close at hand
that it seemed on board.

"Why, there's a chap on the chain?" cried Bob Gunnis excitedly.  "Look
here, mates," he cried; and there right below, and evidently lashed on
to the big mooring cable, we could make out a figure, sometimes clear of
the water, and sometimes with it washing clean over him.

"Ahoy!"  I sings out; but there was no answer, and during the next
minute as we stood there no cry for help came, for it seemed the poor
fellow was beat out.

"Well," I says, "we must fetch him aboard somehow."

"Ah!" says Bob Gunnis, "that's werry easy said, mate; p'raps you'll go
down the cable and do it."

That was home certainly, for with the sea, as we kept shipping, it was
hard enough to hold your own in the shelter of the bulwarks, without
going over the bows, where you would have to hang on, and get the full
rush.  "Well, but," I say, "some one must go;" and I shouted it out, and
looked at the other two.  But they wouldn't see it, and Bob Gunnis only
said it was bad enough there as we were; so I goes down below, feeling
all of a shiver as if something was going to happen, and they shouted at
me, but I came up again, and shoved the hatch on, and then crept forward
with some inch rope in my hand; makes one end fast round my waist, and
gives them the rest to pay out; and then gets ready to go over the bows
and slip down the cable.

I waited till a sea had struck us, and then climbed over and began to
swarm down the cold, slippery iron links; and not being far, I soon got
hold of the poor fellow hanging there; then the sea came right over us,
and it seemed as if I was going to be torn away; but I held on, and then
as it went down I got lower, and held tight hold of the poor chap--both
arms round him, and fancying how it would be if my knot wasn't fast, or
the rope parted.  I shouted for them to haul us aboard; but they
couldn't have heard me, for while I was watching the black bows of the
ship, another wave come over us, and I was almost drowned before it
sank.  But now they began to haul on tight, and dragged so that the rope
cut awfully, for I found that the poor chap didn't move; and loosing one
hand as they slackened a moment, I could feel as he had lashed himself
to the cable, and then the rope tightened again, and before I could
shout I was being dragged away, and the next moment they had me over the
side.

But I was a bit up now, and, opening my knife, I tried the knot, got my
breath, and went over again, slid down the chain, and getting where I
was afore, managed to cut through the poor fellow's lashings; and then
holding on tightly, shouted to them to haul; but as I shouted, the sea
washed right over us, and dashed us bang up against the ship's bows, so
that I was half stunned; but I held on, and then as the wave was sucking
us back, and I felt that it was all over, the rope tightened, the
fellows hauled in fast, and once more I was aboard, and this time not
alone--though, mind you, it was no easy task to get us over the side,
for I couldn't help them a bit.

After a bit I was able to crawl down the hatchway, and as they were
trying to pour rum into the poor fellow's mouth, I lay down in the
cabin, for my head felt heavy and stupid, and there I was watching them
as by the light of the swinging lanthorn they did what they could for
the poor fellow; and at last, lying there listening to the sea beating
up against the side, I fell into a half-stupid sort of sleep--part owing
to the way my head was struck, and partly from being worn-out.

Next morning when I woke, wet and shivering, the dull light through the
skylight showed me as the poor fellow lay on the other side, and there
was no one else in the cabin.  Close aside him was a life-belt; so I
knew that he had been one of the lifeboat crew, and, not wanting to
disturb him, I was going to creep out, when I thought I'd have a look to
see who it was I'd saved, and so I crept back a bit, and stooped down,
when my heart seemed to stop, for I saw as it was my own brother--and he
was dead!

Can't help feeling a bit soft about it, sir, though it's years ago now.
Poor chap! he volunteered, as the crew were short-handed, and was one of
the many lost, for only two or three got ashore.

Plucky young chap, he was; but the sea was too much for him; and, Lord,
sir, you'd be surprised how many the sea takes every year.



CHAPTER THREE.

K9--A QUEER DOG.

Ideas for new sketches are like mushrooms in the London fields--scarce
articles, and difficult to find unless you force them in a bed.  But
then the forced article will not bear comparison with that of
spontaneous growth, while you find that, as you have made your bed, so
on it you must lie.  So you lie, on the strength of your forced article,
and the natural consequence is that the public will not believe you when
you tell them a story.  We have had specimens lately of what the earnest
will dare in search of the novel, but in spite of Longfellow's
imperative words, we can't all be heroes.  Be that as it may, though,
after a long search, I found this mental mushroom in the field of
adventure.  It was nearly hidden by the surrounding growth, but peeped
forth white and shiny like a bald-crowned head, with the side crop
brushed carefully across in streaks.  It was a reverse of circumstances
certainly, but the idea was new, so I took a policeman into custody;
while as a proof of the daring contained in the apparently simple act,
think of a man to whom reputation is dear, and read the following.

I had long had my eye upon the policeman, for no one could gaze upon his
face without feeling that those impressive features had a large fund of
interesting matter concealed behind.  "There must be something more than
whiskers," I said, and then I considered what a sensation novelist he
would make if but of a literary bent.  Truth is stranger than fiction;
and what truths we should get from the man so often sworn to "tell the
truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."  However, failing
the policeman's turning _litterateur_, I thought a little of his
experience might be made available, and therefore the above-named
custodian act was performed.

Now the public--that is to say, the reading public--cannot guess at a
tithe of the difficulties to be encountered in making the policeman
speak; he looks upon every question as though it were, with entrapping
ideas, put to him by a sharp cross-examining counsel, and is reticent to
a degree.  He is a regular Quaker--he only speaks when the spirit moveth
him; and the only effective spirit for moving him is Kinahan's LL, which
seems to soothe the perturbed current of his thoughts, makes him cease
to regard the administering hand as that of prosecutor, prisoner, or
witness in an important case, and altogether it reduces him to one's own
level, if he will allow the expression.

Bobby sat one evening in my study--as my wife insists upon calling the
little shabby room over the back kitchen--and for awhile he seemed such
a Tartar that I regretted having caught him.  I almost shrank beneath
his hard stare, and began to wonder whether I had done anything that
would necessitate the use of the "darbies" he was fidgeting about in his
pocket, especially when his eyes were so intently fixed upon my wrists,
which lay upon the table before me in rather an exposed state, from the
fact of the tweed jacket I wore not being one of the "warranted shrunk."
It was enough to make any one shudder and draw the sleeves lower down,
and my performance of this act appeared to make my visitor so suspicious
that I verily believe he would have interposed to prevent my exit any
time during the course of his call.

My friend partook of my hospitality, and then began to speak, when I
opened a book and seized a pencil, but,--

"No, thanky, sir," he cried; "not if I knows it.  The regular reporters
is bad enough; only what can't be cured must be endoored.  But none o'
that, thanky.  P'raps you'll put that book away."

Of course I did so, and felt that I must imitate the special
correspondent of the _Pall Mall Gazette_, and trust to my memory.

"Now yer see, sir, I could say a deal; but then I says to myself--`It's
my dooty to tell you as anything you now says may be used in evidence
agen you at yer trial.'  Wherefore, don't you see, I takes notice of the
caution?"

I'd give something to be able to transfer to paper the solemn wink he
gave me, but that is impossible, and we both talked on indifferent
subjects until my visitor had had another mix, when thoughtfully poking
at the sugar, he said,--

"You see, sir, we do sometimes have cases on hand as makes a feller
quite savage; and then people as looks on will make it ten times wuss
for the pleeceman by siding with them as is took.  Here we gets kicked
and butted, knocked down and trod upon; clothes tore, hats once, 'elmets
now, crushed; hair pulled out by the roots, and all sorts o' nice
delicate attentions o' that sort, which naterally puts a feller out, and
makes him cut up rough; then the crowd round cries out `shame,' or, `oh,
poor feller,' or what not, and makes the poor feller as has half killed
a couple o' pleecemen wuss than he was afore.  Pleecemen oughter to keep
their tempers says the papers, arter what they calls a `police outrage,'
jest as if the force was recruited out of all that's amiable.  _We_
ain't angels, sir, not a bit of it; and it's a wonder we don't get more
outer temper than we does.  Jest you go to take a chap inter custody and
adwise him to come quietly; and then offer to take him all decent and
orderly.  Jest you go and do that, and let him turn round and give you a
spank in the mouth, as cuts yer lip open and knocks a tooth loose--jest
see how angelified you'll feel then; and try what a job it is not to
pull yer staff out and half knock his blessed head off.  Why, if Lord
Shaftesbury hisself had on the bracelet that night I know he'd give my
gentleman one or two ugly twists.  Wun knows wun oughter keep cool, but
yer see a feller ain't made o' cast iron, which would be a blessin' to
some of our fellers' legs--being a hard material.  After taking a rough
sometimes I've seen our chaps with legs black, blue, and bleeding with
kicks, while 'ceptin' a little touzlin' and sech, the prisoner hasn't
had a spot on him.  Yes, it's all werry fine, `Keep yer temper,'--`Don't
be put out,'--`Take it all coolly,'--be pitched outer winder and then
`come up smilin',' as _Bell's Life_ says.  Get kicked in the stummick,
and then make a bow; but that you'd be sure to do, for you'd get
reg'larly doubled up.  Never mind havin' yer whiskers pulled, and bein'
skretched a bit, it's all included in yer eighteen bob or pound a week;
and, above all--keep yer temper.

"A niste job two on us had in Oxford-street, I think it was, one day.
It was over a horinge chap as had been making an obstruction in the
busiest part o' the thoroughfare.  We'd been at him for about a week,
arstin' him civilly to drop it; for the vestry had been laying the case
before the magistrate, and we had our orders.  You see it was a good
pitch; and this chap used to do a roaring bit o' business, and of course
it warn't pleasant to give it up; but then he'd no call to be there, yer
know, for he was interfering with the traffic; so in course we had to
put a stop to it.

"Well, yer know, it had come to that pitch at last that if he wouldn't
go why we was to take him, and Dick Smith was the one that was in for it
along with me.  We neither on us liked it, for this was a civil-spoken
chap in a suit o' cords, a bird's-eye handkercher, and a fur cap.  He'd
got a smart way, too, o' doing his hair, which was black and turned
under at the two sides afore his ears; and besides he was only trying to
get a honest living; but dooty's dooty, yer know, sir, and we ain't got
much chance o' pickin' and choosin'.  So I says to Dick, as we goes
along--

"`Now, then, Dick,' I says, `which is it to be, the cove or his barrer?'

"`Oh!' says Dick, `I'm blest if I'm a-goin' to wheel the barrer through
the public streets.  Look well for a pleece-constable in uniform,
wouldn't it?'

"`Well,' I says, rather chuff, `some one's got it to do, and I ain't
a-goin' to have it shoved on to me.  Tell yer what we'll do--we'll toss
up.'

"`All right,' says Dick, `so we will.'

"So I fetches out a copper, the on'y one we could furridge out between
us, and to Dick I says, `Now, then, sudden death?'

"`Not a bit of it,' says he, `I'll go off lingerin'--best two out o'
three.'

"`Werry well,' I says, `anything for peace and quietness.'  And so we
tossed.

"`Heads,' says Dick.

"`Woman it is,' says I.  `One to me;' and then I passes the brown over
to Dick, and he spins up.

"`Lovely woman,' says I, and lovely woman it was.

"`Blowed if here ain't two Bobbies a tossin',' says one o' them niste
boys as yer meets with in London.

"Didn't I feel savage, though I had won; and for a moment I almost
wished it had been that werry young gentleman as we had to take.  But my
boy gives a grin and a hop, skip, and a jump, and then cuts behind a
gentleman's carriage as was passing, when the Johnny put out his foot
and gave him a push, and down he goes into the mud"; which was, of
course, pleasant to our outraged feelings, though it would have taken a
great deal of mud to spoil that boy's clothes.

"`Now then, Dick,' I says, `let's be off.'

"`Wot's the hurry?' says Dick, who was a thinking of the barrer, I could
see.

"`Oh, come on,' I says; for, thinks I to myself, `you're on the right
hand side of the way, my boy.'

"So off we goes, till we comes to the well-known spot, and there stood
my chap, a-doing a raging trade.

"`Now then, young feller,' I says, `you must move on.'

"`What for?' says he.

"`Obstructing the thoroughfare,' says I.

"`Taste 'em,' he says, `they're fust-rate to-day.  Shove two or three in
yer pocket for the young Bobbies.'

"`Won't do,' I says; `we've got our orders, and off yer goes.'

"`Get out,' he says, `you're chaffin'.'

"`Not a bit of it,' I says; `so stow nonsense and go on quietly, there's
a good feller.'

"`All right,' he says, seeing as we was serious, `all right.'  And then
he sells a horinge to this one, and a horinge to that one, and
sixpenn'orth to another one; but not a hinch would he move.  So we waits
a bit, and then I gives him another gentle hint or two.

"`All right,' he says agin, `wait a bit.'

"Well, yer knows, sir, this went on for about half an hour, and a crowd
gets collected, and every time as I speaks to him, `All right,' he says,
`wait a bit,' and then the crowd laughed and the boys hoorayed.

"I thinks to myself `This here won't do,' but neither Dick nor me wanted
to begin, so I has one last try, and I says quietly,--

"`Now, are you a-goin' or not?  Becos if you ain't we must make yer.'

"`All right,' he says, `wait a bit,' and the people bust out a laughin'
again, and the crowd gets bigger than ever.

"`Now, then, Dick,' I says to my mate, `come on,' for I see as it was no
use to be played with any longer.

"So Dick goes to the barrer, and I collars the chap, and the row began.
Dick lays hold o' the barrer handles quite savagely, and shoots a dozen
o' horinges off inter the road, when, of course, there was a regular
scramble, and somebody calls out `Shame!'  Then my chap takes and throws
hisself down, and gives my wrist such a screw as a'most sprained it, and
then somebody else calls out `Shame!'

"`Now you'd better come on quietly,' I says to my chap.  `You'll do no
good by making a row.'  And then I tries to get him up on his legs, when
some one calls out `Shame!' agin.

"`What's a shame?'  I says, which I didn't oughter have done, for I knew
my dooty better than they could tell me.  Howsoever I says it, `What's a
shame?'  I says.

"`Ill usin' a honest man,' says the crowd.

"I sees as it was no use to talk, so I gets well hold o' my chap, and
seeing, as he did, as his barrer was a moving off with Dick in the
sharps, and the boys a hoorayin', he gets up, and we was goin' on all
right, when some on 'em calls out `Shame!' again, and that sets the chap
off, and he throws hisself down, and, wuss luck, throws me down too,
when off goes my box, and in the scuffle my gent jumps up, puts his foot
on it, and nearly gets away.

"Now this made me a bit warm, for I was hurt, and I didn't mean to let
him go at no price now.  So, jest as he'd shook me off and was going to
bolt, I gets hold of his leg as I lays on the ground, when he gives me
the savagest kick right aside o' the head, and nobody didn't cry `shame'
then.

"Well, I wasn't stunned, but I felt precious giddy.  I jumps up, though,
and lays hold of him--sticks to him, too, and sometimes we was down and
sometimes up, and I know we rolled over in the mud half a dozen times.

"Last of all, in one of the struggles in all of which the crowd hindered
me as much as it could, my chap goes down, spang, with his head on the
pavement, and me atop of him, and there he lay stunned.

"`Shame, shame!' cries the crowd, `you've killed the poor fellow.'  And
then they begins a shovin' and a hustlin' of me about, and I don't know
how it would have ended if one of our chaps hadn't ha' come up; and then
Dick came back after gettin' rid o' the barrer.  Then we had the
stretcher fetched, and the end of it was Horinges got seven days for
assaultin' the police, and I got seven days, too--only mine was in the
infirmary.

"You wouldn't have ketched me tossin' if I'd known.

"You see, people will be so precious fond o' takin' what they calls the
weak side.  They never stops to ask themselves whether it's right or
whether it's wrong; but they goes at it like a bull at a gate, and it's
us as suffers.  Many's the chap as has got away when the pleece has jest
nicely put a finger on him.  In comes Public.  `Let that poor chap
alone,' says he, `what are you draggin' him off in chains like that
for?'  And so on to that tune till every one begins to feel for the
chap, who puts on a cantin' phisog, and turns his eyes about like them
coves as chalks on the pavement for a livin'.  Perhaps he's a burglar,
or a smasher, or swell-mobsman, or a nice tender-hearted critter as has
been beatin' his wife with a poker, or knocked her head agin the wall,
or some nice trick o' that kind.  And then everybody takes part agin the
police, and what can they do?

"`Their dooty,' says you.

"Well, in course, but it don't come werry pleasant, mind yer.

"People don't side with us; they don't like us a bit.  And of course
you'll say we don't like the people.  Well, we'll drop that part of the
business.  It's only natural for us to like a good murder, or burglary,
or forgery.  You swells likes your huntin', and fishin' and shootin';
and we enjoys our sport as much as you does your little games.  There's
a sorter relish about taking a fellow for anything exciting just when my
gentleman fancies he's got clean off--hopped his twig, as he thinks;
when in we goes at my gaol-bird, and pops salt on his tail.  Bless yer,
we claps the darbies on his wrists, and has him walked off before he
knows what's up.  He's like a orspital patient; we chloroforms him with
the bracelets, and before he comes to hisself we've cut off his liberty,
and he wakes up in a cell."

"Yer see, sir," said my friend, rising, "yer see, we've a knack o' doin'
it.  Spose, now, it's you as is wanted.  I've held you in play, say for
half an hour, to make sure as you're the man as I wants, for I've got
yer phortygruff pinned in my hat; and at last I walks up to yer just so,
and `You're my pris'ner,' says I.  Whereupon you ups with yer hands--
just so, that's the way--and tries to shove me off, when--"

"_Click, Click_..."

"There I has yer snug with your bracelets on; and werry proud I feels of
yer."

And in effect my visitor had carried out his illustration to the fullest
extent, so that I sat before him handcuffed, and he resumed his seat
smiling with triumph and LL.  I suggested the removal of my bonds; but
my captor, as he seemed to consider himself, merely smiled again, helped
himself to a cigar, lighted it, and began to smoke.

This was as bad as being a Lambeth casual.  Anybody, even Mrs Scribe
might come in, and the thought was more powerful than any sudorific in
the pharmacopoeia.  It was no use to appeal to K9, for he seemed to
consider Brag was a good dog, but Holdfast a better; and he did nothing
but smile and smoke.  Getting an idea for an article was all very well,
but at what a cost!  It would not do at all.  Why the special
correspondent of the _PMG_ would not have rested upon his hay-bag if a
committee to whom he was well-known had entered the place to inspect
him.  He would have fled without his bundle.  Ay, and so would I, but
there was some one coming up the stairs, and I should have run right
into some one's arms.  A last appeal to the fellow before me only
produced another smile; so, as a _dernier ressort_, I drew my chair
towards the table, and thrust my manacled hands out of sight.

I was just in time, for the handle turned, and in walked an artist
friend, who always makes a point of considering himself as much at home
in my room as I do myself in his.

"How are you, old boy?" said he, which was hardly the thing, considering
the company I was in.

I muttered something about being very well, and Chrayonne seated himself
by the fire.

"Pass the cigar-box, old fellow," said he.  But I couldn't hear him, and
tried to appear as if sitting at my ease--of course, a very simple thing
with one's hands pinioned.

"Pass the cigars, Scribe," said Chrayonne, again, in a louder key; while
the policeman wagged his head, and smiled knowingly.

"He can't," said the wretch, grinning outright.

"Can't?" said Chrayonne, with a puzzled look.  "Can't?  But, I say," he
exclaimed, jumping up, "I beg your pardon, old fellow, I never thought
about your being engaged.  I'm off.  _Excusez_."

"Pris'ner," said K9, grinning.

"I am not," I exclaimed, indignantly; but it was of no avail, for the
wretch pulled the table-cover on one side, and pointed to my manacled
hands.

Chrayonne blew out his cheeky opened his eyes widely, and then whistled
very softly.  Then, after a pause--

"Very sorry, old fellow.  Can I do anything?  Bail--friends--
solicitors--"

"Yes," I exclaimed, furiously.  "Knock that scoundrel down, and take the
key of these confounded handcuffs from him.  It's a rascally piece of
humbug--it's a trick."

Chrayonne looked at the constable, who winked at him in reply, and, to
my intense disgust, I could see that for the moment he was more disposed
to place faith in the impassive demeanour of the myrmidon of the law
than in my indignant protestations.

Just then, however, by a desperate effort, and at the cost of some skin,
I dragged one hand from its durance vile, and rushed at my captor, as he
dubbed himself; but he coolly rose, took out the key, and released my
other hand.  Then pocketing the handcuffs, and winking at us both in
turn, he opened the door, and the room knew him no longer.  While, as a
specimen of the advantage or disadvantage of first impressions, I may
add that it took two cigars and words innumerable to make Chrayonne
believe that my visitor had not departed with the expectation of a heavy
bribe as payment for my release.



CHAPTER FOUR.

WAITING FOR 'ARRY.

Well, sir, yes; perhaps it was his own fault, a good deal of it, and yet
I thinks sometimes as those big folks above us might do something for us
to make things better.  But that's neither here nor there; we was
hungry, both on us, and he took it and got nabbed, and he's a taking it
out in here; and I allus takes a walk round every morning before going
out for the day with my basket.  Seems like to do me good, though I
can't see him; for I know he's there.  And then I count up the days as
well as I can so as to know when he'll come out, and 'tain't surprising
as sometimes they seems so long, that I get my cheek up again the wall
and has a good cry.

But that don't do no good, you know--only makes one feel a bit lighter;
and then I'm up and off, so as to save all I can again my chap comes
out; and then, good luck to us, I hope times 'll mend.

Down the Dials we live.  Not in the main street, you know, but just off
in a court, and right up atop in the garret.  You see, 'Arry gets his
living by birds, and we can keep 'em alive up there better.  Poor little
things! they dies fast enough now; but when we lived on the ground-floor
back it was awful.  I s'pose it was the closeness and bad smells, for
the little things would turn rough all over, and wouldn't eat, and then
next morning there they'd be with their pretty little bright eyes half
closed, and looking so pitiful that I used to cry about it, and then
'Arry used to call me a fool; but I know he didn't mind, for he allus
put his arm round me and give me a kiss.

Pore little soft, downy things; it used to be sad enough to have 'em
shut up behind them bars, beating their little soft breasts, and seeming
to say, "Let me out! let me out!" but when they died it was ever so much
worse.  Sometimes of a night I've woke up to hear a little scratching
noise and a rustling in one of the cages; and then I've known what it
meant, for it's one of the pore thing's little spirits flown away from
this weary life.

'Arry used to be soft over it too, for he's werry fond of his birds, and
when one went away from us like that, he used to roll the little body up
in a bit of stiff paper, and take it down in the country with him and
bury it.

"Seems hard to ketch the poor things," he used to say; "but we must get
a living somehow."

When we got up atop of the house there was more light, and a bit of sun
sometimes, so that the birds lived better, and used to sing more, and we
sold a-many.

You see 'Arry had his nets, and traps, and call-birds, and in the fine
weather we used to go down in the country together ketching linnets, and
goldfinches, and redpoles.  Sometimes we'd bring home a lark's or a
nightingale's nest, and I used to help him all I could--cutting turves,
and getting chickweed, and groundsel, and plantain, moss and wool for
canary nests, and mosses and sprays for the bird-stuffers to ornament
with, besides grasses of all kinds.  There's allus sale for them sorter
things, you know, and it's a honest living.

Why, it was like getting into heaven to run down with 'Arry into the
bright country--away from the dirt, and noise, and smoke; and I used to
make him laugh to hear me shout and sing, and to see me running along a
bank here to pick flowers, or stopping there to listen to the larks, and
even running arter the butterflies; but he used to like it, I think, and
allus took me with him when he could, for his mother lives with us and
feeds the birds when we're out.  Spring, and summer, and autumn, it was
allus beautiful: flowers and fruit, and bright sunshine, and soft,
gentle rain, and the sweet, sweet scent of the earth after.  Oh, sir,
shut yourself up for a month in a dirty room in a close court, where you
can hardly breathe--live from hand to mouth, and p'raps not have
enough--and then go out into the bright sunshine and on the breezy
hills, with the green, shady woods there, and the sparkling stream
there--the bees humming about on the heath bells, and all pure, and
bright, and golden with the furze and broom--and then feel how it all
comes over you, choking like, as if you were so happy you must cry, for
it's all too sweet and beautiful to bear!

'Arry allus laughed at me, but I know him and his ways, and what it
means when his eyes look so bright, and there's a twitching about the
corners of his mouth: and the more wild and happy I seemed, the quieter
he'd grow, poor boy, and then he'd take my basket away and carry it
hisself atop of his cages and sticks and nets, and "Go along, my gal,"
he'd say, so that I should be free and light.  For he's a good fellow is
'Arry, and never lifted his hand again me once in all the six years
we've been married, not even when he came home a bit on.

He used to like me to be fond of the country, and we'd go hopping in the
autumn time down there in Surrey amongst the lovely hills, where the
place is all sandy; and there's the big fir woods where you go walking
between the tall, straight trunks, with the sweet scent meeting you at
every step, as you walk over a thick bed of spines.  Then out again,
where the heath is all purple, and the whortleberries grow; while every
hedge is loaded with the great ripe blackberries--miles and miles away
from the smoke, but we never thought of the distance till we were going
home.  Ah! it was enough to make one grudge the people as had money,
allus out there in the clear, bright air; and yet I don't know as they
was happier than we when we made our bit o' fire under a sandy bank, and
sat there and had our bit of bread and cheese or a drop o' tea.

Hopping used to set us up well for some time; and how I used to love it!
but the worst of it was when we went back again into the court--so dull
and dark, when somehow or other, it allus seemed to come in wet and
miserable when we went back home, though the old woman was allus glad to
see us, and did all she could to cheer us up; for she never goes out
because of her rheumatics.  But it was of no use to be low, and we soon
settled down again.

All sorts we had in our place: finches, and canaries, and larks, and
squirrels sometimes.  In the spring-time we used to put pairs of
canaries in a big cage, and give 'em stuff to build their pretty little
nests; and there was one pair one year as I used to watch, and seem to
pity so, for there was the nest and the beautiful eggs, and the little
soft, downy, yellow-breasted thing sitting week after week, and no
little ones came; and then again and again the same.  And I couldn't
help it, you know; but it allus hurt me, and made me have a good cry;
for it made me think of three times when, after begging very hard,
'Arry's mother had let me see a tiny, soft little babe, so delicate and
beautiful, with its little hands and lovely pink nails; so pale, and
still; there were the little blue veins in the white forehead, and the
dimples in the cheeks, while the head was covered with soft golden hair;
and the eyes--ah! the eyes were allus the same, closed--closed, and they
never looked in mine; while when I put my cheek up against it 'twas
allus the same too--cold, cold, cold.  Three times; and I shall never
have two little lips say "Mother" to me.

'Arry used to say it was just as well, for poor people like us was best
without 'em; but it did seem so hard for the little, tiny, soft things
never to look upon the daylight, though it was only in a garret up a
court.

He'll be out in another month, 'Arry will, and we've kep' all together
as well as we could.  You see, I've done a great deal in creases of a
morning, for they allus sells somehow; then, too, I've had a turn at
flowers, for people will allus buy them too; young chaps to stick in
their button-holes, and gals going to work to put in a jug of water, so
as to get the sweet scent of the pretty bright things, that it seems
almost as cruel to bring into the City as it does birds.  Moss roses,
and pinks, and carnations sells best, and I don't know who loves 'em
most, your work-gal from the country or the poor London-bred one.  At
times I've had a fruit-basket, and done pretty well that way; for, you
see, I've been a bit lucky; and allus had a bit more than we wanted to
keep us; though more'n once I thought we must sell the things outer the
room.

Poor boy! he'll be surprised when he comes out, for it was along of hard
times that he got his six months.  He'd been down on his luck for some
weeks, and, though he tried hard, things went again him.  I tried to
cheer him up, but he got a bit wild and savage, and there's allus plenty
to get a chap like him to join in a plant--robbery, you know, sir; and
what with not havin' enough to eat, and the drink they give him, he got
worse and worse; and not being used to it, the other fellows got off,
and poor 'Arry was taken.

He wouldn't peach, bless you; though some of his mates in the job was
afraid, and got outer the way.  One way and another we got money enough
to get him a lawyer, and his case came on; and while I was a-sitting
there, trying to keep all the trouble down, I heard the magistrate talk
to him, and give him six months' hard labour, poor lad, when he'd only
done it to get food.

He saw me there, and give me a good long look, trying to smile all the
time; but I know'd that bright look in his eyes, and the working at the
corners of his mouth, and what he was feeling; but I never flinched a
bit, but met his look true and steady, for I knew he wanted all the
comfort I could give him.

I couldn't get near him to touch his hand, or I would; and while I was
looking hard at the spot where he stood, he was gone; and then the place
seemed to be swimming round, and I felt as though I wanted to cry out,
and then I came to and found myself sitting on the stones outside, with
'Arry's mother, and we got away as fast as we could.

Yes; up early, and round here every morning, wet or dry, for I shouldn't
seem to get on well if I didn't; and long tramps I has: now it's
Farringdon Market for creases; now Common Garding for flowers; or
Spitalfields or the Boro' for fruit--'cept oranges, and them we gets o'
the Jews; and you may say what you like, but I never finds them worse to
deal with than some as calls theirselves Christians.

Then it's off with your load, and get rid of it as fast as you can; for
its heavy carrying miles after miles through the long streets; and it's
a-many faces you look into before there's one to buy.  And last of all,
when I get back I can sit and think about 'Arry, and how pleased he'll
be to find as the nets, and cages, and calls, ain't none of 'em sold.
Yes, you can't help thinking about him, for outside the window there's
the pigeon trap as he was a-making with laths and nails; inside there's
his birds, and the one he was trying to stuff; for he says that's a good
living for a chap, if he's at all clever; and he used to think that
after seeing so many birds alive he could do it right off.  So at odd
times he used to practise; and there was his scissors and wires, and
tow, and files and nippers, and two or three little finches he'd done,
perched up on sprigs of wood, with their feathers wound over and over
with cotton, and pins stuck in 'em to keep the wings in their places.

But he allus was clever, was 'Arry; and if he'd had a chance, would have
got on.

When the sun's a-going down I gets to the open window, if I'm home time
enough; and while the birds are all twittering about me, I get looking
right out far away over roofs and chimneys--right out towards where
there's the beautiful country, and then I even seem to see it all bright
and clear: trees waving, and grass golden green; and through the noise
and roar of the streets I seem to hear the cows lowing as they go slowly
through the meadows, and the tinkle of the sheep-bell; while all the
clouds are golden, orange, and red.  Then, too, the bright stars seem to
come peeping out one at a time; and the sky pales, while there's a soft
mist over the brook, and a sweet, cool, freshness after the hot, close,
burning day; now, from where I seem to be on a hill-side, there can be
seen a bright light here and there from the cottages, and then about me
the bats go darting and fluttering silently along; there's the beautiful
white ghost-moths flitting about the bushes, and flapping along, high
up, a great owl; and, again, round and round, and hawking about along
the wood-side, there's a large night-jar after the moths; for 'Arry
taught me all their names.  And at last, in the deep silence, tears seem
to come up in my eyes, as I hear the beautiful gushing song of the
nightingales, answering one another from grove to grove--pure, bright,
and sparkling song that goes through one, and sends one's thoughts far
away from the present.

And those tears coming into one's eyes seem to shut out all the bright
scene, and it goes again; and though there's the twinkling stars
overhead, and the birds nestling around me, yet, instead of the peace
and silence, there's the roar of the court and the streets, the chimneys
and tiles all round, the light shining up from the gas, and I know I'm
only in the Dials; but it's sweet to fancy it all, and get away from the
life about you for a few minutes; and when 'Arry's mother sees me like
that, she never disturbs me to complain of her aches and pains.

No; never in the country since my boy was taken; but the bright days are
coming soon.



CHAPTER FIVE.

A ROGUE IN GRAIN.

"Oh, no; ain't nothing like such tools as I've been used to," he says.
"At my last shop everything was first class, and the place beautifully
fitted-up--gas on, new benches, fine joiners' chest o' tools, full of
beading and moulding planes, and stocks, and bits, and everything first
class."

"Well," says the guv'nor, "I don't want to be unreasonable: anything
really necessary for the job you shall have; but of course I can't help
my workshop not being equal to your last; but I 'spose it won't make
much difference if you get your wages reg'lar?"

"Oh, no;" he says; it didn't matter to him; he could work with any
tools, he could; ony he did like to see things a bit to rights, and so
on to that tune; and then my gentleman gets to work.

"Pity you didn't stop where you was so jolly well off," I thinks to
myself; and then I goes on whistling, and priming some shutters as the
guv'nor had made for a new shop front as he had to put in.  You see,
'tain't many years since our guv'nor was ony a working man like me, ony
he managed to scrape a few pounds together, and then very pluckily
started for hisself out in one of the new outskirts, where there was a
deal of new building going on by the big London contractors, and a deal
of altering and patching, which used to be done by the little jobbing
men same as our guv'nor.  Often and often he's talked to me about it
when working aside me pleasant and sociable as could be; how at times
he'd be all of a shake and tremble for fear of going wrong, not knowing
how to pay his man or two on Saturday, and obliged to be civil as could
be to them, for fear they'd go off and leave him in the lurch over some
job or other.  Then people didn't pay up, and he'd have to wait; and
then there was the ironmonger and the timber merchant wouldn't give him
credit, being only a small beginner; and one way and another he led such
a life of it for the first three years as made him wish again and again
as he'd been content to be journeyman and stopped on the reg'lar.  But
there; he warn't meant for a journeyman, he was too good a scholar, and
had too much in his brains, and, besides, had got such a stock of that
"will do it" in his head as made him get on.  He knowed well enough that
you can't drive a nail up to the head at one blow, or cover a piece of
flatting with one touch of the brush; and so he acted accordingly,
tapping gently at first till he'd got his nail a little way in, and then
letting go at it till it was chock up to the head, reg'lar fixture; and
so on, nail after nail, till he got his house up firm and strong.  He
didn't turn master for the sake of walking about with his hands in his
pockets; for, as he said to me often, "In my small way, Sam," he says,
"master's a harder job than journeyman's."  And so it was; for, come
tea-time and the men knocked off, I've seen him keep on hard at it, hour
after hour, right up to twelve o'clock; while the chaps as left the shop
would wink at one another, for some men ain't got any respect for a
hard-toiling master: they'll a deal sooner slave for some foul-mouthed
bully who gives them no peace of their lives.

Sometimes, when he's been hard pushed with a job, I've known him ask 'em
to stay and work a bit of overtime, same as he did my gentleman as had
been at such fine shops; but "Oh, no," he says, "couldn't do it,
thanky," and away he goes.

Well, now, that ain't the sort of thing, you know; for one good turn
deserves another; and my gentleman wouldn't have much liked it if he'd
been refused a day when he wanted it.  But, there, he was a poor sort;
and one of those fellows as must have everything exact to pattern, and
can't be put out in the least--chaps what runs in one groove all their
lifetime and can't do anything out of it; and then, when they're outer
work, why, they're like so many big babies and quite as helpless.  But
he didn't stay long; he was too fine, and talked too much.  The guv'nor
soon saw through him, and paid him off; and, according to my experience
in such things, those men as have so much to say, and are so very
particular to let the guv'nor know how particular they are not to waste
a bit of time, generally turn out the most given to miking--skulking,
you know.

I ain't much of a workman, you know; being only a sort of odd man on the
place, doing anything--painting or what not; but me and the guv'nor gets
on well together, for I make a point of helping him when he's hard
pushed; and I will say that of him, he's always been as liberal after as
a man could be.  Say a job's wanted quick, what's the good of niggling
about one's hours exactly, and running off for fear of doing a stroke
too much.  Go at it, I says, and work with the master as if you take an
interest in the job and feel a bit of pride in it.  Why, bless your
heart, 'tain't only the three or six-and-thirty shillings a week a man
ought to work for, but the sense of doing things well, so as he can
stand up aside his fellow-man, and look at his work and say, "I did
that, and I ain't ashamed of it."  Why, I've known fellows that bowky
about their jobs that they wouldn't own to 'em afterwards.  Sashes all
knock-kneed, panelling out of the square, or painters with their paint
all blistering and peeling off.  No; 'tain't only for the week's wage a
man ought to work, but for a sense of duty, and so on,

Guv'nor and me gets on very well together, for I was with him in his
worst times, when he used to work in his shirt-sleeves aside me; and
many's the time I've gone into little contract jobs with him, to
calculate the expense, when from being over-anxious to get work he'd
take the jobs a deal too low, and so I used to tell him.  But we always
got on together, and I'll tell you how it was I got along with him.

I always could carpenter a bit, but most of my time's been spent as a
painter--'prenticed to it, you know, and spent seven years with a
drunken master to learn 'most nothing, 'cept what I picked up myself.
Well, I couldn't get a job in town, so I was on the look-out round the
outside, when I came to our guv'nor's place, where he was at work with
two men, and him doing about as much as both of 'em.  No use to try on
for carpentering, I thinks, so I sets up the painting sign and goes in.

"Well," says the guv'nor, "I can give you a job if you can grain."

Now that was a rum 'un, for I was only a plain painter, and no grainer;
but after three weeks' hard lines, wife and family at home, and work
awful, it did seem tantalising to a willing man to have a week's wages
shown him if he could only do one particular thing.  Of course I had
dodged it a bit before, but I wasn't a grainer, and I knowed it well
enough; but I thinks to myself, "Well, this is outside London, where
people ain't so very artis-like in their ideas, and perhaps I can manage
it--so here goes.  I can but try, and if I misses, why, it ain't a
hanging matter."  So I says, "Well; I wouldn't undertake none of your
superfine walnuts, and bird's-eye maples, and marbles; but if it's a bit
of plain oak I'm your man."

"Well," he says, "that'll do; it's only plain oak; and, if you like, you
can begin priming and going on at once.  There's paints and brushes, but
you must find your own graining tools."

At it I goes like a savage, and then I found as there was a week's work
for me before I need touch the graining; for there was priming, and
first and second coats; and so I went on, but thinking precious hard
about the bit of graining I should have to do.  "Nothing venture,
nothing gain," I says; and that night I was hard at it after work--ah!
and right up to four o'clock in the morning--trying to put a bit of oak
grain on to a piece of smooth deal.  I'd got a brush or two, and some
colour, and a couple of them comb-like things we uses; and there I was,
with the missus trying to keep her eyes open and pretending to sew,
while I painted and streaked, and then smudged it about with a bit of
rag; and I'm blest if I didn't put some grain on that piece of wood as
would have made Mother Nature stare--knots, and twists, and coarse
grain, and shadings as I could have laughed at if I hadn't been so
anxious.  You see, the nuisance of it was, it looked so easy when
another man did it: touches over with his colour, streaks it down with
his comb, and then with a rag gives a smudge here and there, and all so
lightly, and there it is done.  But I couldn't, though I tried till the
missus nodded, so I was obliged to send her to bed for fear she'd set
her cap afire; and then I goes to the pump and has a reg'lar good
sloosh, and touches my face over with the cold water, when after a good
rub I goes at it again quite fresh.

I can't think now how many times I rubbed the paint off with the dirty
rag, but a good many I know, and the clock had gone three when I was
still at it, with every try seeming to be worse than the last; but still
I kept on till I seemed to hear it strike four in a muffled sort of way,
and then the next thing I heard was the wife calling me, for it was five
o'clock, and I had a long way to walk to get to my work.

As soon as I could get my head off the table, and pull myself together,
the first thing I did was to look at my graining; and some how or other
it didn't look so very much amiss; but still it warn't anything like
what it ought to be, as I knowed well enough.  All that day I was
thinking it over, and best part of that dinner-hour I stopped in the
shop trying it on again.

Just as I was going to smudge a piece over, and finish my bit of bread
and meat, not feeling at all satisfied, I gives a jump, for some one
behind me says,--

"Very neat, indeed.  Bit of old oak, I suppose.  You'd better do them
shutters that style of grain."

Well, do you know, if I didn't look at the guv'nor--for him it was--to
see whether he warn't a joking me; but, bless you, no; he was as serious
as a judge: so feeling all the while like a great humbug, as I was, I
says, "Werry well, sir," finished my dinner, and then got to work again.

It turned out as I expected, just a whole week before I had to begin
graining; and what with about an hour a day, and four more every night,
I got on pretty well, especially after giving a chap two pots of ale to
put me up to a wrinkle or two; and now I sometimes pass by that very bit
of graining, and though of course I could do it a deal better now, I
don't feel so very much ashamed of it.

But along of my guv'nor.  What a fight that man did have surely; and how
well I used to know when he was running short on Saturdays: he'd look
ten years older those times; and over and over again I've felt ashamed
to take the money; but one couldn't do without it, you know, on account
of the little ones and wife.  Last of all, though, we got to understand
one another--the guv'nor and me; and this was how it was: he'd been
worse nor usual, and was terribly hard-up, for he'd been buying wood and
paying for it; for though he could have plenty of credit now as he don't
want it, in those days not a bit of stuff could he get without putting
the money down.  Well, having next to no capital, this bothered him
terribly; and after paying two men on Saturday, I felt pretty sure as he
was run close, and stood hanging about in the shop, not knowing whether
to go in to the house or be off home; and at last I did go home and told
the wife about it, and she said we could hold out two or three weeks
very well, if I thought the guv'nor would pay by-and-by.  But I soon
settled that, for I knew my man, and so I set down quietly to my tea,
and was sticking a bit of bread-and-butter in one little open beak and a
bit in another, when there comes a knock at the door, and I turned red
all over, for I felt it was the guv'nor; and so it was, and he'd brought
my wages, when, as he stood in my bit of a kitchen holding out the
three-and-thirty shillings, I couldn't for the life of me help looking
at where his watch-chain hung, and it warn't there.

I meant to do it neatly, and without hurting his feelings, for him and
his wife had been very kind to us when we had the sickness in the house;
but, you see, it warn't a bit of graining, and I regularly muffed the
job when I told him to let it stand for two or three weeks, as we could
do till then.  Next moment he had hold of my hand, shaking it heartily,
and then next after that he broke down in a humbled, mortified sort of a
way; and when the wife hurried the children up the staircase, out of
sight, poor chap! he sat down, laid his head on his hand, and groaned.

"Cheer up," I says, "it'll be all right soon."

"Right! yes," he says, jumping up.  "But it ain't that," he says; "it's
meeting a friend where I didn't expect one;" and then he was gone.

I was sitting at breakfast next morning (Sunday) when the garden gate
rattles, and there was the guv'nor coming in such a hurry.  Never stops
to knock, but in he comes and shakes hands hearty; and then, without
speaking, stuffs a letter into my hand.  "Head it," he says, "last post,
last night," and I did; but what I took most notice of was a long strip
of paper with "197 pounds 10 shillings 6 pence" written on it, just
under the name of one of the London bankers.

Yes, we had a pleasant dinner, a comfortable cup of tea, and a cosy
supper with the guv'nor that day; and uncommon good friends we've been
ever since.  I do all sorts at the shop, so that there's always a job,
and though people say "Jack of all trades--master of none," I think a
man might follow French suit and know two trades and master them both,
so as when work falls one way he has a chance the other.  Poor folks
often get hunted by the wolf Poverty, and it would not be amiss to take
a lesson from the burrowing animals, and have two holes--to get out of
one when t'other happened to be stopped.



CHAPTER SIX.

A CABMAN'S STORY.

"Hope I see you well, sir.  Thanky, sir, I ain't had such a cigar since
as you give me that day.  You'll often find me on this stand, sir, and
happy to drive yer at any time, either on the box or inside.  But I say,
you know, sir, how about putting a feller in print?  Fine game some of
our chaps made on it, because they said as they knew it all by heart.
You see I don't like to wherrit people with my old stories; but when I
can get any one to listen I du like to talk a bit.  You can't form no
idea of the things as we hears and sees; and I believe it would do any
man good to drive a keb for a twelvemonth; it's both wonderful what
you'd pick up, and how you'd git picked up.  Here's your poets writing
about green banks and flowers, and shepherds and shepherdesses, and love
and stuff; why I've had no end of love-making in my keb here.  Young
ladies and young swells, whose pars and mars ain't agreeable like, makes
assignations and hires a keb by the hour, to be drove up and down, and
the driver often looking as innocent as you please.  I don't dislike
them sorter jobs, for you see, when he says `How much, kebby?' one can
lay it on a bit, for he won't look shabby by disputing the fare before
the young lady.  But, Lor' bless you, they'd pay anything just at them
times, for money seems no object--everythink's sweet, and when it rains
I think they fancies as it's all sugar and water.

"There was one old chap as I drove regular; he used to come to my stand
twice a week, and after the first time I always knew what to do.  Ah! he
was a fine old chap, and had been a orficer or somethin' of that sort.
Big mustarsh, yer know, and whiskers white as snow, and a hye!  Ah, his
was a hye, his were!  Talk about tellin' soldiers to charge! why, they
couldn't do no other with him a lookin' at 'em; though if he hadn't been
a good sort I don't think as I could have done much in charging my
fashion, you know.  It was a pleasure to see him walk--as upright as his
old gold-headed cane.  Seven bob a week he was to me reg'lar, and I used
to look out for his old white head a-coming round the corner about three
o'clock in the arternoon, and then I used to drive him right off to
Kensal-green Cemetery, where he'd get down, and I always waited for him
half an hour, when out he'd come, looking as fierce and stiff as ever,
get into the keb, `Home,' he'd say, giving his stick a bit of a
flourish, just as if it were a sword; and home it was.

"About the seccun time we went, I walks permiscus up to the gatekeeper--
stiff-looking chap, too, with only one eye, and a touch o' the
k'mishionaire about him, only he hadn't got no empty sleeve hanging to
his button and didn't wear no mustarchers; but all the same, I sets him
down as having handled the musket some time, and so he had.  Well, I
walks up to him slowly and 'spectfully, showin' him all the time as I
know'd as I was only a kebman, and had learned to order myself lowly and
reverently to all my betters, you know; and this iled him a bit, so as
he went easy, and we got into conversation.  I draws him on by degrees;
for these gatekeepers is werry great swells in their way, as any one may
see for hisself by getting a haporth o' curds and whey at one of the
parks, and studying the inflooence of a gold band round a man's hat.
'Taint everybody as notices it, but it's wonderful how that ere yaller
metal stiffens a feller's neck.  Look at flunkeys, for instance--decent
chaps enough, some on 'em, till they gets a bit o' lace on their hats,
and then they're as proud on it as a fresh-moulted cockatoo.  Never wore
no lace on my hat; but shouldn't mind wearing a little more nap.

"Let's see where had I got to?  Ah, I know.  Most extinguished myself
with them gold-band hats.  You see, I was a saying as them gatekeepers
is big swells, and wants careful handling.  They're the sort of chaps
that wun would like to buy at wun's own wallyation and sell at theirs.
Payin' spec that to anybody; only I'm 'fraid as the market would soon
get choked.  Well, fust thing I does is to fall werry much in love with
the flowers in his windy, and quite 'spectfully arsts the name of 'em;
when, bein' a bit of a gardener, he comes out with some thunderin' great
furrin word, as I knows jolly well he didn't know the meanin' on; and I
says, `Oh!' as if I was werry much obliged, and takes hold o' one werry
gently, and has a smell, and then thinks a great deal o' the size of the
blossoms, and so on; till, as if it was takin' a great liberty, I arsts
if he couldn't cut me just one.  Jest what he wanted, yer know; and
making a terrible fuss over it, and explaining the wally of the plant,
he snips me off a bit, and I sticks it in my button-hole, while he
looked as pleased as some o' those old buffers in white weskets as puts
shillings in plates when there's a k'lection, and then thinks as they've
been patrons: for some folks do love to be arskt favours, and then comes
the grandee as they grants 'em.

"So then I goes on a fishin' and a fishin', and calls him `sir,' and
arsts his opinion of Common Garden, and so on, till at last I hooks him,
and--

"Coo-o-ome orn!  What are yer up to, Nosey?  Never was such a 'oss as
you for lookin' arter the main chance.  That wasn't a sixpence, stoopid,
and if it was I'd a got off and picked it up without yer going down on
yer knees.  Never was such a 'oss as this here, sir.  He's a Paddy--come
out of a Roman Catholic country, yer know; and blest if he ain't allus a
tryin' to go down on his knees.  Fancies every crossin'-sweeper he sees
is a holy father, and wants to confess, I suppose.  It's a natteral
weakness of his, and it's taken all the hair off his knees.  I paints
'em up a bit so as to hide the worst of it, but he's allus a tryin' it
on.  Get along, do.

"Well, I hooks him, you know--the gatekeeper, I means--and arter playin'
him a bit he was as civil as you please; gets down off his stilts, and
was ready to tell me anything.  So then I gets to know as my gentleman
was an old colonel as had buried a daughter there two months afore, and
had allus come twice a week ever since to have a look at the place.
`An',' says Mr Crusp--that was the gatekeeper's name--`an', as you may
find out yourself if you go, I've got geranums an' stocks, an' werbenas,
quite a show on 'em, for the old gentleman said he should like to see
some flowers there.'  And just then out comes the old orficer, and I
drives off.

"Well, sir, things goes on like this here for a matter o' months, and--

"Just look at that, now.  Coome orn, stoopid.  Blest if ever there was
sich a 'oss.  It's pounds outer my pocket; but the guv'nor don't care,
bless yer, as long as I take in my reg'lar dose every day.  Jest look at
that, now; pulling up short right in the middle of the road, cos them
Jarmans was blowin' up a row.  Likes music, I spose; so do I, when I can
get it good, and so does everybody, it seems to me.  I was a talking to
a gentleman only t'other day, jest as I may be to you, and he says, says
he, `It's my opinion that if you give the working classes good music,
joined to good words, they wouldn't notice them rubbishing music-hall
things, as only goes down because they're tacked on to a pretty tune.'
And he's right, yer know, and he's a man as has done a good deal towards
improving the working people.  Why, only see if a pretty tune comes up
if it isn't whistled and sung all over the town--ah, and the country
too--in no time; and what's more, it ain't forgotten neither.  Yer see,
to like yer fine books and poetry a man wants eddication; but it comes
nateral to him to love a pretty tune.  I ain't up to much, yer know, but
I can't stand the rubbish as folks goes and wags their heads to--and
what for? only because they can't get anything better.  Who says common
folks don't love music!  Just take 'em and show 'em the crowds arter the
soldiers' and volunteer bands, and in the parks, and then, perhaps,
they'll alter their tune; and--look at that, now, if I ain't gone right
away from the story.  Shouldn't do for a speaker, I shouldn't, for it
seems to me as I'm like my old 'oss, Nosey--allus wants to turn down the
fust turning as comes.  There he goes.  Coo-o-me orn.

"Well, things goes on for a matter o' months, and twiste a week I
pockets my three-and-six; but I keeps thinking as it couldn't last much
longer.  `So the old gentleman got tired,' says you.  Right you are!  He
did get tired at last, but not as you might think.  He allus came same
time, and stopped same time, and then I drove him back to his own door.
Summer went by.  The gals had cried the lavendy up and down the streets,
and the swells had all gone outer town to the sea-side and the furrin
waterin' places; and for long enough, whenever a decent job had come, it
had been luggage on the roof, and a bundle of sticks and umbrellys
inside, and then off to some railway station or another.  Kensington
Gardings was a rainin' yaller leaves all day long, while the robins was
tunin' up their melancholy little pipes, just as if there was no one
else left to sing, and they was werry miserable becos the cold weather
was a-comin'; while there was no sing left in me, for my asthmy was a
beginning to tickle me up a bit, as it allus does in autumn time; but
still my old gentleman comes as reg'lar as clockwork.

"One afternoon, as I was sitting on my box, rather cold and chilly, for
the fog was a-comin' creepin' on earlier nor usual, I was amusin' myself
a pickin' ov a few walnuts--eight a penny, you know, without the port
wine and salt.  It was a dull sort of time, when you could hear the
muffin bell a-going down the side streets; and the fires shining through
the window-blinds looked warm and cosy.  I was a pickin' and growlin'
away at my nuts--for they didn't skin easy, besides being werry dry,
when who should I see a-comin' but my reg'lar fare.  Up he comes along
the street, straight and stiff as a drill-sergeant, and though half a
dozen whips runs up touting for the job, he never takes no notice of
'em, and I draws up to the kerb, jumps down to let him in, and opens the
door, when he stops with one leg in the keb.

"Yer see, this wasn't a reg'lar thing, for arter the first time I allus
knew what he wanted, and we understood one another, so that it was all
done this way: jump in--set down--take up agin--set down agin--pay up--
touch yer 'at--jump on the box--and nary word spoken.  Sooted him, yer
know; and it sooted me; so what more did you want?  But now on this day
it was diffurnt, for, as I said afore, he stops with one leg in the keb,
and begins to speak, quite pleasant, and quiet, and civil, as a
gentleman could speak, and he says, `Kebman, I thank you for your
attention.  Here's a suffrin for you.  Drive on.'

"In course, I thanked him; but he didn't seem to want to be talked to,
and I drives on, thinking it was a rum start paying aforehand.  Not as
I'd got anything to grumble about, for a suffrin warn't to be sneezed
at, as the sayin' is.  So I drives up to the cemetery gates; sets him
down; puts the nose-bag on the mare I drove then; an' lights my pipe.

"One pipe allus used to do for me while he went in and came out; so I
used to smoke it, and then put it away.  But this time he didn't come
back so soon as usual, or else, being a bit outer sorts in stummick and
pocket, I'd smoked faster; so I pulls it out and lights up agen, and a
good deal o' bother I had, I remember, for the matches was damp, and
there was I a-rubbin' one arter the other again the pipe bowl for long
enough, inside my hat.

"Well, I finished that pipe, and then another, for it seemed to me as he
was having a long stay on the strength of the suffrin.  `And welcome,' I
says; for, of course, being a good sort, I wasn't going to grudge him an
hour.  But it got to be more than an hour, and dusky, and foggy, and
damp; and that blessed rheumatic shoulder o' mine began a-going it
orful.  It was just for all the world as though some one had made a hole
right through the blade-bone, and then, shovin' a piece of clothes-line
through, was a sawin' of it backards and furards.  Then it began to rain
a little--mizzly, yer know--and the mare havin' tossed her old nose-bag
about till she couldn't get not anuther taste o' chaff, let alone a hoat
or a bean, stands hanging all together like, same as those fiery steeds
as they used to send up under a balloon, Cremorne way, years ago, and
lookin' for all the world like a hannimal cut out for the knackers.

"Last of all out comes Mr Crusp, all hot tea and buttered toast,
shining beautiful, and looking as though he'd been going on to the tune
o' four cups and three rounds.  Then he begins to fasten up; and
`Ulloa!' says he, `what are you a-waitin' for?'  `Colonel,' says I.
`Out long ago,' says he.  `No,' says I; `he's been in more'n two hours.'
Well, he looks gallus hard at me, and then he says, `He must ha' gone
out without you seein' of him.  He's give you the slip.'  `Then he must
ha' come away inside that there black omblibus with plumes on it, then,'
I says, for I knowed as I must ha' seen him if he had come out; and then
I tells him about the suffrin.

"`Why didn't you say that afore,' says Crusp.  `You see if he ain't been
and committed hisself, or fell a wictim to his sorrow.'  And then he
turns short round, and goes puffin' along one o' the side walks; while,
knowin' as my old mare wouldn't run away to save her life, I follered.

"First we goes down a long gravel path where the 'santhemums was a
hanging their heads, and seeming as if they was a crying; but then all
the trees I could see in the dim light was covered with tears.  Then
Crusp leads off across a flower garding like, all covered with graves
and stones; and somehow, stumbling along in a big old box coat, I
manages to fall right over one of 'em; but when I pulled myself together
agen, and gets up to the gatekeeper, I finds him standing aside my
reg'lar fare, who was lying down there in the wet grass with his cheek
agin a grave, and one arm stretched right over it: while in t'other was
a long lock of dark hair.  His hat had rolled off, and his own long
white hair lay loose among the dead flowers and damp grass; and turning
all of a tremble, I stoops down beside him, and Crusp whispers, so quiet
and solemn, `He's gone to her!'

"For a moment or two I couldn't believe it, for there in the dusk it
seemed as though he was only crying over the restin'-place of his poor
child.  I didn't like to speak, for it all seemed so strange and solemn:
there was the `drip--drip--drip' from the trees, and now and then a sad
mournful sort of sigh as the wind swept by; and I don't know how it was,
but sad times seemed to come up again and take hold of a fellow's heart;
so that dim as it all was before, it turned worse, till one could hardly
see at all, and though the rain came slowly down, it seemed right and
nateral to take off one's hat; and we both did, and then stole away on
tiptoe to fetch more help.

"That allus comes back in the autumn time, when the leaves are falling,
and the rain drips slowly down; and then, feeling quite melancholy-like,
I can see again as plain as can be that fine old man restin' his head
upon the grave, with his silver hair all spread out upon the grass, and
him taking his rest from his troubles.

"Here we are, sir,--'Tannic Gardings; and, if it's all the same to you,
I'll just give that old 'oss a feed and a rub down, while you and the
ladies look through the green'ouses.  Eases his jints a bit, yer see,
and they runs werry stiff sometimes."



CHAPTER SEVEN.

J. WELTUS.

Reformations, and improvements, and setrer, are all very well; but, mind
yer, if your drink's been four ale all your life you won't take kindly
to porter, "threepence a pot in your own jugs," if some one tells you
all at once as it's better for you, and your ale's pison.  Rome warn't
built in a day, you know, and arter sitting for five-and-twenty year on
my bench and using the lapstone and sterrup-leather, you ain't a-going
to make me take nat'rally to a hupright bench.

Here I am, yer see; allus at home--airy spot; good light, and never no
sun; pleasant prospect o' four foot in front, none to the right, and
chock down into Fleet-street on the left.  What more would you have?
Every convenience for carrying on a large and lucrative trade without
moving from yer seat.  Here's one's stool, and, altogether, close to
one's hand, everything as a artis' in leather work could want.  Now see
here: paste? there you are; stuffin'? there you are; tub for soakin'?
there you are; and so on with every think--whether it's lapstone, foot,
hemp, ball, wax, bristles, dubbin, grease, or ink.  There's one's knives
and stone all in a row; there's one's divisions with all one's nails and
pegs--brass, iron, and wood; there's one's hammers; and--there, what
more would you have for soleing and heeling a boot or a shoe right off
without leaving yer seat?  And all done in a regular business way, yer
know; none o' yer new-fangled rivet and clinch and sewing-machine
rubbish; but straightforward laid-in stitches, put in with a sharp awl
and a fine pair of ends, laid into and drawn tight with plenty of elbow
grease, and the sole stoned and hammered as solid as a board, and more
too.

Rivets indeed!  Why, how can a boot be decent as is nailed together just
as a chip would make a box?  'Tain't natural, no more nor gutta-percha
was, nor india-rubber was.  Course I had to take to gutta-percha soles,
as it was the fashun, else yer lose yer trade; but there you were,
sticking the things on with a lot o' grease tar stuff, and then as soon
as they got warm, off they comes again, and serve 'em right too for not
being sewed, and then touched round the wearing Darts with a few rows o'
sprigs neatly put in, or a facing o' sparrables.

And here's yer everlasting soles and yer machinery and clat!  Don't tell
me: why, they can't answer any more than indy-rubber goloshes can, as
raises your corns, an' draws yer feet, an' makes a man miserable, as of
course every one is as ain't got a decent shoe to his foot.  It's all
very fine having yer new fangles, and one introdoosing cork, and another
iron, and another copper and copper toes.  You may have yer grand
warerusses over Southwark way; but my 'pinion is as it must come down to
us at last, as only stands to reason.

Now here you are; you've bought yer pair o' ready-mades and worn 'em a
bit, and then where are you? why, a-looking out for "J. Weltus,
shoemaker, repairs neatly executed"--as it says on the board over the
stall, as cost me a soleing and heeling for a painter chap outer work as
did it for me, and put no dryers in his colour, so as the boys give it
that pitted-with-the-small-pox look by aimin' at it with their popguns.
Well, you looks for J. Weltus, and finds him sittin' in his stall in the
court, and shows him what's up, and very naterally he laughs at yer, as
he does at all as runs away from your fine old conservative wax-end and
leather, for your improved, reform, upright bench, and machine-made
understandings.

But J. Weltus takes pity on you, and soon has yer boots in hand; and, as
the swell says, he "analyses" 'em.  And then where are yer?  Here's your
sole good for nought--the welt gone, heel sunk, and a whole regiment of
pegs sticking up inside fit to rasp every bit o' skin off yer foot.

Well, of course he grins; but you wants 'em to-morrow?  Werry good; and
he grins again to find that with all yer machine-making and sewing, yer
obliged to come back to the old mender after all; so he takes off his
glasses, gets Kidney Joe to cast a hye on his stall, and runs round to
the grindery shop in Drury Lane, and comes back in ten minutes with a
few real Archangel bristles, a ball of hemp, a set of first-class
leather, some stuffin'; and of course, just as if to insult him, the
counter's chock full o' ready-closed uppers, with all sorts o'
jigamaree, fiddle-faddle stitching about 'em, as ain't no good only to
let the water in.  Then off he sets again--only he has to go back for
his wax, which is, as one may say, the mainspring of a boot--the mortar
of the edifice, as holds all together and as it should be.

Nex' day you comes for the boots, and there they are.  Well, they ain't
done; but J.W.'s a-ripping into 'em.  One's been touched over with a bit
o' glass, as has smoothed the new half-sole wonderful, and another's
being sprigged; then the edges'll be waxed up a bit with the dubbin',
and then there's yer boots--a tighter and a better pair than they was
afore, and all for three shillings, or three-and-six, according to your
customer.

I never puts any toe-pieces on, punched full o' holes to make 'em look
'ansum; but does my work in the good old style, and if I was in
Parliament every man as didn't wear Wellingtons should be taxed.

But along o' them cards in the winders.  Well, a chap come to me one
day, and wanted me to be agent, and I stares up at him at first to see
as he wasn't joking, "Loans of from 5 pounds to 100 pounds upon personal
security," says the card he showed me, just as you can see 'em in
hundreds o' back courts and slums--places where you may be sure people
wants heaps o' money.

"Do a wonderful stroke o' business," I says, looking at my chap.  "Find
plenty o' customers down here; but p'raps they might object to the smell
o' the leather, and so keep away."

"Bless yer, no," says the chap--"not at all.  Many of our agents is
marine-store dealers and groshers.  Good commission for you if you like
to take it."

But I wouldn't; and there hung the card in the little red herring and
sweet shop till last week, when they had to turn out because the place
is all coming down to make way for the new law courts, and setrer.

Do! of course it's a do; same as those 'wertisements in the papers is
from distressed tradesmen who'll give five pound for the loan of ten for
a week, and deposit fifty pounds wally of stuff for security--pawn
tickets, yer know--cards got from folks' uncle when they've been on a
wisit--"Frock-coat and satin wesket, fifteen and nine, John Smith, 999,
Snooks-street"--and all on to that tune.  Traps--traps--traps, every one
on 'em, as the poor fellows know as has had any dealings with the
moneylenders.

Now, just look here; about the only honest one there is, is your uncle.
Fixed interest, certain time, and he wants security.  Saturday night and
a hard week, and rent due, and the chap as the boots was made for not
come to fetch 'em; the pair as was mended not paid for--and all the
stuff required cost money, you see--so off you goes to your uncle with
two flat irons and the missus's ring.  Then you does your bit of
negotiation, and the job's done; and out you come from the little court
where the door flaps to, and all's right and square, and no odds to
nobody; but just try same as Jinks did to get a loan from the
Cosmypolitan and Jint-Stock Adwance and Discount Company, and see how
you like it.  So many stamps for application; so much for inquiry fee;
so much for this, and so much for that, and so on.

Jinks comes in, as maybe you, and he says, "I shall be wantin' a pair o'
boots nex' week," he says, "and you may as well take the measure now,"
he says; "save time when I gives the order."

"All right," I says, getting hold o' my rule and a strip o' paper.

"But I dunno yet what sort I'll have," he says.  "I've a sorter leaning
towards 'lasticks; but I dunno," he says, "but what I'd best stick to
the old sort--laceups."

"Say the word," I says, and he said it--"'Lasticks!" and I took his
measure, and brought out a pen, dips in my ink-bottle, and makes marks;
and all the time he was precious busy rattling some printed paper about
and pretending to be reading.

"Oh, Weltus," he says all at once, just as if it struck him all at the
moment, "I'm a-going to have an advance from the 'ciety."

"Are you?"  I says--"inches and a harf--'lasticks--kid tops."

"What?" he says.

"Only my measuring," I says, with the pen in my mouth.

"Oh!" he says, "jusso."  And then he goes on--"'Bliged to get a couple
of tradesmen--'spectable tradesmen--to sign their names to the papers--
just to show, you know, as I'm some one decent.  You'll be one, won't
yer?"

"One what?"  I says--"bondsman?"

"Oh, no," he says, "nothing o' the kind; only just sign yer name.  It's
me as is bound; and if anything went wrong, why, they'd come upon me,
and so on, yer know.  Don't yer see?"

"No!"  I says, taking off my glasses, and rubbin' 'em on my leather
apron--"No," I says, "I can't quite."

"Why," he says, "it's five pound as I'm going to borrow; and they lends
it me on my own pussonal security; but just to show as I'm the right
sort, I get two 'spectable tradesmen to put down their names.  Don't yer
see?  I could get plenty to do it, only I don't want every one to know.
You see now, don't you?"

"No," I says, "I can't somehow."

"Why," he says, "it's all right, man," and he gives me a slap on the
shoulder.  "I'm going to pay it back by 'stalments, and I shall pay yer
cash for them boots when I gets the money, and it'll be doing us both a
good turn.  There's the line--just along there--`J. Weltus, Pull-Down
Court.'  Don't you be in a stew; there's nothing to be 'feard on.  It's
me as they'd come on, I tell you.  Your signing yer name along that line
is only a form, and it's me they'd sell up.  Now don't you see?  I shall
give you the order for them boots o' Monday."

But, do you know, I'm blest if I could see it then; and though he tried
a bit more, he couldn't make me see it.  Long course o' roughing it in
the world's made my eyes dull, yer know; and, last of all, Jinks doubles
up his papers, and goes out quite huffy; while I gets ready a fresh pair
of ends and goes on with a job I had in hand, when every time I pulls
the threads home I gives a good hard grunt, and goes on analysing Bob
Jinks, and wondering what it would all come to.  "Holiday now and then's
all werry well," I says, "but Rye House, 'Ampton Court, and Gravesend on
Mondays won't do even if a man does make six-and-thirty bob a week.
Masters don't like their hands to be allus going out, and besides, it
don't look well to take a soot o' clothes out on Saturday night, and
stuff 'em up the spout again on Toosdays or Wensdays;" and arter
analysing a good deal, I couldn't help finding as Bob Jinks was one of
them chaps as helped pay for Mrs Shortnip's satin dress at the Rising
Sun.  "Hal, a pint o' beer's good," I says to myself, "and I don't
object to a pipe with it; but have the work done first.  That's my
motter."

"Don't begin them boots till I gives yer the order," says Jinks, as he
goes out.

"No," I says, "I shan't;" nor I didn't neither, for I couldn't see the
Jos Miller of it, and somehow or another Jinks never come inside my
place again.

I was on the look-out, though, and I suppose he did make some one see
all about it, and got him to sign; for two months arter there was a
snuffy-looking old foggy-eyed chap a-stopping in his lodgings, and a
little while arter two o' Levy Haman's men was fetching the furnitur
down, and I saw sev'ral things as must ha' been his at the broker's shop
at the corner; for they do say as these loan 'cieties are precious hard
on any one as gets behind with the payments, and 'll eat you outer house
and home.  But, bless yer, it's no 'ciety in most cases, but some
precious hook-beaked knowing one as is company, directors, and sekketary
all in himself and lives on the interest and sellings up of them as gets
into his claws.  'Taint often as they do lend anything, but when they do
they makes theirselves safe enough by getting about three names and a
plugging rate of interest; and then, good luck to yer if yer don't pay
up.  Gettin' things on tick's all werry well, but though they call it
so, 'taint no credit to nobody; and that's what I say; and if I ain't
right, my name ain't J. Weltus.



CHAPTER EIGHT.

MY FARE.

Don't you make a mistake, now, and think I'm not a working man, because
I am.  Don't you run away with the idea that because I go of a morning
and find my horse and cab waiting ready cleaned for me, and I jumps up
and drives off, as I don't work as hard as any mechanic, because I do;
and I used to work harder, for it used to be Sunday and week days, till
the missus and me laid our heads together, and said, if we couldn't live
on six days' work a week at cabbing we'd try something else; so now I am
only a six days' man--Hansom cab, VR, licensed to carry two persons.

None o' your poor, broken-kneed knackers for me.  I takes my money in to
the governor regular, and told him flat that if I couldn't have a decent
horse, I wouldn't drive; and I spoke a bit sharp, having worked for him
ten years.

"Take your chice, Steve Wilkins," he says; and I took it, and drove
Kangaroo, the wall-eyed horse with a rat tail.

I had a call one day off the stand by the Foundling, and has to go into
New Ormond Street, close by; and I takes up an old widow lady and her
daughter--as beautiful a girl of seventeen or eighteen as ever I set
eyes on, but so weak that I had to go and help her down to the cab, when
she thanked me so sweetly that I couldn't help looking again and again,
for it was a thing I wasn't used to.

"Drive out towards the country, cabman, the nearest way," says the old
lady; "and when we want to turn back, I'll speak."

"Poor gal!"  I says, "she's an invalid.  She's just such a one as my Fan
would have been if she'd lived;" and I says this to myself as I gets on
to my box, feeling quite soft; for though I knew my gal wouldn't have
been handsome, what did that matter?  I didn't like to lose her.

"Let's see," I says again, "she wants fresh air.  We'll go up the hill,
and through Hampstead;" and I touches Kangaroo on the flank, and away we
goes, and I picks out all the nicest bits I could, and when I comes
across a pretty bit of view I pulls up, and pretends as there's a strap
wanted tightening, or a hoof picking, or a fresh knot at the end of the
whip, and so on.  Then I goes pretty quickly along the streety bits, and
walks very slowly along the green lanes; and so we goes on for a good
hour, when the old lady pushes the lid open with her parasol, and tells
me to turn back.

"All right, mum," I says; and takes 'em back another way, allers
following the same plan; and at last pulls up at the house where I
supposed they was lodgers, for that's a rare place for lodgings about
there.

I has the young lady leaning on my arm when she gets out, and when she
was at the door she says, "Thank you" again, so sweetly and sadly that
it almost upset me.  But the old lady directly after asked me the fare,
and I tells her, and she gives me sixpence too much, and though I wanted
to pocket it, I wouldn't, but hands it back.

"Thank you, cabman," she says; "that's for being so kind and attentive
to my poor child."

"God bless her, mum," I says, "I don't want paying for that."

Then she smiles quite pleasant, and asks me if it would be worth my
while to call again the next afternoon if it was fine, and I says it
would; and next day, just in the same way, I goes right off past
Primrose Hill, and seeing as what they wanted was the fresh air, I makes
the best o' my way right out, and then, when we was amongst the green
trees, Kangaroo and me takes it easy, and just saunters along.  Going up
hill I walks by his head, and picks at the hedges, while them two,
seeing as I took no notice of 'em, took no notice o' me.  I mean, you
know, treated me as if we was old friends, and asked me questions about
the different places we passed, and so on.

Bimeby I drives 'em back, and the old lady again wanted to give me
something extra for what she called my kind consideration; but "No,
Stevey," I says to myself; "if you can't do a bit o' kindness without
being paid for it, you'd better put up the shutters, and take to some
other trade."  So I wouldn't have it, and the old lady thought I was
offended; but I laughed, and told her as the young lady had paid me; and
so she had, with one of her sad smiles, and I said I'd be there again
nex' day if it was fine.

And so I was; and so we went on, day after day, and week after week; and
I could see that, though the sight of the country and the fresh air
brightened the poor girl up a bit, yet he was getting weaker and weaker,
so that, at last, I half carried her to the cab, and back again after
the ride.  One day, while I was waiting, the servant tells me that they
wouldn't stay in town, only on account of a great doctor, as they went
to see at first, but who came to them now; and, last of all, when I went
to the house, I used always to be in a fidget for fear the poor gal
should be too ill to come out.  But no, month after month she kep' on;
and when I helped her, used to smile so sweetly, and talk so about the
trouble she gave me, that one day, feeling a bit low, I turned quite
silly, and happening to look at her poor mother a-standing there with
the tears in her eyes, I had to hurry her in, trod get up on to my seat
as quick as I could, to keep from breaking down myself.

Poor gal! always so loving and kind to all about her--always thanking
one so sweetly, and looking all the while so much like what one would
think an angel would look--it did seem so pitiful to feel her get
lighter and lighter, week by week--so feeble, that, at last, I used to
go upstairs to fetch her, and always carried her down like a child.

Then she used to laugh, and say, "Don't let me fall, Stephen,"--for they
got to call me by my name, and to know the missus, by her coming in to
help a bit; for the old lady asked me to recommend 'em an honest woman,
and I knowed none honester than my wife.  And so it was with everybody--
it didn't matter who it was--they all loved the poor gal; and I've had
the wife come home and sit and talk about her, and about our Fanny as
died, till she's been that upset she's cried terribly.

Autumn came in werry wet and cold, and there was an end to my jobs
there.  Winter was werry severe, but I kep' on hearing from the missus
how the poor gal was--sometimes better, sometimes worse; and the missus
allus shook her head werry sadly when she talked about her.

Jennywerry and Feberwerry went by terribly cold, and then March came in
quite warm and fine, so that things got so forrard, you could buy
radishes wonderful cheap in April; and one night the wife comes home and
tells me that if it was as fine nex' day as it had been, I was to call,
and take the old lady and her daughter out.

Nex' day was splendid.  It was as fine a spring day as ever I did see,
and I sticks a daffy-down-dilly in on each side of Kangaroo's head, and
then spends twopence in a couple o' bunches o' wilets, and pins 'em in
on the side where the poor gal used to sit, puts clean straw in the
boot, and then drives to the place with the top lid open, so as to
sweeten the inside, because swells had been smoking there that morning.

"Jest run yer sponge and leather over the apron a bit, Buddy," I says to
our waterman, afore I left the stand.

"Got a wedding on?" he says, seeing how pertickler I was.

"There, look alive!"  I says, quite snappish; for I didn't feel in a
humour to joke; and then, when I'd got all as I thought right, I drives
up, keeping the lid open, as I said afore.

When I draws up, I puts the nose-bag on the old horse, for him to amuse
himself with, and so as I could leave him, for he wouldn't stir an inch
with that bag on, to please all the pleacemen in London.  Then I rings,
and waits, and at last gets my orders to go and help the young lady
down.

I takes off my hat, wipes my shoes well, and goes up; and there she was
waiting, and smiled so pleasantly again, and held out her hand to me, as
though I'd been a friend, instead of a rough, weather-battered street
cabman.  And do you know what I did, as I went in there, with my eyes
all dim at seeing her so, so changed?  Why, I felt as if I ought to do
it, and I knelt down and took her beautiful white hand in mine, and
kissed it, and left a big tear on it; for something seemed to say so
plainly that she'd soon be where I hoped my own poor gal was, whom I
always say we lost; but my wife says, "No, not lost, for she is ours
still."

She was so light now, that I carried her down in a minute; and when she
was in the cab and saw the wilets, she took 'em down, and held 'em in
her hand, and nodded and smiled again at me, as though she thanked me
for them.

"Go the same way as you went first time, Stephen," she says.

And I pushed over all the quieter bits, and took her out beyond
Hampstead; and there, in the greenest and prettiest spot I could find, I
pulls up, and sits there listening to the soft whispers of her voice,
and feeling, somehow, that it was for the last time.

After a bit I goes gently on again, more and more towards the country,
where the hedges were turning beautiful and green, and all looked so
bright and gay.

Bimeby I stops again, for there was a pretty view, and you could see
miles away.  Of course, I didn't look at them if I could help it, for
the real secret of people enjoying a ride is being with a driver who
seems no more to 'em than the horse--a man, you see, who knows his
place.  But I couldn't help just stealing one or two looks at the inside
where that poor gal lay back in the corner, looking out at the bright
spring-time, and holding them two bunches o' wilets close to her face.
I was walking backwards and forwards then, patting the horse and
straightening his harness, when I just catches the old lady's eye, and
saw she looked rather frightened, and she leans over to her daughter and
calls her by name quickly; but the poor girl did not move, only stared
straight out at the blue sky, and smiled so softly and sweetly.

I didn't want no telling what to do, for I was in my seat and the old
horse flying amost before you could have counted ten; and away we went,
full pace, till I come up to a doctor's, dragged at the bell, and had
him up to the cab in no time; and then he rode on the footboard of the
cab, in front of the apron, with the shutters let down; and he whispered
to me to drive back softly, and I did.

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

The old lady has lodged with us ever since, for I took a better place on
purpose, and my missus always attends on her.  She's werry fond o'
talking with my wife about their two gals who have gone before; but
though I often, take her for a drive over the old spots, she never says
a word to me about such things; while soon after the funeral she told
Sarah to tell me as the wilets were not taken from the poor gal's hand,
same time sending me a fi-pun note to buy a suit o' mourning.

Of course, I couldn't wear that every day, but there was a bit o' rusty
crape on my old shiny hat not such a werry long time ago; and I never
buy wilets now, for as they lie in the baskets in spring-time, sprinkled
with the drops o' bright water, they seem to me to have tears upon 'em,
and make me feel sad and upset, for they start me off thinking about "My
Fare."



CHAPTER NINE.

SPOTS ON LIFE'S SUN.

In educating myself a bit, it seems to me like getting up a high
mountain; and after going on at it for years and years, I've come to the
idea that there never is any getting up atop, for no sooner do I get up
one place than there's another; and so it is always the same, and you've
never done.  It's being thick-headed, I suppose; but somehow or another
I can't get to understand lots of things, and I know I never shall.  Now
just look here: suppose I, as a working man, go into my neighbour Frank
Brown's garden, cuts his cabbages, digs up his potatoes, and takes 'em
home--"annexes" 'em, you know; then larrups Frank till he's obliged to
cut and run; then I takes a werry loving fancy to all his furniture,
clothes, and chaney, and moves 'em into my premises.  "Don't do that,"
says his wife.  "There, hold _your_ tongue," I says, "I'm `annexing'
'em; and you may be off after your husband;" and then I turns her out
and locks the door.

"That's a rum game," you'll say.  Very good; so it is; and when the
thing's showed up, where am I? stole the vegetables, assaulted Frank
Brown, insulted and abused his wife, and plundered his house.  What
would Mr Payne, or Mr Bodkin, or Mr Knox say to me, eh?  Why, of
course, I must serve my time in gaol to make amends.  But that's what I
can't understand, and I want to know why I mayn't do it retail, when my
betters do it wholesale.  Here we are: here's the King of Prussia turned
out the King of Hanover and his wife, and, I s'pose, some more of 'em;
and I mean to say it's precious hard; and then again he's been thrashing
the Austrians, as perhaps deserved it, and perhaps didn't, while no end
of homes have been made desolate, and thousands upon thousands of God's
creatures slaughtered, let alone the tens of thousands as have been
mutilated and will bear the marks of the battles to their graves.  Ah!
I've sat aside a man as was on the battle-fields, and heard him describe
the "glory" of the war, the anguish of the wounded, the fearful
distortion of the dead, the smashed horses, and, above all, that
horrible slaughterhouse stench of blood that fouled the air with its
sickening, disease-bringing, cholera-sowing taint.  And then the King
says "Hurray," and they sing the "Te Deum."

There, I suppose I'm very ignorant, but I can't understand it at all;
and in my simple fancy it seems blasphemous.  Say we had an invading
army coming against us--same as in the days of good Queen Bess--and we
drive 'em off.  Those who fall do it in defence of their country, and
die like heroes; well, then, let's sing the "Te Deum," and thank Him for
letting us gain the victory.  Say we go to help an oppressed country
fairly and honestly.  Good again--let's return thanks; but when it's for
the sake of getting land, and for more conquest, why, then, if it must
be done, the less that is said afterwards the better.  And besides they
must be having a grand festival, and bring fifty of the prettiest
maidens in the city to meet the King and present him with laurel
wreaths.  Better have taken him crape bands for the hats of all his
party, and to distribute amongst the fatherless!  Some pictures there
were in the 'lustrated papers, too, of the laurel-crowned damsels, and
the grand religious festival with panoply and priests; but the artist
gave one grim rub to the whole thing--one as tells, too--for here and
there, in undress uniform, he sketched out wan-looking men with their
arms in slings, or limping with sticks, crippled perhaps for life; and
then no doubt they'll give you some of their ideas of glorious war.
Illuminations, too, under the Lindens at Berlin; grand enough, no doubt;
but it seems as though the heavens wept to see it, for the rain's
streaming down at a fine rate.

But, there, I suppose I don't understand these sort of things, and like
a good many more get talking about what I should hold my tongue on; but
somehow or another, whenever I hear the word _war_, I can't see
regiments of gay soldiers, and bands of music, and prancing horses, but
trampled, muddy, and blood-stained fields, with shattered bodies lying
about; or dim rooms turned into hospitals, with men lying groaning in
their great agony--hopeless, perhaps, of ever rising from the rough
pallet where they lie.

But, there, let's get on to another kind of war--war _with_ the knife--
knife and fork, you know--the battle of life for a living; for there's
no mistake about it, there is a regular battle going on for the daily
bread, and if a man hasn't been well drilled to it in his
apprenticeship, it's rather a poor figure he'll cut in amongst the rest.
Ah, you come across some rum fellow soldiers, too, in the course of
your life; here's one chap is asked to do a little extra job, and, as he
does it, goes on like our old sexton used down in the country when he
put up the Christmas holly in the church.  "Ah!" he says to me--"Ah! you
see, I don't get nothing for doing this--_only my salary_."  Men are so
precious frightened of making work scarce.  Why, I remember soon after I
came up to London going into Saint Paul's for a gape round, when they
were going to fit up the seats for the Charity Children's Festival; and
do what I would I couldn't help having a hearty laugh to see how the
fellows were going it.  Perhaps it was a scaffold pole wanted lifting;
when about a score of chaps would go crawling up to it, and have a look;
then one would touch it with his foot, and then another; then one would
stoop down and take hold on it, and give a groan, and then let go again;
next another would have his groan over it; then they'd look round, as if
they thought being in a grand church a miracle war going to happen, and
that the pole would get up of itself and go to its place.

It didn't though: so at last, groaning and grunting, they managed to get
it on their shoulders--the whole score of 'em trying to have a hand in
it; but puzzled sometimes how to manage it, for the short 'uns couldn't
hitch their shoulders up high enough to reach, and had to be content
with walking under it like honest British workmen as had made up their
minds to earn every penny of their money; while the tall chaps carried
the pole, and it didn't seem to hurt them much as they took it to its
place and groaned it down again; when they was all so faint that they
had to knock off for some beer.

I have heard an old workman say how many bricks he'd lay in a day in his
best times, and it was a precious many; and I've seen old Johnny Mawley
lay 'em too, and he'd have been just the chap to suit some of our London
men, who look sour at you if you lay into the work tight.  Old Johnny
used to build little walls and pigsties down in Lincolnshire, and had
his boy, young Johnny, with him.  There the old chap would be tapping
and pottering about over his work, with no necessity for him to stand
still till the mortar set at the bottom, for fear of the building giving
way or growing top-heavy--there he'd be, with the work getting well set
as he went on; for after getting one brick in its place and the mortar
cleared off, he'd drawl out very slowly, as he stood looking at his
job--"Johnny, lad, wilt thou bring me another brick?"  And Johnny used
to bring him another brick; and old Johnny would lay it; and work never
got scarce through him.

Men are so precious frightened of interfering with one another.  I
s'pose it's all right; but it seems so queer for the plasterer to knock
off because a bit of beading wants nailing on or taking off, and the
carpenter has to be fetched to do it, when half a dozen taps of the
hammer would have set all right.  Bricklayer's setting a stove, and he
can't turn a screw, but must have the smith; whilst the carpenter knocks
off because a bit of brick wants chipping out of the wall; and so they
go on; and so I go on grumbling at it, and fault-finding.  But the most
I grumble at is this--the number of public-houses there is about London
waiting with their easily-swinging doors to trap men.  There's no
occasion to knock; just lean against the door, and open it comes; and
there's the grandly fitted-up place, and a smart barman or barmaid to
wait on you, and all so nice, and attractive, and sticky, that there's
no getting away again; so that it seems like one of those
catch-'em-alives as the fellows used to sell about the streets--and we
poor people the flies.

Nice trade that must be, and paying; to see the glitter and gloss they
puts on, and the showy places they build in the most miserable spots--
gilt, and paint, and gas, and all in style.  And then the boards and
notices!  "Double brown stout, 3 pence per pot in your own jugs;
sparkling champagne ales; Devonshire cider; cordial gin, and compounds;
Jamaica rum;" while at one place there was a chap had up in his window
"Cwrw o' Cymru," which must be an uncommon nice drink, I should think;
but I never had any of it, whatever it is.  But how one fellow does
tempt another into these places, and how the money does go there--money
that ought to be taken home; and it isn't like any other kind of
business: say you want a coffee-shop, or a baker's, you'll have two or
three streets, perhaps, to go down to find one; but there's always a
public at the corner all ready.  And, you see, with some men it is like
it was with a mate of mine--Fred Brown--easy-going, good-hearted chap.

"Come and have half a pint, Fred," one'd say to him; and then Fred would
shake his head, and be going on, till they began to banter him a bit,
when he'd go in and have his half-pint same as lots of us do, and no
great harm neither; but then this beer used to make him thirsty for
more, and then more, and more, when the end of it used to be that what
with treating, and one thing and another, Fred used to go home less
seven or eight shillings in his pocket, and all of a stagger, to make
his wife miserable, and the little things of children stare to see him
look such a brute.

I lost sight of the poor chap for about five years; and then, when we
met, I shouldn't have known him if he hadn't spoken in a rough, husky
voice, while his face looked bloated and pasty.

"Can't help it, mate," he'd say.  "Can't eat now, and if it warn't for
the drop o' drink I couldn't live."

Strange words them for a young man of five-and-thirty; but I believe
they were true, and he almost lived upon beer and gin.  But I thought it
couldn't last long, and living as I did close by him, and often dropping
into his miserable room, I knew how matters went with him; and at last
he was down and unable to go to work.

Fortunately for him, in spite of all trouble, his wife had kept the club
money paid up, or they would have been in a queer fix, for they were
proper badly off, as you could see at a glance when you went in: ragged
scrap or two of carpet, half worn-out chairs, ricketty table, and very
dirty-looking old bedstead in the same room, while where his poor wife
and children managed to creep of nights I don't know.  Second floor back
room it was, and when I got up there his wife made me a sign not to make
a noise, for he was asleep; and she was doing all she could to hush the
baby in her arms.

Poor woman! only a few years ago healthy, bright-eyed, and good-looking;
but now only half-dressed, sunken-cheeked, and pale, as numbers of other
poor neglected wives we see every day in the streets.  Two more children
were playing on the floor, while another lay with arms round its
father's neck, and there, just peeping at me above Fred's rough black
whiskers, were the two bright eyes.

I hadn't been there long before he woke; and then in that half-hour that
followed I saw sorrow, misery, and horrors enough to make any man
thoughtful for the rest of his life.  A strong, able workman, with his
mind completely overthrown by drink, imagining all sorts of strange
creatures were in the room and thronging about his bed, while every time
he recognised those about him came the constant demand for drink--for
the stuff that had brought him down to what he was.  His poor wife was
that beat out, that I promised to come back and sit up with him that
night, so that she could go and lie down at a neighbour's; and about
half-past nine I went back, and soon after there I was alone with poor
Fred, and him lying in a sort of dose.

It's not a nice thing to do, sitting up, in any case, for you get
creepy, and nervous, and fidgetty; but when it's with a man who is off
his mind, why, it's ten times worse; and there I sat with my eyes fixed
upon the bed, hour after hour, half afraid lest the poor fellow should
get out, or be up to any mad tricks.

I suppose it was about two o'clock, and when all was about still in the
streets--not even the rumble of a cab to be heard--when somehow or
another things seemed to get misty and dim; the bed seemed to be rising
and falling, while poor Fred's head was as if it had swelled up, and
kept coming closer to me, and then went back; and then I could see
nothing at all.

I woke up with a start, and a horrible feeling on me that there was
something wrong; then came the sound of trampling overhead, while at the
same moment the light gave a flickering leap, and went out.

I knew the matches were on the table, and after knocking over something
I found them lying open; but it was the barley-water jug I had upset,
and the matches were dripping wet.  Trembling and confused, I stood for
a moment not knowing what to do, and then felt my way towards the bed,
with the horrid dread upon me that poor Fred might spring at me and
strangle me in the dark.  Something seemed to tell me that he wasn't in
the bed, and therefore I expected he would be crouching down and waiting
to spring at me; and in my fancy I thought I could see it all--the
struggle for the mastery, and him getting me down, so that I could not
cry for help.

The confusion must have had something to do with it; but at all events
there was I quite unnerved and shaken, as I lightly touched the bed and
found all the clothes in a heap; while further search showed me that
there was no one there.  Then I heard again the trampling noise overhead
and hurried towards the door, with both hands stretched out; when, in
the dark, one went on either side of the open door, and I struck my
forehead a violent blow.  There was no time, though, to mind that, for I
knew something was wrong upstairs, and that Fred must be at the bottom
of it; so, hurrying up, I was soon at the door of the back attic, where,
though it was shut, I heard enough to make me shove it open with my
shoulder and dash in; for a sound came out as of two savage beasts
worrying each other, and then, by the dim light from the open window, I
could see two men scuffling upon the floor, while a woman sat on the bed
crouched up, and holding a baby to her breast--evidently too frightened
to move.

As I dashed in, one of the men leaped up, and was through the window in
a moment; and then, on going quickly up and leaning out, I could see it
was Fred, standing right upon the parapet above the lead gutter, when my
heart seemed to quite stand still, as I leaned there, expecting every
moment to see the poor fellow fall on to the flags beneath--four
stories; for he would have gone right into the basement yard at the
back.

Just then some one touched me; and looking sharp round, there was the
scared face of the lodger, and he whispered, "He was a-trying to get
out, when I woke up and seized him.  He's a'most choked me."

That was a strange, wild time, as I stood there wondering what was best
to be done; and do what I would I could hardly summon up the courage to
go after him, though I knew it was only through my neglect that he had
escaped from his room, and therefore I was bound to do something.

I tried calling him at first; but the only effect that had was to make
him begin muttering and walking backwards and forwards upon that giddy
parapet, so that it quite chilled one's blood; for, though used enough
to scaffolds at proper time and place, there was something horrid in
engaging in a struggle with one who was no better than a madman, on such
a roof as this.

But I did not stop thinking, or I should never have done what I did,
which was to get out into the gutter and walk cautiously up to the poor
fellow.

There--it took only a moment or two--not more, and then he bounded on to
me, and we too were struggling together and rocking backwards and
forwards all those feet above the ground, with certain death on one side
if I slipped, or he proved too strong for me.  Now we swayed this way,
now that, and wet with the sweat of terror, I could feel myself weaker
every moment; and the very thought of what would come at last was too
horrid to bear.  Once I got him back against the sloping roof, and my
spirits revived; but the next moment he leaped up, as though of
watch-spring, and had me down on my back upon the stone parapet, and
head and shoulders over the horrid pit beneath.

I could not cry out, but felt tongue and lips parched, while, with the
strength of despair, I clutched his neck, and gazed with startled looks
into his wild, glowering, half-shut eyes.  He was muttering and talking
the whole time, and every moment as I grew weaker, I could feel that I
was being forced over the parapet.  How many seconds it took I can't
say, but it seemed to me like an hour till the time when I felt that all
hope was past, and I shut my eyes that I might not see myself fall.
There seemed no hope--nothing but death before me, as I lay there, with
my flesh seeming to creep, and me unable to give a cry for help.

All at once, though, the clutch upon me grew feeble; then it ceased
altogether; and I saw poor Fred dragged away backwards; but it was some
few moments before I dared try to move, when, shivering in every limb, I
rolled myself off the stone parapet, and lay in a half swoon in the
gutter.

But the danger was over now; for two of the lodgers had dragged the poor
fellow back into the attic by his legs, and after a sharp struggle he
was securely tied down to the bed; but it was some time before I could
work on the top of a house again without getting nervous and upset.



CHAPTER TEN.

DINING WITH CABBY.

"Where to dine at any time," says the advertisement, as though such a
thing as money was quite out of the question, and so many men did not
depend upon the hospitality of their old friend Duke Humphrey.  Spite of
cattle disease and trichine terrors, the human stomach--be it beneath an
educated brain, or appertaining to Bill Sykes, of the Somers Town
Brill--the human stomach will act upon the mind, and cause it to long
after the flesh-pots.  _Il faut manger_--as a matter of course, the more
moderately the better! and as the Spartans held up the drunken Helot for
their youth to shun, why do we not have a double-barrelled statue of
Banting erected in our streets--a "look on this picture and on this"
style of article, showing the beauties of temperance and moderation--the
keeping a tight rein upon gastronomic desires, as opposed to gluttony
and feasting.

When you _can_ dine, how many temptations are offered, as, urged on by
the vacuum which, above all, fond Nature abhors, you stand chinking your
coin and considering.  You are in London, say; and you stand and ponder.
Club?  No.  Invites?  Not one.  Where shall it be--at the first-class
hotel or the shilling ordinary?  Fish with Simpson?  Whitebait with
Lovegrove?  With Bibra?  With Rudkin?  A steak at the Cock?  A snack at
the Rainbow?  Sawyer!  Sawyer!  Suggestive of snags and America, and
tremendous gorges?  Shall it be the London?  Shall we mount above the
great stationer's--the Partridge and Cozens--suggestive names for a
hungry man--impulsive as to the first, and making him think of a cozy
dinner after a long tramp in the stubble--checking as to the second.
"Call me cousin, but do not cozen me," says somebody somewhere, and most
likely the quotation is not correct, but then we hunger and are athirst.
No; we will dine in London, but not in "The London."  Westward, ho!
Strand, Circus, Quadrant, up the great street where rent is said to
swallow the tradesman's profit; where the throng is great in the season,
while out of the season the dog-fancier pockets his pups, and migrates
to the far east.  Now down this street to the left.

The student of human nature is like the proverbial traveller--he sees
strange things; and, what is more, he gets into queer company.  To study
human nature in its happiest moments, study it over its dinner--be it
the three courses and a dessert, preceded by removes, partaken of in
Belgravia, Berkleyria, or Transgibbetia; the public feed at a great
tavern, with a real MP in the chair, and all the delicacies of the
season upon the table, with toasts, speeches, cheers, reporters, and a
long and particular account to follow in the morning paper; the dinner
at the club, _a la_ Sprouts--a nubbly potato from a can, peppered with
gingery dust; the meal brought in a basin, "kivered" with a plate, tied
up in a blue cotton "wipe," and partaken of perchance upon the bricks
waiting for piling in father's hod when he has had his "wittles"; or the
three-halfpenny saveloy and "penny buster," forming in combination the
delicacy popularly known as a "dustman's sandwich," and said, in
connection with porter, to form a large portion of that gentleman's
sustenance; each, every, either of these dinners gives a certain glow to
the countenance of the recipient and undoubtedly it will be found that
human nature will be at its best about feeding-time.

Listen, then, and know all ye of the softer sex; and if you want
anything out of this same human nature, wait till the corn is planted,
and then look out for your harvest.

Knowing all this, and how mollifying is the influence of food, we should
prefer the interval following his last anthropophagia in our visit to
the cannibal; and, therefore, urged by a desire to see our enemy of the
badge at his best, we walk down "this street to the left," and somewhere
about half-way down we find a perennial fountain in the shape of an iron
post with a hole in its side by which to wind it up.  There are some
squat, tubby-looking little pails in a row; while close by stands a
shiny-hatted straw-bit besprinkled Triton blowing his pipe.  The water
looks cool and limpid, but hard by is the gin--a trap within an open
door.  Gin and water--a potent mixture; but in this case the master
takes the gin, and the horse the water.  The horses look hot and stuffy
this sunshiny day, as they stand with their cabs in a row down the long
street, nose-bagged and contemplative, but they evidently find
considerable enjoyment in banging their chaff-holding receptacles
against the back of the cab in front, or resting them upon spring or
wheel.

But where are the drivers--the supplanters of the Jehu, the jarvey of
hackney-coach days--the men who place a bit in the mouths of their
steeds, but prefer a sup in their own--the men who guide and rein them
in their course and check the prancings of their hoofs--where are they?
At their best.  Cabby dineth!  Dine we with him.

Up this shady little street, and into this shady shop--none the cooler
for it though; while phew! the steam!  Six, ten, fifteen hams in the
window; legs, loins, shoulders, all sorts of mutton; beef joints by the
dozen; and all hanging ready for to-morrow's consumption.  And to-day's?

"This way, sir; room in that box to the left."

We enter that box to the left, and find the "room" very small, and also
that we are elbowed by the people "Pegging away" at their dinner; while,
if we closed our eyes for a moment, we should be ready to take oath that
we were neither in the shop of Rimmel, Hendrie, nor Atkinson.  But,
sinking the sentimental, and setting aside the too great smell of
kitchen when a hot cinder has quenched its glow in the dripping-pan, the
odour is not so very bad, and we prepare to eat.

Now, we have eaten in a variety of places in our time, and with the
eating we have drunk--quaffing the regal wine of Champagne in an
ex-palace--that is to say, emptied glasses of what was said to be
genuine Clicquot; but we dare not venture to assert that it was not
gooseberry.  Reversing Mr Hullah's legend, "per scalam ascendimus," we
have dined off an Abernethy biscuit and a "penn'orth" of shrimps in a
recess of Waterloo Bridge--a redbait dinner in a granite hall, with a
view of the river both ways, equalling or excelling that from
Lovegrove's; and, therefore, we were not above asking the opinion of
friends right and left as to the quality of the joints on cut.

"Try the beef, guv'ner," says a gentleman in the style of head-dress
known as a "deerstalker," which he wore while he trowelled his dinner
into his mouth with the blade of a very wide knife.  "Try the beef,
guv'ner--the weal and 'am won't do.  Somethin's turned, either the weal
or my stummick."

A gentleman in a great-coat on my right suggests "line o' mutton," while
a very red-nosed man in front--red-nosed, but the very antithesis of the
holy Stiggins--quotes beefsteak pudding; but we like the look of the
beef proposer, and the sound of the dish; so, forgetful of _rinder_ and
every other pest, we seek to gain the attention of the hot nymph in
waiting.  No easy task, though, for the maiden, evidently own sister of
the Polly who captivated Smallweed, junior, is in all directions in the
space of a few seconds.

In luck though at last, and we announce that we will take a plate of
beef--roast.

"And taters?"

"And taters."

"And brockylow?"

"And brockylow."

"Stout?"

"Stout's hard," hints our beefy friend, and we decide upon
"half-and-half."

Five minutes after we are served with a prime plate off some prime ribs
of beef, three fine potatoes in their brown jackets, grinning all over,
and looking temptingly mealy-mouthed; a tolerably fine head of broccoli
that would suggest "cathoppers and grassipillars" were the season more
advanced, while even now one cannot help shuddering and thinking of
Fenianism and slugs; "a bread;" and, lastly, the beer supposed to be
soft, or rather not hard.

Now, if the place had been ventilated, twenty degrees cooler, free from
steam, smell, and tobacco smoke; it the knives had been what the cloth
should have been, and what the salt was not; if my neighbours had not
picked their teeth with their forks; if the mustard-pot had had no pipe
ashes in its jaundiced throat; if the pint pots had not made the tables
quite so gum-ringed; and lastly, and very briefly, if Cabby himself had
been a little less demonstrative in his eating, and a little more
guarded in his conversation: why, we could have made a very satisfactory
dinner.  But as the few above-mentioned trifles, and a mangy dog at our
feet, militated against our getting a comfortable meal, why, the result
was not quite so well as might be expected.

The trade going on was fast and furious.  Cabbies went out and Cabbies
came in; joint after joint was devoured, and the naked bones lay on the
steaming pewter desert like those of the vulture-torn camel in far
Araby.  Cabby was certainly here at his best--the bow was unstrung, and
he seemed to be enjoying himself.  He seemed rather Indian--Red Indian--
in his eating; laying in a good store, as though doubtful when time or
money would again be propitious for a hearty meal; while jokes flew
about--many at the expense of unwary fares and swells, for whom, as a
rule, Cabby seemed to entertain a profound contempt.

We were not there long, but the topics of the day were settled again and
again in the most satisfactory of ways, though probably not in
accordance with the ideas of our statesmen.  Mr Sothern was pitied; and
gin, rum, whisky, and brandy declared the only table spirits.  Fenianism
was stigmatised as "rowdy"; Jamaica turned inside out; and the
Parliamentary campaign mapped down.  We noted what we could while
finishing our "toke"; but we were upon enemies' ground; and who knows
the fate of spies discovered amid the freemasonry of Cabland.  We
thought of all this, and did not so much as point a pencil within the
sacred precincts; but we recollected what we could--not much, though,
for after dinner the digestive organs form a combination against those
devoted to thinking.  We came, however, to the conclusion that Cabby
loves good living--bodily, if not morally; and we fear that he possesses
the amiable weakness that exists to so large an extent amongst the
London poor--namely, that of living well to-day, and letting to-morrow
take care of itself.  To-morrow may be a bad day, and then he goes not
to his club; but contents himself with a "small German" upon his box; or
a kidney-pie at the corner; or lower still, perhaps, he may have but a
mealy potato from a can, or a "penn'orth" of peas-pudding on a scrap of
a newspaper, the aroma of whose ink imparts no improved flavour.  But so
it is throughout the world, Earth's creatures remembering that on the
blackest day there is another side to the cloud, and that sooner or
later the sun will shine again for rich and poor alike.

Cabby says luck's sure to turn sometime; so he munches his potato on or
in his cab; goes "tic" for a screw of tobacco, for which he seldom finds
the screw on too tightly, and then smokes and waits patiently for a
fare.  When he is down on his luck, and has nothing else to live upon,
he exists upon Hope; and she deals as gently with the rough-clothed,
battle-scarred veteran of the streets as with the Hon Charley
Fitzgauntlet of the Blues, when Fortune frowns and he has gambled away
half his patrimony at the Derby.  But if Cabby makes himself comfortable
at times, surely he is not much to be blamed, for this world is not
peopled with abstemious Dr Franklins, and when Cabby has the money in
his pocket, and smells a good dinner, who can blame him that he eats,
pays, and then waits for the next?  Perhaps it comes punctually, perhaps
it does not; still he waits, as Trotty Veck did, for his jobs; the bells
cried, "Job coming soon, Toby;" and it always did come sooner or later.
And so, like Toby's, Cabby's job comes sooner or later, and then he does
as wiser men do--eats, drinks, and is merry, "quaffing amber draughts
from the pearly pewter's foam"--draughts that make glad his heart, and
sometimes unsteady his hand.  But cab-horses are not given to run away--
we have sometimes wished they were--that is, if they would keep in the
right direction.  Still it is very rarely that Cabby meets with a mishap
through careless driving.  Accidents he does have, 'tis true; but,
considered in relation to the thousands of miles traversed, their
paucity is wonderful.

"But they're a shocking set, my dear; lazy, good-for-nothing creatures--
cheating, story-telling fellows.  Whatever you do, take the man's number
before you enter his cab."

So says Mrs British Matron.  But this is not all true.  Cabby can
cheat, lie, and be good for nothing; but he has his honest phase; and,
poor fellow, he has a hard time of it.

The wind whistles down the street on a dark night; the rain or sleet
drives in cutting clouds round the corners; and Dives' son and daughter,
to return from dinner or party, send for a cab.  The first Cabby has
been sitting for a couple of hours fareless upon his box, and as his
half-frozen Rosinante is drawn up at the door of the well-lit house,
Cabby stiffly descends, and begins to dance upon the pavement, and beat
warmth into his breast after the popular mode of "Two thieves whopping a
rascal."

All this while there is a round of "good-byeing," and "dearing,"
shawling, wrapping, and goloshing; and then the thoughtful head of the
house hopes that the cabman is a member of the Bonded Brotherhood of
Bottle Scorners, and thinks Thomas had better take a hand candlestick
and look at the man's number.

The hand candlestick goes out, and so does the candle; for directly the
white-stockinged legs of Thomas are outside the hall door the light is
extinct, and the bearer fares like poor Mr Winkle on the windy night at
Bath, for he is banged out of the house.

"Vot odds vot a cove's number is?" says Cabby.  "Tell 'em to make 'aste
out."

Now Cabby is not a member of the Bonded Brotherhood, for he has had two
"goes" of gin since eight o'clock, and would have liked another--"only
it runs away with the brass"; and if this were known he would probably
lose his fare, although he has been sitting so long in the driving sleet
or rain, and Dives, jun, has imbibed two or three glasses of sherry,
three of champagne, and as many of port, during dinner and dessert.

The ricketty door of the vehicle is opened; the glass let down; dragged
up again; and then, with a bang which threatens to dislocate every joint
in the old cab's body, the door is closed, the box mounted, when
rattling and jangling, off goes the licensed carriage to deposit its
freight.

Distance two miles, barely, time nearly midnight; what wonder that after
a bad day our dinner companion pockets his "bob" with a growl, and
sullenly mounts his box to seek a fairer fare?



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

K9'S ADVENTURE.

One of the great peculiarities of the policeman is his head.  Now, I do
not mean that his head differs from the small or large capital at the
head of most articles; but I allude to the use he makes of that
important appendage to the human body.  A nod is said to be as good as a
wink to a blind horse; but leaving blind horses out of the question, the
policeman's nod is a great deal better than his wink.  There is a
majesty about one of his wags of the head that is sun-like in its
powers; for as the snow dissolves, so melts away the crowd before that
simple act.  It would be a matter of no small difficulty to reduce the
workings of his head to rule, on account of the vast number of
exceptions which would intrude; but in spite of the attendant
difficulties, I have learned something from my friend of the bracelet.
What most men would do by a wave of the hand, Bobby does waggishly--that
is to say, by means of his head.  What one would do in a pointed manner
with one's finger, again, K9 performs with his head.  If any ordinary
being wished to eject an intruder from his premises he would give
tongue--that is to say, not snarl or bark, but tell him to go in a very
fierce tone of voice; but again, a wag of our friend's head does the
duty, and far more effectually.  In short, the nod of emperor or king is
not one half so potent in the upper regions of society as that of K9
with the people.

What awe there is amongst the small boys of the metropolis, and how they
skim and scuffle off when the policeman wags his head; and yet, as they
round a corner, how that never-to-be-beaten Briton peeps forth from
their small natures as they yell defiance when out of reach.  But in
spite of his alacrity in fleeing, our friend holds the London _gamin_
somewhat in dread.  There is something very humiliating for a noble
swell of a policeman to have to march off four feet six inches of
puerile mischief--powerful in its very weakness--a morsel which acts as
a barbed and stinging thorn in Bobby's side all the way to the station.
We can easily imagine the grim smile of satisfaction which would ripple
over the countenance of our hero if, in traversing that part of Holborn
called High, like Tom Hood, he came into contact with a mother bewailing
the loss of her beloved child.  We can easily believe that Bobby would
fervently hope that the loss would prove his gain, that the child would
be, like the old woman's son Jerry in the ancient rhyme, lost and never
found; that the young dog would never turn up again to plague his life,
as he would be pretty sure to do at some future time, banding himself
with birds of a similar feather, chalking the pavements, bowling hoops
amongst the horses' legs, dropping caps down areas, altering butter-shop
tickets, running howling in troops out of courts, and disturbing the
equanimity of foot passengers, cutting behind cabs, yelling inside shop
doors, climbing lamp-posts and performing perilous acrobatic tricks on
the ladder bar, giving runaway knocks and rings, casting themselves
beneath horses' hoofs and miraculously escaping death at every tick of
the clock, making slides on the pave--ice in winter, mud in autumn or
spring, and of the slippery stones in summer; in short, proving a most
thorough plague, torment, and curse to our friend, who shuns the
persecution, as beasts do gad-flies or hornets, from their painful
insignificance.

A youthful pickpocket is a sad trial to him; in fact so is a small
offender of any description; for the sharp boys of London are all gifted
with tongues keen as the adder's teeth, and slightly artful in their
small way.  They are powerful at snivelling and appealing to the tender
feelings of the bystanders for aid and assistance against the bitter
tyranny of their captor; and now shines forth that peculiarity of the
British public against which our friend declaims, for the removal of a
boy of tender years, but tough experience, generally calls forth a large
amount of sympathy, which is loudly evinced in a manner most trying to
the nerves of K9.

In due course I received proper apology for the rather rough treatment I
had received, and then listened with considerable attention to further
recitals, many of which are lost to posterity from the jealousy evinced
by the street hero when an attempt was made at noting.

"No thanky, sir," said he, "as I said afore, that sorter thing's bad
enough in open court; but then we says what we are obliged.  No prifate
notin', thanky.  P'raps you'll put that flimsy away, as it might cause
futur' unpleasantry through bein' used as information again your umbel
servant.  I was a-goin' to say a word or two about a hupset as I had one
night going to take a fellow for forgery.  It warn't a very partic'lar
affair, for we knowed where my gentleman could be found, and there
warn't any need of a detective.  I was detective that time, and only
took one chap with me, as I went quietly about my job.

"From information I received I knowed my customer was somewhere out Soho
way, in one o' them big old houses as is all let out in lodgings, and
full of Frenchies, and Hightalians, and sich.  Reg'lar furren colony,
you know, all the way towards Leicester-square.  My customer had been a
clerk in a City firm, and had been hard at work makin' hisself a fortun
at bettin'.  He used to work hard at it, too, allus making his book so
that he'd bet on the safe side, whatever 'oss won; and I don't know what
he warn't going to make out of it.

"On the strength of what was a-comin', and to pay some little expenses
as he used to come in for through a werry smart sort o' lady as he
courted, he used to borrow money of his gov'nor, just on the quiet-like,
without bothering of him when he knowed he was busy.  So he used to sign
his gov'nor's name for him on bits o' cheques, and get what tin he
wanted from the bank; but allus meant to pay it back again when he got
in his heavy amounts as he was to win at Epsom, or Ascot, S'Leger, or
Newmarket.

"Well, you see this sweetheart of his was jest sech another as that Miss
Millwood as did for George Barnwell, and she was a regular dragon at
spending money.  Consequently my young friend was allus a borrowin' of
his gov'nor, as I telled you jest now; and at last of all he wouldn't
stand it any longer, for it was bleeding him precious heavy.  Besides
which, he wanted to know who was being so kind to him and savin' him so
much trouble about his ortygruff, as he called it.  So with a little bit
o' dodgin', in which I assisted, my customer was treed; and then,
watchin' his chance, he runs, and I has to find him.  In fact, yer know,
he was what we calls `wanted.'

"But I could tell pretty well where my gentleman would be, so when I'd
got my instructions I goes off to look arter him.

"Jest as a matter of form I goes to his lodgin's; but, jest as I
expected, he wasn't there; so then I goes on to Soho, where his lady had
apartments.  I was in plain clothes, so when I asked for her the people
let me in at once, and said I should find her in the first-floor front.
I left my mate on the other side o' the street, for I didn't expect any
opposition, so I walks upstairs to the door, turned the handle quietly,
and walks in--when I gave a bit of a start, for the place was nearly
dark, and would have been quite, if it hadn't been for the gas shining
up out of the street, and making patches of light on the wall; while, as
the lamps ain't werry close together in that part, it wasn't such a
great deal o' light as got in that ways.  If I'd been in uniform I
should have had my bull's-eye; but, as I warn't, why, I hadn't; so I
looks round the room, and, as far as I could see, it was nicely
furnished, but there was nobody there; so I gives a kick under the
table, but there was no one there neither; but on it I could just make
out as there was a decanter and two glasses and some biscuits.

"Well, only naterally, I takes 'old o' the decanter with one hand, pulls
out the stopper with the other, and has a smell.  No mistake about it--
sherry.

"There was the glasses all ready, and there was my mouth all ready; so I
pours out a glassful all ready too, and I was just a-goin' to raise the
glass to my lips, when a thought struck me, and I says to myself:

"`You air a niste promisin' young officer, you air.  You're aspiring to
be a detective, you air; and jest in the midst o' business you're
a-goin' to commit yourself like that.  How do you know it ain't a trap?'

"Well, you see, that was rather a settler; so I leaves the glass alone,
though it was rather hard work, and then I has another look, and sees as
there was foldin' doors leading into the back room, and one o' them
doors was not close shut.

"My finger goes up to the side o' my nose, and I gives myself a wink,
and slips out again to see if there warn't a door outer the back room on
to the landing.  As a matter o' course there it was, so that any one
might slip out o' that hole while I went in at t'other.  So I slips in
again and feels as there was one o' them little turning bolts on the
folding door; so I claps the door to, turns the bolt, and was out again
on to the landing in a jiffy.

"I needn't have hurried myself, though, for all was as quiet as could
be; and I thought as there was no one there, but of course I has to make
sure.  All at once I thinks that perhaps the landing door would be
locked in side, and as I'd shut the folding door that would be locked
too, so that I should be obliged to have 'em broken open, and this was
the sort of house where you wouldn't have a row if you could help it.

"How-so-be, sir, I tries the landing door, and finds it open easy
enough, and then I was inside the room, but what sort of a place it was
I couldn't tell, for it was as dark as Ejup.  Of course I expect it was
a bedroom, and thinks as I should soon feel the bedstead, as would fill
up a good bit o' the place.  But fust of all I drops down upon my hands
and knees; so as if anybody hit at me, or shot at me, or tried any o'
them little games in the dark, as they'd most likely do it at the height
of a man, why it would go over one, and only hit the furniture, which
can be replaced, when you can't replace active and enterprising
officers--leave alone being cut off in the flower of one's youth, you
know.

"Then I listens.  All as still and as dark as could be.  But still as it
was, I could hear my heart go `beat, beat,' wonderful loud.

"`Wish I'd a light,' I says to myself, but then it warn't no use
wishing; and I didn't want to go to the people downstairs, so I begins
feeling about as slow and as quiet as I could.

"I soon finds out as it's a bedroom, for I rubs my knuckles up against
the bed-post, and soon was close up alongside o' the ticking, when I
thinks as I heered a noise, and darts back to the door in a moment; but
all was still again, and I turns back, and then in a manner I got lost,
and confused, and could not tell which way I was going, nor yet where
was the door.

"Now, I daresay that all sounds werry queer; but perhaps you don't know
how easy it is to be lost in a dark room as you've never been in before,
even if it is a little 'un; and if so be as you thinks werry little of
it, jest you get a handkercher tied tight over yer eyes, and do as you
does at Christmas time--`turn round three times and ketch who you may,'
and then see where you are in two twinklings.

"Well, first of all I hits my hand again a chair; then I butts my head
again the corner of as hard a chest o' drawers as ever I did feel in my
life; and then I kicks up such a clatter with the washstand as would
have a'most alarmed the house; but I keeps down on my hands and knees,
being suspicious of an ambushment, till last of all I feels my way round
to the bedside again, and when I was far enough I reaches my hand
lightly over, and lays it on the bed, and then I jumps as though I was
shot, for I felt somebody's leg under the clothes.

"Then I snatches my hand back and turns all over in a wet, cold state as
if I'd been dipped, for I feels precious uncomfortable, and didn't know
what was best to be done next.  One moment I expected to hear the
`whish' of a heavy stick, or the sharp crack of a pistol; for arter the
noise I made it was quite impossible for whoever was in the bed to be
asleep.  Then I thinks as I would call for help, or run out, for I don't
mind telling you I felt regularly scared with the silence.  How-so-be, I
gets the better of my bit o' failing; and, rousing up, I puts my hand
over once more close up to where the pillow should be, and lays it upon
a cold face, and there it seemed to stick, for a shudder went up my arm
right to my head, and I couldn't neither move nor speak, while my mouth
felt as dry and hot inside as though it was full o' dust.

"Cold!  I never felt anything so cold; and I fell a shivering awful,
till with a regular drag I rouses myself up and snatches my hand away;
and as fast as ever I could I got out on to the landing and into the
front room, and all the while trembling and feeling as if something was
after me to pull me back.  I got to the window, smashes out a pane, and
gives a whistle as brings my mate to the door, and then I hears a ring,
and some voices, and he was up to my side in a moment or two, with some
o' the people o' the house arter him.

"`Turn on your light,' I says, as soon as he stood by me on the landing,
and then, feeling as white as a sheet, and my hair wet with
persperation, but more plucky now there was light and a companion, I
goes back towards the room.

"`Here, give us one o' them candles,' I says to a woman as came upstairs
with one in each hand; and then from upstairs and down comes the people,
all talking together, while as soon as some on 'em sees as it was the
police they shuffles off again, so as it was all women as stayed about
us.

"First glance I take I sees what was up, and I says to my mate:--

"`Keep them all out;' and he goes and stands at the door and closes it
after him, when I'm blest if I didn't let the candle fall, and it was
out in a moment.  But I felt better now there was help if I wanted it,
and I goes up to the bedside and lays my hand on that face as I touched
before, but it was cold as ice.  Then I slips my hand down to the
breast, but there wasn't a beat there, so I then says to myself, `Gone,'
says I; and in spite o' my shiverin' and tremblin' I tried to get the
better of it, and reaches over again and lays my hand on the back of a
head as felt cold, too; and then, after a good hard tussel with number
one, I feels down to the breast of this one, and there wasn't a beat
there.  Then I gets to the door again, just as a man comes with a candle
in his hand.

"I gives him my empty candlestick, and takes his light, and I says:--

"`I'm a policeman,' I says, `and you go out and fetch the nighest
doctor; and if you meets another constable tell him to come here.'

"`What for, young man?' he says, werry bounceable.

"`Never you mind what for,' I says; but you do as you're told; and
seeing me look as though I meant it, he starts off like a shot, and we
two stood there till the doctor came, and then we goes in, followed by
ever so many women, all looking white, and talking in whispers.

"Lord, sir, it was a sight!  There was the room well-furnished, and on
the bed lay as pretty a girl as ever you see, search through all London;
her face, and neck looking as white as so much marble, while all her
long black hair lay loose and scattered over the pillow.  Her hands were
under her head, and she looked for all the world as though she was
asleep; while by the flickering candles I almost thought I could see her
smile.  And there, with one arm across her, his head close to her side,
his face buried in the clothes, half-lying on the bed, with his feet on
the ground by the bedside, was him as I took to be my customer as I
wanted; and both him and the girl dead and stiff.

"The doctor examined 'em, and only said what every one could see plain
enough, but he says as well that they'd been gone hours; and that we
didn't know.

"Then he gives a sniff or two, and says as there's a strong smell of
acid about.  `Is there any cup or bottle anywhere?' he says.

"I gives a sorter jump, and felt my skin creep, for I recollects the
bottle and glasses in the next room, and a cold shiver goes all down my
back.

"How-so-be, I goes round and opens the folding doors, and shows the
doctor the sherry decanter, which had about three glasses at the bottom.

"`Ah!' says he, taking the glassful as I poured out, holding it up to
the light, and then sniffing it.  `Ah,' says he, `there's more than
enough for one in that glassful; and that seems to be the same,' he
says, smelling at the decanter.  `Pour it in, pleeceman, and tie the
stopper down, and seal it.'

"I takes up the glass and tries to pour it back, but if my hand didn't
shake to that degree that the glass chattered against the neck of the
decanter, and I spilt half the stuff on the cloth, I was so scared at
the escape I'd had.

"Well, sir, you see some one as won't take no refusal had been
beforehand with his warrant, and took both the forger and his lady, and
I know I thought it a most awful affair, for I was rather new to such
things then.  But whether he poisoned her, or whether they'd agreed to
it aforehand, nobody knew, not even the Coroner; but all I know is that
never before, nor since, have I met with anything as upset me so much as
finding them two poor things lying there in the dark--dead, and stiff,
and stark; it upset me wonderful--at least, that and the sherry
together."



CHAPTER TWELVE.

A VULGAR TONGUE.

Unfortunately, one cannot always get one's own particular cabman--the
favoured one of the civil tongue; and on more than one occasion I have
been on the box with as surly a specimen of humanity as ever drove a
horse.  Now, decidedly the real way to enjoy a cab-ride--rather a
difficult matter--is, providing the weather be fine, to mount beside the
driver.  You thus avoid musty smells, stifling symptoms, and that
hideous noise of jangling windows, a sound harsh enough to jar the
nerves of a bull.  Yes; decidedly the best way to enjoy a cab-ride is to
sink the bloated aristocrat, mount beside the driver, and fraternise.

But my surly driver would not fraternise, for he was of the class known
as crusty.  He was a sort of moral hedgehog, and, but for his forming a
study, I should decidedly have abdicated.

"Ah!  He's got his gruel," said my cynical friend as he drove past a
fallen horse belonging to the General Omnibus Company.  "There's another
fall in the kump'ny's shares.  Sarve 'em right.  No bisniss to have such
bad cattle."

Now, the beast I sat behind was about as ill-favoured and lean-fleshed
an animal as his master.  Evidently given to wind-gall, spavin, and
splint, he--the horse, not the driver--was to an unpractised eye
decidedly a jibber; while even a female ear would have detected that he
was a roarer.  It was evident, though, that my friend could not detect
the faults of his own steed, and therefore he lavished all his abuse
upon the horses of his contemporaries, whether of cab or 'bus.

But this driver seemed to have a spite against the world at large;
seeming to ooze all over until he broke out into quite a satirical
perspiration, while his lips acted as a safety-valve to let off an
explosive compound most rapidly formed in his interior.  He had a snarl
for everything and everybody, and could he have run over some
unfortunate crossing-sweeper, he would probably have been in ecstasies.
Whenever opportunity offered he snarled often and cruelly at the
misfortunes of his fellow-creatures.  Where the scavengers had left the
scraped-up mud beside the road--and where don't they?--he would drive
right through, noisily and rapidly, forming a large mud firework--to the
great increase of his after labour, certainly; but this seemed of no
account; he was so amply recompensed by the intense gratification he
enjoyed in besmirching as many passers-by as happened to be within
range; while when he succeeded in producing a currant-dumpling
appearance upon a footman's calves, he was almost apoplectic, and
rumbled with delight.  Woe to the wandering dog that came within reach
of his whip!  It would have been better for him had he ne'er been
pupped, for here there was no mercy shown.  As to the passing
salutations of brother cabs, they, though apparently pungent, glanced
off our friend's case-hardened composition, and the assailant would
depart with a stinging sarcasm tingling and buzzing in his ears.

It was enough to make one ruminate upon the vast amount of the gall of
bitterness in the man's mind, and ask how much the cab-riding world had
to do with the sharpening of the thorns with which this modern Jehu
bristled--Jehu, indeed, for he drove most furiously--spiny, hooked,
venomous, lacerating, clinging, tearing points that would have at you
and be in your skin whether you would or no; for upon asking the fare
when about to alight, having previously formed the determination not to
dispute a sixpence, I was told "Two shillings," and then, tendering a
florin, was greeted with--

"Ho! wun o' them blessed pieces.  Should ha' thought as a swell as
purfessed to be so interested in kebs would ha' been ashamed to horfer
less than 'arf a bull."

But there are amiable and advice-giving cabbies, who seem to take an
interest in the welfare of their customers.

I once agreed in times gone by to "conwoy" Mrs Scribe and her sister,
Miss Bellefille, as far as Richmond.  'Twas summer time, and our
imaginations were full of sparkling rivers, green eyots, silver swans,
and--well, yes, I'll own it, the carnal delights of a Star and Garter
dinner, with the following cigar.  There was the rail, certainly, but in
preference thereto I hired one of her Majesty's carriages, VR 123,456.
Our buttons had not come up in those days, so I fetched the vehicle from
the stand, and rode back beside the driver.  Upon reaching Miranda
Villas, I lightly leaped down and rang the bell.  Wonderful to relate,
the ladies waited ready in the passage, and after handing them into the
cab, I again mounted to the box, for the purpose of smoking upon the way
down.

We were moving off when a voice was heard from the interior of the
cab--"George, I've left my handkerchief upon the dressing-table; ask
Harriet to fetch it down."

I arrested the driver, who seemed to be regarding me rather
superciliously, which I attributed to insignificance of appearance, when
he exclaimed:--

"Now, Jarge, fetch the missus's wipe, and look alive."

"Confound his impudence," I muttered, "he takes me for the attendant;"
and then, with what must have been a decidedly melodramatic,
tyrannical-baron-like scowl upon my brow, I resummoned the abigail, and
obtained the required piece of cambric.

The feeling of indignation had fled as I reseated myself, and during the
drive down I omitted the smoke, and suffered the driver to discourse
fancy free.

He had an agreeable voice, had this Cabby--husky and wheezy; and but for
an unpleasant habit of expectorating at the flies which settled upon the
shafts, he might have proved an agreeable companion.  Curiosity,
however, seemed to be one of his failings, for addressing me in a mock
provincial style as "Jarge," and at the same time forcing his voice
somewhere down into the cavernous recesses beneath his waistcoat, he
began to catechise me after an approved method of his own.

"New hand?"--I nodded.

"Measured for your livery?"

"What?"  I said.

"Measured for your harness--togs, you know?"

"Not yet," I replied mildly--a martyr to information.

"Nice time on it, you fellers has: plenty ter eat, plenty ter drink,
nothing ter do, and plenty o' niste gals in the house.  Got any
guv'nor?"

I replied in the negative.

"Vell, then, young feller, you've put your foot into a good thing, and
if you plays your cards right, you'll make a swell of yourself in just
no time.  Reg'lar swell, you know; keep yer own wally, private barber,
and shoeblack brigade, yer know, to keep you all square--some one to
swear at when yer outer sorts.  Ony think; have yer chockely brought to
you in bed; and then come down arterwards in a red dressin'-gownd with
gold flowers on it, and a fancy cap with a big torsel!  And there yer
sits, big as a Lord Mayor, and has yer breakfass outer chany.  Ah, it's
a fine thing to be a swell, my lad!  Arterwards yer goes out, fust
chalk--all noo clothes--and when wun o' us pore chaps says, `Keb, sir!'
`Yes!' sez you, and you goes down to yer club and reads the papers, and
drinks champagne all day till dinner-time, when yer goes back to dinner
with the missus, and finishes off every night by going to the oprer.
Swell's life's a first-rate 'un, my lad.

"Niste gals them missuses o' yourn.  I should stick up ter the little
'un if I was you."  [Mrs Scribe.] "I likes the looks on her.  Can't say
much for t'other.  She's rayther too scraggy for my taste."  [Miss
Bellefille.] "Howsumever, it depends a good deal on which has most
ochre.  Though, mind yer, I wouldn't marry a gal altogether for her tin;
I'd rayther hev a good-tempered fat 'un with six thousan' than wun o'
yer thin, razor-backed, sour-tempered 'uns with twiste as much.  Tain't
no use havin heaps o' tin if yer can't enjoy it and do what yer likes.
There's some chaps as I knows as is spliced and dursent say as their
soul's their own; and no more durst send out for a pot o' porter than
fly.  Lor' bless you, every drop o' drink they swallers is 'lowanced out
to 'em.  Ony let the missus ketch 'em with the long clay and the backer,
and then see how soon all the fat's in the fire.  Gets told as they
makes the parly curtains smell wuss nor a tap-room, and keeps a buzzin'
about their ears till the pipe's reg'lar put out, and them too, werry
often.

"You take my adwice, young man, and don't you go and throw yourself
away.  Don't you go and make a martyr o' yourself, and get a ring o'
bitter haloes round your head--sure sign o' rain, you know, and the
wife's eyes a runnin' over.  I rather takes to that little 'un inside,
though; she looks good-tempered.  I s'pose she ain't above
five-and-twenty, is she?"

I said I believed that was her age.

"Good-tempered?" said Cabby; "don't shy the bread about if it's stale,
or bully the gals, or any o' them sorter games?"

"Oh, no!"  I said.

"Vell, then; mind what you're arter, and yer fortun's made.  You've got
your hand crossed with the right bit o' silver.  I squinted over my left
shoulder, and seed her a smilin' at yer when yer brought her the
handkercher.  Eh?  Ah! it's all werry fine, yer know; but I'm up to yer,
young feller.  We see some life our way, you know.  Nice artful card,
you are, you know, now ain't yer?"

Under the circumstances it seemed best to own to the soft impeachment,
which I did, and removed my ribs from Cabby's rather angular elbow.

"I say, yer know, bimeby, if yer look out, 'stead of `Jarge,' it'll be
`Jarge, dear:' ony don't you be in too big a hurry--don't you get a
building a castle in the hair without putting any bricks under it, or
else some fine morning down it comes atop of yer, and yer finds yerself
flat on yer back with all the wind knocked out of yer corpus."

Then came another facetious nudge of the elbow, almost forcible enough
to produce the effect so graphically described.

"Play your cards well, my lad, and you're a made man; but whatever you
do, don't be rash.  Allus make a pint o' cleanin' yerself fust thing,
and never show yourself to her with yer hair touzled and rough; and,
what's more, allus have a clean shave every morning, for there's nothin'
a woman hates wus than a man with a rough chin--nayther one thing nor
t'other.  Arter a bit, some day, when she's werry civil, and when she's
a-sayin' `Jarge' this or `Jarge' that, you might, just by accident like,
say `Yes, dear,' or `No, dear,' as the case may be; ony mind and see how
she takes it; and, as I said afore, don't be rash.  Whatever you do,
don't touch her without she begins fust, or else it's all dickey with
yer.  There's many a good game been spoilt by young fellers like you
bein' too fast, and not havin' nous enough to wait till the proper time.

"There's another way, too, you might spoil yerself if yer don't look
out.  Like all houses o' your sort, there's some niste gals downstairs,
and noises allus goes uppards a deal easier than they goes down'ards.
Don't you never let nobody upstairs hear anybody downstairs a-saying,
`Don't Jarge!' or `Do a' done now!' or `Such imperance!'--you know, my
lad, ony mind what I say: if them words downstairs is heered by any one
upstairs, there won't be a mossil o' chance o' them words upstairs bein'
heered downstairs.  But there, I ain't talkin' to a flat.  When we gets
down ter Richmond, and your folks is gone into the Star and Garter,
you'll be standin' a glass or two, and I can put you up to two or three
wrinkles, every word of which you'll be saving is worth five shillings
to yer.  Ah!  I ony wish I'd half your chance; I'd be riding in a keb of
my own before many months was over.

"The missuses a-goin' to a dinner, of course?  Ah, and a niste day for a
dinner down there, and a row on the river arterwards.  Goin' to meet
some gents, I s'pose?  But never you mind that.  Play your cards well,
and you'll be right, and can come down to Richmond once a week on your
own hook.  Don't you be a-standin' no nonsense, though, from some o'
them big swells all mustarsh and beard, with rings on their fingers.
You'll have some on 'em callin' at your house and tryin' it on, and
wanting to cut you out: but you can dodge 'em by running up in the room
when the bell didn't ring, and a-going up with coals, and letters, and
sich like; and if that don't do--don't let 'em go upstairs at all.  The
missus'll thank yer for it arterwards, as it's all for her good.  And
them young things is as ignorant as can be as to what's best for them.
I hain't lived five-and-forty years in this world to learn nothing, I
can tell yer.  Let's see, now, you're about eight-and-twenty, you are,
and don't seem a bad sorter chap; but you're too tame and quiet-like--
looks as if you wus just come outer the country, don't you see?  But
there, that'll all come right in time I dersay.

"I say, you knows, send us a slice o' cake when it comes off, my lad."

Upon reaching the Star and Garter I told my Mentor to await our return;
gave him a shilling to obtain the glass or two of which he had spoken;
and after handing out the ladies, walked off with them to the tune of a
low, but long-drawn whistle of astonishment from my self-constituted
adviser.

I rode home inside, for the evening was damp and chilly; and upon paying
the required tribute to my husky-voiced friend, he favoured me with a
long serio-comic look beneath the lamp-post, and then upon placing one
foot upon the wheel to reach his perch, he turned his head, winked
solemnly and with a peculiar wisdom in his eye, and then Minerva Road
knew him no more.



CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

FROM REAL LIFE.

"Co-o-o-o-me orn," said Cabby, as we sat by his side on the
box--"Co-o-o-me orn.  Nice sorter day this here, sir.  Thanky, sir; I do
draw a bit, and never sez `no' to a cigar.  Arter you with the light,
sir.  `Queer fares,' sir?  Ah!  I gets some queer sorter fares
sometimes--rum 'uns.  All sorts and sizes, as the sayin' is.  Taking a
poor gal to Bedlam ain't pleasant--they do screech so.  Blest if I
couldn't ha' pitched into the keeper sometimes when I've heerd the poor
creetur crying out as she wasn't mad, and beggin' and praying of him to
let her go.  It all seems agin natur, 'ticklar when a fellow's a bit
soft-like.  It's now a year come Martlemas as one night a flunkey comes
up to the stand and picks me out, and werry glad I was, for I'd had a
awful bad day.  I used to drive a mare then as I called `Bagged Sal,'
cos of her tail; for she hadn't got no tail--leastwise, none to speak
on.  She'd been a 'tillery 'oss out in the Crimee--one of them as stood
in the front rank and got all the hair nibbled off, and the roots gnawed
so as to spile the cemetery for the future.  But she could go, she
could, and get over the ground differun to this.  Coome orn, will yer;
that ain't nothing!  That's one of her games, sir.  She pulls up short
every now and then, if I ain't watchin' her, jest as if she wanted to
pick up suthin' in the road.  Well, sir, as I was a-saying, flunkey
seems to know a horse as could go, or else he wouldn't ha' choosed mine,
for she worn't at all ansum as you may suppose, besides bein' a
wherritty beast, allus twitchin' her stump of a tail outer the crupper,
and laying her ears back and biting.  Flunkey hails me, and I pulls
outer the rank and picks him up.

"`Drive to Cavendish Square,' sez he.

"Now, he wasn't a reg'lar thoroughbred flunkey, all white gloves,
stockings and powder, with a long cane and crestys on his buttons, but
one o' yer pepper-an'-salt doctor's men, all white choker and cheek, and
not arf so affable as a real footman.  He was one of them chaps as keeps
the patients waiting in the back parly till they tips him, and then he
finds out all of a sudden as the doctor ain't engaged.  Lord, sir, I've
waited hours in Saville-Row for poor innercent creeturs as didn't know
the wally of a trifle, and so spent a hextry five shillings in cab fare.

"`Drive to Cavendish Square,' sez he, as big as yer please and then he
begins a-whistling, and a-staring at all the gals as we passes.  My lord
hadn't a word to say to me, yer know, being only a kebby, and not up to
his social spear in society; but I begins to pump him a little--movin'
the handle quite gentle like at first, for he wouldn't suck a bit; but
bimeby I works him round, and out flows such a bright stream of
eloquence, and he begins to tell me where we was a-going to and who we
was a-going to take; and then I finds as it was a young lady to a
private asylum, for she was allus a-trying to kill herself, and all
through love.

"Well, we pulls up at a door with a werry large brass plate, and the
doctor's name on it in big letters, and there I waited for half an hour;
when the door opens and I hears a screech as goes through me like a
knife, and then they carries out a young gal with a face a'most like an
angel, only all drawed and frightened looking.

"The poor thing stares quite wild, first this way and then that way;
calls out `Hernest--Hernest--help!' and skreeked again as they pulled up
the glasses of the keb, and then Pepper-and-salt jumps up alongside me,
as it might be you, sir, and `Drive on fast,' he says, `along
'Ammersmith Road to Chiswick'--through Kensington, you know.

"Now, you know, sir, I'm blest if I know how I drove that arternoon.
You see, sir, one gets knocked about here, and shoved there, and goes
through lots o' strange things to get a living; but I can't help
thinking as we're all on us, gentle and simple, made alike, and outer
the same stuff.  Some on us, too, gets more than our share o' temper,
and softness, and fust one thing, and then another, and you see that's
how it is with me.  I'm a rum-looking cove to look at, reg'lar rough
one, you know, but then I've got a lot o' softness stowed away about my
heart as I ain't no business with.  Now I just ask you now, sir, as a
fair judge, what business has a kebman with softness?  It ain't natural.
Be as rough as you like, I says, but none o' that.  And yet my stoopid
old woman at home she likes it, and says it's natur.  P'rhaps it is, and
p'rhaps it ain't.  But then, you see, we don't live in a state of natur
now.  Quartern loaves, pots o' porter, and Dutch cheeses don't grow on
the hedges; and people has to look out precious sharp for enough to fill
out their weskits, and I've known the time when mine's been precious
slack about the buttons.  'Pon my soul, sir--beggin' your pardon for
being a bit strong--you upper crusters ain't no idea what shifts we're
put to sometimes for a living, and what hard work it is.  I ain't a
grumbling, for only having the missus, and no children, things ain't so
hard as they might be.  We gets along right enough, for the wife can
scheme wonderfully, and toss you up a sixpenny dinner as would surprise
yer.  She's up to a thing or two, an' can go to first-class butchers and
get her threepen'orth o' pieces--topping meat, you know; twopen'orth o'
taters and some carrots and turnips; and, Lor' bless you, you'd be
surprised as I said afore.  Did yer ever go down Leather Lane, sir, or
past the Brill at Somers Town, or some parts of Clare and Newport
Markets?  Perhaps you didn't.  But jest you wait for a stinging hot day,
and then go and see what the poor folks is a buying of; and then don't
you wonder no more about fevers, and choleras, and all them sort o'
troubles.  There ain't no wonder in the gin palaces going ahead, when so
many poor creeturs flies to 'em to drown their sorrows.  It's this
sorter thing as cheers me up; and makes me say a moral bit as I
learnt--`A contented mind's a continual feast,' I says to the wife; and
really, sir, if you'll believe me, sooner than I'd live as some of our
poor things does I'd try and peg on along with my old mare here.  We'd
make a subdivision: she should have the chaff, and I'd go in for the
oats and beans.

"Now, where had I got to?  Oh!  I know, sir--about that there poor gal.
I don't know how I drove down that day for softness.  It did seem so
sad, so pitiful for that fine young creetur to be dragged off in that
way.  I quite hated mysen, for it was as though I was to do with it, and
it was my fault; and at last, when we'd got up to that place where the
chap used to hatch his young cocks and hens by steam--Cantelo, I think
he called hisself--Pepper-and-Salt says, `Turn down here,' and I turned
down, and mighty glad I was when we got to the big old house, where they
took the poor girl in, and I thinks to myself, `Ah! next time as you
comes out, my lass, I'm afraid as it will be screwed down, and with the
black welwet a hanging over you!'

"I got werry good pay for that job; but somehow it did not seem to lit,
for the soft feeling as I told you of.  Every bit o' money seemed
gritty, and I felt gritty, and as I drove Pepper-and-Salt back it was me
as wouldn't talk.

"I bought a haddick and took home to the old ooman for supper, and I
toasted it myself, so as it shouldn't be burnt; and then we had a pint
o' porter made hot, with some ginger and sugar in it; and as I was
a-smoking my pipe and watching the haddick, I tells Betsy all about it.
But, p'raps you mightn't believe it, we didn't enjoy that supper: I felt
kinder lonesome like, and I see a big drop go off the missus's nose more
than once into the porter mug, as she sat a-rocking herself backwards
and forwards.

"Ah! there's some rum games a-going on in this here world, sir!"

We jogged on in silence for some little time, when "Hi!" roared Cabby at
an old lady crossing the road--producing the excellent effect of making
her stand still in the middle.

"I know some o' them old women 'll be the death o' me some day," said
Cabby.  "They allus waits till a keb's a-coming afore they cross the
road, and then when they gets knocked down there's a fuss and a inquest,
and a reglar bother, of course.

"Did you ever see one o' them patent kebs as come up about
five-and-twenty years ago?--I mean them with a door opening behind, and
a box up in front for the driver.  Niste things they was for swindling a
poor cove out of his hard-earned suffrins.  More nor wunst I've had
people a-slipping out without stopping on me, and, of course, when I
pulls up, if the keb wasn't empty.  Begging of your pardon, sir, it was
enough to make a saint swear.

"Coome orn, will yer?  Arter you, sir, with the light agen; talking
let's one's weed out more nor anything.  Rum fellows them sailors, sir;
there goes two with the name of their ship on their hats, like dogs with
their master's name on their collar.  Rum dogs, too--British bulldogs.
They ain't no notion at all o' what money's worth; they seem to fancy as
it's only meant to spend--never thinks a bit about saving of it.  I took
one up wunst at London Bridge, and I opens the door for him, and touches
my hat quite civil, for I allus does that to a fare, whosumever he be.
Mighty pleased he seemed, too, for he pulls out a tanner--what you calls
a tizzy, you know, sir--and he hands it over, and he says--

"`Give's hold o' the rudder-lines, mate, and fetch a glass o' grog to
drink afore sailing.'  And then he gets hold of the reins, and I fetches
a glass of rum-and-water, and we drinks it fair atween us; and when I
holds the door open agen, he pitches his bundle inside.  `Clap on the
hatches,' he says, and he bangs to the door, and then, while I was
a-staring, up he goes, and put hisself plop atop o' the roof, for all
the world like a tailor, and there he began a-chewing his bacca.
`Deck's clear, mate,' he says, `clap on sail;' and away we goes along
Cheapside, and the boys a-cheering and hooraying like all that.

"We hadn't gone werry far before he 'ails me to stop, and then we has
another glass o' rum-and-water.  And so we goes on and on, making no end
o' calls, till at last we must both have been in a werry reprehensible
state, sir; for all I remembers is waking up at four o'clock in the
morning in our mews, with the horse's head as far into the stable as he
could get it, and the sailor a-sitting fast asleep on the t'other
cushion inside the keb just opposite to me.  But then, you see, sailors
is such rum chaps!

"Law, sir, it's wonderful the dodges as I've seen in my time.  People's
beginning to find out as there's some romance in a keb now, since that
chap pisoned his wife and two children in one of our wehicles `licensed
to carry four persons'--and then went and did for hissen.  He was a bad
'un, reg'lar.  I wunst had a case of that sort myself.  I remember it as
well as if it was only yesterday, and it's many a year ago now.  That
was a night, surety--all rain and sleet mixed up, and the roads churned
into a pudge--City batter, I calls it.  I was on night-work, a-sitting
on my box, driving about anyveres, noveres like, for it was too cold for
the hoss to stand still.  P'raps I shouldn't ha' got him on again, for
he'd ha' turned stiff.  I'd been a-growling to myself like that I should
have to be out on such a night, and was then twisting of an old red
'ankercher round the brim o' my hat, to keep the rain from running down,
when a street door opens, and a woman comes running out with a man arter
her.

"`Come in,' he says, a-trying to drag her back; but she hangs away,
calling out `Help!' and says suthin' about `willain,' and `baseness,'
and `never.'  I couldn't 'ear all she says 'acause of the wind, though I
pulls up short in front of the house: a large one it was, with a light
in the hall, and I could see as the man was quite a swell, in a bobtail
coat and open wesket--same as they wears to go to the Hoprer.  Well,
when she acts like that he makes no more ado but fetches her a wipe
across the mouth with his hand, quite savage--I mean hits her--and then
runs in and bangs the door arter him, leaving that poor thing out in the
bitter night, in a low dress, and without a bit of bonnet.

"She gives a sort of ketch or sob like, and then says to me, in an
ordering sorter way--

"`Open the door, man!'

"I jumps down in a minute, and she gets in and tells me to drive to a
street near Eaton Square.  So I shuts the door and drives off, wondering
what it all meant, and feeling uncommonly as if I should have liked to
give that feller one for hisself, for it was a thing I never could bear
to see, any one strike a woman.

"Well, we gets to the street, and then I turns round to arst her the
number, when just as we passed a lamp-post I could see in at the window
as she was down on the floor.  You might have knocked me off the box
with a wisp.

"I pulls short up, jumps down, and opens the door; and there she was
with her hair down, and all of a heap like at the bottom of the keb.
The light shined well in, and as I lifted her on to the seat I could see
as she was young, and good-looking, and well dressed, and with a thick
gold chain round her neck.

"Just then up comes a p'leeceman, as big as you please, and `What's up?'
he says.  `Why, she's fainted,' I says.

"`Looks suspicious,' he says, a-hying me sideways.

"`P'raps it does,' I says, for I began to feel nasty at his aggrawating
suspicions.  Howsomever, I tells him then where I'd picked her lip, and
all the rest of it, and he looked 'nation knowing for a minute, and then
he says--

"`Jump up and drive to the nearest doctor's; and I'll get in and hold
her up.'  `But what's this here?' he says, laying hold of her hand--such
a little white 'un, with rings on, and with the fingers tight round a
little bottle.  `Drive on,' he shouts, quite fierce, an' I bangs to the
door, and forgot all about the wet.

"I soon comes across one o' them red brandy balls a-sticking in a lamp,
and I says to myself, `That's English for salts and senny,' I says; and
then I pulls up, ketches hold of surgery and night bell, and drags away
like fun.

"Then the door was opened, and we carried her in--no weight, bless you--
and lays her on the sofy.  Doctor comes in his dressing-gown, takes hold
of her hand, holds it a minute, and then lets it fall again.  Then he
holds his watch-case to her mouth, and you could hear the thing go
`tic-tic' quite loud, for there wasn't another sound in the room; and
then he lifts up one of her eyelids, and you could see her great black
eye a-staring all wild and awful like, as if she was seeing something in
the other world.  Then all at once she gave a sort of shivering sigh,
and I could see that it was all over.

"Doctor takes the bottle from the p'leeceman, smells it, shakes his
head, and gives it back again.  Then they two has a talk together, and
it ends in us lifting the poor thing back into the keb, and me driving
back to where we started from; p'leeceman taking care to ride on the box
this time.  And what a set out there was when we got there!  Fust comes
the suvvant, after we'd been ringing a'most half an hour.  She looked as
if just shook out of bed; and there she stood, with her eyes half-shut,
a-shiverin' and starin', with the door-chain up.  As soon as we made her
understand what was the matter, off she cuts; and then down comes the
swell in his dressen-gownd.  Fust he runs out and looks in the keb; then
he rushes upstairs again; then there was a dreadful skreeching, and a
lady comes a-tearing down in her night-gownd, and with her hair all
a-flying.  We'd carried the poor thing into the hall then, and she
throws herself on her, shrieking out, `I've killed her!  I've killed
her!' kissing her frantic-like all the time.  The swell had come down
after her, looking as white as a sheet; and he gets the lady away, while
p'leeceman and me carries my fare into a bedroom.

"P'leeceman took my number, and where I lived; and swell comes and gives
me two half-crowns; and then I took off and left 'em, feeling quite sick
and upset, and glad enough to get away.

"There was an inquest after, of course, and I had to go and give
evidence; but somehow or other precious little came out, for they kep it
all as snug as they could, and the jury brought it in `Temporary
Insanity.'

"Pull up here, sir?  Yes, sir.  _Star_ office, sir?  Phew! didn't know
as you was in the noosepaper way, sir, or shouldn't have opened my mouth
so wide.  Eighteenpens, sir; thanky, sir."

"Co-o-o-me orn, will yer?" were the words which faded away in the
Fleet-street roar.



CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

A WHEEL OF MISFORTUNE.

That's our vessel out there, moored fore and aft--that one with her
starn so low down, and her nose right up outer the water.  You see,
that's all owing to her make.  Being a screw boat, all her machinery is
far aft, as you can see by her funnel; and now the cargo's all out, she
looks awkward in the water.  Fine boat, though, ain't she?  There's
lines! there's a clipper-look about her!  She seems as if she'd cut
through anything.  My old boat was a fine one, but nothing like so fast,
though I liked her, after all, far better than this; for when you get
out in the warm parts the engine-room's awful, and enough to kill a
fellow; and I don't know, after all, that I don't like a paddle-boat
best, same as my old 'un was.  I've never seen such engines since, nor
such cylinders--oscillators, you know--and one to each paddle separate,
so that you could go ahead with one and turn astarn with t'other, just
like the chaps in a boat rowing and backing water, so that the old
steamer would almost spin round upon herself if you liked.  There was
some credit in keeping that machinery bright, for you could see it all
from the deck, and when the sun shone, and the pistons, and beams, and
cylinders were all on the work, it was a pretty sight as would pay any
one for looking at.

It's only a short journey, you know--London and Hull--but it takes a
deal of care, and precious rough the weather is sometimes; for our east
coast ain't a nice one, any more than it's easy working going up the
Humber, or making your way into the Thames; and then, amongst all the
shipping most as far as London Bridge, there's so many small boats
about, and so much in-and-out work and bother, that at times one gets
sick of going ahead, and turning astarn, and easing her, and stopping
her, and the rest of it; but then, you know, if we didn't look sharp we
should soon be into something, or over it, just as it happened.

I remember once we were in the Humber.  It was winter time, when the
great river was covered with floating ice; and as we went along slowly
to get in midstream, you could hear the paddle-wheels battering and
shattering the small pieces, so that one expected the floats to be
knocked all to pieces; while the ragged, jaggy fragments of ice were
driven far enough under water, and then rose up amongst the foam to go
rushing and bumping along the side of the ship, tearing and grinding one
another as they went.  It was terribly slow work, for we were obliged to
work at quarter speed, and now and then we'd come with a tremendous
shock against some floating block, which then went grating along till
the chaps in front of the paddles caught it at the end of their
hitchers, and so turned it off, or the paddles must have been smashed.

You see, the tide was coming up, and all this floating ice that had come
down, out of the Ouse and Trent, was being brought back again from
Humber's mouth.  Pretty nigh high water it was, but we started a little
sooner, so as to see our way through the ice before night came on; and
as I stood on deck, having come up for a moment or two, of all the
dreary sights I ever saw that was the worst.  Far as eye could reach
there was ice-covered water, mist, and the heavy clouds seeming to
settle down upon the distant banks.

It was getting fast on towards evening, and seeing me up, the captain
began to talk a bit about the state of the river, and whether we hadn't
better anchor, while I could hardly hear him from the clattering noise
made by the paddle-floats upon the ice.

"Cold place to anchor," I says, as I looked round the deck; and then I
says, "Be clearer as soon as we gets nearer Grimsby."  So we kept on,
and I went down to join my stoker giving an eye to the engine, and after
a few words I went up again and took a look about me.  And what a
wretched lookout the deck of a Hull boat is.  You see it's a cheap way
of getting up to London, and parliamentary trains ain't nowhere in
comparison for cheapness, so that you have rather a poor lot of
passengers; and then, what with the cargo, and one thing and another,
always including the poor folks as is sick, and them as is trying to
make themselves so, why, you may find much pleasanter places than the
deck of a Hull steamer.  But, there, the deck's bad enough, so what do
you suppose the fore-cabin is?  It's enough to make your heart bleed
sometimes to see the poor miserable-looking objects we have on board,
some half-clothed and looking less than half-fed as they crouch about
the deck or huddle down in the cabin.  Then there's always a lot of
children, and the poor, tired, cold, hungry little things soon let you
know as they're on board, and very loudly, too, making every one else
miserable and wretched into the bargain.

I'd been giving an eye to all this, and thinking how very much
pleasanter everything would have been if we had had a fine summer's
evening for our voyage, when all at once, above the rattle and clatter
of the ice amongst the paddles, I heard a horrible wild shriek from just
over the side of the ship.  Like half a dozen more, I ran to the side
directly, and looked over, when just at the same moment I saw two men
standing up in a little boat--one a sailor chap or boatman, and the
other evidently a passenger; for in the glance I took I could see a bag
and a box in the boat.

No doubt they had been hailing, but the noise of the paddles stopped any
one from hearing, while the coming evening prevented any one from seeing
them till they were close on to us, and the little boat gliding along
the ship's side in company with the ice.

The boatman seemed to have lost his nerve, or else he would have tried
to hook on with a hitcher; but he stood quite still, and as we all
looked, one of the men who had been keeping off the ice made a dash at
the boat with his hook, but missed her; and the next instant there was a
loud shriek and a crash, and the little boat and the two men were out of
sight under the great paddle-wheel of the steamer.

I dashed to the skylight, and shouted "Stop her!" to my mate, and the
paddle-wheels ceased going round; when I followed all on deck to the
side abaft the paddle-box, and in the dim light I could just see the
swamped boat come up and pass astarn of us, floating amongst the ice.

"Here, get out a boat!" cried the captain, and directly after four of us
were rowing about amongst the ice, trying to find the two poor fellows
who had been beaten down.  Now we tried one way, and now another, and
always with the great thick sheets of ice grinding against us, and
forcing the boat about; while I could not help thinking what a poor
chance the best of swimmers would have had in the icy water, amongst the
sharp, ragged-edged floes that were sweeping by.

It had got to be almost dark now, and the steamer lay some distance off,
so that we could only see her by the lights hung out; when just as we
had made up our minds that nothing more could be done, and were turning
the boat's head, there came a hail from the steamer for us to return.

And that returning was not an easy job in the darkness, with the ice
making the little boat shiver at every stroke of the oars, for it seemed
to grow thicker and heavier all round us, so that we had to row
carefully to keep from being overset.  Till I saw it, I could hardly
believe in such huge lumps of ice being anywhere out of the Polar seas;
for here in England one would not expect to see pieces of ice lying
stranded on the shore--pieces eight or ten feet high.  But there, in the
Humber, in a severe winter, a great quantity of sheet ice comes down
with the tide, and being washed one piece over the other, they mount up
and up, and freeze together till they get quite a height, while I have
often seen small schooners and billy-boys froze in, and even raised
right out of the water, so that they stood on a little hill of ice,
which supported the middle, while you could walk under the keel of the
fore part.

After a good deal of pushing and warding off blows, we got aside the
steamer at last, when the captain shouted to us to row all along, for he
thought once he had heard some one shout for help.  So we put her gently
alongside, round the paddle-box, and were going forward a bit, when I
heard a shout close by me as made my blood turn cold.

But I was myself again next moment, and I got hold of a boat-hook and
hitched on alongside.

"Throw us a rope," I says; and they let down the tackle, when we hooked
on, and directly after they had us hauled up to the davits, when I
jumped on deck.

"Lend a hand here with a lanthorn," I says, running up to the
paddle-box.

"Easy ahead," says the captain, shouting down the skylight.

"No, no!"  I shrieked, turning all wet with horror; and then, as the
paddle-wheels made about half a revolution, there came such a horrid,
stifling, muffled scream as nearly froze us, and then another, but this
time a plain one, for I was up atop of the paddle-box and had opened the
trap.

"Help, help!" came the wild cry from just beneath me, and I called out
again for a light, which some one brought, and I lowered it down between
two of the floats, when I could see both of the poor fellows--one
astride of the wheel axle, and the other half in the water, holding on
to one of the spokes; while, by the glimmering of the lanthorn, I could
see their horror-stricken countenances, and the peril of their position.

Just then one of them tried to say something, but it was only a sort of
groan, and to my great horror I saw him throw up his hands wildly, and
fall off the axle right down splash into the water, where the bottom
floats were underneath, and I made sure he was gone.  But there was no
time for thinking, if anything was going to be done; and, giving the
lanthorn to another man to hold, I got through the trap, and then,
climbing about like a squirrel in a cage, I got down to the bottom, and
then got hold of the poor fellow who had fallen, and managed to hold his
head up, while I shouted for some one to bring a rope.

Nobody seemed in a hurry to come down, and I must say as it looked a
horrible place, while the water kept dripping from the icy wet floats,
and I couldn't help thinking where we should be if the wheels went
round.  But directly after I saw some one drop through the hole, and
then the captain began to climb down with the end of a rope, and we soon
made it fast to the poor fellow, and had him up.  As for the other chap,
he seemed mad with fright, for when we got to him his eyes were fixed
and his arms clinging that tightly round one of the spokes that we could
not move them.  So we had to make the rope as was sent down again fast
round him, and at last we got him up through the floats and out of the
trap.

Now, I have heard of captains setting their men good examples, and
wanting to stay in places of danger till the last, but our captain
didn't, for he took the lead precious eagerly, and was soon out; but, as
he got up, bang down went the lanthorn, when I had a taste of the creepy
feeling those two poor fellows must have had as I hung on there in the
darkness, fancying all sorts of terrible things--that they would forget
I was there and give the order "Go on ahead," when I should be leaping
from float to float in the horrible darkness, to keep myself above
water, till I was exhausted, when with a dying clutch I should cling to
one of the spokes of the wheel and be dashed round and round till life
was beaten out of me; when so strong was the imaginary horror that I
could see myself turning up in the white foam behind the wheel and then
floating away far astarn.

It was so pitchy dark, and I felt so unnerved, that I dared not try to
climb up the slimy iron-work, though I was quite familiar with its
shape: and, though I dare say the time was only a minute before the
light appeared again, it seemed to me an hour, and it was only by the
exercise of great self-control that I could keep from shrieking aloud.

But the light came at last; and, pale, wet and trembling, I managed to
climb out on to the paddle-box, and had almost to be helped down on to
the deck, when I pretended that I was suffering from cold, and made the
best of my way down into the engine-room, where I stood in front of the
fire till a bit recovered, and then changed my things.

"How did we get up there?" says the boatman next day, when I was asking
him about the accident--"how did we get up there?  Goodness only knows;
for, when the paddle beat our boat under, I didn't seem to know anything
more till we were down in the cabin."

And so the passenger that he was bringing aboard said when he came down
and thanked me for what he called my gallantry; just as if it was
anything to go and help a poor fellow in distress.  And so it always
seems to be that, in the great peril of an accident itself, there is not
so much horror and dread as in the expectation and waiting for it to
happen; but I know that I suffered enough hanging there in the dark on
that paddle-wheel, and thought enough to have driven me out of my senses
in another half-hour.



CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

A SEA BREEZE.

"Man killed saluting her Majesty," as we read in the papers t'other day:
poor fellow, told off at the rammer he was, and for want of proper
sponging out; when he drove in the great cartridge, it exploded before
he could leap back, and in a moment he was gone.  How it brought up all
my old sea life, and the days on board the fifty-gun frigate that I'll
call here the _Lysander_, so as to say nothing about names that might be
unsavoury in some people's nostrils.  There I was again at gun drill, or
ball practice, down on the main-deck.  Now I was numbered to ram, or
sponge; now at the lanyard to fire; now one thing and now another; and I
could see it all so plainly: the big cartridge, the twisted wheel of a
wad, the shot in the racks, and the little quills full of powder for the
touch-hole.  Why, I could even fancy my ears ringing and singing again
after the heavy report; and as I sat at my window, there was I fancying
it was a port-hole, and shading my eyes to look out and see the shot go
skipping and ricochetting along from wave to wave.  Now, again, it was
examining day for the shells, and there we were, two of us, slung
outside the ship on a platform, and the shells in their little wood
boxes handed over the side and down to us; for it was a very dangerous
job, and the officers kindly arranged that if in unscrewing the fuse one
of the shells exploded, why only us two would be in for it.  I didn't
half like the job for my part, but the old master at arms had done it so
often that he thought no more of it than going down to mess, and more
than once I've heard him wish for a pipe, while I believe he would have
smoked it.

Four years out in the Pacific we were, and more than one brush we had
with the Rooshians up there at Petropaulovski, but mostly it was very
dull cruising about.  True, we used to get a change now and then; once
or twice we had a turn in Vancouver's Island, and had a shooting party
or two after the pretty little quails, handsome little birds with a
crest, and prime eating.  Then, one night, we sailed into the beautiful
harbour at Nukuheva, in the Marquesas, as lovely a spot as it is
possible to imagine; and as I saw it then by moonlight, such a sight as
I can never forget--all moonlight on the beautiful trees, with cascades
falling from the larger rocks; just in front the belt of white sand, and
the sea gently wash-wash and curling over in creamy breakers.  Another
time it would be the Sandwich Islands, and when some of us were ashore
there, I'm blest if it wasn't as good as a play, and you couldn't hardly
believe it.  Why, there was a regular civilised town, with the names of
the streets up in their lingo; and as to the shops, they were as right
as could be, 'specially where they sold prog; while the chemist's was
quite the thing, all glass, and varnish, and coloured bottles; and
Charley Gordon, my mate, actually went in and bought two ounces of Epsom
salts, and the man asked him if he didn't want any senny.

It quite knocked a man over, you know, for you went there expecting to
meet with nothing but savages of the same breed as killed Captain Cook;
but though he was killed there, let me tell you it's a precious sore
subject with them, and they won't talk about it if they can help it; and
I believe, after all, it was through a mistake that the poor fellow was
killed.

Now again we'd go to Callao, or Valparaiso, or Juan Fernandez, and lying
idle off one of the ports, see them bring out their convicts and chaps
to punish.  One dodge they had was to put so many of 'em into a leaky
boat right out in the harbour, and there they'd have to keep on pump--
pump--pump--and work hard, too, to keep themselves afloat; for if they
hadn't kept at it, down they must have gone, and as my mate said--"Life
was sweet, even to a convict."  Sometimes we've seen them punish men by
lashing 'em to a spar, and then sousing 'em overboard till they're half
drowned, when up they'd come again, choking and sputtering to get their
breath; then down again once more, and then up, till one of our chaps
began to swear, and be as savage as could be, at what he called such
cowardly humbugging ways.

"Why," says he--"Why can't they give a fellow his four dozen and done
with it?  But it's just like them beggarly chattermonkey furreneering
coves.  I should just like ter--"

And here he began squaring about, Tom Sayers fashion, as if he'd have
liked to have a set to with some of 'em.

Now just about that time we used to have a wonderful sight of flogging
on board our ship.  For two years I don't believe there was a chap had
up; and for why? because our captain was one of the right sort, and I
believe loved his men.  He was a Tartar, too, and he'd have everything
right up to the mark, and done like lightning, stamping up and down
there with a trumpet under his arm; but then he'd a way with him which
the men liked, and they'd do anything for him.  Why, I don't believe
there was a smarter ship and crew in the service; and though we never
had a regular set to with a Russian, except boat service on shore, I'm
thinking we should have shown what the _Lysander_ could do if called
upon.  There was no flogging then, for a bit of grog stopping did nearly
always, and the men used to take a pride in themselves and their ship,
as is the case everywhere when the officers are gentlemen.

When I say a gentleman, I don't mean a silver-spoon man, but one who,
having men under him, treats them as they should be treated, and though
strict and stern, knows when a kind word's right, and after making them
work like trumps, sees that they're comfortable and well-fed.  Why, I've
known our captain and first lieutenant do anything sooner than get the
men wet if it rained--keeping sail on till it was really obliged to be
taken in.

Capital prime beef and biscuit we always had, and first-class old rum,
and what dodges we used to have to get a drop extra sometimes.  Charley,
my mate, used to be generally pretty wide-awake; and taking notice how
the rum used to be pumped out of the cask by the purser's steward with a
bright brass pump, he says to him one day--

"Why don't you save a drop of rum, Tom, in the pump?"

"How can I?" he says, "when it all runs out."

Charley says something to him, though, and very next day, while the
purser was looking on, Tom pumps out the regular quantity into the grog
tub, and then forgets to push the handle of the pump down, but pulls it
out of the tub, and runs down below with it, and when he pushed the
handle down again, out came about a pint of strong rum.

That was one way; but another dodge was this.  The grog used to be mixed
in a tub, and then there was the serving out, when nearly always there'd
be a lot left, perhaps a gallon, or a gallon and a half, after the
ship's company had been all served.  Now, I don't know why this wasn't
saved; but after every man had had his "tot" under the officer's eye,
this "plush," as we used to call it, was poured down one of the
scuppers, the officer always seeing it done.

"That's thundering wasteful, mate," says Charley; and I nodded and
wished my mouth was under the scupper; for a little extra grog to a
sailor's a great treat, 'specially as he can't do like another man
ashore--go and buy a drop whenever he likes.  So, half an hour after, we
were down along with the armourer, and what with a bit of nous, a couple
of tin-canisters, and a lanyard, we soon had a long tin affair that we
could let down the scupper, where we tied it with the lanyard and left
it.

Now, perhaps, every one don't know that what we call the scupper is a
sort of sink, or gulley-hole, by the ship's side, to let off the water
when the decks are washed, or a wave comes aboard; and though it may
sound queer to catch rum and water that is sent down a sink-hole, you
must understand that well out at sea the deck of a man-of-war is as
clean and white as washing and scrubbing can make it--a drop of salt
water being the foulest thing that passes down a scupper.

Well, our machine answered first-rate, and though it didn't catch only
half of the stuff thrown down, yet we often got a quart of good grog,
and had a pleasant half-hour down the main-deck drinking it.

But things soon turned unpleasant; we had a fresh captain, whom I'll
call Captain Strangeways, and very soon the cat began to be at work.
Times were, of course, that men would buy each other's grog, and have a
little more than they should, and then, instead of a mild punishment,
and a trial at reforming such men, it was flogging; and instead of this
doing any good, it made the men worse, and drunkenness more frequent,
till the floggings used to be constant, and instead of our ship being
about the smartest afloat, I believe she grew to be one of the most
slovenly, and the men took a delight in annoying the captain and
officers.

In the very low latitudes, where the heat is sometimes terribly hard to
bear, it is the custom to have what we call a windsail, that is a
regular great canvas pipe, hung so that one end goes down the hatchways,
while the other is tied up to the rigging; and of a hot night the cool
current that came down would be delightful.  But down on the main-deck,
with perhaps four hundred men sleeping, even this would not be enough,
and we used to sleep with the ports open.  But this displeased the
captain; for in other latitudes the custom was to shut the ports down at
eight o'clock at night, and he, accordingly, gave orders that this
should be kept up; so at eight o'clock one night, watch was set, and all
the ports were closed.

Phew!  I can almost feel it now.  Why, it was stifling.  We could hardly
breathe; and first one and then another jumped out of his hammock, and
opened a port, and then we had no end of palavering, for the men were
regularly unanimous over it, that we could not bear the heat; and the
consequence was, that we made our arrangements for a bit of a breeze
next night.

Eight o'clock came, and we were lying at anchor off Callao.  Gun-fire--
and then at the order down went the ports, and then all was darkness;
but at the next moment, there was the chirping of the whistles of the
boatswain's mates; and so well had the men worked together, and made
their plans, that up flew all the ports again directly.

Then the row began; the officers got alongside the captain, the marines
were called aft, and then lanterns ranged along the quarter deck, and
the men summoned and ranged across in a gang several deep.  The captain
raged and stormed.  He'd flog every man on board, and--

"Crash!"  There was a lantern down; some one out of the tops had thrown
a big ball of spunyarn of the size of a Dutch cheese, and knocked the
light over.

--He'd have the man in irons that threw that ball.

"Crash--crash--crash!" there came a regular volley, and every lantern
was knocked off and rolled about the deck.

"Marines! up the rigging, there, into the mizen and main tops!" shouted
the captain, "and bring those men down."  When up went the Johnnies, of
course, very slowly, for they couldn't climb a bit, while the men were
down the sheets in an instant, and behind the others on deck.

Then the captain had a few words with the first lieutenant, and the men
were piped down; and the ports not being touched, all seemed to be
pretty quiet, when the officers collected together in the gun-room, and
began talking the matter over--some at chess, and some at their grog;
but the game was not quite over, for the men were just ripe for a bit of
mischief, and fast working themselves up into that state when mutinies
take place.  All at once, when everything seemed at its quietest, there
was a shrill chirrup; and then a number of the biggest shot were set
rolling out of their racks right along the deck, as it sloped down
towards the gun-room door.

"Rumble--rumble--rumble; bang--crash--crash!" they went, dashing open
the door where the officers in dismay were sitting in all positions:
with their legs drawn up, or sticking out at right angles, and then came
another volley, but this time it was one of laughter, and by the time
the sentries had called up the relief, and had the shots replaced in the
racks, all was still and quiet, while the next night the captain left
the ports untouched.



CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

TOLD IN THE DUSK.

Of broken hearts, Minnie, though the doctor's certificates told another
tale.  But then doctors deal with the body, and I am speaking of the
mind.  'Tis twenty years since; and, as you saw this evening, there were
the little grey and golden patches of lichen spreading over the
grave-stone, while their story is about forgotten.

Twenty years since poor brother Fred was the second clerk in Ranee
Brothers' counting-house, and I a boy of fifteen just promoted to a desk
in the same office.  And how proud I was of my brother, and how worthy I
thought him of cousin Annie's love, even though after my boyish fashion
I loved her myself, and, when Fred took me with him to my aunt's, I used
to sit and gaze upon her sweet, grave countenance till I felt to hate
myself for being such a boy, and turned quite miserable and despairing.
But directly after I would think of how she watched for every glance of
his bright grey eye, and how dependent and trusting she seemed, and then
a blush came for my unbrotherly feelings.

All went on as might have been expected: the day was fixed; the cottage
taken--a pretty little place just outside the town, with a garden
teeming with roses; furniture was bought, and the time slipped
imperceptibly away until the wedding morning, when we assembled at my
aunt's house before proceeding to church.

Frank stood well with our employers; and _you_ know something of their
generosity.  And not only had they made him a handsome present towards
housekeeping, but Mr Ranee, senior, came to give Annie away, taking for
the time the place of her dead father.  Mr French was there, too, the
head clerk, a tall, handsome man, but one whom I always instinctively
disliked, and spent the sixpences he gave me grudgingly and with a
certain want of enjoyment in the proceeds--but I used to spend them.

Well, the wedding went off as most weddings do: the school-children
scattered field-flowers in the path of the teacher who had won their
hearts on the quiet Sabbath afternoons; and then we returned to my
aunt's and partook of the wedding breakfast.  Everything was conducted
in the orthodox manner, and Messrs. Ranee and French made speeches, to
which Fred responded.  Then dresses were changed, the fly came to the
door; and, after a few adieus in the passage, the happy couple--than
whom a handsomer or more loving the sun never shone on--drove off to the
station on their way to the Lakes.

I shut the fly-door myself, and then stood alone, not knowing whether to
be happy or sorry; but I was soon aroused by the parting of our
visitors; and then, entering the house with my aunt and my tiny
bridesmaid cousin, I caught the infection from them, and, forgetting my
fifteen years' old manliness, sat down and had a hearty cry.

Time slipped by.  The trip was over, and the couple returned; the
cottage occupied, and things shaken down into the regular country-town
routine.  After the first Sunday or two no one turned to gaze at Fred
and Annie--much to my annoyance--and the young couple ceased to form the
theme of conversation.

I was very proud of my post in the office, having just been emancipated
from school, and always felt very manly and important whenever I could
feel that Mr French had not his eye upon me--the effect of that eye
being to make me turn to a boy in an instant.  Fred and he were very
intimate, and French often went up to the cottage to have a cigar and
game of chess; and, somehow, I always used to feel jealous of his
smooth, oily civilities, and could see that they were anything but
agreeable to Annie.  On more than one occasion I found him lolling upon
the sofa when I went in, at times when I had left Fred busy over
correspondence which French had asked him to finish for that night's
post.  At such times I always found Annie sitting close to the window,
and apparently much relieved by my entrance; while French greeted me
with a mocking, strained civility, which almost drove me away.  But the
knowledge that he wanted to be rid of me always determined me to stay,
for I felt that I was acting as a protector to my brother's wife.

After a while Fred would stroll in, and French and he take to the
chess-board; Annie to her work; while I in a corner with a book would
alternately read and watch the stealthy glances French kept casting
towards his friend's wife.

At the end of six months an unspoken feud had sprung up between French
and myself.  I could see that Annie was pained at the fellow's presence,
but she evidently forbore to speak to Fred, who held him in high
estimation; and in the nobleness of his heart was beyond suspicion.  But
one autumn evening, when the winter seemed to be sending monitory
warnings of his coming in the wailing winds and cutting blasts which
began to strip the trees, I saw a figure pass the office window that I
made sure was French.  It was about six o'clock, and we had been
detained later than usual, while even then Fred had several more letters
to write.  French had left the office about a quarter of an hour before,
telling Fred he should look him up in the evening; to which a cheery
"all right" was returned.

Upon seeing him hurry past the window, I rose to go; but Fred kept me
fully another quarter of an hour; and then, telling me to call on my way
to my lodging and tell Annie he would be home in a quarter of an hour,
he settled down again quietly to his writing.

An unpleasant feeling that all was not right made me quicken my steps;
and, going round by the back, I entered the cottage, and had reached the
parlour door when the sound of a voice somewhat raised in pitch arrested
me.  Then followed the low muttering of a deep masculine voice saying
something with great earnestness; and, thinking nothing of honour or
being unmanly, I quietly turned the handle of the back parlour door, and
entered.  A pair of folding doors separated it from the front room; and,
as I had hoped, they were ajar, so that, unobserved, I could see and
hear all that passed.

French had his back to me, and was standing with Annie in the centre of
the room; he holding her hand with both his, and she gazing with a
scared, half-angry, half-frightened look in his face.

As I stood trembling there, he drew her towards him, and tried to pass
one of his arms round her waist, but with a sharp cry, with eyes
sparkling, and rage in every feature, she struck him sharply across the
cheek with her disengaged hand, and I believe in his rage he would have
returned the blow had I not sprung into the room and caught his arm.

Not a word was spoken; but, shaking me off, he looked at Annie with a
malevolent glance in his eye; and then, holding up his finger in a
threatening way, which seemed to say, "Speak of it if you dare!" he
strode out of the house as Annie sank sobbing and hysterical into a
chair.

I stayed until Fred came in, and then left them together, and I believe
that my brother afterwards sought French at his lodgings, where he had a
stormy interview; but I never knew for certain, as Fred silenced me the
moment I entered upon the subject, and told me to forget it.

French never entered the cottage again, while a marked coolness ever
after existed between him and my brother--just sufficient passing
between them for the transaction of business routine, and that was all.
For my part, I was immensely pleased with the change, and cared but
little for any display of rancour upon the part of French.  However,
instead of showing enmity he always after seemed disposed to be civil;
but I always avoided him as much as possible.

Fred had been married ten months, and appeared to idolise his wife.
Poor fellow! his few months of wedded life seemed to pass away like a
dream: he lived his day unsuspectingly, seeing not the canker that was
slowly eating its way and so soon to blight his existence.

One morning, upon going down to the office, I found that something
unusual had taken place.  French was there in close conversation with
our employers, and a policeman was in waiting in the outer office.  In
reply to a query, I said that my brother would be there in a few
minutes--in fact, before the words were well spoken Fred walked in.

Mr Ranee, senior, motioned to him to walk into the private office; and,
seeing that something was wrong, and oppressed by an undefined dread, I
followed him, for no attempt was made to exclude me.

"Mr Gordon," said our employer, "I wish to be frank and straightforward
with you, and if in any way I hurt your feelings this morning, prove
your innocence, and I will ask your forgiveness.  We find that two
hundred and fifty pounds are missing from the safe, all in notes."

I started, and looked at Fred, who seemed confounded; for, like myself,
he was aware of there being a heavy sum deposited in the safe ready for
banking that morning, the greater part having been received on the
previous evening after banking hours.

"I know nothing of it, Mr Ranee," said Fred, recovering himself, and
speaking in a haughty tone.

"You see, Mr Gordon," said our employer, "my brother and I are
compelled to make diligent search for the culprit, whoever he may be,
and I sincerely trust that it may not be one who has enjoyed our
confidence."

"I trust not, sir," said Fred, shortly, and in the glance which he
directed at French I saw he suspected that a trap had been laid for him;
but the senior clerk would not meet his gaze, for he kept his eyes fixed
upon Mr Ranee.

"Did you exchange a five-pound note last night?" said Mr Ranee.

"I did," said Fred, "in a payment I made to Mr Wilson."

"Ask Mr Wilson to step in," said our employer.

It was evident that the matter had been gone into before; for Mr
Wilson, a draper in the town, was in the partners' room, and made his
appearance directly.

"You received a five-pound note of Mr Frederick Gordon last night?"
said Mr Ranee.

Mr Wilson nodded acquiescence, and then stood wiping his hands upon his
pocket-handkerchief.

"Certain?--are you certain? and have you the note, Mr Wilson?"

That gentleman nodded again, and tapped his breast pocket, as much as to
say, "here it is."

"Pray where did you obtain that note, Mr Gordon?" said our employer.

"It was a part of my salary paid to me a fortnight since."

Mr Ranee turned and asked the draper to produce the note.

"Is that the note, Mr Gordon?"

"Yes, that's it," said Fred, "there's my name upon the back."

Mr Ranee then fetched his private cash-book, and showed him that it was
one of the notes received the day before; for there was the number, in
company with that of all the other notes, duly entered.

Fred immediately pulled out his pocket-book from the breast of his coat,
which he had not yet had time to change, though his custom was to wear
an old coat in the office, and leave the other hanging upon a peg
against the wall.

"I have here another of the notes you paid me, sir," he said, passing it
over to his employer, who took it, examined it, and then compared the
number with one of those in his book.  He then shook his head ominously.

"This is not one of the notes that I paid you, Mr Gordon; this is one
of those missing from the safe.  I am grieved, deeply grieved, Mr
French, to find that your suspicions are so far verified; and therefore
a search must be made."

"Search! what? where?" exclaimed Fred, turning pale.  "Not my home--my
place--think, Mr Ranee--my wife--the shock--"

Fred stopped short, for just then he caught the eye of French, and,
setting his teeth, he remained silent.

I went up to him and took his hand, but he did not speak, for I could
see that he was trying to concentrate his thoughts upon the matter, and
endeavouring to solve the mystery.  We both felt that we knew the hand
that was dealing the blow, but the question was how to parry the
assault.

Just then French and the policeman left the office together, and Fred
would have followed, but was told that he must not leave the house.

"But you will at least follow and see that the feelings of my wife are
not outraged, Mr Ranee," cried Fred.

Mr Ranee made a sign to his brother, who followed the policeman and
French, and then we sat together in silence for quite two hours,
listening to the ticking of the great office clock.

But the party returned at length with the policeman, carrying Annie's
rosewood desk beneath his arm; while close behind came Annie herself,
looking dreadfully agitated; and Mr Ranee, junior, with a pitying
expression of countenance, supported her upon his arm.

Fred started as he saw the desk, which was a present he had made to
Annie before their marriage.  It was placed upon the table amidst an
ominous silence, and then the policeman turned the key, the lock flying
open with a sharp, loud snap, which made all present start; and then
with his clumsy fingers the man opened one compartment, fumbled at a
spring for a while, but could make nothing of it till French leaned over
and pressed it with his hand, when one of those so-called concealed
drawers flew out, and there lay a bundle of clean, white-looking bank
notes, which, upon being compared with the numbers in the ledger, proved
to be those stolen, minus the two already produced.

For a few moments there was silence, for Fred sat perfectly astounded;
but he was recalled to himself by the nod Mr Ranee gave to the
constable, who motioned to my brother to follow him.

Fred turned towards French, and in that one brief glance there was
combined such contempt, scorn, and penetration of the device, that the
senior clerk's look of gratified malice sank before it, and he turned
pale.

But I had no time to observe more; for, stretching out her hands towards
her husband, Annie uttered a wild cry of despair, and would have fallen
if I had not caught her in my arms.

As poor Annie tottered towards her husband, French darted forward to
catch her; but all the calm disdain seemed to leave my brother in an
instant, as with one bound he leaped across the office, and had his
enemy by the throat, and before the constable or the astonished partners
could interpose, French was lying stunned and bleeding upon the floor,
with a gash upon his forehead caused by its striking against the heavy
iron fender.

"Take her home, Harry," Fred whispered to me in a hoarse voice.  "I'd
have his life sooner than he should lay a finger upon her."  Then giving
one fond look at the inanimate form I held, he walked to the office
door, and accompanied the constable to the station.

While efforts were being made to revive French, I obtained the
assistance of one of the porters, who fetched a fly, and I soon had the
poor distracted girl at home, and then darted off to the station, where,
after conferring with my poor brother, I made arrangements with a couple
of relatives to be bail for him.  This done, I found that one of the
magistrates was coming down to hear the case and remand it till the
petty sessions on the following Wednesday; but upon fully understanding
the magnitude of the charge, he declined to accept bail upon his own
responsibility, and poor Fred had to remain in one of the station cells.

"Cheer up, Harry," he cried, on parting from me; "be a man.  The truth
will out, my boy.  Don't let my poor girl despair."

Poor Annie!  It was a sad shock for her; and in spite of my
determination to support her in her trouble, I felt helpless as a child.
The platitudes I whispered fell upon heedless ears, and for hours she
would lie with her head upon my aunt's shoulder, often sobbing
hysterically, while her work lay neglected upon the table, and I, with
boyish curiosity, gazed upon the preparations she had been making.

But it was a time for action with me, and my brain felt almost in a
whirl of excitement.  Fred now took me fully into his confidence, and
kind as he had always been, yet now he treated me as though I were a man
and his peer; and in spite of the trouble we were in, there was a
certain charm in all this, and I could not but feel pleased with the
importance that now attached to me.  First there was conferring with our
friends, then visiting poor Annie, then taking notes or messages from
Fred to his solicitor; so that for me--and I fear for me only--the time
passed rapidly.

Early on the following morning I received a note from the office,
requesting that I would abstain from attending during the examinations
then in progress,--a _conge_ I was only too glad to receive, for the
time, though I felt convinced that before long we should both return in
triumph.

Upon comparing notes with my brother, I found that we were both of the
same way of thinking, that it was a plot hatched by French; but the
difficulty was to prove this to our employers, who knew nothing of the
coldness previously existing between their clerks.

At last the petty sessions were held.  The evidence given was of a most
conclusive character, and in spite of his previous life, and the enmity
proved to have existed between French and my brother, he was committed
for trial--heavy bail being taken.

I walked home with Fred that afternoon, but soon left him, for Annie was
in sore need of consolation.  She blamed herself as the sole cause of
all the trouble, through perhaps inadvertently giving some pretext for
the advances of French.  But, poor girl! she was as pure in thought as
her blest spirit; and yet she could not be made to think herself
blameless.  I can almost see her now, pale, weeping, and anxious, with
every nerve unstrung; and it was only by a great effort of mind that
Fred was able at such a time to speak cheeringly.

The interval between the day of committal and the assize was but short,
and I could see how anxiously Fred looked forward to a termination of
the suspense.  I could not get him to look upon the bright side of the
question, but he talked long and earnestly as to my duties and prospects
if he should be found guilty--telling me that he left to me the sacred
charge of caring for his wife.

"And, Harry," he whispered, "beware of that villain."

We talked over again and again the circumstances of the case; the notes
in his pocket could easily have been changed; but we could detect no
means by which access had been obtained to the desk, which always stood
locked, upon the drawers in their bedroom.  Once only a shade seemed to
cross Fred's mind--a horrible suspicion--but a glance at his wife
dispelled it, and I left him directly after kneeling at her feet.

He told me of it the next day that for a moment he had suspected Annie,
"But it must have been a demon that prompted the thought, Harry, for she
is as pure as the angels in heaven.  It is a base plot--a diabolical
plot--to ruin me and my happiness at the same time; to send me to the
hulks with a vile jealousy gnawing at my heart, or he would never have
chosen her desk to hide them there."

Wearied out with conjecturing, we always arrived at the same
conclusion--that it was a mystery; and one that time alone would reveal.
Every preparation was made for the defence, and a barrister, well-known
for his ability, was retained.

But it was all in vain.  The trial came on with many others--
sheep-stealing, poaching, assaults, and petty thefts; and at last, in
spite of a most able defence by our counsel, the jury almost immediately
returned a verdict of guilty.  Then came a long homily from the judge
respecting breach of confidence, advantages of education, ingratitude to
indulgent masters, concluding with the sentence to fourteen years
transportation.

Fred did not move a muscle, but stood as he had stood throughout the
trial, erect, and with the proud consciousness of innocence written upon
his brow.  He beckoned to his solicitor, and begged of him to thank the
barrister for his able defence; and then turned to leave the dock,
returning the malicious look of French with one of calm scorn.

Just then I saw a piece of paper handed to Fred, who read it, smiled
contemptuously, and crushed it in his hand; but directly after he
smoothed it out, and it was passed to me.

The words upon the paper were in a disguised hand--

  "Perhaps Annie will be kinder now."

I read it by the fast fading light, and knew well enough whose hand had
dealt the dastardly stab; but when I looked up, both Fred and French
were gone.

Mine was to be a bitter task that night, and I stayed for quite an hour
before I could summon resolution for my journey home.  I had some miles
to go, for our place lay at a distance from the county town; and I
started at length, having quite given up the idea of breaking the news
to Annie.  I felt that I dared not; and on reaching my lodgings I sent a
note; but a message came back that I must go on directly.

I went on to the cottage, and then found that the news had been less
tardy than myself, for the servant girl had heard it in the town an hour
before, and told them upon her return.

Upon hearing the fatal tidings poor Annie had gently slipped from her
chair, and remained insensible for some time, but the doctor was then
with her.

One, two, three sad days passed, and on the fourth I stood on one side
of her bed with my knees trembling beneath me; for young and
inexperienced as I then was, I knew that an awful change was taking
place.  It was evening, and the setting sun sent a glow of unearthly
brightness to her sweet calm face as I stood there half blind with
tears, while my poor aunt sobbed audibly.

But why prolong the sad tale?  Once the dying girl opened her eyes and
smiled upon her mother, and then turned them towards me, when her pale
lips formed themselves to kiss me, even as would those of a child.  I
leant over her, and pressed my lips to hers, and as I did so, there was
a faint sigh, and I felt myself drawn away.

Five days after I again stood to take a farewell look of poor Annie as
she lay in the dim shadowy room in her narrow coffin, with her crossed
arms folding a tiny form to her breast.  Cold--cold--cold!  Mother and
child.  The breast that should have warmed the little bud, icy--
pulseless; and as I stood there with a strange awe upon me, I could but
whisper, for they seemed to sleep.

We laid them where you stood to-night, love; and on returning, sad and
broken-hearted, to the little parlour--now so lonely and deserted, we
found that Ellen the servant had suddenly left; and that, too, without
assigning any reason.  But we had too much to think of then to pay
attention to a domestic inconvenience, though often afterwards it was
recalled.

I dared not trust myself to convey the sad news to my brother, for as
yet he was in ignorance of poor Annie's death.  We had kept it back,
hesitating whether to tell him at all at such a time, when sorrow had
bowed him down; but at length I wrote to him, and with a letter from my
aunt, inclosed it to the chaplain of the county gaol, begging of him to
try and prepare my poor brother for the dreadful shock.

I felt now that we had all drained the cup of bitterness; and in the
incidents of the past month, years upon years seemed to have been added
to my life.  But the dregs of the cup had yet to be partaken of; for on
the second day after sending my letter, I was summoned to see my
brother, and I went with foreboding at my heart, and a voice seeming to
whisper to me--"Thank God that you are orphans!"

Upon reaching the prison I was shown into the chaplain's private room,
and his looks told me what his first words confirmed.  He spoke long and
earnestly, and with a tender sympathy I could not have expected.  But at
last I begged that I might see my poor brother, and he led me to his
cell.

Coming from the bright glare of a sunlit room, it was some time before
my eyes became accustomed to the half twilight of the bar-windowed cell;
and then, half blind with tears, but with my eyes hot and burning, I
looked upon the pallid bloodless form of poor Fred, for he was found on
the previous night just as he breathed his last sigh in the words,
"Annie--pardon!"--having forestalled the will of God by his own hand.

The grass had not had time to send forth its first shoot upon Annie's
grave ere it was disturbed, and again I stood by the sad opening, heard
that hollow rattle of the earth, and then, as chief mourner, walked
sadly away wondering what new calamity could fall upon me.

I entered the cottage once more, and was not surprised to hear wild and
bitter sobs in the little parlour, and for a while I forbore to enter;
but a wild cry, almost a shriek of woe, startled me, and I went in.

There at my aunt's feet--crushed and hopeless--lay a figure, tearing her
dishevelled hair, weeping, moaning, and praying for forgiveness; asking
whether it were possible that such a wretch could ever obtain pardon.

At first I hardly recognised the wild, bloodshot-eyed face that appealed
now to me, now to my aunt, and then called wildly upon the dead to
forgive her; and then I saw it was my brother's servant.

By degrees I learned that the poor wretch had yielded to the
persuasions, and bribes, and cajolery of French; and then from the power
he had over her, she had obtained for him that fatal desk, and then at
his command replaced it.  He had made her swear by the most fearful
oaths not to betray the secret, and then the poor wretch had been
compelled to watch step by step the dreadful progress of the tragedy,
till at last half crazed with terror at the misery she had by her
weakness caused, she fled from the house.  Then came the news of my
brother's death, when she could bear no more, and after once again
seeing French and telling him her intention, she had thrown herself at
my aunt's feet and confessed all.

Too late--too late--to bring back life and happiness; but not too late
to thrust dishonour from my brother's grave.  I rushed frantically to
the office to denounce French; and, boy as I was, I should have taken
him by the throat, but he was not there.  Breathlessly I told the
brothers all; but, for awhile, the narrative seemed so extravagant, that
they looked upon me as mad.  But upon knowing the truth of my statement,
they were prompt in their endeavours to obtain justice upon the base
villain who had brought those young hearts to a premature grave.

Too late--too late.  French had fled, whither no one knew; but if a
man--if a human heart beat within his breast, he must have carried a
fearful punishment with him.

Twenty years since then I have served Ranee Brothers; and you can tell a
little of the kindness and consideration they have always shown me;
while I suppose I begin the new year as a member of the firm.

And do you wonder now that I should have grown into a staid and quiet
man--that people should call me reserved--and that grey hairs should
already have appeared in my head?

But what are these, Minnie?  Tears, love?  Come, light the candles; we
must have no more tales told in the dusk.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

MEPHITIC FUMES.

I don't believe that old well of ours would ever have been cleaned out
if it had not been for the magpie, which, by the way, in its tame state
is most decidedly as ill-conditioned, dishonest a bird as was ever
fledged.  Now of course a magpie does not seem to have much to do with a
well; but as great oaks grow from little acorns, so do large matters
grow out of very small causes.

Our magpie was kept under the impression that he would some day talk;
but he never got any further than the monosyllable "Chark," which with
him meant as much as the Italian's "Altro."  He could say the word
plainly when he was six months old; and he could say no more when he was
five years, and had achieved to a perpetual moult about the poll, which
had the effect of making him look ten times more weird and artful than
ever.  He would say "chark" for everything, merely varying the key
higher or lower according to the exigencies of the case.  Goblin came
into my possession in exchange for that piece of current money of the
merchant called sixpence, which was given to a little, consequential,
undersized, under-gardener at a neighbouring seat.  This personage, who
was known in the place as "my lord," had early one morning scaled an
elm-tree to take a magpie's nest, but he was so unsuccessful as to
secure only one bird--the Goblin in question.

He was a beauty was Goblin; if I believed in the doctrine of
metempsychosis, I should say that his little body had been the
receptacle of the immortal part of Jack Sheppard--Harrison Ainsworth's
Jack Sheppard; for a more mischievous, thieving scamp never held head on
one side, leaped out of reach, after any amount of threatening, stared
at you with a keen black eye, and cried "chark."  He was a bird that was
always in a state of voracity, or pretended to be so, and dearly loved
to hide scraps of meat in all sorts of out-of-the-way places, where he
would punch them in, and then forget them; although they smelt loud
enough to cause no end of complaints.  He was a cleanly bird, too, in
his habits, and always took advantage of Newfoundland Nero's trough
being filled with clean water to have a wash, sully the fount, and then
hop shivering off to dry the plumage which stuck down to his sides.

So much for the magpie.  The well was beneath the walnut-tree, and so
close to it that from time to time large pieces of chalk had been pushed
in by the roots that forced their way through the sides as if in search
of moisture.  It was an old, old well, sunk no one knew how many
centuries before; but probably dug down out of the chalk, when the monks
held the old priory which we tenanted in its modernised form.  The old
well was always an object of dread to me in childhood; and often have I
stealthily crept up to the old green wood cover, dropped a pebble
through the rope hole, and listened shudderingly to the hollow, echoing,
vibrating sound that came quivering up after the plash.  Even in maturer
years the old well was one that would obtrude itself into dreams and
offer suggestions of the horrors to be found within its depths, and the
consequences of a fall to the bottom.

We only used the water for the garden, and hard work it used to be to
turn the moss-covered windlass, and drag up the heavy bucket at the end
of a hundred feet of rope, when up it came full of greeny-looking water,
with some times a frog for passenger.  To look down and listen to the
hollow drip of the water was enough to make any one shudder, so profound
seemed the depth to where a ring of light could be seen, and in spite of
its depth, carved as it was right out of the solid chalk, there was
never more than some seven or eight feet of water at the bottom, and
that none of the cleanest.

Uncle Tom said it would be better filled up; a remark which found a most
enthusiastic backer in the old gardener; but water even if green and
discoloured was costly in those parts, and therefore the well was not
filled up.  While as to my uncle's suggestion, to have it cleaned out,
although most excellent, I was too deeply imbued with the Toryish ideas
of letting things be as heretofore; and, therefore, the old gardener
ground and ground at the old windlass, and the water still came up
green; while, contrary to direct orders, the lid of the dangerous place
was often left off.

Now, as before said, I don't believe that old well of ours would ever
have been cleaned out if it had not been for the magpie.

One day in summer I had been sitting dreamily trying to follow out some
of the rather knotty thoughts in "Festus," when on raising my eyes I
caught sight of Goblin perched upon the little table in the bay window,
and before I could move I had the pleasure of seeing him nimbly hook up
my wife's diminutive watch off the little stand, and then hop on to the
window-sill, where I made a rush at him and nearly secured his spoil,
for the thin chain caught in the Westeria twining round the window.  In
an instant, however, it had given way, and I had the satisfaction of
seeing the little black and white miscreant alight on the gravel walk;
and then after fixing the fragile timekeeper with his foot, begin to
peck vigorously at the glass, which was shivered directly.

I hurried downstairs, for the window was too high for a jump; and as
soon as I rushed to the door, Goblin gave utterance to his one syllable
address, seized the watch, and went hopping along the path till he
reached the well, where he perched upon the open lid; and as I stopped,
half paralysed, and stooped to pick up a stone, Goblin made me a bow,
raised his tail with a flick, and then to my horror he left hold of the
watch, and I just reached the well in time to hear it, not say "tick,"
but "splash," while the thief hopped into the walnut-tree overhead.

This settled the matter; and two mornings after, a cart stopped at the
gate, and Thomas Bore, well-sinker, arrived, accompanied by two
labourers, for the purpose of nominally cleaning out the well, but
really recovering the watch.

"Now, yer see, sir," said Thomas Bore, leaning on the windlass and
spitting down the well, of course, from habit, "yer see, sir, when we've
done, this here water 'll be clear as crischial.  But all this here
wood-wuck's old-fashioned.  Now I could fit yer up a fust-rate, double
action, wheel crank forcer, as 'ud send the water a-flying up like a
steam-engine."

"Rather expensive," I hinted.

"Mere trifle, sir.  Fifty pun, at the outside."

"Well, suppose we have the cleaning done first," I said; and being
rather timid over such matters, for fear of being persuaded, I turned
upon my heel and fled to my breakfast.

Being of a fidgetty turn of mind, and liking to have my money's worth
for my money, I kept an eye upon the proceedings beneath the
walnut-tree; and I found that the first two hours were taken up with
sitting down, Indian fashion, for a palaver or consultation, during
which, in a way of speaking, the trio felt the patient's pulse--Goblin
fitting in the walnut-tree to see how matters progressed.

The rest of the day was taken up with the removal of the old green
windlass, and the fixing of one brought over for the purpose; and then
two buckets having been flung, the windlass began to turn, and, very
slowly, bucket after bucket of water was drawn up; and so eagerly did
the men work, that at the end of three days the well was pronounced dry.

Now I had been reckoning that a couple of days would have sufficed for
the job; and, therefore, felt disposed to stare when, on going out upon
the fourth morning, I found the men still groaning over the task, so as
to get out the water that had come in during the night.  By noon,
however, this was accomplished; when there followed another
consultation, the theme being that the well was not safe.

I felt that I was in for it, and muttered to myself "Let well alone;"
but it was too late now, so I grinned and bore my troubles--to wit, the
very calm proceedings of the men whose united energies, tools, tackling,
etc, were costing me at least a guinea per diem, while the well was as
dirty as ever.

At last a candle was lit and attached to a piece of wire, the wire to a
string, and then it was lowered so fast that before it had attained to
two-thirds of the depth it was out.

"Ah," said Mr Bore, wagging his head sagely; "werry foul indeed, sir;
werry foul.  We shall have to burn it out."

This, I found, was accomplished by throwing down a quantity of straw,
which was afterwards ignited by sending after it shovelfuls of hot
cinders from the kitchen fire, and so making a blaze and a great deal of
smoke; while this day passed over and no further progress was made.

The next morning I was out in good time, to the great disgust of Mr
Bore, and by ten o'clock I had the satisfaction of seeing the water out
once more.

"I 'spose one o' my men can get a candle in the kitchen, sir," said Mr
Bore.

I signified assent, and then had the satisfaction of seeing the testing
process gone through: the light going out before it reached the bottom,
which I could not believe was from mephitic gas, though sworn to by Mr
Bore, who proceeded to make another bonfire on the top of my wife's
watch, when I was called away, and did not go out again till half-past
two, when I found that a man armed with a shovel had just stepped into
one of the buckets, and the other man, who had a very red face, began,
with the assistance of his master, to let him down.

"Is it all right, Dick?" said Mr Bore, when the man was about half
down.

"Ah!" was the response, in a hollow voice; and then he was lowered,
further and further, till he must have been near the bottom, when the
rope shook; there was an evident loss of the load at the end; and I must
confess to a shudder of horror going through me, as a dull, plashing
thud came from the depths of the well.

Bore looked at me, and I at him, for a few seconds in silence, when the
other man spun round the now light windlass till the other bucket rose.

"Here, lay hold o' this here," he cried to me; and from the readiness to
obey felt by all in an emergency, I seized the windlass and assisted his
master to let him down, as he thrust one leg through the pail-handle and
was soon out of sight, for we lowered him down as fast as was possible.

"I'm blowed if there won't be a coroner's inquess over this job," panted
Mr Bore, as he turned away at his handle; "I know'd it warn't safe,
only he would go."

"For goodness sake, turn quicker man," I cried; and at last, after what
seemed ten minutes at least, the empty bucket rose.

"Now, then," I shouted down the well, "tie the rope round him, quick,
and then hang on."

No answer.

"Do you hear there?"  I cried again, with a horrid dread coming over me
that the catastrophe was to be doubled; but at last a dull, "All right,"
came echoing up.

As for Bore, he sat there upon his handle looking the colour of dough.
I saw at once there was no help to be expected from him, so I shouted to
one of the maids, and in a few minutes my wife and half a dozen
neighbours, male and female, were standing, pale and horror-stricken,
around the well.

In the mean time I had tried again and again to rouse the last man down,
but could get nothing but a sort of half-stifled "All right;" while at
last even that was not forthcoming, nothing but a hollow stertorous
groan at intervals.

Brown, a stout young fellow, wanted to go down; but I stopped him, and
in a few seconds had our own well-rope secured round my waist, after
giving it a twist on the windlass; and then having seen the handles in
the hands of trusty men, I stepped into the bucket and prepared to
descend, feeling compelled to go, but all the while in a state of the
most horrible fear imaginable, for I always was from a boy a sad coward.

"Oh! don't; pray don't go, Fred," whispered my wife, as she clung to me.

"I must, I must, darling," I whispered again.  "It would be worse than
murder to let the poor fellows lie there when a little exertion would
save them."

"Oh! for my sake, don't, pray;" and then the poor little woman
staggered, and would have fallen down the well if I had not caught her
in my arms; when we should both have fallen but for the rope round my
waist, which fortunately stood the strain, but cut into my ribs
fearfully.

There were plenty of hands, though, ready to assist, and the poor
fainting girl was borne into the house.

"Now then," I cried, "lower gently; and the moment I stop crying out
`Right' haul up again, for there will be something wrong."

The windlass creaked and groaned, and then all at once the people round
the well seemed to give a jump upwards, and then were gone, while the
green, slimy sides of the pit were running up past me as I seemed to
stand still in the well-sinker's broad oak bucket.  For a moment I clung
to the rope with my eyes shut, when all at once there was a bump, and I
opened them to see that I was ascending.

"Right, right," I shouted, when there was another jerk, and I began to
descend again, at intervals crying out the word of safety--`Right'; and
so I went down and down, with my flesh creeping, and a strange
sensation, as though I was falling rapidly through space.

I have no doubt there are plenty of men who would be heroes at proper
time and place; but there is no heroic stuff in my composition, for I
here boldly assert that I never felt so horribly frightened before in my
life, as I went gliding down lower and lower past the green slimy chalk,
with the bucket swinging terribly from side to side; for the well was of
very large diameter.  I kept on giving the signal, and have no idea how
it sounded above, but it seemed to me as though it left my lips in the
shape of a gasping sob.

Still down, down, with the horrid feeling of falling, and a holding of
the breath.  The depth seemed awful; and now, though doubly secured, I
trembled for the safety of the ropes, and turned giddy and closed my
eyes.

"Is it all right?" shouted a voice from above, and my descent stopped.

"Yes, yes," I shouted, recovering myself; but I could not say "Go on";
for, to my shame I say it, I hoped they would have drawn me up.

But, no; down, down, lower and lower.  And now I began to smell the
burnt, smoky air, but could still breathe freely, and tried to nerve
myself to be on the watch for the strata of foul gas into which I felt I
must be descending.

"Right, right," I kept shouting; and still down, lower and lower, till
it seemed that there could be no bottom; while the bucket kept turning
round till it was impossible to keep from feeling giddy.  And now in one
swing from side to side, the bucket struck the wall, which gave me a new
cause for alarm, and when nearing it again, I put out my hand and
touched the cold slippery side, when I shuddered more than ever.

It did not seem dark: but of a peculiar gloomy aspect, a good deal of
which was due, no doubt, to the smoke of the burnt straw.

"Right, right," I shouted, still breathing freely, till the bucket
reached the bottom, when I stepped hastily out, and, looking up the
well, untwined the two ropes, and grasped the man nearest to me, who was
sitting upon the half-burnt straw with which the bottom was covered;
while the other stood staring at me as he leaned up against the wall,
over his knees in the slime of the bottom.

I could feel no holding of the breath; no stifling or sleepy sensation;
nothing but horrible fear; as I hastily slipped the rope over my head
and secured it with a noose round the poor fellow, whose arm I grasped.
I trembled as I did so, for it seemed like throwing away my own
safeguard.  But in a moment more I stepped in the bucket and yelled
out--"Up, up, quickly."

The rope tightened, and we began to rise; and as we did so I shouted to
the poor fellow we were leaving--"Back for you directly."

He stared at me with, glassy eyes, but remained immoveable; and I felt
my courage rise as we grew less and less distant from the light of
heaven.  The ropes twisted and turned, but we rose rapidly, and as the
windlass creaked and groaned I could hear the voices above cheering, and
I responded with a faint "hurrah."  But directly after the fear came
upon me again--"Suppose the rope should break!"  It did not, though; but
I nearly left go of the stout hemp with the effects of the tremor which
seized me.  But now the cheers grew louder, and at last our heads rose
above the sides, when a dozen hands laid hold of us, and we were on
_terra firma_ once more.

"Here, drink this," cried a voice; and a glass of brandy was pushed into
my hand.  It was nectar indeed.

"Now," cried young Brown, "I'll fetch this one up."

"No," said I, sternly, "I'll go; for I can stand the foul air."

The ropes were arranged, and directly after I was again descending; and
this time the dread did not seem so oppressive, for I did not feel such
horror of the mephitic gas at the bottom, since it seemed to me that the
excitement--the state of my nerves--sustained me, and I shouted to them
to lower faster.

On reaching the bottom, the man had not moved his position, and without
leaving the bucket, to whose rope I had bound myself with a silk
handkerchief I slipped off the noose again, and secured it round the
other's body.

The same glassy, dull stare--the same immobility of countenance--the
same corpse-like aspect as seen in the gloom, and then, with a cry of
wild joy, I shrieked--"Up; up;" but it seemed as though we should never
reach the surface as we swung and spun about, and once, to my horror, I
saw the rope was slipping over the man's shoulders; and it was only by
clasping him tightly in my arms I saved him from falling.

Daylight and willing hands at length; and then I staggered as I was
unfastened, and all seemed to swim round as I fainted away.

On coming to I found myself on the grass by the side of the two men, who
were alive, as I could hear by their stertorous breathing.  Kneeling by
me was old Dr Scott, looking up at Brown, who had evidently just
spoken.

"Mephitic air, sir," said the doctor, "pooh; as drunk as Pharaoh's sow!"

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

The well was finally cleaned out, and the recovered watch as well;
while, by way of consolation for my misapplied energy, I could
congratulate myself upon the discovery of a hidden vein of philanthropy
in my constitution.



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN.

ON THE GREAT DEEP.

The creaking and groaning of the timbers, the tossing and plunging of
the ship, and the heavy beating of the waves upon her sides, tended to
drive away sleep, without the accessories of pale and anxious faces,
wringing hands, and here and there a kneeling form and supplicating
murmur.  Now and then came a heavy crash, and the good ship shook and
quivered beneath the tons of water poured sweeping along the deck; and
once the news was somehow circulated among the helpless passengers, that
three of the sailors had been swept overboard, and that the life-buoy,
with its blazing light, had been cut adrift, when as it floated away, a
man was seen clinging to it, with the glare shining upon his pale and
agonised face.  And we knew that it was but to prolong his torture, for
in such a storm no boat could go to his aid--that he would cling there
for a while, and then would come the end.

It was a fearful night, and, one and all, we thought of the words of the
Psalmist.  We who had come down to the sea were seeing His wonders; and
now we thought of the utter insignificance--the littleness--the
helplessness of man in the grand strife of the elements.  With all man's
skill, with all his ingenuity in building, our barque seemed frail, and
but a few slight planks to save us from death--from being cast away upon
the further shore; and but for the knowledge of One mighty to save, who
held the seas in the hollow of His hand, at such a time despair would
have swept over us as a flood.  Homeward bound, we had left the sunny
shores of the Austral land, with a fair wind, and for the past fortnight
the thoughts of the old country had grown stronger in us day by day.  I
saw again the sweet old hills of Surrey, and looked in fancy, as I had
in reality, half a score years before, over many a rounded knoll glowing
with the golden blossoms of the furze; then at the hill-side and hollow,
brown and purple with the heath; and then again at fir-crowned sandy
heights, relieved by verdant patches of cultivated land.

Home, sweet home; dearer than ever when distant, and in spite of
success, and the prodigality of my adopted land, it was with swelling
heart, and even tear-dimmed eyes, that I thought of the old country that
I had left in poverty, but was returning to in wealth.

Over the bright dancing waters we sped, night and day, ever onward
across the trackless waste.  Seeing the watch set night by night, and
then seeking my cot with the feeling stronger and stronger upon me of
how completely we are in the hands of our Maker, and how slight a
barrier is all our care and watchfulness against the power of the
elements.

Farther south we sailed, and the weather grew colder, and at last, one
night, with a howl and a roar, as if raging at us for daring to intrude
upon its domains, the storm came down and shrieked in the rigging.  But
we had a staunch man for captain, and he had made his arrangements in
time, for he had seen the enemy coming, and prepared to battle with him.
I stood holding on by the bulwarks, and watched the masts bend, and the
shrouds upon one side tighten as upon the other they bellied out beneath
the fury of the gale.  There was not a cloud to be seen overhead, but
all keen and bright starlight; while instead of burning brightly and
clearly, the various orbs seemed to quiver and tremble as the
tremendously agitated atmosphere swept between earth and sky.  As for
the waves, they were changed in a moment from inky blackness to white
churned foam, as the gale swept over them, tearing away the spray, and
drenching all upon deck.

"Are we in danger?"  I said to the captain, as he came and stood close
by me.

"Well," he said, almost shouting, so great was the force of the wind, "I
always consider we're in danger from the day we leave port till we cast
anchor again, but I do my best, and hope for the best."

Then the thought came upon me as I listened to the tremendous din
around, that we should never see land again; and a dreadful feeling of
despair seemed to take possession of my spirit, for standing there
helpless and inactive was so oppressive at such a time.  If I could have
been busy, and toiled hard, it would have been different; for then the
feeling that I was of some service would have cheered me on, while the
thought of standing still and drowning, without an effort to save life,
was fearful.

And now it was the second night, and the piercing gale blowing harder
than ever.  Three men lost, and the rest worn-out, anxious, and numbed
with the cold.  I could not stay below, for the scene was awful, and at
last gladly crawled on deck at the risk of being swept overboard.  There
were two poor fellows lashed to the wheel, and every few minutes I could
see the captain there, evidently whispering words of encouragement, and
truly they were needed at such a time.  All around, the waves seemed to
be rising about us as if to overwhelm the ship and bear her down, and in
spite of every care upon the captain's part, now and then down came a
huge volume of water upon the deck, over which it seemed to curl, and
then rushed along, sweeping everything before it.  Two boats had gone,
and a great piece of the bulwark been swept away as though of cardboard;
and yet, in spite of all, the captain appeared to be as cool and quiet
as if we were in a calm.

Once only did he seem moved, and that was when one of the sailors came
up from below and whispered to him, but he was himself again in an
instant; the hatches were already secured with tarpaulins over them, but
I soon understood the new danger; for the pumps were rigged, and turn
and turn, sailors and passengers, we worked at them to lighten the ship
of the water, which was creeping snakelike in at many a strained seam.

But few of us knew, as the gale slowly abated, how narrow an escape we
had had, but the shrunken crew, and the torn bulwarks showed but too
plainly how sharp had been the tussle; and yet before long all seemed
forgotten, and we were gently parting the waters with a light breeze
astern bearing us homeward.

Young people form very romantic notions as to the wonders to be seen in
travelling; and all such castle-builders must be sadly disappointed in
the incidents and sights presented by a long sea voyage.  The deep blue
sea is certainly beautiful, and it is interesting to watch the fish
playing below the ship's keel, far down in the clear water; the sunrise
and sunset, too, are very glorious, when ship and rigging seem to be
turned to gold, and the sea, far as the eye can reach, one mass of
glorious molten metal, gently heaving, or here and there broken by a
ripple.  But day after day the same monotony: no change; nothing but sea
and sky, far as the eye could reach, and in the deep silence of the
mighty ocean there is something awe-imposing and oppressive to the
spirit.  I had seen it in its wildest mood, and when the waves lightly
danced and sparkled; and now, one day, when the voyage was about half
over, came a calm, with the sun beating down day by day with a fervent
heat that rendered the iron-work of the ship too hot to be touched,
while the pitch grew soft in every seam.  The sea just gently heaved,
but there was not the slightest breath of air to fan our cheeks, and
sailors and captain walked impatiently about waiting for the coming
breeze, which should take us farther upon our way.

We were about four hundred miles, I suppose, from the nearest land, and
for days the only thing that had taken our attention was the occasional
ripple made by a shoal of fish, or the slow, sailing, gliding flight of
a huge albatross, seeming in its sluggish way to float up and down in
the air, as though upon a series of inclined planes.

I was standing one afternoon beneath the awning, talking to the captain,
when one of the men aloft announced a boat on the lee bow.

"What is she?" said the captain.

"Boat or canoe, sir," said the man.

"Any one in her?" said the captain.

"Can't see a soul, sir," said the man.

Well, this was a change, to break the monotony.  A boat was soon manned
and put off, with both the captain and myself in the sternsheets; and
then the men bent to their oars and rowed in the direction pointed out.

Before long we could see the canoe, for such it proved to be, lightly
rising and falling upon the gentle swell; but it seemed unoccupied, and
we rowed on till we were close up, but still no one showed.

At last the bow-man stood up with his boat-hook; and, as we closed up,
laid hold of the light bark canoe, and drew it alongside.  But it was
not unoccupied.

There in the bottom, with fish that he had caught lying by him, in
company with a spear and several fishing-lines and roughly-made hooks,
was the owner of the canoe--a fine-looking, dusky-hued, half-clad
savage, lying as though asleep, but quite dead--evidently from want of
water; for there were fish enough in the canoe to have sustained life
for some days.

To judge from appearances, it seemed that the poor fellow had either
been borne out by some powerful current, or blown off the shore by one
of the gales which sweep down from the coast; and in imagination I could
paint the despair of the poor wretch toiling with his paddle to regain
the land which held all that was dear to him.  Toiling in his frail
skiff beneath the fervour of the tropic sun, and toiling in vain till
faint with the heat and parched with thirst, with the bright and
sparkling water leaping murmuringly round, till exhausted he fell back,
with the dull film of despair gathering on his eyes, and sank into a
dreamy stupor filled with visions of home, green trees waving, and the
gurgling of a stream through a cocoa-grove.  Then to wake once more with
renewed energy--to paddle frantically for the dim coastline; but still
to find that his unaided efforts were useless, and that every minute he
was farther away from the wished-for goal.  Only a savage--untutored,
unlettered; but yet a man made in God's own image, and with the same
passions as ourselves.  Only a savage--and yet in his calm, deep sleep,
noble, and lordly of aspect; and there he lay, with all around him
placed orderly and neatly, and it seemed that, after that wild struggle
for life, when nature prompts, and every pulse beats anxiously to
preserve that great gift of the Creator--it seemed that he had quietly,
calmly, let us say, too, hopefully--for dark is the savage mind indeed
that has not some rays of light and belief in a great overruling
Spirit--hopefully lain him down in the bottom of the canoe and gone to
sleep.

There was not a man there, from the captain to the roughest sailor, but
spoke in an under-tone in the presence of the remains of that poor
savage; for now they were by the sacred dead--far away upon the mighty
ocean, solemn in its calm, with the sun sinking to his rest, and sending
a path of glory across the otherwise trackless waters--the sky glowing
with his farewell rays, and everywhere silence, not even the sigh of the
gale or the gentle lapping of the water against the boat.

I started as the captain gave the order to give way; and then found that
the canoe was made fast, and slowly towed back to the ship, where it was
hoisted on board.

An hour afterwards we were all assembled on deck, and bareheaded.  The
unclouded moon was nearly at the full, and shone brightly upon the
scene, for in the latitudes where we then were night follows quickly
upon sunset.  Sewn up in a piece of sailcloth, and resting upon a plank,
was the body of the poor savage; while taking their cue from the
captain, sailors and passengers stood grouped around, silent and grave,
as though the calm sleeping form had been that of a dear companion and
friend.

Not another sound was heard, as in a deep, impressive voice the captain
commenced reading the service for the burial of the dead.  Solemn and
touching at all times, but doubly so now, far out in the midst of the
great wilderness of waters; and, besides, there was something mournful
in the poor fellow's fate, which made its way to the hearts of even the
rudest seaman present.

And still the captain read on till the appointed time, when one end of
the plank was raised, and the form slowly glided from the ship, and
plunged heavily beneath the wave; the waters circled and sparkled in the
moonlight for a few moments, lapping against the ship's side, and then
all was still again but the deep, solemn voice of the captain as he read
on to the end, when the men silently dispersed and talked in whispers,
while the canoe which lay upon the deck reminded us at every turn of the
sad incident we had witnessed.

The next day down came a fair wind: sails were shaken out, the cordage
tightened, the vessel heeled over, and once more we were cleaving our
way through the dancing waters; but the recollection of the dead savage
floating alone upon the great ocean clung to us all for the remainder of
the voyage.



CHAPTER NINETEEN.

MARTHA JINKS'S EGSPERIENCES.

A short time since we were about to change our residence, and my wife,
having need for a fresh lady to cook our chops and manufacture
apple-dumplings, answered two or three of the advertisements which
appeared in the "_Thunderer_," under the heading, "Want Places.  All
letters to be post-paid."  When after the lapse of a couple of days,
Mistress Martha Jinks called in Whole Jorum Street, and was shown into
the room.  Mrs Scribe thought it better that I should be present, to
act as support in case of need, since she is rather nervous over such
matters.  Consequently, I sat busy scribbling at a side-table, ready if
wanted--really and truly writing, and lamenting greatly the want of
stenography, so that my report of Mrs Jinks's visit might have been
_verbatim_.  A tall, stout, elderly lady, in a snuff-hued front, with a
perpetual smile upon her countenance, a warm colour, and a figure
bearing a strong resemblance to one of those rolled mattresses in a
furnishing warehouse--one of those tied round the middle with a cord,
and labelled "all wool."  She was a lady who would undoubtedly have
ruled the roast in her kitchen, and knowing my partner's foibles I
should most decidedly have contrived that Mrs Jinks did not take
possession of our new suburban residence.  But my fears were needless,
for after a few exchanges touching wages, privileges, number of
servants, and numerous other little matters, interesting only to those
whom they may concern, my wife mentioned our proximate removal, when
Mrs Martha Jinks, with the evident intention of keeping the ball
rolling, gave her head a most vigorous shake, smiled patronisingly, and
then, after bridling up, unto her did say--

"No, mum, not if I knows it; thank you all the same.  I likes the sound
of the place, mum, and I ain't a-finding fault with the wages, nor the
tea and sugar, nor the perquisites, but I'll never bemean myself, mum,
to going to a new house agen.  I've been cook in the respectablest of
families, mum, for three-and-thirty years, and after my egsperience in
new houses, I'll never go to one no more.

"Now, of course I ain't a-saying but what old houses has their
doorbacks, sech as crickets, as is allus a-going fuzz, and flying by
night into the candle and into the sugar-basin; and then, agen, black
beatles, as isn't pleasant to walk over if you come down in the dark,
and then a-going pop to that degree that the mess on the floor nex
morning is enough to worry a tylin' and mylin' woman out of her seven
senses.

"You see, mum, I don't dislike the looks of you; for you don't look
mean, and as if you'd allus be a-pottering about in my kidgin, which is
a thing I can't abear; for, as I says to Mary in my last place--Mary,
you know, as married the green-grocer, and sells coals at the little
shop a-corner of the mews,--`Mary,' I says, `a missus oughter be in her
drorring-room--a-drorring, or a-receiving of wisitors, or a-making of
herself agreeable at the winder, not a-poking and a-poll-prying about my
kidgin, with her nose in the dresser-drors, a-smelling and a-peeping
about.  What is it to her, I should like to know, if there is a bottle
in the corner of the cupboard next door to the cruets, and if it don't
smell of winegar but of g--, you know?  Why, if a missus was troubled
with spazzums to the degree as I've suffered 'em, she'd go and live in a
distillery and never be happy out.'  The things as I've put up with in
some places, mum, would give you the creeps, and make yer 'air stand on
end.  Me, you know, a cook as has lived in the best of families, to be
told as the brandy-sauce had not got half the brandy in; and when the
tipsy-cake come on the table, for the missus to come downstairs in a
towering fury, and go on like Billinsgate.  I'm sure she did for all her
pretence about being a lady; and to say as she did with them brazen lips
of her's, and all the time trembling with passion--

"`Cook,' she says, `Cook, it ain't the cake as is tipsy-cake, it's
summit else;' and me a-sitting in that blessed chair, aside of the fire,
feeling as if all the use was took outer my legs, when I only just put
my lips to the sherry, just to see if it was good enough for the
sponge-cake, as I took so much pains to make, tho' it did get burnt at
the bakehouse to that degree that I was obleeged to cut quite a lunch
off all round.  But I wouldn't bemean myself to speak; for `Martha,' I
says to myself, `Martha Jinks,' I says, `if you are a cook, you are a
sooperior woman, and with your egsperiens, you needn't take sauce from
any one.'  So I sat looking at her that disdainful that it quite brought
on a sort of sterrical hiccups, and then, I couldn't help it, she went
on so cruelly, I melted into tears, and there they was a-dripping--
dripping--dripping all over the kidgin, and the missus a-going on still
at that rate that I couldn't abear it, and fainted away so that they had
to carry me upstairs to bed, and bumped my pore head agen the
ballisters, so that it ached fearful next morning, and I was obliged to
have the least sup of g--, you know, in a wine-glass, took medicinally,
you know, for if there is any mortial thing in this life as _is_
disgusting it's a woman as takes to sperrits.

"But, there, I wouldn't stay.  I couldn't, bless you; for, as I says to
Mary, `Mary,' I says, `you may lead me with a bit o' darning-cotton, but
clothes-line wouldn't pull me.'  Oh, no, I couldn't have put up with it
if missus had gone down on her bended knees in the sand on my beautiful
white kidgin floor, and begged of me to stay.  Oh, no--I give warning
there and then.  `A month's wages or a month's warning,' I says, and she
give me the month's wages, and said I was to get out of the cruel house.

"And then I went to live with some common people, who had just built
themselves a new house out by the Crischial Pallus, and there I stopped
three months, till I was a'most worn to skin and bone, with the worry,
and bother, and want of rest.

"First night I goes there, and takes my trunk, and a bundle, and a
bonnet-box, and a basket, I might have known as all would go wrong, for
the cabman sauced me to that degree it was orful; but I got rid of him
at last, with my boxes a-standing outside the willa gate, out in the
rain; and then no lights in the house, and no gash laid on, and no one
to help me in with my things, and me a-going mosh--posh, pudge--mudge up
the the soft gravel, and losing my gloshes a-sticking in the wet muddy
stuff, and the wind a-blowing to that degree as my umbrelly--a bran new
alpakky--was bust right down one of its ribs, and caught in the iron
railings; while all the while I knowed as the rain was a-getting in to
my best bonnet, and a man a-tumbling over my big box, as stood out in
the roadway-path, and me without strength in my lines to pull it in the
gate.

"`Never mind your shins, my good man,' I says, `help me in with my
things, and I'll find you a bit of cold meat,' and then I recklets
myself as there might be no cold meat in the house, and I turns it into
a pint of beer, being a stranger to the place.

"`And what's your name, young woman,' I says to a fine doll of a
housemaid, a-darning stockings in the noo kidgin, as smelt of paint to
that degree that you might have been lodging in a ile-shop, while the
man stood a-turning over his happince on the mat--I mean on his hands,
and him on the door-mat, and not satisfied till I give him twopence
more, which not having enough I give him a sixpence, to go and get it,
and him never a-coming back, and keeping the whole sixpence and the two
pence, too, as would have tried any woman's temper, if even she hadn't
been a cook, which is the mildest and quietest beings as ever dished a
jynt.

"`And what's your name, young woman?'  I says to my fine madam, as she
sat there and didn't seem to know the proper respect to years, though
she did prick her finger till the blood come, and serve her right, too,
and if I did not expect from her looks as she'd be that vulgar to answer
me disrespeckful and say, when I said `What's your name?'  `Pudding and
Tame,' like the gals did when I went to school, which wasn't yesterday,
you know; but she didn't, but says, quite huffy, `Jane,' she says.

"`Ho!'  I says, werry distant, as I took off my bonnet and shawl, and
laid 'em on the dresser.  `Ho!'  I says, and then I sits me down afore
the fire, and puts my feet on the fender; for as I had my gloshes on to
come in I wouldn't wear my best boots, but left 'em in my box, and
there, through there being a crack in the side, if the water hadn't
soaked right through, and wetten'd my feet, so that they steamed again.

"At last, seeing as my fine lady meant to be uppish, I says to her, I
says, in a tone o' wyce as showed I didn't mean to be trifled with, and
if she meant to sit in my kidgin she must know who was missus.  `Jane,'
I says, `you'd best put some more coals on the fire.'

"`You'd best not,' she says.  `It smokes.'

"I didn't say nothing to her then, but I says to myself, `Martha,' I
says, `Martha Jinks, you've made a mistake; for if there is one mortial
thing as I can't abear, it's smoke.'

"At last I says, `Jane,' I says, `I can't abear this smell of the paint
any longer.'

"`Oh!' she says, `this is nothing; the place is noo, and it's worse
upstairs in our bedroom, which was done last.'

"`Worse?'  I says.  `Young woman,' I says, in a whisper, `it makes me
feel faint.  If you've the heart that can feel for another inside your
stays,' I says, `get me a wee drop of g--.'

"And she wouldn't!

"Oh, mum, the sufferins as I went through in that noo willa was
dreadful.  The kidgin fire smoked to that degree that the blacks used to
be a-flying about all over the kidgin, and a-settling on everything,
though if there's one place as a black will settle on it's your nose,
when fust time you give it a rub there you are not fit to be seen; while
the water was that hard it was no use to rub or wash.  Soap was nowhere;
and I declare to you, mum, sollumly, as I've often washed the smuts off
one side of my face on to the other, and took to black caps outer
self-defence.

"If it hadn't ha' been for the least drop o' g--took inwardly now and
then, I should ha' been a blackened corpse over and over again, for that
fire nearly drove me mad.  Cinders will come out into your pan
sometimes, and frizzle and make a smell of hot fat all over the house,
and it's no use for ladies to make a fuss about it, for where cooking's
going on you must smell it sometimes if you wants to taste it, and you'd
be hard-up without your cook.  But when the wind sets right down the
chimbley and blows all the smoke wrong way into your face, and making
you sneeze, filling your eyes up, and driving the blacks into custard or
veal cutlets, or whatever you're a-making of, who can help it?  And then
they says upstairs as the things tastes bitter.

"`You must have it stopped, mum,' I says to the missus, but she says as
the place has cost 'em five hundred pound now more than the contrack,
and so I says to myself, `As it's for your good, and you won't be led,
you must be drove.'  So only outer self-defence I kep a black fire, and
left the kidgin door open, when the blacks all went up the stairs, and a
man came down nex week to take my measure for a patent prize kidginer.

"But then, mum, if you'll believe me, it wasn't only in the kidgin, it
was all over the house, which was designed by the artchyteck to hold so
much wind that it went wentilating about the place and banging the doors
to that degree that if you didn't make haste you were hit on the back
and nearly sent flat.  Jane had such a stiff neck--not as that was
anything new, for the baker said she was the stuckuppist gal he ever did
see; but this was a cold stiff neck, and had to be rubbed with 'deldoc,
and slep in flannel every night, so as she was a good half-hour
undressing, and then got into bed with such cold feet as would have made
a saint swear.

"`Jane,' says I, one night, `if you don't sleep in your stockings I
shall be obliged to have a bottle.'

"`Of g--,' she says, in her nasty, aggravating, spiteful way.

"`No imperance;' I says, `a bottle of hot water, wrapped up in a
flannel--a-hem--or I shall be having spazzums to that degree as I must
have a drop of g--took inward, to save me from sufferin' as would make
any one shudder.'

"Then the cold, and damp, and draughts give me the face-ache so that I
had to have a tooth out, and he took the wrong one out, and said I told
him that one, when it hadn't a speck in it, and the other was a regular
shell; when what I suffered no one knows but Jane, with my face swelled
upon one side like a bladder of lard squeezed, and Jane all the time
going on because I would sit up in bed and rock myself to and fro, with
a shawl over my shoulders, and the nasty stiff-necked thing grumbling
and declaring it was like somebody playing with a pair of bellows in the
bed, when it was only the nasty draughty house as she could feel, and me
a-dying amost for a drop of g--took inwardly, on a bit of sugar.

"There was hardly a door that would shut, and when they did they stuck
to that degree that you couldn't get 'em open again till you turned
cross, when they'd fly open savagely and half knock you down, and I
declare to goodness, for a whole month, mum, everything I put in my
mouth tasted of paint.

"`Oh, you beauties!'  I says, when after banging and ringing at the gate
for near an hour, I was obliged to go down and let in the workmen as
came battering in the middle of the night amost, for it had only just
gone six.  And there they were, smiths, and bricklayers, and plasterers,
a-trampling all over my beautiful clean kitchen till they'd took out the
range and scattered the bricks and mortar all over the floor, as
trampled about all upstairs and got into the carpets.  And the time
those men wasted a-poking and pottering about till they'd got in the
patent kidginet, when one stuck-up-nosed fellow begins to light it, and
show me how it would draw.

"`You must keep the boiler full,' he says.

"`Young man,' I says, `have I been in the best of families for thirty
years, and do you think I don't know as a boiler without any water would
bust?'  And then I went out of the kidgin, and would not stop to be
insulted by a jumped-up ironmonger's boy.

"And there the nex day, if the thing didn't smoke wuss than ever, not a
bit going up the chimbley, but regularly blinding you, till master and
missus come down, choking and sneezing, and--

"`Oh, cook,' says the missus, `what have you been doing?'

"`No, mum,' I says, `it's not me as has been a-doing anything; it's your
patent kidginer and your noo house, as I'd never have set a foot in if
I'd knowed--no, mum, not for double wages and everything found.'

"`Well, but cook,' says the master, `it's the damper.'

"`Well, sir,' I says, `I could have told you that; but it's my
impression,' I says, `that, when it's the dryer, it won't go a bit
better, and the sooner you soot yourself the better.'  And then, instead
of taking the hint to go out of my kidgin, as he would have done if he'd
had the sperret of a man, he actelly went patting and poking about the
things, and opening this and shutting that, till I hadn't patience;
when, because the thing left off smoking, he wanted to make out as I
hadn't pulled out one of the little drawer things in the flue.

"But there never was sich a thing as that kidginer, and nobody never
knowed how to take it; sometimes it would go a-running away and making
itself red-hot, and burning all the blacklead off, and sometimes it
wouldn't go at all, but stopped all black and sulky; when your bit of
fowl, or whatever you were baking--roasting they called it, but if it
ain't baking a thing as is shut up inside a oven, what is it?--p'raps
you'll tell me--and, there now, it would be raw as raw, or else dry,
burnt up to a cinder, while of a night there was no fire to sit by and
make yourself comfortable--nothing at all but a nasty black patent thing
as never looked sociable, and sent all the smell of the cooking
upstairs, specially cabbage.

"No, mum, I'm much obliged, mum; and if you had been going to stop here,
mum, I should have been happy to give you a trial, when you'd no doubt
have found out my wally, for you look a sweet-tempered creetur; but go
to a noo house, mum, I won't--not under no consideration; and so I wish
you good day, mum."

And Mrs Martha Jinks went.



CHAPTER TWENTY.

A STRUGGLE FOR LIFE.

If there is any one thing in which I like to see a boy excel, it is in
swimming.  Now, we upright walking animals seem to be naturally the
worst swimmers, and the higher and more nobly proportioned our forehead,
the worse for us if in the disagreeable predicament of "a man
overboard."  Horses, oxen, dogs, cats, pigs, all take to the water
readily, or unreadily, and swim with ease, keeping those conveniently
placed nostrils just out of water; while poor we, with all our sense and
reason, unless we go through a pretty long course of preparation,
paddle, splash, flounder, and most likely get drowned.  Of course the
principal reason for this is the large weight of head above the
nostrils, this weight keeping our breathing-apertures beneath the water;
while as for Sir Walter Scott, with that tremendously high forehead of
his, in spite of all his knowledge he must have been one of the worst of
watermen.  People well acquainted with such matters tell us that to
float, all we have to do is to put our hands behind us, throw back our
head, and point our nose impudently at the sky; the mobile fluid will
then be just round our face, and we shall float in smooth water.

Now, that all sounds very pretty, and so easy; but though perhaps quite
possible of accomplishment to some people, I, for one, must confess that
it is out of my reach.  Perhaps if I had persevered I might have
succeeded, for perseverance is a fine thing; but a stifling snort, a
choking cough, the sensation of fluid lead in my brain, thunder in my
ears, and a great difficulty in getting upon my legs again in shallow
water, proved quite sufficient for me, and I have not since tried the
experiment.

But after all there is something delightful in a good bathe; and I look
back with brightened eye at the old bathing-place down the meadows where
we used to take headers into the clear stream, and dive, and float, and
go dogs' paddle, and porpoise fashion, on many a sunny half-holiday.
Those were pleasant days, and the light from them often shines into
middle-aged life.  I often call to mind the troop of paddling and
splashing young rascals standing in the shallows, and more than once I
have stood on the Serpentine bridge to look at similar groups.

Now, of course, I do not mean in the depth of winter; though there is
always a board up, telling the public that they may bathe there before
eight o'clock am, very few respond to the gracious permission of the
ranger; for only fancy, dressing on the gravelly shore when the keen
north wind blows.  I am more eagleish in my aspirations and shun such
gooseskinism.

But of all things I think that a boy should learn to be a tolerably
proficient swimmer; though, while learning, let him have courage
tempered with prudence.  I remember having a very narrow escape myself
through listening to the persuasion of my schoolfellows, and trying to
swim across our river before I possessed either the strength, skill, or
courage.  Fortunately I was saved; but not before I was nearly
insensible, and far out of my depth.  But the incident I am about to
relate occurred in that well-known piece of water in Hyde Park, and made
such an impression upon, my mind, as will, I am sure, never be effaced;
for even now, twenty-five years since, it is as fresh as if of
yesterday.

I was standing on the bridge watching the splashing youngsters on a fine
evening in July, when my attention was suddenly attracted by a boy,
apparently of fifteen or sixteen, who had left the shallow parts, and
was boldly striking out as if to swim across.  He could not have been
above forty yards from the bridge, and just above him, as I was, I could
gaze admiringly upon his bold young limbs in their rapid strokes, as he
manfully clove his way through the clear water.  It was a lovely
evening, and the water looked beautifully transparent, so that every
motion was perfectly plain.

I kept up with him and took quite an interest in his proceedings, for it
soon became apparent that he did not mean to turn back, but to go right
across; and I remember thinking what a tremendous distance it seemed for
so young a swimmer.  However, on he went, striking boldly out, and
sending the glittering water bubbling, beading, and sparkling away,
right and left, as he struggled on "like a stout-hearted swimmer, the
spray at his lip--"

On he went, slowly and apparently surely; first a quarter, then a third,
then half the distance; and, being so near the bridge, the balustrade
soon formed a leaning-place for a good many interested spectators; for
it is not every boy who can take so long a swim--the swim across
generally entailing the necessity for return to the warm clothes waiting
upon the bank, in company with that agreeable producer of glow and
reaction called a towel.

It soon, however, became evident that the lad beneath us would not take
the return swim, and I felt the hot blood flush up into my face as the
truth forced itself upon my mind that he was fast growing tired.

Yes, it was soon unmistakable: he was getting tired, and, with his
fatigue, losing nerve; for his strokes began to be taken more and more
rapidly; he made less way; and now he was but little beyond half-way
over, and there were many feet of water beneath him.

I was but a youth then, but I remember well the horror of the moment:
the feeling that a fellow-creature was about to lose his life just
beneath me, and I powerless to save.  There were the Royal Humane
Society's boats, but far enough off.  Help from the shore was
impossible; and now, above the murmured agitation of the crowd upon the
bridge, came at intervals the poor boy's faint cry--

"Help--help--boat!"

Those were awful moments; and more than one turned hurriedly away.  I
could not, though, for my eyes were fixed on the swimmer--nay, struggler
now, as at last, rapidly beating the water and crying wildly for aid, he
slowly went down with his white form visible beneath the clear water,
now agitated and forming concentric rings where he sank.

The cries from the bridge had attracted the notice of one of the
Society's men, and he was now rowing up fast; but it was plain to all
that he must be too late, when from just by where I stood there was a
slight movement and clambering; and then, like an arrow from a bow, with
hands pointed above his head, down with a mighty rush right into the
spray-splashing water, went a figure accompanied by a ringing cheer from
those around.

Up rose the water, and then closed like a boiling cauldron above the
gallant swimmer's head.  Then followed moments of intense excitement, as
nothing but agitated water was visible till the daring one's head rose
above the surface for an instant, when he shook the water from his face,
dived again, and in a few seconds rose to the surface, with the drowning
boy clinging to him.

But now there was fresh help at hand, and in another instant the gallant
young man and the boy were in the boat that came up; while with a
sobbing sigh of relief I went home, thinking to myself that I would
sooner have been that brave man than the greatest hero of yore.



CHAPTER TWENTY ONE.

THE EVILS OF A WIG.

Now it's all very well to say that truth is strange--stranger than
fiction; but the saying won't wash, it isn't fast colours, but partakes
of the nature of those carried by certain Austrian regiments--it runs;
for there is no rule without an exception, and no person in the full
enjoyment of his mental faculties will pretend to say that truth was
stranger than fiction in the case of Mr Smith's wig, for the fiction--
the wig--was, to all intents and purposes, stranger than the truth--the
genuine head of hair.

Mr Smith--Mr Artaxerxes Smith--in his younger days had often visited
the hairdresser's, to sit in state with a flowing print robe tucked in
all round his neck, but not so close but the tiny snips and chips from
his Hyperion curls would get down within his shirt-collar, and tickle
and tease for hours after; he had listened while the oily-tongued--
scented oily-tongued--hairdresser had snipped away and told him that his
hair was turning a little grey, or that it was growing thin at the
crown, or very dry, or full of dandriff, or coming off, or suffering
from one of those inevitable failings which are never discoverable save
when having one's hair cut.  "Our Philo-homo-coma Brushitinibus would
remove the symptoms in a few days, sir," the hairdresser would say;
"remove the dandriff, clarify the scalp, soften the hair, and bring up a
fine soft down that would soon strengthen into flowing locks."  But
though in the glass before him Mr Smith could see the noble hair and
brilliant whiskers of his operator, he would not listen, he only growled
out, "Make haste," or "Never mind," or something else very rude, and the
consequence was that he suffered for his neglect of the good
hairdressers advice, so that at last Mr Smith couldn't have given any
one a lock of his hair to save his life.  He was bald--completely bald--
his head looked like vegetable ivory, and in despair he consulted a
Saville-row physician.

"Nature, sir, nature," said the great man; "a peculiarity of
constitution, a failing in the absorbents and dessicating, wasting in
the structural development of the cuticle and sub-cuticle--the hair
being a small filament issuing from the surface of the scalp from a
bulbous radix, and forming a capillary covering; which covering, in your
case, has failed, sir, failed."

Mr Smith knew that before he made up his mind to invest a guinea, but
he only said--

"And what course should you pursue in my case?"

"Well, yes--er--er--um, ah!  I should--er--that is to say, I should wear
a wig."

That was just what Mr Smith's hairdresser had told him for nothing,
though, certainly, with sundry ideas _in petto_ that it might fall to
his task to make this wig; but Mr Smith had expected something else
from a man who put MD at the end of his name.

"Too big for his profession," said Mr Smith, and he bought a pot of the
Count de Caput Medusae's Golden Balm, prepared from the original recipe
given by that inventive Count to the aunt's cousin's uncle of the
proprietor.

"Try another pot, sir," said the vendor, examining the bare head with a
powerful magnifying glass.  "Perfect down on the surface, sir, though
not plain to the naked eye.  I should advise the large twenty-two
shilling pots, sir, and the vigorous rubbing in, to be continued night
and morning."

But if there had been any down it knew better than to stop and suffer
the scrubbing inflicted by Mr Smith upon his bare poll, and a month
only found him with the scalp turned from waxy-white to pinky-red, while
his head was sore to a degree.

"Jackal's formula produces hair, beard, or whiskers upon the smoothest
skin."

But, perhaps, Mr Smith's was not the smoothest skin, but not for want
of rubbing and polishing, and the formula did not produce anything but a
great many naughty words, while "Brimstone Degenerator," "The Capillary
Attraction," and a score of other things, only made holes in several
five-pound notes, while Mr Smith, unable to discover any more filaments
issuing from the surface of his scalp from bulbous radices, came to the
conclusion that he really must have a wig.

He had it; and found it light and warm, and tried to make himself
believe that it could not be told from the real thing.  He would brush
it before the glass, or run his hands through the curls when any one was
looking, and pretend to scratch his head, but the brute of a thing would
slip on one side, or get down over his forehead, or go back, or do
something stupid, as if of impish tendencies and exclaiming to the world
at large, "I'm a wig, I am!"

Brushed up carefully was that wig every now and then by the maker, who
would send it back glossed and pomatumed to a wonderful degree of
perfection; when again Mr Smith would try and persuade himself that
with such a skin parting no one could fail to be deceived, but the
people found him out when he lost his hat from a puff of wind, which
jumped it off and sent it rolling along the pavement.

We have most of us chased our hats upon a windy day, now getting close
up, now being left behind, and have tried, as is the correct thing, to
smile; but who could smile if the pomatum had adhered to the lining of
the hat, and he was scudding under a bare pole in chase of hat and wig.

After that episode in his life, Mr Smith brushed up his wig himself,
and always used oil; while he found his wig decidedly economical, for it
never wanted cutting.

Being a bachelor with plenty of time on his hands, Mr Smith used to
spend it as seemed good in his own eyes, and a very favourite pursuit of
his was visit-paying to the various cathedral towns, for the purpose of
studying what he termed the "architectural points."  The consequence
was, that after spending an afternoon examining nave and chancel;
chapel, window, pillar, arch, and groin; frowning at corbels, and
grinning at the grotesque gutter-bearers; Mr Smith found himself seated
at dinner in that far-famed hostelry known as the "Golden Bull," in the
cathedral town of Surridge.

The dinner was good, the wine might have been worse, the linen and plate
were clean, and at length, seated in front of the comfortable fire,
sipping his port, Mr Smith mused upon the visit he had paid to the
cathedral.  After a while, from habit, he scratched his head and drew
the wig aside, which necessitated his rising to adjust the covering by
the glass, after which Mr Smith sighed and filled his glass again.

At length the bell brought the waiter, and the waiter brought the boots,
and the boots brought the boot-jack and the slippers, and then the
chambermaid brought the hand candlestick, and the maiden ushered the
visitor up to Number 25 in the great balcony which surrounded the large
yard, where even now a broken-winded old stagecoach drew up once a week,
as if determined to go till it dropped, in spite of all the railways in
the kingdom.

But Mr Smith had not been five minutes in his bedroom, and divested
himself of only one or two articles of his dress, when he remembered
that he had given no orders for an early breakfast, so as to meet the
first up-train.

The bell soon brought the chambermaid, who looked rather open-mouthed as
Mr Smith gave his orders.  He then prepared himself for bed, wherein,
with a comfortable cotton nightcap pulled over his head, he soon
wandered into the land of dreams.

About an hour had passed, and Mr Smith was mentally busy making a
drawing of a grim old corbel--a most grotesque head in the cathedral
close, when he was terribly bothered because the moss-covered,
time-eaten old stony face would not keep still: now it winked, now it
screwed up its face, now it thrust its tongue first into one cheek and
then into the other, making wrinkles here, there, and everywhere, till
he put down his pencil, and asked what it meant.  But instead of
answering, the face nodded and came down nearer and nearer, backing him
further and further away, till he was shut up in one of the cloisters,
and hammering at the door to get out.

"Open the door!" he roared again and again; till he woke to find that it
was somebody outside knocking at his door and thundering to get in.

"Here, open the door now, or it'll be the wuss for yer!" growled a
hoarse voice, whereupon tearing off his cap, Mr Smith leaped out of
bed, and into some garments, and then stood shivering and wondering
whether the place was on fire.

"What's all the noise?" cried some one in the gallery.

"Madman, sir, outer the 'sylum, and keepers want to ketch him."

"Poor fellow," was the response; and then came the demand for
admittance, and the thundering again.

"Go away!" cried Mr Smith, in an agitated and very cracked voice.  "Go
away, there's no one here!"

"Ho! ain't there," said the gruff voice; and then there was a suppressed
titter.  "You're sure it's him?" said another voice.

"Oh, yes," said some one in a high treble; "he's got his head shaved."

"Right you are," said the same gruff voice, and then Mr Smith turned
all of a cold perspiration.

"But my good man," he gasped out at last through the keyhole, as he
shivered in the dark, "it's all a mistake: I'm not the man."

"Now, are you a-going to stash that ere gammon, or am I to come through
the door?--that's what I wants to know," growled the voice.

"Good heavens! what a position," gasped Mr Smith.  "My good man," he
cried again, "I'm not mad at all."

"Oh, no, of course not; nobody never said you was," said the voice.
"It's all right; open the door; it's only me, Grouser, yer know."

But Mr Smith _didn't_ know Grouser; neither did he wish to; for he
wanted a quiet night's rest, and to go off by the first train; but he
resolved to try another appeal.

"M-m-m-m-my good man, will you go away, please?"

Bump! came a heavy body against the door, making the lock chatter, and
the inner partition vibrate.

"Go away, please," gasped Mr Smith; "or I'll call the landlord."

Bump! came the noise, and then the gruff voice, "Now, you'd best open,
my tulip."

"Landlord!" screamed Mr Smith.

"Yes, sir, I'm here!" cried a fresh voice.  "Now, why don't you come
quietly, sir; the gentleman only means it for your good, and if you have
any money, I hope you'll pay your bill."

"He ain't got a blessed halfpenny, bless you," growled the voice of the
man Mr Smith took to be the keeper, but he was so confused by waking up
from a heavy sleep, that he began to pass his hand over his head, and to
wonder whether he really was sane.

Bump! came the noise again, and then there was a whispering, and the
gruff voice cried, "Don't you go away!"  And then, to his great horror,
through the thin wood partition, Mr Smith heard people moving in the
next room, and a clattering noise as if a washstand was being moved from
before the door that he had tried that night and found fast, but piled
the chairs up against for safety sake.  Directly after came the rattling
of a key, and the cracking of the paint-stuck door, as if it were years
since it had been opened; but Mr Smith could stop to hear no more.
Hurriedly turning his key, he dashed open his door, gave a yell of
terror, and charging out, scattered half a score of the inn-tenants
standing in the gallery, candle in hand.  There was a wild shrieking,
the overturning of candlesticks, and women fainting, and then, as two or
three made very doubtful efforts to stop the bald-headed figure, it
leaped over a prostrate chambermaid, and dashed along the balcony.

"Hie! stop him, hie!" was the shout that rang behind; but Mr Smith ran
on, then along the other side, closely followed by him of the gruff
voice, while two more went the other way.

"Look out," roared the keeper, "or he'll do you a mischief!" and so, as
Mr Smith came along the fourth side of the yard balcony, the landlord
and helper allowed themselves to be dashed aside, and this time with
force; while with shrieking women in front of him, Mr Smith rushed on.

Screams and yells, and cries, as the fugitive panted on reaching the
second turn of the gallery, when hearing the gruff-voiced one close
behind, he stole a look over his shoulder, and shuddered at the faint
glimpse he obtained of a huge, burly figure, whose aspect made him tear
on more frightened than ever, as the gruff voice roared to him to stop.

But there was no stop in Mr Smith, for as the moonbeams shone through
the glass at his side, he could just make out that some one was holding
a door in front ajar and peeping out, when, without thinking of anything
else but getting somewhere to parley with his pursuer, Mr Smith dashed
at the door, sent some one staggering backwards, while he had the door
banged to and locked in an instant.

"For Heaven's sake, save me," gasped Mr Smith; "and excuse this
intrusion, Sir."

"Oh, to be sure," said a voice from the corner, where it was quite dark;
"but you need not have knocked at the door so loud.  You are from the
moon, of course, and how did you leave Plutina and the Bluegobs?"

"Wh, wh-wh-wh-what?" gasped Mr Smith.

"Come to the window, Sir, and we'll enlighten the present generation;
I'm the grand Porkendillo, Sir, and--"

"Now, then, open this here door," growled a savage voice in the gallery.

"Begone, slave," cried the voice from out of the dark, and then to Mr
Smith's horror, a short figure crossed to the window, and he could see
the outline of a smooth bald head upon the blind, which was directly
afterwards dragged down and wrapped round the person into whose room the
fugitive had run.

A light now broke upon Mr Smith; here was the real Simon Pure; but what
a position to be in, locked in the same room with a madman--a
shaven-headed lunatic, escaped from some private asylum.

"My Lord; Most Grand one, open the door and admit your slave," came in a
hoarse whisper through the keyhole.

"Is the banquet prepared?" said the madman.

"Yes, my lord," croaked the keeper.

"Is Bootes there?  Have Arcturus, Aldebaran, Orion, and Beta Pi
assembled?"

"Yes, my lord, and it's done to a touch," growled the keeper.

"Prostrate thyselves, then, slaves, and let the winds all blow and boom.
I come.  Ha! a spy," cried the madman, rushing at Mr Smith, who in his
great horror leaped upon the bed, and buried himself beneath the clothes
in which he enveloped himself so closely, that his adversary could not
drag him forth.

"Come forth, thou traitor," shrieked the madman, tearing at the clothes
so fiercely, that a huge bundle rolled off the bed on to the floor,
wherein, half-smothered, lay poor Mr Smith, in a most profuse state of
perspiration.

All at once there was a cessation of the kicks and thumps, but a
threatening of an increased state of suffocation, for there seemed to
the covered man to be a struggle going on, and two or three people fell
upon him.  Then there came the buzz of voices, and he found himself
gently unrolled from the mass of clothing, to sit up, staring around
with white head and flushed face at the room full of people, while in
one corner closely guarded by his keeper stood the Grand Porkendillo,
sucking his thumb, and leering at every one in turn.  For this gentleman
having made his escape from the neighbouring establishment of a famous
doctor, had taken refuge in the Golden Bull, whose landlord was most
profuse in his apologies to Mr Smith, for the mistake that had been
made.

But, as the chambermaid said when Mr Smith had taken his departure:--

"Lor', Sir, as soon as they said the poor man's head was shaved, I made
sure it was him."



CHAPTER TWENTY TWO.

TO BE SOLD BY AUCTION.

"Sale now on," was stuck upon the door-posts of a good-sized house that
I was passing the other day--a house that an agent would call "a genteel
family mansion;" for the agent, taught by his trade, knows that it is
not always expedient to call a spade a spade, so he tickles the taste of
his customers by talking of "villas, cottages ornees, snug boxes,
delightful residences," etcetera; in short, anything but what a plain,
matter-of-fact person would bring forth to dub the home wherein he
passed his hours of rest.  "Sale now on," in black letters six inches
high.  There were bills in the windows bearing the name of a well-known
auctioneer, which was in itself sufficient to guarantee that it was a
genuine sale; a large hearthrug was swung, banner fashion, out of the
first-floor window, bearing also a bill, enumerating the valuable
household furniture, and about the door were several snuffy-looking men
in carpet caps, some with very Israelitish aspects, but all looking very
fleecy and fluffy, and wearing the appearance of buying a secondhand
suit of clothes once in a year, putting it on, and keeping it on until
it dropped off of its own accord.

Being something of a saunterer, auction sales very frequently come under
my notice, and possess something of an attraction for me; not that I go
as a bargain hunter, for it is only on very, very rare occasions that I
make a purchase; but I like to see how my fellow-man and woman buy their
bargains, and also to moralise, in my own small way, upon the changes
that may have taken place in the house before the "whole of the valuable
and modern household furniture" was placed in the hands of the "going,
going, gone" man, to dispose of without reserve.  I have been in some
strange places in my travels, and seen some strange auctions, especially
those in the electro-plate line at a shop in a leading thoroughfare; but
the touter at the door never asks me in now, and the gentleman in the
rostrum never seeks to catch my eye for another bid.  My impression is
that they do not want me, but look upon me as a rogue towards them; and
verily I believe that I am, if they occupy the standard position of
honest men.  I could fill some pages with the reflections I have made
upon different auctions at which I have been present--of the struggling,
failing tradesman, turned out of house and home, watching with
bitterness his household gods sacrificed upon the altar of Mammon--of
the recklessly furnished house of the bankrupt speculator--of the little
four-roomed house in the suburbs--all have their own especial history;
but upon this occasion I am writing of the buyers more especially, and
of the especial house spoken of at the head of this paper.

"Sale now on; fuss floor, sir," said one of the grubby individuals
before referred to; and as I ascended the stairs, which showed plainly
where the rich velvet pile carpet, lot 94 in the catalogue, had lain, I
was attacked on both flanks by a couple of gentlemen of very seedy, but
decidedly not ripened appearance, who were very desirous of executing
any little commissions for me.  "Was there anything I had marked in the
catalogue?"  One of these gents soon gave me up, but the other seemed
determined that if he failed in hooking a gudgeon, it should not be for
want of perseverance; so he followed me up most pertinaciously, and on
reaching the sale room--the three drawing-rooms thrown into one--began
to expatiate upon everything which seemed to have attracted my eye.  The
pianoforte was the very one that would suit me, and he could tell me the
figure to a T that I ought to give for it, which was not the strict
letter of the truth.

It was of no avail that I tried to get rid of him, so I sat down in a
corner near the auctioneer, and watched the progress of the sale and the
countenances of the buyers.

"_Going_ at three ten; going at three ten; _going_ at three _ten_--"

"Tap" went the hammer, and a Mr Cohen became the owner of a rosewood
loo table.

Several more lots were disposed of, when a large feather-bed was placed
by the porters upon the table.  It might have been stuffed with feathers
of gold from the way in which it was immediately attacked and punched.
I was almost knocked over in the rush; and for a moment it appeared as
though the twelve tribes of Israel had resolved, to a man, upon
thrusting their arms right up to the elbow in the soft and yielding bed.

"Bargain at a fi-pun note, sir; let me bid for you.  Be a sin to let
such a chance go.  Better let me bid, or them Jews 'll run it up."

In spite of myself I could not refrain from turning round and gazing
upon my tormentor's profile, which was as thoroughly Israelitish as ever
spoke of race or told of Eastern origin.  But for a very peremptory
negative I should undoubtedly have become the possessor of the capital
feather-bed; which, however, became the property of a Mr Moss.

In fact, the richly historical names that were given in after almost
every purchase showed how very little there was of the Christian element
in the sale: Lazarus, Abrahams, Marks, Levy, Solomon, and the refined
Sloman--Moss, a capital name for a money grubber, and far preferable, no
doubt, to the more familiar Moses--such names as these seemed of the
most familiar, while Brown, Jones, Robinson, or Smith only occurred at
long intervals.

I stayed some two hours, and watched the greed and avarice displayed by
the bidders; and came away with the full determination not to buy at
sales, for I could see one thing very plainly, and that was, that there
was no fear of an article being sold for less than its value, as there
were plenty of experienced men waiting to close at once upon a bargain;
and therefore these brokers would, amongst them, run every lot up to
nearly its full worth; the consequence being, that if you did not give
the real value for an article that you were almost buying in the dark as
to its quality, you would give for it perhaps considerably more than it
was worth--buying blindly--every lot being knocked down to the buyer
with all its defects and failings.

I am not going to say that bargains are not to be picked up at sales,
for no doubt many are to be come at in this way; but it seems to me to
be absolutely necessary that the purchaser should possess a shrewd
business perception and keen business capabilities, or the chances are
that he will be greatly disappointed when he pays his money and has his
goods delivered to him.  And this is what I thought as I watched the
different little "dodges" employed by the initiated to give the
auctioneer notice when they bid.  One man scratched his head; another
winked his right eye; another winked his left; one thrust his tongue
into his cheek; another raised his eyebrows; others rubbed their noses,
tapped their teeth, coughed, pulled their whiskers; while the most
expert seemed to do it with a look.

"Said I then to myself, here's a lesson for me," though I do not know
with what favour Dr Watts would have looked upon such a
misappropriation of his ode, and I then rose to leave the room, closely
followed by my broker friend, who was strongly of opinion, when we
reached the staircase, that he ought to drink my health.  However, I did
not agree with him, being so unimaginative as to consider that my health
would not be in the slightest degree improved by being drunk, while that
of my companion would decidedly suffer by potations such as are supplied
in our London public-houses.



CHAPTER TWENTY THREE.

A PLACARD.

Now, you know, it wouldn't matter a bit if it was only the publicans who
gave short measure.  Most of us know what their gin-glasses are--regular
little humbugs of things--werry broad at the top, and werry solid at the
bottom, and holding precious little in 'em; bad as the old-fashioned
wine bottles, that have had such a kick as has sent the bottom right up
inside ever so far, like a glass mountain, so that when you think the
bottle's half full, it's three-parts empty.  But it isn't the publican
so much as the street-sellers, who one way and the other do drop most
terribly on to the poor man in what he buys; and yet that ain't the
worst of it, for there's someone else as drops on to the poor man worse
than anybody; cheats him; gives him short measure; and one way and
another knocks twenty-five per cent, off his wages and the good they
would do him; and I'm going to show you how; while "Who is it?" says
you; "Why, himself!" says I.  And now I'm going to prove it.

Now, I don't know what you are as is reading this; but we'll say you're
a working man, for once in a way, and say you and I settled down in
London.  You makes your three-and-thirty shillings a week at your trade!
and I, being a bill-sticker, makes what I can--sometimes more, sometimes
less--finds my own paste--makes it myself, you know; and though I says
it as shouldn't say it, you never see my bills a-going flip-flap in the
wind, like some people's as I knows, which ain't neither here nor there,
in a manner of speaking; though as regards a wall or hoarding, they are
here and there.  I allus make good paste, and though sometimes when I
has one of them big posters to stick up a letter at a time, I do get a
bit bothered with the spelling, it ain't often.  I ain't ashamed of my
faults, and having made myself a scholard off bills on walls, why,
'tain't surprising as I blunders a bit sometimes, even if one's reading
has been a bit diversified.  As I said before, it ain't surprising, and
I ain't ashamed if, when I stuck them _Star_ bills, I did putt the cart
afore the horse, and instead of saying "War Correspondence" put it up as
"Raw Correspondence," which, seeing as it related to cutting up and
butchering, warn't so werry much out of place.  But it warn't me as
stuck the Prince o' Wales's feathers upside down, and if I do have to
put a letter up at a time I always makes them meet at the edges, and
don't put 'em over other folkses.

But this ain't proving how pore men cheats and measures themselves out
short; so, as I said before, we'll suppose you and me to be working men
settled in London.  Well, rent we can't say nothing about; but if we
goes on as some people do, living from hand to mouth and back again,
why, where are we?  Now, this is what I always noticed--the poorer a man
is, the dearer he buys his things.

"Get out," says you; "how can that be?"

"Why, so," says I, and in imagination, you know, I holds the bill up
against the wall with one hand, stirs the brush round in my paste with
the other, and then well lathers or lubricates the back of the paper,
then turns him, claps him in his place, and touches him over with the
brush so as he fits into all the crevices tight.  "And now," says I,
"read," and you read, or is s'posed to read, as follers, though of
course it's me speaking:--

"The poor man allus goes to the cheap shop."

"Right enough too," says you.

"Gammon," says I, for that cheap's a word as ain't to be found in
reality; it's a word as my philosophic friend Josef Sprouts would call
"a beautiful illoosion."  It's a ignis something--I don't quite know
what--as cheats men on to follow it, and then bogs them as tight as my
brush is bogged in dry weather in the crusty paste.  Don't you never buy
nothing cheap.  Now, this is the way.  You goes and buys cheap butter at
fourteen-pence when you might have had it as honest dripping, afore the
tater flour and yaller colour was put in, for ninepence.  You buys penny
candles one at a time, and so gives eight pence a pound when you might
have had 'em for seven-pence.  You buys: cheap tea at two shillings,
when one spoonful of three-shilling goes twice as fur.  Working men's
stout bluchers, all brown paper and bosh.  Cheap clothes, as falls all
to pieces, and shrinks anyhow, till the bottoms of the trousers seem to
have made up their minds to be tight knickerbockers.  Cheap calico, as
is all facing till it's washed, when it turns out canvas or fine net.
Coffee, as is--well, perhaps what I heard about burnt liver ain't true,
after all; but you may depend upon one thing, and that is, that the man
as buys the best of everything in a plain way lives the cheapest.  Look
at flour.  Well, say the best is a penny a quartern more--and the wife
seems so satisfied because she thinks she is saving.  Why, it's a
mistake altogether, and if you feed yourself with so much husk amongst
your corn, mustn't you have more corn to supply the nutriment?  Don't
tell me!  I haven't made paste so many years without being a good judge
of flour.

Cheap things is nasty.  At least that's wrong, for cheap things is good,
and the real cheap things is the best of everything; and what you've got
to do is this--have a little, but have it good.  I've watched the dodges
long enough to know; I've stuck up the cheap advertising bills, and then
looked into it, and blowed the missus up for being so took in: cheap
soap as is kept wet and runs all to a mosh in the water; cheap rice full
of grit; cheap bacon as shrinks in the pot; cheap currants with plenty
of stones; cheap meat--there, if there is a cruel thing perpetrated on
the poor people of London streets, it's that sending up diseased beasts,
sheep, and pigs, to be sold cheap; and if I were the Lord Mayor of
London, or either of the other magistrates (which ain't likely to be the
case this year, because the election's over, and there ain't a bench at
liberty) I'd just tar the gentlemen as sells the stuff with their own
brush, I'd--I would, and no mistake--I'd feed 'em with their own meat--
now then!

I've stuck so much poetry about cheap clothes for the tailors, and
strong tea for the groshers, that I'm sick of it; but I know one piece
right off by heart, and at the end of a verse it says:--

  "Oh, God, that bread should be so dear,
  And flesh and blood so cheap!"

You know!  "Song of the shirt."  Cheap shirts for cheap people, who make
fortunes out of the poor.

"Oh," you'll say, "that was only a made-up thing."

What! here, save up your pence and go down Bethnal Green, or amongst the
tottering old houses in Spitalfields, places where I can find heaps of
spots for sticking bills, and you can hunt 'em out for yourself; women
sewing their shrouds, hard at work at 'em, doing a little bit every day
till they get 'em done, and then the parish sends a cheap coffin,
supplied by the lowest bidder, the undertaker as does these things by
contract on the cheap fetches the rough black case; and then "rattle his
bones over the stones," and off to the cemetery; and you and I will buy
the cheap shirt, and find as the calico's thin, and the buttons come
off, and the stitches fall out almost from our bargain.

"Just come here, will you?" says a p'leeceman to me one day as I was
a-sticking an "Alarming Sacrifice" against the wall, and a thinking to
myself it was like the way we used to gammon the old hens at home,
shamming to throw down barley, so that they'd come running and clucking
like fun to find nought; while here was these rogues a-using me to
scatter their barley about to bring all the old London hens a-clucking
over their bargains in calicoes and dresses, bought at unheard-of
prices, "in bankruptcy."  "Just come in here a minute," says the
policeman, and I leaves off at "Alarming Sac--;" and I daresay there was
an alarming sack made out of the noodles, for that bill never got
finished, but stopped there till another sticker went and stuck the
"Christy's" over it.  I follows my chap in, carrying my bills and
crutches and paste, on account of the boys, and follows him right
upstairs--up stairs as wern't safe--to a miserable attic, where there
was a poor thing lying on a bed--at least on a few rags, and she dressed
in rags herself.  There was the rain pelting against the broken windows
and making a puddle on the floor; the wind whistling down the chimney,
where there was no grate, only a few bits or iron hoop resting on some
bricks, but no fire; whilst the rest of the furniture, after the
ricketty bedstead, was a little table, and a chair with the bottom
sticking down like part of a fish basket.

"Stop with her while I goes for help," says the p'leeceman, and I
nodded, staring all the while at the poor thing on the bed; and as soon
as he had gone, I goes a tiptoe to the winder, pulls a little bill out
of my bag, lays on the paste, and pops it over one of the broken panes;
and then does the same by two more, which was some improvement, you
know, only when I looks on the first, if it wasn't in big letters,
"Coffin!" for the "Dr" was tucked round outer sight one side, and the
"s" and the "Pills" the other.

"That won't do," I says, and I fetches out another bill from
another parcel.  Nice thing that for a sick woman to see as a
transparency--"Coffin!" so I pastes the other bill and sets up, but
snatches it down again directly, for it was "The Dead Letter," and there
was only "The Dead" to be seen.  But the next one did service, for it
was "Good Words."

"Ah!"  I says, she wants some bad enough, and then I spoke and said
something or another, but there was no answer; so thinking it best, I
waited quietly till the p'leeceman came back, when he whispered to me as
they were going to take her in a cab to the House.

"House?  What house?" somebody cries all at once in a horrid cracked,
hoarse voice, "No--no--no--no!"  And there, sitting up in the bed, with
her blue bony fingers stretched out, and her dull eyes straining, the
poor thing kept motioning the p'leeceman away, and no one tried to touch
her.

"Little bread--little water--that's all;" she says again so pitifully;
"Let me stay here till I'm gone, and I shan't be long now;" and then
sinking back on the bed, she closed her eyes and lay muttering, with her
poor thin, bony arms stretched across her breast.

I looked at the p'leecemen, and they looked at me, and not being men
much given to softness, they were about to lift the poor thing up and
carry her down, only I stopped 'em, for there was something about the
poor soul then as made me hold up my hand; and when they saw what I did,
one of them went down to send away the cab and fetch a doctor, while me
and t'other stood looking on to see the look of horror and fear go off
her face, while the hands kept their place across her poor breast--to
see her eyes stopping shut, then open widely for a minute, and then
close again, as she lay quiet and still--gone to sleep to wake
elsewhere.

P'leeceman went out werry quietly and stopped at the door, beckoning me
to come, but I couldn't see him, for I was seeing that poor woman
sitting on that broken chair, close to the broken window, in the early
morning, and through the long day, and right into the night, by the
light of a cheap candle, stitching away at tailor's slopwork hour after
hour, to make at first 7 shillings 6 pence a week, then, as her eyes
grew feebler, and the stitches less regular, six shillings--five
shillings--four shillings--_two shillings_--nothing! for flesh and blood
is cheap in London, and when one bone and gristle machine wears out,
there are plenty more to take its place.  Sitting there in the bitter
cold wet autumn of this year, sick at heart, sick in body, weak, old,
and helpless--too feeble to work, too proud to tell of her sufferings;
and with the horror of the poor against the tender mercies of the
parish, where the feeble sink amidst the horrors of the infirmary.
Working on till she could work no more, and then, with bloodless limbs
and pallid face, when work and food were given, and she took both, the
strength failed, and the stomach unused to sustenance could not bear
it--the lamp was going out, the flame trembling, and the oil for which
it was sinking drowned out the last flickering ray.

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

No fiction--no tale of imagination--but true! true! true!  Not in the
past times, before there were visitations, and poor-law boards, and
plenty of missionary enterprise, but now--now, within the past few
days--in Christian England, whose wealth makes the fabled greatness of
the East turn pale and shine with diminished lustre.  Here--at home--in
our great city--lying down to die, listening to the hurrying tramp of
thousands; with help ready to come when it was too late; with coroner
and jury ready to sit, and wag their sapient heads, and the twelve to
smoke it in their pipes in the evening, saying, "How dreadful!"  The
coroner saying, too, that such things came before him weekly.  And what
is done to amend the misery?  Where is the plaister for this hideous
boil?  There was no canting whine here for aid, but the act of the
stricken one who knew full well that she would be told to go to the
House,--than enter which she would sooner die.

"I'd have taken her a drop of brandy if I'd known how bad she was; but,
poor soul, she always kep herself to herself."  God bless you for it,
woman!  You told me with an earnestness and truthful air that none could
doubt: it was the fruition of that loving sympathy that prompts the poor
to give of their little to aid distress.  Where does the beggar make his
harvest?  Where do the canting hypocrites who trade upon sympathy
fatten?  Amidst the thronging streets of East and South London, finding
the heart that has felt the pinchings of poverty ever ready to open in
their favour.  But such sad tales need veiling, 'neath the medium of
fiction, and one seeks again to soften the tale.

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

I see it all, as I said, and at last, seeing it less and less plain for
something as came in my eyes, I picked up my paste-tin and my brush, and
then made towards the door; but I was obliged to go back and have
another look, for the thought come as it might have been a sister, or a
mother, or--or--or--I broke down there; for I said to myself as it might
have been a widder, and that widder might have been mine.  But the
thoughts of that made me start again and hurry out of the place, with a
will and a spirit in me to have posted up all London, if I could have
got the job; and short work I made of what else I had to do.  But there
in my pipe that night was that worn-out seamstress, whose calm, sleeping
face cried out so appealingly--crying in a way that should make all
London shudder:

"Brother, I was starved to death!"



CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR.

CAST ASHORE.

But a few hours before I had been lying in a nook amidst the huge rocks,
high above the sands, gazing down at the sea, which curled over with a
long ripple upon the yellow sands.  The sun poured down with all his
rich mellow autumn glory, and far as eye could reach the bosom of the
sea was one shimmering surface of glittering silver--here tinged with
the palest of greens, there passing into a lovely blue, while almost
motionless, ship after ship, with every stitch of sail spread in a
perfect cloud of canvas, added to the beauty of the scene.

Where I lay, sheltered by a large overhanging rock, a tiny stream slowly
trickled out of a cavern whose mouth was beautifully fringed by many
varieties of fern, while other growths, nurtured by the cool freshness
of the never-failing water, added their velvety beauty to the favoured
spot.

But now how different!  I stood in an opening in the rocks where the
village was built, and the great jetty ran down into the sea.  The wind
tore by me so that I could hardly stand against its fury, while down by
the pier and the rocks, the waves came tumbling in ten or twelve feet
high, curling over and over, as if to scoop out the shore; and wherever
they encountered rock or pier there seemed a momentary halt, as if they
gathered strength, when with a mighty leap up flew tons of water in a
fountain of foam, which was again swept against the face of the long
line of rocks behind the sand, or dashed over them and carried in a
storm of spray inland.

The noise was deafening, for the shingle and huge stones were being
churned over and over, and, as it were, pounded by the waves, while
wherever there was a cavern the water rushed in with a bellowing roar
that was at times deepened into thunder, while the concussion and force
of the hissing water seemed enough to rend the rocks asunder, and plough
up the earth beyond, till the current forced its way through, to tear on
as a devastating river, and drown all that came in its path.

"What?"  I shouted to a fisherman whose lips I had seen move, while his
words were swept away.

"Three ships ashore," he shouted back, in the sing-song tone peculiar to
the men of Cornwall, who draw their harvest from the sea,--the sturdy,
sober, honest fellows, who seem gentlemen in comparison with the general
run of fishermen at our ports and fishing stations,--men whom I had sat
upon the rocks to listen to night after night, when a knot would get
together and sing in capital tune and time--and with every part in the
harmony carefully preserved--some melodious air, which, floating out to
sea, sounded sweet beyond conception, and made me think what little need
there was for people to go abroad to find scenery and national
peculiarity.  But it always was a failing among us to be be far-sighted
that the beauties of home were overlooked.

"Three ships ashore," he shouted, pointing in three different
directions; but I had already made them out, and now we went down as
close to the pier as the waves would permit, for but some fifty yards
from the end lay a small schooner with the waves washing over her--one
by one the men who had clung to her rigging and sides being beaten off,
washed towards the shore, and then drawn back by the under-tow again and
again.

Every minute the pier would be left clear out of the water, which poured
off its sides, and in one of these intervals a sailor was seen swimming
strongly close alongside, riding up and down the huge billows, but
fighting hardly for his life.

All at once I saw a man seize a life-buoy, one of those large yellow
cork rings; and as the last wave left the stone pier free from water
right to where the lighthouse rose, he dashed along it, running swiftly
towards where the swimmer was striving to reach the shore.

In a few moments he was beside him, and threw the buoy so that the poor
fellow reached it, when the men around me began to shout to the gallant
fellow to return.  But every shout seemed beaten back instantly; and
amidst a violent commotion--men running and seizing ropes, women
shrieking and clutching one another--I saw a large wave come tearing in,
rise like a huge beast at a leap, and curl right over the pier, sweeping
it from end to end, and deluging it with many feet of water.  This was
succeeded by another and another, and then once more the water was
streaming off the stones, and one could see the fisherman who ran to his
brother man's rescue struggling for his own life on the other side of
the pier, against which he was at length violently dashed.  But there
were kinsmen and friends at hand in plenty, and one with a rope round
him ran down the pier, plunged in, swam to the poor fellow, clutched
him, and then they were drawn ashore together insensible, but locked in
a tight embrace.

All this time the sailor who clung to the buoy seemed wild and confused,
and ignorant of its purpose, for, all at once a groan rose from the
crowd assembled, when loosing his hold, the drowning man threw up his
arms and disappeared in the boiling surge.

In rushed the waves again and again, while more than once the yellow
life-buoy could be seen; but as the waves receded they dragged it back,
and now every eye was directed to the little schooner, which seemed to
lift with the waves, and then tremble in every beam as it was dashed
down again, till the masts went over the side.

About a hundred yards lower down I could see a crowd of people assembled
facing a large brig which had struck amongst the rocks, and whose crew
seemed doomed to meet with a watery grave.

But preparations were being made to afford succour here, for as I
reached the crowd I found them busy with the rocket apparatus.  There
were the rocket and the long line carefully laid in and out, round peg
after peg, in its case, so that it might run forth swiftly and easily;
and just then the stand was directed right, the rocket aimed, the fire
applied, and after a loud rushing sound, off darted the fiery messenger
on its errand of mercy, forming an arc in the air and falling upon the
other side of the doomed ship, which lay about sixty yards from the
shore.

An exultant chorus followed this successful attempt to connect the
vessel with the shore by means of a cord, for the rocket line ran easily
and perfectly out, and the cable at hand being now attached, the sailors
on board began to haul, when, like a snake, the great rope slowly ran
down the beach, plunged into the boiling surf, and still kept on
uncoiling and running down till those on the cliff signalled down that
the end was hauled on board and made it fast to the mast.

And now so far successful, the cable and a line being on board, the
cable hauled tight by those on shore, and secured to a capstan used for
hauling up fishing-boats, the rest of the arrangements were concluded,
and those on board drew the tarpauling and rope seat which run by a ring
along the cable, and into which a person coming ashore slipped his legs,
and then swung beneath the tightened rope as the apparatus was hauled by
those on shore, and the shipwrecked one rode over the boiling waves, and
was perhaps only once immersed where the rope bellied down in the
middle.

All seemed ready, the men by me began to haul, and it was then seen that
a woman was swinging beneath the rope, which rose and fell with the
weight upon it, till for a few seconds the poor creature disappeared
from sight in the tossing waves.  But the men worked well, and the next
minute, with a loud hurrah, she was ashore, and a dozen hands ready to
free the drenched sufferer, when the joy was turned into sorrow, for it
was seen that in the hurry of passing the poor woman over the ship's
side the rope had become entangled round her neck, and she had been
strangled just in those brief minutes when there was life and safety
before her.

But there were other lives to save, and as the body of the fair,
delicate woman was borne with tender, loving hands up the sands, through
the opening, and then to the large inn, the sling was drawn back by the
crew of the ship, and another tried the perilous passage.

How the angry waves leaped up, and darted again and again, as if to tear
the men being rescued from the rope of safety, and how those ashore
cheered again and again as each poor drenched and dripping wretch, half
choked with the brine, was hauled ashore, and then stood trembling and
tottering, sometimes not even able to stand from being so exhausted!
Some shouted for joy, some burst into fits of crying, others stood
stolidly gazing at their saviours, while one or two went down on their
knees devoutly to offer thanks for the life saved.

To five-and-twenty souls did that thin line, shot over the wreck by
means of a rocket, carry life and hope, and heartily their fellow-men
worked to save them from the sea that fought hard to take them for its
prey; and when, at last, nearly every man had come ashore upon the frail
bridge of hemp, the waves seemed to tear at the wreck with redoubled
fury, piling mountains of foaming water upon it, leaping upon the deck,
or lifting the hull to dash it again upon the cruel rocks that were
gnawing their way through the bottom.

"Only the captain left now," said the last poor fellow who came ashore,
and then he staggered and fell--quite insensible from the revulsion of
feeling.  And on hearing these words the men set the slings free, but
they were dragged back only slowly, and as if the poor captain was about
exhausted.  Every now and then we could make him out clinging to the
rigging where the end of the cable had been secured, but all at once a
regular mountain of a wave came coursing in faster and faster, leaped
up, seemed hanging in mid-air for a few moments, and then poured down
with resistless fury upon the doomed vessel.  There was a wild confused
cry from those on shore, which was heard above the howling of the storm;
men and women clasped their hands and ran hither and thither, as if
agonised at their helplessness to render aid, and then, as I looked out
seaward, I could only see the clean-swept deck at intervals, for the
rigging was gone, while the cable, that bridge of safety to so many, now
hung slack in the water.

"Haul!" shouted the man who managed the rocket apparatus--one of the old
Coast Guardsmen,--and a score of willing hands crowded down to get a
clutch at the cable, when at a given signal they started inshore to run
it up, but checked directly, for they found that there was a large
tangle of wreck attached, which came up slowly, with the huge waves
tearing at it as though to drag it back; but as more and more of the
dripping cable appeared from the water more willing hands seized upon
it, so that at last it came faster and faster, and part of a mast, with
a confusion of blocks, ropes, and shrouds, appeared at the edge of the
sands where the water boiled so furiously, and the next minute was high
upon the sands.

I hurried down to be one of the knot of people who crowded round, when
my heart sank, for it was as I feared: the captain, a fine, calm,
stern-browed man, lay there amongst the cordage, one leg in the slings,
as if about to venture, when that cruel wave poured ruin on the deck of
the ship, and tore away his last chance for life.

Twisted, tangled, and confused, the ropes lay together, and it was only
by means of a free use of their clasp-knives that the beachmen and
sailors set the poor fellow free.

Slowly and sadly we stood round, looking down upon the pale features of
the brave man who had clung to his ship till the last of his crew was
ashore; but there was no weeping and wailing wife to cast herself upon
the cold, drenched form, and sweep the hair from his broad forehead; so
slowly, and with the crowd following in silence, we bore the corpse to
the inn, to lay it side by side with that of the wife he had tried to
save.

A young, noble-looking pair, with faces calm and pale, seeming but to
sleep as they lay there hushed in death--in that great mystery, for the
sea had conquered.

"Sixty years have I lived down here, man and boy," said a fisherman, in
his pleasant sing-song tone, "and if I were to try and count up the
lives of men as the great sea has taken, I could hardly believe it.
I've seen the sea-shore strewn with wreck, and I've known the waves cast
up the dead day after day for weeks after a storm; some calm and
pale-faced, some beaten, torn, and not to be looked upon without a
shudder.  Seems, sir, as if the sea kept 'em as long as it could, and
then cast them up and busily tried to hide 'em, throwing up sand and
shells--sand and shells, so that I've found them, sometimes half-hidden,
and the water lapping melancholy-like around.  Now it's some poor
fisherman--now a sailor, or a gentleman been a-yachting, or a foreigner
from some fine vessel.  Every year hundreds taken, and every dead body
with such a tale of sorrow, and misery, and wretchedness attached as
would make your heart ache could you but read it.  Ah, the sea is a
great thing, and I as live by it knows it well.  To-day you see it quiet
and still--to-morrow it's tearing at the shore with fury, and it's only
God who can still its rage."

But still, year after year, in their calm dependence upon His great arm,
our fishers and sailors put forth to tempt the perils of the vast deep
for their livelihood.  Right and left of them others are taken; but
still the busy toilers thrust forth from the shore and make their voyage
easily, or in an agony of fear are overtaken by the storm, and at
length, "being exceedingly tossed with the tempest... lighten the ship."
And, again, when run ashore, cling terror-stricken to the vessel and
its rigging, till beaten off before succour arrives when they are cast
ashore.



CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE.

THE FIRST STRAY HAIR.

What is a Wife?  Well, that seems a question easily answered.  But still
the answer depends upon circumstances; in fact, there seem to be no end
of replies to that little query, and answering the question, as one who
has taken a little notice of wives in general, I'll tell you what a wife
is sometimes.  It is a something to be kicked and sworn at, and beaten,
knocked down and trampled upon, used in brutal ways that the vilest
barrow-man would hesitate about applying to his donkey for fear of
killing it, while when the poor woman is forced to appear before a
magistrate and prosecute, why--well, he is her husband after all, and
for lack of evidence the brute gets off.  A wife is something to have
her hair dragged down and her head beaten against the wall; to be
neglected, half-starved, or made to work for the noble specimen of
creation who hulks about in front of public-houses, and scowls at every
decent-looking working man who passes him.  She is the something who
sits up for him and puts his drunken highness to bed; nurses his
children; slaves for him worse than any drudge--ten times--no a hundred
times, for money would not buy a soul to slave as some women do for
their husbands.  What is a wife?  Why, often and often a poor, trusting,
simple-hearted woman, toiling in hard bondage till there's a place dug
for her in one of the cemeteries and she goes to rest.

But what is a wife?  Is she not the God-given blessing to cheer a
working man's home? and while working with her husband to make that home
happy, is she not the sharer of his joys and sorrows,--the heart that he
can trust and confide in, though all the world turn their backs upon
him?  Yes, this, and much more, _if her husband will_.

And now a word for those who have dissension and discomfort at the
cottage or lodgings, for it's hardly fair to disgrace that most holy of
names by calling some places I know _home_.  And first just a word about
some of these miserable spots, and let's try and find a few causes for
there being one-roomed places, badly furnished or not furnished at all,
for the rickety chairs and beggarly bed and odds and ends are not worthy
the name; children with no shoes, dirty clothes, dirty faces, dirtier
hands, and dirtiest noses.  The wife--oh, desecration of the sacred
name!--a sour-faced, thinly-clad, mean-looking, untidy-haired, sorrowful
woman, dividing her time between scolding the children and "rubbing
out," not washing, some odds and ends of clothes in a brown pan--the
wash-tub leaked, so it was split up and burned--and then hanging the
rags upon strings stretched from one side of the room to the other, just
as if put there on purpose to catch "the master's" hat and knock it off
when he comes home from work.

Well, there are two sides to every question, and one reason for there
being such wretched places is this:--Young folks get wed after the good
old fashion invented some six thousand years ago, when Eve must have
blushed and turned away her head and let her hand stay in Adam's; and
while the days are young all goes well, but sometimes Betsy--that's the
wife, you know--thinks there's no call to be so particular about her
hair now as she used to be before Tom married her, and so puts in the
thin end of a wedge that blasts the happiness of her future life.

What strong language, isn't it?  Betsy does not make her hair so smooth
as she used to, and so puts in the thin end of a wedge that blasts the
happiness of her future life.  Strong words, sweeping words, but true as
any that were ever written, for that simple act of neglect, that wanting
of pride in her appearance and innocent coquetry to please her husband,
is deadly, ruinous, to love and esteem, and altogether a something that
should be shuddered at by every woman in England.

The unbrushed hair leads to other little acts of neglect which creep in
slowly, but so surely; shoes get down at heel, dresses torn and
unhooked, and then the disorder slowly spreads to the children, then to
the furniture, and so on, step by step, till Tom stands leaning against
the wall looking upon the wreck before him, and wondering how it is
possible that the slovenly, half-dirty woman before him can have grown
out of that smart, bright-eyed servant lass he once wed.

But there it is--there's the fact before him; that's Betsy sure enough--
at least that's the present Betsy, not the Betsy of old--and, somehow or
another, Tom puts his hands in his pockets, sighs very deeply, and then
goes out and loiters about the streets.

"Just arf a pint, Tom," says a mate he meets, whose wife is suffering
from the same disease; and Tom says he will, and they go in where
there's a clean sanded floor, no noisy children, a bright fire, and some
dressed up and doctored decoction sold to the poor fellows as beer.

Next time it's Tom says to the other--"Just arf a pint, Sam;" and Sam
says he will.  But the mischief is they don't have "arf a pint," but a
good many half-pints; and at last every Saturday night there's an ugly
score up that gets paid out of the wages before any money goes home;
while Betsy says Tom has got to be so fond of the public-house that he
never sits at home now, while the money he spends is shameful.

"Bet, Bet, Bet--and whose fault is it?"

"Not mine, I'm sure," says Betsy in a very shrill voice, as she bridles
up.

"Wrong, Betsy; for it is your fault, and yours alone."

"There," cries Betsy; "the cruel injustice of the thing!"  And then she
would go on for nearly half-an-hour, and tell all the neighbours what we
have said.  But we must stop her.  So, go to, Betsy, thou wife of the
British working man, for in hundreds, nay, thousands of cases, it is
your fault, and yours alone; and, where it is not, I say, may the great
God help and pity you! for yours is indeed a pitiful case.

Come, now, listen to a few words, and don't frown.  There's the trace as
yet of that bonny face that won poor Tom.  He'll come back cross and
surly to-night.  Never mind: try and bring back that same old smile that
used to greet him.  Smooth that tangled hair and drive some of the
wrinkles out of your forehead--all will not go; make the best of the
common cotton dress--in short, as of old, "clean yourself" of an
afternoon; and, if you've a trace, a spark of love for your husband and
yourself, hide away and stuff into a corner--under the bed--anywhere--
that household demon, the wash-tub or pan; while, as to the rubbed-out
clothes, bundle them up anywhere till he is out of sight again.  Think
of the old times, and start with new rules.  It will be hard work, but
you will reap such a smiling, God-blessed harvest that tears of
thanksgiving will some day come to your eyes, and you will weep and
bless the change.  You have children; well, thank God for them.  You
were a child once yourself; you are a child now in the hands of a great
and patient Father who bears with your complaining.  Well; those
children; they are dirty and noisy, but there are cures--simple remedies
for both evils.  If their precious little fasts are only broken on bread
and treacle, let them be broken at regular hours decently and in order,
and don't have them crumbling the sticky bread all over the floor,
running about the room, or up and down the stairs, or in the street.
Get them to bed at regular times, and manage them kindly, firmly; and
don't snarl and strike one day, and spoil and indulge the next.  Make
the best of your home, however beggarly; but, in spite of all, in your
efforts to have it clean, don't let Tom see you cleaning.

Now, don't think after years of neglect, that because you have now made
no end of improvement all is going to be as it used.  Don't think it.
You let in the thin end of the wedge over that stray hair, and things
have gone gradually wrong.  Just so: and you must by slow, painful
degrees, get that wedge gradually worked back a little bit and a little
bit, while all your patience and perseverance will be so sorely tried,
that in sheer despair you'll often say, "There: it's of no use!"  But it
is of use, and of the greatest of use, and even though he may not show
it, Tom can see the difference and feel those household spirits tugging
at his heart-strings, and saying, when at public-house, "Come away!" in
tones that he finds it hard to resist.  Brutal men there are in plenty,
we know, but, God be thanked for it! how many of our men have the heart
in the right place, and you women of England can touch it if you will.

Say your home, through long neglect, has become bare and beggarly.
Never mind; make the best of it.  It's wonderful what a ha'porth of
hearthstone, a ha'porth of blacklead, and a good heart will do.  And
that isn't all, you foolish woman; for there's a bright and glorious
light that can shine out of a loving woman's face and make the humblest
home a palace with its happy radiance.  Say your room is bare.  What
then?  Does Tom go to a well-furnished place to spend his money?  No;
but to a room of hard, bare forms and settles, and common tables sticky
and gum-ringed, while the floor, well sanded, grits beneath his feet.
Go to, Betsy, never mind the bareness, for you have a glorifying sun
within you, whose radiance can brighten the roughest, thorniest way.

Look out here at this bare court, dull, dingy, filthy, frowsy, misery
stricken.  The sun comes from behind yon cloud, and lo! the place is
altered so that even your very heart leaps at the change, and your next
breath is a sigh of pleasure.  And have you not for years been shrouding
your face in clouds and keeping them lingering about your home?
Thousands of you have: take heart, and let the sun appear everywhere
that Tom will cast his eye.  Why, the reflection shall so gladden your
own spirit that it shall leap for joy, while you know within yourself
that you have done your duty.

Young wives, beware--take heed of the first stray hair and jealously
prison it again, for by that single frail filament perhaps hangs yours,
your husband's, your children's future welfare; so never let Tom be less
proud of you than in the days of old.

What is a wife?  The prop or stay of a man, the balance that shall
steady him through life, and make him--the weaker vessel--give forth
when struck a sonorous, honest, clear tone.  _He_ is the weaker vessel,
and yours are the hands to hold him fast.

But it cannot always be so, for in spite of all a loving heart can do
there are brutes--we won't call them men--we won't own them as belonging
to our ranks, but drum them out--brutes, before whom the jewel of a true
wife's love is as the pearl cast before swine.  But, there; leave we
them to their wallow, for it is defiling paper to quote their evil ways.

What is a wife?  A burden? a care?  Oh no, she is what we choose to make
her: a constant spring of bright refreshing water, ready for us at all
times during our journey through life--a confidant--one we can turn to
for help when stricken down by some disease, or the wounds met with in
the battle of life, ready to smooth our pillow, and cool the weary,
aching head.  There; when looking upon some of the poor, dejected,
neglected, half-forsaken women we see around, it is enough to make a
man's heart swell with indignation and scorn for those who have cast
aside so great a treasure, and made of it a slave.

There are faults enough on both sides, but many a happy home, many a
simple domestic hearth, has been opened out or swept and garnished ready
for the reception of a demon of discord, whose web once spun over the
place, can perhaps never be torn away.  But turn we again to the hopeful
side of the question.  Let the sun of your love shine forth, oh woman,
brightly upon your home, however bare, and fight out the good fight with
undying faith.  And young wife, you of a few days, weeks, months,
remember the first stray hair.



CHAPTER TWENTY SIX.

A PIECE OF ASSURANCE.

Being only a quiet, country-bumpkin sort of personage, it seems but
reasonable that I should ask what can there be in me that people should
take such intense interest in my life being insured.  If such eagerness
were shown by, say one's wife, or any very near relative, one might turn
suspicious, and fancy they had leanings towards the tea-spoons,
sugar-tongs, and silver watch, and any other personal property that,
like Captain Cuttle, one might feel disposed to make over "jintly" in
some other direction.  Consequently, one would be afterwards on the
look-out for modern Borgiaism, and take homoeopathic doses of Veratria,
Brucine, etc, etc, by way of antidote for any unpleasant symptoms likely
to manifest themselves in the system.  But then it is not from near
relatives that such earnestness proceeds, but from utter strangers.  It
is hard to say how many attempts I have had made upon my life
insurance--I will not use the word assurance, though it exists to a
dreadful extent in the myrmidons of the pushing offices--at home,
abroad, in the retirement of one's study, in the lecture-hall of a town,
always the same.

Fancy being inveigled into attending a lecture, and sitting for an hour
and a half while a huge, big-whiskered man verbally attacks you, seizes
you with his eye, metaphorically hooks you with his finger, and then
holds you up to the scorn of the assembled hundreds, while he reproaches
you for your neglect of the dear ones at home; calls up horrors to make
you nervous; relates anecdotes full of widows in shabby mourning; ragged
children and hard-hearted landlords; cold relations, bitter sufferings,
and misery unspeakable; all of which troubles, calamities, and cares,
will be sure to fall upon those you leave behind, if you do not
immediately insure in the Certain Dissolution and Inevitable Collapse
Assurance Company, world-famed for its prompt and liberal settlement,
and the grand bonuses it gives to its supporters.

I have nerves, and consequently did not want to know exactly how many
people leave this world per cent, per annum.  I dislike statistics of
every kind, and never felt disposed to serve tables since I was kept in
at school to learn them.  I did not want to be sent home to dream of a
dreadful dance of death funereally performed by undertakers' men in
scarfs, with brass-tipped staves and bunches of black ostrich-plumes in
their hands.  We do certainly read of people who prepare their own
mausoleums, and who, doubtless, take great comfort and delight in the
contemplation of their future earthly abode; but to a man without any
such proclivities this style of lecture--this metaphorical holding of
one's head by force over the big black pit, was jarring and dreadfully
discordant in its effect upon the resonant strings of the human
instrument.

I have very strange ways and ideas of my own, and have no hesitation in
saying that I like to do as I please, and as seems me best.  If what
seems to me best is wrong, of course I do not own to it.  Who does? and
if I prefer insuring my furniture and house to my life, and this system
is wrong, I'm not going to be convinced of its wrongness by a tall,
gentlemanly-looking man who wishes to see me on particular business, and
whom I have shown into the room I call my study, but which should be
termed workshop.

Now, just at the time of the said tall, gentlemanly man's arrival, I am
in the agony of composition; I have written nearly half of a paper for a
magazine, one which the editor will be as sure to reject as I in my then
state of inflation think he will hug it to his breast as a gem.  I am
laboriously climbing the climax, and find the ascent so slippery, and
the glides back so frequent, that the question arises in one's breast
whether, like the Irish schoolboy, it would not be better to try
backwards.  I have just come to where the awe-stricken Count exclaims--

"Please sir, you're wanted," says Mary, opening the door upon her
repeated knocks gaining no attention; and then, after an angry parley, I
am caught--regularly limed, trapped, netted by the words "particular
business."

A tall gentlemanly man wanting to see me on particular business.  What
can it be?  Perhaps it is to edit _The Times_; perhaps to send Dr
Russell home, after taking his pencil and note-book out of his
war-correspondent hands; or maybe to put out the GAS of the _Daily
Telegraph_.  Is it to elevate the _Standard_, distribute the _Daily
News_, act as astronomer-royal to the _Morning_ and _Evening Stars_, to
roll the _Globe_, or be its _Atlas_, take the spots from the face of the
_Sun_, blow the great trumpet of the _Morning Herald_, literary
field-marshal in some review, rebuild some damaged or exploded magazine?
What can the business be?  Not stage business, certainly, for that is
not my branch.  Law? perhaps so.  A legacy--large, of course, or one of
the principals would not have come down instead of writing.  It must be
so: I am next of kin to somebody, and I shall buy _that_ estate after
all.

Enter tall gentlemanly man upon his particular business of a private
nature; and then, being a quiet, retiring person, to whom it is painful
to speak rudely or without that glaze which is commonly called
politeness, I suffer a severe cross-examination as to age, wife's ditto,
number of children, and so on.  I am told of the uncertainty of life--
the liability of the thread to snap, without the aid of the scissors of
Atropos--how strengthening the knowledge of having made provision for my
ewe and lambs would be if I were ill; how small the amount would be; how
large a bonus would be added if I assured at once; how mine would be
sure to be a first-class life--he had not seen the phials and pill-boxes
in the bedroom cupboard--how nothing should be put off until to-morrow
which could be done to-day, which I already knew; how a friend of his
had written twelve reasons why people should assure, which reasons he
kindly showed to me; and told me an abundance of things which he said I
ought to know.  He had answer pat for every possible or impossible
objection that I could make, having thoroughly crammed himself for his
task; and he knocked me down, bowled me over, got me up in corners, over
the ropes, in Chancery, fell upon me heavily; in fact, as the professors
of the "noble art" would say--the noble art of self-defence and offence
to the world--had it all his own way.

I had no idea what a poor debater I was, or that I could be so severely
handled.  My ignorance was surprising; and I should have been melancholy
afterwards instead of angry, if I had not consoled myself with the idea
that I was not in training for a life assurance fight.

I recalled the answer made by a friend to a strong appeal from a class
office, and that was, that he was neither a medical nor a general, and
therefore not eligible; at the same time holding the door open for his
visitor's exit.  But then I did not feel myself equal to such a task,
and however importunate and troublesome a visitor might be, I somehow
felt constrained to treat him in a gentlemanly manner.  I tried all the
gentle hints I could, and then used more forcible ones; but the
gentlemanly man seemed cased in armour of proof, from which my feeble
shafts glanced and went anywhere; while, whenever he saw that I was
about to make a fresh attack, he was at me like Mr Branestrong, QC, and
beat down my guard in a moment.  It took a long time to eradicate the
bland, but it went at last, and a faint flush seemed to make its way
into my face, while to proceed to extremities, there was a peculiar
nervous twitching in one toe, originating in its debility caused by a
table once falling upon it, but now the twitches seemed of a growing or
expanding nature, and as if they were struggling hard to become kicks.
It was pain unutterable, especially when the moral law asserted its
rights, and an aspect of suavity was ruled by reason to be the order of
the day--if allied with firmness.

"If allied with firmness."  Ah! but there was the rub, for firmness had
turned craven and vanished at the first appearance of my visitor.

"No; I would rather not assure then; I would think it over; I would make
up my mind shortly; I felt undecided as to the office I should choose,"
were my replies, _et hoc genus omne_; but all was of no avail, and at
last I acknowledged to myself that I could not hold my own, and must
speak very strongly to get rid of my unwelcome friend, who solved my
problem himself by asking whether I admired poetry.

Presuming that this was to change the conversation, preparatory to
taking his leave, I replied, "Yes."

"Then he would read me a short poem on the subject in question," and
drawing from his pocket a piece of paper, he began in a most forced
declamatory style to read some doggerel concerning a gentleman who was
taken to heaven, but who left a wife and seven--rhyme to heaven--and
whose affairs would have been most unsatisfactory if he had not assured
his life.

But my friend did not finish, being apparently startled by some look or
movement upon my part, which caused him to hurriedly say "Good morning,"
and to promise to call again, as I seemed busy.

Perhaps he may call again; but he will have to call again, and again,
and again, and very loudly too, before he gets in to talk upon
particular business.

Now, it may seem strange that after this I should express great
admiration for the system of assurance; but I do admire it, and consider
it the duty of every poor man to try and make some provision for the
future of those he may leave behind.  But one cannot help feeling
suspicious of offices that are in the habit of forcing themselves so
unpleasantly upon your notice, and sinking their professional
respectability in the dodges and advertising and canvassing tricks of
the cheap "to be continued in monthly parts" book-hawker, or the broken
down tradesman, who leaves goods for your inspection.  One has learned
to look upon the quiet, flowing stream as the deepest and safest to bear
the bark; for the rough, bubbling water speaks of shoals, rocks, and
quicksands, with perchance "snags and sawyers," ready to pierce the
frail bottom.

Once more alone, I referred to the circular left upon my table, where
beneath my age and the sum per cent, that I should have to pay, was a
broad pencil-mark, emanating from the eminently gentlemanly gold
pencil-case of my visitor.  But in spite of unheard-of advantages,
liberal treatment, large bonus distribution every five years, with a
great deal more duly set forth in the paper, I shall not assure in that
office, for I made my mind up then in the half-hour of anger, when I
could not get the Count to exclaim anything, although I tried so hard.
He was awe-stricken, certainly; but as I had painted him, he would keep
changing into a gentlemanly man, charged with life assurance principles.
So I read what I had written, saw the error of my ways, and knowing too
well that a certain conductor would reject it after the first page, I
sighed, tore off a portion, and used it to illumine a cigar; and then
took for my hero the morning's visitor--writing this paper, which I
trust may have a better fate.



CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN.

THE DECLINE OF THE DRAMA.

'Tain't no use, sir; times is altered and the people too.  What with yer
railways, and telegraphs, and steam, and penny noosepapers, people knows
too much by half, and it's about all dickey with our profession.  People
won't stop and look: they thinks it's beneath 'em; and 'tain't no good
to get a good pitch, for the coppers won't come in nohow.  Why what's
innocenter or moraller than a Punch and Judy?  "Nothing," says you, and
of course there ain't.  Isn't it the showing up of how wice is punished
and wirtue triumphant in a pleasant and instructive manner.  Ov course
it is.  But no, it won't do now.  Punches is wore out; and so's
Fantysheenys and tumbling; for people's always wanting a something noo,
just as if anything ought to be noo 'cept togs and tommy.  Ain't old
things the best all the world over?  You won't have noo paintings, nor
noo wine, and you allus thinks most o' old books and old fiddles; so
what do you want with a noo sort o' Punch?

Here I am a-sitting up in the old spot; there's the theayter in the
back-yard, with the green baize and the front up here on account o' the
rain.  There you are you see, turn him round.  There's a given up to the
calls o' the time.  "Temple of Arts" you see on the top, in a ribbon,
with Punch holdin' on wun side and comical Joey holding on t'other.
There's the strap and box, if you'll open it, and there's the pipes on
the chimbly-piece.  There's everything complete but the drum, and that
we was obliged to lend to the 'Lastic Brothers, for theirs is lent,
uncle you know, and Jem Brown, one on 'em, says he lost the ticket,
though it looks werry suspicious.

But, now, just open that box, and lay 'em out one at a time on the
table, and you'll just see as it ain't our fault as we don't get on.
An' take that ere fust.  'Tain't no business there, but it's got atop
somehow.  That's the gallus that is, and I allus would have as galluses
ought to be twiste as big, but Bill Bowke, my pardner, he says as it's
right enough, and so I wouldn't alter.  Now there you are!  Look at
that, now!  There's a Punch!  Why, it's enough to bring tears in yer
eyes to see how public taste's fell off.  There was four coats o' paint
put on him, besides the touchins up and finishins, and at a time, too,
when browns were that scarce it was dreadful.  There, pull 'em out, sir;
I ain't ashamed o' the set, and hard-up as I am at this werry moment, I
wouldn't take two pound for 'em.  There, now.  Pull 'em out.  That's
Joe, and he's got his legs somehow in the beadle's pocket.  Quite
nat'ral, ain't it? just as if he was a rum 'un 'stead of only being a
doll, you know.  That's the kid as you've dropped.  That ain't much
account, that ain't; for you see babies never does have any 'spression
on their faces, and anything does to be chucked outer window; and the
crowd often treads on it, bless you.  There's a Judy, too; only wants a
new frill a-tacking on her head for a cap, and she's about the best on
the boards, I'll bet.  You see I cared 'em myself, and give the whole of
my mind to it, so as the faces might look nat'ral and taking.  Mind his
wig, sir.  Ah! that wants a bit o' glue, that does, and a touch o' black
paint.  You see that's the furrin gentleman as says nothin' but
"Shallabala," and a good deal o' the back of his head's knocked off.
There you are, you see, bright colours, good wigs, and nicely dressed.
That's the ghost.  Looks thin? well, in course, sperrets ain't 'sposed
to be fat.  Head shrunk?  Well, 'nuff to make it.  That's Jack Ketch;
and that's the coffin; and that's the devil.  We don't allus bring him
out, and keeps the ghost in the box sometimes, according to the company
as we gets in.  Out in the streets the people likes to see it all; not
as they often do, for we generally gets about half through, and then
drops it, pretending we can't get coppers enough to play it out, when
the real thing is as the people's sucked dry, and won't tip any more, or
we'd keep it up; but in the squares and gentlemen's gardings it ain't
considered right for the children, so we gives the play in a mutilated
form, don't you see.

Now that's the lot, don't you see, sir, and if you wouldn't mind putting
the box on this chair by the bedside, and shoving the table up close,
I'll put 'em all back careful myself, for lying sick here one don't get
much amusement.  Ain't got even Toby here, which being a dawg warn't
much company, yet he was some, though his name warn't Toby but Spice.
Nice dawg he was, though any training warn't no good; he was a free
child o' natur, and when his time came for the play he would bite the
wrong noses and at the wrong times.  The wust of it was too, that he
would bolt, I don't mean swaller, but go a-running off arter other
dawgs, and getting his frill torn as bad as his ears, and I never did
see a raggeder pair o' ears than he had nowheres--torn amost to ribbons
they was.  We lost him at last, though I never knowed how, but a
'spicion crossed my mind one day when Bill my pardner was eating a small
German, and it was close by the factory as we missed him; and though
Bill said I was a duffer and spoilt his dinner, I allus stuck to it, and
allus will, as there was the smell of Spice in that ere sassage.

There you are, yer see sir, all packed clost and neat, and as I said
afore I wouldn't take two pounds for 'em, bad as I am inside and out.
Trade's bad, profession's bad, and I'm bad; but bless yer heart we shall
have a revival yet, and when the drum comes back, and I get wind enough
again to do the business, we shall go ahead like all that.

There if I ain't boxed all the figgers up, and left the coffin out.
Good job my old woman ain't here, or she'd say it was a sign or
something o' that sort, and try to make one uncomfortable; but there you
are, you see, sir, all snug now, and it does seem rather a low spiriting
thing to have in a house, sir, and putting aside Punch and Judy stuff,
the smaller they are the less you like it.

Going, sir? well, you'll come again, I hope, and if I _do_ get better,
why, I'll go through the lot in front of your house, if you let me have
your card.

Beg pardon, sir, thought you were going; not as I wants you to, for
company's werry pleasant when you're stretched on your back and can't
help yourself.  Since I've been a-lying here I've been reckoning things
up, and I've come to the conclusion as the world's got too full.  People
lives too fast, and do what you will, puff and blow and race after 'em,
ten to one you gets beat.  Everything wants to be noo and superior, says
the people, and nothing old goes down.  Look at them happy times, when
one could take the missus in the barrer with a sackful o' cokynuts and
pincushions, and them apples and lemons as the more you opened the more
come out; then there'd be the sticks, and a tin kettle, and just a few
odds and ends, and all drawn by the donkey; when off we'd go down to
some country fair or the races; dig the holes or have bags of earth,
stick up the things--cokynuts or cushions; the wife sees to the fire and
kittle, and you shouts out--leastways, I don't mean you, I mean me, you
know--shouts out, "Three throws a penny," when the chuckle-headed
bumpkins would go on throwing away like winkin' till they knocked
something down, and then go off all on the smile to think how clever
they'd been.  But now they must have their Aunt Sallys and stuff, and
country fairs has all gone to the bow-wows.

If I gets better I'm a-goin' to turn Punch from a mellowdramy into a
opera--make 'em sing everything, you know.  I'd have tried it on afore
only my mate gets so orrid short-winded with the pipes, and often when
you're a-expectin' the high notes of a toone he drops it off altogether,
and fills in with larrups of the drum, and that wouldn't do you know in
the sollum parts.

Them music-halls has done us as much harm as any-think, and pretty
places they is; why if it warn't for the pretty toons as they fits on
the songs, nobody wouldn't stop to hear the rubbidge as is let off.
Punch _is_ stoopid sometimes, we know, but then look at the moral.  And
there ain't no moral at all in music-hall songs.

Sometimes I think as I shall have to knock off the national drammy in
consequence of want of funds, for you know times may turn so hard that I
shall have to sell all off, and the drum mayn't come back, though I was
thinking one time of me and pardner taking a hinstrument each and
practisin' up some good dooets--me taking the drum and him the pipes,
allus allowing, of course, as the drum do come back.  But then you see
as his short-windedness would be agen us, and it wouldn't do to be allus
drowning the high parts with so much leathering.

Heigho, sir.  It makes me sigh to lie here so long waiting to get well,
till in the dusky evening time, when the gas lamps are shining up and
the stars are peeping down, one gets thinking that it's time to think of
that little thing as I left out of the box; and then lying all alone one
seems to have all the long years fall away from one, and get back into
the old, old times, and often I have been fishing, and wandering, and
bird's-nesting again all over and over as it used to be.  I see it all
so plainly, and then get calling up all the old mates I had, and
reckoning 'em up, and one's out in Indy, and another was killed in the
Crimee, and another's in Australy for poaching, and among the whole lot
I only knows one now, and that's me--what there is left.  I don't talk
like this before the old woman, but I think so much of our old
churchyard, and the green graves, and yew trees; and somehow as I
remember the old sunny corners and green spots, I fancy as I should like
to go to sleep there far away from these courts and alleys.  It seems
like dying here, and being hurried away afterwards, with every one glad
to get rid of you; but down in the old quiet parts it seems to me like
watching the sun go down behind the hill, when the still, quiet evening
comes on so soft and pleasant, and then you grow tired and worn-out and
lie down to rest, taking a long, long sleep under the bright green turf.

But there, I ain't in the country, I'm here in the thick of London,
where I came up to seek my fortun, and never looked in the right place.
We poor folks are like the children playing at "Hot boiled beans and
werry good butter," and though while you're hunting for what's hid, you
may get werry near sometimes, getting warmer and hotter till you're
burning, yet somehow it isn't often that one finds.  Some does, but
there's werry few of 'em, and in the great scramble when one gets hold
of anything it's a chansh if it ain't snatched out of your hand.

But there, I shan't give up, for there's nothing like a bit o' pluck to
carry you through your troubles, and I'm a-going to scheme a noo sorter
public Shakespearian dramatic entertainment, one as will be patronised
by all the nobility and gentry, when in consequence of the unparalleled
success, we shall stop all the press orders and free list, and come out
arterwards with a new drum, and get presented with a set o'
silver-mounted pipes by a grateful nation.  Leastwise I mean it to be a
success if I can, but if it don't turn out all right, through me and my
pardner being so touched in the wind, Bill's a-going to get up a
subscription to buy a barrel-orgin and a four-wheel thing as 'll take us
both--me and the orgin; when I shall sit there with a tin plate to take
the coppers, and Bill will grind away like that Italian chap as drew
round the gentleman wot had been operated on.  I don't want to come down
to that, though, for one can't help 'sociating barrel-orgins with
monkeys, and pitying the poor little chattering beggars as is chained up
to an eight-toon box, played slow, as if it was wrong in its inside.
And that makes me rather shrink a bit from it, for thinking as I might
get tired of the organ-grinder.

Steps, steps, steps.  Here's the missus coming, and there'll be the
physic to take, and then, after a bit of a nap, I mean to sit up and put
my theaytrical company to rights.



CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT.

IN THE HOOGHLY.

You people here in England don't know what a river is; the Thames and
Severn are only ditches, while the Humber is precious little better than
a creek of the sea.  Just think of such rivers as the Amazon, and the
Plate, and the Mississippi, where you can sail up miles, and miles, and
miles, and on the two first can't make out the shore on either side;
while after a flood down comes little islands covered with trees washed
out of the banks, some with pretty little snakes on 'em twenty feet
long, p'raps, while on every flat bit of shore you see the alligators
a-lying by wholesale.  Then there's them big African rivers with the
alligator's first cousins--crockydiles, you know, same as there is up in
that big river in Indy--the Ganges, as I've sailed up right through the
Sunderbunds, covered in some places with jungle, where the great striped
tigers lie, and as one o' my poor mates used to say, it's dangerous to
be safe.

I've been up to Calcutta, I have, after sailing right across the roaring
main to Adelaide, and dropping our cargo.  My; how hot it is going up
that river, a regular hot stifly sort of heat, as seems to get hold of
you and say, "Hold hard, my boy, you can't work here!" and we never used
to do any more than we could help.  Sailing up, day after day, we got
anchored at last up at the grand place, and I don't know which you takes
most notice of, the grandness or the misery, for there's a wonderful
sight of both.

"What's that?"  I says to Bob Davies, as we was a-leaning over the side,
looking at the native boats floating here and there, and seeing how the
great muddy stream flowed swiftly down.

"That?" says Bob.  "Ah, you'll see lots of that sort of thing about.
That's a corpus, that is, and that's how they buries 'em here.  Waits
till a poor fellow's werry sick, and then takes and puts him at low tide
on the bottom of the steps of the landing-places,--ghauts they calls
'em, and then, if he's got strength enough in him, he crawls away, but
if he ain't, why the tide carries him off, and then he goes washing up
and down the river till Dicky Todd lays hold on him, and pulls him under
for his next meal."

"Who's Dicky Todd?"  I says.

"Why," says Bob, a-chuckling, "there he goes, that's him," and then he
stood a-pinting out into the stream where there was what seemed to me to
be a bit of rough bark of a tree floating slowly down towards the sea.

"Why, that's a tree, I says, ain't it?"

"Ho! ho! ho! what ignorance," says Bob, "that's a crorkodile, or a
haligator, if you likes to call it so.  Dicky Todd, that is, as don't
like his meals fresh, but keeps his game till it gets high, and then
enjoys himself with a feast."

'Nough to make one shudder that was, but it was true enough, for, before
the body I had seen floating down had gone much further, there was a bit
of a swirl in the water, and both crocodile and body disappeared, while
my face felt as if it was turning white, and I knew I felt sick.

We chaps didn't work very hard though, for there were plenty of black
fellows there, ready to do anything for you, and lots of 'em were
employed lading the ship, while we were busy touching her up, bending on
new sheets, here and there mending sails, painting and scraping, and
making right a spar or two that had sprung, for you know there's always
something amiss after a long voyage, and it's no short distance from
Liverpool to Port Adelaide, and then up to Calcutta.  Rum chaps some of
those blacks was, not werry decent in their ideas of dress, and all
seeming to suffer from a famine in stockings.  Precious particular too
about what they call their caste, which you know is a complaint as
exists in the old country too.  Why, in our old village it was werry
bad, and was like this you know: the squire's people wouldn't mix with
the doctor's, and the doctor's wouldn't visit the maltster's, and the
maltster's didn't know the people at the shop, who didn't call on the
clerk's wife, who said her gal shouldn't go to tea at Brown's, who said
Smith's folks was low; and so on.  That's caste--that is, and they has
it werry bad out in Indy.  Mussulmans some on 'em, and Brahmins, and all
sorts, and lots on 'em you'll meet with a bit o' paint on their
forehead, to show what caste they belong to, I s'pose, while they're as
proud as Lucifer.

One old chap used to come to work and bring his gang with him to go on
with the lading, and one day when he came some of our fellows began to
chaff him, for he'd got his head shaved, and what for do you think, but
because he was in mourning, and had put away his wife?  Not as that
seemed to me anything to go in mourning for, since some of our chaps
would have been a wonderful deal better without their wives as they left
behind in Liverpool.  But this chap had divorced his wife because she
had let the child die, so he said, and there was the poor woman in
double trouble.

"S'pose she couldn't help the little 'un going," says Bob to him.

"Ah! yes, Sahib," says this old chap, Jamsy Jam, as he called himself,
"oh yes, Sahib, she let child die--mosh trouble."  But I'm blest if I
don't think it was him wanted to get rid of his wife, and so made this
an excuse.

Bob Davis and me one day stood looking over the side o' the ship, same
as we often did, and he says to me, he says:--

"Last time as I was here, we was lying a hundred yards further up the
stream, and one day when I was in the bows, I could see something
hitched on to the chain as moored us to the buoy, and if it wasn't one
of them poor fellows as had come down with the stream from perhaps
hundreds of miles up the country, and there wasn't one of our chaps as
would get him off, so it came to my share to do it, and I undertook it
out of a bit of bounce because the others wouldn't, for I felt proper
scared and frightened over it.  They often gets hitched in the mooring
chains of ships, and p'raps we shall come in for one before we goes."

About an hour after I goes and looks down at the chain, when if I didn't
turn all shivering, for there was something dusky hitched on sure
enough, and I ran and called Bob Davis up to have a look, and see if it
wasn't what he'd been a talking about.

"So it is," he says; and he went and told the captain and mate, and they
came and had a look, when the dinghy was ordered down, and Bob and me in
her, to set the body free.

Now I didn't like the job a bit, and I pulled a long face at Bob, just
same time as he was pulling a long face at me; but our captain was a man
who would stand no nonsense, so we were soon down in the boat, and I put
her along the side, while Bob got hold of the boat-hook, and reached out
at the body.

But it warn't a body of a poor black at all, but a god as was dressed
up, and had been sent sailing down from one of their grand feasts
somewhere up the river, one of those set-outs where there's so much
dancing and beating of tom-toms and singing in their benighted,
un-Christian-like, dreary fashion, all Ea-la-ba-sha-la-ma-ca-la-fa; for
it sounds like nothing else to a sailor chap as don't understand
Hindostanee.

Well, we brings this great idol on board, and the captain has it dried
and stood on deck; but I'm blest if the black chaps didn't all turn
huffy about it, and kicked up a shine, and then took and went off,
leaving all their work.  They came back, though, next morning reg'lar as
could be, and I says to Bob Davis, "Bob," I says, "that's just for all
the world like coves at home: cuts off in a passion, and then comes back
when they're cool again."

"Ah," says Bob, with a bit of a chuckle; "p'raps it is, but not quite;
for they was afraid to work with one o' their gods a-looking at 'em."

"Then what made 'em come back now?"  I say.

"Because he's gone again bobbing about among the Dicky Todds and
corpuses; and it's my belief," he says, "that our watch didn't keep much
of a look-out, or they'd have seen some of the swarthy beggars come
aboard and heave it overboard, for it's gone sure enough."

Gone it was, and no mistake; and I suppose Bob must have been right;
and, though the cap went on a good 'un about losing his curiosity, it
warn't no good at all.

"Some of you knows something of it," says the cap to old Jam, as we
called him for short.

"Captain Sahib no got god of his own at home that he want black
fellow's," says old Jam very grandly, but making a great salaam a'most
down to the deck.

But the cap only grumbled out something, and went off, for he didn't
want to offend the men.

One day we had a sad upset--one as gave our chaps the horrors, and made
them restless to get out of the place, and worse, for after that the men
were always looking out for the crocodiles, and bodies, and things that
came down the great stream, while now everything they saw floating, if
it was only a lump of rotten rushes or a bit of tree-trunk, got to be
called something horrid.  Then the chaps got tired of its being so hot,
and discontented at having not enough to do, I s'pose, for a ship's crew
never seems so happy as when the men are full swing an' at the work.

Well, it so happened that in two places the cap had had little swing
stages slung over the side for the men who were touching up the ship's
ribs with a new streak of paint; and there the chaps were dabbing away
very coolly as to the way they worked, but very hotly as to the weather,
for the sun comes down there a scorcher when there's no breeze on.  I
was very busy myself trying to find a cool place somewhere; and not
getting it, when the man over the bulwarks gives a hail, and I goes to
see what he wanted, which it was more paint, because he didn't want to
come up the side, and get it himself.  So I takes the pot from him, and
gets it half filled with colour, and goes back to the side all on the
dawdle-and-crawl system just like the other chaps on deck.

"Now then," I says, "lay hold;" but my gentleman didn't move, for there
he was, squatted down and smoking his pipe; when, finding it comforting,
he wouldn't move.

"I say," he says, looking up, "just see if them lashings is all right;
for, if I was to go down here, it's my idee as I shouldn't come up again
for the crockydiles, and I don't kear about giving up the number of my
mess jest yet; so look out."

"Well, lay hold of this pot," says I, reaching down to him as far as I
could.

"Wait a minute," he says, when he began to groan himself up, and next
moment he would have reached what I was holding to him, when I heard
something give, a sort of crack; then there was a shriek and a loud
splash, and I saw the poor fellow's horror-stricken face for an instant
as he disappeared beneath the water.

"Man overboard!"  I shouted, dropping the paint, and running to the rope
which held the dinghy; when sliding down I was in her in a moment, and
shoving along towards where the poor chap went down.  First I looked one
way, then another, and kept paddling about expecting that I should see
his head come up, while now at the sides half the crew were looking
over, for they had forgotten all about feeling tired or lazy in their
anxiety to be of use.

"There, look out," cried Bob Davis; "he'll come up there where that eddy
is, and then I watched there and leaned over the sides ready to catch
hold of the poor chap when he came up."

"Let her float down with the stream," shouted the captain, excitedly;
"he must come to the top directly," and so I let her float down;
kneeling there as I did, ready to snatch at anything which appeared.
The river was running down muddy and strong, so that you could see
nothing but the swirling about of the current, as it came rushing round
by the ships and boats moored there, and I began to think that the poor
fellow would soon be sucked under one of the big hulls, when it seemed
to me that there was more swirling and rushing about of the water than
usual, for my little boat began to rock a little and some bubbles of air
came rising up and floating atop of the water.

Here he is now, I thinks, getting hold of the boat-hook, and holding it
just a little in the water, when all at once I turned quite sick and
queer, for there was a great patchy stream of blood came up, and floated
on the surface, slowly spreading out, and floating down the stream, when
in a sort of mad fit I made a thrust down as far as I could reach with
the hook to bring something up, and sure enough I caught against
something, but the next moment there was a snatch and a jerk, and I had
to let go of the hook, to save being pulled overboard, when I clung
shuddering to the thwarts, and saw the long shaft disappear under water.

The chaps on board our ship roused me up, or I think I should have
turned quite dizzy, and rolled out of the boat; but now I jumped up, and
setting an oar out of the stern, paddled a little further down, trying
hard to make myself believe that the poor chap would come up again.  But
no, nothing more was seen of him but the bubbles on the top of the
water, and that horrid red patch which came directly after.

I paddled here and paddled there, trembling all over the whole time, but
it was of no use, and at last when I was some distance off, and they
began shouting for me, I put out both sculls, and rowed back, when mine
wasn't the only pale, sickly looking face aboard, for there were the men
talking in whispers, and the other chap that had been painting came off
of his stage, while if the captain had persisted in trying to get that
bit of painting finished, I believe the men would have all mutinied and
left the ship.  But he didn't, for though he couldn't have liked to see
the ship half done, he said nothing about it, for there was no one to
blame, since that poor lost man rigged up his own stage; and all the
rest of the time as we stopped there in the Hooghly--Ugly as we calls
it--the cap and the mate used to spend hours every day practising rifle
shooting at the crocodiles, as must have been the end of my poor
ship-mate.



CHAPTER TWENTY NINE.

A TALE OF THE GREAT PASSION.

In the good old times--the very good old times, before trade,
competition, and the spreading of knowledge, had upset and spoiled
everything--sending people off in a mad hurry, here, there, and
everywhere; by road, rail, and river; sea, sky, and last, but not least,
blown through tubes to their journey's end; in the good old times,
before people thought about Atlantic cables, or understood the meaning
of the words _cheap_ and _clear_, chivalry used to flourish throughout
our land: everybody who did not happen to have been born a vassal, serf,
or villein, was a knight, and used to wear a first-class suit of mail--
rather uncomfortable suits, by the way, that took no end of emery powder
and Bath brick to keep them clean; besides which they were terribly cold
in winter, and horribly hot in summer, and had the unpleasant propensity
of rubbing the skin off the corners of the person.  But then it all
appertained to knighthood, and it was very glorious to go pricking over
the plain as a gallant upon a Barclay and Perkins style of horse, and
shining like an ironmonger's shop on a market day; excepting such times
as it rained, when the lordly gallant would most probably ride rusty
while his waving plumes would hang streaky and straight.  But those were
the days.  Every man was his own lawyer then, and if any base varlet
offended his knighthood, he exclaimed--"Grammercy!"

"By my halidame," or something of that kind, and most probably ended by
having the aforesaid base varlet pitched neck and crop into the lowest
dungeon beneath the castle to amuse himself after the fashion of the
gentleman who stayed so many years in Chillon's dungeon, deep and old.
"Reading, Riting, and Rithmetic," were then of no account; for the
knights of old, when they had anything to do with a deed, made their
marks with their swords.

Well, in these good old times, when knights, troubadours, damsels in
distress, tourneys, tyrannical barons, and all those most romantic
accessories for keeping up the aforesaid good old times, flourished upon
our soil, there stood a goodly castle at Stanstead, of the same breed as
those at Bishop Stortford, and Saffron Walden, and a great many other
places that don't concern the thread of our story the slightest bit in
the world; and in this said flint and mortar, thick-walled,
uncomfortable building, where there was neither gas, glass, nor china,
dwelt one Sir Aylmer de Mountfitchett, a tremendous swell in his way,
one who conceived that he had only to look to conquer, like the Roman
barbarian he had once heard tell of as having visited this isle.  Now
Sir Aylmer had come in for his property early in life, from the fact of
his father, who was own brother to the celebrated Red Cross Knight, who
came home and put the warder into such a ferment, making him blow his
horn so loudly, and call till he was hoarse, at a time when a voice
lozenge, or a "haporth" of Spanish liquorice could not have been had for
love nor money--well! from the fact of his father having rubbed his head
so sharply against the edge of a pagan's scimitar that it--that is to
say, Sir Aylmer's father's head--fell off, and was lost, so that his
brother came home from the holy wars without him; and young Sir Aylmer
went into mourning by stepping into his father's shoes, and doing a bill
with the Jew of the neighbourhood--payable at sight, fifty per cent,
interest; and he took a third in cash, a third in pictures, and the
remainder in Bass's pale ale and best French kid gloves.

Now as soon as the young knight could have it all his own way, he had
the best suit of armour well rubbed up; the best horse in the stable
well rubbed down; put an extra quantity of bears' grease upon his hair--
the hair of his head, for the mirrors of those days were so imperfect
that he could not discover his beard; and lastly he sallied forth like a
true knight in search of adventure.

Now if I were to write the whole of the adventures of this gallant
knight, I should require the entire space of the _Times_ every day, and
have to keep on writing "to be continued in our next" until there was
enough to form a respectable library; but as either the reader or the
writer _might_ be fatigued, I content myself with relating the influence
that the great passion first had upon the gallant young knight.

There was one Geoffrey de Mandeville in those days; and a regular man
devil he was, but he had a redeeming feature in the shape of the
prettiest niece that ever set a number of thick-headed fellows breaking
lances, or knocking their iron-pot covered skulls together in a
tournament in her honour.  Her eyes were so bright that they gave young
Aylmer de Mountfitchett a _coup de lodestars_ and so turned his brain
that he went home and determined to make an end of himself.  But he did
not know how to do it; for, as he very reasonably said--it he cut his
head off with his sword, he would be making two ends to himself.  So he
tried running upon the point of his lance, but it was so blunt that it
hurt dreadfully; when all at once a bright thought struck him:--He would
take an antidote for his trouble, and follow the advice of his friend,
the Scotch knight, Sir Ben Nevis: he would take a hair of the dog that
bit him, by trying whether the eyes that wounded so sharply would not
cure.

That very night he took a mandoline--which was the kind of banjo popular
in those days,--and walked over to the castle at Stortford where the
damsel dwelt, and after trying very hard to tune his instrument in the
dark--not an easy task when a young man is nervous and keeps catching
hold of the wrong peg--he tried a song--a light thing, written by one
Alfrede de Tennyesone, beginning--"Come into ye garden, Maude."  Well,
the young man sang the song pretty well, considering that he was in one
key, and the mandoline in another; while he had no voice at all, and
several of the strings of the instrument were really and truly string;
so that altogether, though he struck the light guitar and its strings,
the effect was not striking, neither were the chords good.

He sang it once as he stood upon the edge of the moat, getting his feet
very wet.  He sang it twice as he stood there getting his clothes wet,
too, for the dew was very heavy.  He sang it three times and was
beginning to think that a flagon of Rhenish, or one of his bottles of
Bass would be very acceptable when--

The lattice was illumined--there was a slight noise, and the casement
was opened.  Aylmer's heart beat violently, and he was about to speak,
only he was tongue-tied; and, sinking upon his knees in the wet mud, and
so spoiling his trunk hose, he awaited the result--his hand
involuntarily breaking the silence that his tongue could not break:

"Tumple, tumple; tumple; tumple; turn, turn, turn," went the mandoline.

Then there was the sound of two bodies falling close by his side, and he
sought for them--the pale moon lending her light--and he found--

One of the clumsy coppers they used in those days for half-pence, and a
wedge of cold venison pasty, wrapped in a piece of _Bell's Life_.

Sir Aylmer de Mountfitchett then heard the casement closed, when from
the force of habit he spun the copper in the air, caught it, put it in
his pocket; opened the paper, smelt the pasty,--which by the way was not
sweet,--pitched it into the moat, and went home in dudgeon; which is the
ancient form for expressing that he went back to his castle saying all
the bad words that he had picked up through playing skittles and
billiards with the fast men of his day.

But the maiden did not always take Sir Aylmer for an Ethiopian
serenader, or a Christy's Minstrel; for at last, instead of throwing him
out coppers and wedges of pasty, she used to blow him kisses across the
moat.  But after a twelvemonth spent at that sort of fun, without
success, for not one of the kisses ever reached the mark, the lovers hit
upon a plan by which they might enjoy one another's society, and cease
wasting the salutes which they had been sending "out upon the night
winds" every evening as soon as it grew dusk.

It was a warm dark night in Autumn and there was high revelry in the
castle upon the mound, for Sir Geoffrey had been giving a rent dinner,
and according to custom, he had made himself slightly inebriated by
drinking sack--a celebrated old beverage famous for enveloping the
intellects.  The warders of the castle walls had watched whether it was
likely that the knight would come out again that night, and then gone to
sleep in the room by the portcullis.  The moon was not up, and all was
still but the croaking of the frogs in the moat, when Sir Aylmer crept
up to the edge, and putting his fingers in his mouth gave a long
whistle.  Directly after there was a slight cough above his head, and
the noise of something falling.

After a good deal of fumbling Sir Aylmer's hands came in contact with a
pair of scissors, to which was attached a thread.  All had been
previously arranged, and at a given signal the thread was drawn up
again, having with it, in addition to the scissors, a thin cord--then
followed a thick cord--then followed a rope--and then followed a rope
ladder--and, lastly, when the ladder was made tight, followed Sir Aylmer
de Mountfitchett.

"Hist," said the lady.

"Hist," said Sir Aylmer, as he climbed like a very Blondin, the rope
that would keep spinning round like a jack, till the young knight felt
that he should soon be done brown if it did not stop.

"Hist," said the lady again.

"Hist," said the knight, as he reached the window-sill.

"Hist," said the lady again to her panting lover, who felt rather sick
and giddy.

"How is the rope fastened?" said the knight.

"To the bed-post," said the lady modestly.

"Your hand a moment, fair dame," said the knight, trying to climb on the
window-sill.

"Oh! dear me, _No_!" said the lady, "I could not think of such a thing."

"But I can't stay here," said the knight, "this rope cuts like fury."

"Oh! but I could not think for a moment of admitting you," said the
lady, "But, hist! speak low, or the Lady Maude will hear."

"Eh? who?" said the knight.

"The Lady Maude," said the maiden again.

"And you then are?--"

"Her hand--"

What she would have said will never be known, for Sir Aylmer himself
said something so startling that the maiden, who had only twisted the
rope several times round the post, and retained the end in her hand,
suddenly let go.  There was a whistling of rope,--a loud scream,--a loud
splash,--a great deal of floundering,--and then Sir Aylmer de
Mountfitchett hastened home, this time also in dudgeon, and had to be
grueled and nose-tallowed for a violent cold which he had somehow
caught; while in the archives of the castle might at one time have been
seen the following curious manuscript written in a clerkly hand by one
Friar Malvoisey, for whom the good dame named therein used to wash.

  "Sir Aylmer Mountfitchett
  To Sarah Brown.
  Balance............1 merck 11 groates.
  Washing doublet and hose clean from ye black mud 111 groates."

There may be some sceptical people who will doubt the truth of this
legend; and to such, as the writer is unable to produce the ancient
manuscript, he says in the language of the good old times, "I crave your
mercy!"



CHAPTER THIRTY.

FOUND IN THE STREET.

Yes, all sorts, sir, and we takes the innercent and the guilty too
sometimes, no doubt on it.  Yer see we're men as generally has
everybody's ill word, and nobody ever has a good word for us unless
there's somebody as wants us, when it's "Oh, my good man, and ah, my
good man," and at other times they won't look at us.

I remember once taking a poor chap for stealing bread, and if there's
anything a poor fellow might be forgive it might be that.  Well, sir, as
I was a-sayin', I was on my beat one day, or more properly speaking, it
was evening, for it was just gettin' dusk, one November arternoon, and a
bitter cold, raw arternoon it was, with the smoky fog givin' yer the
chokes, and gettin' into yer eyes, and makin' yer feel all on edge like,
and as gritty as if yer was in a bed where someone had been a eatin' of
bread.  Folks was lighting up their shops, and I was a-growling to
myself and wishin' it was time to go off duty when I sees a crowd on in
front, and there in the middle of it was a floury baker, goin' on like
anything and shakin' away like any savage at a miserable-looking
hollow-faced chap in a wesket and trousers, and his bare arms all a
showin' through his ragged shirt.  He hadn't got no hat, and his skin
looked as blue and pinched as if he'd been frozen or just taken out of
the river.

"Well," I says, "what's up?"

"Take him into custody, p'leeceman," says the baker.

"No, no, no," says the crowd.  "Now, none of that," says I.

"Take him into custody, p'leeceman," says the baker; "he stole a
quartern loaf.  Comes into my shop a-beggin', and because I would not
give him anythin' he whips up a quartern loaf and bolts with it, but I
ran after him and ketched him."

Well, I looks at the baker and I looks at the man, and I thinks to
myself, "Here's a case."  But there was nothin' else for it, so I takes
the loaf under my arm, and gets hold of the poor shiverin' crittur, and
away we goes with a long train of boys and sech a follerin of us; but
what with the bad night and the long ways as we had to go, they soon all
drops off, and we goes along together, me and the poor chap, with only
the people a lookin' at us as we passed 'em.

"P'leeceman," says my prisoner all at once, and it was the first word he
had spoken.  "P'leeceman," he says, "are you a man?"

Well, yer see, sir, I didn't like my job that evenin', for it raly did
seem as if the poor chap took the bread because he was a starvin', and
he wasn't a common chap neither, and we knows pretty well what sort a
feller is by his looks, I can tell yer.  So when he says them words in
such an appealin' way like, I ain't werry soft, but I didn't like my job
half so much as I did afore.  However, it don't do for us to be soft, so
I says quite chuffy, as if I'd cut up rough--

"What d'yer mean?"  I says.  "Were you ever hungry--ever famishing?"

"Well," I says, "I can't say I ever was, but I've been precious dry."

"Ah!" he says, with a sigh as went right through me, for I could see
there was no sham in him, and then he hangs down his head and walks on
without sayin' a word.

He didn't say no more, so I thinks perhaps as he was hungry, and I says,
you may as well carry this here loaf, and if it is picked why it don't
much matter.

Lord, sir, it was a precious good job we weren't in a busy street, for
I'm blessed if he didn't ketch hold of my hand with both his and bust
out a cryin' just like a child.

"Hold up, old chap," I says, "I don't want to be rough with you.  Are
yer hungry?"

"It's those at home," he says, "those at home; but I can't help it, I'm
weak--weak--weak."

And I'm blessed if he wasn't, sir, so weak that he tottered in his walk,
and I could see there was no dodge in him, poor chap.  Jest then we
comes up to an "All hot" can, "Two or none for a penny," yer knows.
Beefsteaks and hot kidney; so I pulls up, makin' believe as I should
like one myself, and we has some half-a-dozen I think I bought, and
makes him have best part of 'em; but, Lord bless yer, he wouldn't touch
'em, but begs of me to take 'em to Number 99, King's Court.

"For God's sake," he says, "take 'em, and I'll bless yer."

"Now come," I says, "none o' that ere; you're in custody, you know, so
you'll jest eat them kidney or beefsteak pies, or whatsomever they is,
and then come along; and if so be as you wants half-a-dozen hot kidney,
or a few taters, or what not, took to number 99, King's Court, why I
knows the man as'll take 'em, so peg away."

To ha' seen him stare you might ha' thought he'd never had a good word
said to him in his life; and when he had had his stare out, if he didn't
lay hold o' them pies and eat 'em in a way as made one uncomfortable, it
seemed so un-Christian like and wolfish.

Well, sir, I never did like my job a takin' him, but now I hated myself,
and s'elp me, sir, if he'd ha' cut and run if I wouldn't ha' gone after
him down the wrong street.

When he'd done he looked as if another half-dozen would ha' been
welcome; but I know'd what was what, so I takes him into the first
public we passes and orders a pint o' dog's-nose, what we calls purl,
yer know, and then I does my half pull o' that, for I knows in his state
he couldn't stand much; and then we goes on towards the station; while
the stuff made him open his lips, and he begs on me to go as I had said,
and if I could, take half the loaf too.  For, says he--

"They're nearly starved."

"Who is?" says I.

"My wife and the little ones," he says.

"More shame for you to let 'em," says I.

"Man, man," says he, and he looks me so savage in the face that I
thought he meant to hit me.  "Man, man," he says, "I've tried all,
everything that a husband and father could do; I've fought for, prayed
for, begged for work; I've tramped the great city through day after day;
I've sought work till I've turned home heartsick and weary, to sell,
piece by piece, everything we could sell, till look at me," he says,
"look at me; who'd give me work?  Who'd believe me honest?  Who wouldn't
drive me away as a vagabond if I asked for work?  And what did I do
to-night?  I took what no man would give me--bread for my starving wife
and children, and now--God help them, for I can't!"

He'd been speaking as fierce as a lion at first, and now he broke down
all at wunst, and seemed as though he was a-goin' to bust out a crying
again; but he didn't.  And so we walks on, and I breaks the loaf in two
pieces, pulls it apart, yer know, sir, crummy way, and when the charge
was made, for I found the baker a-waitin' at the station, for he got
there first, I waited to see my prisoner into a cell, and afore he was
locked up, I shoves the half-loaf under his arm, and a great-coat as lay
over a bench as we went along.  Then off I goes arter the baker, who was
one o' your red-faced, chuffy little chaps, one o' them coves as has
sech a precious good opinion o' themselves.  He'd only jest got round
the corner when I hails him, and he stops short.

"Well, governor," I says, "what'll yer take to drink? give it a name."

"Oh," says he, with a bit of a sneer, "you mean what am I a-goin' to
stand?"

"No I don't," I says, "for I've jest had plenty."

"What d'yer mean?" sez he.

"Why, that there poor chap as we've jest locked up."

"Why, I never knowed you p'leecemen could come the soft like that," sez
he; "but what d'yer mean about `poor chap?'"

"Well, come in here," I says, "and I'll tell yer."

So we goes in, and as it was cold we has two fours o' gin hot, with
sugar, and as I was now up, I begins to tell him about what took place
comin' to the station, and I says as I was a-goin' to take something to
Number 99, King's Court, and see if all he'd said was true.

"Here," says baker to the barman, "fill these here glasses again,
Charles," and then turnin' to me, says he:--

"Governor, if I'd ha' known all this when that pore chap come in to my
shop to-day I'd ha' give him a dozen loaves; I'm hanged if I wouldn't."

Which was rather hot of him, yer know, sir, and I hope you'll excuse me
a-sayin' it, but them was his very words, and if he didn't look as
excited as if he didn't know what to do with hisself.

"Tip that glass off, p'leeceman," he says, "and let's be off."

"Well, good night," I says, "and if I was you, I don't think I should
press the charge agin him to-morrow."

"May I never rise another batch if I do," he says; "but come on."

"Well, once more good night," I says.

"Wait a bit," says he, "I'm goin' with you."

"Are yer?"  I says.

"I just am," says he.

"Then come on," says I; and away we went.

On the way I gets a sixpenny Watling at a public, and then at a
tater-can a dozen hot mealies, which I shoves in my coat pockets, and
the pie in my hat; while the baker he slips into the fust shop we comes
to, and picks out a couple of the best crusted cottages as he could
find.

Well, sir, we gets at last to Number 99, King's Court, and afore we goes
in I says to the baker, says I--

"Now if this is a do, we'll just have a friendly supper off what we've
bought, and a drop of hot."

"Agreed," says life.

And we went up the stairs, and knocked at the fust floor front.

"Mrs Graham lodge here?" says I.

"Three pair back," says the lodger, a-slamming the door in our faces.

"You'd better go fust," says I to baker; "they don't like the looks o'
my hat."  That was afore we took to 'elmets, yer know, sir.

So baker goes up fust, and I follows--up the dirty old staircase, till
we stood on the landing, opposite to the door, where we could hear a
young 'un a whimperin'.  So baker knocks, and some one says, "Come in,"
and in we goes; and Lord, sir, it was a heart-breaking sight, sure-ly.
I'm a rough 'un, sir, and used to all sorts of things, and it takes a
good deal to get a rise out o' me; but I was done this time, and so was
baker.  I never see nought as upset me like that did, and I hopes I
never shall again.  No light--no fire--and pretty nigh no furniture, as
far as we could see from the light as shined up into the room from a
court at the back, where there was a gas lamp, and that warn't much, as
you may suppose, sir.  And jest then the lodger in the front room opens
the door and offers her candle.  I steps back and takes it, and then
comes back and shuts the door arter me.  Good Lord--Good Lord, what they
must ha' suffered.  There was a thin, half-dressed, pinched-faced woman,
huddling up three little children together; and though they didn't know
it, sir, I do.  They didn't know as death had knocked at their doors,
and was only a-waiting a bit before he came in.  Think, sir, a cold
November night in a bare garret-like room, and no fire, and no proper
coverin', and no proper food, but the mother and children, close up
together on a straw mattress, with some rags and an old blanket to cover
'em.

"Oh, my God!" said baker.  You see, sir, he was rayther strong in what
he said, and he pulls off his coat and claps it over the poor wife's
shoulders.  "Here, pull out them hot taters," he says, and he hurries me
so I could hardly get 'em out, but he soon has a hot 'un in each o' the
child's hands, and tellin' me to keep 'em goin', he cuts down stairs as
hard as he could pelt, and afore you could think it possible, back he
comes again, with his arms full o' bundles o' wood, an' he sticks a
couple all loose and sets light to 'em, and soon makes a cheerful blaze
as made the poor things creep up to, and so close as I was almost
obliged to keep the two littlest back, or they would ha' singed baker's
coat.  Away goes baker agen, and very soon back he comes with one o'
them little sacks o' coals--half hundreds yer know, such as they sells
poor folks coals in, and then he rams these coals on like fury while the
poor woman looks on quite stupid like.

"God forgive me," says baker; looking ready to bust, "what could I ha'
been thinking of?  Here, Bobby," he says, holdin' out a shilling, "go
down and get a pot of hot ale and some gin in; a drop'll do even them
kids good."

I goes down in such a hurry that I forgets all about his shilling, and
when they'd all had a taste round, it was wonderful how much better they
looked; and then baker says, says he--

"Now you jest stop here half an hour till I gets back."

And stop I did, sir, a talkin' to the poor woman, an' I told her all
about the loaf, and made her sob and cry to hear where her husband was.
But she brightened up when I told her as he'd had a good feed and was
well wrapped up; and how baker wouldn't prosecute, I was sure.  And then
back comes baker, and his wife with him, and they'd got a couple o'
blankets and a rug, and at last, sir, there was such goin's on that I'm
blest if I warn't obliged to go out on the landin', for the poor woman
wanted to kiss me; and if I'd ha' stayed in the room a minute longer I
knows I should have disgraced the force by acting like a soft.

Soon afterwards baker and his wife comes out, and we all goes off, but
not till it was settled that I was to go and have dinner with 'em on the
next Sunday, which I did, and I'm blowed--which I hope you'll excuse,
sir--if I knew Mr Graham, which was the poor fellow I took, for baker
had rigged him out, and got him a place to go to; and since then I've
often seen--Well, if it ain't half-past ten, sir, and--Not a drop more,
thank ye, or I shall have the key of the street.



CHAPTER THIRTY ONE.

A WEIRD PLACE.

Wondering whether Molly told the truth when she declared that she had
never been false since the last parting at Wapping Old Stairs, and
forming our own opinion upon the matter in a way decidedly unfavourable
towards the trowsers washing, grog-making lady, in consequence of
comparisons made with the feline damsels lurking at the corners of the
courts, I came to an open door.  Then without pausing to think that
comparisons are odious, I confronted a pluffy-looking old gentleman
busily engaged in building leaning Towers of Pisa with the bronze
coinage of our realm.  He was a gentleman of a subdued jovial expression
of countenance, evidently not overburdened with toil, from the jaunty
way in which he shifted from his left to his right foot, took my penny
and allowed the turnstile to give its "click, click;" when passing
through a pair of swing doors, I stood in a sort of dirty-looking
whispering gallery, gazing down upon what appeared to be a sham chalet,
minus the stones upon the roof.  Right, left, and in front were painted
views of sea-ports and landscapes, all looking like the dark half of
that portrait exhibited by the gentleman who cleans and restores
paintings; while assailing the nostrils was a peculiar odour something
like the essence of stale theatre bottled and buried for many years in a
damp cellar.

But there were stairs innumerable to descend before I could enter the
famed tunnel of the Thames; and then, after a rat like progress,
re-appear in Rotherhithe.

Lower, lower, lower, with a sense of depression attacking one at every
step, I persevered till I reached the bottom, to be assailed by a loud
man sitting in the gas-lit chalet, which displayed the well-known lens
of the popular penny peep-show of our youth.  And 'twas even so, for in
a wild _crescendo_, which rose to a roar when refusing to listen to the
voice of the charmer I passed on, the land man called upon me to come
and see "all these beautiful views" for the low charge of one penny.

And I wouldn't.

No; though his appeal ended with a regular snap, and came after me like
the voice of the giant from his cave when longing for John Bunyan's
pilgrims--I would not; but entered the cellar-like tunnel, and stood
gazing along the gloomy, doleful vista, made doubly depressing by the
stringent order that no smoking was allowed.  Why it would have been a
blessing to the place; and done a little at all events to take off the
cellary flavour which greeted the palate.  For the place was decidedly
cellary, and looked as if a poor tenant had just quitted the house
above, leaving nothing but a cleanly-swept place without vestige of wine
or coal.

Dull, echoing, and gloomy, a place where the suction power of a
pneumatic engine would be a blessing, it was melancholy to peer through
arch after arch at the side tunnel, now turned into a large lumber room;
while at about every second or third arch there was a gas-lit stall,
where melancholy, saddened people presided over divers subfluvial
ornaments, ranged in rows with a few dreary toys--evidently things which
nobody ever bought, for their aspect was enough to startle any
well-regulated child.  They seemed the buried remains of playthings and
chimney ornaments of the past--the very fossils of a Camberwell fair
stall.  Upon one gloomy pillar was inscribed "Temple of Amusement;" but
no amusement was there; while, if the words had announced that it was
the chamber of torture, less surprise would have been excited.
Amusement! in a place that actually smelt of racks, thumbscrews, and
scavenger's daughters; ay! and of the parent scavenger as well.

At every gas-lit spot one expected to see coffins, from the crypt-like
pillars and smells; but, no; where there was not a dreary, whitewashed
blank, appeared another stall.  On one appeared the notice, "_Hier
spricht man Deutsche_."  Yes, it was a fact, "_Deutsche_," and not a
ventriloquistal tongue, a bowels of the earth speech, as gnomish.

On still, till there was a cellar vista front and rear, and a sensation
upon one of having been in a railway accident, and escaped into the
tunnel, while with a shiver one listened for the noise of the
approaching trains, and paused to see whether of the lines, up or down,
'twas on.  And now an oasis in the great desert.  "Refreshments!" a real
refreshment room in the long cellar.  The first refreshment was for the
eye, and that organ rested upon funereal yew decorating the vault-like
aisle, while paper roses starred its gloomy green.  And the refreshments
for the internal economy?  There were cards with names of wines upon
them, and a melancholy person, most un-Ganymedean of aspect; but who
could eat or drink in so depressing a spot, without forced in such a
nether region to partake of a diabolical dish presented hot by a tailed
imp, and consisting of brimstone, _sans_ treacle?

Again onward, and more refreshments: a coffee room where coffee was not,
and the place savouring of mushroom spawn.  And again onward, to be
startled by an apparition, back from his arch, a very gnome, busy at
some fiery task--of what?  Glassblowing, and spinning strange silky
skeins from his glowing light.

More stalls, more Tunbridge and alabaster fossils, more echoes, more
commands not to smoke, more gas light, and more desolate-looking people.
Had I an enemy I would delude him into speculating in a stall below
there; and then laugh in triumph at the wreck he would soon become, for
this must be the home of melancholy mania.  And now I stood at last in
the southern approach, almost a fac-simile of its Wapping brother: the
same smell, the same staircases, the same pictures, but no chalet.  So
back I turned to make my escape at the other end, which I reached in
safety, passed the giant in his cave, a monster who lives upon the
bronze extracted from unwary passers-by; and then reaching the top of
the many stairs I stood once more gazing at the mouldy pictures, and the
foul, fungus-furred wall.  Fancy the pictures of the four seasons facing
you in an atmosphere which resembled the whole four boiled down, and
then served up skimmed, while the pot has boiled over furiously, so as
to mingle hydrogen in excess with the smell.

Then with the shout of the chalet giant lingering in my ears, and a
sensation as though I were an English Tam O' Shanter on foot, with the
ghosts of all the poor wretches drowned while making the ghastly bore in
full pursuit, I passed through the moving doors which said "way out;"
composed myself; and walked calmly through the egress turnstile, though
the pluffy man looked at me as if he thought I had burglarious
intentions, and ought to be searched for fossil pincushions; and then I
stood once more in the full light of day.

Of course if ever I travel by East London Line in days to come, I must
resign myself to fate, and allow my person to be whistled and shrieked
through; but saving such an occasion as that, in the words of Jerry
Cruncher, I say--"Never no more--never no more," will I venture through
the melancholy cellar; while in my own I say, that I'll wager that no
man dare walk through at the stilly midnight hour, with the gas
extinguished, and none to hear him while he hurries his echoing steps--
at least I'm sure that I would not.



CHAPTER THIRTY TWO.

A COMMON OBJECT.

Move on, oh pen! and in words whose hue is murky as his oilskin cape,
tell with thy silent gall-dipped nibs of the tyrant of our streets--the
Hyde Park hero--the helmet-crowned truncheon bearer--preserver of
peace--marshal of erring vehicles--custodian of crime--the great
numbered one--the unknown X--the Mayne force regulator--offspring of
Peel, but never candid--myrmidon of a mighty law--confiscator of coster
mongers' barrows--dark man dressed in blue--hero of a hundred names and
hundred fights.  Tell to the great washed and wiped, of this mighty
conqueror, who, by a motion of his Berlin glove, sweeps from the muddy
face of the street the noisy crowd.  Put down naught in malice or
extenuation; hide not his faults, his failings, or his fancies;
chronicle not the smashing of a glossy Lincoln and Bennett, nor the
splitting up the back of a Poole's surtout, when streets were thronged
and Alexandra came; hint not at bribery; but tell of the man and his
acts--acts explained in beloved old Carpenter as "substantive; deeds,
exploits."  Paint the aspect of the man in tunic blue and headpiece of
hardened felt, praised by the custodian of our streets as light.  How
can we cavil at the Minerva or Britannia-like aspect when the wearer
sails down the streets, looking as though he ruled the waves of
population, a people who never, never, never, will be slaves.  Romanised
in mien, he wants but the flowing toga and sandalled shoon to shine as a
centurion.  What is it to him that small boys scoff?  In the full
comprehension of his powers he walks erect--gorgeous.  Has he not, from
earliest times, been object and aim of scurrilous shafts meant for wit,
but launched with telling force?  Has he not been styled the great
absentee, and have not rumours touching mutton been circulated to his
disadvantage?  What though on wintry night, when bitter blows the
boist'rous wind, the wand'rer spies a cheering light behind the area
window blind.  Who, if a whistle known of old should rouse the culinary
maid to beckon down the warrior bold to have his empty stomach stayed,
who then would grudge the meal--the kiss--the small beer draught--the
smile--embrace?  They're loved by others well, I wis, as him who wears
the cotton lace--whose rolling eye--whose nostril wide, and towering
form attractive draw, to inward thought--the fire's warm side--the bliss
of love--the chill of law.  He has before now descended and been
wanted--ascended and been too late.  So have generals often; and is
there perfection to be found upon this earth?  "Nary bit of it."
Palliate, then, the policeman's weak points, and as none but the brave
deserve the fair, let the brave have his desert.

Is he not a part of our very being as a nation, the common object of our
crowd?  Who knows this better than the playwright, who sends him across
the stage in a long string, like the soldiers or geese of our
childhood's day upon the scissor-working framework; who puts him into
every imaginable difficulty, and bruises, batters, and beats him in a
way most insufferable?  But K9 in the gallery sees it all, smiles with
disdain, and looks down upon the get up of his fictitious
representative, who is as true to life as the Franco-Anglais of the
Parisian stage; and seated in plain clothes beside Mary, cook from
Number 34, Eating-street, he nudges that lady, and as the broad hint is
reciprocated, they smile with contempt at the "Guy Fawkes" thing
presented to them.

From whatever point of view the policeman is taken, the first thing
which strikes the observer is the dress; and once more, glancing at his
helmet, is it not everything that it should not be?  Perhaps it is
useful, as none other is provided, but it is decidedly not ornamental,
for it is grotesque, hideous, unsightly, and contemptible.  It wants the
grandeur of the old Roman, the graceful curve of the Grecian, the
stiffness of the Prussian, the weight of the dragoon's, and the gloss of
the fireman's, while as for comfort--who will put it to the test?

Take his appearance in a street scuffle, an affair in which the police
have, ere now, been engaged; half his time is taken up in endeavouring--
generally unsuccessfully--to keep his helmet in its place, but, as a
rule, it rolls into the gutter, to be crushed by trampling feet.

Feet!  Yes, that brings us to his feet, though t'were almost bootless to
name them, since they are often nearly in that condition.  The "strong,
serviceable bluchers" supplied by Government contractors always seem to
be made upon the principle of "small profits and quick returns," which
being interpreted means small profit to the wearer and quick return to
elementary constituents.

Did not some great man--a city fortifier--once declare that there was
nothing like leather?  How true: how striking!  But how much more so is
the increased significance given to the adage when we say there is
nothing like contractor's leather?  There is nothing like it anywhere,
and considering its wondrous durability, why should not some firm
commence making papier mache boots?  They would be equally durable, far
cheaper, while, as to fit, that does not matter, since Government
contractors evidently believe that police bunions have no existence,
while corns never crop out from legal toes.

Then, again, his tunic and trousers.  Shoddy should not be named in
connexion with the material, since the invisible blue is decidedly a
degree more durable, for there is in it an elasticity, doubtless owing
to its canvas-like--sampler canvas-like structure.  To many this airy
fabrication may look like deceit, but that is but a harsh construction
to place upon such openness; while as to the strength of the cloth, the
giving nature is intentional, for opposed as the police so often are to
numbers, they need the activity and unholdability of the savage, who
oils his body to elude inimical grasps.  Hence, then, the weakness of
police cloth, which gives way to the slightest drag.  Here may the
ignorant exclaim--"What a pity!"  Not at all, for the offending party
pays the damage, since it is a most heinous crime to damage a
policeman's uniform.  As to the cut of the suit, and the coolness or
warmth, they are the arrangements of the same wise and paternal
government, who so justly and equitably arrange the promotion in the
army.  If the policeman shivers he can put on his great-coat, and if it
rains, over that his oilskin cape; and what more can he want?  Ignorance
may again interpose, and say, why not give him a thoroughly good warm
suit for winter, and a lighter one for summer?  But then, ignorance was
always prone to make strange remarks, and our subject remains buttoned--
stuffy--tight.

Touching his truncheon, description is needless, since ample knowledge
is gained of that instrument in street troubles.

Taking the policeman, then, from external points of view, he is not in
appearance imposing, though by nature very.  He is belted, buttoned, and
laced; numbered like an auction lot; and, as a rule, powerfully
whiskered; but he looks made up; there is a bastard military tournure
about him, evidently the introduction of some official martinet.  The
drilling does not seem to fit our civil (?) friend, for there is either
too much or not enough.  But we don't want him formed into squares, or
three deep, or in line for a charge, for he always seems to act best
"upon his own hook," as Vulgus has it, he being rather given to passing
judgment upon his sworn foe--passing judgment and remarks too, for is
not the man in blue contemned?  But why, when his nod suffices to
disperse a crowd--he, the man so opposed in appearance to the fiercely
moustached and cocked-hatted gendarme of the Gallic shore?  Is it
because he is unarmed save by the power of the law, and that ashen staff
that will make mistakes!  And yet the majesty of the law accompanies him
everywhere, and emanates from his person at every movement--a visible
invisibility--a halo threatening a storm to evil doers.  But he is
contemned and made the sieve to catch the flying chaff of our streets.

From whence comes the bitter hatred between the powers civil and
military, if it does not proceed from the coquetries of the fair sex?
It might be supposed that "Mars would always be in the ascendant"
[Zadkiel], but it is not so; "law, civil power, and exeketive" is far
ahead, but never in conjunction with the fiery planet.  "Them solgers
ain't good for much," says civil law, and he holds them in profound
contempt--a contempt evidently engendered by rivalry.  Go to the opera
in the Haymarket, and behold both warriors at the entrance.  Mars, all
pipeclay, belts, buttons, and bayonets, rifles, ramrods, and regulation,
standing like an image to do nothing, and doing it most effectually,
while Bobby, all bustle, beatitude, and blueness, is hurrying about
amongst rival charioteers and gorgeous footmen, keeping order most
sublime, and making perfection out of chaos.  But for the numbered one,
somebody's carriage would stop the way all night from the fierce block
that would ensue; though no one seems to see all this, while looks from
all quarters indicate that our subject is an enemy to society at large.

Again, compare the civil and military powers upon a grand occasion, when
royalty visits the city; when every pinnacle, post, pale, rail, corner,
crevice, or coign of vantage is seized by the many headed, surging and
swaying backwards and forwards to catch a glimpse of the expected
pageant.  Here, perhaps, we have squadrons of horse artillery--troopers
braided, busbied, and plumed, with jingling arms and accoutrements, sent
to keep the way, while the civil power watches them backing their
horses, making them prance and curvet and thrust back the crowd, which
only closes in as they pass, while the policeman looks down in contempt
upon their evolutions.

But then comes the order: onward goes the fat inspector, and in goose
step come his followers.  Truncheons are drawn, men posted, and order
reigns, for the crowd falls back--sometimes--but always loudly "chaffs."
The policeman heeds not this though, for he knows the reward of merit,
that is the common reward, and remembering all this at other times, he
moves on the muffin boy, who revenges himself by yelling his wares with
renewed energy as soon as he has turned the corner, while again law
smiles contemptuously, and directs his attention to the orange girl and
moves her off the pavement.  Reward: a queer name; a grimace; and as
soon as his back is turned, a handful of orange-peel scattered upon the
slabs for the benefit of the passengers.

Watch the policeman on duty in one of the parks, and see with what
jealous eye he looks after each nursemaid and her little flock, and how
closely he follows when Mary or Hann wander by accident amidst the trees
with Mars.  The constable has no business to keep on passing and
repassing with austere mien, robbing the lovers of their sweets, but he
does so not from a personal hatred, but from an instinctive dislike--a
class-like jealousy.  He gazes upon the soldier as any game-loving
squire would cast his eye upon a poacher even though encountered a
hundred miles from his estate, for were the constable in power, Mars
would be doomed to a life of celibacy.  He forgives the maidens whom he
knows to be attracted by the garish uniform, and he pities them for
their weakness, but decides in his own mind that they require
protection--such protection as a policeman could give them.  Sometimes
the soldier is encountered when promenading the pave with an eye upon
some especial house in the policeman's beat.  Now he may not have
personal friends at more than half-a-dozen houses on his beat, but he
holds every house as being under his surveillance, and his jealous eye
follows the guard's every movement.  He hunts him step by step as though
a burglary were imminent, and so thoroughly disarranges the plans of the
parties interested, that at last Mars slinks off with lowered crest,
while the man in blue beats together his Berlin gloves, and crows
internally over his discomfited adversary.

Who has not admired the mounted policeman?  But is it not taking him at
a disadvantage, and seeing him suffering under untoward circumstances
over which he has no control, not even being able to control his horse?
But he was never meant to be upon a horse.  What is he there for?  And
of what use can he be?  He looks most thoroughly out of place, and, to
do him justice, quite ashamed of himself.  Like the soldier of the
ballad, he presents himself in public "with a helmet on his brow, and a
sabre at his thigh;" but, sinking the helmet, what does he want with a
sword--a policeman with a sword?  But we are not sure that it is a
sword.  May it not be a Quaker or theatrical representation of the
military sabre?  We never knew any one yet who had seen it out of its
sheath, or who had been blinded by its flash, so that after all it may
be but a sham.  If one takes a trip across the channel, emulating the
daring of a Josef Sprouts, and then making the best of one's way to
"Paris in France," there is no surprise felt at the sight of cocked
hats, cocked--very fiercely cocked--moustachios, and swords belted upon
_gendarme_ or _sergent de ville_.  The sword there seems appropriate--
suited to the national character--the staff for thick-headed
boss-frontal Bull, and the skewer or spit for the Gallic frog or cock.
If John Bull, as a mob, gets excited, the powers that be consider him to
be all the better for a little hammering about the head, while prick of
sword or cut of sabre would goad him to madness.  In _La France, au
contraire_, blows cause the madness.  Jean or Pierre, if "nobbled" upon
the sconce, would rave about the affront put upon his honour.  Men ready
to cry _Mourir pour la Patrie_, can pocket no blows.  Here, then, is
shown the wisdom of supplying the French man of order with a sword; a
cut or thrust acts not as a goad, but surgically, for it lets out the
mad revolutionary blood, and Jean or Pierre goes home the better for his
lancing.





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